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Getting the most out of Instagram

March 03, 2016 by Sarah Orchard

{{}}With over 300 million users (70% outside the US), Instagram is fast becoming a top social media platform that small businesses cannot afford to ignore. Here are my top tips to boost your following and increase engagement on Instagram.

Face value

Recent research has found that images with faces attract 35% more likes than those without on Instagram. So focusing on people shots is a good way to introduce the people behind your business and get extra exposure for your brand and business.

Like other social media platforms, Instagram is a great way to present your brand less formally than your website or through more traditional communication channels. Share photographs of what goes on behind the scenes - including all the members of your team and even the office dog!

If you can tell a story through your images, that's even better; these images show the personality behind your brand and encourage an emotional connection, an important element in creating brand fans.

Sharing images

Posting original content regularly is important, but you can increase your Instagram activity by paying attention to what your followers are posting. Like and share images posted by your followers, especially any that mention your products or services.

This "you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours" approach will encourage your followers to share similar photos with you. And it also helps to present your business from a new angle. Always credit the person that posted the image by tagging them in your caption.

Making connections with hashtags

Hashtags and the text you use with your Instagram image are as important as the image itself. Hashtags help people connect with people and to find topics and brands that they're interested in. Researching relevant and popular hashtags that will appeal to your target audience is essential. Tools such as Iconosquare or FindGram are useful and they also offer access to key metrics to help you track what works and what doesn't.

Creating a branded hashtag is a sensible strategy. Encourage your followers to use it; it will increase engagement and improve your visibility on Instagram in one fell swoop. Generic hashtags, such as #shoes or #design, don't work because there are simply too many other images with the same hashtag. Instead, try to find something unique that relates specifically to your business.

Don't be tempted to use too many hashtags; it gets messy and smacks of desperation. It's best to concentrate on two or three hashtags that are absolutely relevant.

Encourage responses from your followers

Calls to action work as well on Instagram as they do in the rest of your marketing. Try asking your followers what they think about an image; it's a great way to start a two-way conversation.

Get networking

If you've done your hashtag homework, you will have discovered users that have a large Instagram following; they may well be key influencers that are relevant to your business and worth connecting with. Engage with them and start to build a relationship.

Get into regular habits on Instagram

Consistency is everything. A flurry of activity followed by weeks of nothing posted will not foster a loyal following. Decide how many posts you can commit to per week and stick to it. It will also encourage you to be more discerning about what you post - quality is always preferable to quantity - and your followers will appreciate it.

Copyright © 2016 Sarah Orchard, expert contributor to Marketing Donut and consultant at Orchard Marketing Associates.

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Podcast: the key to ecommerce success in 2016

February 29, 2016 by Chloë Thomas

Want to improve your ecommerce sales in 2016 but don’t know where to start?

In my latest podcast, I have gathered together four experts to discover the key to ecommerce success for 2016.

Ernest Capbert runs the website Who Buys Your Stuff. He has some great suggestions on how to use data to better understand your customers.

Andrew Wilson of Allergy Best Buys has some useful advice on how to focus on the brand, not the product.

Chris Dawson, co-founder and editor of Tamebay, reveals how to use marketplaces to open up new sales channels both at home and overseas.

Alex O’Byrne, co-founder of WeMakeWebsites, has some great tips on automation and email.

And my advice is to keep focusing on the customer every step of the way. To find out more, tune in to this podcast; it could help you improve your online sales this year.

Copyright © 2016 Chloe Thomas of eCommerce Masterplan.

Why practice makes perfect when it comes to communication

February 22, 2016 by Andy Bounds

Why practice makes perfect when it comes to communication{{}}When a fan once said to violinist Fritz Kreisler "I'd give my whole life to play as beautifully as you just did," Fritz answered, "I did."

He didn't just read about the theory of music every day; he played the violin - a lot.

It's the same with Lewis Hamilton. He has spent thousands of hours sitting behind the wheel. He certainly hasn't just been reading the Highway Code for years.

So, when you're talking with others and want to say the right thing, remember the only way to succeed is to practise saying what you want to say until you get it right.

I'm sure you're familiar with the famous quote from George Orwell's Animal Farm - "all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others".

It's the same with communication - all sentences are equal, but some sentences are more equal than others. The bits you need to practise include your openings, your elevator pitch, your responses to challenges and questions that get people talking.

These are your critical communications and they are the ones you need to practise, out loud, as much as possible:

  • The opening sentence of a presentation. A great start builds confidence - for you and your audience, letting them know that this is going to be a great use of their time.
  • Your opening sentence at a meeting. This sets the tone for the whole thing. Which meeting you would you rather attend? One starting: "welcome to the meeting; let me read out the ten point agenda" or one that begins "welcome to the meeting. The reason we're here is because - afterwards - we need to be able to do X, Y and Z. And as soon as we can, we'll finish."
  • Your elevator pitch, so you quickly impress everyone you meet.
  • Power questions, so you get the other person talking about the topics you're most interested in.
  • Answers to your most dreaded sentences. Prepare and practise how to respond to the things you dread hearing others say. That way, you don't dread them any more.

So, look at today's diary and identify the most important bits of your communications. Practise saying them out loud, a lot. It'll make a huge difference.

Copyright © 2016 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. This blog first appeared here.

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The fine art of putting up your prices

February 22, 2016 by Dee Blick

The fine art of putting up your prices{{}}It happens to us all at some time or other; you realise that your expertise and experience is worth far more than the prices you're charging. Or maybe you’ve absorbed so many increased costs in order to stay competitive that your profit margin has diminished.

It's time to raise your prices if you want to stay in business.

But the decision to increase your prices can cause a great deal of stress. How will your existing customers react? They have become accustomed to paying a particular fee, they've budgeted for your services or products and now they’re faced with paying more.

Here are four tried and tested ways to handle a price increase without losing many customers.

  1. Instead of immediately imposing a price increase on your customers, let them know you’ll be increasing your prices a little further down the line so it gives them time to adjust to the news.
  2. If possible, don’t charge the full price increase to your existing customers. Let them know that new customers will be paying the full whack, even going so far as to tell them what this will be to reassure them that, because of their loyalty, they’ll be getting a preferential rate.
  3. Let your customers know about the additional things you do now and that you will continue to do, that you don’t charge for. Don’t assume that your customers are aware of all of the extras you provide.
  4. Check out your competitors’ charges. If you’re still price competitive after an increase you can be confident that if some clients do talk to competitors, they will most likely come back to you.

Of course, no matter how sensitively you handle the news of your price increase, you may still lose some customers - especially those for whom price is everything. Accept this - you can’t please everyone!

Perhaps the best advice I can share with you is to charge a fair price in the first place. If you start off charging a rock bottom price to bring customers through the door, it won’t be long before you become resentful that you’re delivering so much for so little. Trying to remedy this situation by dramatically putting up your prices will just alienate your customer base.

Copyright © 2015 Dee Blick, Fellow of The Chartered Institute of Marketing and an Amazon #1 bestselling author of The Ultimate Small Business Marketing Book and The 15 Essential Marketing Masterclasses for your Small Business.

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Move over millennials, Generation Z is here

February 15, 2016 by Marketing Donut contributor

Move over millennials, Generation Z is here{{}}The millennials are growing up. Young people born in the eighties and nineties have been seen as the first generation to adapt to the "new age". However, these consumers are now entering their thirties and there is a new, younger generation making its mark - Generation Z.

Gen Z youngsters have grown up in the iGeneration - indeed, they have never known life before broadband, mobile phones, apps and social media. But they arguably have a more mature appreciation for culture and ethics compared to their predecessors.

For businesses and marketing professionals, Gen Z presents an interesting demographic to target, as the way they play turns traditional consumer behaviour on its head. The latest research shows that Generation Z are completely turned off by celebrity culture and traditional media, and are more tuned in to peer-to-peer recommendation and online superstars like Zoe Suggs, Tanya Burr, Jim Chapman and Alfie Deyes. For female Generation Z-ers, bloggers are actually cited as the fourth most popular "celebrity" influence.

Understanding Generation Z

Chloe Combi, author of Generation Z, defines this audience as those born between 1995 and 2001 - a subset of Generation Y, really, but a distinct one, whose dates coincide with the spread of home internet connections and mobile phones.

Combi explains: "This iGeneration can't conceive of a world before everyone owned a mobile phone, and instant gratification is their norm; they have it in the palms of their hands within moments, usually for free. This ability to find whatever they're after without the help of intermediaries - such as libraries, shops or teachers - has made them more independent and self-directed than generations before them."

For Generation Z, social media is king. Unsurprisingly, Facebook remains the number one platform, however for Generation Z, Snapchat is the second most popular, with 42% of this audience checking Snapchat at least once a day. For other audiences, Snapchat would barely even get into the top ten. With Snapchat increasingly looking to monetise their service, this is a really interesting platform to keep an eye on if you have a product or service that targets this complex group.

As far as Generation Z is concerned, print media is dead. This is isn't to say they don't pick up the odd magazine or newspaper, however for genuine cut through, online sites, bloggers and vloggers are the media that hold the real power of influence.

Canny consumers

These guys shop around, read review sites and blogs, seek out recommendations and refer constantly to social media. This audience is savvy and is looking for value for money.

For any successful marketing or PR campaign, consumer profiling and understanding how your target audience plays is pivotal. As technology continues to advance at an incredible rate, and as what we know from one generation to the next changes rapidly, understanding consumer behaviour and applying this knowledge to your marketing could make the difference between failure and success.

Generation Z is an interesting demographic and a challenging and exciting audience to engage with. The New York Times has described Gen Z as "the next big thing for market researchers, cultural observers and trend forecasters".

However, by no means are we close to fully understanding this audience, as the nature of Generation Z means they are ever developing and evolving in their behaviour.

Copyright © 2016 Rhianon Williams, associate director at consumer PR agency Escapade PR.

Escapade has produced this infographic to help businesses better understand Generation Z:

Move over millennials, Generation Z is here

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Podcast: expert online marketing tips for 2016

February 08, 2016 by Chloë Thomas

What are the best marketing methods to use in 2016 if you want to boost your online sales results?

In this podcast, I talk to four experts to get their tips on the best marketing strategies for ecommerce retailers in the coming year.

Alex O’Byrne, co-founder of WeMakeWebsites, talks about putting customers first and creating content that attracts and influences them.

Ernest Capbert runs the website Who Buys Your Stuff. He talks about what to do with your marketing after you understand who your customer is, focusing on CRM and social media advertising.

Chris Dawson, co-founder and editor of Tamebay, talks about some of the tools you can use to improve your results on marketplaces such as eBay and Amazon.

Andrew Wilson of Allergy Best Buys reveals how offline marketing can help you sell more products online.

In addition, I share some thoughts on Facebook ads, remarketing and email sign-ups that I hope will be useful. Enjoy the podcast.

Copyright © 2016 Chloe Thomas of eCommerce Masterplan.

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