GUEST BLOGGER: 5 Ways to Increase Social Media Engagement

Brands of all shapes and sizes are hung up on making waves in social media.

In such an overcrowded landscape, piercing through the noise and reaching your audience is a daunting task. Well, be that as it may, there are surefire strategies to make it happen. Instead of bombarding people with intrusive marketing and sale pitches, you need to foster meaningful relationships.

Furthermore, it is necessary to invest a great deal of time and effort in getting to know your audience, working out a marketing strategy, and implementing campaigns. But, do not fret. All your blood, sweat, and tears will be a drop in the bucket compared to amazing benefits that wait down the road.

Uncover your unique persona

To drive traffic and conversions, you need to flesh out a unique social media persona. It should be the genuine reflection of who you are (your brand) and what you stand for (your values and mission). Brands like Dollar Shave Club have proven that throwing fun and humor in the mix pays off big time.

The trick is to avoid sounding too promotional. People want to feel something and connect to your story. The best way to influence them is to evoke emotions and provide entertaining, educational and useful pieces of content. Just try to be unique rather than emulating more successful brands. Standing out is the most reliable tactic you can employ.

Embrace a consumer-centric interaction

Social media is the place of constant interaction between brands and customers. It is a far cry from traditional platforms for self-promotion. Alas, one common mistake businesses make is not listening to their audiences. You should know better. Conduct a thorough research to figure out people’s wants, needs, and online habits. Show that you care about what they think.

Take part in conversations on a regular basis and ask users what they would like to see in the future. Comments and reviews can provide you with invaluable insights for fine-tuning your social media strategy. You can also direct followers to your review pages and engage them in instant messaging. In any event, soak in as much feedback as you humanly can.

Host contests

People adore getting free stuff. You can take advantage of this fact and sponsor various giveaways. For instance, you can ask your followers to share and like your social media posts, comment and tag their friends or you can encourage them to submit their own pictures and videos in order to qualify for rewards. These tactics tend to increase the volume of social signals and engagement rates (and you can also end up with a lot of awesome user-generated content).

Moreover, an online contest does not only have to be a strategy for increasing social media engagement but it can also serve as an incentive for your customers to spend money. A great way to achieve this is to launch a loyalty program. For example, research done by ICLP shows that 41% of Hong Kong shoppers would spend more on brands with a loyalty program. So, something like a branded prepaid card in Hong Kong could be a perfect gift for your contest – it generates buzz on social media and also helps you boost sales.

Harness the power of the visual  

Visual content is a social media super-weapon you have to incorporate in your strategy. Studies have shown that posts with quality, non-generic images and videos attract way more likes and shares than plain text. Many brands have managed to increase engagement with assets like behind-the-scenes photos and lighthearted videos.

Of course, there are also image-heavy networks like Pinterest and Instagram, where visuals are basically the name of the game. They provide filters and tools for visual enhancement as well. So, step up content production.  It is time to craft killer posts, master the art of visual storytelling, and enthrall the audience.

Add relevant hashtags

Hashtags are essential tools for improving reach and amplifying the impact of your efforts. They enable you to make the most of keywords and keeping close tabs on the flow of discussion. What is more, hashtags can be used to center conversations on certain trending topics, effectively connecting with everyone who uses the same hashtags.

Try not to go overboard, though. Over-stuffing posts with hashtags can achieve the opposite effect and actually put people off. To tap into new audiences and delight existing customers, take lessons from the best of the best. Coca-Cola, for example, has worked wonders with the #ShareACoke on Instagram and other major networks. That is how you nail the campaign and flatten the competition.

Shape up or ship out

Social media can be a real game-changer. It generates buzz around your business and propels the whole organization towards set objectives. But, rest assured that arresting and retaining attention does not come easy. You first have to come up with a rock-solid game plan and do your homework. Capture consumer data and feedback to refine your approach.

The goal is to make sure your messages and content strike a chord with an audience of a particular social network. Following these steps, you should be able to witness the avalanche of shares and likes coming your way. Just bear in mind that social media engagement is an ongoing process that never really comes to a halt.

So, whatever you do, just do not rest on the laurels or take loyalty for granted.

Elaine Bennett
unnamed

Competition……

Competition, does it exist?  Absolutely!  BUT how you deal with competition will make a huge difference in your business.

The Social Media space has a TON of people who offer the same services as me, yet they are different.  We all have our own unique qualities, our own thoughts on how things work, what is beneficial, what is not and of course, we are all different in how we deliver.

This means, that not everyone is going to be your client and when someone reaches out to you, you need to make sure you understand what makes up that business owner and their business, along with how you work/deliver.  You need to make a decision as to whether they are the right fit and if not, then recommend one of your competitors.

I have 3 Social Media people that I refer business to and they do the same.  We all know that we have something different to offer each business owner and sometimes, the other person could be the best fit for the client.

Embrace your competitors, find out who they are, their personalities, what they offer in regards to products/services and utilize this when someone reaches out to you.

What I love about competition is that it is not just about someone doing the same business as you.  Competition comes in many forms and usually shows it’s ugly head when there is a jealousy component added in.  When we work hard, when we build our businesses, when we show success, sometimes that will lead to others believing you are their competitor.  When this competition arises, you have to remember that it is really not about you, it is the issue of the other person, and it has nothing to do with your business, it is a personal element.

I believe that when you reach this level of competition, that means that you have built success for yourself.  So congratulate yourself on achieving success, because if there are other business owners who do not like you, it is most likely because of this reason.

Go out there and create competition……

Facebook, is it over for businesses?

Since Facebook announced the algorithm change for Business Pages, back in January, many business owners have either left the platform or have given up.

The reality is that as a small business owner we can still continue to grow on Facebook.  There are many elements available through Facebook that allow us to keep building our businesses.  You have your personal timeline, groups and YES, your Business Page.

What I have seen and heard, is that it was the larger companies, those who had larger followings, that got more affected by the change than us ‘little’ guys.  Reason being is that they had huge amounts of engagement (like/comment/shares) than we had, so the decrease in numbers were much more noticeable.

I will tell you that I personally, did not see a difference in my “number of people reached” on each of my posts, I am still averaging 600 daily reach on my posts.  Why?

I have been using Facebook for 10 years for business, with the last 6 focused on my Facebook business.  During those 10 years, I spent more time building relationships through the different groups, than anything else.  I realized the impact of this for my business, so I knew that I had to dedicate DAILY time to doing this.  I knew that my Business Page was not the ONLY thing I needed to focus on.  I also learned that my personal timeline could make a HUGE impact.

By working these 3 main elements of Facebook, it ultimately, will affect your following and your engagement on your Business Page.  People will want to follow you because you have built a relationship and in turn, they will tell their friends and your following starts to grow.  HOWEVER, this is not the only way, this is just a small fraction of what you can do.

Really think about what you are posting on your Business Page.  Does it provide value?  Is it something that will create engagement?  Does it show you as an expert in your field?  Does it show who you are/your personality?  Is it ANOTHER business promotion?

What we post on our Business Page is the KEY to creating engagement, even against the algorithm.  When people make sure that they are seeing your posts, then they are engaging, that will draw in more attention.  Facebook loves engagement, so we need to do what we can to create it.  P.S. Did you know that when you ‘share’ your Business Page posts onto your personal timeline and into groups, this is considered engagement?  

As you are growing and learning which type of posts work best, DON’T get discouraged by your numbers if they are not all great, every day.  Just keep moving forward and focus on improving what you are doing.

Here is a great article from Buffer talking more in-depth about the Facebook algorithms and some suggestions on what you can do.  READ HERE

Working Facebook for your Business

If you have decided that you are only going to use Facebook to build your business, then it is important to invest the time into it.

When I first started using Facebook, over 10 years ago, I would be on there 6 hours a day, YES, 6 hours per day. It wasn’t just about popping in and doing a post, then logging off, it was about having a plan and working it. I also recommend that you use your desktop/laptop to do the work as the Facebook App isn’t as user friendly plus it will save you time than working off of a phone.

The Daily Plan

  1. Work your personal timeline/profile to get your messages out there.
    • Post a status telling people what you are up to, what your tasks are, what you want to accomplish, what your successes are, BUT don’t sell to them.
    • Share some personal elements that you are comfortable about sharing.
    • What you don’t want to do is push your family and friends away by having them hide you in their news feeds.
  2. Go through your news feed and interact on other people’s posts, either by liking or commenting. You will want to do this numerous times throughout the day.
  3. Go to the “pages feed” tab (found on your ‘home’ tab, then down the left under the ‘explore’ tab) and scroll through and interact on other Business Pages’ posts. I like to do this once in the morning and once in the evening.
  4. Find 3-5 groups that have more of a networking element to them, and interact DAILY within these groups.
    • Ask questions, post inspiration, share ideas, share tips, post humour, promote your products/services.
    • Take the time to scroll through the Group wall and interact on other people’s post with a like and/or comment.
    • Participate in any online events the group offers, like Dance Cards, Coffee Dates, Split Lives, as this is an opportunity for you to meet more people.
    • Check the same groups at the end of the day and do more interactions.
  5. Post on your Business Page
    • There are many different opinions on how often you should post on your Business Page in one day.  For me, personally, I only post once per day, at 8 am.  I have found that this works very, very well for me, as it allows my post to be seen throughout the day.
    • If you want to post more than once per day, then I recommend you space out the posts, don’t do a whole bunch at once as you will drive your audience away.  Think about posting between 8-9 am, between 4-5 pm and after 9 pm.
    • Mix up your posts so you are not always trying to sell to people.  Post questions, inspiration, some personal elements that reflect your business, tips, humour, ideas on how to use your products/services, and of course promote.
    • Use pictures of yourself where you can, people love pictures of us.
    • Do videos to get more visibility as Facebook is a huge supporter of the video platform.
    • Keep on top of your Business Page notifications and make sure to either like/comment when people interact with your stuff.
    • You want to make sure you are also checking your messages regularly and quickly, as Facebook tracks how quick we are to answer messages and actually posts this on our pages to let the public know what our response rate is.
    • Share your posts into a variety of groups and randomly (but strategically) on your personal timeline. Facebook considers ‘shares’ as interaction, so you can help push up your reach.  Don’t do more than 7-8 shares per post as Facebook will consider it as spam and you could end up in Facebook jail for 7-10 days.

I hope this helps in giving you a daily plan to work Facebook and build your business.  Again, it is important that if you are only going to use online to build, that you work it.

I do have a free ‘daily checklist’ that you can print off that will help keep you organized, download it HERE.

 

GUEST BLOG: How to Develop Your Personal Brand

Making the choice to start your own business will likely be the best decision of your life. The freedom and flexibility of working on your own, combined with the earning potential and sense of self-satisfaction, make entrepreneurship very attractive to many people.

But things are a little easier said than done. Competition is fierce, especially online. Every minute of every day, people are exposed to countless emails, advertisements and social media posts. It’s easy to get lost in the crowd. Your best defense is your brand.

Your brand is your identity, and a strong one will help you stand out. It also facilitates a connection between you and your customers that can improve loyalty and engagement. And it makes your company more valuable, which will become relevant if you ever decide to sell your business. Developing a brand, though, requires a focused, dedicated approach. Here’s how you can build yours.

Highlight What Makes You Unique

The first step is to determine what kind of brand you want to be. And one of the keys to a strong brand is authenticity. If you try to be something you are not, your customers will see right through you. This can have a really negative effect on the image of you and your company. You’ll come off as phony or insincere, which will really damage people’s perceptions of you.

So, to begin building your brand, start focusing on what you do that’s unique to you. What makes your company different or special? If you’re not sure, then you likely haven’t thought about it hard enough. Everyone is unique. It’s just a matter of figuring out how and highlighting it.

To help give you some ideas, research your competition. Successful businesses in your field will likely have already done this exercise, so it should be easy to figure out what they consider to be their competitive edge. Go through each one and figure out what makes you different from them. And after you’ve done this, you should be able to devise a list of the different things that separate you from your completion.

Know Your Audience

Whether their conscious of it or not, people expect things from the companies with which they do business. It’s important you be sensitive to these expectations so that you can develop a brand strategy that will resonate with your target audience.

There’s no one way to do this, though. The best strategy is to conduct surveys and focus groups about your target audience. But these can be costly, and if you’re not careful about how you design your studies, then they can produce unreliable results.

Ideal Customer exercises and Customer Journey maps are useful ways of understanding what your audience is looking for in the brands with which they engage. These activities involve you creating fictitious audience members and thinking through how they live their lives to determine their values, beliefs, pain points and expectations. Here’s a great resource for helping you do this exercise effectively.

Another option is to simply test things out. Try out some branding messages and see what happens to engagement. If you’re not getting the response you want, then try something new. While this will take a little longer, it will help you hone your messaging to meet audience expectations, enhancing its effectiveness.

Concise Communication

Once you determine the essence of your brand—that which makes you unique—it’s time to start crafting your messaging. The key here is to be as clear as possible. The more words you have to use to describe your brand, the harder it will be for people to understand you, and this will hurt your chances at making a connection with them.

Think about some of the world’s most successful brands. For example, Nike, which uses the slogan, “Just Do It.” They have been using these words to describe their brand for as long as any of us can remember, and they’re perfect because they quickly and clearly communicate Nike’s brand identity. When we hear these words, we think of perseverance, drive and dedication, as well as hard work. And this is exactly how Nike wants us to perceive the company.

You won’t be able to catch-up with Nike right away—they spend other-worldly amounts of money on branding—but you can certainly mimic their approach. Work to determine a slogan or description that captures the essence of your brand, using as few words as possible. Images are also helpful, and make sure the colors you use on your site and other communications also reflect your brand identity. Remember, the slogan alone isn’t going to establish your brand, but confusing your audience can have disastrous effects.

Be Consistent

As you start to market your brand, consistency will be key. You can never know for sure when or where someone will come into contact with your brand. As such, ensure every piece of content you create accurately reflects the brand you want to promote.

And this goes for social media, too. You can’t be posting about things that are completely irrelevant to your brand, even if they’re attracting shares and likes. The exposure is enticing, but you’ll be sending mixed messages about your brand identity, making it harder to build the so-desired connection with your target audience.

Consider drawing up some brand guidelines to help you stay on message across your different platforms. These will outline the types of content you will publish, and they will also help you stay consistent with how you present your messages, something that is also very important for effective brand management. This will also be helpful should you decide to outsource some of your content creation.

Start Building Your Brand Today

A strong brand will give your company a significant competitive edge. It’ll work like a magnet that draws your target market towards you, and it’s also something people can connect to, which will help develop loyalty to your brand. Follow the steps outlined here so that you can start building a strong personal brand today.

 

About the Author: Jock is a busy entrepreneur and the founder of Digital Exits, an online brokerage service. He enjoys sharing his thoughts on entrepreneurship and business and offering advice to others. Find Jock on Twitter here or connect with him on LinkedIn.

 

 

 

GUEST BLOG: 5 Ways to Use Instagram for Your Business

Instagram remains one of the social media powerhouses of today, with over one billion monthly active users all over the world. Because 80% of these users follow a business, the social media giant launched Instagram for Business, which allowed big and small brands to create a business profile on Instagram.

So, how do you use Instagram for Business to grow your following, reach your target audience, and boost your profit?

  • Switch to a Business Account

It’s quite easy to set up a business account on Instagram regardless if you’re a large enterprise or a business startup. You most likely have an existing Instagram account that’s set up as a regular account, which you can switch to a business account in the settings of your Instagram app.

After doing so, you can add business information such as your hours of operation, address, and phone number. With a business profile, you’ll also have access to extensive data analytics you wouldn’t otherwise be able to see without a third-party tool.

  • Be Visually Creative

Instagram is a highly visual platform where users can immerse themselves in stunning photographs, so be sure to tell your brand story and convey your value using visual content with compelling posts. Focus on the solutions you provide instead of the products you sell.

If you’re a service-oriented business, showcase your process and give them a glimpse of the things that go on behind-the-scenes.

  • Set Strategic Goals

Just like your other marketing channels, your Instagram strategies should be created with your goals front and center. Ask yourself what you want to achieve by using Instagram.

Do you want to drive traffic to your website, boost your sales, improve brand awareness, or increase audience engagement?

No matter what you’re trying to achieve, your Instagram marketing goals should be SMART – specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound.

Your content strategy will be bound to your strategic goals, and every post should contribute to the success of these goals.

  • Leverage Instagram Stories

60% (over 300 million accounts) of Instagram’s daily active users are using Instagram Stories, making it imperative for you to maximize Instagram Stories in engaging followers. This interactive, vertical video format that disappears in 24 hours (unless otherwise saved in your device) is quite effective in grabbing and keeping the attention of your target audience. It’s only available for mobile phones to make it even easier for you to create stories on the go.

In fact, over 50% of businesses use Instagram Stories every month. It’s prominently displayed at the top of user timelines, so your followers can immediately see if you posted a story. It’s pretty easy to use. You can even add fun stickers and filters to make your content even more interesting.

  • Don’t Forget Your Hashtags

We cannot stress this enough – use relevant hashtags in every post! Hashtags allow your compelling posts to be discoverable, further expanding your reach.

Do some hashtag research to determine which hashtags your target market is using. Create a unique, branded hashtag so that you can lump all your posts together and supplement them with three to five more hashtags relevant to your specific post.

Unique, branded hashtags improve brand awareness and establish a solid brand personality. Branded hashtags can help you collect user-generated content. Nothing creates a more compelling brand story that images and posts of real people interacting with your brand.

Place a branded hashtag on your bio and encourage your followers to use this hashtag when posting photos of how they used your products. Of course, comment on their photos and regram their posts to show your appreciation.

While there are more ways for you to maximize the power of Instagram for your business, these five Instagram strategies will help you get the ball rolling in the right direction.

Paula Arce
MicroCreatives

Blogging…..Should you do it?

So many of my clients and business friends ask “is it worth me to start blogging?”  YES!!

Here’s the deal…..I am not a blogger, I don’t know enough about SEO but what I can tell you, is that since I have starting blogging, it has brought me more visibility, especially from people through Google whom don’t even know me.

When I blog, I just write.  I write how I would talk to people if they were sitting across from me.  I write exactly how I would talk.  I don’t use fancy words, I don’t focus on what I should or shouldn’t be doing, I just write.  I share my thoughts, ideas, tips, just write.

Yes, there are many rules to blogging (like how many words to use) but to be completely honest, I don’t follow the rules, because I just write.  For me, I believe it is a great way to bring more traction to our website, but also to share/teach others more, that hopefully can help them, whether it be personal or business.

BUT how do you come up with all the content?  How often should I be blogging?

I am no specialist here, so I am not the one who ask those questions to but I will tell you that you need to just start doing it!!  One main tip I can give you is to ask others to be guest bloggers for you.  There is no cost for them to do this, it brings you visibility to their followings because you are sharing your blogs onto Social Media and tagging their business to thank them, and it helps with adding more content.  Look for those who can compliment your business and provide value to your audience.  Just ask, since most will say yes (actually I would be surprised if someone said no).

Once I do a blog, I share a portion of it on my Facebook Business Page, with a link to the actual blog (which of course is on my website, driving traffic to everything else that is available) and I also post it on my Google+ (this is where I have received great visibility)…..I will also share my post from my Business Page into a variety of groups for more exposure.

So, just do it!!