Author Archives: Ted Faigle

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facebook ads results

Did Your Facebook Ads Not Produce Results?

Many small businesses have tried Facebook ads that did not produce results. Others are using them to drive significant business results. What is different?

Facebook generates $4B. in ad revenue and over 1 million small businesses use Facebook ads. When I speak with people about online marketing, I often highlight the opportunities to use Facebook (and now Instagram) for cost-effective advertising. I also highlight that you can no longer rely on organic reach to get to existing followers of your business.

Several people have recently told me they tried Facebook ads and they “didn’t work.” So they stopped. That usually means that they did not see an immediate, short-term uptick in sales.

Advertising can generate awareness and it can induce someone to look more closely at your product or service. It may not produce an immediate sale. It depends on your product/service and where the reader is in the buying cycle.

In Facebook, People Are Not Actively Looking to Buy Things

[Tweet theme=”basic-full”]In Facebook, people are not actively looking to buy things.[/Tweet]

In Facebook, they are likely not actively looking to buy something right now. Google ads based on certain keywords may be aligned with immediate purchase intent, but Facebook ads have another complementary role to play.

Facebook advertising is usually a longer-term investment. It helps you to generate demand with people who weren’t already looking for you. It helps you to build an audience to market to over time.

There are exceptions. Some products or services may be impulse purchases that can show immediate sales results. Certainly Facebook and other social media networks are hoping that is the case as they all continue to invest in social commerce capabilities. But most of the value of your Facebook ads is to generate awareness and to build an audience to sell multiple things over time.

Common Reasons Your Facebook Ads Didn't Work

There are some common reasons why your Facebook ads didn’t produce the desired results or “didn’t work.” I have compiled my top ten things to look at and adjust in your approach:

  1. Wrong Objectives. People on Facebook are primarily looking to connect with friends and family and to be exposed to interesting content. They are not primarily there to find and buy products. If you have a relatively inexpensive product that someone can make a fast purchase decision about, then maybe you will see product sales directly from ads. I get a lot of ads for T-shirts in my News Feed and I might click to purchase one that I found particularly interesting. People may have an interest in your products, but are not currently ready to make a purchase. Or your target audience may need additional information before they are ready to make a purchase from you. Facebook is primarily a place for you to create awareness and induce people to do something to start a relationship with your business to learn more. Ask people to sign up for something rather than make an immediate purchase.
  2. Incorrect targeting. The power of Facebook advertising is in targeting your audience. First you have to define the personas of the buyers of your product or service. Then look at the Facebook targeting options to match those personas. You don’t want to target too broadly. You want your ad to display to the person who will have the most interest in your products and services. If you only rely on targeting by location or by interests, you may have wasted your ad dollars. Use Facebook Ad Manager or Power Editor to get the most targeting options, including location, age, gender, interests, connections, relationships, language, education, and workplace. You may also be able to make use of custom audiences to target people from your email list or lookalike audiences based on people who liked your page or visited your website.
  3. Uninteresting Image. Facebook is a visual platform. If your image does not stop the user’s eye and grab attention, they will scroll right past your ad. Generally, images with people grab the most attention. Or your image needs to stand out in some other way. It might be brightly colored. Or it might be funny. Sometimes the images that I think are good turn out to be duds and ones I think are marginal turn out to be stars. You have to try multiple images and test to see which ones work the best.
  4. Dull headline or unclear value/benefits.  Headlines with emotion get the most attention and response. Words like “easy” or “free” or “simple” or numbers or brackets in the headline generate more clicks. Clearly stating the value or benefits you provide also will drive clicks. If the reader is unclear what the the value or benefit is to them, they simply scroll to the next thing. The value proposition needs to be aligned specifically to the target audience for the ad.
  5. Going after quantity versus quality. Going after the most ad impressions or the most page likes or most website clicks is simple and enticing. But it may not be capturing the people who are most likely to engage with your business and eventually make a purchase. Set your objectives and targeting to go after the people who are most likely to be interested and engaged. Big numbers of uninterested or marginally interested people won’t lead to results.
  6. Not capturing and nurturing prospects in email. Someone may read your ad and have some interest, but they are not ready to make an immediate purchase. But they are a valuable prospect for you to capture and nurture until they are ready to buy. The most effective way to do that is to capture their email address. By opting-in they are giving your permission to do personalized, 1-1 marketing to them over time. What a tremendous value. You may need to offer them a bribe to sign up and give their email. Offer something of value – some information or a contest – that creates an incentive for them to spend a minute filling out a web form.
  7. Relying only on Boosted Posts. Since Facebook now only shows your posts to 2-6% of your page followers, I think the Boosted Post has a role to play in getting key content posts to display to your followers (or your followers and their friends.) Beyond that use Facebook Ad Manager or Power Editor to create and target ads. The Boosted Post gives you more space for text and a link, but fewer options for targeting and bidding. It also won’t enable you to do A/B testing to find out what works well with your target audience.
  8. Unclear Call to Action or No Landing Page. An “aha” moment came to me a couple of years ago when I learned that people only do what you tell them to do. I had previously assumed that people would take action on their own. It doesn’t happen. If you want someone to sign up for email or to follow you on social media or call you or take some other action, you have to ask them to do it. When you ask them to take action, they do, if you make it easy. Make sure you have a focused landing page that is simple and clear for them to take the desired action.
  9. No Retargeting. Retargeting works by keeping track of people who visit your site and displaying your retargeting ads to them as they visit other sites. Someone may have visited your web site, but was not ready to make a purchase. Retargeting keeps your business front and center to bring people back when they are ready to buy. Retargeting helps to increase conversions after they have visited your site.
  10. Failure to constantly be testing. One well known web site had a call to action button that was colored green and blended into the overall color palette of the page. They found when they changed the color to red that their click-through rate skyrocketed. It leapt off the page, captured the eye, and more people took action. Test alternative images, headlines, and colors to find out what works best. Constantly monitor and re-test new ad variations to find what works best for your audience.

 

instagram for business

Exciting Opportunities to Drive Growth with Instagram for Business

Social Media for business continues to evolve and mature. It’s now official. Instagram is bigger than Twitter! And with recent announcements there are exciting opportunities to exploit Instagram for business growth that exceed those of using Twitter. And they may even exceed Facebook marketing opportunities for the foreseeable future, depending on your business audience.

If you’re not using Instagram for marketing your business, it’s time to consider it seriously. 93% of marketers are using Facebook, but only 36% are using Instagram.

Instagram (owned by Facebook) recently announced that they have reached over 400 million monthly active users. 100 million of those have joined since December, so growth has recently accelerated. This number surpasses the number of active Twitter users.

As I have spoken with business people in my local area recently I have seen and heard very little interest or engagement in using Twitter. But those in the 20-45 year old range tell me they are spending more time on Instagram as are their friends. These informal conversations seem to support the trend in the data.

28% of the US population now uses Instagram. But Instagram is not just a U.S. phenomenon. 75% of its user base is outside of the U.S.

Instagram has also just announced that any business can now run ads on the platform by using the Facebook ad infrastructure available via Power Editor.

Why You May See Higher Marketing ROI from Instagram

There are several reasons why you may generate more return on your marketing investment with Instagram versus either Twitter or Facebook.

  1. It’s big and growing fast. You can now reach more people than on Twitter and growth appears to be accelerating. While Twitter is large, its user growth has slowed considerably. And equally concerning is that less than half of Twitter users even check it daily.
  2. It’s not overly crowded yet by marketers. Only 36% of marketers are using Instagram so far, so the chances of your message being seen and gaining user engagement is still much higher than on other platforms already crowded with marketers, e.g. Facebook. That will change over time as the platform gains popularity and more business features are added, but not for a while.
  3. User engagement is higher. 3.1% of posts on Instagram have user engagement of likes, comments, and re-posting. This is way above Twitter and Facebook where post engagement is 0.7% or less. (Source: SocialBakers research)
  4. Organic reach is not limited.  It’s like the good old days of Facebook. Your business post is displayed to 100% of your followers. Contrast that with the 2-6% of followers that you can reach organically on Facebook now. This benefit probably won’t last as the platform grows and Facebook looks for more ways to monetize the audience. But for now you can build relationships with your followers easily and consistently without paid advertising or post boosts.
  5. Younger people use it more than Facebook.  According to data from a Cowen & Company study, 44% of 18-29 year olds use Instagram while only 23% of them use Facebook regularly. It’s about the same usage for those in the 30-44 year old age range with 27-28% using each platform. Instagram usage is significantly lower for people over 45 years old as compared to Facebook usage. If a key audience for your business is younger people making purchases, you may see greater bottom line results from Instagram marketing than from Facebook. As it gains in popularity I also expect to see usage increase across all age ranges the way that it did for Facebook.
  6. You have access to all the Facebook user data. Because Instagram is owned by Facebook, you not only have access to user data from Instagram, but also from the same users on Facebook. A whopping 94% of Instagram users also have Facebook. So the wealth of user data that Facebook has aggregated on each of us is also available for Instagram advertising.
  7. You can run very targeted ads with specific calls to action. The Facebook ad infrastructure is being shared with Instagram. So for paid advertising to extend your business reach you can do the same specific targeting based on interests and behaviors in addition to demographics. In using Facebook’s Power Editor, you also have options for specific objectives and calls to action. An Instagram ad can create brand awareness, but it can also be clickable to your website (unlike a normal post). You can also set objectives for a mobile app install or a video view. Website conversion tracking will be coming soon.

Will This Last?

The Instagram marketing opportunities are exciting right now. As the platform grows I expect they will become less compelling over the next few years. Facebook will need to monetize the audience the same way they have done on the core Facebook platform.

More and more marketers and users may clutter up the Instagram feeds to where they will need to implement something like the Facebook News Feed algorithm to prioritize posts.

As Facebook moves toward more visual content the distinction between Instagram and Facebook may diminish. Facebook is already sharing the ad infrastructure between the two platforms. There may be other technology synergies and integration in the future. Will they continue to have value as two separate platforms or will they converge over time?

As more older adults move on to Instagram, it may no longer be a cool place to be. A new wave of young people may choose yet another social media network to increase interaction away from their parents.

So the time is now to exploit opportunities to grow your business with Instagram marketing. There is still a lot to test and learn about what is most effective to drive business results. There are differences. For example, you can’t post from a desktop to Instagram. You must be on a mobile device. And it’s about beautiful, eye-catching images. See my other blog post on Top Five Instagram Marketing Best Practices for some key elements to keep in mind.

 

small business website

Will Your Facebook Page Replace Your Small Business Website?

Facebook is making it easier for your small business to engage with customers on mobile devices. They recently announced some interesting new features for Facebook business pages. As they begin to roll out, some people think they could eventually replace your small business website. Others think that they are just a more effective way to drive traffic to your website.

Facebook reports that a billion people visit their business pages every month. And they also report that there are 45 million active businesses on Facebook. The numbers are huge. At the same time (as I’ve blogged about before) more that 50% of Google searches are now done on mobile devices. Also, about 25% of people search for local businesses on Facebook. Facebook is making it easier for your business to be found and accessible on mobile devices.

New features

Not long ago Facebook announced new messaging features to enhance communications with people who like and comment on your business page. Now, rather than having to reply publicly, you can private message the poster. Then last week Facebook announced additional new features particularly targeted at small businesses:

  • More prominent call to action button – They are testing new buttons for Call Now, Send Message, and Contact Us. The call to action button will also be placed just under the cover photo on a mobile device.
  • New sections for Shop and for Services – Retailers will be able to list and feature products for sale. Service providers will be able to showcase a list of offerings at the top of the page. Additional sections are still under development.
  • Mobile-oriented layout – The mobile display of your page will be designed for less scrolling and clicking. It will also introduce section tabs to quickly select what section you want to look at.

The features are starting to show up for some business page managers now and will be rolling out to others over the coming weeks.

Separately, Mark Zuckerberg also confirmed that they are working on:

  • A Dislike button – He says people have been asking for this a long time. He now sees it as a feature to enable people to express empathy with particular posts. But will it be available on business pages? And will it be an easy way for people to express a negative review?

Why Your Facebook Page Should Replace Your Website

If you are a small business person, you know it’s sometimes complex and time consuming to either build your own website on a hosting service like Wix or Squarespace or to hire a web designer to create and maintain a custom website.  On the other hand, Facebook business pages are pretty simple to create, maintain, and update. Facebook pages are already integrated with messaging and with advertising. You don’t need a technical expert.

With the addition of the Shop section, Facebook may be offering an alternative to keep you from going to Shopify or other competitors. Depending on your target audience, Facebook’s Shop section may be as valuable to you as the integration of Shopify and Pinterest with Buy buttons. There is an evolution toward Social eCommerce and Facebook also wants to enable that.

Google and other search engines can index and rank your Facebook page. Then you don’t need to worry about the SEO (Search Engine Optimization) of your website.

You don’t need to worry about the mobile display of your business, since Facebook will do that for you.

Why Your Facebook Page Should Not Replace Your Website

If you don’t use Facebook to drive traffic to your website, then you are giving up control. You are at the mercy of Facebook’s terms and conditions and future features. Do you want to be locked into their platform rather than pick and choose the best ways to target your audience? And will their features be sufficient to communicate the unique value proposition of your business and to express your business culture and values? Even with these new features, your options are still fairly limited.

Will the Dislike button be an asset for expressing empathy with your business posts? Or will it become the bane of your existence when misused by an unhappy client or competitor?

What if Social eCommerce on mobile devices doesn’t really work for your business? Can and will your customers make a purchase decision from a small photo and description on a mobile device inside the Facebook app?

Facebook still only displays your posts to 2-6% of your followers unless you have extremely engaged followers or you pay Facebook to boost your posts. You may be locking yourself into a lot of payments to get your content seen.

Risks Outweigh Benefits

I think the risks outweigh the benefits at this stage. While you could rely on Facebook with these new features, I still think the cons outweigh the pros.

What do you think about Facebook’s newly announced features? I know many small businesses who started with a Facebook page and then later built a website. But that was before Facebook became pay to play. Would you be willing to rely on Facebook moving forward for the simplicity instead of doing a simple, small business website?

If you haven’t already, please like us on Facebook!

 

 

 

 

mobile

Easy Steps to Create Your Mobile Marketing Strategy

The way we look for information continues to evolve quickly. A few years ago a mobile marketing strategy was nice-to-have. Now it is a must-have. In fact, it should be your marketing strategy, not an addition to it.

Customers are on the go and inundated with possible sources of information. To succeed now and into the future you need to be able to engage them seamlessly across social media, your website, and email. You also need consistency across all the devices they use. For small and mid-sized business people that can be a big, complex task.

Your customers may be at home on a desktop, traveling with a tablet, or walking or driving in your neighborhood with a smartphone. Will they find you? Will their experience with your brand be good on each device and each touch-point? Let’s try to boil it down into a some easy steps to think about to create your (mobile) marketing strategy.

  • Get insights into your customers’ buying behaviors. Marketing and strategy start with understanding exactly who your target customers are and their behavior for making a purchase decision.
    • Who are they?
    • What kind of devices do they use when?
    • When do they make a decision to contact you or come into your business?
    • What information is most helpful to them to engage with your business?
    • How do they most often contact you?
    • What times of day do they look for information about you?

Answering these questions will help to guide your strategy. Don’t know the answer to these questions? Then it’s time to start asking. Ask your customers individually. Conduct an online survey. Look for market research online relevant to your location and industry.

  • Only invest in a mobile app if you have business justification. Most small and mid-sized businesses will find the cost and usage of a mobile app to have a negative return on investment. While smartphone users spend a lot of time using apps, they primarily use about five very popular ones, like Facebook, Google, etc. Don’t worry if you don’t have a mobile app. Many people prefer to use a mobile web browser rather than load up their device with niche apps.
  • Create a consistent experience across channels. Your brand image and value proposition should be the same across the web and social media platforms. Your customers interact with you across multiple channels even for one purchase decision. Make sure they can easily link back and forth. And make sure the key information about location, phone number, and email are consistent.
  • Time some content posts to customer behavior. Do you have customers streaming off a cruise ship at certain times? Do you see most of your business late afternoon and early evening?  Timing some of your content posts to those times may engage people in social media or email at just the time they want or need to interact with your business.
  • Run mobile ads on social media. Facebook is now a pay-to-play platform for businesses and other are moving that direction. But you can reach your on-the-go audience by running pay per click mobile ads on the social media platforms where they spend their time.
  • Test and refine. Try out your strategy. Use the data on what works and what doesn’t work to refine or modify your strategy. Ask customers for feedback in person and online to guide what adjustments you may need to make.
responsive web design

Responsive Web Design Critical to Your Bottom Line

Have you re-designed your web site in the past couple of years? If not,  you are likely in urgent need to update it to a responsive web design. If you’re a digital marketing person, you already know what that is. If you’re not, you may be wondering what I’m talking about and why I say it is critical to your bottom line.

Why Responsive Web Design Is So Important

A while ago I shared data on the shift of consumers to mobile devices to find information. I blogged about it in Mobile First Marketing. I also blogged about what I called Mobile Meltdown Day earlier this year when Google was updating their mobile search rankings. (Others called it Mobilegeddon.) Mobile Meltdown is just beginning. The reality of the initial impact was less than expected. About 17% of non mobile-friendly sites saw their mobile search ranking decline significantly from page 1 results. But that shouldn’t make you complacent about mobile-friendly sites that use responsive web design.. Mobile searches are already over 50% of total searches and continue to increase.

Failure to make responsive web design a priority will put your business at risk moving forward. You will be missing out on customers if they do not have good experience with your web site on mobile devices. In the short-term they may continue to find you in search results. But they will likely abandon you when your site is shrunken, un-optimized, unreadable, and difficult to use. Depending on your business and the typical age ranges of your customers you may already be at risk of losing new customers. The potential impact to your bottom line is huge.

What is Responsive Web Design?

I primarily use three different devices for accessing information on the Internet. I have standardized on Apple (don’t get me started on my poor experiences with past Microsoft products!). So I use an iPhone, iPad, and Macbook Pro at different times and locations. At work I am using my desktop browser(s) on a large screen. If I’m relaxing in the family room, I usually have my iPad open checking social media, reading news, using apps, and searching for information using the browser. If I am not at home I am using apps and searching for information on my iPhone while I am on the move. You may have fewer or more devices than me, but you get the idea. No matter what device size I am using I want to be able to read and interact with information from your business. If it’s unreadable, too slow, requiring me to go to a separate mobile site, or otherwise difficult to use, I just go to the next of your competitors. I personally don’t have time or patience to deal with your business if you don’t make it easy for me to learn about or find you. And I’m not alone!

Responsive web design is the approach to deal with this situation of multiple devices to have a consistently satisfying customer experience. It is a way of designing and developing web sites so that they are easy to read, interact with, and navigate across a wide range of devices. It is an approach for your web site to adapt and adjust to the customer, based on which device they are using at the time. There should be minimal re-sizing and side-to-side scrolling required. Mobile customer experiences should be optimized for speed and for minimal page switching.

How You or Your Web Designer Implement Responsive Web Design

You may use tools or frameworks such as Webflow, Bootstrap, Foundation, or Skeleton if you are Web developer into the technical details. For a WordPress-based web site, I like to start with a theme that already incorporates principles of good, responsive design. That way I can focus more on the customer experience and compelling marketing content.

Principles and best practices continue to emerge for Responsive Web Design, but these are some to consider now:

  • Start by designing for the mobile customer
  • Use images that are flexible and workable on retina displays from small to very large
  • Compress images and videos to improve performance
  • Get rid of non-essential content and site decorations
  • Present more information that can be seen scrolling downward rather than requiring a lot of back and forth between pages
  • Get rid of Flash on your site
  • Minimize navigation menus
  • Have important information at the top of your site
  • Use bigger buttons
  • Look at whether you should have an app in addition to a web site

Small and mid-sized businesses are particularly lagging in the move to responsive web design. If your web site is not yet using responsive web design it needs to be on your priority list of things to do. You’re probably already losing some customers who are trying to interact with you on mobile devices. But this will increase significantly over the next 1-2 years. The time to act is now before you see a negative impact to your bottom line.

Please sign up to receive a weekly email of updates to the blog. And please share this on social media with others who may be interested.  You can also follow Kauai Digital Marketing on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Let me know any comments or questions.

kauai marketing

Kauai Business: Using Kauai Marketing Talent?

I have been blessed to meet many wonderful and talented people on my home island of Kauai. One of the things that has also frustrated me is that I have also met business people who went off-island or to the mainland to hire marketing projects and services rather than use Kauai marketing resources.

One of the weaknesses of our collective culture with word of mouth referrals for awareness is that you may be missing out on a great marketing partner in your own backyard.

Yes, with the Internet, we are a global village and web design and other digital marketing work can technically be performed from anywhere. So there is no technical reason not to hire your sister-in-law in Oregon, your friend’s cousin in Minnesota, or a marketing agency in Honolulu.

However, I would argue that their marketing expertise can also be found on Kauai. And they likely lack the day to day intimacy with our culture, values, and unique characteristics.

I understand that in past years there may not have been the maturity and wealth of digital marketing expertise that there is now. Some of it is home grown and some of it has been imported.

Through the Kauai Chamber of Commerce and in other venues I have met a number of the other people on Kauai who have marketing, web design, graphics, email marketing, blogging, and social media marketing expertise.

I would hope after speaking with me that I might be a good fit to assist you with your marketing. But in some cases, I understand there may be a better fit with one of my competitors.

I encourage you to do some web searches, talk with Chamber of Commerce members, and have exploratory conversations with some marketing people you may not have met before. You might be surprised at the wealth of talent you will find!

Did you know there is:

  • a former Fortune 500 worldwide marketing executive providing consulting, training, and a range of digital marketing services?
  • an Emmy-winning graphic designer on our island?
  • someone who was the CEO of Japanese subsidiaries for major companies?
  • a marketing executive with specific expertise in ecommerce?

For a small island I have found there are actually a lot of us who can design custom web sites at affordable prices. Which one is right for you depends on factors such as

  • time constraints and availability
  • integration with other external systems
  • a one-off web site project versus ongoing marketing assistance
  • personality and fit in working styles and vision
  • recommendations on how to develop a brand and a marketing strategy and plan
  • is up to date with latest web design and online marketing trends

I believe a rising tide lifts all boats. Wouldn’t it be great if local Kauai businesses supported other local Kauai businesses and independent contractors? We also provide world-class freelance marketing projects and ongoing marketing services.

Let’s market Kauai with Kauai marketing…..

why social media marketing fails

Simple Reasons Why Your Social Media Marketing Fails

I heard from a business person last week telling me she has done social media marketing on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest and listed her products on a very large eCommerce site, but has seen no results. She said, “I’ve tried lots of things, but nothing is working.”

You may be like her or you may be in the group of people who used to do very well on Facebook, but not anymore. You were posting updates and interacting with your audience. New people were becoming aware of your business. People were sending you messages and coming by to buy products or services. But not any more. You are struggling to reach the people who liked your page. Your sales directly attributable to Facebook have declined. You’re not alone.

In my experience there are some simple reasons why your social media marketing is failing in today’s environment. Here are the most common, along with some things you can do about them:

  •  Failing to segment the market and target your specific audiences. You may be doing what I call “spray and pray marketing.” You throw stuff out at everybody and hope that something sticks. You are spending time, effort, and money with low or non-existent results. Success in marketing, especially social media marketing,  is to segment the market and create content to meet the needs and desires of each. Social media is “new,” but timeless principals of marketing are not.
  • Not creating buyer personas. Personas of your typical buyers in each market segment should drive the social media platforms, content, tone, images, ads, and value propositions to communicate with them. It is also the basis for very targeted advertising on social media to augment your organic reach.
  • Spreading across too many platforms or the wrong platform. In the evolution of social media we are seeing some maturation and segmentation. If you are only using Facebook or Twitter, you may be missing the platform where your target audience spends its most time and engagement. If you are only using Instagram, you may be missing audiences who only use Facebook or LinkedIn. But trying to be everywhere can also backfire. Your content and formats either won’t be optimized or you will spend an excessive amount of time posting natively to each platform.
  • Focusing on selling something immediately from social media. Marketing is about meeting customers needs profitably over time. I am incredibly annoyed when someone asks me to connect on LinkedIn and then immediately sends me a sales pitch. They know nothing about me or my business. I have expressed no interest in their product or service. They have ruined a potential future business relationship with me by jumping into sales mode. If you have sales people and they are doing this, stop them! They are hurting your business, not helping it.
  • Driving people to a landing page or web site that is not mobile friendly. As I have blogged before, mobile is where it’s at now. If people go to a page or site they can’t easily read on their mobile device, you have lost them as a potential customer.
  • Not promoting discovery of your content. You are not using the right hashtags on platforms where they should be used. Or you are using irrelevant hashtags. Or you are not doing keyword research for your personas and creating content that highlights those keywords. Or you are not reaching out to others and engaging on social media so that they may also come and look at your content.
  • Relying on organic reach. I’ve blogged about this previously. Facebook is now pay to play for businesses. Other social media platforms are moving that direction as they plan and experiment with ways to monetize their users. You must at a minimum pay Facebook to occasionally boost key content to your followers. And you should be considering highly targeted ad campaigns based on demographics, interests, and behaviors. You still have tremendous opportunity for your content to show up between photos of friends and family, but you will have to pay for that privilege to go beyond 2-6% of your followers.
  • Not being social. The mantra at Social Media Marketing World this year was, “Don’t be on social media. Be social!” Engage with your followers. Ask them questions. Thank them for following you. Reply promptly to comments or questions from them. Use a variety of posts. Remember that people are on social media to stay connected, be entertained, and be informed. They are not there for a hard sales pitch.
  • Not being visual enough. The posts with the highest engagement are photos and videos. I’m still amazed at how many tweets I see on Twitter without an attached photo. Your content is much more likely to be attention grabbing if you have an image or video. Great images are keys to success on both Instagram and Pinterest.
  • Driving traffic to a web site without an email opt-in or to a landing page that is not optimized. Despite the hype around social media, the data show that email marketing is still the most effective way to deliver personalized marketing to people over time. They are giving you permission to get to know you better even if they are not ready to purchase from you right now. They are more likely to look at your email after opting in than they are to see your social media posts.
  • Ignoring data analysis, testing, and adjustment. Digital marketing is unique in being able to give you a wealth of data about what is working, what is not, and whether it is cost effective. It is also fairly easy to do A/B testing. Conversion pixels are making it better to track exactly what converts and what doesn’t. Watch the data. Stop what doesn’t work and do more of what does. There is also research data available online to guide you in areas such as highest converting content, highest converting landing pages, social media post types with the most engagement, best times to post on different platforms to maximize engagement, etc. Your mileage may vary, but this data points to useful starting points so you don’t waste a lot of time and effort. And if you have a personal Pinterest account, convert it to a business account so you get data analytics.

Social media expertise is not the same as marketing expertise. Good marketing is still good marketing. But social media gives us new, cost effective ways to target audiences to drive our marketing objectives. Social media gives us some new tools and communication methods. Social media platforms will continue to evolve and change as more commercial, business features are added.

Have you identified any other reasons why your social media marketing hasn’t worked? Are any of these the reason your social media marketing is failing to produce the desired results?

Help all of us learn more by sharing in comments.

 

instagram marketing best practices

Top 5 Instagram Marketing Best Practices

Instagram is a social media platform that continues to grow in importance to marketers. Especially if your target audience includes 18-40 year olds on mobile devices, this is a place you want to be. But to be effective and generate a return on your marketing investment, there are some Instagram marketing best practices to follow.

Why Instagram?

If you haven’t looked recently at the statistics for Instagram, it’s time to look again.  According to recent studies from Pew Research and  Iconosquare:

  • 300 million people use it and 75 million are active each day
  • 70 million photos are added each day
  • more adults use Instagram than Twitter
  • 53% of 18-29 year olds are on it
  • 70% of users have looked for a brand on Instagram
  • 37% of users follow 1-5 brands and 32% follow more than 5 brands
  • only 28% of marketers are on Instagram

I have to confess I got more focused on Instagram opportunities after two clients in their thirties shared with me how they are active on it, as are their friends. That caused me to re-evaluate my own marketing priorities.

Brands are seeing results from Instagram marketing

Search Engine Journal reported that big brands are achieving impressive results:

And it’s not only big brands reaping rewards. Many small businesses are also seeing value. Food trucks, restaurants, entertainers, artists, architects, coffee shops, clothing shops, jewelry shops, and many others are building a loyal audience on Instagram who help them to spread their marketing stories and messages.

Best Practices to Follow

As social media platforms continue to evolve and mature, there are a distinct set of best practices to follow on Instagram:

  1. Set up a unique profile – Name is the only thing searchable, so use yours or your business. Make it engaging in 150 characters. What is your very succinct value proposition?  Include a link. This is the only place you can include a hyperlink back to your web page or your landing page for an opt-in. Make it so people want to follow you, not just to like one of your random photos. Include something personal or humorous in the bio if possible. Consider using emoticons to make your profile more attention-grabbing and interesting.
  2. Use high quality images and videos – Instagram is about visual content. A picture is worth a thousand words – literally! Use a photo to tell a story about your company, your products, or your services. But constantly posting photos of your products over and over again without telling a story won’t cut it. You’re not there to sell. You’re there to nurture a customer relationship.  Post photos that people can relate to and that they care about. Consider showing a behind the scenes view of your business.
  3. Use lots of hashtags – Unlike Pinterest, Instagram engagement is higher with lots of hashtags. One study claimed that posts with 11 hashtags get the most engagement. You may not need 11, but use quite a few so people can find your content and engage with you. It’s also a good idea to create a brand-specific hashtag or to create one for major campaigns and contests. Hashtags help you to get discovered. Look for trending hashtags that you may create relevant content for. Make sure you use relevant hashtags. Don’t be accused of #hashtagabuse by just latching on to a high volume one. Including your location can also help to boost discovery.
  4. Post consistently and be interactive – Ask questions. Reply to comments. Like and share content from your followers.
  5. Run a photo contest or offer special incentives – One way to boost engagement and reach is also to run a photo contest related to your brand. Use a unique hashtag and offer some prizes. Consider other ways you can reward your followers on Instagram with special discounts and promotions or by highlighting and sharing their content.

Note that you can link other social media platforms to your Instagram account, including Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Flickr, and foursquare. You can easily cross-post from Instagram to those platforms. Note that Facebook owns Instagram, so expect to see more business and advertising features added over time. Also, it appears that Facebook may currently favor and give higher weighting in the News Feed to content shared from Instagram.

Hope you find these Instagram marketing best practices helpful. Is your business marketing on Instagram? Anything else you would add or tell others to avoid?

 

social media photos

Create Engaging Social Media Photos in Less Than Two Minutes

I want to share with you one of my favorite social media tools for adding cool typography to social media photos.  It’s quick and easy and inexpensive. Within two minutes you can add beautiful text to a photo and share it across multiple social media platforms. It’s also a mobile app that you can use anytime and anywhere. It’s called Wordswag. It replaces the time time and complexity one had to go through with Photoshop to do this in the past.

Fast and Easy

Wordswag has been available in the market for a while now and just keeps getting better. It’s extremely simple and easy to use:

  1. Either take a photo or choose an existing photo (or choose one of their backgrounds).
  2. Select the typography style and color that you want from the list of options. (Most are free, but a few require a small in-app purchase.)
  3. Double-tap the default text and enter whatever text you want.
  4. Use your fingers to resize and move the text anywhere you want on the image.
  5. Select from different image filters (similar to Instagram) or keep the photo as is and click Done.

The app will crop your image to a square shape unless you tell it not to. If you tell it not to, then it will show you guide lines on the image for how the image will display in Twitter in their landscape format. Wordswag saves your image with the text to your Camera Roll so it can be accessed later.

The Typography options are modern, interesting, and engaging. They come in a variety of styles and sizes. They really help to bring interest to your text and make it visually appealing to read.

Add Watermark or Logo

Another great feature of Wordswag is the ability to add a watermark or logo before you save. While no watermark is completely foolproof, it at least gives you attribution for your photo when most people rampantly share it across the Internet. It also gives you a way to subtly insert your business name if you haven’t already featured it in the text.

Sharing Across Social Media

Wordswag also builds in the ability to easily and quickly share your new creation to:

  • Instagram
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Tumblr
  • Pinterest
  • Text
  • Email

You can also follow Wordswag on Instagram for some examples. This is my go-to tool to quickly create a photo with text and post it to my social media platforms. You can literally do it in less than two minutes and from anywhere.

The Downsides

There are a couple of disadvantages:

  • It’s currently available only on iPhone, but also works great on iPad.
  • It costs $3.99 and there are optional in-app purchases for some typography options. (However, compare this to the cost of Photoshop which is how I used to do this.)

Alternatives

There are some alternatives, including one or two that are free. If Wordswag doesn’t meet your needs, you could also check out:

  • PicLab HD
  • Phonto
  • FrameMagicLite
  • Pic Collage
  • Moldiv
  • Instaquote

Have you tried Wordswag? What do you think? Or do you have another option that you prefer? Please let us all know in the comments.

Please have a look at my other blog posts on topics across digital marketing. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn. And sign up for our free newsletter to get the latest updates. I promise we won’t spam your email! We publish about once a week.

 

 

social media marketing for small business

Social Media Marketing for Small Business: Half Are Losing Out

I was surprised when I read a recent research report done by Clutch. They surveyed small businesses about their usage of Social Media marketing. The data indicate that around half of them are ignoring prospective customers by not using Social Media marketing for small business. And more than half are not investing in work on Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

According to the Clutch study of small businesses:

  • <20% of marketing budgets are spent on Digital Marketing
  • only 53% do some work on Social Media
  • only 45% do some work on Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  • only 25% do work on online advertising

Small businesses are slow to invest in digital marketing to acquire new customers and expand relationships with existing ones. But Social Media marketing is about inviting people to get to know your business and for you to get to know them.

Why are many small businesses reluctant to do Social Media marketing?

I have heard various reasons from small business people I have spoken with, including:

  • I tried Facebook or Twitter a little while, but I didn’t get any sales from them.
  • I asked my customers if they use Social Media and they said no or not much.
  • I don’t know where to start – there are so many social networks and I can’t cover all of them.
  • I think I have to have a website, but I don’t have time or money to spend on Social Media.
  • Isn’t Social Media primarily for young people?
  • If I were to advertise on Social Media, wouldn’t Pay Per Click (PPC) ads be very expensive?

Why is Social Media marketing for your business important?

  • Increase your brand awareness
  • Drive more traffic to your website
  • Get new leads
  • Leverage the trust that Social Media users have in their friends, family, and people they follow
  • Extend your message with Likes, Comments, and Shares faster and cheaper than word of mouth
  • Reach new prospects for your products and services that may not otherwise find you
  • Provide additional differentiating information about your company, products, and services
  • Put a human face on your business and let people get to know your people
  • Find new connections of suppliers and partners in addition to reaching new prospective customers
  • Target very specific audiences in ads based on interests, behaviors, job titles, locations, etc.
  • Try out marketing ideas fast and with very low cost to see what works or doesn’t work
  • Contribute to your search ranking with strong social signals that you are a valuable brand (this is likely to increase in weight over time)

As I’ve blogged before, the way people are making their purchase decisions is changing. They rely much more on online reviews and referrals. When was the last time you booked travel without looking at online reviews? They often research products and services online before they have any contact with your company. They may interact with your online information multiple times during their purchase decision as they advance through their process.

Some small businesses drop social media marketing if they don’t see any immediate increase in sales. But social media marketing is not a short-term investment. You are building a timeless presence on the Internet. You are increasing awareness and starting to build relationships that will likely pay off sometime in the future. Short-term promotions on social media with contests, coupons, and specials can drive a short-term uptick in sales depending on your organic reach or ad budget.

You may not realize that half of the world’s population has grown up with the Internet and Social Media. Yes, that’s right! 50% of the world’s population is under 30 years old. They are connected, they use less and less of traditional media, and they are technology savvy. They are not kids anymore. And those in their 20s and 30s have tremendous purchasing power.

Social media ads are still an under-utilized marketing element by the majority of small businesses. With traditional advertising you are broadcasting to a very wide audience in order to reach the subset that is your target audience. Social media advertising enables you to specifically target individuals in your target audience and to only pay when the target clicks through your ad for more information. Since there is no publication or broadcasting overhead, the cost of social media ads is way less than traditional advertising. It’s also less costly than Google Adwords ads that are only based on keywords on search result pages. And how many people are like me who ignore the display ads in newspapers and on web pages. What better place to get attention on your ad than in someone’s News Feed between photos and videos of their friends and families?

How can you get started economically?

  • Focus on one or two Social Media platforms that have members of your target market. You don’t need to boil the ocean and get onto every Social Media platform. As I’ve blogged before each one has a slightly different audience with different interests and demographics.
  • Set your marketing objectives and strategy. Are your top objectives to increase awareness, generate leads, cross-sell existing customers, or ….? For each of the top 2-3 objectives, outline your strategy to use social media to support that objective.
  • Engage a Marketing agency, consultant, or coach. If you can’t train and dedicate an employee to Digital Marketing or Social Media Marketing, then look at hiring a marketing agency or consultant to be an adviser, a doer, and an extension of your staff part-time. Depending on how much staff time you can dedicate to Social Media marketing, you might only want a consultant to be on retainer to be your coach one or more times per month. An agency, consultant, or coach will also keep you up to date on the latest trends and where to invest time and effort for your business objectives.
  • Get Marketing training for yourself or your staff. If you allocate an internal staff person for social media marketing, make sure they are trained on Marketing. While almost any younger person knows how to post on some Social Media platforms, they don’t necessarily know how to do that effectively for business marketing purposes.
  • Look at your Digital Marketing mix holistically. Determine how much to invest in Web Design, Search Engine Marketing, Email Marketing, Blogs, Podcasts, video channels, eBooks, Social Media marketing, and traditional marketing. Speak with an agency or consultant if you need assistance.
  • Augment with Social Media advertising. Social Media organic reach is shrinking. Your posts will only reach 2-6% of your followers. Social Media is now pay to play for businesses. Different platforms will enable you to boost posts or insert ads into the News Feeds of the types of people and interests that you specify.

Let me know your thoughts and experience. Have you seen other obstacles to overcome? Are there other tips you would suggest for Social Media marketing for small business?

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Kauai Web Design

Who Owns Your Kauai Web Design?

I have been in business a long time now. I have seen and heard a lot of different situations and worked through many challenges. But I was shocked by a couple of stories in the past month from business people located here on Kauai. In both cases, they had learned that their domain name registration and Kauai web design were not owned by them. Do you know who owns your domain and web design? Is it you or someone else?

Two Stories of Unclear Ownership

One of my clients was recently telling me how she used a web designer in the past who also registered her domain name and set up web hosting for her. When she wanted to change the web design, web designer, and hosting, the original web designer refused to transfer her domain name to an account in her name. He told her that he “owned” her domain. Eventually she got him to change the name servers so that she could create a new site and use a different hosting company. And she created her new web design without him. But she is still beholden to him to pay her domain registration to him each year and hope that he will continue to update name servers when needed.

Another local business manager told me the story of why they had to change their domain name a few years ago. Today when you type in the name of their business with a .com, you are redirected to the blog of someone who no longer lives on Kauai or focuses on web design. When they wanted to create a new website a few years ago with a different web designer, the original web designer told them he “owned” their domain name. He also refused to transfer the domain registration to an account in their name. He did offer to sell them their own domain name for several tens of thousands of dollars. Rather than pay ransom for their own domain name they made the hard decision to change it and use a longer name. He still maintains the domain registration of their name and has it redirecting traffic to his personal blog. How is that for vindictive?!

Business Components of Setting Up a Website

You may recall that there are three major components to having a website for your business. First, you need a domain name registered. This is your URL, your brand on the Internet, and the way people access your web site. You have to find an available domain name and pay a yearly registration fee for you to “own” and use it.

Second, you need a company to host your website. This is the company running the computers and network for your web site. You want a hosting company that has stable, secure, and high performing servers that are optimized for serving website content.

Third, you want a web designer or web design company that has both the graphic and marketing skills to develop a web site look, feel, plus the content that creates a great user experience for your customers and prospects. It also provides the navigation to support your customers and prospects wherever they are in their purchase decision making process.

These three things may be supplied by one, two, or three different companies. Or one person or company may arrange all three on your behalf using other vendors for one or more of the three major components.

There are lot of free lance graphics people who offer web design. They may or may not be good business and marketing partners to help you grow your particular business. And they may or may not be advising you and looking out for your business interests in addition to their own.

How to Protect Your Brand

There are a couple of things you can do:

  1. Set up your own domain registration and web hosting accounts in your company name and separately from engaging your web designer. Many companies offer both domain registration and web hosting. You may not run into a problem with that if you are dealing with a large company with ethical leadership and well defined contract terms. But to really protect yourself it is a recommended best practice to have your domain registration and web hosting with two different companies. If you find you need to change web hosting, then you have the control instead of the company you are trying to sever ties with.
  2. Make sure you have a written contract with your web designer or web design company that outlines not only the scope of work to be done but also who owns what. The time to ensure you will maintain ownership of your domain, hosting relationship, and website content is before you sign an agreement and begin work. I would not set up a domain or web host on  a client’s behalf and then tell them I own it. But obviously there are people out there who do. They may not even give you access to the content in your website if you decide to terminate the relationship with them. A written contract will protect you if in the future something goes wrong in your relationship with your web design company.

On the beautiful island of Kaui it seems that the spirit of Aloha doesn’t always hold true in business relationships that fail. Your domain, your website security and performance, and your website look and content are all part of your brand. They determine the experience of your customers and prospects. They either help or hinder your ability to gain new customers or maintain your existing customers. It is critical that you ensure these elements of your brand are owned and controlled by you.

Have you run into difficulties with domain or website content ownership? Do you know who owns your domain, hosting relationships, and web design?

mobile local search

Drive More Business with Mobile Local Search Marketing

As some of you know I live on the island of Kauai in the Hawaiian Islands.  Our largest industry is tourism. Every day we have more than 23,000 visitors with mobile devices looking for local business information.  On top of that we have daily visitors streaming off cruise ships with their mobile devices.  And we have 65,000 full-time residents that need to find information about local goods and services. After all, you can’t just drive off the island to buy something! These consumers are increasingly using mobile local search to find information. And people searching on a mobile device are closer to a purchase and more likely to take action than with traditional desktop searches.

Mobile Search and Local Search Marketing are Converging

It’s imperative for most of the local businesses that I serve to be optimized for both mobile and local search. But it’s not just for local, small businesses on my island. Large brands such as Ace Hardware in the U.S. and Argos in the U.K. are using mobile combined with local search marketing to drive customers into their stores. It’s no longer a nice-to-have. Mobile Local Search Marketing is a must-have!

Google has reported that more than 50% of searches are now done on mobile devices. On-the-go consumers are looking for local information.

  • 52% of searches on smartphones are done in the car or away from home and work (source: Thrive Analytics)
  • 60% of consumers use a smartphone while shopping and this number is growing over time (source: Thrive Analytics)
  • 37% of all consumers use mobile search to look for local products and services, but the percentages are much, much higher for Gen X and Y consumers (source: Thrive Analytics)
  • 70%  of consumers prefer a mobile website over a mobile app for local information (source: LSA Local Media Tracking Study 2014)
  • 56% of smartphone searches on the go or in a store have local intent (source: Google)
  • 63% of consumers use multiple devices to find a local business and 79% of them are smartphone users and 81% are tablet owners (source: comScore study)
  • 24% of local searches done via a mobile app are done through Facebook (they are number two behind Google Maps – source: comScore study)

The data are compelling. These are trends that will continue to increase.

How to Optimize for Converged Mobile Local Search Marketing

So how do you optimize for Mobile Local Search Marketing? I’ve blogged before about Mobile First Marketing and about Mobile Meltdown Day (that some other bloggers have also called Mobilegeddon!) Those posts also still apply here. But let’s look specifically at some things your business can do to be found on the first screen of a local search on a mobile device:

  • Have a mobile friendly web site that passes Google’s test – If your web site on a smartphone requires someone to scroll left and right or to pinch and zoom to be able to read something, then you need to update your web site now.  As of April 21, 2015, Google started penalizing you in mobile search ranking.
  • Ensure your Google My Business listing is up to date – If you haven’t registered on Google My Business, do it! If you have, make sure information is up to date and that your business name, address, and phone number are consistent with other places you are listed on the Web. Having a Google My Business listing gives you a better mobile local search position and gives you a listing in Google Maps.
  • Include images in Google My Business – Make it easy for consumers to identify you and your products/services
  • Make location prominent on your web site – Have your location in relevant places such as title tags, description, and in your content
  • Ensure images on your web site are compressed and consolidated – Load time for your site is important, so make sure your images are optimized.
  • Get listed on other relevant business directories – Get a profile on Yelp, Yahoo, Bing Local, other local directories, plus directories relevant to your industry
  • Make sure your NAP (name, address, phone) are consistent everywhere on the Web – Google wants to know you are real, accurate, valuable and nearby to its customers in search results
  • Get reviews and recommendations – Reviews on Google and Yelp will also help your mobile local search ranking (make sure they’re positive!)
  • Create local content in your blog – Local content in your blog will also help to position you for mobile local search
  • Create a business Facebook page – For consumers doing mobile local search in the Facebook mobile app, be sure you have a business page with name, address, and phone number

These are some highlights for optimizing for mobile local search, but for a very detailed list of factors and weights specific to Google local search ranking take a look at Moz’s 2014 Local Search Ranking Factors.

Besides the basics, there are some other things you may want to consider to increase the amount of business you get from mobile local search. It may also be a good idea to have a click to call button so people can easily reach you. And you may want to consider other geolocation features that attract people who are nearby.

You may also want to consider PPC (Pay Per Click) advertising on mobile devices. These ads typically display at the top or bottom of the screen. If you are not highly optimized for mobile local search, this can be a way to make your business visible on the first screen. And if you are optimized, you could potentially have your business displayed three times on the first screen:

  • Google My Business listing
  • Mobile Local Search results
  • PPC ad

Are you optimized for mobile, but not for local search? Are you optimized for local, but not mobile search? Or are you not optimized for either? An investment in mobile local search, possibly combined with PPC mobile ads, will help today’s consumer to find you. Because they are closer to an action or purchase decision than a desktop searcher, this is an investment that will drive real business results.

What do you think? What have you done with local and mobile search optimization? What have you learned? Are there other tips you would share?

social media marketing tips

10 Tips for Social Media Marketing Success

When I speak with small and mid-sized business owners I frequently hear objections and questions about the business return from investing in social media marketing. Well, hiring college students to post things for you probably won’t drive results. They are very familiar with social media platforms, but it’s the marketing strategy and content that drive success. And just posting photos of products to sell won’t drive success either.

Consumers are not using social media platforms to be bombarded with sales pitches. They are there to be entertained, inspired, educated, trained, and assisted with some problem.

If your content is not engaging or you are spreading your resources too thinly across too many social media platforms, then you may not see good results. Social media platforms will come and go (remember MySpace?), but your marketing strategy and content should transcend the tools and platforms.

With that said, I have observed these ten tips for social media marketing success:

  • Focus on engaging content – The objective of social media is to engage your audience. You get the maximum business benefit when they share your content and spread your message for you or when they click through to your website. You also benefit if they like or comment. That is giving you opportunity to interact with them on a personal level. Have a catchy headline. Provide some entertainment, but better yet help your audience to see something in a new light, to get educated on a topic, or especially to solve a problem (what to make for dinner tonight, how to build a stone wall, how the use of social media tools can save them time,……..you get the idea).
  • Be social – Don’t just be on social media posting photos. Be social and interact with your audience and in social media groups. Add your comments and ask questions for the benefit of others. Share content that may also be of interest to your audience. Be sure to reply to comments promptly or thank people for sharing your content.
  • Focus on a few social media platforms – Different social media platforms have different audience profiles. For example I recently blogged about the Pinterest audience and tips for that specific platform. You don’t have to be on every social media platform. Some may become more important to you in the future, so you may want to reserve your account name there, but focus on 1-3 that are frequented by your target audience and where you can focus for successful business results.
  • Don’t sell – This may surprise you, but marketing is not sales.  It enables sales. Marketing is about satisfying customer needs profitably over time. Consumers are not looking on social media for sales pitches of goods and services that don’t benefit them at this particular time. But helping them now or entertaining them may engage them so that they become your customer or do repeat business with you over time. For example, I get sales people trying to connect with me directly on LinkedIn to just send me a sales pitch for services in which I have expressed no interest and do not need now. They are wasting their time and annoying me for wasting my time. I wouldn’t be annoyed if they sent me some information that might help to benefit my specific business.
  • Be visual – The most engaging posts on Facebook now are videos that are native uploads to Facebook. The autoplay feature helps them to catch the eye in a cluttered News Feed. A picture is worth a thousand words. Using photos and videos on your selected social media platforms will get you more attention and communicate more information.
  • Use hashtags appropriately – Hashtags help people to find your content. A Twitter follower may not see your Tweet in real time, but may search a hashtag for relevant information.  Be sure they can find your relevant content. It may also help people searching on Facebook. But be careful on Pinterest. That platform doesn’t like lots of hashtags, so limit yourself to one or don’t use them there. You can research hashtags to use with a tool like hashtagify.me
  • Make it easy to get more information – If your audience is engaged and wants to find out more about your goods and services, ensure that’s easy for them to do. Have a link to your website and invite them to click it for more information. But also have a landing page that takes them directly to the information they are looking for. That may not be your homepage.
  • Test and change – One of the benefits of social media is that you can test and change your content pretty easily. Analysis of data from each platform will tell you which content and post types are getting the most engagement. Do more of that and less of the ones not driving engagement. Or test multiple visual images with your content. Certain photos and videos will engage your audience better than others. Once you have posted, monitor the data and be prepared to make changes to be more engaging. I am frequently surprised by what content succeeds or does not succeed to accomplish my own marketing objectives.
  • Ask for feedback – If you’re not getting feedback or you want to find ways to benefit your audience, ask for feedback. This may be informally in a post or you may want to set up a short survey with a few questions. You may want to offer some incentive for filling out your survey. Surveymonkey.com is an easy tool to create a survey.
  • Advertise key content – I’ve blogged before that Facebook (and soon other platforms) will be prioritizing and restricting whether your content is shown to your fans/followers. Your business posts on Facebook now reach less than 6% of your fans organically unless you have a very highly engaged, established fan base. Social media marketing used to be completely free. Now and increasingly in the future, it is pay to play. If you have key content (news, a useful blog post, a great video, etc.), then pay to do social media advertising. If you’re just getting started, pay to advertise how your business can benefit people and make it easy for people to click through to your web site. Social media advertising is still relatively inexpensive compared to traditional advertising. And you can monitor results real-time to make adjustments or to cancel ads that are not working.

I hope these ten tips are useful to drive success from your social media marketing investment. Do you have any comments, experience, or other thoughts about these? Or do you have another tip to add to the list? Please share in comments below so we can all benefit.

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mobile website

How to Avoid Mobile Website Meltdown on April 21…and Beyond

It’s almost here! I’m calling it Mobile Meltdown Day. April 21 is the date that Google will lower your web page rankings if your site is not deemed by them to be mobile friendly.  Some big brands and lots of smaller businesses may wake up to a surprise on April 22 unless you take action now. Google announced this change in a blog post on February 26. It may only impact your mobile search rankings for now, but there is widespread speculation that it may also affect desktop search rankings later.

What are Google's goals?

Google isn’t making this change just to make work for your business. More and more of your and Google’s customers are shifting their time and attention to mobile devices to search for information and interact in email and social media. As Google wants to maintain their dominant market share for search, they have some goals they are trying to achieve with this change:

  • Have a better mobile search experience for their users
  • Give their users exactly the information they are looking for in the most usable format
  • Make money – they will be seeking to expose apps and media in search results on mobile devices

Why is this important to your customers, not just Google?

In a July 2012 study conducted by market research firms Sterling Research and SmithGeiger for Google they found:

  • 67% of smartphone users say a mobile-friendly site makes them more likely to buy a company’s product or service, and 74% say they’re more likely to return to the site later
  • 61% say that if they don’t find what they’re looking for (probably within about five seconds), they’ll click away to another site. Half say that even if they like a business, they’ll use its site less often if it doesn’t work well on their smartphone
  • 72% of users say a mobile-friendly site is important to them

How do you know if you are at risk?

  1. Look at your website on a smartphone. Does it appear cut off on the screen? Do you have to scroll left or right? Is the text so small that you have to pinch and zoom to read anything?
  2. Run the Google Mobile-Friendly Test by entering your URL.

What can you do?

Chances are good that if you have not updated your web site in the past few years, you are at risk.

If your website is based on WordPress, you can convert to a responsive theme that will detect and adapt the display for different types of mobile devices.  Look for a responsive theme that enables you to follow mobile design best practices.

Here is my top ten list of mobile best practices:

  • Do not require any scrolling right or left
  • Make it easy to find your location and operating hours
  • Use bigger buttons
  • Enable finding important information in one or two clicks
  • Create a simple home page with a short menu
  • Highlight your site search so customers can quickly find information on your site
  • Add a click to call button
  • Simplify data entry for forms and minimize typing – use drop downs and choices to select
  • Don’t require customers to pinch to zoom to be able to read the text on your page
  • Keep the user in a single browser window

Are you ready for Mobile Meltdown Day? Have you tested your company’s web site? Have you at a minimum put an action plan in place to become compliant with Google’s mobile friendly policies?

Are there other mobile best practices that you have identified?  Please share in comments so we all benefit.

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social media for business

7 Key Success Factors for Social Media for Business

I recently got back from the Social Media Marketing World conference. Marketers from 49 countries gathered to network and learn from each other about best practices for social media for business. Some of the information was confirmation of things I am already doing and posting about. But there were also some new tips, tools, and techniques. Equally important was interacting with other marketers to understand their businesses and learn about their successes, challenges, and failures. The world of social media continues to evolve and change quickly. (It was also great to go to a conference for the first time in 25 years that I was just an attendee and not working!)

After some reflection on the conference and recent research I have identified seven key success factors for using social media for business:

  1. Content is your hub: It’s your compelling content that will engage your audience and cause them to interact with your business or brand.  (See our related blog post on compelling content.) And people will pay for your knowledge and expertise if you package it up and distribute it in ways they can easily consume it. It may be a product, but it also may be a service or other format. If you have content that answers a question or solves a problem that others have, you have a hub of knowledge to grow your business. Don’t just think about promoting your product or service on social media. Think holistically about your content. How can you help people? How can you answer their questions? How can you help them save time, be more effective, reduce costs, have more fun, etc?
  2. Re-purpose your content for multiple platforms of distribution: Once you have compelling content, you can leverage, re-purpose, and package it in multiple ways for people to consume it. You may be using your compelling content to create a lead funnel for a product or service, or you may be a consultant selling your knowledge. Know your core message and let people experience that in multiple ways. You may use it for live events. You may use it for videos and webinars. You may use it for blog posts. You may share parts of it on social media platforms. You may re-package it into speaking engagements. You may write an e-book. You may create a guide or recipes. You may record a podcast. It’s NOT a sales pitch. It’s helping people to answer a question or solve a problem or be entertained in a way that they want to share with others. Think about how you can reach your target customers in various formats on various platforms.
  3. Use videos and photos – Visual content gains attention on crowded social media platforms. The data show the most engaging Facebook posts are now videos, ahead of photos and status updates. Not only is visual content eye-catching, a picture really is worth a thousand words. People are looking to consume information quickly and easily. Sometimes that is seeing a picture or watching a short video or listening to a podcast while traveling or driving.
  4. Don’t be on social media, be social: In recent years there was tremendous attention on increasing your number of followers or fans. That didn’t necessarily produce business results. While you want to increase the number of potential customers you interact with, the critical success factor is engaging your audience with your business and brand. Being social makes your business human. People do business with other people who can help them. When your audience interacts, they will see more of your posts organically. They also are more likely to share your compelling content with their friends and followers to extend your reach.
  5. Participate and leverage others’ audiences: Beyond being social on your own Facebook page or Pinterest Board, host or participate in social media groups. Demonstrate your expertise, compassion, and humor. Your reputations and abilities become visible to the audiences of others hosting the group.
  6. Email is still the most effective and the most direct: Social media is great for engaging your audience and extending your reach. But the people most likely to become your customers are the ones who are interested enough in your content to opt-in and give you their email address. Email is still the most personal marketing. People are more likely to see and open your email than they are to see your Tweets or Facebook posts. One of the mantras at Social Media Marketing World was “Content is King and Social Media is Queen.” Maybe we should add, “And Email is still the Ace.” Use your compelling content and social media to extend your reach, but also to give you their email addresses.
  7. Don’t assume people will take action: This was an aha! moment for me when I heard from someone running a YouTube channel. He shared that in the beginning he assumed listeners would subscribe to his channel if they listened to the programs and liked them and got value. It wasn’t happening. So he added an explicit call to action asking his viewers to subscribe to his channel. Immediately there was a spike in subscribers. People don’t take action unless you ask them to! In past job roles I was sometimes amazed working with sales people. I would get the prospect engaged with some compelling content and the sales people would not think to ask for the order as the next step. Sometimes I had to prompt them and then the sale would be made. Don’t assume people will take action on their own. Always have a question, next step, or call to action – visit a web page, share the post, subscribe to the channel, etc.

A final thought: If I have just followed you on Twitter or liked your Facebook page or connected with you on LinkedIn, don’t immediately send me an advertisement or try to sell me something. If someone is just starting to engage with you on social media, it does not mean they are ready to purchase something from you right away. It means that there was some interest in learning more and seeing how you might be able to help them. I think this a key point for many businesses and marketers. The objective of social media for business is not direct sales – although stay tuned as Facebook and others add more ecommerce functionality.

Let me know your experience. Do any of these success factors resonate with you? Have you identified other success factors? If you would like to regularly receive updates, please follow Kauai Digital Marketing on LinkedIn or sign up for our email list on our web site.

 

 

periscope app

Periscope App for Business: Opportunities and Threats

New tools have come into the market that make it easy for anyone to be a mobile broadcaster. Now anyone can “show” in real-time, not just “tell.” This changes the landscape for broadcasting and social media engagement and also opens up new opportunities and threats for all types of businesses.

The Meerkat app was all the buzz at SXSW. They have already grown to 300,000 users, but have been cut off from Twitter graph functionality. You can still post on Twitter that you are broadcasting. The Periscope app from Twitter created all the buzz in the past week. Since Twitter purchased Periscope in January, they have it pretty well integrated. And there is Google Hangouts on Air that isn’t quite as new and shiny, but still a contender.

Each of these mobile broadcasting platforms has its strengths and weaknesses, but I believe the Periscope app is the real game-changer and will have tremendous benefit to Twitter and to businesses using it. Anyone with a Twitter account can watch live streaming video on Periscope or Meerkat. Anyone with a Gmail address can watch on Google Hangouts on Air. Periscope and Google also archive video streams for later search and viewing. Meerkat does not, but using the #Katch service provides archiving functionality. Just as Instagram has added huge value to Facebook post-acquisition, I believe Periscope will do the same for Twitter. Live streaming video and audio is not always great through these services, but it is certainly good enough. And the lack of quality is offset by the ease of use and immediacy of live streaming.

Google Hangouts for Air is farther along in having an ecosystem of functionality adding to its value for business. For example, you can schedule a broadcast in advance. You can create a landing page for registration and to collect more information on planned attendees or even to collect a payment. Your streaming videos are saved to YouTube with its rich functionality for perpetual archiving and search/recommend functionality. I expect that an ecosystem will also evolve around Periscope to exploit the business possibilities.

For most business broadcasts of importance you will want to schedule them in advance and publicize through all of your social media, web, email, and podcast channels.

Opportunities

Periscope for Business presents a lot of interesting opportunities to connect with your customers real-time and with visual content. Here are some examples:

  • Product or Company Event – Let your customers be part of the experience live. Let them share comments and Tweet to their followers about highlights.
  • Panels – You don’t have to wait for a conference to host a panel of experts and foster a dialogue between them and your audience.
  • Training – A picture really is worth a thousand words. Live and archived training can be produced cheaply and easily, be interactive, and prevent support issues later.
  • Advice and Discussions – You can show a use case for your product or service and get feedback or you can offer advice on how to optimize value from your product or service while entertaining questions.
  • On-site visits – You might host a behind the scenes visit to your factory location or to a customer site to see your product or service in action.
  • Product demos – Show the world how your product works and how it can benefit them while answering questions and getting new ideas for enhancements.
  • Product launches – You don’t have to gather press and analysts in a room for a launch or at least you can extend your audience online.
  • Regular broadcasts of news and opinions – Host your own online news broadcast or ongoing video blog and gain immediate feedback from your audience.
  • Live support – Show rather than tell someone how to solve their problem. Let them follow along in real-time while also potentially benefiting others who have a similar problem/issue.
  • Realtor open house – Host a virtual open house and get additional viewers who cannot or will not come in person. Get immediate feedback on the property.
  • Online focus group – Need some quick market research? Have an idea you want to bounce off potential customers? Crowd-source a virtual focus group to share ideas and feedback.
  • Tourist information – Don’t just post some photos, but let your target audience experience some of the sights and sounds of your destination in real-time.

I’m sure I am just scratching the surface with these ideas and that many other industry-specific ideas may come into your mind. I believe the opportunities to use Periscope for Business are great.

However, it is not all unicorns and rainbows. As with most new technologies, Periscope opens up new threats that will have to managed and possibly regulated.

Threats

The idea that now anyone can be a mobile broadcaster anywhere also presents potential threats to your business. Some that come to mind for me include:

  • Search – How do you enable your audience to find either live or archived video streams. What if you throw the party and nobody comes?
  • Copyright infringement – What if someone is mobile broadcasting your copyrighted images, music, or text? How will you know and how can you enforce?
  • Loss of revenue – What if someone broadcasts an event, concert, musical program, conference, or other content for which you normally charge a fee? How much revenue might you lose?
  • Privacy – Images of you, your employees, or your customers may be broadcast without their explicit knowledge. Periscope location pinpointing is more granular than just your city and may draw people to a location where you don’t want them.
  • Journalism and Broadcasting – If you are in the news or blogging business, you now have a whole new set of competitors – anyone around the world with a smartphone!

What do you think? Have you tried Periscope yet? For your industry do you see other Opportunities or Threats in using Periscope for Business? Please share your thoughts and ideas.

 

pinterest marketing best practices

Aspiring Women: 14 Pinterest Marketing Best Practices

Pinterest recently completed another round of funding that values the company at $11B.  This is a hefty valuation for a startup that only began selling display ads in January. But growth and demographics have been very attractive. It had been a U.S. growth story, but the number of users outside the U.S. grew more than 135% in 2014.

Pinterest outperforms Twitter and LinkedIn in the time spent on each network. Bing includes Pinterest images in search results. Pinterest has become an important global marketing social media platform.

This is where women go to explore, express, and share their aspirations. 80-85% of users are women and this has been holding steady as the platform grows. 92% of all pins are posted by women. Also, almost half of Pinterest activity happens on tablets.

And Pinterest is one of the fastest growing platforms among millenials. While the average age of users is 40, this is the place to be to reach the desirable group of women buyers who are under 40.

The most pinned categories by women include:

  • Food and drink
  • DIY and crafts
  • Home decor
  • Holidays and events

So what are some Pinterest marketing best practices to optimize your investment?

  1. Create and name boards using aspirational language of your target audience – Don’t just create a board for each of your products or product categories.  Post interesting content.  Use aspirational titles like Luxury Spa Bathroom or Dream South Pacific Vacation or Easy Ways to Delight Your Family that will match the searches and aspirations of your target users.
  2. Show a human side to your company – Make it personal. Create a board about your team or your company values and culture.
  3. Use unique images that will capture your audience’s attention – As the user scans over images, make sure yours stand out and catch the eye.
  4. Find the images that capture the most attention and make them cover images for your boards – As you collect data about the most pinned items, look at which images are gaining the most attention and use them as covers for your board.
  5. Don’t push sales, but do include a call to action in your Pins and link back to further information – Users don’t want a product sales pitch. They want interesting content. But be sure to have a link for further information that they can click.
  6. Pin video and audio – 2015 is the year of video on social media.  Try some video Pins to capture attention and to show a 3D view or further explanation.
  7. Use “Pin It” and “On Hover Pin It” buttons– with a few lines of code from Pinterest inserted on your web site, users on your site can pin or hover over your images and easily share them on Pinterest. Pinterest provides the Javascript to do this easily.
  8. Add context with Rich Pins – Add additional information to pins for apps, recipes, articles, movies, products, and places.  For example, a place pin can include extra information like a map, address, and phone number.
  9. Use hashtags – Hashtags can help you be found in searches, but limit yourself to one or two key ones.  Don’t overdo it.
  10. Be social –  After all, it is social media. Be responsive and show appreciation to others. Reach out to others to follow them and comment.
  11. Use Pinterest Analytics – Look at the data for which of your pins are most engaging. The images with the most re-pins and clicks are the ones to use for the cover of your boards. This also tells you where to put time and effort for creating new pins.
  12. Join Group Boards – Participate in Groups, but don’t just self-promote. Too much of that will be a turn off. For help with which Groups to join, Pingroupie is a tool that can help to search and sort groups.
  13. Run a contest to generate some buzz – A Pinterest contest can help draw attention and sharing.
  14. Promote Pins with pay per click advertising – Pick pins to promote, specify a target audience, and pay per click for users that click through to your web site.

Don’t forget a couple of other marketing best practices:

  • You can use Pinterest for competitive research. What are your competitors posting and getting engagement with? How can you improve your value proposition and differentiation?
  • Cross-promote between Pinterest, your web site, and other social media platforms. Drive complementary engagement across the platforms where your audience can learn more, share more, or take action.

Are you marketing on Pinterest? Do you agree with these best practices? Have you found other Pinterest marketing best practices?

 

social media ads

Social Media Ads: Why, Where, and How Much?

Why think about social media ads? Isn’t social media marketing free and easy? Most of the business people I speak with still think so. After all, it doesn’t require any special training to use Facebook or Instagram. All you do is throw up some posts to engage your target audience with company products, photos, and updates. You just need a young person to assist you. (I hear that a lot, too, from mature business owners.) They are still living in the good old days of social media marketing.

It used to be that social media marketing was just about posting interesting content for your target audience to read and engage.  But as social media matures, social media marketing also has to evolve.  As we’ve blogged before, your company’s Facebook posts may now only reach 2-6% of your followers organically.  The same thing is happening on Twitter and other social media platforms where user feeds are becoming cluttered and crowded.  Social media companies are 1) trying to cut through the clutter to show their users the most valuable content and 2) ramping up advertising platforms so they can monetize their huge user bases.

Google Adwords (and other search engine ads) are useful, but no longer sufficient.  They are not necessarily the best way to reach your target audience as they go through the purchase decision process.  Search engine keywords tend to target early in the decision process for general awareness. Search engine long tail keywords target more specifically and possibly later in the decision process. Social media networks have different ways to target your audience and at different points in the purchase decision:

  • Facebook: demographics, interests, and behaviors
  • LinkedIn: industries, job titles, and organizational levels
  • Pinterest: demographics and interests
  • Twitter: interests, followers, and keywords
  • Instagram: age, gender, country – they will also be sharing data with Facebook interests and behaviors

Not only does each search engine or a social media network have unique ways of targeting ads, they each have different audience profiles themselves:

  • Facebook and Twitter are both very large and cut across age groups, geographies, genders, and interests
  • Pinterest has a larger segment of younger women – 85% of its users are women
  • Instagram has a large segment of usage among young people – this is the place millennials go to interact away from older family members
  • LinkedIn has users who are business people

Wishpond has a good summary of user profiles for each social network that can help determine where you should focus for your target market.

Social media advertising means looking at which social media networks:

  • Have users in your target audience
  • Give you effective ways to select and specifically target them
  • Are cost effective for achieving your marketing objectives

Otherwise you are doing “spray and pray” advertising and wasting your money.

Internet ads now make up 25% of the entire ad market in 2015 (source: Social Fresh). One million small and medium sized businesses advertise on Facebook.  And there are 2.5 million Facebook promoted posts.  Twitter has not ruled out changes to its news feed algorithm to prioritize posts the way Facebook does. Instagram (owned by Facebook) is expanding its advertising platform to both deal with cluttered feeds and to monetize the user base.

Ad costs on different social media platforms do vary.  A Facebook ad will likely be more expensive than a Google Adword, but less expensive than a LinkedIn ad.  The ad costs reflect the specificity and effectiveness of targeting for your audience. Match your marketing to the right social media networks for your business. Then look at how social media ads can get your message consistently in front of your followers and your prospects. It’s not like the old days of just posting some interesting content for free.

blog ideas

Your Blog Drives More Business Than Social Media

Website+Blog+Search Engine Optimization+Social Media+Email=Business Growth from Digital Marketing

Does that equation surprise you? Of course, it is a gross simplification. But it illustrates a point. When I speak with other small business owners like myself, I hear them talk about a website and social media posts, but a blog and email marketing are usually missing ingredients.

Search Engine Optimization(SEO) is also usually missing, but you may be able to rely on your website platform (e.g., Wix, WordPress) or web designer to assist with some basic techniques. However, depending on your website provider, they may not counsel you on the importance of content. A blog is a key way to deliver content that drives business growth from online, digital marketing.

Why Should You Care About a Blog?

In 2015 search engines such as Google are focused on creating the best possible user experience.  They are continuing to increase their analysis of your web site to ensure it has the information your target audience needs.  This and other factors drive your ranking in search results.  If the keywords and content being searched for are not well represented and highlighted to search engines in they way they expect, your target audience may not find you online. (Or maybe you will spend a lot of money on ads.)

There is more to SEO than content that can be delivered via a blog. But a key component is content written in the language of your target customer and that hits their keywords for searching.

There are other reasons besides search engine ranking for why you should seriously consider a blog with your web site:

  • Establish your brand
  • Differentiate from competitors
  • Demonstrate expertise
  • Build an audience of potential and existing customers, partners, and vendors
  • Make your company more personal
  • Control your content as social media networks continue to change
  • Provide customer support for common questions
  • Collect email addresses

Let me emphasize that last one again – collect email addresses. In these days of social media marketing the data show that email marketing is still more effective for actually getting someone to buy your goods or services. Providing interesting, expert content and getting people to subscribe with their email address is even more effective in driving business results than all your posts on social media.

A McKinsey study found that e-mail is nearly 40 times more effective than Facebook and Twitter combined for acquiring customers.  A Gallup survey found that 62% of consumers say that social media has no impact on purchase decisions. 90% of U.S. consumers use email daily. Also, the average order value driven by email is 17% higher than purchases that are attributed to social media.

I know you’re thinking:

  • Wait! I’m a small business owner, not a blogger!
  • I don’t have time for that!
  • I’m not a good writer!
  • How often would I do this and would I run out of ideas?

There are resources that can help and that don’t cost too much:

  • Blogs on best practices for writing a blog post
  • Google keyword planner for most searched keywords related to your business and geography
  • Online tips on where to find ideas for blog posts
  • Freelance writers and writing services that can research and write a blog post for $10-15 depending on the number of words
  • Marketing consultants and agencies that can assist to generate ideas and produce content on your behalf

Do you have a company blog?  What tools and techniques have been helpful?  What results have you seen?

 

social media marketing video

2015 The Year of Social Media Marketing Video

2015 is the year of social media marketing video. If you look at the statistics of organic reach and engagement, I should be doing this blog post as a video. Video is taking off in 2015. Marketers are jumping on the bandwagon to gain organic reach and to cut through social media clutter to engage customers.

Last week Socialbakers released survey data showing that Facebook photo posts now have the lowest organic reach. Video posts are seen twice as often, followed by text status updates. Here is how  Socialbakers’ breakdown of post-based organic reach looked in the fourth quarter of 2014:

socialbakers-organic

Why is this happening?

One reason is clutter. Your customers’ social media feeds are overflowing with content. Marketers are all competing for share of attention and engagement. Video is still less common, so it stands out. And the motion of video (in auto play) catches attention while scrolling. Some marketers are even going back to paper catalogs in the mail to cut through the clutter and integrate with other social media channels.

Another reason is because Facebook, Twitter, Vines, and Instagram are pushing social media marketing video. In 2014 the number of native video posts on Facebook exceeded the number on YouTube. Mark Zuckerberg stated last year that if you look to the future, a lot of content that people will share will be video. Facebook’s algorithm now prioritizes video over photos for display in news feeds. It’s not just Facebook. Twitter is also pushing native video this year.

A third reason is that video is just a better medium for some communications. Explanations, screencasts, and webinars are often more effective ways to tell a story or to show product or service features and benefits. Micro videos via Vines or Instagram may be very effective for a short burst of humor or beauty or amazement.

Social media marketers have historically talked about and striven for video virality. But the data show that after a short viral period engagement goes back to pre-viral levels. I believe the goals should be:

  • match the medium to the message
  • strive for engagement and shareability

If marketers just read the headlines, we would all migrate all future content to video. But that will just shift the social media clutter to video instead of photos. What will we do then to break through the new video clutter? It’s the latest fad, but I would argue to think more about matching the medium to your message. Use video when it makes sense and will help you to not only capture attention but also to engage your audience.

Use video when you need to:

  • explain and demonstrate something
  • do a webinar to go in depth on a subject
  • tell a story
  • show something beautiful
  • share a heartwarming experience of interaction
  • interact with people or animals
  • amaze people with a stunt or feat of adventure

I believe 2015 is the year of social media marketing video. I also predict that many marketers will jump onto the bandwagon blindly. What have your video marketing experiences been so far on social media? What are your plans for 2015?

 

 

web designer

Is Your Web Designer Good or Great?

I’ve seen multiple presentations on what defines a great web designer. These presentations will tell you that there are specific things that define a great website and a good website. They mention–sometimes quite emphatically– that great websites are never created from templates and that a good website design and a great website design are vastly different.  I would argue that a great web designer is one who understands your audience and your business objectives to create a visually appealing design that produces results.

Good design and great design are two very different things. By the same token, what separates a good web designer from a great web designer isn’t quite so pat or so easily distinguished. There are a few criteria by which you can tell what is and what is not a good website design. In fact, you’ll read a great deal about what defines a good design and how it is different from a great design.

Good design, it’s said, has some tells. In a presentation at Webmaster Jam in about 2005-2006, website great Cameron Moll told the world that the differences between good design and great design were these:

  • Good designers decorate while great designers communicate
  • Good designers believe less is more while great designers felt that less and more could effectively co-exist.
  • Good designers fixed problems, while great designers prevented them.
  • Good designers treated text as content, while great designers treated text as a user interface.
  • Good designers use good typefaces while great designers use good typography.
  • Good designers redesign while great designers realigned.

With all due respect to Mr Moll, there’s a little more to it than that. The things that qualify as great design in this presentation are things that can be taught and imparted by a good school and ample practice. What makes a great web designer are things that usually cannot.

You don’t often find something that tells you what a great web designer does that makes him great. Most of it has to do with quality, timely, outstanding website design.

Some of it, however, does not. .

Does the man who has clients out the door and around the block, whose every design is spot on qualify as a great designer? Does he hold that status if his work is always late and his attitude is always bad? If he cares more about his fee than he does about your brand, does he get to keep the great designer status?

Not if the customer is wise, he doesn’t.

Does a good web designer whose work is solid, speedy and timely, very good, but perhaps not outstanding qualify as great? Do they achieve that status if they bring with them a wonderful attitude, a willingness to listen, and a work ethic that sees them completing their work on time and under budget?

They probably do qualify as great in that instance, but if the design isn’t precisely right, we’re not going to give them the name.

Can a good designer produce a great design? The answer is of course they can. With the right practice, the right tools and the right input from the customer, a good designer, one who has less than perfect skills can give you a great design.

Just as any other skill can be enhanced by learning, can be built on by practice, website design can as well. Breaking out of your normal routine, exploring and expanding your horizons can produce a great design from a good designer. In fact, mediocre designers can produce top quality “excellent” designs.

What do you look for in a great web designer?

If you’re looking for a quality web designer, what you define as great will have a lot to do with how you select them. For the most part, and in our personal opinion, a great web designer has specific qualities that make them not only someone who produces consistently high quality designs, but someone who is a pleasure to work with and with whom you can communicate easily and readily.

A great designer brings you:

  • A web design that is visually appealing, easy for your audience to use and achieves your desired business results.
  • The ability to communicate and a response within a reasonable time span.
  • A good quality design for a cost effective price.
  • An outstanding ability to work with you until you nail down exactly the look and feel and business results that you want from your website.
  • A speedy, reliable, attractive, well coded website that offers your users a great user experience.
  • Someone who understands SEO (search engine optimization) and factors that into the web design
  • A timely completion of the website.
  • A quality experience with someone who is concerned about your brand and your business.

In short, the difference between a good and great web designer is often in the fine details.

In part, it’s in the speed of your site, in the customer experience that the website offers. In part, a great designer is someone who is willing to go the extra mile, to provide you what you need, when you need it, to work hard to please you and to provide you with a few little extras as you need them.

A great web designer does all those things on time while providing you with a unique and enjoyable experience while building the website.

web site design outdated

You Know Your Web Site Design is Outdated if. . .

Is your web site design outdated? In the old days, we “Let our fingers do the walking.” The phone book was the go-to place for finding what we wanted so far as goods and services. Today customers don’t normally opt for the phone book when they are looking for goods and services. If you’re like most businesses out there, your website is likely the first point of contact for customers seeking your services.

What is the first impression of your business? What do your potential customers see when they land on your URL? Is your website contemporary and modern or does it provide a dated look that doesn’t show you or your business off in your best light?

Worse still, does it load in several minutes instead of several seconds? If it does then you’ve got to do something to change it all.

Take a long look at your website. Here are a few ways to determine whether or not your website might need a little renovation to be appealing to your customers?

Is your information outdated? If you’re showcasing the employee of the month from 15 years ago, it may be time for an update. If there are staff members on the staff pages whose retirement party you attended 10 years ago, it’s probably time to redesign and while you’re at it, get some updated content to replace the slightly moldy stuff that you’re currently showing to your visitors.

Do you have blinking links or scrolling text? While done in small amounts, it can be effective, the old school sites from the mid nineties offered blinking text, animated images and text that scrolled backward and forward across the site. If there’s enough blinking on your site to bring on an epileptic attack, it’s time for an upgrade. There’s nothing more certain to turn off visitors than an old and obviously outdated website.

Are you showing a splash page? You know your web site design is outdated if you’ve got a splash page as your opening credit. If you’ve got the old school look of a logo and a single page telling your visitors to click here, it’s well past time for an update. Those are one of the best ways to prove you’re a well dated company who has neglected your website. In addition, Google tends to frown on splash pages or doorway pages, so you’re probably not doing as well in search as you could be if you spent some time to update and speed up your website.

Do all of your in-site links tell your visitors to “Click here to. . .” If that’s the case you’re using a 90s method that is not the best way to accomplish what you want from your website. The website links today offer information about the pages that you’re going to be visiting or they offer anchor text. Click here is a sure sign of an outdated page that needs a revision.

Is your entire site built in flash? Do you have an entire website built in flash technology? A few years ago, full sites created in flash were the be all and end all. Today we tend toward easier and faster sites such as WordPress, Joomla or Drupal. These are easier to update and load more rapidly. If you’re using an all flash website, flash is difficult to read so the odds are good that your customers are waiting for the site to load and you’re lagging in search. Time for an update to something a little more modern.

Are you sporting a custom visitor counter? While a visitor counter was a wonderful thing in the old days, today they are considered amateur night. Counting our visitors is considered a private thing and we do it using analytics or other methods that aren’t quite as public as the traditional digital watch style visitor’s counter displayed proudly on every page. If you’ve got one on a new site, get rid of it. If you’ve got one on an old site, get a quote on a new site. Chances are that you need one.

Last but certainly not least, are you using coding that hasn’t been in use since Homer was a pup? If you’re using fortran, basic or html to create the pages of your site, there’ s a better way for both you and your customers. Getting an updated web site design means that your customers are going to have a better, faster and more modern site that will give them a much better experience. Make it sleek, make it clean, and make it easy to use.

An updated web site design is going to help you to rank better, to draw in more visitors and to bring you a great return on the investment. If you’ve kept the website that you have more than two years, it’s well past time for an update. Take a look at all of the great new designs and themes that are out there and pick one… and hurry.

web design company choice

How to Hire the Right Web Design Company for Your Business

Hiring a web design company that fits you and your business is key to your success. You’ve heard the old saying, “you only get one chance to make a good first impression.” That stodgy old proverb is as true in the internet age as it was before the advent of computers. So far as the website user is concerned, the face of the company is that website they see when they surf to your URL.

The website, how fast or slow it is or what it has to offer, is the only thing that they know about your company. It’s representing you. How do you hire the company that is going to design and create that site? In short, how do you hire the company that is going to be responsible for the growth and success of your online presence?

It may be the wrong decision for you and your company to use the first web design company that a friend mentions or that you see in an ad.

Here are a few tips that may help to guide you in the right direction. As you read these, bear in mind there are exceptions to every rule, but they are few and far between. Make sure before you hire your company that they really are the exception.

Review sites they have created. Check out the sites that they have created and how fast or slow they are as well as how well they work.  You’re looking for quality of work.  Do the sites load quickly?  Do they make use of modern web design trends?  Is navigation simple and clear?  Is it easy to find desired information?  Do they work on mobile devices as well as desktop browsers?

What type of websites have they designed? If the site is designed in custom code, or in code such as Flash ( a very poor choice for SEO purposes incidentally) it’s going to get quite costly for you to have them update the site every time that you require a small change or a photo added. CMS or content management systems such as WordPress or Drupal are the best option. Find out if they are willing to design in this type of platform to allow ease of use for you.

Ask them a few questions about search engine optimization and marketing. SEO is imperative today and knowing something about it means creating a site that will rise more quickly in search. The ideal designer has done at least some rudimentary studies in SEO and can offer you solid insights. Those insights are invaluable when your site is designed. Having the site reflect best practices in SEO from the ground up can make a huge difference when it comes to how well the search engines receive the site.

What other marketing expertise do they offer in addition to web design?  Maybe you only need a designer to execute your vision.  Or maybe you would be better served by someone with marketing expertise who can challenge and add value to your thinking and plans.  Do you have a winning marketing strategy? Do you have a consistent brand across traditional and digital marketing?  Do you have a social media marketing plan?  How will you develop and populate content to your site?  Will you have a blog?  What will you use for email marketing?

How Reliable are They? Find out how long it took for them to create other sites from start to finish. Do you work with the same designer from beginning to end? How responsive were they to the needs of the customer and how long did it take them to respond to questions and concerns regarding the design or the process?

How do they communicate with clients? Do you want someone who can take your vision or brief, go away, and come back with a completed product?  Or do you want someone who can discuss, iterate, and review with you the direction of the project and make any mid-course changes or corrections?  How often will you hear about and see progress on your web design?  What will be the checkpoints and milestones for you to review and approve?  How will changes to the original project be handled?  Do you feel comfortable with the amount and style of the communications?

Check references. A good web design company –even if they are relatively new in the web design business– will be able to offer you references from both individuals and businesses.

The Cost of the Work. Other considerations in choosing the right company will of course be the price. Is it fair and how closely does it fall into line with other designers. Regardless of where you are located, the designer should at least be close in price to other designers in their area and of their experience. If they are a great deal higher, it may be that they are far more skilled, or it may be that you’re paying for the name and not the actual cost of their work. If they are a great deal lower, you should be asking yourself–and them–why that is the case.

Last, but certainly not least, take a look at their own site. Chances are that if they didn’t take great care in selecting the style, designing the layout and creating the text, they aren’t going to do that for yours either.

Taking the time and doing the due diligence that it takes to get a well made website says a lot about you and your company. Unwieldy or poorly constructed websites speak volumes to those who may be considering doing business with you. If your website is going to speak about your company, make sure that it’s saying what your prospective customers want to hear.

facebook ads mafia boss

The Facebook Ads Mafia Shakedown: Pay or Suffer the Consequences

Facebook ads can be a very effective way to gain awareness of potential customers and to engage customers and prospects over time.  It is a critical digital marketing tool for most businesses to establish and nurture profitable customer relationships over time (there’s that definition of marketing again!).  Facebook used to be the village square where people and merchants met freely to exchange information and goods.  On the small island of Kauai where I live we do this at the local Costco.  But Facebook allowed us to do this globally.

The Start of the Shakedown

Ah, the good old days.  But then the Facebook ads mafia decided the village square didn’t have to be free for merchants and businesses.  They could cleverly extort money from them in order to stay in place or else be relegated to the back alleys.  This shakedown scheme began a couple of years ago now.  If you were a business on Facebook back in February 2012, you saw an average organic fan reach of 16% with your posts.  By March of 2014 you saw an average organic fan reach of 6.51%.  (Source: Social@Ogilvy study.)  It was even worse for pages with more than 500 likes.  In other words, if you didn’t pay up, your reach and performance suffered.  If you are a new business developing your social media marketing strategy, be prepared to pay up and pay for advertising to achieve results that were previously free.

Back in 2012 Facebook started changing their algorithm about what would be displayed in News Feeds.  So while you still may see that casserole recipe post from Aunt Mary on a regular basis, you are not seeing all the photos posted by a big box store you follow.  Many businesses have tried increasing the number of posts in order to tread water with the total reach that they previously had.  But is that achieving the desired business result?  Is your objective just to get something in front of a person with your business name associated, or is your business objective for them to do something (click your website, signup for a newsletter, go to your ecommerce site, contact you, etc.).  Most of us would say the latter.  So where it used to matter how many “likes” you had to establish a fan base, now what matters is the cost per desired engagement.  Note that I say “desired engagement” as opposed to Facebook’s “engagement” defined as like, comment, or share.

Engagement in Facebook’s terms means that someone reacted to the photo or status

Note that Facebook’s reported metrics may still not be accurate for either reach or engagement, although they continue to improve.  I know from my own Facebook ads that in auditing some engagements on posts, I found that the person was not at all in my defined target audience.  So there is still plenty of room for improvement.  Your mileage may vary.

What Can You Do?

You really have two primary alternatives:

1. Create extremely engaging content that will be widely shared within your target audience so that Facebook displays your posts more often.

OR

2. Pay up or suffer the consequences – buy ads and pay for boost posts to your specific targeted audience or be sidelined by Facebook

Extremely Engaging Content

According to TechCrunch, Facebook’s algorithm takes a large number of factors into consideration when deciding how much to display your content.  But the main factors for News Feed Visibility are:

  • Interest – Has the user expressed interest in you before or your type of business/content?
  • Post performance – How well did this post perform with other users?
  • Creator – How has other content you created before performed with users?
  • Type – Is it a photo, status, video, or other, and does this match the type preferred by this user?
  • Recency – Is it new or stale?
  • and about 100 other factors

If you already have a lot of “likes” then you have an advantage, but no guarantee of success.

Pay Up - Buy Facebook Ads and Boost Posts

If you’re new to the game or you want to do more than just tread water with your fans/prospects/customers, then it’s time to pay up.  But first make sure you are clear on your business objective and on your target audience.  Otherwise you will be wasting money.  Back in December 2014 Facebook announced a new feature of Call to Action buttons on business pages.  This will help move someone to action if they actually visit your Facebook page.  But how many will?  And how many will just look at your post and move on?  So think carefully about your target audience, what post content will engage them, and what desired action they should take as a result?  In my case, having someone “like” my post isn’t very valuable to my business.  I don’t know if that person will do anything else or remember my company of if they just like the photo that I posted.  I want them to come to my web site, learn more, and either sign up for a newsletter to stay in touch or contact us.  It’s good if they like our page as a secondary objective to have some connection to us.   Your objectives may be different in order to grow your business.

Besides having a Facebook page with a Call to Action button and a page full of interesting content, what makes an individual post compelling for someone to take action?

First, you have to capture their attention visually as they scan through a News Feed or sidebar:

  • An eye catching image
  • A video
  • A compelling quote or status update (some people argue that text posts are now cutting through the clutter of picture posts in order to get more attention)

Once you have captured their attention, you need to have some compelling content that causes them to take action, whether that is to like your post, click through to your web site, like your page, or start shopping.  See our related blog post on compelling content for some ideas on how to keep attention once you have grabbed it!

Finally, be sure to create more than one ad to test and measure.  Be prepared to make modifications based on performance metrics.  It is not a “set it and forget it” system.  Monitor your dashboard and be prepared to cancel, revise, or kill ads based on your testing and results.

Do you have a Facebook page that the reach has declined?  Have you done Facebook advertising?  How did it compare to Google Ad Words for you?  What have been the business results?  Please share.

 

digital marketing strategy

7 Advantages of Digital Marketing Strategy over Traditional

You’re a business owner or executive looking for ways to grow your business.  How do you come up with an effective marketing strategy?  What is the role of advertising as part of your marketing strategy?  Should it be traditional marketing?  Should it be online, digital marketing?  Or should it be some combination of the two?

The Modern Customer Purchase Funnel

The purpose of marketing is to enable and drive sales.  In my many years of experience as a marketing executive, I believe effective marketing starts with an understanding of your target customer’s buying behavior.  Market research and feedback helps you to refine this.  But there are some useful customer purchase models to help organize your thinking and idenitify where you may need to gather further information or do testing.  A classic customer purchase model was the AIDA one:

  • Awareness
  • Interest
  • Desire
  • Action

But the Internet has changed that.  It is no longer sufficient.  A modern customer purchase model that I find useful is:

  • Awareness
  • Research and familiarity
  • Opinion and Shortlist
  • Consideration
  • Purchasing
  • Champion/Repurchase OR Defect/Detract

Think about this with regard to your own buying behavior for different products and services.  For example, I am planning to build a house and need kitchen appliances.  I have some general awareness of appliance brands, but I have become aware of newer ones through ads and web sites and store visits.  I started to research the brands and how they will meet our needs.  I asked people in stores.  They offered a little insight, but I found a lot more insight and information on the Web.  This is a major purchase that we will live with for a long time so I want to make sure we get it right.  On the Web, I can also see customer reviews and lab tests of products to understand what other people have experienced.  I can see video demos of the products being used.  We have formed some opinions and narrowed down the list of brands we are interested in.  Now we’re drilling down on those two brands to consider features, pricing, reliability, style, etc. to decide which ones we will purchase.  Once we purchase and begin to use those products, we will either be satisfied customers who will champion them to others online and offline and eventually repurchase OR we will be dissatisfied customers who will make that known and detract from the brand.

Traditional vs. Digital Marketing

Customer buying behavior has shifted and so should your marketing mix.  Should it be all traditional or all online?  It depends on your business and your customers.  For many businesses the answer may be somewhere in the middle.  But the 4 Ps (product, price, place, promotion) are no longer sufficient.

What are the advantages of online, digital marketing strategy over traditional marketing?

  1. Lower costs –Traditional marketing is expensive.  It takes a lot of people, lead time, and materials.  Trade shows, direct mail, TV or radio ads are all costly.  Digital marketing is much less expensive.  The cost to create and maintain a web site is much lower.  The cost to write a blog or send an email newsletter is minimal. The cost to run PPC ads on Google or Facebook is much less.  The cost to make changes is dramatically less.
  2. Target your message –  Your targeting is limited with traditional marketing.  Many of your tools are broadcast to a wide audience rather than narrowcast to someone getting ready to make a purchase decision.  You can target the right message to the right person and based on where they are in the customer purchase decision process.
  3. Measure ROI – In traditional marketing you are often guessing which marketing elements contributed to return on investment because it would cost too much to find out.  With digital marketing feedback is immediate and measurable.  Analytics give us data on the performance and conversions associated by different online marketing activities.
  4. Change or refine strategy easily – It’s difficult and time consuming to make changes to traditional marketing elements.  Re-designing and re-printing a brochure takes time.  Re-shooting a television ad takes time.  Digital marketing is much faster to test and refine.  You can do A/B testing and get immediate feedback.  You can see where you are spending money with results and without results.  You can stop and/or change things with less effort and shorter lead times.  Real-time feedback and analytics tell you when and how to change your strategy.
  5. Engage prospects longer – Nobody reads a long brochure.  A TV or radio ad is usually 30 seconds.  A trade show may yield a brief conversation.  But online marketing can grab and hold attention.  It can help to start building a relationship with a prospect or reinforce a relationship with an existing customer.  Online, digital marketing is informative.  It is not just PPC ads.  It is educating and informing your audience so they can take the next step in their purchase decision process.  They can interact with your business via text, images, video, chat.  They can see what others have experienced with your business.  They can learn more about the values of your business or how you work behind the scenes.
  6. Be available 24/7 – If I wake up in the middle of the night I can still engage with your business as part of my purchase decision process.  I don’t have to wait for a store to open or a sales person to call.  And the content is long lasting.  A blog post I write this year may be just as valuable to new prospects next year.   Or it can easily be updated to be always accessible over time.
  7. Be less intrusive – Most of us don’t want to be sold on something.  We want to come to our own conclusions.  We value advice and a small set of alternatives that are tailored to our particular needs and wants.  But we don’t like people pushing something to us based on features and functions that we may or may not need.  Online, digital marketing is available when I want it.  It is informative.  It helps me move through my decision process at my pace.

On the island of Kauai we have many businesses that are targeted to visitors.  One of those businesses is selling activities to enjoy while on vacation (ziplines, fishing trips, snorkeling, etc.)  It used to be that visitors almost always arrived and then met in person with a concierge at a hotel or a shop to be told what the offers and recommendations are and to make their purchase decisions.  But that business model has been shifting rapidly.  Now a large proportion of visitors arrive on the island having already researched activities online, reviewed customer reviews, shopped for discounts and promotions, and made a purchase before they ever got here.

Is the answer today all traditional marketing or all digital marketing?  For a startup business in particular industries all digital may be the right answer.  For some more traditional industries, traditional marketing may still dominate overall marketing investment.  But for many businesses the shift is occurring between the two.  You may still need traditional elements for that face to face connection via trade shows and an outside sales force.  It depends on your product/service and your target customers’ buying behaviors.  But chances are your marketing mix will need to shift increasingly toward online, digital marketing.

What do you think?  Have you shifted your marketing mix or is it all traditional or all digital?  Have you seen customer buying behavior changing in your business?  Please share for the benefit of others working on their marketing strategies.

 

 

Web Design Top 10 Trends

Web Design Top 10 Trends for 2015

Why should you care about web design trends for 2015 if you are not a web designer?  If you have a website that has not been updated for a few years, you not only may look stodgy and out of date but also may be poorly positioned by Google in search results.

If you don’t already have a website, you have a couple of options.  You can use a service for a “free” website (see There Ain’t No Such Thing as a Free Website) or a website generator and be locked into their design choices for you.  Or if you are considering a custom web design these are important items to discuss with your web designer.

Good design is a reflection of your business.  A well designed website can help to differentiate you and engage your audience on an emotional level as well as based on content.  A poorly designed site can cause your prospective customers to move on to your competitor.

I have looked at a lot of web sites and predictions of trends by people in the web design business.  In this blog I boil it down to the top ten that you as a business owner should pay attention to in 2015.

1. Responsive, Mobile First – More than half of all email is now read on mobile devices.  Your mobile web traffic may be a lower percentage for now, but I bet it is increasing every month.  It won’t be long before mobile web access exceeds desktop web access.  If your site is not already using responsive web design to appear on mobile devices, you need to make that a priority now.  In addition, some web sites are now adopting mobile techniques such as hidden or sliding side menus across all devices including desktops.  Mobile will drive more design trends in the future as that becomes the majority of web views.

2. Performance and Speed – If your site takes too long to load on a mobile or desktop device you may lose a prospective customer or annoy an existing one.  Even more importantly performance and speed is part of how Google ranks your site for display in search results.  If your site has not been optimized for performance and speed your page rank may be slipping relative to competitors.  Make sure your web design pays attention to performance and speed.

3. Larger images and less text – We are bombarded with information.  We skim most of the emails we receive and the web sites we visit.  We are scanning for the important points and maybe stopping to read when something catches our eye.  Large images are one way to communicate and to cause the eye to stop.  It really is true that a picture is worth a thousand words!  An image with text or information overplayed may give you a big bang impact.  At a minimum it may draw the readers’ attention to read more.  Less text in your web design, more bullets and lists, and more graphics and infographics are ways to capture attention and transfer information quickly.

4. Video – Video is a powerful medium that is becoming more prevalent on web sites.  Videos can be very effective to tell a story or evoke an emotion.  They are very useful for instructions and training.  They are a way to show a product in three dimensions or a way to provide a demonstration of a product or service.  Think about how a video may be able to communicate more effectively than words or pictures.

5. Flat design and material design – Flat design has been around for a long time in general, but became important in the digital world in the past several years.  Apple’s IOS 7 release in 2013 prompted a lot of attention to flat design.  Flat design is simple web design.  It doesn’t try to make things three dimensional.  It is easy to scale across devices.  It uses simple elements, typography and flat colors.  Material design was announced by Google in 2014.  It is widely used in Android and other Google applications.  It includes increased use of grid-based layouts, responsive animations and transitions, padding, and depth effects such as lighting and shadows.

6. Big typography – Along with simplicity, flat design, and larger images is also the trend toward big typography.  It’s another way to stop the reader’s eye and grab attention.  It screams out “look at me” and “this is important.”  It’s like the old days of skimming a newspaper for the headlines.  It’s simple, clear, to the point, and attention grabbing.

7. Pinterest style cards – Another key trend in web design is a way of making it easy to scan a lot of information quickly primarily using images and “cards.”  Your eye can quickly scan across the cards and titles to see if something catches your eye to stop, click, and drill down.  This is the format on the growing Pinterest social media site.  The blog page on our site is also an example of this trend.

8. Scrolling, not clicking – Users on mobile devices prefer to scroll rather than click to find more information.  As a result websites are increasingly using long pages with scrolling rather than menus and navigation to click through.  Apple’s web page for the iPad Air 2 is an example of this trend (plus others).  Lots of navigation and clicking in web design is out.  Minimal navigation and scrolling are in.

9. Storytelling and emotion – One way to differentiate your company to prospects and to encourage ongoing customer relationships is to tell stories and to create emotional connections.  The testimonial or reference account has always been an important part of the traditional marketing mix.  Customer reviews are another important part of many commerce and travel sites.  Telling stories related to your company helps to create an emotional response in the reader of your site.  The story may be executed with images and text or may be most effective with video in your web design.

10. Modular instead of pages – Related to trend 7, modern web design is also shifting to be more modular rather than going through pages.  Cards are an example of this.  Masonry or tiled layouts are examples of modular web design.  Instead of navigation you are scanning through tiles of images with text overlays to determine where you want to stop and drill down further.  Line25.com compiled a useful post of 25 Web Designs with Modular Content Block Layouts.  My personal blog at kauaiguys.com is another example that uses the Booklet theme for WordPress and is designed to be modular.

Wondering if your site is up to date and effective for your target audience?  When was the last time you updated the format?  Updated the content?  

For a free web site review click here to contact us.

free website no such thing

There ain’t no such thing as a free website!

Many small businesses looking at web design on Kauai or anywhere else in Hawaii or around the world are finding free website alternatives online.  But what does free really mean?  Are you being smart and economical or are you locking into something with other implications and challenges?  Over 6 million people and businesses have joined Weebly and have set up many more million websites on their platform.  Websiteooltester.com covers the pros and cons of many of the free website providers.  So wouldn’t that be the way to go?  With them or one of their competitors?  Not necessarily.

In economics the principle that there is no such thing as a free lunch is used to denote that everything has an opportunity cost.  The phrase was used early on in the U.S. in the days of saloons that offered a “free lunch” if you purchased at least one drink.  It was also used to talk about government corruption.  But in modern times the economist Milton Friedman helped to make the phrase really popular by using it as the title of his 1975 book.

The concept that nothing is free serves to remind us that there is an opportunity cost to everything.  By choosing one investment you have an opportunity cost of what the alternative would have been.  Even if someone does invite you for a free lunch, there may be some other agenda or obligation on your part.  At the very least there is an opportunity cost of the alternative ways that you could have used your time while eating the free lunch.  Your time has value and that value is determined by how you use it.

What does free lunch have to do with a free website?

There is opportunity cost to accepting a free website.  You are choosing a set of parameters, design styles, contracts, and timeframes for a free website that may sound good in the short term, but have other costs.  After all, who doesn’t want free?  You’re starting a new small business and you’re looking to do everything economically.  However, being economical may not automatically mean taking the free alternative.

What are some of the advantages of the free website?

  • It’s free! (well, mostly anyway)
  • The tools are simple and easy to use
  • It’s fast to do
  • You can do it yourself
  • The complexity of web design tools, domain names and web hosting are masked to you
  • There are a lot of pre-loaded designs available
  • The sites are large and growing and adding features over time

What to look out for with free website providers

  • Is the domain name registered in your name?  Can you take it with you?
  • Are you obligated/required to purchase other services from the free website provider?
  • How long is the hosting contract with the free provider?
  • Is the free part limited to a certain time period?
  • Will they display ads on your site?  Will you be able to control the type and placement?
  • Will they add other external links to your site?
  • What level of support do they provide and in your time zone?
  • Do they provide any system availability guarantees?
  • Do they run regular backups of your site in case of a crash?
  • Do they require a setup fee or other admin fee?
  • Do they charge for monthly hosting and is it a higher fee than the industry average?
  • If you decide to switch later to a custom site can you take the site with you and transfer it to another host?
  • They may say they will submit your site to search engines, but are there any tools or guidelines to optimize your site for search engines to rank highly?
  • Do they provide a branded email address with your domain or is that an additional charge?
  • How much space do they provide?  How expensive will it be to upgrade if your business grows?
  • You have access only to the features they provide
  • There are limits to what you can customize to your business
  • What happens to your site if the company is acquired or goes out of business?

You may be thinking I’ll start out with this free website and then switch to a custom one later.  That may not be possible to do or it may be costly.  You may be disappointed when you are not showing up in search engine rankings, but another web designer can’t help you without building a new website.

Is a free website good marketing?

Free websites continue to improve and add features, but it may still be apparent to your prospective customers that it is a free website.  How serious are you about your business?  Do you look like a business that is investing to succeed?  Or do you look like thousands of other Weebly sites who have chosen the same design template?

Your web site is one of the key marketing tools to reach your new and existing customers.  Are you able to provide compelling content in a way that makes sense to them and that reflects the unqueness of your company?

If upfront cost is the issue, you may be able to work with your web designer or digital marketing partner to bundle the cost into a year long contract that could include web hosting or other social media services.  If they are open to that alternative, you may be able to spread part or all of the upfront cost over a longer contract with them.  You may want to consider alternatives other than just looking at the upfront price and making that your sole decision criterion.

After all, there ain’t no such thing as a free website!

 

 

 

Aulii Luau dancers at Kauai Chamber of Commerce

Kauai Chamber of Commerce Case Study

I was honored last evening to be featured as a new member at the Kauai Chamber of Commerce Annual General Membership Meeting.  I am so pleased to be a part of these talented business professionals, to get acquainted, and to become part of the community.  There is so much entrepreneurial spirit here across a number of industries.

As a new member I had a display table to do some traditional event marketing with other local businesses.  It was great to meet new people and to learn about their business ventures.  I was in between the dancers from ‘Auli’i Lu’au and the Westin Princeville Ocean Resort Villas.  While I focus now on digital, online marketing, I have also done a lot of traditional marketing in my prior roles in technology and consulting companies.  You may have a business where you can rely solely on digital marketing, but many businesses still need a mix of both.  As a business and marketing professional, I would not hesitate to recommend a mix if it were the right fit.  There is still a huge value to connect with others in your own industry as well as in others and to form those relationships both in person and online.

One of the things that I love about being located on the island of Kauai is the common view that we are all in this canoe together.  The canoe is such an important part of Hawaiian history and culture.  It is such a powerful symbol to me that when we row and steer in a common direction we all reach our destination faster and safer.  This is part of the culture and values of Kauai that drew me to locate here.  For the canoe to move forward, we need to work together.  All as one.  One canoe, one ohana, one community. And I believe it is a strong value to guide our business interactions.

KaiKini Case Study of Traditional and Digital Marketing

In learning about the business ventures of others based here, I was especially struck by the story of the founder and CEO of KaiKini Bikinis.  She shared with me how she started with an idea and vision and acquired the skills she needed along the way.  She envisioned designing and making bikinis in her unique style and optimized for wear while being active.  She did not know how to sew, but she bought some commercial sewing machines, experimented, and taught herself to not only design but also to manufacture the pieces.  She used traditional marketing and selling to get some local stores to carry her pieces as part of starting her business.  She also focused on digital marketing and began social media marketing to engage her customers and to gain further visibility.  She got additional retailers on other islands to stock her products.  As the business started to grow, she hired others to train to sew.  And she taught herself to set up a website.  She now has several employees and continues to grow her business as a manufacturer and wholesaler while also selling directly worldwide via her ecommerce website at kaikini.com.  She uses blogs and social media marketing as well as Google Adwords PPC ads in her digital marketing mix.  A consultant manages her PPC ads for her so she can devote her time to other business initiatives.  She uses BigCommerce as her web hosting and tools provider.  What an inspiration that she has built a business to market and sell Hawaiian-made products all over the world.  And the digital marketing and sales are a key growth area of her business!

What a great evening with the Kauai Chamber of Commerce!

mobile first

Mobile First!

Today it is about being mobile first!  If people cannot access your content easily and clearly on mobile devices, you are missing the boat!  This is true all over, but on the island of Kauai, this can be a literal statement.  I was recently chatting with the owner of a rental shop near the port where cruise ships come in.  He was telling me that he had developed a web site, but he had not thought about it being mobile first.  But his target customers all arrive with mobile devices.  He said, “I see them coming off the ship all looking at their smartphone or tablets.”  The same is true of nearby hotel and timeshare visitors.

Nielson reports that over the past year, the average consumer spent nearly seven hours more per month with their mobile phones, and more than 70% of mobile users use smartphones.

Mobile first email marketing

According to Movable Ink’s Q1 2014 US Consumer Device Preference Report email opens continue to migrate away from the desktop.  In fact, two thirds of emails are opened on a mobile device.   Within that, the tablet share of email opens continues to grow.

Movable Ink said that 66 percent of emails were opened on either a smartphone (47.2 percent) or tablet (18.5 percent) in Q1 2014. That’s up slightly from the 65 percent in Q4. By contrast PC email opens were down to 34 percent.

What an opportunity for online, digital marketing.  This means that your email reaches your target audience anytime and anyplace.  Think about that.  But also think about how it must be designed for the customer on the go.  If you don’t grab him/her with the title and the first five lines of your email, they will move on to the next one.   It has to be attention grabbing, get quickly to the value for your customer, and then to the call to action.  In a previous role, I wrote many such emails to be used by the salespeople in our company.  Many of them were surprised that they got a quick response from a senior executive.  It was because it was targeted at them, designed to be read on a mobile device, with a clearly stated value proposition and an easy call to action.

Mobile First Blogs

Don’t be surprised if mobile devices are soon the primary way that people read your blog posts.  You can use Google Analytics to see how they are being accessed today and what the trend line is for mobile devices for your particular site.  Have you looked at and thought about how someone will access your blog from a mobile device?  Do your sharing icons work on the mobile device?  Can users comment?  Is there far too much scrolling to the right required?

The best way to find out is to test your site on a variety of devices. But Google also provides a website called Make Your Website Work Across Multiple Devices which helps you test your mobile website for mobile compatibility.  There is also a link to their PageSpeed Insights tool where you can test performance on mobile and desktop devices and get suggestions for improvement.

Mobile First Design

How do you get mobile first design?  If you are designing a new web site, make sure your developer is enabling responsive design.  There are many tools and themes available now to automatically enable web sites to be responsive to mobile devices and to optimize the display and performance.  If you have an existing web site that is not designed for mobile, you have a few choices:

  • Do nothing – your customers will have to enlarge and scroll on a mobile device
  • Re-design to be responsive – if your web site is a few years old, it may be due for a re-design anyway
  • Create a separate mobile site – you could have a separate mobile site, but then you have to maintain two sites

Mobile First Features

The rise in use of mobile devices also opens new opportunities to think about exploiting unique features of those devices.  A common example is being able to link to mobile turn-by-turn directions.  Not only can they find your business online, their device can guide them to you.  They can touch the screen and immediately call or email you.  They can check back in with you during the day and at different locations.  You may also want to make use of location awareness to push certain information or promotions.  And mobile devices are also good for social media integration.  Making it easy to share on social media directly from a mobile device may increase your reach.

So it really is a new world.  I now carry the Internet in my pocket via my smartphone.  When I travel, I stay connected with my tablet to use in the airport, on the plane, and in my hotel room.  I may search for information about a business anytime and anywhere that I have a connection.  If you are not mobile first, you are missing the boat! (maybe literally!)

 

 

Kauai small business landmark Na Pali coast

Does a Kauai small business need social media marketing?

I have heard the question of whether a Kauai small business needs social media marketing.  On the island of Kauai we have a small town culture.  People take time to talk story with each other.  People know people who know people.  There are a lot of word of mouth business referrals.  But there are also many businesses whose target customers include not only locals, but also visitors.  Small businesses here and in other parts of the world are wondering what to do about social media marketing and whether it is worth the time and effort.  As a small business owner your goal should not be excellence at social media.  Your goal should be to increase your business by picking and choosing some social media marketing that will reach your customers and prospects cost effectively.  You could get social media training to do it yourself or you could hire someone to write and manage marketing content for you.

Why Kauai small business social media marketing matters

  • Gain awareness of your target audience, whether locals, transplants, or visitors: People increasingly look for information online and on the go.  There are local Facebook groups for causes and for rants and raves.  There are locals, transplants, and visitors not only searching the web, but also searching social media for Kauai information, products, and services.  Kauai small business is fortunate to have many repeat visitors.  What are you doing to stay in touch with them and make sure they do business with you on their next visit?  What are you doing to encourage them to share information about your business with friends and neighbors who may also visit sometime?   Social media is another place to find out about your small business and to stay connected over time.  It is also a fast and affordable place to do A/B testing of content to see what your target customers responds to most and where they do it from.
  • Drive traffic to your web site:  Having a web site is a basic start for online marketing.  Getting your web site noticed, though, is the goal for attracting new business.  Social media visibility and sharing useful content for your target audience can help to drive people to your web site for more information and to take action.  Or it may cause their friends and neighbors to become aware of your web site by seeing a “like” or share.
  • Capture contact info for email marketing and newsletters:  Sharing interesting content in social media may be the hook to get someone interested in your Kauai small business.  You now have a reason for them to give you their contact info and to sign up for email updates or a newsletter.  They may become aware of your blog posts and updated useful content that will cause them to come to your web site and fill out a form to contact you.  Yes, it’s good to have this on your web site.  But you can use social media to interest people in contacting you.
  • Induce trial of your product or service:  In addition to generating awareness through social media, you may also be able to induce a trial of your product or service.  Providing useful, interesting content can cause them to take action to request more information or to visit your shop.  You might also offer a special promotion on social media for a free sample at a certain time that creates an urgency and excitement to be shared with other friends and neighbors.
  • Foster customer relationships and repeat business:  Social media marketing is also a great way to retain customers, to deepen customer relationships, and re-inforce their buying behavior with you.  We feel proud as consumers when we see an ad or promotion for a brand that we use and with which we have a positive relationship.  Your customers will feel a much stronger connection to your business by also knowing more about you, your suppliers, your employees, your locations, etc.  We all like a peak behind the scenes and to feel like we are insider.
  • Create social media referrals in addition to word of mouth referrals:  This is a real strength of social media marketing.  Humorous, emotional, or just useful content doesn’t have to go viral to benefit your business.  But having your customers’ friends and contacts seeing and hearing about your brand is an online word of mouth that can spread much faster and certainly much wider than just talking story at the farmer’s market or other local gathering spot.  What are the chances that your small business will come up in conversation?  But if there is useful or interesting information on social media, that can be seen by or shared with others.

How a Kauai small business can get started

Social media marketing for a Kauai small business takes some time and effort.  But you don’t have to be everywhere.  Work with an advisor to pick and choose the platforms that make the most sense for your target customers.  Focus on one or a few.  Don’t try to be an expert on every social media platform.  Focus on the content to be interesting, humorous, emotional, useful (see our other blog posts on compelling content).  It’s not about selling.  It’s about communicating, gaining awareness, inducing trial, and fostering customer relationships.  Test to see what works and to focus your efforts on those that produce real results to grow your business.

So if you are a Kauai small business, you can likely survive without social media marketing, but will you thrive?

 

10 ways to create compelling content

Want 10 Ideas for Compelling Content?

A lot of people doing online, digital marketing are focused on the tools and channels.  But it’s compelling content that causes someone to look at and engage with you.  As you are faced with hundreds of blogs, Facebook posts, and tweets some catch your eye and some don’t.  Here are 10 ways you can catch the attention of your reader with your marketing content:

  1. Tell a story that is relevant – We all like to know how other people have solved problems successfully.  What was the problem/situation?  What did you do?  What was the result?  We all like to learn from these mini case studies.  They establish your credibility.
  2. Write in the language of your customer – I see a lot of web sites, blogs, and Facebook posts aimed at small and mid-sized businesses that use the jargon of tools and acronyms for compelling content marketing.  But their audience are business people, not necessarily technologists or marketers.  To engage your customer, speak their language, not yours.
  3. Provide compelling content that is timely and relevant – It’s about issues and problems your customers are dealing with now.  It’s current.  It’s up to date.  It’s not information on a web site that you last updated 2-3 years ago.
  4. Help solve a problem or give tips and techniques – You provide compelling content when you educate and supply information that assists your audience to solve a problem.  By teaching, your audience solves the problem on their own and remembers your assistance.  Or they may reach out to you to solve the problem on their behalf.  Or your content may be compelling not because it solves their entire problem, but it aids your audience to improve and increase the return on their investment.
  5. Analyze and summarize data for decision-making – Your target customer has multiple competing priorities.  Helping them with data and insights from that data will assist them to make better decisions.  And that will lead to more sharing of the data and visibility to your expertise in the area.
  6. Be concise – The more senior your target customer, the less time they have to consider your information.  Don’t expect them to read a long white paper to get the key points.  Summarize the conclusions/recommendations first and then give the option to read the longer report.  Make your text easy to read.  Use bullets, lists, and graphics.
  7. Create an emotional connection – People love to read and hear heart-warming stories.  Maybe it’s about one of your employees.  Maybe it is about one of your customers.  Maybe it is about something going on in the community in which your business is involved.  Not only do people love to hear a heart-warming story, they also love to share them with others.
  8. Give a peak behind the scenes with insider information – Part of a strong customer relationship is the customer knowing a lot about your company and the people that make up your company.  We feel more connected when we know more about individuals working in your organization.  We also feel valued if you give us a peak behind the scenes.  Do you have an innovative process or interesting equipment or a new technology that would engage me more by becoming an insider with you?
  9. Be humorous – Poke fun at yourselves, your industry, your employees, your pets, but in a positive way.  Be “punny” about your business.  We all love to laugh and to share things that will make other people laugh.
  10. Provide a picture worth a thousand words – In the crush of online blogs, posts, and tweets, pictures grab our attention and compel us to stop and look.  Many pictures are worth a thousand words.  They communicate concepts and ideas succinctly or they at least stop our eyes to read the text.

What are your thoughts?  Have these 10 ways worked on you?  Can you think of examples of marketing content that caused you to stop and take action?

social media marketing

Couldn’t I do social media marketing and a web site myself?

You may be looking at our site and wondering if you could do all this yourself.  Can’t anyone do online and social media marketing?  The answer is yes.  There is nothing magic here.  It is not rocket science.  But will you or should you do it yourself?  It’s

  • time consuming
  • requires learning new skills
  • needs new tools
  • is easy to forget or de-prioritze

 

Marketing strategy

You know the most about your business.  You’re the one who runs it every day.  You may know the most about your current and potential customers.  You can talk to your own customers and prospects to understand their buying behavior and how they search and use information online related to your product or service.  You can research and monitor your competitors online.  You can create your own logo and brand identity or hire a graphic designer to assist.  You can research marketing best practices and new technologies.  It takes time.  It may take even more time until you have gained some experience.

You could use a soup to nuts digital marketing platform, like HubSpot.  It will cost you more money, but it will provide all the tools and already has them integrated.  We looked at HubSpot for our business, but thought we could be more economical, have more flexibility, and do our own integration to achieve a higher return on investment.   Many small and medium-sized businesses are going this direction for digital marketing.  It’s not cheap and it will take time.  You will be locked into their tools and integration platform, but it may easier and faster to do it this way.  And you have complete control of what or what isn’t done.

Web site

Yes, you can develop a web site.  There are tools available now to do a simple web site using drag and drop.  It will get you a web site, but will it communicate in the way your audience looks for information?  Will it lock you into using one particular company’s technology?  Are they stable and well-established or are they a start-up that may disappear?

We use WordPress to develop a web site.  You could install and learn it, too.  It’s the most popular web site development tool.  You could take a class on it.  It will still take some trial and error to learn the ins and outs.  And there are lots of options, like themes and plugins to consider and choose as part of your design.   You will also have to register a domain name, select a web hosting service, and install whatever web design tool you choose.

You can choose the topics and write/edit your own blog posts.  You can keep your site up to date both with the latest technology updates and compelling content.

You can also learn and do SEO (search engine optimization).

Email newsletters

You can also do this on your own.  You will need to manage your own email list.  You will need a design for your newsletters.  You will need to write and edit.   You could use a service for this, like Constant Contact.

Social media marketing

You can decide which social media platforms you want to use for your customers.  You can write, schedule, and post compelling updates.  You can decide whether or not to run ads on social media.  You can create and post ads and monitor their results.  It just takes getting familiar with each platform, best practices for using it, etc.  You can also get a tool like Tweetdeck or Hootsuite to help manage and monitor your social media marketing.  We use Hootsuite so that we can schedule posts across multiple social media sites at once.

Analytics

You can set up Google tracking code for your web site and use Google Analytics to analyze its performance (and performance of your social media to drive web site traffic)  relative to your marketing strategy.  You can get and monitor analytics for ads placed on social media sites.  It’s all available online.  You can read about it or take a course.  It takes some time and some analytical skills.

 

So yes, you can do all this digital marketing stuff yourself.  Do you have the skills or the time to acquire the skills?  Is it where you want to use your management time and creativity?

Contact page

Contact page worst practices: I sent an email, but never heard back……

One of my pet peeves of web sites is the Contact Us page.  Most companies have a form on the Contact page for a customer or prospect to submit an email.  I wish I had a dollar for every time I submitted an email from a web site and never got a reply.  Here’s a thought: If you are not going to read email from your web site, don’t put a form there for people to send you email!  Would you set up a phone number and phone service for your business, but then never answer the phone when it rings?

You are enabling and training your customers on how to communicate with you.  If you will only speak with them in person or via phone or via chat, then tell them that on the Contact page and don’t give them an email address or email form.  If you are putting email on your Contact page, then be sure you know who will monitor that mailbox and be responsible for acknowledging or responding within 24 hours.  If you have not acknowledged the receipt of an email or provided an answer within 24 hours, you have just annoyed or even lost a customer or prospect.  The Internet and Social Media have given us new ways to communicate and engage with customers, but having the tools without the people or processes is going to lead to many missed opportunities and unhappy customers.

SEO

SEO: Do I care and how do I get it?

We see a lot of web design and other digital marketing sites highlighting that they offer SEO (Search Engine Optimization) services.  We have intentionally not labeled it as a separate service that we offer.  We have done that for a couple of reasons:

  • As a small or mid-sized business owner you may not know what SEO is, why it matters to you, or what constitutes a good SEO service
  • Why would you have a web site and NOT want it optimized for search engines to display your content to customers and prospects?  Why would it be something separate from web site design and development?

Yes, we offer SEO services, but as an integral part of our Design and Development services.  As a business owner, you shouldn’t have to care about the technical details of how web sites get optimized for search engines.  But you should care that your valuable, relevant, compelling content is being displayed to customers and prospects when they search for information.

We use WordPress as the primary tool to develop web sites.  With that, there are some other tools and techniques that we use.  (And we think you should look for them as part of any web design and development project.)

It's primarily your content

If someone else is speaking with you about SEO and not starting with your content, they are too far down in the weeds of technology.  A blog may be your most important tool for SEO.  The first and most important way to be noticed effectively by search engines is to have plenty of well written content.  It should be written in the way that your customers and prospects look for information on the Internet.   It should be embedded in links and images as well.  And your site should use good, straightforward navigation links.  Your site and content are deemed more important if they are also linked to by others, including social media.

Other tools and techniques

  • Meta tags provide search engines with places and content to index
  • robots.txt help search engines know where to look for content
  • WordPress categories become technorati tags and others can be added
  • Permalink make it easier for search engines to find your content
  • A sitemap may also enable a search engine
  • Search engine submissions may also be helpful to raise the visibility of your content

So, yes, you should care about SEO.  Start with your content and we can assist.

Quicksprout has put together this very useful infographic as well:

SEO infographic

SEO

 

online marketing

What is Online Marketing? Inbound? Digital? Content?

When I moved from the mainland to Kauai, I needed to find new resources to assist me.  I didn’t listen to broadcast ads or read a newspaper.  I went online and searched for information.  In the process of searching for information, I formed impressions of service providers based on what I was learning from them.  I also was looking for providers who had simple, well laid out web sites, with up to date information.  Not only did I search the worldwide web, I also searched on Facebook for local businesses.  I “liked” some that I found interesting.  I signed up for email newsletters.  I read blogs and learned a great deal that influenced how I planned my move and possible vendors for me to contact that would fit my needs.

It’s a new world for marketing your business. Consumer and business behavior is evolving to be much more like my personal experience above.  Will your potential customers find you and be compelled to engage with you?  Will your online, digital content show up high in their searches?  Will your existing customers feel that they have an ongoing relationship with you, recommend you to others, and do more business with you over time?

If you are presenting no online information or stale, out of date information, I would not probably contact you.  I would look to your competitors who provide me with information and insight and who show they want to have an ongoing relationship.

If you already have a Web site for your business, that’s great.  Is it easy to find information?  Is it regularly updated?  Do you have a blog that provides background, context, information, and insight?  Are you educating your audience, not just selling to them?  It’s a new model of marketing that goes by different names such as online marketing, digital marketing, and inbound marketing.  It’s not just a technology project. It’s a new way of engaging prospects and customers for your unique business.

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