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6 Top Myths of Social Media

May 6th, 2013 ::

mythsDespite the incredible amount of information out there on how to use social media for marketing, a few bad practices still linger. At best, following them makes you look like you’re new to social media, but at worst, you could get flagged for spam.

Here are the top 6 worst practices, or myths, in social media:

1 – You MUST be active on every social media network.

Well, sure, if you want to waste your time, go for it! But it’s highly doubtful your customers are active on every social network. Beyond Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, you really have to do your research to see if your audience uses Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr, Vine, etc. Some popular social media listening tools include Google Alerts and Social Mention.

2 – Automate all updates to save time.

The first rule of thumb when it comes to social media is to be social. Do you automate texts, emails, and phone calls to your friends? Of course not! You can’t have a conversation that way. You can automate certain things, like blog posts and major news releases to go out, but otherwise, treat social media like a cocktail party and be present.

3 – Auto-DM new Twitter followers.

Automatically sending your new Twitter followers a direct message (DM) is such an impersonal, spammy practice that it will leave a negative impression on your followers and make you look like you have no clue what you’re doing. Instead, send them a short, public note around your area of interest: “@newfollower Thanks for the follow! What aspect of social media are you most frustrated by?”

4 – Auto-publish the same content on every social network.

Again, this will make you look like you don’t know what you’re doing, because every social network is different. It’s OK to tweet and pin a few times a day, but it’s not OK to post on Facebook or LinkedIn a few times a day.

5 – Respond to all negative comments.

While it is generally a good idea to respond to negative comments in order to fix a situation, remember that some people are just mean. Instead of getting into a virtual shouting match, do what you can to address the complaint, and then leave it. That person will only look worse, while you’ll look better for taking the high ground.

6 – Just wing it.

If you want to actually generate results, you can’t “wing” social media. You need to have a plan. For starters, you need to know what content you will post where and how often. If you want to learn more, check out one of my recent blog posts, The Online Marketing Project, Part 2.

What other social media practices make businesses look like they don’t know what they’re doing?

Image courtesy of lifehappens.org

Showrooming, Meet Webrooming

May 6th, 2013 ::

By Rieva Lesonsky

What do customers want from their retail experiences today? Well, if your business includes both an ecommerce site and a physical location, then you’re one step ahead of the game. A new study from Accenture found what customers want most is the ability to shop anytime, any way and anywhere they want to—so the more options you can offer, the better.

Some 89 percent of consumers in The Accenture Seamless Retail Study say it’s important for retailers to let them shop for products however is most convenient for them. But retailers still have a way to go to accomplish this goal. While 94 percent say shopping in-store is easy, and 74 percent say online shopping is easy, just 26 percent say it’s easy to shop on a mobile phone.

While online shopping is growing, and 43 percent of respondents say they plan to shop more online in the future, it’s not necessarily growing at the expense of in-store shopping. In fact, although 73 percent of shoppers engage in showrooming (examining products in a retail store and then buying them online), a whopping 88 percent participate in “webrooming”—looking at products online and then heading to a physical store to make the purchase.

Regardless of their original shopping touchpoint – in-store, online or mobile – consumers expect their interaction with retailers to be a customized, uncomplicated and instantaneous experience, according to the survey. The research also indicates that consistency weighs heavily on the consumer experience. For example, 73 percent of consumers expect a retailer’s online pricing to be the same as its in-store pricing, and 61 percent expect a retailer’s online promotions to be the same as its in-store promotions.

The biggest takeaway from the survey: Consumers expect the same pricing, promotions and products in your physical store and your ecommerce site. They also expect the same level of service and ease of use in both places.

How important is speed to online and offline shoppers? Well, that depends:

  • 25 percent would wait up to 2 weeks to get the product if it means they get free shipping.
  • 24 percent say a same-day delivery option is important.
  • Of those, 30 percent will pay $5 to $10, and 19 percent will pay $11 to $20, for same-day delivery.

Asked what they would do if a store had a product they wanted but it was after business hours, 39 percent would wait for the store to open and buy it there; 36 percent would buy it online from the same retailer; and 22 percent would buy it elsewhere online.

What type of advertising influences retail shoppers? Physical and email coupons and offers ranked number-one, cited by 56 percent of respondents. Almost half (49 percent) were influenced by in-store offers. The least effective ads were online popup or banner ads, with 69 and 62 percent respectively saying these ads “never” influence what they buy.

What’s the lesson from this research? Far from being a drain on an ecommerce business, a physical store is still a “crucial asset” in differentiating your business from purely online retailers, the report contends. If you have both online and physical locations, the key is to make sure your brand and your shopping experience are consistent at every stage of the purchase process, and every place the customer might encounter it.

Image by Flickr user lululemon athletica (Creative Commons)



Web.com Small Business Tip of the Day: What Are Your Customers Doing Online?

May 3rd, 2013 ::

What are your customers doing online? The answer is most likely social media, according to a new survey from Experian Marketing Services, which also showed five minutes of every hour is spent on shopping. A great deal of this social networking and shopping is happening on consumers’ mobile devices, which brings up the question, how are your online marketing efforts doing? Is your business well-represented on local search sites? How does your website look on a smartphone? Are you using social media to announce new products, promote daily specials and communicate with your customer? The truth is there’s probably more you could be doing, so make it a point to find out what you don’t know about online marketing and get your business on the right track.

Web.com Small Business Tip of the Day: Are Big Trade Show Events Worth It?

May 2nd, 2013 ::

Times are definitely changing. Remember the days of setting up a booth at a big trade show to market your business and find vendors?  A new study by the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council and Exhibit & Event Marketers Association (E2MA) says marketers find it more and more challenging to measure ROI from big events. While marketers still find value in events, 40 percent of respondents are cutting back on big trade shows in favor of more targeted events, while 44 percent are choosing to host their own events. If you’re not sure whether a trade show or event is worth it, ask the event organizers for any analytics available and talk to previous attendees and exhibitors for their feedback.


Who Is Using Social Media, and Where Are They?

May 2nd, 2013 ::

Social media based on demographicsPew Internet released a short but incredibly useful report earlier this year called The Demographics of Social Media Users – 2012. While it’s imperative to do your own research to uncover where your customers are, use these stats as a general guideline as you plan and refine your social media marketing strategy.

Who is using social media?

By gender, race, and geography

Women tend to use social media a bit more than men – 71% vs. 62% – and Hispanics use social media slightly more than blacks and whites, clocking in at 72% (68% of blacks and 65% of whites use social media). Urbanites and suburbanites are on social media in almost equal numbers (70% vs. 67%), while 61% of those who reside in rural areas use social media.

By age

It comes as absolutely no surprise that the younger you are, the more likely you are to use social media. A full 83% of those between 18 and 29 use social media, while only 32% of those over 65 use it.

By education and income

When you look at social media usage based on education and household income, there is very little difference in usage rates. In fact, the biggest users had some college and the lowest household incomes. I am curious: Do those two stats taken together represent college and university students? Are they the biggest social media users overall? Unfortunately, the study doesn’t say.

What social media sites do they use?

In sum, this study confirms what we already pretty much know: Facebook is king, and young adults are on social media a lot.

  • Facebook: 67% use Facebook; the biggest users are young women, ages 18-29.
  • Twitter: 16% use Twitter; the biggest users are also ages 18-29, live in an urban area and tend to be African-American.
  • Pinterest: 15% use Pinterest; users tend to be white adult women under 50 with some college education.
  • Instagram: 13% use Instagram; again, it’s popular with young adults ages 18-29, but Instagram tends to be used the most by African-Americans, Latinos, and women who live in an urban area.
  • Tumblr: The smallest user base (with 6%) is used mostly by those ages 18-29.

Will these statistics change the way you use social media?

Image courtesy of 123rf.com

Web.com Small Business Tip of the Day: Homeowner Dreams Live On

May 1st, 2013 ::

Despite the recent mortgage crises of the past few years, the American dream of owning a home is still alive and well, according to a new Gallup poll. The poll shows 56 percent of Americans still own their home and plan to continue to do so, while 25 percent don’t own a home but plan on buying one in the next 10 years. Only 11 percent of Americans don’t own a home and have no plans to buy one, and just 3 percent own a home but plan on selling it and renting in the next 10 years. The continued desire for home ownership is good news for home maintenance, remodeling, decor and improvement businesses.


The Future of Marketing: 3 Big Changes That Are Already Here

May 1st, 2013 ::

The Future of MarketingEach January, experts from every industry publish blog posts and articles that list their predictions of what’s going to happen over the next 12 months and how those changes will affect the industry.

This is not one of those posts – and not just because it’s May. We all know that marketing has shifted from offline to online, from analog to digital, and that marketing has become more personal.

Based on my research, there are 3 big changes that are already here but will continue to affect marketing over the next few years as they become more widespread.

1. Web and mobile sites will use responsive design to focus on the user experience

Responsive design means designing your website, tablet site, and smartphone site from one platform to keep the user experience consistent while taking advantage of each platform’s unique features.

Think about how you access the Web on each device. You navigate websites from a computer with a cursor, but you move around tablet sites by tapping and swiping. On your smartphone, you navigate a mobile site by tapping on a small screen.

What this means for you: With the explosion of tablet and smartphone use, especially when accessing email and the Web, it is critical that you have mobile and tablet sites that provide a great user experience.

2. Marketing will go beyond real-time

Ever hear of an Anticipatory Computer Engine? It will allow your smartphone to offer you relevant news, information, and recommendations based on where you are, what you’re doing, and what you’re talking about.

A San Francisco-based company called Expect Labs is developing a MindMeld iPad app, which will capture ambient audio, visual, and location-based information to interpret “meaning and intent from multiple different streams of sensor data.”

What this means for you: Yes, it’s kind of creepy, but think of it this way: one day, we will no longer have to search for information. The information we want will come to us, and, conversely, the information you are sharing online about your service will be delivered automatically to someone who is just sort of thinking about it.

3. Data will drive marketing

Analyzing and using big data for a variety of purposes will continue, but for now, there are quite a few tools at the small business owner’s disposal:

  1. Ad retargeting: Ads that appear in your browser after you leave a website without taking action (maybe you put 5 items in your Gap shopping cart but left the site without buying them).
  2. Predictive recommendations: Tailored recommendations based on products you have looked at or purchased (after you buy a book at Amazon.com, you always get recommendations for other books).
  3. Location-based social and mobile marketing: Mobile ads that appear from local retailers and merchants depending on your location (an offer from the pizza place you are about to walk by at 6pm).

What this means for you: Understanding someone’s behavior and interests helps you deliver tailored offers and messages when they are most receptive. In other words, you are marketing to people who are already qualified leads.

Are you already using some of the above technology? How has it improved your marketing?

Image courtesy of civilsociety.co.uk

Want to Reach Affluent Consumers? Here’s How

May 1st, 2013 ::

By Rieva Lesonsky

If you’re trying to reach affluent consumers, what marketing and advertising venues work best? The newest Shullman Research Center “Survey of the Affluent,” reported in MediaPost, has some insights. The study looked at 6.7 million U.S. adults with household incomes of $250,000 or more. These high-income consumers account for just 3 percent of the U.S. population. Of these, 40 percent (3.1 million) are age 35 to 54; 31 percent (2 million) are age 55 and up; and 23 percent (1.6 million) are under 35.

No matter what the age group, Shullman found, these high-income consumers are devoted to their electronic devices and apps, and are open to advertising in almost any venue. Interestingly, when consumers were asked where they were most likely to see or hear ads that sparked some interest or high interest in their daily life, health clubs/gyms ranked at the top of the list. This was especially true for the under-35 age category, 85 percent of whom saw or heard ads in health clubs that interested them.

Next came magazines, which ranked second for all age groups. However, if you want to reach under-35 affluents, you’d best not advertise in the newspaper. While newspapers ranked third in effectiveness for the 35-to-54 and 55-plus age groups, they were the least effective means of reaching the under-35 category. Television ranked fourth in effectiveness overall and works well for all age groups.

If you’re specifically targeting under-35s, advertising in bus stops, subway stations and train stations works best; 89 percent of this age group said this advertising interested them. Looking to reach the 55-and-over club? Focus on magazines and newspapers.

When asked what type of electronic device they would keep if they could only keep one, the majority (58 percent) of these very-high-income consumers chose their smartphone. Even among the age 55-plus group, 58 percent voted for the smartphone; among the 35-to-54 group, 63 percent did. Tablets came in second, chosen by 22 percent overall.

Older consumers were more likely to use weather, e-reader, GPS/directions/maps, business and finance apps on their smartphones. Younger users were more likely to have social networking apps on their smartphones.

What do these results mean for your business?

  • Tailor your advertising to your target age group. Traditional media still work best for the older consumers, while younger consumers are more open to ads in less traditional venues such as out-of-home and health club ads.
  • Don’t stereotype. Among the very affluent, the oldest age group is equally devoted to its mobile devices as the youngest age group. Purchasing ads on business, finance or weather apps is a good way to reach these users.
  • Keep your eye on tablets. Although they’re not considered as essential as smartphones, they are rising quickly, with more than one-third of under-35 affluents indicating plans to buy a tablet in the next 12 months.

Image by Flickr user DonkeyHotey (Creative Commons)


Help Your Customers Spend Their Tax Refunds—With You

April 30th, 2013 ::

By Karen Axelton

Tax time is over, and those Americans who are expecting a refund are already making plans to spend it. How? A study of Twitter feeds by IQ Agency found that as of early April, 65 percent of Americans already knew how they planned to spend their tax refunds. The result is good news for retailers, with

  • 14% planning to spend it on electronics
  • 11% planning to spend it on fashion
  • 11% planning to spend it on automotive
  • 10% planning to spend it on food and beverages
  • 7% planning to spend it on travel
  • 7% planning to spend it on events
  • 5% planning to spend it on music.

You’ll notice most of these purchases fall into the discretionary category, which means consumers can easily be swayed to buy by emotional appeals. Consider a marketing approach that does one or more of the following:

  • Focuses on the tax refund as “found money” that won’t impact the family budget if spent on discretionary items.
  • Emphasizes the “reward yourself” or “treat yourself” aspect of making these purchases.
  • Suggests making a long-desired, big-ticket purchase (such as a new TV or electronic device) that otherwise would be too costly.
  • Highlights the experiential quality of spending on vacations, events, or food and beverages, such as sharing good times with friends or making memories with the family.
  • Appeals to the sensible side by offering discounts or deals on these product and service categories to tempt consumers who may be on the fence.
  • Uses humor to sympathize with consumers’ tax time headaches and celebrate that they’re finally over.

Even for the 35 percent of Americans that IQ Agency found plan to save their refund or use it to pay bills, there could be opportunity for financial planners, insurance salespeople and advisers. With tax time fresh in customers’ minds and finances on their brains, you can:

  • Contact existing clients with suggestions for how to maximize their refund.
  • Offer to review current clients’ portfolios or insurance coverage, suggesting that refund money provides an opportunity to upgrade with “found money.”
  • Reach out to prospects by offering a free consultation as to how their refund can be the start of an investment plan or used to purchase needed insurance that they may have been putting off.

Image by Flickr user bradleygee (Creative Commons)

Web.com Small Business Tip of the Day: Fuel Prices Head Lower for Summer

April 29th, 2013 ::

How do fuel prices affect your business? Besides directly affecting your cost of shipping and receiving products, fuel prices affect how much money your customers have to spend on your business. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), the average price for a gallon of gas is expected to go down slightly from last year because of a small decline in crude oil prices and expected gasoline consumption, as well as higher gasoline inventory levels. Depending on where you live, the small savings could be good news for summer travelers wanting to visit your community, or the savings at the pump could mean prospects have more disposable cash to spend on your products or more services.