Why Small Businesses Should Budget For Social Media Marketing

Why Small Businesses Should Budget For Social Media Marketing

It’s never been a secret that in order to run a successful business, you need to invest in marketing to ensure your brand is visible among the noise. While SEO and content creation are huge aspects to focus on, ignoring social media is no longer an option. People have come to expect finding all sorts of brands online, and your business is no exception.

Social media can provide benefits the best advertisements and email lists cannot compete with on their own. While it’s entirely possible to use your own time to run a commanding social media campaign, it’s often easier and a better investment to budget for social media opposed to using your valuable hours of the day.

What are some effective ways to spend on social media?

Spending money on social media marketing boils down to a few different strategies, all or one of which may work best for your small business:

  • Use your budget to boost and purchase advertisements.
  • Hire an additional employee(s) to be your official social media marketer.
  • Pay someone to create photo/written/video content for your brand.

Here are six reasons why creating a budget for social media is an excellent decision.

1. High ROI Potential

Over the last two decades the world of advertisements and marketing strategies have rapidly shifted towards focusing on the Internet.

And where do people spend most of their time online? Social Media.

Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram know this better than anyone and have provided incentives for businesses to purchase advertisements for less than you would pay for most other advertisements based on potential reach. Due to social media’s targeted approach, you’re much more likely to have the right potential customers viewing your ads.

2. It Gives Your Business Direction

The best businesses take the needs of people, however large, and fulfill them on a regular basis. The best advertisements figure out who these people are, and send them directly to your business. As previously mentioned, social media excels in targeting by seeking out audiences based on data patterns, or as we call it in the tech world, analytics.

As your business ages, you can use analytics to determine which products, services, and advertising strategies are (and aren’t) working for you. Paying for ads or hiring a social media analyst will be key in being able to use the data beneficially.

3. Unlimited Reach

The thing about social media ads is they don’t have a specified limit for how many people can view them. Since ads are integrated right into the social platform there’s an unlimited potential for people to share, tag, and re-post your content all over the Internet.

This is why companies create advertisements that often have nothing to do with their product until the last few seconds. If you can engage people for 15-30 seconds with something memorable, no matter how ridiculous, the amount of people who will see it can be endless, and for years after the time it’s released. If your business doesn’t have any team members capable of creating dynamic content, this might be an area where you should focus spending your budget: hiring creative content creators.

4. One Click Away

Printed advertisements have been on the decline for a number of reasons:

  • Tracking ROI is difficult and usually comes down to word of mouth.
  • The expected reach for print ads is more finite, and can be capped at how many copies are printed.
  • Print ads lack in-depth analytics about who is seeing them, and where viewers are coming from.

Internet ads, however, don’t have to deal with any of those pitfalls. Best of all, if someone feels the need to take action on your advertisement they’re only a single click away.

5. Developing A Customer Relationship

Have you ever left a comment on an advertisement you saw in a magazine? Me neither, an artfully-drawn mustache perhaps, but never a comment I would expect someone might reply to.

With social media you have the unique opportunity of creating advertisements that also develop a personal relationship with your customers. If anyone has a question, or something to compliment you on, you can answer it on the spot and thank them personally for using your service.

6. Looking Towards Permission

Even though this whole article has been discussing the benefits of ads, I have to talk about advertising as a whole. People are sick of ads.

With things like Netflix, subscription music services like Pandora, and the option to skip ads on YouTube it’s very apparent people are over having sales pitches thrown at them, and will even pay to have ads turned off. Nowadays we want to define ourselves through the brands we spend money on, and that means looking at choice.

On social media people choose to like your page. People choose to say “I find this ad annoying.” Instead of paying to have it crammed down peoples’ throats, pay to have your ads put where people are actually looking, their social networks.

5 online marketing strategies for small businesses that work

5 online marketing strategies for small businesses that work

Online marketing strategies are no different from traditional marketing strategies when it comes to goals and purpose. Both types aim to increase brand awareness and find more customers for the particular company.

Online marketing or digital marketing as it is more widely known, has a number of components that cover every aspect of online promotion from content creation to delivery and sales. These components can be combined together and form 5 basic strategies that can be used by any type of online business to get more traffic and customers online.

1. Search engine marketing

Search engine marketing (SEM) is the first online marketing strategy you can use and it has two major components. First is SEO (Search engine optimization) and second is PSA (Paid Search Advertising). In simple words SEO will help you get more organic visits from search engines for free while PSA can get you visits from search traffic but you will have to pay for them.

What is your goal with SEM? Your goal with SEM is clear: get more visits from search engines either from organic search or through carefully designed and targeted PPC campaigns

How: To get more visits from search engines you need to make sure that your website is optimized for search. Things like your page titles, descriptions, web page speed, Google authorship, design and structure, incoming links, content freshness, ALT text for images and many more are important.

Tools: There are many SEO guidelines you can follow and although each rule is important on its own, if you apply a number of rules together, that would produce better results. You can use these 2 articles (5 on page SEO techniques and SEO tips for beginners) to guide you through the process and once you are done, you can perform an SEO Audit of your website to ensure that it is in good shape before continuing with the rest of the online marketing strategies.

Tip: When you make changes to your website to improve SEO, these changes will not be immediately taken into account by Google or other search engines. You have to be patient and monitor your pages for improvements in their ranking through google webmaster tools (search queries report).

2. Mobile Marketing

Normally after search engine marketing you can expect to find social media marketing or content marketing as the next online marketing strategy for small businesses but the increase in the number of mobile searches raises the importance of mobile marketing. As stated by Google, mobile marketing isn’t an option but it’s an imperative for every business. Some recent statistics about mobile usage re-enforce this statement:

What is your goal with mobile marketing? To provide your users with the best possible experience when browsing your website using their mobile devices.

How: How can you achieve the ‘best possible experience’? First you need to make sure that your website looks good and usable when viewed through a mobile browser i.e. you need to have a mobile friendly version of your website. Second, you can also offer your users native apps to download (from the itunes store, Google play, amazon store, windows store) and install on their devices.

Tools: If you are using wordpress you can easily create a mobile friendly version by either changing to a responsive theme or by using a plugin.

If you are not using wordpress you can use services like conduit to create mobile friendly versions of your website.

Make sure that you understand the difference between a mobile friendly version of your website and a native app. A native app is different than a mobile website and you need to hire a mobile developer to build an application for the specific platform. For example if you want to create an application for your website and have this application published on the Apple Store then you need to hire an apple developer to code the application and prepare it for submission to iTunes.

3. Content marketing

Content marketing is the heart of every digital marketing campaign. Once you have a good foundation (that’s search engine marketing) and a good delivery platform that can cover all your user needs (that’s mobile marketing) then the next step is to take all actions needed to create content that rocks!

Content is what will create loyal visitors, comments, social media shares and most important of all sales.

What is your goal with content marketing? To put it simply, your goal is to create high quality content that your readers want to read and try to convince readers to become customers or execute a call-to-action process (register to a newsletter, follow on social media, vote for a poll etc.).

How: Before even creating content, whether it is an article, a video, a table or image, try to think how that particular content will benefit your readers or customers. Don’t just create and publish content for the sake of keeping a publishing schedule or to satisfy your desire to have something to publish.

In the past this technique of publishing mass amounts of content to trick search engines used to work but not anymore. It is more important to have less published pages but with good content rather than lots of published pages with low quality content.

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4. Social Media marketing

Social media marketing is naturally the next marketing strategy for your business. You managed to have in your hands great content (from the previous strategy) so now it’s time to spread the word out and the best way to do that is through a well-designed social media marketing strategy.

What is your goal with social media marketing? Your social media campaigns should serve two purposes. First is to gain as many targeted followers so that your content and brand gets as much attention possible and second to get visits from social networks that will eventually convert into customers.

How: You need to establish a good presence in all major social networks (Facebook, google+, twitter, Pinterest) by sharing useful related content on a regular basis and by engaging with people interested in your website, products or brand. Have a look at these 3 articles to get started: 10 social media marketing tips for beginners, social media mistakes to avoid, how to get more followers on facebook.

I know that it’s not an easy process to follow and it is rather time consuming to run campaigns on many networks at the same time but this is how online marketing works for small businesses these days and you have to do it too.

The good news is that social media traffic does convert (despite the initial believes a few years back that visitors from social media don’t become customers) and if you don’t have the time or knowledge to manage your social media presence, there are professionals that can do it for you.

5. Local SEO strategy

Since we are talking about small businesses, I thought that it is more appropriate to have local SEO listed as a separate strategy because it is very important for them. Local SEO is a must for every company that has a physical address. Whether you are a doctor or florist, a mechanic or retailer, local seo can help you find more customers online.

What is your goal from local seo?      The goal from local seo is more than clear: to get high rankings for searches related to your area. When people search for long tail keywords with the addition of location in the query (for example: “Web hosting companies in Uganda”) you want your website to be listed in the top positions.

How: There is no straightforward answer for that, as with any other SEO related question. What you can do is follow Google SEO best practices to ensure that Google will not penalize you for trying to cheat on their algorithm and optimize your website for local SEO.

Think outside the box

While the 5 online marketing strategies explained above are great and can generate fantastic results, you need to also think outside of the box for even better results. For example besides search engines, mobiles and social media what are some other ways to increase traffic coming to your small business website? To be more precise here are some ideas that worked for some of my clients:

Chrome web store: Registering your website as a web app in the chrome store can generate an additional flow of quality traffic coming to your site.

Direct Advertising on other websites: Besides running PPC campaigns on Adwords and Facebook you can also try to ‘rent’ advertising space per month on other related websites. You can easily find related websites in your niche that offer advertising and contact the webmasters directly and ask for their rates. It will cost you less than PPC and with proper tracking you can evaluate the results and ROI.

Guest posting on high traffic websites: Guest posting for traffic (and not for links) is a good way to increase your online reputation but also gain traffic from other websites. If the website you are guest posting on has a good social media presence then the benefits are even more.

Conclusion

Small businesses can succeed online if they follow proven techniques and practices. When you build your website the first thing that you should look at is search engine optimization. Once you get this right then you need to enhance your delivery channels by going mobile. After that you need to revisit your content strategy and ensure that you have content that matters and makes sense. Next in line is social media marketing that will help you to push your content to the world.

 

Seven(7) Ways To Promote Your Business Online For Free

Seven(7) Ways To Promote Your Business Online For Free

The Internet is teeming with marketing platforms that don’t cost a dime—you just need to know where to look.

You may not have wads of cash to spend on marketing in the early stages of your startup, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t effective ways to get your brand out there.
Before the Internet, small businesses only had a few ways to market their products cheaply, through methods like printing out fliers or sponsoring little local events. Now there are all kinds of opportunities out there on the Web—you just need to know where to look.
Here are seven ways to promote your business online that won’t cost you a dime:

1. Use the three big local listing services
Registering your business with Google Places allows it to be found more easily on Google searches and it shows up on Google Maps. All you have to do is fill out the form and register, then get your business verified through their confirmation process, which can be done either with a phone call or snail mail. Yahoo! also has a big database of businesses called Yahoo! Local. It’s free, and is certainly worth the few minutes it takes to set up. Microsoft’s Bing has a similar service that’s easy to sign up for.

2. Embrace social media
Social media isn’t just a tool to gain exposure—it has now become a necessary time investment for every business to make. You can tie in ads and offers on your Facebook page and have a direct channel with your customers on Twitter. Networking on LinkedIn—both at the personal and company level—can be another way to help your startup.

3. Start a blog
A blog not only helps your company get its name out through followers, but is a way to connect with your consumers more directly. But remember that one of the major keys of blogging is to keep your stream updated as frequently as you can. A dormant, abandoned blog is worth nothing.

4. Put up multimedia on YouTube and Flickr
YouTube provides a free way to distribute creative promotional videos, but in order to succeed you must put up content that people want to view and are relevant to your business—a simple ad will not work. A Flickr profile can also help by giving you one place to compile all the photos for your business, and allows you to link back to your website.

5. SEO your company website
Search engine optimization cannot be underestimated in the world of constant Googling. Pick up a book or head over to an online how-to-guide on SEO and make sure your site is primed for performance on search engines.

6. Press releases
Every time your business does something newsworthy, don’t hesitate to shoot off a press release—maybe folks will pick up on it. They’re a powerful media tool to use to help generate publicity, and having free distribution of them is a bonus. There are dozens of websites out there that you can use for your press releases.

7. Join a relevant online community and contribute
Every niche has communities online that you can get involved in. But just signing up for a forum and posting every once in a while about your business isn’t beneficial for anyone, and will likely just annoy people. Actively contribute and build a rapport with the community, while keeping your business out of it. Passively promote your business by putting a link in your signature or mentioning it only when the context is appropriate.

8 Tips To Create Multi-Platform eLearning Courses

8 Tips To Create Multi-Platform eLearning Courses

“Supply and demand” may be a marketing term, but it also pertains to eLearning delivery methods. An increasing number of learners are now demanding multi-platform eLearning courses. In this article, I’ll offer 8 tips for creating smartphone, tablet, and wearable tech-friendly eLearning.

How To Create Multi-Platform eLearning Courses

As technology has evolved, the educational sector has evolved with it. Mobile phones, tablets, smartwatches, and laptops are now providing learners with instant access to online learning materials. But how do you design an eLearning course that not only supports these delivery platforms, but also packs the same punch as your desktop eLearning experiences?

Make your mobile learning course a tactile eLearning experience.
One of the most notable benefits of using a tablet or smartphone to access eLearning is interactivity. While most eLearning courses rely on a point-and-click format, mobile learning courses can offer an immersive and fully tactile eLearning experience. There is a caveat to this, however. The “touch” elements within the eLearning course must be the right size, as learners need to be able to tap on them when using a variety of different mobile devices. For example, buttons that are too close together or too small may be “untouchable” for learners on smaller screens. You may also want to consider integrating swiping motions into your eLearning course design to take full advantage of device capabilities.

Research your audience to set minimum requirements.
While researching the educational background and experience levels of your audience is essential, creating multi-platform eLearning courses also calls for device usage statistics. What mobile devices are your learners using to access the eLearning course? The answer to this question will help you determine your minimum eLearning design requirements. If most of your learners are using more advanced phones or tablets, you won’t have to worry about designing for older models. It’s best to select a range that your deliverable will fall into. For example, you may choose to develop mobile learning courses that are targeted to iPhone 6 and Android 5.0 learners and above. Then you won’t have to stretch your resources thin trying to develop multi-platform eLearning courses for every device.

Opt for readability over creativity when choosing fonts.
If you have your eye on a fancy font that you think will boost the visual appeal of your eLearning course, make sure that it’s completely legible before adding it into your eLearning design layout. Keep in mind that your learners are going to be accessing the eLearning course on smaller screen sizes, which means that they need readability over creativity when it comes to fonts. Use larger fonts, if possible, and opt for more “traditional” fonts, and follow the resolution/text rule: lower resolution requires larger text.

Use a responsive eLearning authoring tool.
Many eLearning authoring tools now offer a responsive design feature, which gives you the ability to create just one master eLearning course that can be viewed on all platforms. When your mobile learners access the eLearning course, its elements, such as menu, text boxes, etc., all adjust to offer the best possible eLearning experience. Regardless of whether your learner is on an iPhone or a tablet, they’ll be able to interact and engage with the eLearning content and activities.

Focus on ease of navigation.
There are few things more frustrating than accessing a mobile learning course, only to discover that you cannot use the navigation icons to click through to the next page or activity. Make navigation icons large and clearly visible, and avoid using hyperlinks to supplemental online resources. Tablet or mobile phone learners may find it difficult to click on tiny text links to access useful articles, eLearning videos, and external eLearning content.

Give learners control over audio elements.
Many of your learners are going to be accessing your eLearning course on-the-go. The beauty of using a smartphone, tablet, or even a smaller laptop to access eLearning is that you can participate anytime, anywhere. However, if you include an abundance of audio elements that provide key takeaways, your mobile learners aren’t going to acquire the information they need. Include subtitles and use text to highlight key concepts of the eLearning lesson. If you do have audio, integrate controls your learners can use to lower or mute the volume.

Use one design across the board.
Regardless of what devices your eLearning course supports, make sure that the instructional design is the same for every version, including color scheme, branding, and design elements. Doing so keeps the eLearning course design consistent, professional, and your learners know what to expect when they access the eLearning course on various platforms. This is yet another reason why responsive design authoring tools are ideal. You can create one master eLearning course, and the responsive design feature adapts that eLearning course to fit the resolution and screen size of the device. It’s cohesive and streamlined design at its finest and easiest.

Track user data to improve your multi-platform eLearning course strategy.
Analytics is an important tool in any eLearning strategy, but doubly so for multi-platform eLearning courses. You need to be able to keep track of what devices your learners are using and how they are interacting with the eLearning content. This gives you the opportunity to fine tune your eLearning strategy based upon the device preferences and learning needs of your audience. For example, if your analytics reveal that many of your learners are using an older operating system, you can adapt your eLearning course to that system. You can also pinpoint weak spots in your eLearning strategy, such as interactive elements that are not easy to navigate on smaller screens. In addition to user data, get feedback from your learners via surveys and polls to determine what is working and what needs to be modified.
Multi-platform eLearning courses give every member of your audience convenient access to your eLearning course, no matter what their technology-of-choice may be. Use these 8 tips to transform your eLearning course into an interactive and user-friendly mobile learning experience.

The importance of quality score in SEM

The importance of quality score in SEM

Quality Score is a variable used by Google, Yahoo! (called Quality Index), and Bing that can influence both the rank and cost per click (CPC) of ads.

To determine the order in which ads are listed, each ad has the following formula run against it: bid * Quality Score. Ads are then listed in descending order based on the result of that equation. The exact weight of Quality Score versus bid has not been revealed by any of the major search engines, and each company has stated that they reserve the right to continually adjust their ranking methodologies.

In late 2008, Google revealed that Quality Score was used to determine which ads it would show above organic results, and that a high quality score could actually cause ads to jump over ads with lower quality scores that would otherwise not merit that prominent placement.

Purpose behind Quality Score

The major search engines have each independently implemented efforts to maintain and improve the quality of ads listed on their sites. The primary reason for this is to improve the experience of users who click on paid advertising links. It is reasonable to assume that users who have a great experience when clicking on ads will click on them more frequently, thus increasing advertising revenues for the search engine.

In addition, Google chose to introduce variable minimum bids at the same time as it introduced Quality-Based Bidding. On the surface, this new feature allowed advertisers to bid as little as $0.01 to have their ad shown. However, in some cases advertisers found their minimum bids for some ads were raised to as high as $5.00 or $10.00. By implementing variable minimum bids Google created a mechanism whereby the company could set different minimums for different advertisers for the same keyword, and potentially increase the average minimum bid without the advertising community as a whole being made aware. Furthermore, by raising minimums bids, Google could test each advertiser’s ability to pay these increases, thus increasing competitiveness within the auctions and extracting maximum revenue from each advertiser.

Factors in determining Quality Score

There are a number of factors that determine the Quality Score of a given ad. While each search engine has released directional information on the factors most important to them, presumably in an effort to guide their advertisers towards making better ads, none has revealed their formulas in detail. Below is a summary of what has been released.

Click-through rate
All three search engines have revealed that a major factor – the most important factor to Google in their respective Quality Score formulas is the historical click-through rate (CTR) of the keyword and matched ad. In fact, prior to its introduction of Quality Score in July 2005, Google determined ad rank by running the following formula against each ad and sorting them in descending order: bid * CTR.

In addition to the CTR of the keyword and matched ad itself, Google takes into account the overall historic CTR of the entire AdWords account as well as the historic CTR of the display URLs in the ad group.

Ad copy relevance

All three search engines have revealed that the relevance of the ad copy to the keyword is a factor in determining Quality Score. Therefore, it can be assumed that ads with ad copy that contains the keyword will have a higher Quality Score than ads with ad copy that does not contain the keyword.

Landing page quality

All three search engines have revealed that landing page quality is a factor in determining Quality Score. Landing page quality generally refers to whether or not the page contains relevant and original content and the navigability of the site. In the case of MSN, they have revealed that ads with landing pages that don’t contain the keyword may be declined altogether.

Landing page load time

In June 2008 Google revealed that landing page load time impacts Quality Score.

Geographical considerations

Google has revealed that the accounts performance in the geographical region where the ad will be shown impacts Quality Score.

Other factors

All three search engines have revealed that other factors are taken into consideration when calculating Quality Score. In particular, changes in terms of use in Google Analytics have fed speculation in the search engine marketing (SEM) community that Google is using on-site conversion data in its Quality Score formula.