Smarter Marketing Blog

How Your Small Business Can Benefit From eCommerce

ecommerce-credit-card-exchange

Once again, we have teamed up with Kayleigh Alexandra, a content writer for Micro Startups, to guest write an article for our blog. We asked her to consider the topic of e-commerce for SMEs. Read on for her helpful thoughts on the subject.

“The decline of big high street chains has been well publicised in recent years. HMV, House of Fraser, Markers & Spencer, Game: are some of the big names who have suffered store closures. Though bricks and mortar retail still contributes significantly to economies, many pundits are predicting the death of the high street as we know it, in the long term. E-commerce, on the other hand, is on the rise.

If you’re a small business (SME), embracing e-commerce can offer you a wide range of benefits. But, it can also be daunting to know where to start — what about social media, logistics, websites, PWAs or mobile apps?

And even though e-commerce is a no-brainer for product-led businesses, it can also offer benefits for small businesses selling services or time.

In this article, we’ll talk you through the major benefits of an e-commerce model, and some tips you can follow to get the most out of it.

What is e-commerce?

Put simply, e-commerce is selling products or services online. Since the internet became commercially available in the early Nineties, more and more companies have moved their business partially or entirely online. Spearheaded by the likes of Amazon and eBay, e-commerce offered a world of possibility and not just for consumers either.

With reduced overheads compared to brick-and-mortar stores and the ability to reach a wider audience, e-commerce offers businesses of virtually any industry (including yours) significant benefits.

Whether you are selling coaching calls, bespoke bags, marketing services, an online course, or even flowers — the convenience of one-click e-commerce is yours for the taking. Easy software and low subscription costs make e-commerce technology affordable for even the tiniest of operations.

Moving from local to global

One of the biggest challenges for small businesses is expanding their customer base outside friends, family, and local word of mouth recommendations. This may mean you need to invest in pay-for strategies such as search advertising and online directories to spread the word about your brand.

This is where e-commerce offers huge benefits — expanding your customer reach and making your products available globally is a great way to find new customer communities. Finding fans is a big priority for small businesses (repeat business, positive social proof), and e-commerce can help you expedite the process.

Even if you’re mainly selling online or making the transition — you should still highlight your local flavour. By utilising Google’s My Business pages, you can enhance your online presence in local areas. This is particularly useful if you’re selling heavy goods that require collecting, or if you are targeting a set of local postcodes.

Google My Business image

Help customers find you with SEO

Search engines are the single largest traffic driver for e-commerce websites, ten times higher than social media. As such, it behoves you to optimise your website for search engines to direct customers to your site. It can extend your reach well beyond your local area with cleverly tailored optimisation.

SEO is a bow with many strings and it can seem daunting for the beginner. But there are plenty of online resources that can help you nail the basics (Moz has a particularly good guide to SEO here).

Another big plus is to ensure your website has a strong internal link structure, and it’s worth implementing a strong content marketing strategy ASAP. Create and regularly update a blog that provides useful content to your audience — not only will it provide value to your customers, but it will help you rise through the ranks on search engine results pages.

Use social to connect with your customers

E-commerce goes hand-in-hand with social media to form a powerful marketing strategy that lets you connect with your customers.

It won’t have escaped your attention that social is a hugely popular environment that virtually all your customers are active on. As a result, it pays to connect with them on a platform they are active on.

On social, brands can share content, provide offers and competitions, and even address customer complaints. A strong social marketing strategy helps to humanise your brand and increases engagement by sharing posts that will appear alongside posts from your customers’ friends and family.

And it’s also a chance for brands to sell their products directly through social as well. A number of social platforms include selling options, such as Facebook’s Marketplace or Instagram’s Shoppable posts. These let your customers make purchases without ever leaving their social app, taking your e-commerce further by going straight to the consumer.

facebook-like-buton-on-computer

Minimal overheads

If you’re a small business owner, you’ll know the pressures of balancing overheads all too well. Staff costs, building costs, utilities, furniture: it all adds up.

The nature of a bricks and mortar business requires footfall from customers or knowledge of your location. Often you need to rationalise paying extra for rent in a good location to ensure you’re easily found. This can make it difficult for small businesses to penetrate the high street.

E-commerce, on the other hand, doesn’t require a shop. It can even be done from home. All you need is a domain, hosting and an e-commerce website or mobile app. O’C&K have some sample apps here that you can have a look at.

Designing and building an e-commerce website or an app does require an initial investment, but it’s significantly less than the upkeep and maintenance of a building. And once it’s done, maintenance is extraordinarily cheap.

And you can even cut time and costs by buying an existing online business and repurposing it. This not only saves you the hassle of setting up the store itself up, but they often come with pre-made marketing channels that are ready to go instantly.

You don’t need staff to manage your checkout or in-store customer management. Your site does it all. From guiding customers through their buying journey to handling their payments.

keyboard-e-commerce

Analyse and adapt

Possibly the most beneficial aspect of an e-commerce website is its data collection.

By selling online and using a combination of your e-commerce platform’s inbuilt analytics, you’ll have access to a wealth of information about your customers’ shopping habits.

You can then start to build a knowledge base by highlighting key questions such as:

  • What are your most popular products?
  • Where are your buyers based?
  • What did they look at before they bought?
  • How many visits did it take before they bought?
  • What day of the week and time of the day do people buy the most?
  • How successful have your offers been?

When you have collated this information, consider how you can optimise your site accordingly.

online-data

With such a wealth of consumer data so readily available online, e-commerce makes it easy for brands to fine-tune their selling practices for maximum effect. Even simple things such as what time your consumers made a purchase can be leveraged to hone your online business.

Use a good analytics tool to know your consumers inside and out, and reposition yourself and your marketing accordingly.

There are so many benefits of e-commerce for your small business. Hopefully, this article has convinced you that starting an e-commerce site or mobile app can really add value to your business. Get started and feel the benefits of e-commerce today.”

Kayleigh Alexandra is a content writer for Micro Startups — a site dedicated to spreading the word about startups and small businesses of all shapes and sizes. Visit their blog for the latest marketing insights from top experts and inspiring entrepreneurial stories. Follow them on Twitter @getmicrostarted.

“Thank you to Kayleigh for her input and to you for reading our blog post today.

If you require any assistance with your marketing including e-commerce websites or mobile apps do not hesitate to give us a call.

Cheers –  Aidan & Jim.

From time to time we send a heads-up email to advise publication of our smarter marketing blog post.

Would you like to be included and get free smarter marketing tips? – yes please 

Shift Your Business To Mobile-First In 5 Steps

 

hand holding mobile phone

Here in O’C&K HQ we’re embarking on a new experiment. We have invited Kayleigh Alexandra, a writer with the SME focused group MicroStartups, to share some marketing insights with us. In the following post, Kayleigh shares excellent advice for businesses who need to shift their online visibility to mobile-first – Jim.

“If you believe that you still have time to prepare before you need to prioritise mobile friendliness in your content and online presence, you’re gravely mistaken; the digital world already demands mobile-first design. Mobile and tablet website views exceeded desktop views (Quartz Media) for the first time since almost two years ago now, and mobile platforms are currently the most popular for brand interaction and online purchasing— two key elements of business success.

For this reason, it isn’t enough to quietly acknowledge that mobile devices are worth considering. It’s utterly crucial for web designers and business leaders alike to recognize mobile suitability as the primary priority and as a matter of some urgency.

In this post, I’m going to look at the steps you should take to move your business towards being a fully mobile-first operation:

The Difference Between Mobile-Responsive and Mobile-First

You might already have adjusted your procedures to produce mobile-responsive designs, but that is unlikely to suffice in the long run. In essence, mobile-responsive design simply reviews the customer journey across various devices and makes structural, functional and technological tweaks to ensure that the user experience is consistent across different platforms.

Mobile-first design, however, isn’t about leveling the playing field. Instead, it places the mobile experience as the top priority and gets that right before addressing any other platforms. Only once the layout has been perfected on a small screen can it be expanded to suit laptop and desktop users.

As a result, it takes into account various possibilities that are wholly restricted to mobile devices or just aren’t as popular elsewhere. Consider geo-targeted marketing, live chat channels, social media sharing options, and the presence of myriad sensors (gyroscopes, accelerometers, and proximity sensors, to name just a few).

By starting with mobile devices, you can maximise your use of the available data and functions, knowing that you can simply disable or rework those features once you move to the desktop design phase.

The Steps to Being Mobile–First Focused

Step One: Identify Your Customers’ Needs

Since you’re making a change that is ultimately in service of your customers, you have to know how they think, what they expect, what they need, and what they’re looking to achieve. There are two main ways in which you can discover the information you need:

  1. Analyse your traffic from mobile devices and social media referrals to figure out how consumers are finding your brand, to begin with.
  2. Survey your users to get direct feedback about how they heard about you and what changes they would like to see made.

Once you have a solid amount of relevant data, you can review your planned customer journey to see how well it suits mobile customers. How could you enhance or add to it in a way that would make mobile users happier? Even a small change can make a huge difference.

For instance, pizza chain Papa John’s took a mobile-first approach ahead of some store openings and targeted customers via geo-targeting. Through sending personalised deals to users within a three-mile radius of a new store, it was able to boost revenue at very little cost.

Step Two: Analyse Your Internal Operations

As important as it is to optimise your designs and procedures for your customers, you shouldn’t overlook the impact of your internal operations. Being mobile-first is also about embracing the ever-increasing options of digital technology and recognising the part they can play in majorly improving efficiency.

For example, consider how a traditional brick-and-mortar retail outlet could benefit from bringing mobile possibilities into its everyday workload. At a minimum, it could look into the following:

  • Implementing a mobile-led stock management system to free up staff and automate the handling of regular orders.
  • Using security apps to facilitate stronger locks and make theft less likely.
  • Handling support requests through mobile apps, rectifying customer complaints and providing further sales opportunities.
  • Running time management and performance assessment through mobile devices instead of requiring laborious paperwork.
  • Establishing a shared knowledge and communication base to make it easier for members of staff to handle tasks and request assistance.

This is really just the tip of the iceberg, of course. There are so many ways in which new technology can revolutionise old methods (O’C&K post) that the only sensible thing to do is comprehensively review all your operating procedures and identify opportunities for improvement as best you can.

Step Three: Devise a Practical Strategy

Once you have identified possible customer and employee challenges you could resolve with mobile technology, you must carefully consider what you can feasibly accomplish in the near future, what should be pursued later, and what is outright unrealistic.

Focusing strongly on practicality here is very important because it’s extremely common for businesses that have just started to learn about the possibilities of technology to let their imaginations run wild and get somewhat ahead of themselves.

Before you add any action to your mobile-first strategy, ask the following questions about it:

  • How much will it cost you to implement?
  • How/when will it raise productivity and/or reduce operational costs?
  • When will it deliver a return on your investment?
  • What staff training or user documentation would it require?
  • Do you have the hardware/data you need for it to be worthwhile?

If you believe that it would serve you well to create an app, you should determine whether it would be suitable for monetisation. You could provide paid subscriptions, priced add-ons, or in-app advertising, for instance. That route may not be advisable, however— it really depends on how well the user base would respond to such an approach.

Step Four: Implement with a Focus on Great UX

While it’s true that mobile device capabilities are evolving year-on-year, remember that the principles of good design remain the same. No amount of useful functionality for your users or your staff will benefit them (or you, ultimately) if they don’t know how to take advantage of it.

Thankfully, sticking to best design practices doesn’t need to be immensely complicated. You only need to look to the industry leaders to see how they structure their layouts and lead people towards the most important functions. Padded elements clear CTAs, universal iconography, accessible navigations, clear feedback following interactions; the basic formula has mostly been figured out by now, and there’s little need to reinvent the wheel.

You can benefit from this more directly through using tools that adhere to best practices in their designs, functions, themes, and outputs. One of the main reasons why it’s become so commonplace for retail startups to build e-commerce sites using template-driven creators is that it guarantees them mobile-first design principles with no effort or research required.

Regardless of the exact changes you end up making, be they bespoke or drawn from existing tools and resources, you’ll need to maintain the level of UX quality they establish from then on. Setting a good precedent today, only to fall short of it tomorrow, will only serve to make you look inconsistent and unreliable. Take the time to set aside the time and budget you need to get it right the first time.

Step Five: Test and Iterate Consistently

Before your product launch, you must ensure that any bugs and glitches that you identified during the testing phase have been fixed. It’s also worth quickly returning to the initial reasoning behind the changes you chose to make and confirming that you’ve met your identified targets (if you haven’t, then something has gone majorly wrong— but it isn’t impossible).

But the testing doesn’t stop once you’ve made your changes. In fact, if you want to take mobile-first design seriously, your testing should never stop. You should always be looking out for additional alterations you could make to improve things even further.

After all, the mobile world moves and changes incredibly quickly, and you can’t know that today’s perfect solution will be the right fit even just a few months from now.

To support your testing and analysis, you’ll need to have a robust analytics setup in place. In most instances, Google Analytics will suffice for this, but you may want a more user-friendly option (Google Analytics is notoriously dense). The more easily you can glean insight from user data, the better equipped you’ll be to keep iterating.

And on the topic of data, one last consideration: the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) that is going into effect today (25th May 2018). Since effective mobile-first design requires the collection and interpretation of a lot of data, you need to understand and take action on your obligations or risk falling victim to legal action.

Moving to a mobile-first design approach isn’t a temporary whim— it’s a permanent shift. The current trend is only going to continue, and the benefits of productivity, revenue and error reduction must not be overlooked. By looking first at your mobile offerings, you can make the most of every user and customer you have. Don’t delay any longer.”

Kayleigh Alexandra is a content writer for Micro Startups — a site dedicated to spreading the word about startups and small businesses of all shapes and sizes. Visit the blog for the latest marketing insights from top experts and inspiring entrepreneurial stories. Follow us on Twitter @getmicrostarted

“Thank you for reading our blog post today, we hope our pointers will help your business grow.

Cheers –  Aidan & Jim.

From time to time we send a heads-up email to advise publication of our smarter marketing blog post.

Would you like to be included and get free smarter marketing tips? – yes, please 

 

Why is getting Social Media Marketing right, so Important?

social media marketing

Wow, now that was a quick year. At this stage, you are probably back at the desk and, hopefully, still on track with your New Year resolutions. If you’re a marketer, you’re more than likely in the process of fine-tuning your marketing strategies for success in 2018. I have no doubt that such a process includes a social media marketing (SMM) strategy.

“Using social media? Sure, that’s old hat at this stage. Everybody knows what to do”. Have you heard this sentiment recently? I have.

So rather than a ‘how to use social media’ blog post, I thought it’d be worthwhile to use this post to a) see if organisations were keeping abreast of digital developments last year, b) if we are really ready to use social media marketing in a smarter way this year and c) suggest what our online behaviour should be like if we want our social media marketing to be successful.

But before we go there I would just like to revisit the perennial question – “What is the ROI of social media marketing?”

In your organisation, you and/or those with a financial background might constantly look to match a direct outgoing cost with a direct incoming profit. In business generally, this is a reasonable quest. However, when it comes to social media marketing a defined return isn’t always obvious and therefore, it can be hard to argue the case for using social media as a marketing tool.

I believe that this is missing the point of SMM. So when questioned by some of our clients embarking on a fresh online journey, my response is to say that the use of social media can generate multiple returns, some of which may well be sales. I have to emphasise that the return may not be linear, and is usually indirect.

The Indirect Return on Social Media Marketing

Yes, there are ways of directly measuring some social media marketing. For example, by using a platform to drive people to a landing page (or specific website page) that has a special offer, you can count the conversions. To me, pay-per-click (PPC) marketing like Google Adwords can accomplish this without much fuss. This method is fine – until you stop paying for the ads, then the traffic dries up and you’re back to where you started from.

The point I want to make here is that with SMM you are building, and engaging with, a community of people that want to hear from you – I mean, they either, followed you, liked you, linked-up with you or choose to follow your Pins for a reason. They usually don’t disappear if you don’t post every day.

So, to finish this point I would like to mention three definite areas where I believe that social media marketing provides an indirect benefit.

  1. It facilitates engagement with your brand on multiple platforms and channels – as determined by customers.
  2. The cost of branding to specific audiences is reduced (as opposed to traditional marketing methods).
  3. It provides the same potential return that offline networking does – in other words, you get back what you put into it.

6 Ways that Social Media Marketing Developed in 2017

So, you think you were totally on top of your social media efforts last year? Let’s have a look at some of the developments that occurred and you can judge yourself if you were on trend.

  1. Interactive video (e.g. Periscope, Facebook Live) became a thing. Live video content is still on the rise and will be one to watch this year also. You can now use mainstream channels such as, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to bring your audience what they want to see. Watch this space for growing customer service uses as well.
  2. Messaging Apps have (almost) taken over from text messaging. Think how this is going to change the face of customer service. Companies will be able to solve customer problems in real time and bring social networking to a different level altogether.
  3. The major platforms started to allow for e-commerce to flourish. Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook offered ways to purchase products directly from their apps.
  4. Virtual reality (think 360-degree videos) was expected to stick its hand up, promising great opportunities for us marketers. However, by the year-end it looked like augmented reality (AR) is becoming the first port-of-call for brands. Of course, AI (bots) also started to become mainstream, but that is a separate topic to be covered here at a later date, perhaps.
  5. Instagram was the first to copy Snapchat’s ephemeral (disappearing) content. Personally, I don’t ‘get’ the purpose of it except that it can possibly portray an unscripted or more human side to your brand. Of course, depending on your audience, this may be exactly what’s required.
  6. For sure, mobile advertising grew more competitive. Spend on all the major channels grew last year and the easier they make it – the more marketers will employ it as a sales technique. I suppose our advice for 2018 would be to experiment on the different platforms to see what works best for your audience.

If all of the above frightens you a little – don’t worry. Aidan and I, (O’C&K) are managing social media campaigns for our clients on a continuous basis. We are here to help you as a smarter marketing resource or as once off project managers. Contact us for a chat.

Behaviour is Important in Social Media Marketing.

The one thing that we (brands, company owners, marketers etc.) should have learnt, over the last say 8 years, is how we should act on social media. People expect us to act in a certain way and if we don’t, our brands may suffer.

The irony here is that as we all get our heads around social media marketing, it is also harder to rise above the noise. Determining what your customers want from you is a great way to gather positive attention and strengthen your brand.

Here are our 4 pillars to base your social media marketing on in 2018:

  1. Be Active on Social Media. Nowadays people of all ages expect you to be on social media e.g. Facebook. They might not check out your website, but they will search for you on Facebook or LinkedIn. Companies that ignore this point are missing out on an opportunity to engage new (and existing) customers. In addition, by sharing your content they also become influencers within their own communities.
  2. Be Honest on Social Media. In the recent years of political uncertainty and economic upheaval, your customers want (expect) an honest relationship with brands they prefer. So, in an environment of ‘fake news’ and political falsifications – you can safely assume that at some stage wrongdoings are going to be aired on social media. Honesty is no longer an option – it is a necessity.
  3. Be Flattered on Social Media. Focus on making a personalised connection. Let’s be honest – none of us wants to be sold to, on social media. If people think that your brand is on social media purely for sales, I can guarantee that your social media marketing (sic) will not succeed. Be flattered that they want to engage with you and treat them as people and not pay packets.
  4. Be Supportive on Social Media. Usually, people, outside of personal connections, want to ask questions, join conversations, be entertained or find out about timely events. So – make sure that your activity on social media is seen as being supportive. Respond in good time, be relevant and be consistent.

Summary.

If your social media marketing is to succeed, the secret is to bear in mind why people (your customers) are on social media in the first place. Your organisation should use it in the same way as they want to use it.

The thing to remember is that social media is ultimately a place where people go to make a connection. A brand being active and supportive builds trust and thereby an emotional link. One sure thing that will break that link is where the finance people look for a 1:1 return and the relationship is measured purely in financial terms. So if your organisation is going to undertake social media marketing, it is important that it is done right. Of course, be professional but also be human.

N.B. April 2018: Don’t just take our word for it. We came across an excellent social media marketing movie wherein, with a goal of helping businesses understand the power of social media marketing, a digital marketing expert spends 24 hours interviewing renowned influencers in the industry.

Have a look at it here:

“Thank you for reading our blog post today, we hope our pointers will help your business grow.

Cheers –  Aidan & Jim.

From time to time we send a heads-up email to advise publication of our smarter marketing blog post.

Would you like to be included and get free smarter marketing tips? – yes please 

How to Build Your Business with Smarter Online Marketing

smarter-online-marketing-tablet-device

Smarter online marketing is something that any growth-minded business aspires to, isn’t it? The trouble is, with little experience and even less time, many business owners or marketing managers dive straight into digital marketing because they don’t want to be left behind!

In this post, I’m going to suggest some questions about online marketing that you should ask yourself before you prepare a formal plan. Plus, I’ll briefly list some basic online marketing concepts and finish off by providing you with tips on how to market your business online.

The pitfall of rushing into online marketing, just because everyone else is, risks a complete waste of time and money. Just like any other business activity, it is advisable to plan for it. Even before that, we would advocate standing back to ask yourself some questions about how embracing digital might impact your business.

Questions such as:

– Will it change the actual business that you are in or drive existing business objectives?

– Will it help you to be more competitive?

– Could it help you increase the value you can offer to customers?

– Will it improve the cost or quality of your existing product /service?

– Might it serve to change your target audience?

– Will you be adding digital capabilities or adding digital to your capabilities?

Instead of rushing into formulating an online strategy, we would recommend that you focus on how any new technology you use, can add something extra to the business strategy you already have in place.

[playbuzz-item url=”//www.playbuzz.com/jimkelly10/smarter-online-marketing” info=”false” shares=”false” comments=”false” recommend=”undefined”]

8 Smarter Online Concepts to Understand

In our experience, what seems to be happening these days is that many organisations are looking at their online presence as being separate to their other marketing activity. Some contact us and ask – “can you help us with our Twitter or Facebook?” or whatever.

In response, we explain how social media is just one digital element in the overall communications effort. Thereafter our job is to show how to integrate their digital objectives into their overall business strategy.

Every day, it seems, we come across new specialist roles in the online marketing space. In our opinion, unfortunately, these people, whilst experts in their field, are failing to grasp how their outputs fit into an overall business strategy. Their impact on business growth, therefore, is negligible.

Of course, digital experts are required but all people in business should have at least a basic understanding of what online activity might entail. Whether you are a business owner, a marketing manager or a not for profit, it is important to understand these 6, fairly basic, online concepts:

  • SEO – being findable and having the best answer for your customers/prospects questions
  • Content Strategy – planned content must be able to attract, engage and convert
  • Paid Social Media – social media algorithms means effective reach must be paid for
  • Pay Per Click – reduced organic search means paid advertising is required to reach your audience
  • Influencer Marketing – amplify your created content by using online influencers (e.g. bloggers)
  • Online Analytics –analyse your existing data and also measure success of your online activity

Be smarter about your online image and the tools you use.

Your Image –

At a very minimum, it should be understood that how you look online is as important as how you look offline. We are starting a new year, so it is probably a good time to refresh your online presence with an image makeover. Here are some quick fixes that you can do immediately:

  • Update your professional headshot – hair, clothes and even you can change over the years.
  • Use new images on your website – your homepage image, your team, your results
  • Ask your customers for new pictures of them using your product/service
  • Update your images on your social media channels and display advertising
  • Remove any images of promotions that are out of date

Some of your customers might only engage with your brand online so it really is important that your online marketing landscape is professional, consistent and reflects the authentic you.

Your tools –

As an SME, have you signed up for some time-saving online tools that you no longer use? Or have some of the tools you use, been surpassed by better ones? There are hundreds of marketing tools out there that can genuinely help you improve your effectiveness, way too many for us to cover. Here is a sample of some that we use and have found to be effective:

  • Open Site Explorer – check out your competitor’s domain authority and copy their links
  • Siteliner – duplicate content check and internal/external links view
  • Portent Title Generator – it might not find you a title but it will get you thinking
  • Grammarly – a must on your computer for checking grammar – even if you don’t blog
  • Google keyword planner – good resource when launching pay-per-click campaign
  • Buffer – schedule social media posts for optimal times
  • PostPlanner – similar to buffer but also has a content generation element
  • Pablo – free images for social media
  • Followerwonk – for analysing your twitter followers
  • Start a fire – places a link back to your website on shared content
  • Wisestamp – professional email signature
  • Adobe Spark – free graphic templates for whatever platform you are using
  • Evernote – store everything for later (free version is excellent)
  • Playbuzz – allows the creation of polls, quizzes etc. for social media posts.

This is a really good infographic providing reasons why you should have a digital marketing strategy and steps to build one. Source – www.digitalvidya.com

12 tips on how to go about smarter online marketing

The first thing to remember about online marketing is that it is not a quick fix. Some actions will have a short term effect and others might take months and years. Being smarter about it means adding value to your digital journey and to that of your customers’.

  1. Website/SEO – your site has to be user-friendly, relevant and attend to your SEO in three elements based on the search impact i.e. tech SEO -25%, on page SEO – 25%, off page SEO – 50%.
  2. Post high-quality content on a blog regularly – adds value, drives traffic and creates authority
  3. Use social media purposely – LinkedIn groups, Facebook ads, Instagram influencers, YouTube tutorials and Twitter lists.
  4. Email marketing – Connect first and then sell. Use lead magnets and landing pages.
  5. Online Reviews – Accept them whenever you can and always answer negative posts
  6. Collaborate with bloggers – find the industry leaders and their blogs and collaborate
  7. Offer something free – a consultation, an audit, a review and upsell in due course
  8. Use business listing sites – google local, whatswhat.ie etc. and contribute to local forums
  9. Sponsorship – there are many online groups that would love to develop an awards programme
  10. Become an authority – use webinars, Quora, speak at conferences etc.
  11. Manage your email signature – link your website, blog, social media to your signature
  12. Use hashtags – create #smarter hashtags and use on Pinterest, Flickr, Instagram etc.

The caveat here is that none of the above tips is going to get you instant sales or perhaps not even instant traffic. The objective is to build a network of people that view you / your brand as being relevant, authentic and personable, and therefore somebody they want to do business with.

Conclusion

There is absolutely no point in jumping into online marketing at the deep end. It could cost your business time, money and even reputation. Understand the basic concepts of what’s required and if necessary outsource the work to professionals.

I was asked at a recent www.whatswhat.ie sponsored networking event to highlight some areas that will impact online marketing this year. In response, I suggested that online advertising will grow (especially Facebook), and off page SEO will be even more important. I stressed that search is not dead especially on mobile devices and neither is email marketing. Finally, I thought aloud that real online interactivity e.g. answering live questions will become an expected way to engage.

“Thank you for reading our blog post today – Aidan & Jim.

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Twice a month or so we send an email with our best content. We never bug you; we just send you our latest piece of content.

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Social Media Branding – Are You Boring People?

social-media-branding-bored-person-

Let’s be honest with each other here – most organisations / brands using social media these days are boring.

I believe this is so because when it comes to social media branding, their mind-set is stuck in the old communications  approach to advertising, media releases, sponsorship and marketing materials. An approach that tells people what you want them to hear.

The thing is, even when the social media approach is altruistic, an organisation’s tone and personality often can’t shine through. This is because the minute it comes to marketing communication – the brand personality is wrapped up in cotton wool a.k.a. brand guidelines

Now don’t get me wrong, brand guidelines are necessary, but SME owners / marketing managers really need to revisit their engagement methods with the modern day consumer. In the current whirlwind of connectivity, people want organisations to be more ‘human’.

They want to know that they can trust a brand and will only stick with those that are relevant and authentic. They want to be able to ‘message’ brands when, where and how it suits them.

[ctt template=”4″ link=”r4d18″ via=”no” ]People want to know that they can trust a brand and will only stick with those that are relevant and authentic – #oconnorandkelly[/ctt]

So why then, when brands dive into the social media pool, are they still doing the doggy-paddle and not learning new swimming strokes. In fact, the swimming strokes don’t have to be new – they only have to be interesting. Why? Because interesting, gets shared by people across their own platforms.

If you’re not interesting, therefore, you may be boring.

My own opinion of most brands on social media is that existing identity ‘style guidelines’ are curtailing natural expression. By all means, adhere to identity guidelines but hey – why not draw up separate ones for your online activity. In fact, I’m delighted to say that more and more of our clients are requesting assistance with this element of their marketing.

We can help you with your social media style guide also – if you wish, just contact us here.

Employees should be allowed to share business stories naturally. It’s a human thing. Them doing so then becomes part of the brand story. Not allowing them to do so, results in the real personality of the organisation remaining behind closed doors. That is why so many organisations appear to be boring when communicating online.

By the way, old fashioned, interruptive style advertising does not help the situation either – good article here from Brand Quarterly on this topic.

Look at it this way, it’s no coincidence that the content most shared by people is that which involves human emotion be it entertaining, informative or educational. Behind-the-scenes videos, staff profiles, subject matter experts, interviews and product stories are all ways in which people make brands come alive.

If people from any organisation are unshackled from brand guidelines and allowed to be themselves, within reason, they will become advocates of the brand. I’m saying nothing new here – business owners and marketers have always known that it is customers and staff that are the essence of a brand.

The Role of Social Media Branding.

Let’s quickly agree that branding is important for marketing. We know this because it can help provide an advantage over competitors through differentiation, help reinforce reputation and manage visibility.

It is also true to say that branding guidelines are necessary for consistency. However, that is not to say that having guidelines means there is no room for change / flexibility.

The branding may change but the brand should remain the same. So, if we take branding here to include activity on social media – then being flexible can only enhance marketing activity.

As part of modern day marketing, social media plays a role in search results. This means it can be used for not only driving traffic to your business but also to build trust and relevancy (reputation) with people online. In fact, recent surveys have shown the strong influence of social media on shopping habits:

chart-social-media-influence-on-shoppers

By creating a dialogue on social media, a brand owner (especially in a business start-up situation) can obtain genuine feedback and build authenticity. As already alluded to, however, consistency is essential – online activity must mirror a brand’s purpose just as much as a paid campaign would.

If your organisation is only starting your social media journey – here are 4 excellent tips from the guys at Social Media Examiner, to start you on your way,

Be More Likeable on Social Media – Not More Boring

We’re not going to write this blog post and pretend that gaining attention on social media is easy. It’s not. As you well know, most of your competitors are now using social media in an attempt to improve search results and customer experience. The thing is, amidst all that online noise, being genuine helps you to stand out and be more likeable.

Being genuine means being real and not just using social media as a promotional tool. By providing some value (content) you will be in a position to develop your following. Also, people will like you more if you engage by inviting both a discussion and feedback.

If you’re good enough, smart enough and tell a good story – people will like you.

Before I finish on this topic, I should mention one more thing. Most marketers will agree that having a clear brand positioning is essential for long-term business growth. However, there is a danger in all of this attitudinal change to social media branding that the fundamentals of brand strategy may be neglected.

For instance, we are all too aware of ‘keeping up with the latest’ trends which have enticed a lot of brands online. The thing is – many organisations are not basing its social media usage on tangible business benefits.The risk, therefore, is that with all the focus being on social, the overall brand strategy can be overlooked. As a result, the brand message and experience gets fragmented across an increased number of platforms.

This can undermine other marketing activity and indeed the brand equity itself.

Don’t get me wrong – social media offers a great new way of engaging with connected customers it’s just that your brand strategy probably needs to be rebooted for the modern customer. A reboot might include a revisit to the purpose of the brand i.e. the role of the brand in a customer’s life; a deeper understanding of the customer (personas) and developing a simple and clear visual brand message.

What next for social media?

What’s the future for social media branding? Bearing in mind the caveat alluded to above about brand positioning and the tips below, here are some observations gleaned from around the web.

– A standardisation of various platforms i.e. biggest platforms are mimicking each other

– Video is getting close to the peak – live video is hot and circular video is growing

– Augmented Reality / Filters adoption is growing

– Increased competition amongst the big search engines

– Platforms becoming business tools and not just for social

– Tech filled glasses (spectacles) and live-streaming

– Better geo-filtering for ad targeting

– Microsoft bought LinkedIn – so watch this space

Tips for successful social media branding

We meet different organisations from various industries that have many brand variables when it comes to being smarter about their marketing online. The one bit of advice we always give them is not to waste their time on networks that don’t work for them.

Here are a few other tips that you might also consider:

  • Know your audience – many platforms offer free audience insights so use them
  • Define your goals upfront – helps motivation towards better results.
  • Have clear and consistent branding – create a visual experience for your customers.
  • Develop a clear voice – your language shows the personality behind the brand
  • Leverage influencers – they can help you reach a greater, relevant audience
  • Track and measure results – replicate the good and stop the bad

Conclusion

The likelihood that your target audience is on social media has never been higher. Statistics show that there are nearly 3.4 billion internet users worldwide. Of those, 2.3 billion have social media accounts. The challenge for organisations is to be able to use social media as an element of its overall marketing activity – in a human way.

Being human means allowing your personality to shine through, knowing your customers better and providing a mix of interesting and relevant content.

Always ask yourself – are you guessing what your audience wants and even if not, are you addressing the right issues? Get the answers to these questions right and you’ll never be boring on social media.

“Thank you for reading our blog post today” – Aidan & Jim.

 Would you like us to notify you, by email, when we publish new content? If so, just let us know by clicking here. Of course, we can always meet face-to-face, just leave your details here and we might grab a coffee, cheers. Jim – O’C&K