Month: March 2017

How to Succeed as a Small Business on Instagram

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Editor's Note: Matt Foster is a Content Strategist at Distinctly. Today he joins us to explain how a small business on Instagram can build their presence, and effectively engage with a diverse audience.

 

Since it was introduced in 2010, Instagram has become one of the most popular and widely used social media sites, competing with Twitter as a key platform for business users. So how can Instagram benefit you as a small business?

In December 2016, Instagram boasted over 600 million followers: a world of potential clients and customers for small businesses. This enormous market is often tapped by bigger brands looking to develop their social media marketing efforts, while smaller businesses sometimes assume it will not work for them; this simply is not true. In this article, we’ll show how to raise brand awareness and reach a larger customer base as a small business on Instagram. Let’s get started!

Target Your Content

After setting up an Instagram account, it’s time to post content. But where do you start? The key to success on Instagram is knowing the kind of content that will capture the attention of your audience. As a small business, it’s important that you know who your target users are, and tailor content to their interests. Begin by looking at your current customer base, and decide who they are in terms of age, location and gender. Once this information is clear, it’s easier to make an informed decision on content and hashtags.

Hashtags and trending topics are important on Instagram, and many will be relevant to you. When a hashtag relevant to your business blows up, it’s a great way to reach a wider audience beyond your followers. Adding hashtags to the content you post means it can be easily found, and posting content that is relevant to current trends can do the same. Both techniques are good ways to not only gain followers, but generate brand awareness in your target market.

Keeping your Instagram content related to your company brand is important, and this can be done by choosing a niche theme. When you have a theme, followers know what to expect, and will rely on you for similar posts down the road. It can take some experimentation to find something that is both unique and well-received, but once you’ve found something that works, you can focus on perfecting it.

A woodworking business based in Georgia, USA - Sons of Sawdust - reclaimed wood to create new products. By taking photos of their projects and posting them online, the company has created a popular online portfolio showcasing their work, and providing a behind-the-scenes demonstration of their processes. To make sure the right people see it, Sons of Sawdust uses relevant hashtags – #workshop, #oldwood, and #salvage, for example – so it will be found by a wide variety of users interested in woodworking.

A small business on Instagram

Engagement is Key

Being active and engaging your audience is vital to building a successful presence as a small business on Instagram. You can post great quality, relevant content, but if no one knows you have an online presence, you will struggle to grow it. Start by telling current customers that you have social media accounts by putting a link to your Instagram on your website, and advertise it on other mediums like Facebook and Twitter. Include all social media links in your email signatures to drive traffic.

Consistency is a tremendously important way to keep your audience engaged, so content should be uploaded on a frequent and regular basis. The more active a small business is on Instagram, the more engagement they will see in return.

There are optimum posting times for Instagram, so try to establish a routine and post when most of your audience is online. Social Insights and Iconosquare are tools that will help you find the best times to post for maximum engagement, and both use analytics to optimize for your unique follower-base.

Another way to gain a large Instagram presence is collaborating with another local business or organisation that has already established themselves on Instagram. Working together exposes you to a pre-existing audience, and expands your own base.

Instagram has become the social platform for influencer endorsements. Do research to identify an influencer who shares your product, service, or target audience on Instagram, and build the relationship through engaging, ultimately inquiring about them promoting your business.

You can approach and offer between $20 and $100 they will promote your product or brand to their followers. There are plenty of research tools you can use to target the right influences for the size of their following in set niches, although be aware this must be matched with high levels of engagement of their followers when they post content.
Alasdair Inglis – Marketing expert at We Are Grow

Be Unique and Stand Out

In order to create an engaging Instagram account, it is essential to stand out from the crowd. So where do you start in terms of generating unique content? Your business likely offers a product, service or experience that is sold to customers through a unique selling point (USP), and you can use this to attract followers.

The London Helicopter has special access to bird’s eye views of the London skyline every day. The company’s USP lies in offering an experience that many people want to see, and that very few get to see. As a visually oriented platform, Instagram is a perfect place for this company to showcase these experiences and share them with followers who are unlikely to forget the brand if they are ever on vacation.

The London Heli Instagram

Have a Consistent Style

As mentioned before, consistency is key to all forms of social media and Instagram is no exception. But while many companies remember to post consistently, they often neglect stylistic consistency. People follow a brand because they want to see more of whatever attracted them in the first place, so giving it to them is important.

A popular way of doing this is to concentrate on a branded color palette throughout your content. Oreo does this well by using the same house style and color scheme in each of their posts:

Oreo Instagram

Instagram is About More than Gaining Customers

While social media can absolutely help you to gain new customers, it isn’t just a quick way to boost your business and market your products. It also works to demonstrate excellent customer service, and the quality of people who work for your business.

There are many ways businesses and brands can benefit from this besides the acquisition of new customers:

Boosting Sales Among Existing Customers: Businesses who show great customer service on their social media accounts are likely to see a boost in sales and profits. Research by Aberdeen Group found that brands who are good at customer service benefit from an annual financial gain of 7.5%, against the typical 2.9%.

Creating Brand Advocates: Using social media turns your customers into brand advocates. If a customer has a good experience with a brand on social media, they are three times as likely to recommend that brand to a friend or family member. This is how word of mouth works in the digital age.

Creating a Positive Image: Social media platforms are a good way to show old and potential customers alike that you are interested in them, and this matters even if you aren’t getting direct sales from your content. 74% of shoppers list social platforms as a main influence on whether or not they made a purchase, so it is important for brands  to focus on customer care and maintaining a friendly, outgoing public image.

Like other social media platforms, Instagram gives your customers a space to interact with your company, a chance to retain old customers, and gain new ones. Using it effectively means appreciating the unique qualities of a visual medium, and being sincere in your efforts to build a positive image that your brand will be remembered for. Getting started isn't hard, and it's well worth it - hopefully the advice above will help you to build your presence on a platform that is teeming with opportunity.

Learn more with these related OMI classes:

B2B Social Visual Storytelling on Instagram, Pinterest & Tumblr

Creating and Curating Content People Love

Social Media Strategy for Business

Visit the Online Marketing Institute to browse over 400 classes in the digital and social media marketing space.

 


How to Choose the Right Hosting for Your Website

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Editor's Note: Jane Hurst is a business writer and regular OMI contributor. Today she joins us to explain the factors marketers should consider when picking the right hosting provider.

 

Having a great website is a very important step for any online business. However, choosing the right hosting is equally important: without it, your site will suffer from lag, crashes and downtime which can put a huge dent in your sales. In order to get the most out of your website, it’s vital that you find a great web host. So in this article, we’ll explain the different kinds of hosting plans you will come across, and how to choose wisely. Let’s get started!

Types of Web Hosting Platforms

There are three types of web hosting platforms:

  1. Individual Plans – Many companies will sell you a slot on servers they own and operate. This is the cheapest option, and it’s great for those who are just starting out on limited budgets. For example, an introductory package at HostGator is only $3.96 a month if you sign on for a three-year package. There are a few drawbacks: you can usually have only one domain, features may be limited, and bandwidth/data storage are lower than what you’d get on more expensive options.
  2. Dedicated Servers – These plans are much more expensive (they can be $139 or more each month), but if your business is growing, this may be a better option for you. Just make sure that your provider offers individual plans and dedicated servers so you have the option to switch if necessary.
  3. Reseller Accounts – Reseller accounts are way cheaper than dedicated servers, and in terms of functionality, they lie between individual plans and dedicated servers. With these, you can host multiple domains and websites on a single account. This is a good option for businesses that run a number of websites. You can expect to pay between $10 and $20 monthly.

What to Look for in a Hosting Plan

While you obviously need something affordable, price is not the only thing to consider when looking for a hosting plan. Free web hosts are never a good choice. Sure, they sound great, but you get a lot of on-site advertising, and not a lot of features. Other things to look for in a hosting plan include:

  • Customer Reviews – See what other users are saying about the host before you sign on and end up wasting your money. Look for multiple reviews from both current and past customers, and don’t base your judgment on a single review, positive or negative.
  • Customer Support – If the host doesn’t have great customer support, move on to one that does. You need to know that there is a dedicated staff you can depend on in case anything goes wrong. The best hosts will respond to queries 24/7, because the Internet never sleeps.
  • Storage and Bandwidth – Many plans offer unlimited disk space and bandwidth, so you probably don’t have to worry about this too much, but you still need to make sure that the host offers what you need.
  • Script Support – Make sure your host has built-in support for web scripts you will be using. For instance, if you plan on using WordPress, look for a host that makes installing the platform quick and easy. Some hosts limit MySQL databases which are necessary for running WordPress.

Know Your Hosting Needs

Once you have decided that you need a host, make sure you understand your requirements well. That way, you will know that you are not going to end up with features you will have to pay for but won’t ever use. If you don’t need WordPress, there’s no point dishing out extra money because a host will install it for you

Assess the following factors when making your decision:

  • The type of website you are building (entertainment, e-commerce, news?)
  • The need for WordPress or other common features
  • Whether you’d prefer a Linux or Windows based platform
  • Special software like Ruby, and up to date versions of special software like PHP
  • Anticipated traffic volume

Investigate Host Reliability and Uptime Guarantees

It is vital that your web host operates 24/7, and has a powerful server and stable network connection. If the score is less than 99%, you don’t want it. For obvious reasons, you should not trust what a server says about itself. You can get accurate uptime info by reading reviews, or tracking your web host with server monitor tools like Alertra.

Research Web Host Upgrading Options

Make sure that you research all of your upgrade options, because you may end up lacking what you need when you are ready to upgrade. You should have no problem using a shared web host which can handle a WordPress blog with up to 40,000 visitors monthly. But you may need more accommodation down the road, and you should have peace of mind that your host can manage the switch - if you expect to grow quickly, look for a web host that will grow with you.

Choose Hosting Based on the Site Engine

Unless you have a dedicated web design team, you’ll likely begin with a common site engine. Some hosts are better suited to these engines than others, so you can narrow down your selections by researching compatibility. For instance, WPBeginner has a great list of WordPress hosting providers, and HostingAdvice has a good list if you want to use Joombla.

Check Domain Options and Hosting Space

You should consider your host’s domain options and the size of its hosting space. Domains are cheap, and it can often be hard to have just one. In fact, a good number of site owners have more than five domains, and others have over 50. To manage this, you need more hosting space, so make sure that your hosting account will let you run multiple domains. Don’t make the mistake of signing up for a host that will only accommodate one domain.

Check Prices on Both Sign-Up and Renewal

Before you choose hosting, look at the prices for both sign-up and renewals. Sometimes web hosts suck you in with cheap sign-up rates, and then you are stuck with expensive renewal fees. This is a normal thing, but if you do your research, you can dodge this trick and avoid paying a small fortune in the long run.

Check Hosting Control Panel

A very important factor to consider before you choose a host is its control panel: it must be user-friendly and fully functional. You can use cPanel, Plesk, or a proprietary control panel such as the one used by GoDaddy. While IX Web Hosting is very inexpensive, the custom control panel is generally considered poor, and what you’ll save in money, you may pay for in the time it takes to get things done.

Conclusion:

The right web host takes a back seat to your website, runs consistently with little downtime, and adapts flexibly to your needs as your business expands. Hopefully this article has given you an idea what to look for, and what to take account of so you can find a host that will put your website first, and create a smooth experience for your company and visitors.

Learn more with these related OMI classes:

Building Digital Destinations & Customer Experience

B2B Website Design

Visit the Online Marketing Institute to browse over 400 classes in the digital and social media marketing space.

 


Infographic: How to Get Sales with Facebook Advertising

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Editor's Note: Ted Chong is a Business IT expert and director at Ice Cube Marketing, where this infographic was first published. Today he joins to share his insight on using Facebook advertising to generate leads.

 

It’s statistically safe to assume you are a Facebook user and you don't buy every single item advertised on the social media platform. In fact, you may not have ever purchased something advertised on Facebook. This is largely because, although it presents an incredible opportunity for targeted marketing, many companies fail to use Facebook effectively by correctly tailoring their ads to an ideal audience.

Advertisers sometimes forget that Facebook is primarily a social network, rather than a commercial platform. As advertisers competing in a content barrage with endless cat videos and selfies, we need all the tricks we have to stand out.

In this infographic, we summarize the most important factors in Facebook advertising. By following good strategy, you can take advantage of Facebook's diverse audience, and reach the people who matter most.

Here are some key takeaways:

  • When choosing your audience, remember that Facebook has more data about them than you can imagine. Make sure you go beyond broad interests, and select nuanced criteria.
  • The best results on Facebook occur with low-commitment, foot-in-the-door offers with subsequent upsells. For the B2B market, free demo/consultations/eBooks/trials work very well. For B2C, events/workshops/samples/discounts/contests can do magic.
  • In your ads, using feeble words just doesn't cut it. Use power words that short-circuit the brain and demand attention.
  • If you hope to generate leads, go for website clicks or conversions as objectives that Facebook's algorithm can optimize for.

 

fb101

A case scenario: I gave away a free SEO checklist to my audience and it attracted around 200 opt-ins from Facebook. Some of them ended up buying my service, and I made 3-4 times my adspend - not to mention that I got to build my email list at the same time!

There's no one-size-fits-all foolproof strategy. Everything from your offers to your ads hinge on your audience's wants and needs; the winner is the one who understands her audience better than her competitors. By taking the time to learn, strategize and focus your criteria, Facebook advertising can be a very lucrative boost to your business.

Learn more with these related OMI classes:

Facebook Advertising and Targeting

Fundamentals of Facebook Marketing

7 Elements of Highly Effective Facebook Marketing

Visit the Online Marketing Institute to browse over 400 classes in the digital and social media marketing space.

 


5 Easy Ways to Find The Right Keywords For Ads

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Editor's Note: Roy Dopaishi writes about content marketing and advertising for Paidtraffic. Today, he joins us to share the best methods for finding great keywords to use in content and PPC campaigns.

 

An AdWords campaign is driven by keyword research. Target the right keywords, and your ads appear at just the right moment when prospects are searching for the products and services your business offers. But if you target keywords that are too broad or narrow, you run the risk of failing to reach customers and wasting your adspend.

This is why it’s so important to identify the right keywords before launching your campaign. But what’s the best way to do it?

There are many tools to help you with this vital task. Google’s Keyword Planner is often cited as a useful start - in addition to giving keyword ideas, it uses analytics to make predictions and improve suggestions.

The problem with Google’s tool is that thousands of others use it, so there will most likely be plenty of competition for your target keywords. Relying solely on this tool also restricts your reach, as it only provides limited keyword samples.

Fortunately, there are many other methods of finding the right keywords to target. Implementing these can give your AdWords campaign a major competitive advantage, since most advertisers don't bother. Let’s get started!

  1. Question and Answer Sites

Quora is an excellent way to find common questions that prospects are asking.

A search for “kitchen remodeling” yields the following results:

quorasample

Browsing through Quora results provides rich keyword suggestions that you may have otherwise missed. These queries can then be plugged into Keyword Planner to generate even more ideas.

For example: if your business does kitchen renovations, then after reading related conversations, you might include keywords such as “cost of kitchen remodel” or “finance a kitchen remodel” in your ad groups. These are also excellent topics to create blog posts around.

Yahoo Answers is another popular question and answer site you can use to find keyword ideas.

  1. Google Keyword Suggestions

When typing in a search query, Google displays keyword suggestions in the search box.

keywordsuggestions

This is another way to find related keyword ideas based on your initial search query. Entering in different letters of the alphabet displays additional results. However, typing in each letter and copying the results can be rather tedious.

KeywordTool.io is a free keyword research tool that uses Google Autocomplete and other search engines including YouTube and Amazon to generate a comprehensive list of keywords. This tool parses the results so you can easily select relevant keywords and export them to a spreadsheet.

keywordtool

Here is an example of Google Autocomplete results:

autocomplete

And results from Amazon:

amazonresults

One thing to keep in mind is keyword intent and type. Simply adding every single keyword to your ad groups is a recipe for disaster. Instead, think about the intention behind your keywords and whether they apply to your business.

  1. Competition Research

There is one source you should never overlook: your competitors.

Competitors in your industry are more than likely using AdWords to bid on relevant keywords, so keeping an eye on your competitors can provide additional keyword ideas. Identify competitors by searching for your target keywords and entering their URLs into SEMrush.

Here is an overview of top organic keywords for trekkinghero.com:SEMrush

And top paid keywords:

SEMrushtop

 

Note that the tool only provides limited keyword data. To see a full report, you need a paid subscription to the site, but you can perform basic keyword research for free.

  1. LSI Keywords

Search engines are getting increasingly sophisticated.

LSI (Latent Semantic Indexing) keywords are phrases semantically related to your main keywords. For instance, if a page contains keywords like “Apple”, “Macbook”, and “computer”, Google knows the page is about technology rather than fruit, and won't deliver it to the wrong people.

Use tools like LSIGraph to generate a list of LSI keywords:

LSIGraph

These keywords can not only be added to your campaign, but included within the content on your page to help it rank better in organic search results.

  1. Your Own Search Data

If you have a Google AdWords campaign running, then you already have potentially valuable keyword data at your fingertips.

You can view actual search terms that have triggered your ads from the Campaigns menu. Simply click the “Keywords” tab, and then click the “Search terms” button:

adwordsmenu

 

The Search Terms report shows queries that are triggering your ads.

This information is valuable for two reasons, as you can:

  • Identify search terms with high profit potential
  • Identify irrelevant terms to add as negative keywords

Be sure to regularly comb through your own data to find more valuable keywords to add to your PPC campaign.

Conclusion

Finding the right keywords is essential to gain measurable results, and it doesn’t take much effort. Less than half an hour of your time can dramatically increase the effectiveness of your ads, so there simply are no downsides to doing the research. Take advantage of your new knowledge, gain an edge on your competitors, and get started today!

Learn more with these related OMI classes:

Fundamentals of Measuring Search ROI

Creating and Curating Content People Love

SEO For Business Owners

Visit the Online Marketing Institute to browse over 400 classes in the digital and social media marketing space.

 


Infographic: Boost Your Social Media Presence Without Ads

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Editor's note: Belle Balace is a social media strategist with Visme. Today, she joins us to explain how companies can maintain a social media presence with limited resources. A version of this article first appeared on The Blog Herald.

 

While social media should never be an afterthought for online businesses, remaining active can be a struggle without the resources to maintain a paid manager, or launch paid ad campaigns.

Good news! There are ways to boost traffic to your site and increase your social media presence without paying a dime. By launching a social media employee advocacy program, you don't have to find new talents or overload your staff with extra responsibilities.

Social media employee advocacy reasonably assumes that almost everyone uses social media on a day-to-day basis, and if everyone in your company pitches in a little by sharing the latest content from your brand, you can boost your social media presence quickly and organically.

In this infographic, we’ll explain how it’s done.

Key takeaways:

  • Inform employees about the need for a social media presence and what it will do for your company.
  • Ask them to like or follow company pages across social media networks.
  • You or your company leader should take charge, and set the example by staying personally active in sharing brand content.
  • Have good content to share: interesting, informative, and not blatantly promotional. Everyone should feel good about it.
  • Start slow, and build over time. Less is more when employees do not feel coerced.
  • Incentivize social media sharing by issuing prizes to the most active employees.

Here’s the graphic. Enjoy!

Latest Visme Graphic

Learn more with these related OMI classes:

Social Media Strategy for Business

Creating and Curating Content People Love

Visit the Online Marketing Institute to browse over 400 classes in the digital and social media marketing space.