With Halloween quickly approaching, you may have been caught off-guard when it comes to taking advantage of the marketing opportunities in the year’s spookiest holiday.  No need to be afraid, though – there are still a few things you can do this week to capture the attention of your audience (and hopefully not scare them away!).

 

*Post photos of your Halloween décor and costumes to Pinterest.  While personal over-sharing is generally frowned upon in business social media, Pinterest makes it acceptable to share the more “human” side of your business, and holidays are exactly the sort of thing you can talk about without running the risk of being too familiar.  Create a “Halloween at our office” board and share a few photos of what your office looks like, what people’s costumes are, and so forth.  Don’t forget to share the link to the board on your other social media accounts!

 

*Run a costume or jack-o-lantern contest.  Ask people to submit photos of their costumes or homemade jack-o-lanterns, and draw a name at random to let one of your customers or followers win a prize!  It doesn’t have to be an expensive prize – it can be fun no matter what you give away.

 

*Create a poll.  What are your followers’ favorite things to do on Halloween night? Watch movies, go to a party, or something else?  Are they planning to dress up? Find out what everyone is doing, either through a Facebook poll or a poll on your blog, and get the discussion going based on the most popular answers.

 

*Make a Halloween-themed video.  If you haven’t been making good use of your YouTube channel, now would be a great time to start!  You could do a Halloween-themed product tutorial (which might just be a regular tutorial in a Halloween costume), a funny promotional video, or just something scary!  Don’t forget to encourage people to follow you on your social media accounts.

 

*Participate in Halloween hashtags.  Twitter has been lighting up with Halloween-themed hashtags – get in on the action and open yourself up to the wider conversation!  Whether you talk about costumes, decorations, or plans for the evening, this is a great chance to show the human side of your business, and meet some new followers in the process.  Remember that this is about conversation, though – don’t get too spammy with promotional links!

 

Are you doing anything special for your followers this Halloween?

When you first start using social media to reach out to your audience, usually one particular social network stands out as being right for your business.  For some businesses, Facebook seems like a natural choice; for others, it may be Twitter or Pinterest or another social media site.

 

It’s important to remember, though, that social media is organic and ever-changing, and what works best for you at one point may shift over time.  For example, lets say that three years ago you realized Facebook was a good social media fit for your company.  The audience was engaged, they showed up in good numbers, and everything was great.  On Twitter, you might not have been getting as much engaged response, so it would have made sense at that point to spend most of your social media effort on Facebook.

 

The tides can change, though, and the types of people who use a particular network vary as the network gets older.  Recent research is showing that Twitter is currently attracting a much younger audience than it was when it first came on the social media scene, whereas Facebook’s demographic is more mature.  This was once the other way around, and trends can change quickly and without warning.

 

So the lesson to be learned here is not to take a static approach to social media, but to be continually assessing how to adapt to changes in both your audience and social media trends.  If your target audience is young and you started out courting them on Facebook, you may now find that Twitter or even tumblr is more appropriate today.  Likewise, you may have once been aiming for one segment of the population, but over time have discovered that your product or service is more appropriate for another group.  This, too, may affect your decisions about how you spend your social media marketing efforts.

 

You only have so many hours in the day to promote, and as social media is effort-intensive rather than costly, you’ll want to make every moment count.  Experiment with different social networks, even those you may have discounted before.  You may find that something that didn’t work for you before does work for you now, or you may even discover new social networks to try.

 

When was the last time you branched out and tried a new social network, or revisited one that you tried briefly in the past?

shutdown-computer1Now that we’re heading into the third week of the government shutdown, businesses across the country are affected to varying degrees.  Obviously those business owners with direct governmental ties, for example those with government contracts, are affected the most, but the longer the shutdown continues, the further down the effects trickle.

 

This means that for most businesses, a flexible marketing strategy is more important than ever.  Ongoing events like a government shutdown can really test your ability to adapt to adverse situations and make the most of tough times.  Not only do you need to be prepared to deal with any direct effects to your company, but also the indirect issues that will pop up as a result of the shutdown affecting your customers.

 

If you haven’t done so already, now is a good time to start communicating on social media, letting your audience know where things stand with you and and your company in the wake of the shutdown.  If your products or services are continuing on as normal, that’s great news to be able to convey; likewise, if services will be affected, letting people know now is much better than letting them find out the hard way.

 

You also need to keep in mind that your customers may be affected on a personal level by the shutdown, which may in turn impact their ability to continue using your products and services.  If you had any specials you were thinking about running in the near future, now would be an excellent time to get those rolling, to try to help things stay business-as-usual.  Again, social media is a great way to communicate this, and doing so will also come across as a gesture of good will at the most appropriate time.

 

Obviously the shutdown will not last forever, but while it does, it’s a good opportunity for you to test out how readily you can shift to Plan B, and how well you can handle bumps in the road.  That’s not to say that the shutdown is a positive thing; only that every changing situation gives you a chance to expand your skills as a marketer, and find out what works for you and what doesn’t when times get tough.

 

How has your business been handling the shutdown so far?  What sorts of plans do you have in place to cope if it continues?

All businesses with an online presence are trying to achieve the same basic goal – getting the largest possible captive audience so that the highest possible percentage of that audience will become (and remain) customers.  Search engine optimization is one of the key ways to achieve this, because search engines are generally the first stop for people who are looking to purchase something or solve a problem.  As such, the quest to rank high for particular search terms has become both an art and a science, with new techniques for optimization continually surfacing.

 

It’s important to remember, though, that the SEO game should not simply be about high rankings, but relevance.  In the pursuit of getting to the top of Google, it’s easy to forget that when people see a top-ranking hit, there is an expectation there.  There’s little point to being ranked highly for a particular term, only to have visitors disappointed or even angry when they arrive at the site to find that what they’re looking for isn’t actually there, or not to the standard that they’d hoped.  Usually this does not happen intentionally, but sometimes the competitive nature of search optimization can lead to results being misleading.

 

In other words, it may pay off more in the end to back off the obsession with SEO, and veer toward a more balanced approach, in which relevant content helps drive rankings.  This differs from older SEO techniques where keyword saturation and other little “tricks” were given more attention than actual content.  Now, quality content is the driving force of SEO, as search engines employ increasingly sophisticated algorithms that reward true substance, and ignore or even punish those who try to manipulate the system to their advantage.

 

This is actually good news for everyone, marketers and consumers alike.  It means that in order to find the audience you’re looking for, all you have to do is focus on showing what you can do for them, and let the search engines (and social media word-of-mouth) take care of the rest.  Spending less time “trying” to rank high frees you up to concentrate on your area of skill, and demonstrating your expertise will not only help you rank high organically, but will also impress visitors and help build reputation and trust.  The days of SEO tricks are coming to a close; the age of demonstrating quality has arrived.

 

How has your attitude toward SEO changed over the years?  Do you find yourself relying more these days on actual content rather than ranking tricks?

social-mediaFacebook and Twitter are always there.  You can pop in and check your accounts, disappear for a couple of weeks, and when you come back, everything is just how you left it, people carrying on the global conversation without you.  What you’re not seeing, however, is what your silence is costing you in followers and potential customers.  Here are some reasons why it’s important to stay consistently active on your social media accounts.

 

1. It makes you look reliable.  Like it or not, if you only post on your social media accounts every once in a while, and are lax about replying to tweets and Facebook messages, people will make assumptions about your customer service ethic.  If you can’t even be bother to respond to tweets in a timely fashion, why should they believe you’ll respond when they have a real need to speak to you?

 

2. It keeps your followers from getting bored.  There’s a balance to be achieved with posting frequency on social networks.  On one hand, you don’t want to spam people, but on the other hand, you do want to look like you’re there and participating in conversations.  If there are huge gaps in your timeline, people will start to wonder why they bother following you at all, and many will unfollow.

 

3. It reminds people that you exist.  Not everyone thinks about your company all the time, but being active on social media keeps you on their radar, and gives them a gentle reminder that you’re still around, and still eager to help them with whatever they need.  This means that when it comes time for them to make a purchase, your company name will be fresh in their mind.

 

If you’re going to participate in social media (and you definitely should!) it’s better to stick with a couple of networks that you know you can keep up with, rather than signing up for every network and spreading yourself too thin.  There’s only a finite amount of time you can commit to social media, so use it wisely, and make the effort to participate enthusiastically and regularly.  You’ll definitely notice a difference in how people respond to you, and that in turn will translate into more shares and retweets, better interaction, and of course more followers, which is what everyone wants.

 

How much time per week do you devote to social media marketing? Do you notice a difference when you don’t keep up with it regularly?

bloggingMost business owners know that they should have a blog on their website, but often once the blog is in place, there’s some hesitation or confusion about how best to use it.  Filling your blog with content isn’t something to be done randomly – you’ll want to adopt a strategy to make sure that you attract readers and, more importantly, retain them as customers.

 

Consistency is probably the most important factor in blogging.  Too many business owners wait too long between blog posts, causing readers to get bored and stop following the blog.  Most blogs with a regular readership hang onto those readers by providing a steady stream of content – at least a post a week is recommended, and more is great if you have strong content ideas more frequently.

 

You also want your blog posts to be informative and/or entertaining.  Don’t let the desire to post regularly tempt you to publish posts just for the sake of it.  As you go through your work day, make notes of any interesting situations that pop up that might interest your readers, any problems that you solve in your line of work or tips that you can pass on.  You’ll probably be surprised at how many interesting blog ideas you can come up with, and if the subject matter is not time-sensitive, you can even write several posts in one sitting and schedule them out to post at regular intervals on future dates.

 

Once you have a post published, the key to getting readers is effective promotion.  This is where your social media accounts come in handy.  Finding a balance is important – promote confidently, and be proud of your posts, but don’t spam your audience with incessant promotional links.  Rely instead on quality content that others will retweet and share with their networks, as that sort of organic promotion is the key to growing your readership.

 

Blogging is a great way to create brand awareness and to establish yourself as an expert in your field.  Taking the time to post informative, helpful blog content on a regular basis not only helps your readers, it also helps your business in the long run.  Although building a readership takes time and effort, it’s an investment that will help improve your site’s search ranking, as well as giving life to your site by serving up dynamic content that’s perpetually being renewed.

 

How often do you find the time to blog?

The concept of a social media crisis is nothing new.  Tales of people saying regretful things on the internet are nearly as old as the internet itself.  The snag with online foot-in-mouth syndrome, however, is that unlike in real life, the things you say online continue to live on forever.  Even if you delete the text in question, if someone has already drawn attention to it and reposted it, that text can still be spread around and read by countless numbers of people, long after you unsuccessfully tried to take back what you said.

 

As social media becomes ever more intwined with business lives, however, the issue becomes more than just personal embarrassment.  Recently, Pax Dickinson lost his job as Business Insider’s chief technology officer, over some tweets in which he expressed racist, sexist, and homophobic sentiments.  Although Dickinson has shown little remorse and actually appears to be enjoying the attention the scandal has caused, for most of us that kind of thing would be a disaster, to say the least.

 

The idea of accidentally saying the wrong thing in the fleeting moment of typing a status update is only part of the problem, though.  Sometimes we can be trying to help others or ourselves, and unwittingly be causing more harm than good.  Take, for example, Pax Dickinson’s connections on LinkedIn.  Attention is being drawn to the fact that several people wrote recommendations for Dickinson, and some are now feeling silly that they publicly vouched for someone who behaves in the way Dickinson does.  While it’s impossible to be held responsible for or predict how everyone else acts, it’s essential to take things like recommendations seriously, and not just write them because “that’s what everyone does.”

 

Communication on the internet is tricky at best.  It seems like no matter what you say, someone could take issue with it, but at least you want to make sure that your words are consistently in line with your personal and professional values.  In addition, if you are representing your business online, you want to limit yourself to saying things that are in keeping with your brand message, and that don’t contradict your corporate tone.  It can be a fine balance, but it’s one that’s essential to find if you want to continue to build positive relationships online.

 

Have you ever learned a hard lesson from saying the wrong thing online? How difficult was it to deal with the aftermath?

If there’s one thing we can always count on, it’s that Facebook will keep changing things, and the most recent set of changes involves how the news feed algorithm decides what stories to show at the top of a user’s feed page.  Previously, the average Facebook user read 57% of the stories in their news feeds, but older content got lost in the shuffle as users failed to scroll down far enough to see the other stories.

 

Now, with the new algorithm, Facebook mixes some older content back in with the newer stories, based on things like number of likes and shares, number of comments a story receives, level of previous interaction with the friend or page in question, and number of people who are hiding a particular piece of content.

 

So what does all this mean for marketers?  The most important change is that timing is not as crucial as it once was.  Figuring out the perfect timing for Facebook posts often involved complex metrics that measured engagement against time of day and demographic, but now, with older content having the potential to “come back to life,” the focus simply shifts back to the creation of content that people find interesting and relevant.

 

In other words, even if timing was starting to share the throne with content, content is definitely back to being the one and only king.  As a marketer, you don’t have to worry so much anymore about posting updates at the “perfect” time, and instead you can concentrate your efforts on posting content that will get liked, shared and commented on so much, that it keeps appearing in the news feeds of those who may not have seen the update the first time.

 

This also means that posting spammy updates will become less tempting for businesses, as the algorithm now penalizes updates that too many people have hidden.  The emphasis really is on relevant, interesting content, and the only thing to play around with is the nature of that content, and perhaps the format of it.  For example, you might experiment with photos versus plain text updates, or videos, or whatever else you like to post, to see which kinds of updates perform better.

 

Have you noticed any changes in audience engagement since the new news feed algorithm went into effect?  Has it indeed made your audience more responsive and reactive?

Pinterest is one of those growing social networks that’s still somehow elusive to many people.  Sometimes, if the nature of your product or service isn’t particularly visual, it can be difficult to see how to create boards with compelling content, and to build a following for those boards.  If you’ve been having trouble getting your pinterest account to grow, here are five ways you can help get the ball rolling.

 

1.  Interact.  As with all social networks, too many business ignore the social aspect and go for the hard sell instead, which drives people away.  Follow the boards of people in your niche and related niches, and make sure to comment on, fave, and repin their content as applicable.  If you’re seen as friendly and approachable, more people will want to follow your account.

 

2.  Stay on-topic.  Remember that this is not your personal Pinterest account; keep your company branding in mind, and stick with boards that are related to your niche.  It’s okay to create a couple of fun boards that deal with less formal aspects of what your company is about, but try not to go completely off-topic.

 

3. Boost awareness.  Do your Facebook followers know you have a Pinterest account? How about your Twitter followers?  Your blog readers?  Mention your Pinterest account from time to time, and make sure you link to it on all your About pages.

 

4. Get ahead of the curve.  Sure, repinning content from others is great, but you want to be first off the mark with some content, as well.  Try to keep up with any new developments in your niche, and create pins for the content before others do.  This will help you be seen as an expert rather than just a follower.

 

5. Don’t slack.  Pinterest is one of those sites where more is better, for the most part, so pin away!  Try not to let days go by where you don’t pin anything – even dozens of pins a day is fine.  People like their feed to be chock full of new content.  Keep an eye on quality, though – don’t just pin things for the sake of numbers, make sure your pins and repins make sense in the context of your business.

 

How much of your marketing efforts are spent on Pinterest? Where could you make beneficial changes in your strategy?

We all know the importance of periodic website redesign.  Over time, you’ll find that your site has outdated contact information, old photos that need updates, or design features that do not reflect current standards.  However, though most of us keep up with our websites, often we don’t give the same attention to our social media accounts.

 

It’s important to remember that the information on your social media accounts needs to be consistent with what is on your main website, both in terms of content and in terms of tone.  For example, if your business address or telephone number has changed, it’s not enough just to update your site – you need to make sure the information is current on your Facebook page, Twitter account, and so forth.  From time to time, it’s a good idea to go through the profile information all your social media accounts, and just make sure that everything matches up.

 

Likewise, if you have done any rebranding, it’s essential that you not confuse your customers and potential customers with inconsistencies.  Any change in logo, company colors, or language style needs to be reflected across the board, on all your social media accounts as well as your website.  Sometimes we get so caught up in the web redesign that we put social media accounts on the back burner, figuring that we’ll get around to updating those whenever we have extra time, a delay which sometimes ends up being drawn out indefinitely.

 

Put yourself in the position of your audience – if you see a business with a certain name whose visual presentation has a certain look and feel, you learn to recognize that company by those visual elements.  If you then run across a Facebook page that looks completely different, at best you might be confused for a while, and at worst you might be convinced that you have the wrong company, and look elsewhere.

 

Take some time this week to have a quick look through all your social media accounts, making profile updates and refreshing items wherever necessary.  It only takes a small amount of work to keep everything consistent, and the difference it makes to your visitors and to your brand is significant.  In a sea of online brands, it’s important to give yourself the best possible chance of being recognized no matter where your audience finds you.

Why not look here link

 

When was the last time you refreshed your social media accounts? Do you make an effort to keep them up to date?

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