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Are you a professional? An expert in your field? An authority in your niche? Then, if you’re not on LinkedIn, stop reading, and go sign up! You must be there. With 238 million users – serious users who don’t deal in fluff and memes but in professional discussions and networking – you have the opportunity to reach out, influence, expand your career, and enhance your business/website. So how do you leverage it?

Get Linked In

Some helpful tips to get you started:

  • Complete your company profile.  This is your chance to tell visitors and searchers about yoru company – products, services, opportunities, etc. To add a Company Page, you need to own a personal profile with your real name. Add a description, video, and other content that describes your business, your offerings, and your people. LinkedIn offers some useful instructions to help you set up your page.
  • Be a groupie. Joining groups helps you connect with like-minded people in your industry or related industries. It’s also a method by which you can establish your authority. Participate in a community by offering valuable information, advice, or questions –and go one step further: start your own group. Own a group, and lead people. Encourage them, and at the same time, use this platform to grow.
  • Publish. LinkedIn offers its Influencer program to help users publish content and build their brands. It is essentially a blogging program. Once only open by invitation, now anyone can be an Influencer. Try it for increased traffic, more visibility on your profile, and even a higher conversion rate. And remember to publish fresh content regularly and frequently. Your readers and Google will love it.
  • Ask for recommendations. It can be difficult, but if you have a successful customer experience or a positive relationship with a colleague, request that they recommend you for a specific skill. Loyal customers are a great source of recommendations, so do ask. When do you not ask? When it might turnoff new or potential customers.

LinkedIn is a must for professionals and for brands today. Get in the game!

SEOFoot traffic and paper directories just don’t cut it anymore.  A confluence of events – from the meteoric rise of mobile to the emphasis in many communities on supporting local establishments – means that local businesses need to create a lively, optimised online presence to engage their customers. Over 46 per cent of shoppers use their mobile devices to research local products and services. Will they find you? Here are a few targeted tips for being on top of the local game.

  • Set up your Google Places space. Run, don’t walk. You can control the information you provide to Google, and to your audience. Use this opportunity to disseminate the essentials: hours, contact information, images, and a keyword-optimised description. After you fill this out, all you have to do is verify your account via phone or mail. Bing and Yahoo also have “Local” services for businesses, so if you want to target these engines as well, follow their specific procedures to get your account set up.
  • Get social with Google+ Local. Here, you can connect with your customers and others related to your specific industry using Google+ circles. You can control the information and the “story” your business tells.
  • Use a real address and phone number. People who search for local products and services want a “real” address, not a virtual one. Not only does it tell them where to go if they want to visit the brick-and-mortar location, but it lends your business greater credibility. Same goes with the telephone number. Adding a map is another nice touch that will help visitors feel more comfortable visiting either in person or onine.
  • Encourage customers to leave reviews and ratings. These are terrific for boosting your online authority and profile. Make it easy and convenient for them. Try printing a link to a review site on a receipt or adding one to an email communication to solicit feedback. If you should get some negative comments, address them immediately! Stay respectful, positive, and helpful – remember, these things can go viral.
  • Make sure your site is mobile-ready. While people do search for local businesses from home, it’s a mobile world. Is your site optimised for smartphones and tablets? If not, work on creating a responsive website or creating a separate mobile experience.
  • Don’t forget SEO. Keywords, site speed, metadata – all critical in local search campaigns.

Customers are out there, searching for quality local businesses. Make sure they find you by implementing these SEO strategies.

Colorful Tacks

Pinterest has achieved phenomenal growth in the last few years, but many businesses persist in believing it to be just a place for foodies to get new gluten-free recipes, thrifty parents to get ideas for budget-friendly birthday parties, or for crafty folks to get their newest idea. It’s great, they think, for individuals but not for our businesses. But consider this, Pinterest refers more people to websites than Yahoo. Admittedly, Yahoo is no Google, but this is a powerful reminder that there is an opportunity to be had. If you’re not pinning, maybe you should be.

Pinterest is the fourth largest traffic source in the world. It often referrs more people than Google+, Bing, and LinkedIn. Most of its users are women (some put the number as high as 80 percent) and most are between ages 24 and 34. Half have children. If these hit your target demographics, it might be smart to build a Pinterest presence for yours business. Here are some other statistics:

  • Pins with price tags get 36 percent more likes than those without.
  • 69 percent of users have found at least one item they have purchased or wanted to purchase.
  • Average users spend 1 hour and 17 minutes on the site.

That last stat is particularly remarkable. Over one hour – most sites are lucky if users stay for a few minutes. What the duration of the stay tells us is that users are engaged. They are being pulled in by great content, and they don’t have to “bounce” because they are finding information, comparisons, prices, and products that meet their needs.

If you think that Pinterest is of importance and value to your target audience, create an account. Here are some tips to help create a presence:

  • Set up a business account for a more professional, credible appearance. This will help boost consumer confidence in your brand.
  • Use Pinterest Analytics. In keeping with its status as a major traffic source, Pinterest offers Analytics. Track how many people are viewing and pinning from your website. You can also see the most popular “repinned” items to help you optimise your efforts and create better pins.
  • Think about hosting a contest. These are popular and can help highlight your content and your website. Make sure to read Pinterest’s Terms of Service before you start.
  • Be visual. Use images (that you create or that you have secured rights to) and infographics to appeal to Pinterest’s visual nature.
  • Know your audience. Pin only what you think they’ll be interested in. Doing some research is a great way to start. Not only should you get a sense of your “user personas,” you should look at what your competition is doing as well.
  • Take advantage of tools. There are now a variety of helpful tools to build and maintain a positive Pinterest presence. These include: Shopinterest (to set up shop in minutes); Repinly (info on top pins and boards); Pinstamatic (appealing boards); Pinpuff (measure influence); and Piqora (analytics and pin scheduling).
  • Spend an hour or so yourself pinning, repinning, and gathering information on what works, what doesn’t , what your business can do, and how you can reach your audience.

Does Pinterest make sense for your business? Are you already there?

 

Shaking Hands

One of the primary goals of content marketing, and indeed, all internet campaign efforts, is credibility. Your online brand is only as good as the trust that you build with your audience, and it is critical that you establish your integrity and authority, especially if you are asking for sensitive personal or financial information. How can you establish greater trust, and put customers at ease?

Trust seals can increase conversion rate optimisations: 86 percent of online shoppers feel more confident when they utilise sites that display the seals. According to research, the most well-respected trusted trust seals are: Norton Secured, powered by Verisign, McAfee Secure, and TRUSTe.

Let’s take a quick look at a Norton option: Secure Site Pro with EV SSL Certificates, for instance, gives you extended validation, green address bar (another visual for customers), 128-bit minimum to 256-bit encryption, and $1.5 million warranty and vulnerability assessment.  Your site will have that level of protection and security for users. McAfee Secure offers daily scans for hacker vulnerabilities and threats, proactive alerts to threats, remediation assistance, and unlimited technical support.

When you get these seals, you get more than a logo to put on your website. You get protection for your site, and for your customers.

In addition to trust seals, you can take other steps to help boost your credibility, including:

  • Posting authentic testimonials and customer reviews.
  • Display and provide links if you are mentioned in industry publications or by news organizations.
  • Create and prominently display a privacy policy, guaranteeing that customer information will never be sold, traded, or used for purposes other than stated.
  • Ensure the trust seals are displayed prominently.
  • Link to social media profiles to further establish a presence and to allow potential customers to engage with your online community.

Paper Chain In The DarkProducing quality, relevant content is an ongoing task for website owners, bloggers, and businesses. In addition to producing our own written, video, and image content, we can employ additional methods to ensure we give our audiences the material they want and need. Curating is one way to do this, as is using the words, images, and thoughts of our audiences themselves. Leveraging user generated content (UGC) can be an effective technique to enhance our websites.

The UK’s Guardian has recently launched a digital platform which enables users to upload video, photos, and text content to its journalists via apps or the website. They call this “GuardianWitness,” and they’ve leveraged it to allow up-to-the-minute, man-on-the-street coverage of major news events. This is just one example of brands leveraging UGC. Retail-based and service-based brands can also benefit: Brisk Ice Tea, for instance, crowdsourced a special edition label to fans of the beverage, using Instagram for help. The potential is enormous; how can you encourage and use UGC effectively?

  • Let users know you want their words, pictures, etc. Solicit user feedback, reviews, and ratings. Make it easy for your customers to leave feedback and share their experience via social media. Sharing buttons, review buttons, and/or a “Most Recent Reviews” sections on your website can be invaluable.
  • Give them something back. UGC is a favor from your audience to you – now give them something in return.  A gift card, free product, free sample, free shipping, and other perks are fairly inexpensive for you, and your users’ content may help draw in additional visitors (and customers!). This makes it a smart investment.  If a free sample doesn’t work for your business or site, why not feature a user each week or month? Post the content prominently on your site.
  • Create hashtags and ask your audience to tweet or post to Instragram. Lulumon did this with #sweatlife, and yoga-enthusiasts posted 40,000 pics of themselves in various yoga poses – and in Lulumon clothing. People like to feel a part of the community, and at the same time, they’re creating great content for you.
  • Ask loyal customers to be your testers. Give them a free product in exchange for a thorough review of said product. Amazon does this with its wildly popular Vine program, and the mega-retailer’s UGC is an indispensable part of its online brand.
  • Get current on the laws and restrictions surrounding UGC. If, for instance, a user modifies a copyrighted video or image, it can violate copyright laws and you might be complicit in displaying that content. Also, you’ll want to make sure your contests conform to the rules of the social platforms they appear on and winners should sign an agreement that their content can be used by your brand.

UGC can be an integral, vibrant part of your content creation strategy. Have you used UGC? If so, how?

 

You spend time carefully crafting blog posts, researching and writing whitepapers, creating awe-inspiring infographics, and then you send them out into the big internet world to fend for themselves. We’re missing something here: nurturing that content and helping it work for you. Some experts recommend that, for every hour you spend creating content, you spend an hour promoting it. What is the best way to do that?

  • Hit the usual suspects. Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Reddit, Delicious, Digg, and LinkedIn are great first stops. Presenting your content to a targeted audience – such as your LinkedIn group for professionals in your industry – helps your content hit the mark and demonstrate its relevance.
  • Use hashtags when you do share socially. This categorises your content, making it easier for people to find.
  • Make it easy for people. Instead of them coming to you, go to them. Create an automated email newsletter featuring your best/most recent articles or posts. Services like Nourish and Paper.li allow you to turn your RSS feed into a powerful tool.
  • Create a subscriber Circle. You can then invite people to become part of your Circle and be notified automatically when you have new content to share.
  • Take the time to thank people who share, like, or otherwise engage with your content. This can turn a one-time commenter into a repeat visitor. Content is all about connecting; you are reaching out, so when someone returns the favor, capitalise on it.
  • Promote your content offline. If you’re in a client meeting, for instance, and the individual has a lot of questions about a specific technical aspect of what you do, you can say, “I’ll email you a link to an article I’ve written about that.” You can also do the same when following up with clients or associates.

Don’t abandon content that you’ve worked so hard to create. Work to seed it and nurture an audience for it. It does take time, but that is time that will help you build stronger visibility and better relationships within your specific area of expertise.

 

If you’re Liked, followed, and pinned enough, thinking about one more social media platform is likely to make you feel, well, anti-social. Google+, though, is not one more social media platform. Searchmetrics has studied tens of thousands of search terms and has concluded that “Google+ has the highest correlated effect on Google UK’s search rankings.” It is a very important place to see and be seen. The connections and engagement is part of it, but having a strong Google+ presence can also give you stronger rankings. How can you + your Google+ profile

Here are some Google+ best practices:

  • Create. As with your website, blog, and other media platforms, you need to focus on creating and posting fresh, relevant content frequently. Daily or, at the least, weekly updates help keep you current and in your audience’s eye.
  • They say that Facebook helps you connect with people you know; Google+ helps you connect with people you want to know. You do not need to “know” someone in order to add him/her to your circle. When you do, basic etiquette rules apply: stay on topic, be respectful, participate, ask and answer questions, and be a member of this little community.
  • Cross promote your content. One blog post doesn’t have to be just one blog post: you can leverage it and promote it via Google+, Facebook, Twitter, or even Pinterest, if applicable. Point your audience towards your website. Also good for your search visibility.
  • Use hashtags (sparingly! Too many is irritating – and it looks spammy). They are helpful tools, though, for organizing content and getting ideas for people to connect with.
  • Build your own community. LinkedIn Groups allow professionals to talk about important issues, ask questions, find and give answers. Start your own targeted community and invite associates in to get the ball moving.
  • Don’t always be the star of the show. Comment on other people’s content, share it, ask them questions, etc. You’re there to learn too.
  • Use the same name across your platforms so people can find you easily and efficiently. Also, enable AuthorRank!

These are just a few tips to get you started. The most helpful, though, is to just go in and say hi. Explore and start using Google+ as part of your overall social and content marketing strategy.

Social Media is the addiction of our era, weather you use it for personal reasons or for business purposes. The good news is that, as opposed to many other offline addictions, using Social Media doesn’t affect your health (unless you tweet about a fire before your escape the building) and it can be rather beneficial for your bank account. If you can put it to its good use!

Social Media time managementThis being said, it is hard to imagine a business today that is not keen on increasing its web presence. And that means optimizing their content for search engines, posting, streaming, creating, updating and monitoring social media accounts, submitting social bookmarking profiles, following industry and competition news. And the list can go on forever.

But time is money. And time is becoming such a precious commodity, that we cannot afford to squander without serious consequences for the business. Social Media marketing is only part of your online marketing effort, and online marketing is only part of your overall marketing.

The question that rises is this: What is the optimum time you should allocate to Social Media, in order to achieve its maximum potential and still be able to focus on your core business?

The correct answer can be found only after you spend enough time (yes, time!) to effectively define your Social Media goals. Resist the temptation to run for the most popular on the web position! It takes way too much effort and it hardly brings benefits. Engage with your present and potential customers and you may have something going for you. Your consumer insights studies are some of your best allies here.

  • Schedule your social media. Allocate a number of hours weekly for all social media activities. Depending on your audience, it can be divided in a smaller number of hours everyday of the week or by selecting „activity” days, where you can spend alternatively an afternoon or a morning, to be able to engage within as many time zones as possible.
  • Develop your social date book. Implement and stick to a social media activity calendar. The biggest Social Media marketing sin is to set up pages and then abandon them. The second biggest is to update them irregularity. This is not cool with search engines and alienates your followers. You can use free online calendars, like Google Calendar, Yahoo! Calendar, or Mozilla Lightning to plan your activity and sync it with a larger team.
  • Disperse responsibilities. Build a team with specific tasks to implement your Social Media plan. In some cases, it is not only useful, but also necessary. For example, you need multiple employees to leverage a LinkedIn profile for B2B reasons.
  • Hire experts. On a long run, it can be cost-effective, and easier to handle than doing it all yourself. You need professionals in order to present yourself professionally and to ride the wave of the digital revolution. Experts can get you started by establishing a model for your staff to follow or you may want to hire them for long-term tasks, such as writing and editing your blogs for consistency.

 

Your brand grows both online and offline if a strong and loyal community of people gather around it to care and support. The good news is that, thanks to Social Media, it is easier than ever to create and keep alive ‘n kicking an online community. The bad news is that it is just as easy to alienate it if you don’t follow the Social Media „rules of engagement”.

online communityKeep in mind that there is a difference between customers and community. Your customers are the ones who are willing to pay for your products and services. On the other hand, your community comprises people who value and admire your brand enough to be willing to spend time with it online. This is excellent brand advocacy and word-of-mouth marketing.

Cherish your community! Even if they aren’t spending their money on your business now, they keep your brand animated and relevant to the world. Online communities can help you find out more about the people who use your products or services and how you can improve them.

Being a member of a community is equally important. Like pages and groups on Facebook and post considerate comments, join Twitter conversations, make comments on like-minded blogs. But don’t turn it into an aggressive selling line, because it is regarded as spam. Be positive, engaging, funny and useful, and soon enough people will appreciate you for it.

When communicating online, don’t say the same thing on every Social Media channel, otherwise you run the risk of becoming redundant. Instead, try to modulate your message to address differently each type of community.

Here’s an adaptive marketing communication model that focuses differently on each social network.

 Social Media Mix

 

Let’s say you run an online furniture shop. This is how your Social Media mix could look like:

  • Blog: home decoration trends, furniture design news, space organising ideas
  • Facebook: pictures of new articles, best sold product of the month, special discount coupons
  • Twitter: announcing sales days, new furniture lines
  • LinkedIn: vacancies announcements
  • Google+: design news, home deco expert presenting their vision to your community.