Social media has become inextricably connected with online marketing and nearly 2 billion people use it every single day. This presents business owners with an unparalleled platform for advertising their company, but managing these accounts is challenging at best. Making mistakes with social media will have a long-lasting impact on a company and could do quite a bit of damage to the bottom line. Every business owner should take a look at these common problems and see what they can do to avoid them in the coming years.
No Clear Plan or Goals
After the accounts have been set up and linked to the company’s website, it is time to start thinking about clear goals and a plan of action that will help the business meet those goals. Countless businesses create accounts with a few social media platforms without even considering what their plans are for the coming months, and this will waste their time and resources. It is important to start setting monthly goals and at least develop a rough outline of how those goals will be achieved.
Content Becomes Overly Promotional
Content that is overly promotional has become such a problem that Facebook actually announced it will crack down on these posts and remove them from users’ feeds. Social media accounts cannot be seen as a digital billboard in which a company can plaster their advertisements. Instead, owners need to start thinking of them as a way to interact with current and future customers while adding valuable content to their life. This content can be as simple as a lighthearted joke or as important as a breaking news story within that particular industry. There is a time and place for advertisements, but social media accounts are not one of them.
Regular Updates Become Overwhelming
After a few months of managing social media accounts, many will begin to notice just how time-consuming it can be. For these individuals, it is time to start thinking about quality over quantity. Facebook updates, Tweets, and YouTube videos don’t need to be released multiple times a day throughout the week. Instead, it is more effective to strategically time updates at peak hours and then analyze which of those updates are getting clicks. Business owners want to ensure that they continue to have touchpoints with their customers without overwhelming them with useless information.
Grammar Errors and Inaccurate Information
All it takes is a single bungled post for followers to immediately lose interest. In the best case scenario, a typo or grammar mistake will be overlooked, but it can also lead to a barrage of corrections and snide remarks. Even more dangerous is sharing information that is later found to be incorrect. Businesses that plan on sharing news and pop culture must be exceptionally careful where they are getting information from. It often seems like a good idea to jump on a breaking story just as it happens, but even the largest news organizations can get information wrong at some point.
The Competition Is Creating Too Much Noise
Social media gives small business owners an unprecedented platform to connect with the world, but it is also a busy, noisy, and fast-paced arena. Instead of going head-to-head with larger competition, small and medium-sized businesses need to narrow their focus instead of casting a larger net. Owners should be looking at where their key demographics interact and then engage them in those forums, chats, websites, and pages. If a few hours of social media management only produces a few dozen key customers per month, then it is most likely time well spent.
Getting more traffic to a company’s website will do absolutely nothing if that traffic immediately hits the back button and leaves. On the other end of the spectrum, a website with stellar conversion rates may be a waste of money if there is not enough traffic flowing in. Finding a balance between traffic and conversion rate optimization (CRO) is no simple task, and it often feels as if focusing on one means the other is bound to slide backwards. Anyone that has found themselves in this dilemma may want to take a look at exactly what these two metrics are and which could be the most beneficial for their own business.
An Explanation of Traffic and Conversion Rates
At first glance, traffic and conversion rates seems to be relatively straightforward. Traffic is the amount of hits that the site is getting every day and conversion rates are how many of those hits lead to a sale. Many business owners will come to find out that interpreting this data is much easier said than done. Pouring over the numbers from programs such as Google Analytics might not always give as clear a picture as one would think. Owners need to be sure that it is actually potential customers that are being pulled into the site. Conversion rates are slightly more difficult to interpret and most people will use data such as the time spent on site, where they came from, and their click-through rate.
The Benefits of Conversion Rate Optimization
For most businesses, conversion rates are going to be in the single digits. This means that practically any money spent on CRO will result in higher profits. This can be tricky, however, because a mishandled CRO campaign can actually drive away traffic. Owners can think of the initial CRO as catching the “low hanging fruit” if their site is currently underperforming. This is also a great way to increase the site’s ROI (return on investment). Businesses that have already put money into a website and some basic online marketing will increase how much that investment is bringing back to them.
The Benefits of More Traffic
The primary benefit of getting more traffic is that it can be much easier than CRO. As long as the owner has gotten a feel for what does and does not work when it comes to bringing in traffic, all they have to do is increase the amount of time and energy spent on what works. Increased traffic is also predictable when it comes to how much will be made off new visitors. If conversion rates have hovered around 1 percent for the past few years, then any increase in the traffic will have a predictable increase in profits. A final thing to think about is the fact that increasing a site’s traffic is essentially risk free. Unlike a CRO campaign that could actually harm conversion rates if done incorrectly, more traffic will always be neutral at worst.
Which Should I Be Focusing On?
Unfortunately, there is no single answer that is going to be right for every business. When it comes to creating long-term growth, shifting focus over to conversion rates will produce great results as long as it is run by an experienced and dedicated team. An influx of traffic may provide immediate gains, but it can be an expensive proposition to continue pushing for higher numbers every single month. The third option is a balanced approach that can provide slow but steady growth, but this will make it difficult to gauge exactly what is working and what must be tweaked.
Great product photography isn’t an easy feat for even the most experienced photographers. There are countless details to consider, especially when a business owner plans on leveraging those photographs to increase their sales. If you are ready to take your photos to the next level, then take a look at some of these simple tactics that you can use to manage your pictures as efficiently as possible.
Use Photographs That Evoke Emotions
Outside of a few rare products or services, your photos should be creating some sense of emotion in the viewer. While the potential customers may not laugh out loud at a single photograph, they should being to feel some minor emotions. Whether it is a sense of happiness, adventure, or pride, the vast majority of customers make their decisions because of their emotions. Use this knowledge to begin replacing second-rate photos with powerful images that will drive sales.
Integrate Themes or Mascots When Possible
Even if your company does not have a mascot, website mascots are extremely popular these days. The reason for this comes down to branding, or creating a unique “culture” around a company or website. It may not be appropriate to attach a goofy cartoon to every one of your pictures, but photography for your company should at least have some universal themes. From filters and borders to quirky angles and set backgrounds, anyone that sees the photograph should know exactly where it came from.
Give Photographs a Human Touch
You may be surprised to hear that adding human faces to your photographs could actually increase your conversion rates. Purchasing goods and services through a website can quickly become dry and impersonal, but this can be avoided with a few well-placed images with friendly faces. Even minor touches such as a picture of an employee along with a tag line will make a site more personal and welcoming. This is a great time to get motivated employees to help out with online sales.
Use Photos to Validate
Anyone that is making a purchase online wants to feel as if the item they are purchasing is popular, tangible, and used by others. A stock photo and a block of information will make the page feel sterile and could actually drive away traffic. Whenever possible, you should speak with satisfied clients and ask for a quick picture and comment for the website. Potential clients that see satisfied customers on the page are much more likely to make a purchase.
Know When Pros Are Needed
A business owner may have some skill with photography or have an aspiring photographer on their payroll, but it is always a good idea to know when to go to the pros. Product pictures and other photos that will go on the website will be extremely important, and if there is any chance that mistakes could be made you will want to seek out a professional photographer. These pros can help with the minor details such as shading and depth of field that most hobbyists will not consider.
Ditch the Stock Photos
There is a time and place for stock photos, but filling a site with nothing but this type of media will almost always be detrimental to your conversion rates. Even if you do not have the option for a professional photographer, there are countless places to acquire rights to high-quality photos that will only be seen on your website. The simple fact is that modern consumers will quickly notice when cheesy stock photos are used.
These few simple tips will help you and your company begin using photos to draw in traffic and make conversions quicker than ever.
Creating a successful online store is not as intuitive as opening a local brick-and-mortar shop, but the results of an effective online presence can be staggering. You will instantly have access to potential customers throughout the world as well as reduce many of the logistical costs that plague new businesses. Anyone that is ready to jump into the world of e-commerce should keep these few tips in mind to make it as easy, affordable, and efficient as possible.
Domain and Hosting
There are quite a few companies that make the process of purchasing domain names and hosting the website easier than ever. For many small business owners, a prepackaged or template website with a name of their choosing will often be enough to get the process going. More experienced business owners will want to consider purchasing a handful of domain names so that other parties do not buy them up in the future. Hosting can generally be purchased from the same company that registered the domain name. This is also a good time to activate and organize social media accounts.
The most difficult part of this process for most small business owners will come down to how payments are made, received, and processed. This is another area where an owner may want to opt for a pre-made business account from a company such as PayPal. These online financial organizations are extremely easy to use, charge little in the way of fees, and often offer support such as customizable “buy now” buttons. A merchant account will also be necessary so that your business can accept Visa, MasterCard, and other major forms of payment. These accounts typically require a small startup fee and will take a small percentage from each payment.
Bringing in Traffic
An e-commerce site will give you unprecedented access to millions of potential customers throughout the world, but it will also increase the amount of competition that you have. Unless you are going to rely solely on word-of-mouth marketing (never advisable for e-commerce sites), you will need to think about optimizing your website. Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of making a website more visible to internet traffic. This can become an incredibly complex process, but the basis is simple. The more useful and pertinent your website is, then the more traffic will be directed towards you. You will want to immediately consider starting a blog, linking to your social media accounts, or even paying for some basic advertising at the start.
Build on Your Success
Once your website is up, a merchant account has been created, and you have made that first sale, it is time to start thinking about long-term success. Depending on the industry that you are in, there are a wide variety of other factors that you will need to consider such as how to cheaply ship your products, trademarking, and protecting your website from criminals. Most owners will also want to utilize programs such as Google Analytics to see what is and isn’t working with their business. While online sales may seem impersonal, remember that there is a person behind the computer screen that is purchasing your products or services. It never hurts to send friendly emails or a simple thank you note to turn one-time customers into lifelong clients.
In the end, owners will need to decide exactly how much control they want over their website and how much support they will need. Those that are technically inclined will often be able to cut some corners or manage the website on their own while others will need assistance with graphic design, security, optimization, social media management, and advertising.
There is an art to helping out your boss and your company without becoming an office outcast, and one of the best ways to do this is to offer them some simple and proven advice when the opportunity presents itself. Here are 27 tips, tricks, and ideas that your manager will definitely want to know about when it comes to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn, and all other social media sites.
1. Fun Bios Go A Long Way
Taking a few extra minutes to write up a funny and interesting bio for any employees involved with the social media account and all of the managers of the company is a great way to add a face to your business.
2. Professional Pictures Set Social Media Accounts Apart
Professional pictures are more affordable than ever and a photo that doesn’t scale correctly to fit the website is an unprofessional eyesore.
3. Schedule Email Invites Regularly
As your email list grows with current and past customers, use these emails to your advantage. Instead of spamming them every week, schedule a few invites at monthly intervals.
4. All Pages Should Link to Your Social Media Accounts
Outside of a few key pages on a website, essentially every page should have one-click access to sharing or liking on social media.
5. And Vice Versa
Just as your web pages lead to your social media accounts, everything from Twitter to Facebook should have one-click access leading back to the homepage or pertinent product pages.
6. Advertise Your Social Media Accounts Instead of Your Website
Instead of writing out a lengthy web address to a potential new employee, go ahead and have them like your Facebook page and have them contact you through there.
7. Be Helpful and Friendly
A Cardinal Rule of social media is to stay friendly, helpful, and professional at all times. Never get into squabbles on a public forum.
8. Go Easy on the Sales Talk
Social media accounts can link back to product and service pages, but most traffic on these sites and apps are there to be entertained.
9. Always Measure Results
It is important to measure the success of all social media strategies. This may include anything from clickthrough rates to new followers.
10. Create Goals
When you have an accurate way to begin gauging your success, start setting monthly, quarterly, and yearly goals with these accounts.
11. Get As Many Employees On Board As Possible
Make your social media accounts fun for employees as well as clients and customers as they can drive quite a bit of traffic to you.
12. Update As Regularly As Possible
At the very minimum, business owners should be looking to update at least a handful of times per week with major posts a few times a month.
13. Don’t Just Broadcast, Engage
Instead of simply updating your feed or Tweeting a news story, take the time to respond to followers and engage with them in conversation.
14. Social Media Isn’t An Ad Page
As always, keep the conversation on social media pages light, cheerful, and useful for followers.
15. Make Someone Responsible
Pick at least one employee in the company to be responsible for updates and responding to followers.
16. Don’t Treat All Social Networks the Same
The same things don’t need to be shared on LinkedIn as Facebook and owners should know how to pick their outlets.
17. Use Hashtags Appropriately
Managers should be able to pick 10 to 15 of the most important hashtags and then focus on using those when possible.
18. Tag Appropriately
Every employee does not need to be tagged in a company photo so be careful about spamming followers with this information.
19. Marketing Objectives Should Be Rethought Periodically
Whether your current tactics are working perfectly or need some improvement, take some time to tweak them every few weeks.
20. Speak to Other Industry Leaders
Engaging with other industry leaders is not going to give them free advertisement, it will establish your place as a leader in that field.
21. Link to Other Industry Leaders
Unless they are direct competition, feel free to share information from other companies or industry leaders when they put up good posts.
22. Social Media Sites Should Have A “Personality”
Whether you choose to be quirky, sarcastic, or morose, pick a personality and stick to it with all social media accounts.
23. Fun Accounts Get Followers
Unless it goes against your industry, always remember that fun accounts get new followers.
24. Social Media Helps Create Business Relationships Too
Instead of simply searching out new customers, start to look for how your social media accounts can connect with vendors and business partners.
25. Inconsistent Profiles Lose Followers
Even if you are overwhelmed with business one week, always make sure to give followers and friends at least something to read.
26. Integrate These Accounts with All Departments
Social media account information should be forwarded to all pertinent departments such as human resources and customer service.
27. Create Company-Wide Social Media Policies
Finally, as your accounts become more popular, ensure that everyone in the company and everyone with access to those accounts understands that there are policies in place designed to avoid advertising catastrophes.
When it comes to the world of business, it is an unfortunate fact that there is generally more bad advice than good advice. Even so-called experts may be giving false information for their own personal gain, and this can mean some major issues in the future for small to medium-sized businesses. Here is a closer look at some of the worst business advice we have heard and exactly what it may be doing to your company.
Keep Full Ownership
Almost everyone that has ever attempted to start a business has heard a horror story about a company falling apart between two or more owners. While watching business come between anyone that is so close can be devastating, maintaining full ownership may be even more risky. A partnership isn’t about just eating up some of those initial costs, but is about growing. When the right opportunity presents itself it will take a company to the next level.
Budgets Must Be Rigid
Budgets tend to become an obsessions for most new business owners. They begin tracking their budget down to the cent and see where they can shave off some of the waste. While maintaining a budget is of the utmost importance, it is vital for all business owners to realize that their circumstances can and will change. When new opportunities present themselves or an unexpected expense pops up, freaking out is the last thing to do. Budgets should be rigid on about 95 percent of all expenses and lenient with 5 percent.
If You Aren’t Growing You Are Shrinking
Growth is going to be absolutely essential when it comes to building a successful company, but actually quantifying and qualifying “growth” is nearly impossible. In some months, growth will be nothing more than maintaining a few key accounts, and this is one of the most difficult lessons for business owners to learn. It is all too often that business owners pick one metric to measure growth by instead of thinking of the larger picture. When it comes to measuring changes from one week to the next, the bottom line isn’t always the best indicator.
The Customer Is Always Right
This is one of the trickiest subjects for business owners and a phrase that can often lead to some hard feelings, lost business, and other unfortunate events. It is important to make every attempt to make customers feel content, satisfied, and happy, but owners must also know when to draw the line. If a customer “being right” drives off new employees and is costing you major business, is their loyalty worth your time? Be careful about knowing the difference between when the customer is always right and knowing when it is a valued customer that is always right.
Business Shouldn’t Be Personal
Long gone are the days in which any business is not personal on some level. Companies interact with their employees, customers, vendors, and business partners on a level unlike ever before, and this means that there is some level of business that will be personal. You may not want to determine all of your happiness based on your weekly profits, but you should realize that modern successful businesses connect on a much deeper level.
Work Hard and You’ll Grow
It is not hard work that matters, but smart work. Many businesses will attempt to keep putting in the time and energy and eventually feel like it will pay off, but this is not always true. Owners and management should be looking at ways to adapt and work more efficiently, not simply stick with an outdated motto or mantra.
Not every tip streaming from family members, friends, coworkers, co-owners, or even industry titans will be correct. Every business owner needs to learn how to filter out which advice is worth their while and which can be left by the wayside.
Business owners no longer need to spend thousands when they are in need of high-quality photos for brochures, pamphlets, or any other digital or print releases. While there is a time and a place in which custom photos will need to be purchased, many projects require nothing more than some generic media to break up blocks of information. Here is a closer look at five great places to begin searching for high-resolution photos without the hefty price tag.
Stockvault is a great place to start the search as it has a simple and intuitive design to find basic pictures. Users simply input the keyword that they are searching for or narrow their search with categories such as nature, business, and technology. All of the pictures are free, but users can also work with the Stockvault’s partner sites to find more specific media including textures and video clips. Those in need of generic images will find photos of almost any object or scene imaginable at Stockvault.
Many are surprised to hear that Freerange offers so many high-resolution photos at absolutely no cost to users. This company stays in business by providing the photographers with revenue from the advertisements on the site, and this means that artists are actually competing to give users their free photos. Unlike Stockvault, however, Freerange does require you to make an account before downloading any photos, but the accounts are free and will not fill up your inbox with spam. If you do not find a photo that you are looking for, you can also describe an image and photographers will attempt to fill your order.
FreeImages has one of the largest databases with thousands of new photos being uploaded every week, but it is slightly more tricky to use than both Stockvault and Freerange. FreeImages maintains a generic user agreement that images will not be downloaded, altered, and resold, but each specific photographer may also have their own unique restrictions. In most instances, these restrictions require nothing more than giving the photographer credit and sending them the link to add to their portfolio. While it may seem like more work, the quality of the photos improves dramatically.
According to recent research, Flickr now has an average of just over 1 million images shared on the website every single day. Within these 1 million images, many users click on an agreement that allow their photographs to be used for free by any third-party. Like FreeImages though, there are certain stipulations when using any of this media such as giving the photographer written credit. That being said, Flickr has one of the most intuitive layouts and users can quickly search through countless high-resolution images by setting any search parameters imaginable.
Anyone that would like to skip the hassle of entering their email or signing up for an account may want to head over to Unprofound. This website allows users to search by theme, subject, or even the hue of the picture and are directed to a thumbnail gallery after setting their search parameters. Generally, the photos that are offered on this website are from professional photographers that would like to see their stock photos get some use instead of not being seen by the public. The only catch is that these pictures cannot be physically printed and then used en masse for commercial purposes.
High-resolution images no longer cost thousands of dollars to purchase or require complex contracts. These basic photos can be used for almost any project imaginable without the need for extensive licensing and user agreements.
Entrepreneurs have often seen outsourcing as an option that was only available to the largest of businesses, but this has all changed in recent years. Outsourcing can be a positive solution to a number of dilemmas that business owners are going to experience over the years, but many are unsure of where to begin this process, what tasks should be outsourced, and how they can build up a positive partnership with outside companies. A business owner can impede their growth by taking on too much to save a few bucks, and this is why it may be time to reconsider outsourcing.
Knowing When to Outsource
Owners are going to feel as if there are simply not enough hours in the day at some point, but it is difficult to decide when it may be time to outsource. The two primary factors to consider include the amount of time that a project will require and the owner’s level of comfortability with that particular skill. It may seem like it will save some money coming in on the weekends to input data or clean the office, but is this the best use of your time and energy? When these projects begin to make the business, its products, or its customer relations suffer, it is time to think about outsourcing.
Knowing What to Outsource
Many entrepreneurs may be surprised at just how much they can outsource affordably and efficiently these days. Business owners can move well beyond phone answering services, delivering products, or keeping the office clean. Many are now opting for partnerships such as a virtual assistant that can continue to take on more and more responsibility as the company grows. It is also important to consider outsourcing components of the company such as marketing or online reputation management, projects that must be tended to carefully and consistently in order to see any real results.
Where to Begin
The best place to start is to simply write down all of the major tasks that the business owner and their employees carry out, prioritize them, and then ask how much time they take per week. Some of the most common tasks include answering phones, banking, social media management, accounting, data entry, design, packaging, and customer support. When certain tasks have a lower priority and are taking up quite a bit of time, they can be added to the list of possible outsourcing projects. Even important projects that have begun to consume a majority of the owner’s time are good candidates for outsourcing. It is at this point that the owner can begin pricing these jobs with high quality agencies and decide if the return is worth the cost of outsourcing.
Maintaining Positive Partnerships
Before ever deciding on any partnership with an outside agency, there are a few things to consider. Both companies should have very clear ideas of what is expected of them, the timeline of every project, and what the overall costs will be. Simply getting this information right from the start will save quite a bit of headache in the future. The partnership should also include room for growth so that business owners don’t feel bottlenecked when they need to expand their operations and are in need of new or expanded services.
Outsourcing any component of a business is a task that requires some attention to detail and forward planning. When carried out correctly and proper diligence, however, it is going to free up the owner’s time, cut down on stress, and eventually lead to higher profits and lower costs.
Hiring the perfect web design firm is about much more than having an ergonomic website or eye-catching graphics. Your website is often the first impression that potential clients and customers will have of your company, and this is why choosing a web designer is a process that should never be taken lightly. If you are ready to improve your web presence and take your brand identity to the next level, here are some of the most important considerations to make when choosing a web design agency.
Start with Your Company’s Goals
Before even considering how to choose the right designer, it is important to think about the goals of your company and how a new or improved website will help you reach those goals. A newer company may only wish to improve their visibility on the internet and attract potential leads while established companies may be looking to transition into online sales with new products and services. By identifying these specific goals and understanding how a new website will help you reach these goals, the process of choosing an ideal designer will become much easier.
What Basic Services Do I Need?
The best designers are going to be goal-oriented no matter what type of website is being developed. This begins with getting a basic outline of the purpose of the website and what role it is going to play in the company. Some websites may be purely informational while others will need any number of unique features such as secure online sales or streaming informational videos. Primarily, your website will need to exemplify the overall concept and philosophy of your company while driving traffic in and converting that traffic into paying customers. In order to accomplish this, your designer should be able to sit down with you, offer suggestions on what will be needed, and then provide you with mockups of key pages and designs.
Some business owners may want to take full control of their website once it is developed, but most are going to require ongoing support in one form or another. This is why it is so important to work with a web designer that will help your website grow alongside your company and its unique needs. Some businesses may need nothing more than a website that provides traffic with contact information while others will want a highly-adaptable website that can continue to evolve with additional blogs, social media accounts, mobile optimization, and more.
Marketing and Optimization
No matter how eye-catching a website may be, if it fails to attract visitors it is nothing more than a wasted landing page. This is why all designers should be thinking about marketing and optimization right from the start. Content will be of the utmost importance for every website as nearly 75 percent of all internet users never move past the first page. In order for your website to be visible it must be marketed and optimized correctly to keep it in the highest standings on search engine result pages. This top-to-bottom style of web development is what sets the leading web designers apart from the competition.