The Pay-for-Play Social Revolution: What SMBs Need to Know

Focus on banking with Small Business isolated on blue

More brands and more people are posting on social media. Facebook has more than 1.28 billion monthly active users, while Twitter has 255 million. You do the quick math – with that many users posting and sharing potentially multiple times a day, it’s no wonder it’s harder than ever for SMBs to connect with their target audience via social media. However despite that proliferation of content, these channels are making it easier – and more affordable – for SMBs to get their posts and tweets seen by the right people.

What is Paid and Why Should You Care?

Social media marketing strategies fall into three channels: owned, earned and paid. Owned channels are your profiles on Facebook, Twitter, etc. These are the channels were you share your content and your message. When social media usage was in its infancy, it was easy for a brand to set up a profile and share content – and have it seen organically. If people really liked the content, it would earn the attention of followers and potentially go viral, or capture the attention of media, who then wrote about it. Because the adoption and usage of social media channels have grown so much, there’s increased competition for attention – this is where paid comes in.

Ever wonder why you see posts from brands every day, while others you never see? Paid helps your posts and content be seen. It’s no longer enough to just produce great content – you need to put a little money behind it to ensure you stand out among the baby pictures and BuzzFeed articles users friends are posting. And it’s not that hard to do with self-service platforms designed with SMBs in mind. All you need is a little money (budget is up to you), an image and ad copy, and a link to where you’re interested in driving traffic.

How do you get started?

1. Got goals?: Is your objective to grow engagement on your social channels? Or drive someone to your webpage? Once you figure out what your ultimate goal is, you’ll be able to come up with a tactical strategy to help you reach your objective.

2. What’s your strategy?: The best paid social media programs employ a mix of tactics across Facebook and Twitter. In a Mashable article, HipLogiq CTO and cofounder Adam Root explains: “My strategy is to use Twitter to gain new users, Facebook to build a community. My logic in choosing this strategy is that Twitter is a good medium for targeting moments and encouraging action, Facebook is a great medium for building long-term relationships…”

Keep in mind, Facebook and Twitter offer a few different types of paid social media options –advertisements or promoted posts. Your strategy (and the types of social media paid options you employ) will be influenced by your ultimate goal. If you’re interested in learning more about the different types of social media buys you can execute on these platforms, check out this an easy to understand tutorial from Facebook and this guide from Twitter.

3. Who are you trying to reach?: One of the best parts about paid is that it ensures that the right people are seeing the right content. Going into your campaign, you need to know exactly who you want to reach – even down to the geographic location. Because social media users are sharing a lot of personal information on these sites, it’s easy to ensure that someone who is interested in craft beer in Seattle is able to see your promoted post or promoted Tweet about craft beer in Seattle.

4. Get creative with your content: If you’re going to do a social media paid buy, you’ll need some creative content. The type of creative content you need will be influenced by your strategy, but you’ll need to make sure that the images, text and links you’re utilizing will be relevant for your audience(s). For example, an image of someone running in New York City, won’t resonate if your target audience is runners in San Diego.

If you opt to promote a post or Tweet (vs. execute a social ad), all you’ll need is a link to the piece of content and some text that you would use for an update.

5. Advertise away!: Once your strategy and audience is defined, your ads can be up and running in 2-3 days via Facebook or Twitter’s self-serve platform. You can look in real-time to see how your paid buys are performing and what is resonating with your target audience. Something didn’t land well? That’s okay – you can easily re-allocate your budget to a new ad or post that you know your audience would be interested in based on how the rest of your campaign is performing.

Does your SMB have a paid social media strategy? How are you using it to grow your owned channels?

Welcome to Shoppost!

screenshot-2-shoppost-previewWith the release of any new product, it is traditional for a company’s founder to share his or her thoughts on what they intend to achieve, or how they see their product impacting the world.

Now, I’m reluctant to call this sharing my vision, as that’s a slippery slope to referring to yourself as a ‘visionary.’ And that’d lead to hearing things at home like, “honey, visionaries don’t roll the trash down the curb,” which is a road I do not wish to travel. So, rather than sharing my vision, let me just tell you what Shoppost is and what I hope it will do for you.

Shoppost is a social commerce application that lets merchants sell goods from their Shopify or Big Commerce stores on social media networks. With just a few clicks, you can showcase and sell your products directly on your followers’ Facebook and Twitter feeds, as well as on Google+ and Pinterest, letting your customers shop and interact with your product without ever having to leave the site.

We know that people spend an enormous amount of time on social media every day, and this trend will only continue. We’ve seen that consumers follow merchants and product lines they like and, in turn, want to share their experience with their peers. But until now, there wasn’t a simple, effective way to do this within a social media platform, or offer a seamless experience that moves the customer from one platform to the others without frustrating consequences.

Until Shoppost, the solution has been a series of redirects, cumbersome processes and time wasted, resulting in lot of abandoned shopping carts. But now that Shoppost is available, these are problems of the past. Building your Shoppost takes just a minute for you to set up, and purchasing and sharing couldn’t be easier for your customers.

Shoppost lets your customers preview your product with an image or video of the product that’s located directly on the social media platform – they can even interact with the product by selecting a size, color or any other variant. And all of this happens without a redirect. Your customers on Facebook don’t have to leave the site until they land on your secure checkout page.

There’s nothing else out there that’s even close to this functionality. It takes just a minute to promote a product, and even less time for your customers to buy. And additional integrations and enhancements to Shoppost are rolling out all the time. We’ll be sure to keep you posted.

Shoppost costs nothing and can only increase your sales and brand awareness. So give it a try – then be sure to drop me a line to let me know how we’re doing for you.

Happy Shopposting!

David Robb
CEO

What Small Businesses Get Right About Social Media – And What They Get Wrong

Social Media Newspaper Concept

Social media has been a huge boon to small businesses all over the world. Perhaps no other platform has enabled businesses just getting off the ground to amplify their message and reach their customers. But not every business is taking full advantage of this opportunity. So what are some of the things that small businesses get right about social media, and what do they get wrong?

The Good

Have a Facebook presence –More than 25 million small businesses are now using Facebook, which is a positive sign. Facebook today is properly understood as the top platform for most businesses to engage their customers. Expanding your brand presence on Facebook can only lead to positive results.

Be human – One of the more positive aspects of being a small business is that it’s much, much harder to sound like a soulless corporation in your communications. Many small businesses are significantly more responsive and engaging with their audience than larger brands, which admittedly have larger followings, but still should not just use social media as a place to just regurgitate their press releases.

Don’t go overboard – You know that company that uses social media to just regurgitate their press releases? Well, their evil twin is the company that uses social media to constantly promote their products many, many times a day, day after day after day. There’s a time and a place for promoting your products, but multiple times a day is not that time. That’s a lesson that most small businesses inherently understand. You know your customers limits. We’ll get back to this question of how much to post a little later.

The Bad

Not Utilizing Twitter or LinkedIn –SMBs are using Facebook, but they’re not utilizing Twitter or LinkedIn, which, increasingly, is becoming a missed opportunity. Fewer than one in four use Twitter, and fewer than one in five uses LinkedIn, both of which are becoming more and more useful platforms for your small business strategy – LinkedIn especially, as in addition to reaching potential clients and talent directly, it’s also a source of strong business advice.

Not Posting Enough – If you look around the Internet, you’ll find dozens—maybe hundreds—of guides telling you exactly when and how many times you need to post to achieve maximum engagement. Too many businesses get caught in that trap. According to longtime entrepreneur and advisor Guy Kawasaki, you shouldn’t worry about how often you post on social media.

“Almost every company is not posting as much as they should,” Kawasaki recently told Business Insider. “Many are believing ‘expert’ advice that the optimal number of posts on each platform is one per day. This is the stupidest thing I’ve heard. Imagine if NPR, CNN, ESPN, or the BBC did one report per day — and never repeated it. Companies are afraid of a vocal minuscule minority complaining about too many posts and repeated posts.”

The takeaway? If you have something that’s useful and relevant for your audience, post it. And conversely, if you don’t have anything to say, don’t say anything at all.

Expecting Immediate Results – You have a Facebook profile filled out, great imagery and a crack team ready to engage potential customers. So you should start seeing an uptick in sales, right?

Not so fast, my friend.

You’re in this for the long game. You’ll be engaging with a lot of potential customers who have no plans to make a purchase in the near future. Your goal with your social media strategy shouldn’t be to immediately convert everyone on your Facebook list, it should be to build your brand awareness, keep your business top of mind when it does come time for making a purchase, and to nurture and support potential brand advocates among your customers. Patience: it’s not just a virtue – it’s a sales strategy.

How to More Easily Market Your Products on Social Media

Casual businessman working at office desk, using mobile phone an

Like most technology, social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest are in a state of constant change. And while these changes are often undertaken for the end user’s benefit, they can often throw your marketing strategy into chaos.

How are you supposed to promote your products and reach your customers when you don’t know if what you’re doing today will work tomorrow? And how can you tread this uncertain landscape when chances are that none of the platforms you’re on will operate the same way a year from now?

Change is inevitable. But though you may not know what’s coming, you can prepare all the same. Here are three tips to more easily market your products on social media, and handle the occasional curveball.

Keep on Top of Changes

If you want to use social media, you have to understand the platforms. Yes, change is inevitable, but you need to know what’s changed and how it’s changed, when it changes. By understanding what’s happened and how it will affect your business’ social presence, you can craft a plan of action to address the changes now and keep your online presence on a path of growth.

You can’t get ahead on social media if your strategy is based on information that’s years behind. Check out sites like Social Media Examiner to keep on top of the latest in the world of social.

Aggressively Target Your Audience

Knowing who your audience is is Marketing 101. But that audience changes. They browse different websites. Their interests change. They watch different TV shows and like new bands. And if you want to reach out to them and talk to them where they’re at, you need to keep up.

Do what you can to strengthen your audience research. You can then take this data and use it for better-targeted advertisements. Social media platforms are nothing more than giant data sponges, and their ad programs can each be heavily targeted at certain segments of that data. Be sure you’re on top of who you’re talking to when you’re using paid media.

Build Your Community

You know what convinces people to buy things, more than anything else? It’s not the big elaborate commercials. It’s not the hilarious advertisements you put up around town. It’s not even your totally awesome website. No, it’s people – friends, colleagues and even acquaintances who enthusiastically promote your product.

You can help build this community of potential brand ambassadors by starting on social media. Engaging with your customers and your community, and being a company that is seen as really, truly, actually human, is the best way to turn customers into advocates for your brand. Make sure your social presence is as engaging as possible.

Of course, the presumes that you have a product that’s worth raving about. If you do, there’s no better way to get your product in front of potential customers than Shoppost. And the easier it is to share your product with their friends and family, the better your word-of-mouth buzz will end up being.

What about you? How have you responded to the changing social media landscape?

5 Ways Small Businesses Can Boost Their Online Sales

Woman Working At Flower Shop Smiling

Sure, ecommerce platforms work fine for the large retailers who already have a built-in customer base and following. But what about the small business or new startup? How can you establish an online foothold in an increasingly more complex and difficult sales environment?

We’ve got you covered. Here are our five tips to jumpstart your online sales.

Set Up a Website

If you haven’t done that yet, stop reading and get one set up!
Okay, that wasn’t much of a first tip. Let’s call that one a freebie.

Get Mobile

Mobile is the wave of the future, and it’s either time to ride that wave or get out of the way. According to StatCounter.com, mobile web usage is at approximately 30 percent, up from just 3 percent in 2010. If your online presence only caters to desktop users, you’re missing a huge—and growing—part of your audience.
Always optimize your site for mobile users, and consider launching your own app. Engage this growing section of your customer base.

Be Social

Recently, we talked about how you could use Facebook to drive sales. This just underscores the need for your business to have a social media presence. It doesn’t have to be every single social media network, but you should know which networks your target audience is using and make sure you’re active and engaged there.

Focus on the Customer

Companies like Zappos have become legendary for their devotion to customer service. And in a world where everyone has a story about being routed to a call center halfway around the world, only to wait on hold for what seems like hours, this Business 101 staple should not be overlooked.
No matter your platform, you should have clear means for the customer to contact you with any issues, and a plan in place to satisfy customer returns, complains and questions as quickly and effectively as possible. Buying from an online store is one thing – knowing what to do when that item is returned is another. A lot of companies spend all their time on the buying part of the equation, and not the post-sale customer service aspect. Don’t be like a lot of companies.

Identify Trends, then Jump on Them

You should always have an ear to the ground for “the next big thing.” The Internet is a fast-changing place, and new ideas, memes and methods are popping up every day. The now overly-clichéd Wayne Gretzky quote is nonetheless apt here: “Go to where the puck is going, not where it’s been.”
What are some of the trends that might affect your small business? Digital couponing, for one – this sales tactic jumped 141 percent in 2013 to 66 million digital coupons redeemed. Retailers with a strong digital coupon strategy are the ones reaping the rewards. Another is video, which is projected to generate more than two thirds of all Internet traffic by 2018. While not all businesses need to utilize video, those that do are opening themselves up to a much larger potential audience.

Use Shoppost

Come on, you didn’t think we wouldn’t put this in, did you?

What are your online selling strategies? Has your small business had success selling online? We invite you to share your stories with us in the comments below.

3 Ways Your Business Can Use Facebook to Drive Sales

Thumbs up or like symbol in coffee frothAh, Facebook. It’s long been the place you could go to connect with estranged high-school classmates, if you needed a cat video fix, or if you were just dying to find out that the Star Wars personality quiz Aunt Matilda just took says her closest match is Jabba the Hutt.

Of course, you already knew that.

But the one thing Facebook wasn’t was a place you go to buy or sell things. Sure, you might find a coupon code here or there for 15 percent off, or even a sponsored link, but a sales platform it was not.

“Was” being the key word.

Today, Facebook has significant potential as a place to sell your products, which is one of the reasons why we created Shoppost. We believe that the surefire way to turn people off from your products is to make the sales experience clumsy and unintuitive, so we focused on making Shoppost a seamless experience that fits right in with the existing Facebook news feed. The less disruption from the traditional Facebook experience for the customer, the better. And we believe that Shoppost can help you provide that experience to your customers.
What are some other ways your business can use Facebook to drive sales?

Actually Use Posts and Photos to Your Benefit

Sure, you have photos and posts. Chances are that you have a great designer who put together your awesome Facebook profile picture and cover photo. But are you really using your photos and posts to your full advantage? Cover photos can and should be changed regularly to promote particular products, with a direct link to the product page in the caption of the image – not to your general website, but to the product itself.

Jon Loomis has some suggestions on how to improve the reach of your posts, as well. He recommends creating your post as a link share while using an appropriately-sized image to display prominently in news feeds – thus getting the benefits of an image-focused post while still maintaining a link to your product. He also suggests limiting the text to 90 characters, so that your call to action shows up on mobile devices.

Fully Optimize Your Approach

We are in the age of big data, and if there’s one thing that Facebook generates, it is a mountain of data. In scouring over this information, we can glean some ideas on how to approach a Facebook strategy. For one, Adobe’s Social Intelligence Report recently found that engagement on video posts is up by 785 percent from last year. It used to be that video based posts didn’t see much traffic – that seems to be changing.

But when to post? Perhaps unsurprisingly, the best day of the week for Facebook engagement is Friday between 2 and 3 p.m., when a sizable segment of the workforce has begun to mentally check out for the weekend. Tuesday would appear to be the worst day to attempt to engage with your audience. But in order to get your product onto somebody’s newsfeed, you need to…

Utilize Paid Promotion

Like it or not, recent changes to Facebook’s newsfeed algorithm mean that brands basically have to utilize paid in order to reach customers. (You can count Eat24 as one of the “nots.”) But there are advantages to this. You can reach a more engaged audience by not only tailoring your content, but also defining the reach of the promoted post to an audience that you define. And after you’ve seen results, you can further optimize the paid reach through tweaking and testing, in order to get maximum value for your dollar.
Need more proof? Adobe found that the click-through rate on Facebook ads in the U.S. has increased by 160 percent over the past year alone, even as the costs per click have declined slightly. Those are two trend lines going in positive directions for your business’ bottom line.

Have any Facebook selling tips? Share them with us in the comments below!

5 New Ways to Reach Your Customers

A blue nametag sticker with words Hello I Am Your Customer to re

Be where your customers are.

It’s a simple concept, yet one that marketers have struggled with since, well, long before they called it marketing. How can you find an audience, and once found, stay engaged with them? After all, customers change. Their interests shift. Where they congregate and what they do in their free time is always in flux. And marketers are always trying to stay one step ahead.

In today’s increasingly fragmented and media-driven world, driving sales is harder than ever. But it can be done as some enterprising companies have shown. Here are five new and unique ways that businesses are reaching customers today.

Social

Social media is the next great frontier in e-commerce. Brands have already been connecting with their customers directly – the extremely popular Taco Bell Twitter account and Oreo’s “you can dunk in the dark” post during last year’s Super Bowl being two standouts – but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. With the popularity of social media, this is the ultimate example of “be where your customers are.”

And this is why we created Shoppost, a free, easy-to-use app that gathers your product information and pulls it into a beautiful presentation window that posts to your social channels in just a few simple clicks. At its heart, it’s a way to make your products a natural and seamless part of the social experience. After all, customer X may never go to his local bike shop’s website with the fancy online store, but he definitely will spend time on Facebook. And if he sees that bike he’s been looking for at a great price, and all he has to do is click “Buy” while browsing in his Facebook stream., It opens up a whole new (and easier) world of e-commerce for buyer and seller alike.

YouTube

Many brands have jumped on the video bandwagon, which we love and highly recommend (in fact, check out our latest video – we think you’ll like it). But if you don’t have a knack for creating viral content, getting your video in front of eyeballs is a difficult proposition at best.

Eric Siu over at Forbes recommends jumping into YouTube advertising, listing a host of different benefits. We like this idea a lot – YouTube has worked hard to make sure its advertisements are as unobtrusive as possible, and you won’t be competing for spots the same way you might with Google Adwords.

Crowdsourcing

Crowdsourcing is all the rage these days with hundreds of projects being funded via Kickstarter campaigns, which is great for small businesses and startups. This has limited application for larger businesses that already have sufficient capital to fund new projects and R&D. However, crowdsourcing remains a viable and potentially hugely profitable play for these companies if they shift their focus to something else entirely – ideas, rather than capital.
My Starbucks Idea is probably the best example of this method – a quick glance shows tens of thousands of ideas for new drinks and in-store ideas. While not every idea is bound to be a good one, it’s a great way for brands to actually engage with their customers – not just sell to them. And who knows – one of those ideas may end up in your cup one day when you’re blinking sleep out of your eyes at 7 a.m.

Branded Content

What’s the easiest way to win over your customers? Give them something that’s actually useful and relevant to them. That’s the essence of content marketing. An increasing number of brands are making use of this method, from consumer brands like Red Bull, to B2B companies like Ricoh. As a brand awareness tool, this is an outstanding means to reach potential customers who might have never even heard of your business.

Native Advertising

When the New York Times is doing it, you know that there’s something behind it. Advertorials have been around for a while – take a look near the back of your in-flight magazines – but the increasing use of native advertising online has renewed focus on this customer outreach method. Advertisements designed to look a part of the site took off with the exploding popularity of BuzzFeed, and an increasing number of sites (primarily in journalism) are utilizing this method. While this method has met with some criticism, there’s no denying its effectiveness.

What do all of these have in common? They’re focused on the customer and their experience, rather than the product itself. They’re also seen as tools of engagement – to connect and really have a conversation with the customer. Somewhere along the line, companies figured out that they actually needed to listen to what their customers were saying. And when there are a million different things competing for the customer’s attention, it’s the companies that can cut through the noise to establish a real connection with their customers that will end up being most successful.