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Posts for July 2014

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Get the most out of Pinterest

July 31, 2014 by Sarah Orchard

Get the most out of Pinterest{{}}Recently, I’ve been talking to some of my small business clients about Pinterest and I have discovered that many of them are still in the dark about its potential value to their businesses.

What is Pinterest?

Pinterest is a social media site based on images. Completely free, users create online pinboards featuring themed collections of pictures and/or videos.

It tends to be somewhat female-biased (though not exclusively) and is perfect for lifestyle, home décor and interiors, weddings, food, fashion — it’s all about ideas and inspiration.

But Pinterest is great for any consumer ecommerce businesses and has been proven to drive better online sales conversion than the mighty Facebook.

How can Pinterest help my business?

Pinterest can actually help build greater brand awareness for your business and help you engage with your customers.

Think of it as an alternative to a Facebook business page — if you have a Facebook page you’ll be familiar with adding posts that are designed to drive traffic to your website. Likewise, with Pinterest you can pin pictures to your boards showcasing your products (possibly with other complementary products) or bringing what you do to life if you provide a service.

You can also show customers using your products and feature customer case studies or completed projects — anything that will generate interest and drive traffic to your website where they can get the full picture of your product range.

How you use your boards is up to you. You could consider creating a photo-based competition or crowdsource ideas by inviting users to add suggestions or ask for their votes for new product ranges.

If you go to events or interesting venues, why not share photos before, during and after the event. It’s all about making an impression, giving an audience insight into your business and showing them why they might want to buy from you.

So what works best?

Pinterest is very mobile-friendly and most people use it on their phones — as a result, pins with a vertical aspect ratio work best.

It’s also worth thinking about how you’ll describe your pin. Pinterest is a visual tool but words are powerful for search. Take time to explain how a particular product will be of benefit to customers by writing helpful descriptions. Better descriptions will also help your pins show up in on-site searches as well as Google.

Put yourself in your customers’ shoes when writing your descriptions. If you’re selling wedding hair accessories, for instance, write about the ideal length of hair or hairstyle that a particular hair clip will suit.

The more you explore Pinterest, the more click throughs to your website you’ll get, as well as repins that will ensure your products are seen by more and more people.

Copyright © 2014 Sarah Orchard. Sarah is an expert contributor to Marketing Donut and a consultant at Orchard Marketing Associates.

How to run successful meetings

July 28, 2014 by Guest Blogger

How to run successful meetings{{}}Let’s start with two indisputable facts about meetings:

  • Most aren’t very good
  • Most are prepared using a similar process.

Conclusion: the process doesn’t work very well. So don’t do it.

And what is this process?

“I want to discuss topic X. So let’s get all the relevant stakeholders in a room, so we can hit everyone at once. Let’s also cover all the relevant topics on the agenda, so we can hit everything at once.”

Does that sound familiar? As is the usual result: meandering, boring and too few resulting actions.

A better approach is to prepare using PALM:

  • Purpose. Identify exactly what you want to be able to do after the meeting (in other words, focus first on what the meeting is supposed to cause, not cover).
  • Agenda. List the key decisions that need to be made, in order to achieve the purpose.
  • Limit time. Don’t say meetings will last an hour, or they will. Instead, say they will last “a maximum of 45 minutes”. Most meetings are too long anyway. And saying “a maximum of” means that people expect it to finish earlier. So it often does.
  • Minimise attendees. This may sound weird; but you want to strip out as many people as possible. When two people meet, there is just one agreement: person A agreeing with B. However, when four meet, it shoots up to 6 agreements (AB, AC, AD, BC, BD, CD). When it gets to 8-12 people, the number of agreements rockets up even further.

You can use this PALM approach widely:

  • In your diary invites — start with a purpose, then agenda, then say it will last “a maximum of”.
  • In all of your communications before the meeting.
  • In your introduction at the start of the meeting. “Thanks for your time today. The reason for this meeting is so that, after it, we’re able to do X and Y. We’ll finish as soon as we can”.
  • In the printed agenda — put the purpose at the top.
  • In your follow-up email confirming actions.

What simple changes could you make, so that everyone looks forward to coming to your meetings, rather than arriving late? Or not at all.

Copyright © 2014 Andy Bounds, communications expert, speaker and the author of The Snowball Effect: Communication Techniques to Make You Unstoppable. You can sign up for his free weekly tips here.

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Vine — the six-second commercial for gen Y

July 23, 2014 by Guest Blogger

Vine — the six-second commercial for gen Y{{}}When Erik Qualman — social media magic man and author of the hugely successful book Socialnomics — released his latest stat-packed YouTube video he did a great job of highlighting the power of social media in the modern age.

This three-minute clip is a shining example of clever video marketing. Considering that it’s a sequence of facts and figures strewn across the screen, the video drives home its point in a compelling way.

It just goes to show how a smart design combined with eye-catching infographics and a Daft Punk backing tune can hold a viewer’s attention for 180 seconds.

It’s even more impressive if you take into account one of the video’s stand-out statistics — the average person has an attention span of seven seconds.

It sounds extreme but I’m inclined to agree with that — mainly because as soon as I’d read it I immediately started wondering what I should have for lunch. But also because we, as consumers, are being so overloaded with advertisements that we tend to disregard anything that doesn’t appeal to us within the first few seconds.

This sort of consumer behaviour has shifted the way content marketers approach advertising — and that’s where Vine comes in.

The influence of Vine on advertising

In his video, Qualman describes the six-second Vine as the new 30-second commercial. This makes a lot of sense. Apart from anything, no-one’s buying into traditional marketing anymore — just 14% of consumers trust advertisements, according to Qualman.

With Vine, viewers are getting are short, snappy, engaging clips primarily intended to entertain while hinting at a brand or business — it’s the gentle approach to advertising.

On the grapevine

One big business that is using Vine cleverly for content marketing is Ford. Ford has only been using the platform since early 2014 yet it has managed to accrue a substantial following by recruiting the help of more established Viners. It has asked these influencers to produce Vines in which Ford cars play a part — but this is more like product placement than traditional advertising and it’s better for it. Re-Vining the clips using the influencer’s handle, as opposed to Ford’s, also encourages more user engagement.

In addition, the playful and irreverent humour in its clips attracts the attention, trust and respect of a younger audience that would typically be less interested in corporate commercials.

Given that Qualman says 50% of the world’s population is under 30 years old, then gen Y is the largest and most social media-dependent demographic out there.

So, if you want to tap into this pool of potential customers, it would be worth taking a page out of Ford’s book and start harnessing the power of Vine in your content marketing strategy.

Copyright © 2014 Shelley Hoppe, managing director at Southerly.

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Getting to the top of search results

July 21, 2014 by Guest Blogger

Getting to the top of search results{{}}Let’s be honest, running your own business can be a nightmare sometimes and, inevitably, the biggest challenge is prioritising what’s important and what can wait.

When the inbox starts to overflow, it can be easy to simply set aside tasks that are deemed non-urgent for a later date and, for many, online marketing fall into this category.

But I’ll let you into a secret: clients (along with service providers, staff, suppliers, and so on) will never stop throwing curveballs. You will, however, learn to manage them with greater efficiency.

But the fact is that organic online marketing can’t wait — it takes time and the later you start, the later you’ll see results.  Online sales are now forecast to make up 21.5% of the retail market by 2018, a rise of 8.8% from 2012. Without a hard-working online presence, you could be missing out on a substantial amount of potential business.

Too good to be true?

If you have set up a new online business then you’ve undoubtedly prepared an online marketing plan already. And you’ve probably also had lots of calls offering services that will guarantee your website a top five organic placement on Google within six months. Trust your instincts on these and steer clear of quick wins — as the old adage goes, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Online marketing is about earning trust and it will take time — that’s why it is prudent to start early and focus on the long term. While there are numerous resources available to support beginners with SEO (such as moz.com and our own Donut guides), the greatest challenge for small business owners is time.

Opting to work with a respected search agency can provide a more holistic approach — using their resources to manage multiple elements concurrently rather than jumping from task to task. Alternatively, many search companies will be open to completing certain elements of your own strategy such as social media management or content provision and dovetailing this with your own activity.

The power of pay-per-click advertising

While this work continues in the long-term, an effective way to make more money and drive traffic to your website in the short term is to use pay-per-click advertising (PPC) such as Google AdWords.

In short, you create adverts to be placed on relevant results pages of Google. To do this you need to create adverts that Google deems good quality “answers” to search “questions”.  PPC offers flexibility both in terms of advert content but also in terms of spend as you will need to ensure that you are targeting relevant phrases and bidding effectively to get a decent return on your investment.

As the name suggests, with PPC you only pay every time your advert is clicked on but if you choose the wrong terms and the wrong bids, your budget can disappear pretty quickly and with little to show for it.

Like SEO, PPC is a task that can be done by your team but, again, it can be time-consuming. And conquering Click through Rate and Cost per Acquisition through trial and error can be expensive. Many search marketing companies offer campaign start-up packages and monthly management plans, enabling you to get a strong presence in search results.

Copyright © 2014 Hannah Jackson, managing director of Search Marketing Group.

Are you making the most of “wait” marketing?

July 16, 2014 by Guest Blogger

Are you making the most of “wait” marketing?{{}}We’ve all been there — you’ve arrived early at the station and you’re waiting for the train to arrive. Suddenly you find yourself noticing all of the adverts that usually pass you by. We don’t realise it, but it’s at this moment that we are caught by wait marketing.

What is wait marketing?

Wait marketing is a powerful form of advertising where businesses target potential customers during periods when they are waiting, attentive and looking for instant gratification. An eye-catching advert will catch attention and could introduce a new product or service to someone who has a few minutes to spare.

Wait marketing is also used online by many businesses. We spend an average of nine minutes a day waiting for pages to load — while adverts are normally an annoyance, more positive forms of interaction are welcomed by web users.

Landing pages

Creating a landing page to display on your homepage while it loads is a great method of engaging with users. These can include a welcome note, key information, offers, images and prompts to follow on social media or sign up to your newsletter. This allows you to advertise products and encourage more interaction.

Loading messages

Similarly, creating an eye-catching ‘loading’ logo with a message providing information is a great way to engage with customers on your site as they wait for the page to appear. You could even include an advert underneath. Users appreciate the thought behind this gesture — the mark of your unique small business ethos can be very effective.

Image Alt Text

It’s essential to include alternative text on every image your site has in order to display some content in case the picture does not immediately show up on a customer’s screen. Informative text prevents frustration as users wait for the image to load. Inserting a link can also increase interactions — such as saying “if this photo does not display, click here” leading to your contact page. This demonstrates your professionalism and can set you apart.

Social media

When looking for stimulation, many of us turn to social media. This is a prime opportunity for wait marketing. Schedule a regular flow of interesting posts across social media to capture your followers’ attention. Responding to comments with website links is also key, as it establishes a relationship with the customer which will build brand affinity. Small businesses rely on a sense of community to grow, so use social media on a regular basis.

© Emma Thomas. Emma is content curator for Media Street in Exeter.

A beginner's guide to Google+

July 14, 2014 by Guest Blogger

A beginners guide to Google+{{}}If you’re still baffled by Google+ then worry not — you are not alone. Three years after it appeared, the network continues to create controversy and confusion. In fact, it’s easy to get lost on Google+ and spend hours roaming the site with very little to show for it. But help is here. We have compiled this beginner's guide to help you get the most out of Google+.

Google Circles

Once you’ve added your account, Google+ allows you to follow people, much like Twitter, and categorise them into Circles. These could include friends, work, interests and so on. You can share specific content with certain circles. People will be notified once they have been added to your Circles to prompt them to follow you back.

Home Stream

This is the Google+ home screen showing photos, posts, videos and everything else your contacts may be posting. On the left hand side you will see a drop down of all the areas within the Google platform, such as Communities and Events. Down the right hand side are your hangouts (which we’ll come to later). On the home stream you can +1 other people’s content (much like a Facebook like) share items or comment. You can filter the posts on your home screen via your Circles using the bar at the top of the screen, making it much easier to find what specific contacts are saying.

Posting

Like Facebook, when you share an update on Google+ you can choose who you share it with — a specific group of people or everyone. You can also tag individual companies or people in your posts to bring a topic to their attention; they will then get a notification letting them know that they have been tagged in a post. With this in mind, a post shared with a specific group of people acts much like a private message and only allows those specific few to read your update.

Hangouts

This is one of the most popular features on the Google+ platform and is the main feature that makes it stand out from competitors. Hangouts is where you can video call your connections, either as a group chat or as a private conversation. Google positions it as a way to turn one-to-one or group conversations into live face-to-face video calls with up to ten people. Now, with the new Uberconference app you can dial into your Google Hangouts from your phone and host a call with up to 100 people, making conference calls a whole lot easier.

Communities

There is a community for nearly everything, and we’ve certainly stumbled across some of the weird and the wonderful groups. This allows you to join in conversations with people with similar interests — whether it’s social media, travel, animals or fashion. All you need to do is request to join and you can create and join in the discussion.

Events

This works much like a Facebook event and allows a business or individual to raise awareness about an upcoming occasion. And the best part? Being Google, this is linked to your Google calendar so you never have to worry about forgetting an event. To create an event, click on the left sidebar and when you get on the events page, simply click on create Event to get organising. If this is a secret do, then you can choose who sees the event, allowing you to share it with a specific group of people.

Explore

The Explore button on the top toolbar is another excellent feature. This section allows you to see what subjects, topics and hashtags are currently trending on the site. It also suggests similar hashtags for your future posts, as well as any communities or posts that it thinks you may be interested in. In an attempt to rival Twitter, Google+ really has gone all out with hashtags.

So, this is a whistle stop tour of Google+ to get you off the ground but it’s worth taking some time to explore the site further. You can also watch this great video from Chris Brogan about how Google+ can be used to really benefit your business.

© Emma Pauw. Emma is a social media writer at We Talk Social.

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