Posts tagged ‘tips’

September 1, 2011

Seller Beware: What your business needs to know about Social Coupons and Community Buying [Interview]

One of the best take-aways from the Social Capital Conference this summer was the connection I made with Vivian Chang, Owner of BlendCreations.com (contemporary jewelry designers). Vivian had used a series of social coupons to drive business development, and I wanted the dirt. Of course, the main reason she decided to offer a social coupon for BlendCreations.com was to attract new customers, but it turns out that there are some other unexpected results you should think about if you are considering offering a social coupon for your business.

Vivian agreed to a quick interview to dive a little deeper into her social coupon experiment. During our conversation, she touches upon the quality of customer these sites attract, having to honour expired coupons, tips for other businesses considering social coupons, and more. Here are some of the highlights from the interview:

Q1 – What was the perceived benefit, and actual outcome, of offering a social coupon?

The perceived benefit was reaching a large, new customer base in cities where we had never had much exposure. While this was true — we did get an increase in traffic from the targeted cities — the resulting number of sales was disappointing. In hindsight, it’s not surprising because our product is quite niche. Remember, not everyone in the Groupon customer base will be interested in your product.

Q2 – Tell me the worst part about offering a social coupon?

Getting the less-than-ideal customer. This would be someone who is a bargain hunter, who has saved up enough referral money to spend the minimum value on your deal. These people often have no intention of buying again. By using ‘referral money’ (the kickbacks that many social coupon sites give customers for referring others), it further devalues the perceived value of our product.

Q3 – Was there anything unexpected that other business owners should know?

It’s easily overlooked, but in Canada gift certificates cannot expire. So a social coupon is essentially selling a discounted gift certificate — it has a monetary value that the customer has purchased. Once the social coupon has expired, the deal price is no longer valid, but the customer is still entitled to use their coupon for the amount they paid. In other words, if the coupon was $10 for $20 worth of merchandise, once the coupon expires, the customer can still use their coupon for $10 worth of merchandise. In that sense, you still have to deal with honouring expired coupons.

Q4 – Would you do it again?

While our experience was “okay” — we did not lose money in doing social coupons — we have decided not to continue this type of marketing. Part of the reason is that there are just so many social coupon sites out there. The novelty of the social coupon has kind of worn off for the average consumer, so getting your deal noticed in a sea of a dozen or more daily deals is getting harder.

The other reason is the prevalence of the “bargain-hunter” — someone who has no intention of repeat business —which makes it hard to want to do more social coupons since it can be the same bargain-hunters who repeatedly only buy with a steep discount. In many ways, doing more social coupons would result in exposure to an audience who has either already seen us, or is only interested in us as a ‘bargain’ and not as a business they’d otherwise patronize.

Q5 -Would you encourage other small business owners to offer social coupons?

I would encourage other small business owners to go in with their eyes wide open — read the fine print and calculate whether or not there is a good return on investment. Make absolutely sure that selling a large number of social coupons does not actually cost you money. Also know that you are going into a social coupon as a marketing venture and not a way to make money off each sale.

About Blend Creations Contemporary Jewelry Designers

Blend Creations seemed like a fitting name for a contemporary jewelry line when husband & wife team Eric Jean-Louis and Vivian Cheng decided to partner in an artistic business venture. Together, graphic designer Eric, and industrial designer Vivian, combine their divergent design approaches to create a contemporary jewelry line that is clean and modern in aesthetic, yet also blends their respective cultures in East meeting West. Find out more at BlendCreations.com.

August 10, 2011

8 tips on promoting your blog and building a loyal audience [Blogging 301]

So you’ve started a blog and now you’re wondering why nobody is visiting. You’ve done everything in Blogging 101 and Blogging 201, but you feel invisible.  Your next step is to start sharing and promoting your blog to drive readership.

Promotion of your blog should be a part of your overall blogging strategy. Remember, you won’t be an overnight success, as it may take months and months of consistent blogging and promotion to build a loyal following, but here are a few tips to get you on the right track.

1. Set goals. If you fail to set goals, you won’t have a target to aim for and you will have no way of knowing if your blog is a success. I can assume that if you are reading this post, you’ve already made the decision that you want more than just friends and family to be reading your posts and you want to reach as many people as possible, right? So set some goals, and be realistic. Would you be happy with 100 pageviews a week? 1,000? How about 20,000 page views a year? Really think hard about how successful you think you can be in your first year and shoot for that target. You don’t have to just set pageview goals: think number of comments, interactions, and shares too.

2. Leverage your social networks. Here’s an easy one – use your existing social networks to spread the word about your blog and each new blog post.

Twitter is by far my most useful referral tool. Be sure to use relevant hashtags to insert yourself into conversations, thank people for RTing and commenting on your work, and tweet at the best time of day (for most industries that’s between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.). This behaviour helps to encourage feedback, shares, and comments.

At the same time, as you are promoting your blog on social networks, you should also be actively trying to continue to build a following  of your target audience on these networks. For example, if you are writing about local food, seek out, follow, and interact with those who like to post about food in your city.

Facebook and Google+ are starting to provide some decent traffic for my blog, and don’t forget about social bookmarking: reddit, digg, stumbleupon, etc.

3. Think SEO when writing content and headlines. Admittedly, I’m not an SEO expert, but we can all use a few key principles to help make our content more attractive to search engines. First, be sure to use common search terms in your headline. You can check out Google Adwords or Google Insights for some help in determining what they should be. Second, in your body copy, be sure to use these same search terms and link them, where possible, to other posts on your blog, or major sites online (i.e. Wikipedia). Finally, if you have images on your blog (and you should), be sure to use these same keywords in the name and title of the image file.  There’s way more to SEO than this. For a more complete tip-sheet, check out this list by Reverse Delta.

4. Share the “link love”. Often ideas for your own blog posts will stem from what you’ve read on others. If I’ve pulled an idea, topic, or infographic from another blogger or website, I always reference where the material came from and reward them with a link-back to their site. The link is still the currency of blogging. Simply put, the more influential pages you link to, and who are linking to you, the higher your blog will return in search results.

5. Get other people talking about / sharing your content. Start by doing the simple stuff. Make sure your comments are open and include buttons to share, like, tweet, rank, email, stumble, digg, etc. The easier it is for your readers to share, the more referrals you can expect. Next,  Join the conversation with other bloggers by being active in the blogging community. You should be liking, commenting, reviewing, and critiquing (professionally) other blog posts. If the idea for your latest blog post was a reaction to something you read on another blog, be sure to return to that blog and post a link to your reaction in the comments section; remember, your are continuing the conversation, not attacking the other opinion.

6. Consider guest blogging.  If you are an established blogger, be open to the idea of contributing a guest post to another blog with a similar focus. You may also be approached to have your existing content syndicated on other blogs: this is a good step too.  Another way to expand your audience is to invite another thought leader in your field to contribute a post to your blog. This not only provides your readers with new content and a new perspective, but also it avails you to the loyal following of your guest blogger…who, I would assume, would help to promote his/her post on your blog to his/her readers.

7. Use offline promotion techniques.  So you want to turn pro? Well, I’m not there yet, but consider the use of traditional marketing materials to drive traffic to your website. This can take the form of almost anything: posters, flyers, stickers, post cards, club cards, t-shirts, hats, bumper stickers, coffee mugs, etc. If you choose to do this, be sure to include a unique, and trackable URL, so you can evaluate how many visitors your campaign has generated. At the very least, you should include a URL to your blog on your business card.

8. Don’t over promote. Sometimes you just need to give it a rest. All bloggers can admit to themselves that they may have crossed the line when promoting their blogs, but it’s good to not make a habit of it.  I try to promote my posts for about 24-36 hours, then let them flow down stream.

Is there anything else that should be on this list? Leave a comment and let me know.

July 7, 2011

Responding to negative posts about you or your company – Tips from the US Air Force

This morning I had a conversation with @LyaraPR, Algonquin College PR student, about how to respond to negative posts about you, or your company, on social media networks. I shared the following flowchart that I’ve been using for a few years that helps keep in perspective what to consider when you encounter a negative, or erroneous, post. It was developed by the United States Air Force Public Affairs Agency – Emerging Technology Division and it’s a good document to print and keep close-by your computer, especially if you are a community manager on behalf of an organization. It’s been around for a while, but it’s still quite useful. Take a look…

NOTE: They also have a 25+ page Social Media and the Air Force document (PDF) that details guidelines, trends, and best practices.

April 13, 2011

3 tips to simplify the hectic schedule of the social media manager [Infographic]

Here’s a great infographic from SocialCast for all of the social media managers out there, myself included. I think we can all find a bit of humour in this, and quite a bit of truth.  Personally, I do 12 of the 14 of these tasks on a daily basis.

The fact of the matter is that the longer you have been a social media manager, the less hectic it becomes as you figure out a few tips, tricks, and tools to help get your job done. Here are my top 3:

1. Train the internet to find you. I’ve said it before – use the free tools out there to aggregate the content you need so you don’t have to go out and find it. Subscribe to some RSS feeds, follow a blog, sign up for Google Alerts, do keyword searches in TweetDeck, enable alerts on your smartphone when your organization is mentioned, download and install FeedDeamon to keep on top of all  of your feeds and searches, etc. Figure out who and what you need to listen to and use an aggregator to do the leg-work.

2. Invest in management and reporting tools. There is a difference. You have two specific needs. First, you need to manage your community and be responsive, attentive, and timely. This includes responding to questions, providing great content, managing messages across a number of platforms,  sharing links, scheduling posts, etc. Many of us have already figured this part out and are using TweetDeck, Seesmic, TwitterBerry, Co-Tweet, Hootsuite, etc.

Second, you have to report on how great the work you are doing is to your boss, and your boss’ boss. To do this, you may need to invest in a tool that provides a dashboard explaining how your social media efforts have driven website traffic, impacted conversions, identified new leads, etc. I had to talk to some analytics people to figure out how to deliver this report. First step was to signup for, use, and understand, Google Analytics.

3. Empower others in your organization to contribute content. Your job shouldn’t be focused 100% on creating content. Tons of great content is out there on the internet; our job as social media managers is to find the content relevant to our audience, and share it. It is a good idea to encourage and empower others in your organization to share relevant content from your organization on your Facebook wall, check-in at your business using Foursquare, share a video on YouTube, or just tweet a question.  One hundred little content creation engines are much more powerful than one over-worked social media manager banging away on the keys.

January 1, 2011

5 steps to get started in Social Media

Every week I get asked the question we’ve all asked ourselves when it comes to participating in an ever-growing number of social media networks: “How do you do it?” To many social media enthusiasts, this is often a very personal question, and one we have figured out on our own terms.

After trying to answer the question as it means to me, I’ve figured out that the people who are asking the question really couldn’t care less about how I use social media. What they are asking is how can they get started and use it well.

I’ve boiled down the typical conversation to this list of the first 5 things beginners should do to get started using social media.

1. Set goals: Figure out what you want out of the tool. Do you want to get the latest headlines? Connect with friends? Build your personal brand? Look for career opportunities? Discuss shared interests? Share photos or videos? What you want out of the social media experience will help determine how you approach the next steps.

2. Pick your poison: A common mistake of social media newcomers is they want to play in all of the sandboxes at once: a daunting task for any user. Once you have an idea of what you want to gain from the use of a social media network, then the choice of which one you should join becomes clearer. You don’t need to pick them all; start with one or two and really get to know them. Here’s a great infographic covering the strengths of some of the more popular tools.

3. Sign up and build your profile: Your profile is a great opportunity to share the essence of who you are and what you are contributing to the social media community.  If you fail to add a proper photo, background, biography, real (or believable) name, etc., you are limiting the ability of others to find you through the social media tools themselves or search engines. A full profile establishes a level of credibility and trust which encourages other other users to. For example, here’s my @David_Hall Twitter bio:

Communications & PR Pro – P/T Algonquin College Professor – Social media enthusiast.
Passionate about managing traditional & social media for @algonquincolleg

It doesn’t include everything about me, but it gives a good snapshot of my main personal and professional interests that I will be discussing on Twitter. Never underestimate the importance of a full profile.

4. Sit back and listen: Once “you are in” start poking around and experimenting with the tool; see what it does, see what it doesn’t do, and more importantly, observe how others are using it to share their information or content.You will quickly understand the “culture” of the tool which will help your transition to step 5 much easier. Many social media platforms are fantastic listening tools where you are able to crowd-source in real-time to get a good feel of the conversation taking place at any given moment.

5. Join the conversation by adding value: This is where you will sink or swim in social media – It’s all about content and conversations driven by the users. Be real, be relevant, be useful. Share a resource or expertise, ask a question, answer a question, report on breaking news, promote cool stuff, share your opinion on current events, and be sure before each posting to ask yourself “who cares?” If the honest answer is “nobody,” you may want to reconsider.

Final thoughts: Ultimately, social media is about sharing experiences. Pick a tool that best fits your interests. If you want to keep in contact with people you have met in your offline world, Facebook would be a good start. If you are looking for the latest information, breaking news, connections with thought leaders, and a place to share your experiences in a common conversation, Twitter is your first step. Start with LinkedIn to augment your professional presence online; and look to YouTube, Photobucket, or Flickr to share  and consume user-generated multimedia photos and videos.

Did I miss something social media newcomers should be aware of? Let me know, add your comments.

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