How to build a successful Twitter presence for your small online business

twitter for small businessWith 302 million monthly active users, Twitter still has plenty to offer small businesses. It’s a great tool for promoting awareness, driving traffic to your site, generating sales, engaging with customers and building your brand personality. Of course, as with any social media platform, in order to be successful you need to be following best practice and have set yourself clear goals. Otherwise you could be investing valuable time and effort with little to show in return.

What do you want to achieve?

Twitter can successfully work as part of a wider integrated marketing strategy. According to small business research, 60% of respondents have purchased from small and medium businesses because of Twitter.

But to be successful it is important that you define and prioritise your goals.  If you’re busily tweeting away with no clear sense of purpose the benefits are unlikely to match the time and effort you may be putting in.

So think about what your key business objectives are. For example are you looking to:

  • Build followers.
  • Increase engagement amongst target audience.
  • Grow awareness of your brand.
  • Generate sales leads.
  • Drive traffic to your site.

The clearer your are about what it is you want to achieve the more focused you can be in your approach to your Twitter activities.

We’ve put together some easy to implement best practice tips to help you make the most of your Twitter presence.

Getting off to a good start

If you’re not already using Twitter then getting off to a good start is important. Once you’ve signed up you’ll need to create your username (also known as your Twitter handle). For example ours is @shopintegrator. Then you’ll create a profile bio, add a profile pic – these should succinctly reflect your business. Next its time to start looking for the right people to follow – which of course will be dependent upon the industry and business you are in.

Check out Twitter’s own business resource Twitter For Business. You’ll find plenty of useful advice to get you off to a confident start.

Tweeting essentials

  • Include the Twitter ‘Follow Us’ button on your website.
  • Tweet regularly but ensure it is something worth sharing.
  • Keep your brand’s personality and voice consistent in your Tweets.
  • Don’t make it all about you. Share links and retweet anything that will be of interest to your followers.
  • Don’t use up all your 140 characters. You’ll want to leave enough room for people retweet.
  • Use hashtags but don’t go mad. One or two per tweet is probably about right.
  • Recycle your best tweets with some re-wording. Research shows that a repeated tweet can get as much as 86% performance as the original tweet.
  • Promote your Twitter username online and offline

visual contant on TwitterIncrease your visual content

As visual content becomes increasingly important within social media, try to include more images and photos in your Tweets. According to HubSpotTweets with images receive 18% more clicks, 89% more favorites and 150% more retweets – so it’s definitely one to think about. Remember though, when you are posting images they count as a link and so will automatically use up 22 characters.  Keep your tweets extra concise to allow for re-tweeting.

Videos are also a great way to capture and engage an audience. Since January this year iPhone and Android Twitter users can actually capture, edit and share videos of up to 30 seconds duration on Twitter.

Share interesting and varied content

Twitter isn’t just about relentlessly pushing your own agenda. You need to mix up your content so it is varied and interesting. If you’re stuck here are a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing:

  • Eye-catching images and videos.
  • Links to your blog articles.
  • Latest industry news and titbits.
  • Behind the scenes peeks at your business photos.
  • Funny and inspiring quotes.
  • Start conversations by posing questions.
  • Product launches.
  • Industry statistics.
  • Latest trends.
  • Ask advice.
  • Share tips and recommendations.

Social on TwitterBe social

“80% of your Tweets should focus on driving interactions with your followers, such as retweets, replies, and favourites.” Twitter for Business

Central to your Twitter success is building a genuine rapport with your followers. Try using Twitter’s 80/20 ratio. Don’t just bombard your followers with tweets that push your businesses products and services. 80% of your tweets should be sharing links, retweeting and joining conversations.

You are trying to show the person behind  your business so always take a friendly and positive approach to your interactions.

Measure your performance

Don’t just tweet merrily away without taking a step back to analyse your performance. Twitter Analytics is worth spending some time getting familiar with. The Twitter dashboard can give you all sorts of interesting information about how you are doing. For example:

  • At a glance 28 day summary: Tweets sent, profile visit, mentions, new followers, top tweet, top mention and top followers.
  • Tweets: Impressions, engagement, retweets, replies and link clicks.
  • Follower insights. Interests, location, gender and who your followers are following.

Digging a bit deeper into how you are performing and getting to know who is following you will enable you to better focus your Twitter efforts.

Following best practice and implementing even just some of the tips we’ve talked about will help your business get more out of Twitter. We’d love to hear your own thoughts and experiences on Twitter so please do leave a comment.

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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

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)

Twitter as social media marketing sales channel

If you’re not using Twitter to promote your online business, then you are going to be losing out on sales for your online store as a result. I’m going to tell you how to use Twitter as an effective marketing tool to generate sales for your business.

Twitter social media marketing sales channelTwitter is one of the most popular social networking websites there is and if used correctly can help send more visitors to your online store to buy the products and services you’re selling. Take note of the very important part of the last sentence “if used correctly” as this post is about how to get the best out of Twitter to sell online to avoid wasting your time, and ending up frustrated and giving up.

How not to use Twitter to sell online

If you think that Twitter is all about you posting a tweet with a link to your products and telling people to buy your product or service because it’s great, then you’re going to be wasting your time, even if what you’re selling is the greatest thing since sliced bread.

Why? Because it is the equivalent of standing on a soap box on a busy high street and shouting at people. People have already switched off as they see you and avoid the message despite maybe even needing what you’re selling, they don’t like being sold to in this way.

How to use Twitter to sell online

So am I saying you shouldn’t post a link to your products and services and tell people how great they are that they should buy from you? That’s not what I am saying either. Tricky hey!

The clue is in the title, it’s about first and foremost being social and building a connection with people to establish a relationship with an audience. When you have a connection with people, they are going to be more likely to listen to what you have to say. When you do occasionally tell them about the great things you sell, there is a chance they will check it out.

There is a balance you need to have between connecting, sharing, contributing and selling, get this right and you can make Twitter an effective marketing sales channel.

How to make a social connection to people on Twitter

Before anyone can hear what you have to say, you need people to follow you on Twitter. A good starting point is to include a link to your Twitter profile in your web site and at the bottom of the emails you send. This is a good passive way to build up followers.

To actively build followers you can start by following others, some of these will return the favour and follow you back. I often take a look at someone who’s followed me to see who they are and what they are about. So by following someone, it can often lead to them checking out you and your website and then following you back. Try following a range of people and organisations which you are interested in, and follow organisations and events to do with your business sector, as Twitter makes suggestions based on the types of people you follow.

  • Follow businesses you already sell to, you might spot an opportunity for a sale at a later date if they tweet a message about a need they have or a problem they are trying to overcome that you could come to their rescue for with a solution.
  • Follow the businesses whose services and products you use yourself, as its a good way of keeping up to date on what is going on with the things you use and rely upon. As one of their customers, if you’re tweeting about your positive experiences using their products and services they may re-tweet your messages to their followers giving your more social marketing exposure.

To follow is one thing, to interact is better

I don’t follow just anybody who follows me, if someone follows me I like to actually have a look at their tweets and make sure I have some interest in what they tweet about. This helps me avoid Twitter spammers, like those just out to tweet you endless messages about ‘Buying 1000 Twitter followers instantly’ and other junk message tweeters. If you’re understanding the message here that Twitter only has real value when there is real social interaction, you’ll see that buying instant followers gives you no real interaction with real people, so will have little benefit to your business.

Following people is one thing, interaction is another. If someone you are following posted something that sounds interesting, you can re-tweet it. Effectively re-publish it on your own Twitter time line to your followers. It’s like saying, “Hey, I thought this was interesting from someone I follow, take a look and see if you think so”. People like it when you re-tweet their stuff, they may even say thank you, and it puts you on their radar.

Go one step further, reply to their tweet with your opinion on what they wrote, they want to know what they are writing is being read just as much as you do. You don’t always have to agree with them either to reply, Twitter is a public forum, as long as it’s not offensive, you’re entitled to your opinion.

Tweet links to articles on other people’s blogs or news sites that you found interesting and say why you liked it. These can be of general interest, but if it’s also relevant to your business sector, even better.

Tweet links to useful articles and competitions on your own website that people might be interested in.

When do you sell on Twitter?

So now people are interested in you and your interacting with them then you can drop in a tweet about the products and services you’re selling with a link to your website. This shouldn’t scare people off because they know following you is so much more than just sales messages, and they also know your a business at the end of the day. The ‘hard sell’ part should probably only amount to no more than about 10 to 20% of your activity on Twitter.

How to use Twitter as social media marketing sales channel

If you try and treat Twitter as a one-way advertising channel you will fail. Today’s modern marketing landscape is that you need to give people something valuable for free to get them engaged. When I say “Something valuable” I mean, giving people information has value if it is interesting, useful or even entertaining. Socially interacting with others makes you valuable to them making them more likely to return the favour, which expands your audience beyond just your own efforts, creating a social butterfly effect.

The final part is that you need to do this on a regular basis otherwise the positive effects fade away as quickly as they arrived. Good luck and get social marketing today! Sing up for a Twitter account now if you don’t already have one: http://www.twitter.com/

We look forward to getting a Tweet from you @shopintegrator on Twitter 🙂