5 top visual content tips to improve your social media presence

visual content on social mediaMarketers are continuing to invest an increasing proportion of their budget in social media.

The consensus seems to be that coupled with the continued investment in social media, visual content marketing will be of the key e-commerce trends for 2015.

The ease of which images and videos can be shared on social media makes it an obvious platform for visual content marketing. We take a look at the benefits of visual content and offer some helpful tips on how to use visual content to improve your social media presence.

Rise of visual content.

“The use of visual content in social media has been phenomenal with 70% jump in 2014” ViralTag.

This remarkable growth in the use of visual content is the result of a number of factors including:

  • Increased mobile usage:  3 out of 4 Facebook users now access Facebook through their smartphones. And since, images are far easier to digest on a phone than large chunks of heavy text visual content is becoming increasingly popular .
  • High speed wireless networks: Thanks to the wider availability of high-speed wireless networks we no longer have to wait for eons for an image to download.
  •  Growth in social media: The continued rise in social media. All the key social media platforms continued to grow during 2014. Of particular note is the impressive growth from visual content based platforms  like Pinterest and Instagram who grow active users by 111% and 64% respectively.
  • Human nature: By our very nature we are drawn to visual stimulus. The majority of us are visual learners which means we can digest visual content far more easily than text-based content. In fact according to HubSpot, visual content actually makes up 93% of all human communication.
  • Accessible visual marketing tools: There are more visual marketing tools at our disposal than ever before. Creating professional looking pictures, images and videos is no longer just for big companies and big budgets – we can DIY great, original visual content ourselves.

link building for sepBenefits increased visual content brings your business.

Increasing the amount  of visual content your have can bring a number of benefits to your business. For example;

  • Helps with link building: Visual content is highly shareable. Quality inbound links back to your website content via social media can help you with your SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) and improve your search engine page rankings.
  • Increased customer engagement: Visual content such as photos, images, infographics and video improves engagement on social media. According to Hubspot social media posts with photos account for 87% of total interactions.
  • Makes an impact: In a crowded market of online communications a good visual can help your message stand out. Visual content enables you to convey ideas and messages immediately.
  • Builds brand awareness: Engaging visual content can increase your number of fans, likes and comments – growing the awareness of your brand amongst an audience

tips to implement visual content5 tips to improve your social media visual content.

To help get you started we’ve outlined a few ways to implement quality visual content that will improve your social media presence.

1. Use visuals to support all your posts

Sounds obvious but a surprising number of businesses still post social media updates without adding a photo or image. Remember:

” The brain processes visual information 60,000 times faster than the time it takes for the brain to decode text” Hubspot

Support all your posts with an image. It is far more likely that you’ll engage a user if you have a captivating visual. For example, say you have just written a great new blog article. It is a fascinating topic and you want to share it on social media. Great, but no matter how compelling your headline and subject matter is, it is not going to get anywhere near as much engagement as it would with a relevant image to support it.

Don’t forget to use images on Twitter  posts too. According to HubSpot a Twitter post containing at least one image will increase shares:

  • Average Twitter shares with no image = 9.67
  • Average Twitter shares with an image = 20.36

Finally, don’t use lack of budget as an excuse to not include photos and images. There are a plethora of sites that offer the use of free or low-cost photos and images. Just remember some of the free images may require an attribution.

2. Think interesting, inspiring and original

As we’ve mentioned above, using images is essential. But to really captivate your audience try to be as visually interesting and inspiring as possible. Mix things up by trying to veer away from using too many stock pictures. We’ve all seen the standard pictures of smiling business men in suits so many times that to be honest they’re not really going to grab anyone’s attention. Try to think more originally when using supporting images to  get a message across – you want to make as much of a visual impact as possible.

Another example of how to beef up your visual content is to take something like an inspirational quote (which always prove popular on social media) and to try using something like word art to make it visually enaging. For example:

Inspirational quote

I’ve just read an excellent article:  5 must have free visual marketing tools. It provides a list of free visual marketing tools that help you do all sorts of great things to improve your images such as:

  • Putting text and captions over images
  • Creating collages
  • Word Art
  • Data visualisation

It should get your creative juices flowing.

3. Create some original video content

We only have to look at the phenomenal success of YouTube to get a feel for how popular video is. Indeed according to HubSpot every single minute:

  • 8333 videos are shared
  • 72 hours of new video is uploaded on YouTube

Including video links into your social media posts  is an excellent way of increasing engagement through original added-value visual content. Try creating original videos that showcase your product, introduce your business and team, offer demonstrations on how to use your product or service, give video tutorials, or illustrate how a product is crafted. There are all sorts of interesting ways you can incorporate video into your social media presence.

A customer who watches a video is 85% more likely to make a purchase

You no longer have to rely on an expensive production companies to produce a good video. There are a number of online video creation tools around like Animoto or WeVideo. You can also opt to do-it-yourself  with a camera and video editing software such as Windows Movie Maker or iMovie.

4. Try introducing Infographics

Infographics are a great way to visually convey information in a colourful, interesting and digestible manner. They are particularly useful if you have some interesting numbers or research to impart. Infographics make great blog articles that you can link to via your social media posts.

 

Cutting costs for business infographic

 

According to research, consumers are more 30 times more likely to read an info graphic than a text-based piece of content.

5. Finally, make visual content a significant part of your overall content strategy.

Your social media presence should support your content strategy and drive traffic by enticing an audience back to your website though links and the sharing of content.  As we discussed earlier in the article since you are far more likely to attract the attention of an audience on social media with the use of images, photos and video, it follows that you should be making visual content an important element of both your social media strategy and your  overall content strategy.

If you put time aside and actually plan in some of the visual content ideas we mentioned in the article, you are far more likely to see them implemented and reap the rewards visual content can bring to your business.

We’d love to hear your thoughts and comments on this post. So please do leave a comment.

Photos from mobile image courtesy of tiverylucky at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Ship Chain image courtesy of Bill Longshaw at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Implement Definition Button Courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Why you need social media customer service (Infographic)

Social media networkInfographic: Social CRM combines the power of social media with customer relationship management (CRM)

It is no surprise that social media customer service is now a very real, valid and useful communication tool. Businesses small and large alike that choose to ignore customer complaints and inquiries on Twitter, Facebook etc. are increasingly finding themselves in hot water.

Everyday social media users are increasing their usage daily making the importance of this medium that much more essential. If companies want to harvest new business they are practically required to set up a social media CRM (customer relationship management) Department.

Dennis Stoutenburgh, co-founder of Stratus Contact Solutions, a company providing one-to-one customer engagement and multi-channel solutions comments,

“If you’re not engaging customers during the entire product life cycle through social media, you’re missing out. Because someone else will.”

When it comes to any business model, no matter how generational, antiquated thinking may be a bad move when it comes to future success. This is not the time to be a technological ostrich hiding in the sand until the fad passes, this is the time to get on the bus.

The Sleeping Giant

Consumers are becoming more savvy by the second. They are what the Japanese used to call, a “sleeping giant.” When social media customer service is exchanged, in many cases, millions of eyes are could be watching.

Immediate Gratification Generation

In the old CRM model, direct communication meant maybe a phone call; being transferred to a supervisor; or calling the customer back. Now, with an immediate gratification generation poised at the ready, businesses better have an instant answer to any query. In addition, it is a generation that has been raised with everyone getting a trophy. Therefore, it is important to commend and console validating for all to witness.

Pick Your Poison

It’s important to choose the social media platform that works according to each business genre. Whether an in-house social media CRM department is set up or an outside team is used, knowing how each correspondence will be viewed is paramount. For example, if a complaint is posted on Instagram it may not create as much of a negative backlash than if it were viewed on Facebook. Each business needs to decide the level of platforms they want to concentrate on or if they want to cover a broader spectrum, which of course means more expense.

Priority and Monitoring

Response time is now a real statistic that just may determine getting a leg-up on competition. Making a query a priority on social media platforms such as Twitter lets the consumer know that you are part of their world. It is also important to continue a relationship with each social media communication by requesting to follow and especially to respond to their threads.

Once this relationship is set up, monitoring software can show specific consuming patterns for not only the business involved but other businesses as well. By following consumer’s social media path, patterns may emerge that offer advantageous purchasing information.

Maneuver, Influence and Encourage

Social media customer service has an opportunity to use these platforms to immediately connect with their customer base. Setting up fun follow programs, contests and/or free giveaways can bring an influx of new business practically overnight.

With the simplicity of not having to do more than press a virtual button, consumers can be maneuvered into getting involved; influenced by a variety of marketing techniques; and encouraged to recommend friends and family.

Service Topics and Consumer Response

As an example of how social media CRM is responded to by consumers, particular service topics show some interesting numbers (Buffer Social 2/14).

A comparison of service topic response includes three demographics:

A – Do not use social media for customer service.

B – General population

C – Use social media customer service.

 The response is as follows:

Amount of consumers willing to spend more for great service.

A. 11%

B. 13+%

C. 21+%

Amount who aborted a transaction due to poor customer service.

A. 49%

B. 55%

C. 83%

Number of people who will be told of excellent customer service.

A. 9

B. 15

C. 42

Number of people who will be told of bad customer service.

A. 17

B. 24

C. 53

When social media customer service is used and maintained correctly the potential for positive results is practically guaranteed. Embracing this new consumer tool will not only offer an opportunity to increase a bottom line, it just may bring back a “human touch” that many would have never connected to a virtual exchange.

 Continue on to the graphic below to see a more granular breakdown of platforms and user information.

Social media customer service

 

Dave Landry JrGuest Author: Dave Landry

Dave Landry jr. is a financial and marketing adviser for small enterprises. He hopes you enjoy the infographic and accompanying article, and encourages you to hone in and emphasize your social media for customer service strategies as much as possible. You can find more from Dave on Facebook.

 

We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences on this post. Please do leave a comment.

Social network image courtesy of stockimages at freedigitalphotos.com

So How Much Does Social Media REALLY Matter to Your E-Commerce Site?

Did you check your Facebook profile today? Chance are you did. And multiple times, at that. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the average American spends over 40 minutes per day on Facebook.

If you work backwards on Facebook’s claim of having over 128 million daily users; it means that over 40% of all Americans check their Facebook account on a daily basis.

These numbers are not just about American attitudes to social media, they are a reflection of the global addiction to social media that we have witnessed in the last few years.

If users are on social media, it follows that marketers won’t be very far behind. It’s no wonder then that social media has steadily gained a progressively bigger share of the marketing budgets of brands worldwide.

Projected share of social media in marketing budgetsProjected share of social media in marketing budgets

Trouble is, social media does not seem to be living up to all it’s been hyped to be. The last touch attribution numbers – conversions by folks who came directly from social media onto your site – remains miserably low. Low enough that questions are being raised about the ROI of social media expenditure and the sustainability of social media marketing.

Data from Monetate’s Quarterly E-commerce Report for Q2 2014, shows that the total traffic that can be directly attributed to social media is a meagre 2.3%. Conversions, obviously are even lower.

Website Visits and traffic

Black Friday – the annual shopping bonanza that all retailers await for the whole year brought in record breaking numbers for e-commerce sites last year – $1.2 billion in sales to be precise. However, even during a ‘made for shopping’ holiday like Black Friday, social media accounted for just 0.34% of all online sales.

If a medium offers a business just 2.3% of the total traffic that it gets from all sources, and an even tinier share of conversions; does it really deserve a 9% share and going forward, a 21% share of overall marketing budgets?

Social Media Is NOT a Last Touch Medium

The short answer to that question is, YES.

Let’s now look at the long version of the answer. All the grouses about how social media has not performed to its potential come from people who are getting a very fundamental thing about social media completely wrong. Social media is NOT a last touch medium, it is an influencer medium.

Users are NOT going to go from a social media post you made about creative crafting ideas to buying a couple of boxes of colored glitter. What that post about creative crafting does instead, is give the user ideas about what to do the next time they want to work on a craft project, what tools to use, which products work best and so on. So the next time that user wants to create a model airplane, they will know where to go to buy their glue sticks and glitter pens.

Social media is your build up to the sale and not your salesman.

So what do you do to ensure that this medium that takes up swathes of your users’ time and attention on a daily basis contributes to your business meaningfully? How do you move out of the trap of looking at last-touch attribution figures for social media and writing it off as a failed marketing tool?

You do that by leveraging the things that social media DOES do well. Here’s a rundown of the various things that social media DOES offer without a shadow of doubt – things that once employed effectively by your business can only help in growing it to the next level.

1. Understand your audience

As we saw earlier, social media is the place your users spend a significant chunk of their time on. With 4 out of 5 Americans now active on social media, this platform is a treasure trove of user data, if only you take the time to look and learn. Social media tells you a ton of things about your audience – where they live, how old they are, how educated they are, what they like to do for fun, places that they frequent, brands that they identify themselves with and more. Each of these factors combine to paint a composite user profile that you can use as a guideline while marketing to them.

With insights like these, your business won’t end up making gaffes like selling spare parts for a Lamborghini to a Ford user.

2. Target Your Audience Clearly

So we saw how social media can tell you who your users are. Now take a look at social media from another perspective.

Social media is the only marketing platform that tells you exactly where to spend your marketing dollars, so you don’t waste them on people who will not respond to your communication. On social media, you have the option of laser-targeting only and only those individuals who fit the right age, sex, location, interests and activity profile that you have created for your ideal customers.

This prevents spillage of your budgets on non-responsive audiences, it improves the efficacy of your messaging among your real target audience and reduces the overall budgets you would need to achieve a particular result by streamlining your marketing.

3. Engagement

Users like, follow or share data from a brand only when it resonates with them and speaks to them in language that they identify with. Once you hit upon this magic formula for your posts, nothing stops users from sharing it with their friends and family and taking your content viral.

Some of the key things that ensure your users are engaged (and by extension, ready to spread your word of mouth for free!) include:

  • Your content matches their areas of interest
  • What you’re saying is very different from what they see other brands say
  • Your content tells them about something they did not know about before
  • Your content is exciting / funny
  • Sharing your content with their friends will portray your users as smart and cool, earning them brownie points from their peers.

Remember, the deeper your engagement levels are with your users, the easier it will be to convince them about the merits of your brand and products. In other words, building an engaged user base is basically the process of priming your users to become customers of your product.

4. Trust

Users log primarily on to social media to connect with their friends and family, not to follow brands or organizations. This primary function that social media has of being a social connector, means that users set a lot of store by what their friends and family have to say about various matters – political issues, environmental stands, entertainment gossip and brand endorsements.

A study of over 25,000 online consumers by Nielsen as part of their Global Online Survey showed that 90% of online consumers trust recommendations from their friends.

By building a positive, credible brand image for your business with your fans and followers, you are in turn creating brand ambassadors who have the power to influence their peers to a level that your marketing messages can never hope to achieve.

Solicit reviews of your products from existing customers on social media to get the benefit of virality and being seen by their friends and family. Use social proof like the number of fans you have or the number of positive reviews that your product got or the number of times people shared your blog post on social media as tools that help potential customers make up their minds and enable conversions.

5. Top of Mind Recall

For a radio ad to stick in a user’s mind, you need at least nine repetitions per day. That figure is similar for television. For any business to be able to afford that kind of airtime all year round, is an incredibly expensive affair, to say the least.

Social media solves this problem by offering itself up as a near-free platform to reach out to your users. With the right kind of organic posts, your brand can reach out to users multiple times every single day, every day of the year at no extra cost. This is an opportunity that no business, especially cash strapped small businesses, can afford to ignore.

Dig into your analytics and determine the times of day when your users are active on social media. Use social media as a completely free reminder medium with regular posts at these times in the day. Paid ads on social media too work best when they are targeted at the right times of day and on the right days of the week.

6. Inspire Your Users

As discussed earlier, do not look at social media as a salesman with revenue targets on his head. Instead, view this wonderful medium as your online brochure that users can browse through at their leisure to get ideas on what to buy and where to buy it from.

I am not endorsing salesy posts that say “Here’s my product, it’s so great, buy it now!”. What a smart social media marketer would do instead is to SHOW the users the various ways your product can be beneficial to them. Show them various use cases for your product. Highlight real-life stories of customers who have used your products and the pleasant experiences that THEY had.

Platforms like Pinterest, Instagram or even Facebook lend themselves beautifully to creating look-books or design guides that tempt users to check out your wares, instead of simply pushing percentage-off offers down the throats of unwilling and uninformed users.

7. Make Life Easier for Them (Social Login)

One of the cardinal requirements of a good business is to make life easier for your users. Does your website force users to create a username and password as a pre-requisite for transactions? Do users have to remember these username-password combinations each time they revisit your website? If you answered ‘yes’ to either of these two questions, you’re creating a wall between your website and its users.

Social media helps knock down this wall with the help of a social login. By allowing users to log into your website using their social media accounts, you are taking away the friction of creating a new account from scratch and remembering the password attached to that account for future visits.

Research by Monetate shows that users spend 127% more time on websites that allow social logins than those that don’t. It further goes on to say that 64% of users are more likely to return to a site that remembers them without the need for them to create a fresh username and password.

There’s yet another benefit that social logins offer you on a direct level. Users that sign on with social media accounts agree to share the data from their social media accounts with you in exchange for the convenience of a social login. This is invaluable data that you can access directly in your inbox, without even going to social media and digging around for details.

Invest in a social login, it will only help your cause with your target audience.

8. SEO

This is much debated, but now well established benefit that social media offers businesses, both big and small.

Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and without a doubt, Google+ help in backing up all the other ranking signals that your page has and help in making the final cut in where your page ranks in a particular search. Let’s understand with an example.

Let’s say I search for ‘Pizza places in Birmingham’ on Google. If a friend of mine on Google+ has left behind a +1 or a positive review about ABC Pizzas located in Birmingham, then all other factors remaining constant, ABC Pizzas will get a bump up in their search rankings compared to other pizza places. The simple reason here is relevancy. Google assumes that since this is a place recommended by MY friend, it would be more interesting to me, than a place that is rated highly by a bunch of strangers.

Searching for people on Google or Bing, typically pulls up their social profiles – another indicator of how search engines DO give points to social signals, much as they would like to confuse and confound marketers everywhere.

Conclusion

Social media may not fit into clear silos of ‘lead generator’, ‘lead nurturer’, ‘awareness creator’ or ‘last mile converter’ that we are used to for other marketing platforms that we use. To truly benefit from social media, you need to understand what social media brings to the table and maximize it for all that its worth.

Consider social media as an enabler for your sales, instead of a deal-maker and you’ll be surprised with the results that you see.

Image Source: (1, 2)

Getting to grips with social media – 5 top tips for small businesses and start-ups

social media small businessThe rise of social media.

There is no doubt that since the arrival of Facebook in 2o04, social media has had a meteoric rise. It has altered the way we communicate and become an increasingly integral part of our everyday lives. So what does this mean for you as a small online business owner?

With so many social media platforms around it is easy to feel overwhelmed and unsure about how to get started tapping into all that social media has to offer. We take a look at the benefits of social media, its challenges and where, as a small online business, to best focus your time and effort.

Fascinating facts and figures

 

The benefits (and challenges) of social media for small online e-commerce

The statistics outlined above reinforces our belief that social media should have a place in your online businesses marketing strategy.  It’s no longer something that is the solely the domain 18-25 year olds that can be dismissed as a passing fad. Your business needs to take it seriously. If your customers are using social networks (and chances are they are) then you need to be communicating with them on the same platform. Indeed, 70% of marketers have used Facebook to successfully gain new customers. An effective social media presence can bring your business added value through:

  • Building relationships 
  • Directly engaging with customers on their preferred communication platform
  • Establishing relevant online communities
  • Driving new traffic and as a consequence increasing sales
  • Strengthening your brand presence
  • Providing a low-cost marketing channel
  • Offering valuable customer insight

Clock, 24 hours, 7 days a weekOf course having a social media presence does also bring challenges for small businesses – namely time and resources.  Time often feels like it is against you when you run your own business; you are constantly wearing multiple hats and juggling lots of balls. And since few small business owners have the luxury of  dedicated marketers or social media experts, it means it is down to you where you choose to commit your time and resources. Social media is a bit of a trade-off (a bit like SEO) your costs are low but you will need to invest time in it.

Social media can bring a number of benefits to your business but you need to be able to balance the time and effort you will need against your other commitments. And because measuring the value of you social media efforts isn’t always as easy as other marketing channels like PPC or email, small business owners can be hesitant about committing their time to it. However, social media is often a component part of a customer’s overall journey to purchase . This makes it difficult to accurately measure its influence in terms of last click attribution. In an interesting article by Hubspot, they note that the value of social media often comes at the beginning of the sales funnel through relationship building.

“When was the last time you bought something immediately after clicking through a Twitter or Facebook link? That’s not how it typically works, right? Most customers discover companies through social media, then take some time to get to know their products or services — subscribing to emails or returning again through another channel.” Hubspot 

5 Tips for getting the most out of your social media presence.

We’ve established that having a social media presence is a necessity for small businesses and if done well the benefits will outweigh the challenges. So where should you focus your time and effort?

spread too thinly1. Don’t spread yourself too thinly: Firstly it is really important not to spread yourself too thinly. Rather than signing your business up to every social media network out there, start with a couple of key platforms first. That way you will be better able to manage your presence effectively within the time constraints you face. Of course the best social media platforms for your business with will depend on your target market so spend a bit of time finding out which social media platforms your audience are using as these will be the best places to focus your time and resources.

In terms of size Facebook is still leading the way with nearly 1.4 billion monthly active users and for your interest,  the top 3 social networking sites used by marketers are Facebook, Google+ and Twitter . As a general guideline it is better to post a little regularly. Decide how much time you can realistically commit to social media and stick to it.  Planning it in to your schedule may help – even if at first it’s just 15-20 minutes each day.

Content Image2. Concentrate on content: Just as with your website, fresh, relevant, quality content is key. If  you want to your customers to engage with your business then your content needs to be up to scratch. The more interesting and relevant your content is to your audience the higher the likelihood you’ll get shares, recommendations and conversations starting up. Social media is not the place for hard sales messages,  it is for building communities, relationships and rapport between you and your customers. So don’t be overly ‘salesy’ or ‘self promoting’ – it will turn your audience off. Instead, widen your content with information your customers are going to find interesting, entertaining and informative – such as competitions, insider news, industry trends, polls, helpful tips, interesting posts or invitations to special events.

Your should be aiming to get audiences to start looking at you as a bit of an expert in your area. Think about starting a blog. This will not only help you get seen as an expert, it is also a great way of adding fresh, valuable content that invites comments and conversations. Remember, its quality over quantity every time. So slow down and think about what your audience would like to see and aim for less, higher quality content rather than churning out lots of ill thought out content that customers may find irrelevant.

social media conversation3. Engage in conversations:  Engaging in conversations is a great way to give your business a personality.  And,  as we all know people prefer to do business with other people. Social media is all about building relationships with customers. To do this successfully first spend a bit of time observing what your audience is saying to each other – what are they talking about?  As a tip, a good way to get a conversation started is by sharing interesting information such as a blog post.

In terms of etiquette, if someone takes the time to make a comment then make sure you respond politely, thanking people for taking the time to make a comment or recommendation. Of course this will open you up to dealing with negative comments as well so it is really important you respond to these quickly and professionally at all times.

If you are in the position to have other team members around then think about getting them involved in your social media presence as well. It will help with your own time constraints and add a different voice to the mix. Just remember if you are opening it up to colleagues make sure you have some clear business guidelines in place for everyone to adhere to.

social media sharing4. Encourage Sharing:  The more interesting and relevant your content,  the more likely it is to be shared. “The sharing of content through social media and email consistently outperforms both consumer ratings and consumer reviews. And, surprisingly, online sharing carries essentially the same weight as in-person recommendations.” Yahoo Small Business Advisor

Of course if you haven’t made it easy for people to share all your great content then your hard work may be wasted. Make sure you have your social media icons in prominent places to make it as simple as possible for customers to share your content. For example on your website display icons clearly in your sidebar or header, add them to your email newsletters (many of the email companies like Mail Chimp and Mad Mimi will do this automatically for you), include sharing buttons on all your blog posts and don’t forget to use call to actions asking people to follow you and like you on Facebook.

Remember people trust the recommendations of friends and family often above all other influences – so encouraging sharing is essential.  “The most influential element driving purchase decisions today is word of mouth.” WOMMA

 

social platforms should support one goal5. Take an integrated approach: Don’t look at social media in isolation, rather take a joined approach. By this I don’t just mean take an integrated approach to your presence on all your social media sites, rather that you make sure all your platforms are working in unison and supporting each other. Take a coordinated approach across your website, blog, social media platforms, email newsletters and so on to ensure they are all working together to your achieve your end goals. If you look at each platform in isolation then your messages will end up being disparate and confusing to your customers.

So the key to getting on board with social media is to start out picking a couple of key platforms to establish your business on, allocating a realistic (and manageable) amount of time on a daily basis and putting your energy and time into producing interesting, relevant and shareable content. Track your progress to see what is working well and not so well and then grow from there!

We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences on this post, so please do leave a comment. 

Social media is taking over the world image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Buttered bread image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Social network image courtesy of renjith krishnan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Click share button image courtesy of mater isolated images at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Succesful teamwork image courtesy of jesadaphorn at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

8 Smart Ways to Handle a Transaction Gone Sour

Every instance when a customer has to pick up the phone and contact customer service, is an instance of friction and dissatisfaction that lingers in customers’ minds long after the interaction is over and done with.

The first reaction to a situation like this would be to try not to mess up to begin with! However, problems have a way of cropping up in spite of your best efforts.

Causes of a Bad Customer Experience

An average e-commerce company can face various types of issues that lead to a bad customer experience. From timed out transactions to payment gateway trouble to problems with the product, delivery issues, even after sales service issues.

Among the most frustrating aspects of customer service, the need to contact a company over and over again to fix the same problem is a huge source of irritation. Other factors that sour a customer’s service experience include being passed around from one agent to another during a single call and impolite behavior by a customer service representative.

Another study pins the blame for bad customer on long wait times, confusing automated customer care systems and inattentive and inexperienced customer care representatives.

The Cost of a Bad Customer Experience

Few things are as difficult to overcome as a case of bad customer experience. The old adage of ‘Once bitten, twice shy’ hold true as day for a user who gets the short end of the stick from a company. Risk aversion being an inherent aspect of human behavior, customers who face a bad experience once tend to shy away from having any dealings at all with the offending company. Switching loyalties to a competing brand or bad mouthing the offending brand to family and friends or on social media are common responses to negative customer experiences.

Studies show that 89% of customers who suffer a bad service experience will leave your brand for a competitor’s. According to the Global Customer Service Barometer’s findings, customers are almost twice as likely to talk about bad experiences with a brand as good ones. The problem however does not end with negative word of mouth. This negative word of mouth, combined with customers dropping off your charts after a bad experience lead to a real loss to your company annually in monetary terms.

According to KISSmetrics, the average value of every lost business relationship in the U.S. amounts to $289 per year. On being added up, lost business due to bad customer service costs the global economy a staggering $338.5 billion per year!

However, a botched service episode is not the end of your company’s relationship with the customer. There have been enough and more cases of successful service recovery, with the customer ending up pleased instead of being completely frustrated.

A Step-by-Step Guide to Bouncing Back from a Bad Customer Experience

1. Listen to them patiently

Listening. That’s the first rule of customer service. While many may consider customer service as a job that requires good conversational skills, the most vital asset any customer service rep can have is a great listening ear.

Have the patience to hear out a customer without bias or prejudice. Often customers are agitated and angry at a problem that your product may have caused them. It is the customer service representative’s job to calm them down and settle into a cordial space before proceeding. Ask questions at the appropriate times to get all the information needed to help in solving the customer’s problem.

2. Identify the problem

In order to help the caller effectively, the customer service representative must get to the root of the problem using some pointed meta-questions that answer the

  • What is the exact nature of the problem?
  • When did the problem initially occur?
  • What actions (if any) were taken to stem the problem?

Other details like purchase data, ownership, warranties and service records may be pulled out of databases to supplement the customer’s information with background data.

A customer service tool like Zendesk or Zoho is a great asset in pulling out customer histories, maintaining records of current conversations as well as helping agents get product information and troubleshooting tips instantly.

3. Own up responsibility and apologize sincerely

As mentioned earlier, most customers who contact a customer service desk, do so when all else fails. They are usually frustrated and irate at your company for the immediate problem that they’re facing.

Owning up responsibility for the problem and apologizing for the trouble that it caused them goes a long way to pacify an incensed customer. Be earnest in the apology, a cosmetic one does nothing but make the customer doubt your company’s credentials even more.

There could be cases when the problem is not really your company’s fault and has occurred due to external circumstances beyond your control. However, in such cases too, apologize. The reasoning is simple. You are not apologizing for causing the problem. You are expressing regret that your customer is inconvenienced and this empathy is something that the customer needs to know to feel better.

4. Find a solution, quick

The keys to customer satisfaction in such cases are speed and accuracy. In fact, according to a customer service study by Parature, the number one priority for a customer during a customer service interaction is speed. They expect a resolution to their problem within a single interaction, avoiding the need for repeated contact with the company.

Instead of making your customer service representatives figure out a solution for each customer’s problem from scratch, it is a good idea to have a customer service handbook readily available containing the most common service requests and product problems and the step by step resolutions to each of them.

Automate this process by uploading the handbook into your customer care tool or CRM and allow agents to use simple search functions to pull out the appropriate solutions in a jiffy.

5. Deliver, with the customer in the driver’s seat

Once the solution to the customer’s problem is figured out it is imperative to let the customer choose the next course of action. Offer them all the options they can pick from and let them indicate their preferred solution.

This does two things effectively. First, it puts the customer in the driver’s seat and makes them feel empowered. Second, it absolves the customer service agent from future blame as the solution that you finally go ahead with, is based on the customer’s explicit preference.

At this stage, depending on the severity of the problem, it is a good practice to offer a partial or complete refund of the user’s transaction amount as a goodwill gesture towards them. Some companies offer a special gift card or a high value coupon to customers as a peace offering. This gesture has the added benefit of having the customer return to you for a new purchase.

6. Follow up

Most companies end their customer interaction at step 5. But a company that intends to excel in customer service ought to go one step further and check how well the solution has taken root. This can be done with a customer satisfaction survey emailed to the customer a day or two after their last interaction with the company or even better, with a personalized call to confirm that all is well at the customer’s end.

The surprise element in this gesture will delight most customers, increasing their preference towards your brand in the process. A follow-up also helps to identify any loopholes in your customer service process. If the customer continues to face the same problem as before, this fact will be highlighted through a follow-up activity.

7. Document to prevent repeats

While most problems that customers face are commonly faced, expected problems to which you typically have ready solutions; sometimes there are brand new issues that crop up which increase the scope of your service processes. Every time such unique problems crop up, set up a system to document the entire troubleshooting process end to end, including:

  • Document the problem
  • Dig deep and find out why it happened
  • Find a solution / document solution offered
  • Include the problem and the corresponding solution in the standard operating procedure manual and train staff on how to deal with it
  • Set up a system to prevent a recurrence of such a problem

8. Update customer records to improve service for future transactions

In this era of big data and extensive customer records, every piece of data helps in improving customer experience and offering them personalized service. Make sure that every interaction that your company has with existing customers is recorded and updated into their individual customer records. These records form a rich customer history which you can fall back upon in the event of a future interaction with the same customer.

Records of past service interactions also helps to improve conversion rates of future transactions. By offering a live discount coupon or spontaneously displaying a specialized offer to a customer who had a bad experience in the past, you can increase their chances of completing the current transaction.

Case Study: Winning Back Customers’ Trust with a Smile

Customers are not an easy lot to please. But a company committed to delighting its customers does reap the rewards in kind. Southwest Airlines – America’s favorite airline, is renowned among other things for its great customer service.

But even the best guns in the business misfire sometimes. But Southwest being Southwest, managed to turn the situation on its head and created yet another happy customer. Here’s how the whole episode unfolded.

A Southwest customer B.J. Schone, had his brand new suitcase badly ripped on a trip from San Diego to St. Louis. In spite of repeated requests for a solution to his problem, he got nowhere. Frustrated, Schone sent this colorful letter to Southwest, detailing his woes:

Case Study: Winning Back Customers’ Trust

Southwest Airlines, played by the book and went a step ahead. They not only apologized and reimbursed the customer for the actual price of his suitcase, they even took a leaf out of his book to create a similar colorful reply and poked a little fun at themselves in the process.

Case Study: Winning Back Customers’ Trust
What a great way to make a customer feel special and show off your fun-loving side!

In Closing

Customer service can be a challenge or an opportunity based on your point of view. Research shows that customers prize the quality of a brand’s customer service even above price. Over 55% of users would pay extra if they were guaranteed good customer service.

Lose customers to bad customer service or earn a premium over your competitors by offering customer care that truly cares for the customer – the choice is pretty simple.

How customer reviews can help grow your online business

Part 1 : Embracing customer feedback

word of mouth marketingWord of mouth has always been one of the most successful ways of promoting a product or service. People trust the personal recommendations of friends and family above even the most innovative sales techniques or advertising . But where once word of mouth was primarily the domain of local businesses and limited to personal recommendations from friends and family, the internet has seen word of mouth marketing explode. In recent years we have seen a massive boom in customers sharing their opinions on products and services via specific review sites, digital media, social media networks, discussion forums,  blogs and online retail sites.

“The most influential element driving purchase decisions today is word of mouth.” Word of Mouth Marketing Association

The rise of word of mouth has also seen a change in the traditional purchase journey, having a direct impact on consumers decision-making process. Never before have consumers had so much product and service information at their fingertips. Nowadays, very rarely would I purchase a new item without first checking out online product reviews or would I book an unknown hotel without having a quick peek at a site like Trip Advisor. Online reviews and customer feedback are an integral  part of word of mouth marketing as a way for people to recommend products and share their opinion with others.

In part 1 we look at the benefits customer feedback can bring your business and how to encourage it. And in part 2 we will examine how best to manage negative customer feedback.

The benefits customer reviews can bring your business

As a key part of a customers decision-making process, we take a look at the many benefits positive customer feedback can bring your business.

  • Help drive sales: Since so many customers now look at reviews prior to making a purchase positive feedback can help drive your sales. For example, supposing a customer was deciding between purchasing a product from you or a similar product from one of your competitors (all other variables being equal), if your product had no customer reviews and your competitors had positive customer reviews, the likelihood is your competitor is more likely to make the sale.
  • Improve conversion rates:  Customer reviews are a great way to win over wavering purchasers. They can address and remove any  lingering doubt a prospective customer may have over making the final purchasing decision. For example suppose I was wavering over whether to buy a particular dress as I had concerns about how the garment would stand up to washing. A customer review stating that they had found the garment kept its shape well after washing is going to help remove any remaining doubt I have and mean a higher probability of an actual sale. 
  • Improve brand trust and credibility: Online businesses who embrace customer feedback are more likely to benefit from improved consumer trust in their product or service. It helps enforce brand credibility by conveying to customers you are confident in the quality of your products and service, you value your customers opinions and are a transparent and trustworthy business.
  • Additional sales tool. Positive customer reviews can work for you as an additional sales tool. You will find many customer reviews outline the different features and benefits of a particular product or service – helping you reinforce your sales message to prospective customers.
  • Build customer relationships. Providing the opportunity for customers to engage with you by being able to provide feedback on your products and services, shows your customers you that you value them – their opinion matters to you.
  • Research tool. Customer reviews are a great, qualitative method of getting some feedback from customers as to what products are working well and what could be improved. For example if a number of customers are highlighting a similar issue with a product then you know it is something you probably need to investigate. Remember we can all learn from a bit of  constructive criticism.
  • Helps SEO. Including customer reviews on your site is an additional way of adding fresh relevant content to your website helping with Search Engine Optimisation.

customer feedback7 ways to encourage your customers to give feedback

So how can you encourage feedback from your customers? Obviously the best way to ensure positive reviews is to offer a great product, exemplary service and all round excellent customer experience. However there are also a few ways that you can help things along and prompt customers to feedback.

  1. Have product reviews visible on your website (both positive and negative).  Customer reviews should be somewhere visible on your website. And make sure you have a balance of positive and negative reviews. Overwhelming positive reviews can look a bit contrived and less believable.
  2. Ask for it. Don’t be afraid to contact customers who have recently purchased a product to solicit feedback. Customers who have just received a product or service are usually more willing to take time out to write a review.  A simple email a week or so after customers have received your product expressing that you hope they are enjoying their new purchase and asking for some feedback work well and show customers you care.
  3. Make it simple to submit a review. Make it as easy as possible for a customer to submit a review. If the process is complicated and they have to swing through hoops – customers simply won’t do it. If you have a review page then make sure the link is clearly visible and use it in email correspondence.
  4. Respond to comments . Show customers that you appreciate them leaving a comment by replying to them. This applies to both positive and negative comments (we’ll  examine the best way to respond to negative comments in part 2 of this bog). If someone has taken time out of their day to offer feedback on a product or service, comment on Facebook or read and remark on a blog post, then try your best to respond. It shows you value what they have to say and increases the likelihood that they will engage with your business again.
  5. Offer an incentive.  You do need to walk a careful line here and not over incentivise . What you don’t want is people sending in product reviews just to receive an incentive as these reviews are more likely to appear insincere. However entry into a monthly free prize draw can work well. Or,  you could send an incentive after they have submitted a review as way of a thank you. This way you know the reviewer hasn’t been influenced by the incentive alone .  
  6. Interact on your social media sites. Try to create an environment where your customers see a face behind the business. Remember people like to deal with people. So interacting on social networks, writing blogs and so on can convey  a business that is interested in engaging with their customers which in turn makes customers more likely to respond.
  7. Exploit customer feedback to its full potential. When you think about it you’ll realise that you can actually receive customer feedback in a number of different ways – not just through customer reviews. You may have some feedback during a telephone conversation with a customer or in an email exchange. Some of these me of these off the cuff remarks can make excellent testimonials that you can use on your website (just make sure you ask them for permission).

Customer feedback in the form of reviews, questionnaires testimonials, ‘likes’ and ‘sharing’ can all have a positive impact on your business. So finding ways to encourage customers to converse with you makes sense. In part 2 of this blog we will be looking at how to manage negative feedback.

 

We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences on this post, so please do leave a comment.

Thumbs up image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Survey Form image courtesy of tiramisustudio / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Why Ignoring Customer Service is a Terrible Idea (With 5 Case Studies)

Why Ignoring Customer Service is a Terrible Idea

That interminable wait time while on the phone with customer service. The ‘pleasure’ of repeating your problem to four different people over the phone before at least one of them comes close to a solution. The experience of being snubbed by a salesperson in a retail store. Getting a completely wrong dish from the one you ordered in a fancy restaurant. Sound familiar?

Who among us has not had a maddening experience with customer service associates of our chosen service providers in the last 30 days? My bet is, ‘very few’. How about in the last one year? That number probably veers closer to ‘zero’ than anything else.

Technology has progressed in leaps and bounds with hundreds of new apps and software that help businesses handle every tiny aspect of customer care. From Sales & CRM behemoths like Salesforce to customer care focused ones like ZenDesk, there’s a range of specialized tools that claim to make customer care a breeze.

Studies have even shown that good customer service has been consistently rated as the most important factor that makes a customer choose one brand over another.

And yet we are inundated with instances of bad, sometimes appalling customer service experiences.

What Science has to Say About it

Some of this may be down to the fact that human brains are hard wired into remembering bad experiences far more than positive ones. A study by Professor Roy Baumeister from Florida State University attributes this stronger impact of negative events on our brains to an evolutionary response.

In the early years of human evolution, remembering negative experiences helped humans avoid or minimize threats to their lives, hence ensuring survival of the fittest. Remembering good experiences on the other hand was not quite so crucial to the survival and evolution of the human race.

This is not just scientific mumbo-jumbo. Market research supports this scientific finding and goes on to prove that 55% of customers who suffer bad customer service switch to a different brand, 48% of them convince friends and family to stop using the offending brand. The positive effect of a good service experience is slightly less pronounced.

DimensionalResearch.com, Zendesk

Consequences of Bad Customer Service

Treating customers badly, as you might expect, is not healthy for your business or its longevity. Some of the immediate effects of poor customer service include:

    • Customers stop buying from you
    • Disgruntled customers spread negative word of mouth among their friends and family
    • Social media backlash
    • Sets a precedent to employees that treating customers shoddily is ‘O.K.’
    • Cost of making it up to a dissatisfied customer is far higher than getting service right in the first place
    • Acquiring a new customer in place of the one you lost is often 4 to 7 times more expensive than keeping existing customers happy

I could go on, but you get the general drift, don’t you? Now let me bring out the real eye-poppers.

According to a study by New Voice Media in December 2013, US businesses have been losing over $41 billion every year, owing to bad customer service. And this figure does not include the cost of replacing the lost customers with new ones.

Brands that were Burnt by Bad Customer Service

Most brands invest in customer service to avoid just such scenarios, yet customers are treated to some spectacularly bad service from time to time. Here are a handful of the most infamous customer service debacles in recent years.

1. United Breaks Guitars

United Airlines

When musician Dave Carroll flew United Airlines with his guitar checked in with the rest of his baggage, little did he expect to find a broken guitar at the end of his flight. Carroll took up the matter with the airline staff at Chicago’s O’Hare airport but got no response. On filing an official claim with the airline, United rejected his claim saying he had crossed the 24 hour deadline for making claims about damaged baggage.

On reaching a dead end to his situation, Carroll resorted to what he did best. He wrote a song ‘United Breaks Guitars’ and posted it on YouTube. It became a viral sensation with about 14 million views till date.

While the song and its popularity embarrassed United Airlines publicly and the Managing Director of Customer Solutions himself called Carroll to apologize personally, the damage had already been done. United lost about $180 million in stock value within four days of the video being posted on YouTube.

2. Netflix Charges Double

Netflix

In 2011, Netflix decided to expand from its DVD rental only service, to offering its content streaming online and spin off its original DVD rental service under a new brand name – Qwikster. There was one small glitch. They decided to charge customers separately for the Qwikster DVD rental service and the online rental service – even existing customers. That meant a price hike of 60% for customers opting for both services.

This move unleashed a maelstrom of negative social media backlash against Netflix calling it uncaring, greedy, insensitive to customers, and more. Netflix was lampooned on national television on Saturday Night Live and ended up losing about 800,000 subscribers and lost 77% of its stock value in a matter of four months.

What happened to Qwikster? Well, it died an unheralded death within three weeks of its launch.

3. Dell Hell

Dell

Dell made its name and fortune on the innovative premise of selling computers direct to customers with specs as per the customers’ requirements. However, as Dell has grown in size, it seems to have lost its finger on the pulse of its customers.

Jeff Jarvis, a journalist and blogger with significant online clout, bought a Dell laptop in 2005 which turned out to be in his words; a lemon. He experienced multiple problems with the machine and tried to fix them by calling Dell’s customer service department. He paid for a technician to come to his home and fix the computer, but the guy who showed up did not bring the parts along with him that he needed to fix the machine. In spite of a fruitless service visit, Jarvis was charged for the ‘service’ even though the shortcoming was clearly on the company’s part.

When repeated attempts to solve his problem through Dell’s customer service team came to naught, an enraged Jarvis took to his blog and posted the first in a series of hate posts against Dell calling it his ‘Dell Hell’. The posts quickly went viral around the world and Dell’s reputation took a beating among computer buyers worldwide.

Besides massive negative PR, blogger and social media backlash, Dell also had to suffer the ignominy of Google’s search results showing negative content for search terms containing ‘Dell’ in them. Dell tried to minimize the damage by refunding the price of the laptop to Jarvis, but by then; the damage was already done.

You might think that a customer service disaster on such a mega scale would make Dell reconsider its ways. But this ‘Dell Hell Redux’ story of yet another customer going through a similar struggle in 2014, makes you wonder whether anything changed in the 9 years since the original ‘Dell Hell’.

4. Delta Airlines Breastfeeding Debacle

Delta Airlines

Breastfeeding advocacy has reached a fever pitch in recent years, with medical science backing up what was long believed to be a healthy practice for both mother and child. However, instead of considering it as an essential child care act, breast feeding is still viewed from a sexual lens; prompting many businesses to ask breastfeeding mothers to leave their premises or stop breastfeeding immediately.

Emily Gillette from Santa Fe, New Mexico; faced a rather unpleasant situation in 2012 while on a flight from Vermont while breastfeeding her baby daughter. Gillette was apparently kicked off a Delta connections flight (operated by Freedom Airlines and Mesa Air) at Burlington, Vermont for breastfeeding her baby in flight.

Gillette filed a lawsuit against Delta and its allied airlines for discrimination, mental trauma and inconvenience caused. The airlines came together and offered Gillette an out of court settlement amount, which she accepted. Freedom and Mesa Air separately paid the Vermont Human Rights Commission $20,000 in a separate settlement.

The incident sparked outrage across the United States, affecting the reputation of all 3 airlines involved and uniting pro-breastfeeding groups against the big bad corporate enemy. 19 airports across the country hosted ‘nurse-ins’ by mothers showing their solidarity for the cause. Both Mesa Air and Freedom Airlines apologized to Gillette and declared their open support to breast feeding mothers on board in all their flights.

5. Toyota Vehicle Recall

Toyota

Vehicle recalls have become a part and parcel of the automobile industry. With prompt corrective action and swift apologies from carmakers, customers have started seeing them much less negatively than they did during an earlier age.

However, problems arise when a company is perceived to be callous and uncaring in the face of automotive glitches that can be potentially life threatening.

Starting in 2009, a spate of accidents resulting in 34 deaths were reported involving Toyota vehicles. All evidence pointed to an unintended acceleration problem causing the fatal crashes. All this while, Toyota denied any issues with their cars and did precious little to help the scenario.

In the meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times begins a series of reports exposing the flaws in Toyota vehicles and their linkages to the accidents. Following a public uproar, Federal authorities step in and Toyota is taken to court in a class action lawsuit.

Besides paying millions of dollars to the Federal authorities for the slip ups in their product, Toyota ended up settling the class action lawsuit for a sum of $1.2 billion.

The recalls led to a $21 billion drop in Toyota’s market value. The cover ups, early inaction and silence from Toyota on the issue, cost the company the trust of existing car owners as well as the chances of acquiring new customers in the immediate future.

Conclusion

As we’ve seen, it takes all kinds to make up the wonderful, mad world of customer service. Being a completely customer facing function, customer service slip ups are out there for the world to see and react to. It is up to brands and their custodians to figure out how to make customer service work for them instead of boomeranging badly.

The New Voice Media study quoted earlier also showed that when brands do a good job with their customer service, 70% of satisfied customers tend to be loyal to the brand and 69% of them would recommend it to other people.

Even if people are pre-disposed to remembering the mistakes that you make more than the good things that you do, the payoffs are much higher in the long run by being in the good books of your customers. Try it once and see what happens. I have a sneaky feeling you won’t regret choosing to maximize customer delight instead of minimizing customer complaints. Here’s to happier customers all around!

(Image Source: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7)

Selling on Facebook: Grow online sales with a Facebook Store

Open a Facebook shop

How your business can benefit from a Facebook Shop

You may already be using Facebook as an integral part of your online marketing strategy –  helping drive traffic to your website and building customer relationships –  but have you thought about using it as an additional sales channel?

Creating a Facebook Store where you can  sell your products directly off your Facebook page makes sense – especially for small online businesses.  It can be cost-effective and offering as many options as possible is good for you customers and your sales. Not only does  a Facebook store provide you with an additional sales channel through which customers can purchase your goods, you are also reaching customers in an specific environment where they are engaged and interacting  – a Facebook store gives them the convenience of being able to buy there and then. And after all , shouldn’t customers be able to buy where they like?

The power of Facebook

Facebook is the world’s largest social network and you simply can’t ignore its power. Having a good Facebook page should be an essential part of any small businesses online presence. Facebook statistics are impressive and the numbers speak for themselves:

  • 1.23bn monthly active users
  • 757m users log onto Facebook daily
  • 556m access Facebook via their smartphone or tablet
  • 48% of users log on any given day
  • 48% of 18-34 year olds check Facebook when they wake up
  • The average time spent of Facebook per visit is 18 minutes
  • Facebook users grew by 22% between 2012 – 2013
  • 1 million links are shared every 20 minutes on Facebook

 

social media like imageBenefits of selling directly from Facebook

Right, we can see from the statistics that having a Facebook presence is important – Facebook is quite simply too big for your business to ignore. But why include a Facebook shop in the Facebook pages you already have? What additional benefits can a Facebook Store  bring to your online business? We’ve listed some of the key benefits below:

  • Increase your online sales through an additional sales channel. It’s all about making it as convenient as possible for your customers to make a purchase. The more sales channels you have available, the better chance you have of enabling customers to purchase in the way that most suits them – be that via a website, bricks and mortar store,  telephone, post or their favourite social network. The point being the more options you have the more likely you will find a channel to suit almost all your customers and potential customers.
  • Your customers are on Facebook. If your customers are on Facebook (and statistics would indicate there is a high likelihood that many probably are!) then it makes sense to offer them the opportunity to purchase your products or services there and then – on the platform they are currently on. Of course some customers will be quite happy or may even to prefer to click-through to your website however, you’ll want to be able to offer the opportunity for customers to purchase on Facebook should they so wish.
  • Improve your conversion rates . Converting even very interested customers into an actual sale is always a challenge. You need to make sure that their route to purchase is straightforward, and has as few distractions as possible. Adding a Facebook Store to your Facebook pages means a customer can directly and immediately purchase your product without having to click separately through to your website – meaning there is less chance of you losing them en-route.
  • Increase social sharing of your products. Having a Facebook Store means your customers can quickly and easily ‘Like’ and ‘Share’ their favourite  products with family and friends – a great way to grow new traffic.  And don’t forget, as the number of likes increase so to does the confidence new customers have in your product or service. So, when you’re choosing a Facebook Store App check that it is enabled with the Facebook ‘Like’ and ‘Share’ button.
  • Easy to get started. It isn’t difficult to set up a Facebook store with a Facebook App that is easy and quick to integrate – some can have you up and running in minutes. And, if you are new to selling online and haven’t got a website then a Facebook Store is a great place to started and test the water.

 

A few things to consider when choosing a Facebook Store App

  1. Easy integration: Make life as easy as possible for yourself and choose an app that is simple to use and  can get you up and running quickly and easily. With the right Facebook Store App there is no reason why you can’t be set up within minutes.
  2. Cost-effective: Setting up a Facebook Store shouldn’t cost you the earth, so look for a cost-effective solution.
  3. Centralised Store administration: If you are already selling online through your website then it makes sense that your products are managed from the same, centralised store administration. This way you will find you can manage orders and stock control easily across both sales platforms.
  4. Customise: Think about keeping your brand consistent by  customising your Facebook Store page to reflect your website shop.

 

Facebook store demonstration

ShopIntegrator Facebook Store Demonstration

Checkout ShopIntegrator’s Facebook Store demonstration and tutorial

Finally, to help you get a real feel for how a Facebook Store looks and works take a look at our  Facebook store demonstration on Facebook and to see just how easy it is to set up a Facebook Store, checkout our e-commerce video tutorial ‘How to add a free Facebook store page’.

 

We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences on this post, so please do leave a comment

‘Like’ image courtesy of tungphoto / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

 

 

 

How Content Strategy Plays a Major Role in Your Branding Efforts?

content marketing

Does your business have a content strategy yet?

If it doesn’t, you are losing out on a wonderful opportunity to improve brand awareness, reputation and authority. It is important not to confuse content strategy with content marketing although both are connected.

While content marketing is the process of placing quality content in front of your target audience to build deeper relationships, content strategy is a ‘mindset’ that according to Kristina Halvorson, the founder of Brain Traffic includes “planning for the creation, delivery, and governance of useful, usable content”.

Without a content strategy in place, there is very little chance your content marketing efforts will succeed. Your content strategy helps your business create a framework wherein your business and the needs of its customers are constantly evaluated to improve content production and the content processes that help produce this content.

The whole idea behind drawing up a content strategy is to ensure that the content is able to drive your brand‘s engagement with its target audience and takes your brand interaction to the next level.

Content Strategy and Your Brand

84 percent of marketers who aren’t finding success with their content marketing efforts say they do not have a documented content strategy in place.

Learning – Content strategy is of critical importance to brands if they are serious about their content marketing efforts.

Think about content strategy as something that helps you maximize the potential of your content. There are businesses/marketers, who think just writing content (high quality content) will help you rank in search engines, enhance the reputation of your business and help people identify your brand.

They are wrong.

You need a content strategy in place to leverage the immense potential of this content. A well-defined content strategy gives your content a sense of purpose and its own personality and identity. You must know who your target audience is and the kind of content they are looking for. A strategy is also needed to ensure your content is aligned with your business, its products and services and still caters to the needs of your target audience.

Content strategy also determines your writing style, choice of content format and how you will market this content to ensure your audience finds it when they are looking for it.

Not Just Content Strategy but an Effective Content Strategy

Not Just Content Strategy but an Effective Content Strategy

A content strategy is as good as its comprehensiveness. The components of an effective content strategy include the following:

  • Defining the Objectives

What are your objectives with respect to your content? Are you using it to build your brand’s niche authority or as a means of boosting your search engine rankings or something else? Also, what is the content format you want to use; will it be videos, blog content, online magazines, tutorials or pod casts amongst other formats?

You need to pick a format that your target audience can easily access and consume.

  • Defining Content Creators

Who will create the content? Will you have an in-house content writing team or outsource your requirements. If you do choose to outsource content creation, you will need to ensure you zero in on the right writer/team of writers.

  • Who is your audience?

Identify your audience, but don’t just identify the audience, you also need to understand them and what they expect from your content. You must also make sure your audience doesn’t receive content that overlaps with your existing marketing communication.

  • Distribution Strategy

How are you going to bring your content in front of your customers?

There are plenty of channels you can choose from, but more often than not, it is the content format that determines the channel you use. Explore the various channels available; make sure you know the strengths and costs of each and also ensure that your customers are active users of these channels. This will help you make an informed decision with respect to the content channel you choose and guarantee you make the most of it.

  • Identify Content Performance Metrics

How do you know your content strategy is working or not? This is where content metrics enter the equation. You need to zero in on the performance metrics of your content that will allow you to measure your success or failure. You must know whether your content is helping satisfy the needs of your customers and if you’ll need to refine your strategy.

At the end of the day you also need to take strategic inputs from every important stakeholder in your business to come up with a content strategy that delivers on your expectations.

Benefits to your Brand

  • Brand Reputation

Your customers are looking for high quality content. The kind of content that is useful, relevant and actionable. They want information that helps solve a problem and if your brand can provide a solution that enables them to take informed decisions, they’ll become loyal followers of your content. What you are also doing is using content as a means to trigger personal interactions with your brand. If they’ve come across a content piece they like and feel strongly about, they’ll comment on it, which can give rise to interesting discussions on your comment feed.

Your content acts as a bridge between your brand and its customers. Your brand comes to be identified with its content and if you consistently produce and publish content that adds value to the lives of your customers, it will be reflected in the enhanced reputation of your brand. Your content will be the ‘go-to content’ for a target audience looking for specific information.

  • Taming Search Engines

Google’s incessant efforts in improving search quality for users have meant it is not business as usual for webmasters and SEOs. They cannot get away with everything that they could get away with, a few years ago. Quality is the name of the game now.

Gone are the days when they could just fill up content with keywords and build links from just about any source and get away with it. What’s more, there was every chance their website would be rewarded with high rankings on SERPs.

Things have changed.

The focus is now on quality and earning natural links from authority online sources. And the one thing that helps make this possible is great content. The more high quality content you publish, the more backlinks you can attract from reputed websites/blogs. And this results in higher search engine rankings, which in turn means more website traffic thus improving your website’s chances of conversions.

And all this because of content!

  • Content for an Active Social Media Presence

sm

Social media marketing is the buzz word these days and why not. Just about every brand is using social media to boost its branding efforts and it is shareworthy content that lies at the very root of every successful social media campaign. When readers like your content, they want to share it with the people they know so that even their friends and family can benefit from this content. This means your content is shared, re-shared and then shared some more. Your content represents your brand, which means it’s not your content but your brand that is essentially going viral.

It’s all about compelling content

Your content strategy will go nowhere if you don’t have a sub-strategy to create compelling content in place. Compelling content is the kind that readers love going through. It’s not about creative excellence but about content excellence.

You need a certain kind of mindset to produce such content. You need to say to yourself that you want to be the leading provider of niche related information to your target customers. If you aim to play a leadership role as an information provider, you will make the necessary effort to satisfy the needs of your customers.

Think of your content like a product and judge its usefulness.  It needs to be high up on the utility scale if you want it to succeed. For this to happen, you’ll need to understand the kind of information your customers are searching for. You need to listen to the conversations happening around your domain (social media networks are great listening posts) and create content that revolves around these conversations.

To create compelling content you must be in sync with what your customers want. So make sure you know everything about them.

Tips to Keep in Mind While Implementing a Content Strategy

When you work out a content strategy for your brand, the next step is to implement it. But before you do, you need to keep a few tips in mind:

  • Content strategy requires different sections of your business to work as a team. Whether it’s your web design team, copywriting team, web development team, the public relations team or your marketing team – every single one of them should work together to make a decisive impact.
  • Understand that you are in it for the long haul and immediate results might not be forthcoming.
  • Make sure your writing matches the understanding of your target audience. The literacy levels of different people that belong to the same target audience group are different. So choose a writing style that can address the least common denominator in your audience. Writing not only includes the way you write but also the ideas you come up with and the research you do.
  • Make sure you stick to your strategy and not veer away from it during implementation. Otherwise it makes your job more difficult.
  • Your style must be your own. The tone and voice you adopt to make your point must reflect your brand personality. Do not ape somebody else’s writing tone or style. Create one of your own and work towards refining it every step of the way.
  • Mix up your formats but make sure you focus on your strengths. If you do not have the expertise to come up with some solid video content, don’t.  On the other hand, if your forte is topical white papers make sure you get one out on a regular basis. The idea is to not make any half-baked efforts with respect to the content you publish. Your customers are looking for the best information available and which makes good use of its content format; you need to be able to deliver the goods all the time. So don’t take chances.

To Conclude

Content strategy and your branding efforts need to keep pace with each other. In fact, for many brands it is content that is acting as the main fuel of their marketing efforts. It is a purely content driven marketing strategy and more often than not it is delivering the results they are looking for. Content helps your brand come out looking like an expert and somebody who has the ability to deliver on the expectations of its customers. This in a nutshell is why content strategy needs to be a part of your branding efforts.

Image Credits: 1, 23

How to use images to improve customer engagement

Hand pointing at online streaming of imagesThe use of visual imagery is becoming an increasingly important part of online communication. The meteoritic growth  in social networking sites like Pinterest and Instagram illustrates just how significant images have become in increasing engagement and interaction amongst consumers.

Indeed, research shows that articles containing an image have, on average, 94% more total views  than articles without an image, indicating the power of a good image.

Psychologically, consumers love imagery, and seeing visually appealing things creates positive emotions. Most people — between 65 and 85 percent — also describe themselves as ‘visual learners,’ forming meaning and organizing thoughts based on what they see more so than what they read.” Trend Reports

According to Forbes, image-centric marketing will be one of the top online marketing trends for 2014. Therefore, understanding the potential benefits of images and using them effectively on your website and in your marketing can increase engagement and interaction amongst your customers. Images can help:

  • Grab people’s attention
  • Convey meaning quickly
  • evoke emotions
  • Illustrate a point
  • Make text-based articles more visually appealing by breaking up reams of text
  • Convey complex information in an easily digestible format (think infographics)
  • Showcase a product effectively online.

How to make the most of images online

Your website

The use of visual imagery on your website is essential. Not only are images valuable in terms of SEO, they are central in terms of engaging customers. Nobody is going to find a solely text-based website enticing. Using photos, illustrations, graphics, icons, infographics and videos are all great ways to improve the content of your website and as a result, increase its appeal to customers.

Your product pages are a key area to focus on, since images are one of the most important elements in a customer’s decision-making process. So, ensure you are using high-definition images and spend time thinking about how to showcase your products to their full advantage. Research shows:

  •  67% of consumers say that the quality of the image is very important when they are purchasing a product.
  • 63% of consumers  saying a good image is even more important than product specific information.

social media like imageSocial Media

Social media and images go hand-in hand, just look at the phenomenal success of Pinterest in recent years. Think about how you can use images to enhance your presence on all your social media sites.  For example,  when you are posting an update on Facebook, always  include an appropriate image, be it an update about a new product, service, staff change, industry news, special promotion or competition. Including an image will make it far more likely for your update to capture people’s attention and in turn generate more likes and comments.

Blogs

Putting an image right at the beginning of your blog post is a great way to pull readers in. A relevant  image can help readers understand what your post is about, help illustrate a point and stir-up an emotional response. Images are also a great way to break up text if you have a long blog. And don’t forget, images can also be used when you promote your blog post on your social media sites and in your email newsletters.

Infographics also work really well in blog posts. They’ve grown in popularity over recent years as they present statistics and research in an interesting, relevant and engaging way.

Email and Online Press Releases

People tend to skim through emails and online press releases, picking out the salient points. Therefore, using images is a great way to help you get your message across quickly, break up text and create engagement at the same time.

You Tube on ipadVideo marketing

And finally, don’t forget the moving image. Using video  is a great way to boost your search engine rankings (search engines love video).  It’s format is engaging and it is a great tool to use  if you need to educate or explain something to your customers – think product demonstrations and video tutorials. Just remember to put it up on YouTube as well as on your website.

What makes for a good image

Where possible try to avoid using staged business photos as you are more likely to capture people’s attention and get an emotional response by using real people, real-life situations, humour, interesting visuals or stunning photography. Take a look at which boards get the most re-pins on  Pinterest  and you’ll get a real feel for the type of images that really work.

Make sure you  add Alt Text to your images. This is essentially a concise and accurate description of the image and is used as alternative text when the image can not be displayed. This is important as:

  1.  it makes the image accessible to all users, including those that are visually impaired as screen readers can read the alternative text provided
  2.  it one of the factors that can help improve your SEO performance.

Sourcing images

There are plenty of low-cost  and free images available on the web, but if you are not using your own photos or images then you must be careful about copyright and get permission from the author. Look for royalty free stock images that are for commercial use. I’ve listed a few of the low-cost and free websites we use for images and they’ll  tell you whether an image requires an author credit or not.

FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Stock.XCHNG

Dreamstime

We’d love to hear your thoughts on this post, so please do leave a comment

Image streaming image courtesy of  nokhoog_buchacon at FreeDigitalPhotos.net 

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YouTube on Tablet image courtesy of Winnond at Freedigitalphotos.net