It can be easy to fall into the trap of using social media for your brand in an ad-hoc way, especially when you are starting out. But setting standards for tone and branding on social media sites can be a crucial make or break decision for a fledging business.
When you're looking at social media for your business, there are several things you need to consider - from where your audience is, to making sure your social media pages have a consistent look.
It can be daunting to get your social accounts properly up and running, especially with each platform having their own nuances and tricks to learn, but if you do it right, it can be one of the best moves your business makes.
Here are some key tips for best practice if you're starting to use social media as a new business:
There is no point setting yourself up on social media if your target audience isn't using it too. Your audience's demographic will determine how much you use each social media site. For example, if your target market is young people, you'd be best off focusing on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram - with about 53% of 18-to-29 year olds on Instagram, 37% on Twitter and even more on Facebook.
Of course, you will have identified your target market when you establish your business. It's also worth browsing on social media platforms to see if your competitors' audiences are there and how much they are using it. You can also track the habits of your target market - if they are using Twitter between 5pm and 10pm, you need to be active during those hours.
Branding is huge for any business, especially a fledging one. If your marketing doesn't match your website, people will not necessarily recognise your brand wherever they find it. The aim of good branding is being able to recognise it at a glance - from your logo to your colour scheme. Social media is a great place to implement your signature look as you can ensure your profile picture, tone and font usage remains the same throughout.
We've all seen businesses who try a little too hard to get noticed. Tagging random people in pictures and posts can generate likes but it doesn't always make for good marketing. And refrain from spamming other people's posts with comments - it may seem like a great way to spread brand awareness but you'll just look like you don't know what you're doing.
Social media can be the best starting point for new businesses, if used properly. It introduces your brand to new customers you normally wouldn't find and provides free advertising. (Or paid if you wish!)
Remember our three magic rules of social media; be where your audience is; make your social media pages consistent with tone and feel; and don't try too hard. If you stick to these best practices, you should get real results from social media.
Sponsored post: copyright © 2016 Elena Lockett, digital communications expert, FM Outsource.
Ecommerce is getting more competitive. If a visitor comes to your online shop and doesn't like the look of it or finds something that doesn't work, they'll be just a click away from one of your competitors.
In short, getting the design elements right in your online shop plays a key part in keeping your customers on your website and encouraging them to buy.
A couple of years ago, having large header pictures at the top of every page was a standard look on many ecommerce websites. Today, this is considered a waste of space. Instead, present your top products using a content slider. Don't overload it with graphical elements and text; keep it clean and ensure there is a clear call to action (CTA).
Welcome text at the top of your home page might seem like a nice way to engage with your customers and add a personal touch but it takes away valuable space which you could use for prominently placing products or special offers.
Our recommendation is to skip the welcome text and add a call to action image or a special offer to lead your customers where you want them to go. If you want to have SEO-optimised text on your home page, place this at the bottom.
Often, shop owners settle for describing their products with one or two basic sentences or, even worse, by just copying the original product description of the manufacturer.
Not only does this negatively affect your Google ranking but it also sends the wrong message to your customers. Take time to write your own unique product descriptions that are easy to read and show your customers that you know your products well.
Your website is the main face of your business but you don't want to have the same appearance as your online competitors. So stay away from standard stock photos and try taking pictures of your own products.
Authenticity and personality are more important than ever. Show your customers what makes your shop unique. If you are not able to produce your own pictures, take some time to look for stock pictures that fit your shop perfectly.
Have you painted your living room in ten different colours? If not, why should your online shop have ten different fonts? A lack of design integrity gives your website a chaotic and amateur look. Choose your own corporate design and focus on one main font for your headlines and another one for product descriptions.
Copyright © 2016 Richard Stevenson, Head of Global PR, ePages.
It's hard to overstate the importance of brand recognition, but how do you go about building it? And how do you do it on a tight budget?
One simple tactic for start-ups and small firms is pop-up marketing. The big brands call this experiential marketing and they do it because they value face-to-face interaction with customers and are looking for specific geographic focus.
But this type of promotional marketing isn't just for big names; it's accessible to all and can be one of the most effective uses of a tight marketing budget in terms of generating sales and building brand awareness.
Put very simply, any company can rent a small area of promotional floor-space at a shopping location and tell thousands of potential customers directly about their product or service. If you apply a little smart thinking to what you do with your space, then you can create a lasting impression.
You don't have to spend a fortune either; the space itself is usually great value and you just need to use it well to draw people into a conversation.
Say you run a local gym; you can offer passers-by a 30-second fitness test and a discount on their first month's membership. You're not just delivering a sales pitch here, you're talking about something you love and know a lot about and this will show. This face-to-face contact with customers is really important for building trust and a strong brand.
Aside from the personal contact with customers, the ability to target promotions geographically is one of the main reasons companies choose to run pop-up marketing campaigns. Arguably the geographic targeting with pop-ups is even more effective than social media and targeted adverts online.
Another great benefit of running a pop-up promotion is the association with the host venue. Generally, venues are fairly clear that they are not officially endorsing your product or service, but it certainly can look that way in the eyes of a customer.
This can be a huge boost for new businesses trying to make a name for themselves, and coupled with the face-to-face contact with customers, it gives pop-up promotions one of the best ROIs of any marketing tactic.
Sponsored post: Copyright © 2016 Emmanuel De Ryker, chairman and founder of Promotional Space.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.