Small business guide to successful content curation

contentcuration

 

We all know just how important creating unique, fresh and relevant content is for your online business. However for small business owners content marketing can be a real challenge due to time pressures and lack of resources.  Content curation can be a great way to support your overall content marketing strategy and help maintain a successful online presence.

What is Content Curation

In a nutshell content curation is the collating, organising and sharing of other people’s content. It  is usually third-party content  relevant to your audience’s interests. First things first, content curation is not the same as content marketing and in no way replaces it. Content curation should be looked at as a way to enhance your existing content as part of your overall content marketing strategy.

And don’t worry, by sharing other people’s content your audience won’t think you can’t create interesting content of your own. On the contrary, it shows you are relevant, understand the industry you are in and are confident enough in your own small business to share ideas and information from a third party.

How can Small Businesses Benefit from Content Curation?

Saves time. Content curation helps support and maintain an active online presence. Especially if you don’t have time to continuously create your own original content.

Helps establishes you as an expert.  Overtime content curation can help build trust and establish you and your business as an authoritative, go-to expert on a specific topic.

Offers value to your audience. If you are offering information that is interesting and of value to your audience, then they are more likely to opt-in to your newsletters and follow you on social media.

Supports SEO efforts.  65% of marketers use content curation to boost ranking. Lots of relevant links will help increase your visibility in SERPS (search engine results pages) 

Builds your brand. What you share is a direct reflection of your brand and can help build your credibility as a business.

How to introduce content curation to your small business:

The key to successful content curation is to put some organisation and strategy behind it rather than the ad-hoc retweet or share here and there. You may already do some basic content curation already, like I say I’m sure you’ve retweeted or shared posts on social media. However to really get the benefits you need to take it to the next level by including a personal touch.  Add value to what you are imparting.  For example include your own comments, insight and thoughts on the information you choose to share with your audience.

Social Mediasocial media content curation

76% of marketers use curated content on social media

Content curation is a great way to keep active on social media and provide your customers with links to information they may find interesting. Retweeting someone’s Tweet on Twitter, RePinning on Pinterest or sharing someone’s post on Facebook, Google+ or LinkedIn are examples of social media content curation. This is a great starting point and a good way to maintain an active online presence – especially when you’re pushed for time or lack resources.

However as we mentioned earlier content curation becomes even more effective when you bring in your own personal slant on what it is your sharing. For example if you are sharing someone else blog post on social media, add in a few words about what you are choosing to share and why you think you audience will be interested in it.

Newsletters

Content curation can work really well in your company’s newsletter. For example in addition to your own content, you could do a weekly round-blog posts you think your audience will like or a weekly round-up of industry news and views. By picking out the most interesting and entertaining articles and presenting them in a digestible format, you are saving your own audience from having to spend time searching around the web. And, if your audience know they can get great information direct from your newsletter then they are more likely to read it and stay subscribed.

Here is a great example of content curation from WriteMySite’s marketing newsletter.

content curation newsletter

Blog Post Curation

In a similar vein to your newsletters why not try posting a blog post that is a weekly or monthly round-up of useful articles, interesting trends or news relevant to your industry? Organise the content into a theme, add in a great headline,  your own supporting commentary, a call-to-action for your own business and you have a great post.

Look at curated blog posts as offering a valuable service. By collating the information yourself you are in short saving your audience time by negating the need for them to research out the information themselves. Always keep your customer in mind so all your hard work collecting and collating is focused on the right information – information that is of value to your target market.

Collecting and Organising Content

content curationSo where do you start? How do you go about sourcing interesting, high quality, relevant online content that fits the needs of your audience? Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Sign-up to relevant content specific newsletters
  • Subscribe to industry relevant online publications
  • Follow related shared content on social media

If you are collating lots of different information from various sources then it will make your life easier if you can organise all the information in one place. There are a number of marketing tools that can help you collate,organise and publish content such as – Feedly, ScoopIt and Storify.

If your just starting out then Pocket is a great ‘save for later’ tool.  Connecting the Pocket button will enable you to save to your Pocket account straight from your computer. You can quickly collect links to interesting information with and group and tag articles  for easy reference.

In order for content curation to be successful always keep in mind that it’s about adding value. Ensure;

  • content is high quality and matches the needs and interests of your audience
  • post regularly
  • add a personal note,
  • remember you are sharing information not plagiarising – always give credit to the original source. 

 

We’d love to hear your own thoughts and experiences of content curation, so please do leave a comment.

 

 

 

 

 

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6 Resolutions eCommerce Store Owners Should Make for 2016

New Year Resolutions

It’s that time of year again! New Year’s resolutions and promises and working through them. In fact, it is the perfect time to wipe the slate clean and start afresh. And it applies for eCommerce store owners too. Reflect on what you did last year – the good and the bad both and then think where you can improve in 2016 and start creating a strategic plan to implement those changes.

Here is 6 resolutions that eCommerce stores should make in 2016.

1. Commit to Quality Content

When it comes to digital marketing, content is king and marketing your eCommerce store is no exception. In fact, you need to be more careful with your eCommerce store content as it not just help search engines crawlers discover and rank your website but also convince your visitors to make a purchase decision. Besides, it your content that your visitors/customers share with their social followers. You will also need content to email your prospect lists, to develop your brand identity and ultimately build your business. The relationship between an eCommerce store and content is therefore a match made in heaven.

There is real financial value in content marketing that eCommerce store owners have started leveraging since the past few years. According to a study conducted by Econsultancy and EPiServer, almost all online retailers accept that revenue is one of the commercial benefits of eCommerce content marketing. The study further indicated that 60 percent of the participating companies saw content engagement increasing while 30 percent of them plan to create more number of original and unique content to improve SEO and stay ahead of the fierce market competition.

You can take inspirations from some of the leading eCommerce brands when it comes to content marketing. Betabrand, for example, uses their content to establish a character and personality to their brand. They place themselves as “as 99% fiction, 1% fashion” and their content (especially their product descriptions) reflect it perfectly. Intelligent listing and through humorous are their secret weapon to create a likeable personality that drives conversions.

Etsy too has a killer content marketing strategy. They are the kings when it comes to communicating with their audience. Esty has a great blog that features interesting stories and interviews from top sellers and leading artisans to tell the story behind their work. This gives more character and soul to the brand.

So this year, commit to invest on quality content if you really want to improve your online marketing efforts.

2. Get Social while Leveraging Mobile

More and more consumers are using their smartphones and tablets to shop online. Just consider the following mobile eCommerce statistics before we discuss further on this topic:

Get Social while Leveraging Mobile

You therefore need a proper mobile strategy for your eCommerce store. Begin with a responsive eCommerce website; make sure your website provides a seamless user experience across various devices and browsers. But that’s not enough. You need to get social as well.

You probably have some social media accounts by now; start strengthening them using the power of mobile. In short, we are asking you to combine social with mobile to engage your users. If you are wondering how to combine your social mobile offering, Foursquare is a great example. But to implement this in real life you need to first understand the three basic mindsets mobile users: They generally seek local information, they are always microtasking, and they are usually bored.

Now consider the social media integration theory by Isra Garcia.

Social Media Integration Theory

It points out four interactions that you need to manage and each of them can be combined with mobile mindsets. For example, connecting can always be combined with researching for a product/item whereas exposure signifies viewing information within the users’ network. Likewise, sharing occurs when a user reports something great on an ad-hoc basis or in a structured manner in order to reach out to other people and feedback is all about reviews and social recommendations.

Now how to implement this to your eCommerce strategy?

The answer is a mobile app. Today people are always on the go. So what could be a better way to reach out to them and remain connected apart from having a mobile app? Don’t use your eCommerce app to just generate leads and sales’ use it in different new ways. Allow users to write, view and share reviews and rating through the app, to recommend deals and invite others in their network to get a special deal. There are countless possibilities; all you need is to get creative and provide a great user experience by combining social and mobile.

3. Invest in eCommerce SEO

SEO has always been a big thing. You want your eStore to show up in front of millions of potential customers, so you need to work for that as well. You really need to get serious about it. Don’t just stop at finding keywords for your homepage, find highly relevant keywords for your product pages as well. Consider factors like local search volume and keyword ranking difficulty. Google’s AdWords Keyword tool is a good resource for this.

AdWords Keyword tool

Avoid keywords that are too competitive or too broad as they usually result in low conversion rate and higher bounce rate. You will also need to find the right keywords for your blog topics, especially the long-tail keywords which (although relevant) hardly find a place in your main eCommerce website.

In addition, find site errors (if any) and address them at the earliest especially if it is related to your website’s speed. Users often tend to abandon a website that take more than 2 seconds to load. Even delay by 1 second in page response can cause 7 percent reduction in conversions.

This year, focus on both on-page and off-page optimization to better rank in search engine result pages.

4. Access Better Data

To create a killer marketing strategy you need the most accurate data. Google analytics, although a reliable source, is not enough at times. It only provides data but you need actionable insights as well. Besides, you need your competitors’ data as well to gain an edge in the market. In 2016, make it a resolution to meet this need of your eCommerce store.

If you are sweating over the prospect, be assured there are several competitive analysis tools available on the market. The following are some of the tools you can use:

  • Moz, the industry favourite that allows you track your competitors’ activities and how you can match them
  • SEM Rush is another option that helps you track every activity of your competitors in paid search landscape as well as provide detailed and accurate insights about their organic search efforts
  • Bright Edge is a comprehensive web-based tool featuring a complete enterprise SEO marketing platform

5. Get New Customers and Retain Old Ones

Of course you need new customers to sustain your business. But at the same time your existing customers can add more value to your business than you possible think of. For one thing, it is more expensive to get a new customer than keeping an existing one. Besides, if you can increase your customer retention rates by 5 percent can boost your profits by 25 to 95 percent. KISSmetrics finds that the “the average value of a lost customer is $243.”

You should therefore implement an effective customer retention program to show your appreciation for your existing buyers. Small steps can help you gain a competitive edge here. For example, adding a ‘wow factor’ to your packaging will not only surprize your buyers but also delight them and they will always come back to you for more. Similarly faster delivery options, special discounts and offers to repeat buyers etc. are some of the best ways to gain their loyalty.

The secret lies in beating your customer expectations, every time. And convert them to your ardent fans who not only come back to your eStore for more but also recommend your products to their peers. Happy customers always spread the good words and bring you direct referrals even without any monetary rewards.

6. Relax and Recharge

Last but not the least, you need to make a resolution to relax and recharge yourself this year. You need to balance your work and personal life. According to Hiscox’s DNA of an Entrepreneur study, around 20 percent of small business owners in the U.S. take zero vacation days at present. However, research shows that vacations and time off from work help in relieving stress, allowing you to work better in the long run.

In addition, you need to do things you enjoy on a regular basis apart from work on a regular basis. It can be anything, from DYI projects and gardening to cooking, starting a blog to getting fit. Even Mark Zuckerberg is taking up a running challenge this year, planning to run 365 miles in 2016 after celebrating 2015 as “A Year of Books”. So what are you waiting for?

Conclusion

A new year brings in endless opportunities along with it. It is therefore the perfect time to make your eCommerce marketing dreams come true. If you can take your resolutions seriously and work through them, nothing can stop you from attaining what you desire. The only thing you need to do, however, is to commit yourself to constant improvement.

Happy New Year!

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How to offer excellent customer service on social media – 7 best practice tips

social media customer serviceIn the US social networking now accounts for the most time spent on a particular online activity, with the average person spending 37 minutes a day on it. As more and more people interact with social media on a daily basis, it is little wonder that it is becoming a favourite channel for customer services communication.  The beauty of social media is its two-way immediacy. The minute someone posts a comment on your page you are alerted so you can respond equally swiftly.

Many small businesses have embraced social media and it’s become an integral part of a businesses online presence. Indeed, out of the 4.8 million small businesses in the UK nearly 23% earn over £1000 per annum through connecting with customers through social media platforms. Providing a top class customer experience as part of your social media presence is essential as businesses are increasingly recognising that customer services should no longer be just focused around telephone and email.

  • 92% of customers in the UK have left one business for another in the last year due to poor customer service.
  • 71% of customers who have a positive customer service experience via social media are likely to recommend that company
  • If consumers receive good customer service via social media they are likely to spend 21% more
  • Social networks account for the most online activity in the US with an average of 37 minutes a day.
  • 33% of users prefer to contact brands using social media than the telephone.
  • Failure to respond via social media channels can lead to a 15% increase in churn rate for existing customers
  • 71% of customers say that valuing their time is the most important thing a company can do to provide good service

So as a small business are you confident you are following best practice when it comes to dealing with customer intereacions via your social media platforms?

7 Best practice tips for managing customer service online

1.Swift response

Customers need to feel that you take their concerns seriously.  Of course a prompt response to any customer service issue whether via email, telephone or letter is essential, but with social media speed becomes even more important. The very ‘immediate’ nature of social media is reflected in the time customers will expect you to respond. The speedier the better, particularly where complaints are concerned.

For example econsultancy note that53% of customers who ask a brand a question on Twitter expect a response within one hour. However, if a customer is making complaint to using Twitter, it goes up  72%.

Acknowledging comments as quickly as you can will score your business brownie points in your customers eyes. Whereas a slow response may reflect poorly on your business.

2.Dealing with negative comments.

Nobody likes handling negative comments but they are part-and-parcel of customer interaction. Dealing successfully with adverse communications is an essential part of successful customer service. Unlike telephone and email, when you are responding to negative comments on social media they are out there for everyone to see.  Don’t be tempted to ignore them as then the situation can mushroom out of control. When responding to a negative comment on social media:

  • Apologise upfront. Start with an apology as it shows you take your customers concerns seriously.
  • Be transparent. Don’t try to hide anything. Be upfront and honest about the situation, even if it is your mistake.
  • Don’t pass the person from pillar to post. Commit to dealing with the customer by supplying your name and a clear offer of help
  • Remain calm, polite and professional. No matter how disgruntled your customer, remain polite at all times without getting defensive.
  • Take it offline. When it’s appropriate, take an issue offline to deal with. For example, have a look at IKEA’s Facebook page. As you can imagine the very nature of IKEA’s business and its size means it gets a lot of adverse comments posted on its social media platforms. So when its appropriate they take it offline as in the example below.

social media dealing with negative comments

 

3. Clear and helpful information

In the same way customers visiting your website would expect to find information about your business, so to should your social media presence. Remember your website isn’t necessarily someone’s first experience of your business. Think about what information customers might be looking for. For example:

  • Completed profile pages: Make sure your businesses about us and profile pages are fully completed across all your platforms
  • Clear links. Have clear links to useful customer information such as to your website, FAQ page and contact us page.
  • Post helpful information. Post regular helpful customer services information such as delivery dates, opening times and service updates. This is particularly helpful during holiday periods such as Christmas when there may be a change to normal service. See the helpful example below from online retailer notonthehighstreet.com .

 

 

social media customer service

4.Learn to prioritise

It’s human nature to put off the things we find least enjoyable, and dealing with customer complaints probably falls into that category. However, as we mentioned earlier, the very immediate nature of social media means you have to respond as quickly as possible customers – that means no putting off dealing with the more difficult customer communications. Learning to manage your social media presence, particularly in regard to customer service is an essential skill.  Learn to prioritise how you respond to particular customer interactions.

Prioritise comments that require immediate attention for example, customer complaints, account queries, product issues, sales queries. Other more ‘proactive’ responses such as thanking someone for their feedback, commenting on a post and general queries regarding your business can wait a little longer.

Setting a response target for particular issues can be helpful. Of course it will depend on your business and how much manpower you have but for example, you could aim to respond to high priority queries within 30 minutes and more general queries within an hour. But don’t wait too long to answer any query as you don’t want to turn what started out as a general query into a complaint due to your slow response.

5.Train staff

If you aren’t the only one dealing with with your business on social media,  then you need to ensure you have trained your staff to how to respond appropriately the varied customer interactions.

Good communications skills are essential. How your staff deal with complaints and interact with customers is direct reflection on your business. Make sure you spend time ensuring staff have the key skills required to deal effectively with customers. For example excellent written skills are essential. Poor spelling and grammar won’t give customers much confidence in your business.

Make sure your staff understand the tone you want to set for your business on social media. Obviously it depends on your business and your customers, but even if you take a more informal approach in social media interactions, you and your staff must always remain professional. Making sure your staff understand the balance is important.

6.Personality – humanise your business

Social media is a great way to build your brand personality and bring a human touch to your business.  When someone posts a comment, likes your page or shares something,  thank them and where appropriate open up a discussion. Here are a couple of good examples from IKEA and Boden:

social media customer servie

 

Both Ikea and Boden set the right tone – friendly and not overly formal – keeping with the spirit of the posts.

Screen Shot 2015-12-30 at 10.19.15

 

It’s good to show customers that they are dealing with real people so always add your name in, particularly if you are responding to a customer query or complaint.

7.Embrace customer feedback

Don’t underestimate the great opportunity social media offers your business. It’s a great way to get a feel about a particular product or service and so therefore postively encourage feedback from customers even if it is negative. Showing customers that you value their opinions shows them just how important they are to you. Here is another great example from Boden. Actively thanking customers for their feedback on a new collection even though the feedback is not hugely positive.

social media customer feedback

 

As more and more people use social media a channel for customer services, taking an integrated, multi-channel approach to customer care will ensure that you have covered all your bases and are offering your customers the best possible service. 

We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences of social media customer service so please do leave a comment.