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Are Hashtags Effective on Facebook? Here are Three Ways You Can Use Them to Serve Your Small Business.

You might be wondering as a marketer whether or not you should utilize hashtags in your Facebook marketing strategy. As with any marketing tactic, it is imperative that you put yourself in the mindset of your target audience and cultivate a realistic understanding of their behavior. How might the viewer be impacted by the hashtag? What behavior, if any, would result?

As with many social media trends, marketers get tempted jump on the band wagon before completely accessing how it will benefit their brand. Not everything from a marketing standpoint, will be applicable to your business goals so be sure to align your objectives with your specific marketing tactics.

Loading up your Facebook posts with hashtags without a clear understanding of how they may or may not impact you is careless, especially if it can actually hurt your reach. Research has shown than posts decrease in reach in correlation with a greater number of hashtags used.

Let’s consider how your Facebook followers and post viewers might utilize the hashtags in your post. Social media users generally search a particular hashtag to learn more about topics they care about. Ask yourself how the use of hashtags in your Facebook post will benefit your viewer.

If you can figure out a way to legitimately and authentically tie in your brand’s message with a trending topic, Facebook hashtags can work for you. In many cases, if you are a small brand, this could be a challenge.

Having a clear cut objective with your hashtag use however, could be beneficial to your promotional and marketing goals. Here are 3 ways using hashtags could be beneficial for your small business:

  1. You are running a contest or promotion and you want to house submissions.

Let’s say you want the community to submit their best local nature pictures for a contest. Creating a uniquely branded hashtag that encompasses the name of your area and the particular contest, and then requiring entrants to include the hashtag would be an appropriate application.

  1. Supporting a mission or initiative

If you were looking, for example, to support the #shoplocal initiative, using the hashtag  could add to the credibility of your post and loyalty to your brand. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you will get direct business or sales as a result of using a hashtag such as this but Facebook followers who support and identify with the shop local initiative may be more inclined to do business with you in the future.

  1. Just for fun…

Sometimes the use of fun hashtags can add to the humor of your posts and likeability of your brand. One of the reasons people use Facebook is to be entertained. Using funny hashtags can endear them to you and show your fun side if that is suitable for you.

To recap, apply discernment when considering any marketing tactic such as hashtags to make sure you are utilizing your resources and efforts appropriately.


Facebook Reach Decline-3 Tips to Help You Survive

Facebook’s culture is primarily comprised of personal interactions. Users utilize the platform as a means to stay connected with friends and family. They also respond favorably to content that adds some form of value for them. Posts that educate, entertain, inspire or provide helpful tips fit appropriately into the niche of this social platform.

Because Facebook’s mission is to create a more user-friendly experience, they will be more likely to show “value-added” content in the newsfeed. This is great for users but does provide some challenges for marketers. Remember, people are not on Facebook to be sold to. If the majority of your posts are promotion-oriented, it could negatively impact your reach. For your brand to thrive, you’ll need to determine how you can align yourself with these values and the ever-changing environment of Facebook.

Now, with Facebook’s increased efforts to drive more conversation in the newsfeed, engaging content is more pertinent as ever. As it has been in the past, Facebook is looking for more than a post like from its users. Posts that ignite conversation- that motivates users to contribute with a more “thought out” response will fare better with reach than posts that merely elicit a like or no response at all. As a consequence to not getting engagement with comments from viewers, the reach of your posts have the potential to decline.

It seems obvious, but providing valuable content is more…valuable. There is no substitute for it. This doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t post fun or frivolous content, but you shouldn’t rely on it as the backbone of your social marketing strategy.

What you put in, in essence, is what you’ll get out of it. If you create insightful, thought-provoking content, you’ll be more likely to encourage more engaged comments. Conversely, if your posts don’t carry much weight, the comments, if any, will be comparable and your post reach can suffer.

With a trend of users becoming more “passive” on Facebook, getting a response will pose a challenge. This, however, gives marketers the opportunity to provide followers with meaningful content they really care about. It’s up to you to decide what that is and how to engage your audience.

Though there are many unique ways to get your followers engaged with your brand, Here are 3 examples of content your customers might enjoy:

1. Tell Your Unique Story

Is there an interesting story about how your business got started? Customers are always interested in how their favorite brands came to be. Any content that shares the “behind the scenes” perspective generates interest from loyal followers.

2. Profile An Employee

People like to read about people. It totally humanizes a brand. Plus, acknowledging the great service and work of an employee conveys a powerful message about your business. It shows that you value your employees and that you care about the people behind the scene. This has greater impact if your employees interact with customers and are recognizable on Facebook.

3. Thank Your Customers

Like acknowledging employees, showing that you appreciate and value your customers, goes a long way, especially if it’s coming directly from the owner. A short video with a heart-felt message will endear followers to your post and your brand.

Like previously stated, these are just a few content rich post ideas that have the potential to engage your viewers. As a business, you can explore what types of content customers would enjoy and benefit from reading.


5 Important Steps to Take Before Designing Your Marketing Collateral

There’s a lot to think about when designing print collateral. You’ll most likely consider what imagery to use as well as what font styles, colors and copy best represents your brand. Those are all important elements to think about but before you get too focused on those specifics, be sure to step back and establish a broader, more holistic perspective.

Here are 5 fundamental steps you should take as a business owner or marketing professional before you begin any design conceptions:

  1. Establish Your Goals

Ask yourself a series of important questions…What is the purpose of this marketing piece? What emotions do you want it to evoke. What actions do you want your audience to take? Establishing how you want this piece to serve you will guide all the subsequent design decisions.

  1. Consider Your Audience

Once you start to consider who the prospective recipient will be, then you can design the piece in a manner that would best “speak” to them. To meet your intended goals, the materials need to resonate with your audience. The imagery you choose, as well as the wording and layout should be congruent with the preferences of your audience.

  1. Determine What Your Value Propositions Are

This goes hand in hand with determining who your audience is. Highlighting your value to customers can increase the likelihood of your target audience taking the action you desire. Knowing what aspects of your business, company or organization is important to your audience helps you to best “speak” to them. Do you solve a problem for them in a way that is superior to your competition? Make sure that message is communicated clearly.

  1. Incorporate Current Design Trends

If your piece looks outdated, it sends a message that you are out of tune. You don’t need to be “trendy” but some styles are clearly “old school” and you should invest some time to determine what colors, fonts, layout styles and copy best reflects the current and contemporary voice of your brand.

This also refers to being in touch with current behavior trends and social issues. With a move towards being more environmentally conscious, generating unnecessary use of printed paper could be negatively perceived and be a detriment to your brand. Drive your audience to your website or social sites for more information.

  1. Determine How You Will Measure Success

Since we want our marketing dollars to be used in the most effective ways possible, it’s important to establish what your key metrics will be. Decide what criteria you will use to measure ROI so you know if this particular marketing route serves you.

Bringing It All Together

Adhering to these key steps will help ensure the success of your campaign. The important thing to do with any form of marketing is to take the time to think about what you are looking to accomplish and how you can best tailor your collateral to be the most appropriate voice of your brand and message to your audience.


5 tips That Can Enhance Your Print Advertisement

your-ad-here-copyWhen designing a print advertisement, as well as any marketing tactic you are implementing, it is important to think about your objectives from a holistic perspective. Not considering what factors contribute to the creation of a successful ad could result in underutilizing your resources and efforts. It is a good practice in any type of communication to see things through the eyes of your target audience. Depending on what mode of advertising you are using to deliver your message, you’ll need to hone in on the specifics to that particular medium and ascertain what will be most effective to meet your goals.

  1. Less is More
    Don’t pack your ad with loads of copy and burden your viewers with the responsibility to decipher what your ad is about. Be concise with your message as there can be many ads competing for your audience’s eye. Determine what is necessary to draw them in and take action.
  2. Chose Your Graphics and Headline Wisely
    These two factors will bear the responsibility of capturing the attention of your viewer. What problem are you solving for them? What are you offering? Think about what resonates with the reader and make sure your imagery and headline speaks to them.
  3. Have a Specific Objective
    Your advertisement should designed with a particular goal in mind. What action do you want the viewer to take? Decide what that is and make sure that it is evident. This will also help to establish metrics to determine if your advertisement helped reach your goal.
  4. Design for the Ad Environment
    Consider the landscape of the ad medium you are using. There are many factors to consider here. The colors you choose may depend on whether your ad is in a newspaper or a magazine. If the medium has a particular niche, make sure you find the right balance of integrating in but standing out.
  5. Build an Ongoing Relationship
    Promote opportunities for the viewer to continue to connect and engage with your brand. Include a QR code that scans to your website, include an incentive to sign up for your newsletter and encourage viewers to follow you on social media.

Once you master a few basic key elements in your ad design, you will find that you get a lot more leverage out of your ads.


Is This Like-able?

like-allI believe a common mistake amongst brands is that when they are creating and posting content on Facebook, they forget to wear their “Facebook user” hat. It is understandable from a brand standpoint to be enthusiastic about promoting and sharing information about products and/or services, but the interest level and “value” of content from the eyes of the reader needs to be taken into consideration.

As content developers we need to frequently ask ourselves this question… “Would someone like, share and/or comment on this post?”. That question should help social media marketers to step out from behind the brand and think more like a user.

People use Facebook to be social and not to be sold to. They want to connect with friends and family, see what they are up to, share pictures/video and so forth. It has a personal vibe. People go to Facebook to see and share things they think are funny, interesting, important, inspiring, moving and useful. It is important to remember this when you are deciding whether Facebook is the right platform for your business. How will you as a brand interface with your audience in a manner that interests and engages them?

For those of you who don’t use Facebook personally, I would recommend spending a little time looking at what type of content people are sharing and responding to. Try to get into the mindset of your target customer. Take the time to understand who your customer is, what their interests are and how they are using social media.

To be successful on Facebook, posting should be varied to maintain the interest of your audience. Your followers have given you permission to market to them but don’t misinterpret what that means. Reward your followers with interesting and valuable content. They’ll be much more likely to engage with your post and remain loyal to your brand.


The Pitfalls of the Bribe-Influenced Follower

42bis-likeenwin-720x340Increasing followers is quite often on the list of objectives for many brands. Considering the fact that building a bigger audience could yield greater marketing reach, it makes sense that marketers look for clever and creative ways to entice social media users to like and/or follow then. Brands should be careful, however, not to make the incentive more attractive than enhancing authentic customer loyalty.

It’s an easy trap to fall into. Larger follower numbers look impressive to brands, to their customers and to the competition. Unfortunately, it can also cause marketers to feel unjustifiably confident about brand loyalty. Some might even feel inflated, believing that their tactics prompted significant results. That’s one drawback of being quantity focused, as opposed to quality focused. I’ve viewed business pages that have a large following but very little engagement. What that signals to me is that they’ve invested considerable effort into motivating social media users to follow them and less into building follower relationships.

Conversely, I’ve seen pages that at first glance don’t appear very impressive but, ironically, have a high percentage of engagement. Many of these pages even “violate” what I would deem as essentials for a thriving social media presence such as an attractive cover image, varying post topics, using visually stimulating images with posting and so forth. Despite that, their followers are liking, commenting and demonstrating other behaviors that signify that they are interested. Initially, I scratched my head at this but after a little reflection, it was clear to me.

Because I am familiar with these particular businesses, I actually know that there is much more going on behind the social media scene. I didn’t fully appreciate the impact of these factors until recently. These pages with great engagement were bringing a lot more to the table such as outstanding service, strong customer relationships and community ties, and quality product. In a couple of cases, the owners of these businesses were visible at their establishment and interacting with customers face to face, sometimes on a daily basis. Influences of this nature will obviously bring more than great social media results. Happy customers will support and patronize your business. They’ll be more willing and likely to endorse you, recommend you and spread the good word about you…on social media and out in the world.

There are some fundamental principles in play here. It is basic human nature to want to be acknowledged and appreciated. When brands put the emphasis more on relationships, they are communicating a powerful message to their customers that they care. That trumps prizes…well, in most cases.

I am by no means disparaging the use of fun, creative promotions. I suggest them to my clients all the time. The problem lies in thinking that we can rely solely on this type of marketing to woo customers. When we think about marketing from a more holistic perspective, we wind up with more than just a follower…we build brand loyalty.


Saying Thanks-the Advantages of Acknowledging Your Customers

Sometimes the simplest act of expressing your appreciation can have a tremendous impact on your relationship with customers. As a consumer, I understand firsthand how much a seemingly small acknowledgement of my patronage and support for a business further ingrains my loyalty towards them. When we feel valued, appreciated, listened to, understood, accommodated and recognized, it strengthen the ties… whether it’s to an individual or to a brand.

I am surprised, however, at how many business owners neglect to incorporate Customer Relationship Marketing into their overall marketing strategy. Customer Relationship Marketing is described as recognizing the long term value of customer relationships and extending communication beyond intrusive advertising and sales promotional messages. It is a more enriching, personalized approach where the emphasis in on customer experience. This encompasses making efforts to meet customer needs, listening to their feedback and responding to their interests. When a business recognizes the true value of practicing Customer Relationship Marketing and takes the necessary steps to implement it, they’ll reap the rewards of a loyal following.

Instituting Customer Relationship Marketing can have a variety of long term benefits for your business. Studies have shown that several factors that occur once a relationship has been established with a customer. Here are some advantages:

Long-term customers tend to be less inclined to switch, and also tend to be less price sensitive. Experts say that customers who feel taken care of are less concerned about what they are paying.

Long-term customers may initiate free word of mouth promotions and referrals.

Customers that stay with you tend to be satisfied with the relationship and are less likely to switch to competitors, making it difficult for competitors to enter the market or gain market share.

Regular customers tend to buy more often and they are less expensive to maintain because of their familiarity with your business and the processes behind it.

Increased customer retention and loyalty makes the employees’ jobs easier and more satisfying. In turn, happy employees feed back into better customer satisfaction in a virtuous circle.

I think many business owners understand the implications of keeping customers happy, so to point out that customer satisfaction should be high on the priority list might seem obvious. But in addition to recognizing its importance, businesses need to put an action plan into place. If you are not designating the time and resources to carry out your intentions, then your plan may very well fall by the wayside.

You’ll need to determine: What will your Customer Relationship Marketing consist of? What percentage of your marketing budget are you designating towards implementing it? Who on your team will implement it? What will your “voice” or message be? What processes and procedures need to be put into place to support it? Take the time to iron all of these details out. Once you do, you’ll be on the path to enhanced rapport and connection with your customers.

A variety of features can comprise an effective Customer Relationship Marketing program. Thanking customers is just one aspect of the equation, albeit an important one. There are an infinite number of ways to express your customer appreciation. Here are 5, as an example:

Showcase a customer on Social MediaThis simple act of acknowledgement can do wonders. If you don’t want to single out one customer in particular, you can send out a general “thank you” message to all your customers. This is great to do around the holidays or random days throughout the year.

Give a GiftThis doesn’t have to be a huge investment, just a simple token of your appreciation. Offer a $5 gift card, a free appetizer, drink or entree, free product or service, tickets to a show or gourmet sweets. Depending on what your budget allows and the nature of your business, you can determine what you think your customers might enjoy.

Offer and Exclusive MembershipCustomers feel special when they are invited to be part of a club that entitles them to special privileges.

Send a Special InviteHost an exclusive invite-only party or gathering.

Offer a Special DiscountThis could be a one-time discount or continuous discount.

Happy customers become an advocate for your business and broadcasters of your message. They are a beacon of light that shines positively on your brand. There are a number of creative ways you can thank and reward customers and you’ll have to discover the methods that are most applicable and appropriate for your brand.


3 ways to Use Images to Enhance Social Media Engagement

create-more-engagement-with-visuals-copyLet’s face it,  there can be a considerable amount of “noise” on the landscape of social media. As a marketer, you will need to keep the reality of this potential barrier in mind as you compose your posts and advertisements. Now a days, with a high volume of stimuli competing for the attention of your target audience, creating impactful visuals is imperative.

I believe It is always an effective practice to place yourself in the position of your viewer and try to see things through their eyes. It’s also helpful to think about what attracts you when you navigate through the social media newsfeed. Take note of what other brands are doing that you find visually appealing. Be sure to ask yourself before you create a post “Would I share or engage with this?“.

There are a multitude of ways to be impactful with your social media visuals and you’ll need to decide what type of tactic best represents your brand. Here are 3 ways you can use images to encourage more engagement with your followers when you are posting on social media:

The Human Element-Social media users, especially those using Facebook, like to see the people behind the brand not just the product. Highlighting customers enjoying your product, employees in the midst of their workday or featuring someone doing good deed in your community all have a draw for the Facebook follower. Followers will especially be more likely to engage with the post if they recognize and/or know the person featured in the image.

A View from Behind the Scene-We all like to know what goes on behind the scene of our favorite brands. Providing a snapshot of the process behind creating a product makes followers feel like they are part of an exclusive club. It can also serve the purpose of educating and/or informing your followers about the process of bringing your product or service to market. It’s a great way to add value in a visual manner.

Use Humor-In addition to staying informed about what’s going on with friends, family and brands, social media users turn to social media to be entertained. Using humor is just another way to add value to a follower’s social media experience. Posts with high entertainment value, gets shared. Depending on your brand or industry, there might be a plethora of funny images you can use but feel free to get creative and design your own.

Of course,  the social media tactics that you decide to use will depend on other factors as well. Some platforms will require you to facilitate a more visual approach than others. And in some cases, featuring the copy or “story” will be the emphasis of a particular post. The different types of posting tactics work together to create a well-rounded social media mix. You’ll have to ascertain what type of strategy and post-type mix works best for your audience and  goals.