Starting a successful social media campaign requires developing a clear messaging strategy. The messaging strategy centers around your audience. Defining your audience will help you figure out why they would want to follow you. From there you can decide how your brand’s persona matches with your audience’s interests. A solid messaging strategy acts as a guide for consistently presenting content in a way that your audience will connect with.
Why should your target audience follow you?
People communicate through social media to be entertained, more specifically, they are looking to be informed or inspired, or both.
Positioning your company as an expert in the field is a great way to attract followers via social media and keep them interested. Offering tidbits of knowledge whether it’s about your products, services, or things going on in your industry will be valuable to your audience. It’s important to not always “sell” your offerings but to demonstrate the uses and benefits. Being too sales-y is a good way to lose followers.
Being a source of inspiration for your audience is a sure way to keep them coming back. There are endless ways to do this and it all depends on what your product or service is. If you offer a project-based service, posting photos of past projects is a great way to show off your capabilities and get your audience thinking how your service might benefit them. If you offer a product, posting photos of how customers use it is also a good way to show its application to others.
How do you want to be perceived by your target audience?
The next step is deciding on your brand’s persona and the tone you use when you post the types of content stated above. Do you want to come off as humorous, serious, sarcastic, or play to people’s emotions. Two examples of companies that have a clearly defined persona are iFixit and HeadBlade. iFixit is a local company that writes free repair guides for almost anything. They speak to people who like to fix things themselves, especially tech geeks. iFixit’s tone is geeky, relishing the happiness they get from taking apart and fixing something that can seem so complex. HeadBlade sells ergonomic razors for shaving your head. HeadBlade’s tone is playful, yet very proud of their head shaving ways. Both have a unique product and service and therefore they have attracted a unique set of followers by speaking to them in their language.
These two examples help to explain how your messaging strategy completely depends on knowing who your audience is and what they want from you.
If you run a business and do not have a social media plan then you need to crawl out from the rock you are hiding under and say hello to a brand new world. Like it or not social media is a communication channel for your business and how you use this is up to you. Let’s explore the factors to consider as you create your plan.
Social media is a very big topic and this article is limited to basic planning for a business and avoids all the complexity involved in the personal components of social media. It is written from and for business owners, executives, and key managers.
Social Media Profiles
These are the company records and personal profiles to be included in the plan. One immediate challenge is how some people feel about their profiles. In every business you have market facing positions typically executives, managers, and sales staff and if any of these feel their profile is personal you need to have a serious talk with them. In extreme cases where the person will not allow the profile to be managed you might want to consider creating a positional profile. Because of the complexity of this planning you have to understand the type of profile and the person that owns it. In a small business the owners or key managers are typically deeply engaged in the business and it is a blurry line between the personal and professional use of the profile. For sales staff they have to consider as a minimum that they are renting their profile to the business. There are lots of challenges in this part of the plan and the right answer is a variable based on how the person perceives their profile.
Define Your Audiences & Messaging
In any communication plan you have to start by defining whom you are talking to. The better your audience definitions the better you can be in planning your content. Do not fall for the ‘everyone is my prospect’ statement because if everyone is your prospect then nobody is your prospect. By defining the audience you force your organization to clarify who they are talking to along with the message they want delivered.
Not every network works for every business and while there are lots of these networks, typically only a few are important enough to develop a communication plan for. The classic ones to talk about are LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ but many industries or markets will have some of their own. LinkedIn tends to be the network connecting business to business and Facebook is business to consumer. For any specific audience it is unlikely that both of these will be important for the same audience.
Posting types include things like company-unique content, like this blog article but also includes other articles of interest, news, photos, video content, and fun/humor. As you paint the image you want for the market you can consider each of these are a different type of paint brush. Each post type has a unique set of attributes and all are used to create a different effect. The news you pick, the articles you write, and the humor you like, all create the image of your business in the social networks.
Posting types can be planned or event-driven and each of those has to be planned separately. For example in our business we post things that are interesting for our business as we run into them but we also have regular communications like our monthly newsletter. Within that newsletter are articles like this one that defines what we are and what we find to be important to share with the market.
Dumb Things Businesses Do
We have been involved with social media for a long time and we have seen businesses do some incredibly dumb things. The common one is to rush into a network with no understanding of the culture of the group and act like idiots. Very few respond and those that do, respond negatively so the business leaves assured that social media does not work for their business. This however is a bad conclusion based on false data. In social media, like all social settings you have to earn the right to communicate and it is not a god given right. You have to first understand the culture of the network and any sub-groups and then post.
Another common problem is the business enters the social network but never engages with the group. Then after months of painful silence they declare that social media does not work for them and they exit stage right.
Slow & Steady Wins the Game
Like any social setting, success comes to businesses that communicate in a steady manner by establishing their value in the group. This comes from a steady communication plan that effectively represents your business values and beliefs. We often see social media plans that start with a shock and awe campaign and the only one that is ever shocked and awed is the business when they are driven out of town by the villagers with flaming emails. Earn your reputation by contributing to the social network and the rewards of an expanded network of business contacts will take care of itself.
Professional Execution Counts!
Once you have established this basic data the next step is to plan out the postings and post them on time and over time. We use a spreadsheet with each day of the month and we include the complete posting to include the short link. Using the len feature of Excel we make sure that the posting is less than 140 characters (in the case for Twitter) and we are off to the races.
Next month we will write more about developing the messaging strategy to go with the plan.
Social media is time consuming and confusing, but also an essential part of a business’s marketing strategy. If you realize the benefit of being active on social media but have other priorities, then this service is for you.
Consistent Marketing Message
Drive People to Website – Improve SEO
Build your Network of Connections
An effective social media plan has to be executed or it’s just a plan. Our services are designed for the Executive or Manager that needs to have a presence in social media but cannot afford the time required to do this properly. Our experts discuss with you how you want to be represented and implement the details while providing you with the ability to control the strategy. Our experts help you pick the networks that are important to your business and to engage with the groups that mean something to you. They can make recommendations and then execute on your instructions. The typical manager needs only a few hours of service each week so the service is affordable.
Keeping up with the changes in social media is almost a full time job and our staff works full time in these networks. This gives them an insight to the opportunities and risks that would otherwise consume days of your time each week. Our staff reduces the amount of work involved in social media by 90% saving busy executives like yourself hours that can be spent focused on the business of your business.
Call Us To Talk About Your Social Media Plan! 800.272.0887
Mobile marketing strategies for a small marketing budget
While reading through Google’s Mobile playbook, a lengthy guide on how businesses should use mobile marketing, most of their case studies were from huge companies with huge marketing budgets. But what about small to medium sized businesses (SMB) who don’t have a huge marketing budget (for example, to create an app or implement a large campaign) but still get a significant proportion of mobile traffic? Or just want to keep up with changing consumer habits? The adwords experts and I racked our brains and put together some ideas that can be applied to SMB’s.
Mobile Ready Site
Use analytics to find out where the majority of your mobile users go on your website – that’s a sign of what information is most important to them – make that information as easily accessible as possible (i.e. on the main screen of the mobile view).
Participating in a particular social network makes sense depending on what type of business you are. For example, Facebook is not always relevant for business to business as LinkedIn, though Facebook for business to consumer is. If you sell products, Pinterest or Instagram might suit your audience. Instagram would also work if you’re selling an experience – like a gym. Things that are visually interesting, ways to use products, and tips are good things to post. To consistently build your audience create fun and engaging campaigns to spread your brand’s reach. Example: pin it to win it or asking followers to hashtag cool pictures related to your business for a chance to be featured on your website or social media profile.
Regular Email Newsletter
An email newsletter sent out on a regular basis to customers and/or prospects who opt-in is a great way to maintain contact as well as establish your business as an authority on your topic; and it’s inexpensive. Content for the newsletter could include but in no way is limited to blog posts, company updates, or industry updates.
QR (Quick Response) Codes
QR codes by their nature drive interaction. Applied to a service business, QR codes could be used on print advertising to send potential customers to a landing page on your website.
For retail stores, a new term for the customers shopping process is showrooming – when customers view products in physical store to research before purchasing online. Displaying QR codes within your store with links to product information and reviews and having sales people ready to answer questions can improve the in-store experience. Combining the digital experience of QR codes with the physical experience is something that the online store doesn’t have. Additionally, QR codes used on print advertising can be used to drive customers to the physical store. If you want more people to purchase in-store reward them with special deals like check-in deals using foursquare or yelp.
Location Based Services
Location based services (usually an app), if you opt-in, use your phone’s location to give you targeted alerts, discounts or announce an event.
In Google AdWords, with the launch of enhanced campaigns it’s possible to display different ads based on location and the device being used. The reason for using these is similar to having a mobile ready site – people searching for something on their phone might be looking for different information than if they were searching on a desktop computer. Mobile PPC ads and banners aim to address the difference in search intent.
There are tons of affordable loyalty software options that will work with your existing POS System. Rewards can vary based on frequency, dollar amount spent, or points. The benefit of a program like this as opposed to an actual punch card is the amount of usable data that comes with it like email addresses, and purchasing habits like frequency and time of visit. That information can be used to better serve your customers.
Customer Relationship Management
Typically, a database that organizes customer information like frequency, past purchases, total spent per month. Having this data can help identify who your best customers are and customize their service. The data can also be used to divide customers into groups based on their behaviors and market different services to them based on those behaviors.
The following items are elements of mobile marketing but were not included in the above list because they exceed the average SMB marketing budget or only apply to a very small amount of businesses.
App for mobile and/or tablet – can be a very successful method but development is expensive
Augmented Reality (AR) –also expensive to implement
SMS Texting – This tactic in our opinion is more intrusive because of the more personal nature of text messages. Effectiveness would really depend on the service or product you offer and how the campaign was implemented.
The mantra to keep in mind when creating a mobile marketing plan is: easy to use and easy to find – because customers are on the go. Mobile marketing shouldn’t be the only marketing you do, it is only a part of the whole.
Did I miss anything? Has your business used mobile marketing? How so? What have the results been?
Your message is represented through the images, text and call to action used in the ads. It is essential that the language used be very clear, you want the person to know what to expect. Having a misleading ad, even if it’s unintentional can result in a high bounce rate. A bounce rate is the percentage of people that click an ad, view the page, and then leave the site probably because they weren’t interested. The cost of those unqualified clicks adds up and can be avoided. Represent your particular product or service accurately, think about how it benefits your customer and convey that through the ads.
2. How are you going to isolate the “serious shopper” clicks from the “just looking” clicks?
Your ad creative should serve a call-to-action and an audience qualification filter. You want the click from a qualified and informed visitor not just a click. We often see ad creative that focuses on only one of these attributes but the reality is we want a balance between these two. A common example is using a price point to filter out those whose budget doesn’t match your product or service. A filter in your design also saves your budget for those that truly have an interest in what you have to say.
3. To click, or not to click, that is the question
To Click Image ads designed to get clicks have a call to action that compels the viewer to see what else you have to say. This method is used if you have a new product or service to showcase or even an old product or service that needs more exposure, etc. If used with remarketing – this method can be used to remind the viewer to return to your site.
Not to Click Image ads intended for no clicks are designed to create brand impressions so the value is the display of the brand not the click interaction. These are used to remind people of your location(s), the benefits of your product or service, or your brand image. Even if the image ads are designed for no clicks they probably still will be clicked which is a good thing – they need some in order for Google to keep them running. If the ads are getting absolutely no clicks, Google doesn’t make money from them, so they’ll give up your ad space to someone else. Again an issue of balance.
4. What’s the next part of the journey – after clicking the ad?
If the image ads are for general branding, then the home page is a good spot to deliver the user after they click. However, if the image ads are for a particular offering the home page is most likely too general. You want to lead your potential customer to the page that gives them exactly what they want to know to make a purchase– they should not have to search the website; which is what they would have to do if you led them to the home page. If the website doesn’t already have a landing page with content that is ad-specific, you should create one or at least add some relevant information to the page that is most closely tied to the ads’ content. Remember this is a conversation that starts with the ad and is continued by the landing page.
To understand any technology you have to first be aware of its foundation and SEO is no exception to that. SEO is based on the search engine’s evaluation of the page’s trust & authority and the keyword match. We believe that the fundamental parts of this evaluation consist of:
What you say about yourself
What others say about you
Each of these building blocks gets progressively more important as you reach toward the SERP (Search Engine Results Page). Nobody knows exactly how much weight goes to each level but our guess is that each level is about twice as important as the item before it.
1. What You Say About Yourself
This level is driven by the content on your website and while it is a small percentage of the total score it is absolutely essential because this sets up the first phase of eligibility. If your page fails eligibility then the rest of the optimization is a complete waste of time. Eligibility is a simple Boolean test so you either are or are not. The search query either matches your keywords or not. When you conduct a search on Google one thing it shows is an estimate of how many pages are eligible for the search.
After eligibility comes the scoring of the on-page content and this gets into what most people consider page optimization. The most critical items here are the support for the keyword and its location and density on the page. This is not rocket science but it can certainly get complex.
Again, nobody knows exactly how every aspect of document scoring happens but if our guess of each stage being twice as important as the one before it then on-page optimization is only about 11% of the score but it is a critical 11%.
2. What Others Say About You
Just like in the real world “What others say about you” is more important than “What you say about yourself.” On the internet the way they talk about you is with links that point back to your site and the infamous back-links. Not all back-links are created equal so you have to concern yourself with the link quality and quantity. There is no doubt that Google weighs links differently when they come from different sources and the essence of this comes from the original page rank formula developed by the founders of Google when they were PhD students at Stanford University. The Google Page Rank formula is documented at Stanford University and while I am sure it has evolved since that paper was written, the core of the formula is still very much a part of the SERP results of today.
Here is the formula:
We assume page A has pages T1…Tn which point to it (i.e., are citations). The parameter d is a damping factor which can be set between 0 and 1. We usually set d to 0.85. There are more details about d in the next section. Also C(A) is defined as the number of links going out of page A. The PageRank of a page A is given as follows:
PR(A) = (1-d) + d (PR(T1)/C(T1) + … + PR(Tn)/C(Tn))
Now let me translate this for you. Page rank is driven by links in and links out. The inbound links increase the page rank of the page and it passes its rank to the location that it points to. If the page has lots of inbound links then an outbound link from that source is worth that score divided by the number of out bound links.
3. Election Results
There is no doubt that Google values votes from users. A user ‘votes’ when they click on your listing and act as a satisfied search, meaning they don’t immediately leave the page to return to the SERP to find what they were looking for. This is commonly called CTR an acronym for “Click-Through Rate.” We have discovered over the years that the AdWords Quality Score and the pages’ SEO score are largely the same thing. In AdWords, most experts believe that the CTR is about 65% of the Quality Score. The reason I believe this is true is because of a presentation by Google’s Chief Economist, Hal Varian. In this video he graphically represents the CTR weight and clearly states that it is the largest factor. I contend that Google gives the same weight on the organic results.
One reason we like to work on accounts that use AdWords is that it gives us the Quality Score, which we believe is the same as the organic score. Programmers love to reuse code and I am certain that Google uses much of the same code in AdWords Quality Score that they do on the Organic Page Score.
Two elements that greatly affect the CTR are the title link and the snippet that appear on the SERP. Those are the only clues to the user about what they are ‘voting’ for, or what information they will see when they click the link. This is why we stress the importance of carefully writing these two items. The vote measurement is much smarter than most think and we know Google tracks some items. For example, if a visitor clicks on your listing but then returns quickly to Google and searches the same thing that is not a good thing for you. The reason this is a problem is that Google will see that as an unsatisfied search.
The key elements to the part of the SEO puzzle is the title, snippet, and the content they land on. If you concern yourself with the quality of the visitors experience you can win this game.
What you will find with SEO is that if you work very hard on creating a great web experience for your visitors the optimization will take care of itself. A website with a great experience gets talked about and pointed to and that wins the SEO game.
How to move a WordPress site from one host to another keeping same domain name
Recently, I had to undertake the very intimidating task of moving all of our WordPress websites from our old hosting company to the new one. The first time I attempted this a few months ago I lost a site in the massive abyss also known as the internet. I had searched all over the internet for a comprehensive list of the steps required to move a site successfully. After combining steps from a few different articles and troubleshooting on my own (with the assistance of my hosting company) I came up with a comprehensive checklist of my own. Here is the short and long version. I use the short version now that I’ve done this about 7 times, but for those that need more detail, I’ve got one for you too.
Backup copy of WordPress database and WordPress content
Create new database, database user, database password, connect, and set user privileges/permissions
Upload backup WordPress content and Import backup of WordPress database
Change wp-config.php file to new database information previously created in Step 3 (Database Host is most likely “localhost” but check with your hosting company)
In cPanel, change PHP Configuration to “PHP 5” – this is the version WordPress uses
Redirect DNS to new name servers (check with new hosting company for what their name servers are)
Purchase hosting for your site’s domain name
Make Backup Copies of Site
If you have access to phpMyAdmin for your old host then export your database in SQL format
If you don’t have access, ask whoever manages your website to send you a copy of the database as a .sql file
From the WordPress Admin Panel, click “Tools” -> “Export” -> “All content” -> then “Download Export File.”
In the cPanel of your new host, create a new database, database user, and database password. Connect the database user to the database name and grant the database user all permissions/privileges. If your cPanel offers a MySQL wizard, I would recommend using this because it walks you through each of these steps so you won’t forget to do one. The first time I created the new database I didn’t use the wizard and I forgot to set the permissions. It caused a minor problem later on that was fixable but required some time to troubleshoot. So save yourself some time and use the wizard.
Upload Backups (made in Step 2)
WordPress Database: In phpMyAdmin, click the database you just created, then click “Import” on top option menu. Find and select your .sql file and click “Go.”
WordPress content: In the file manager, upload backup .xml file to “public_html” directory. This will upload a zip file to this directory. Unzip the file and copy the contents of that file back to the “public_html” directory so the path is direct.
Update the wp-config.php file with the new Database Name, Database User, and Database Password; Database Host will most likely remain “localhost.” Save.
In cPanel, click “PHP Configuration” and select “PHP 5” from the drop down menu and click “Update.” (PHP 5 is the version WordPress uses)
From your domain name registrar, redirect the domain name server (DNS) to point to your new hosts’ name servers. Contact your host to find out what these are.
Shortcodes are shortened versions of html code that work exclusively in WordPress. They make it quick and easy to add elements to your WordPress page. Shortcodes can be broken down into these categories: Theme, Plugin, Custom, and Built-in WordPress shortcodes.
Some theme developers create shortcodes for the users of their theme. The best way to learn if your theme has shortcodes and what they are is to visit your theme’s website. Some themes I’ve worked with have button shortcodes that display a button style that is unique to the theme. I’ve also seen shortcode for multi-column layouts where all the text in one column is within the shortcode tag.
Example:[one_third]In between these two tags is where the content of one column goes in a 3-column layout[/one_third].
As with theme shortcodes, some plugin developers create shortcodes for that specific plugin and likewise it is best to visit the plugins website to know if they exist and what they are. I’ve seen a lot of form plugins that use shortcodes because lots of things can go wrong with forms if the code is off by a minor detail. But the shortcode reduces the form to a small snippet that can be copied and pasted to the page.
Example:[form id=214] That small bit of code inserts the form and all of the forms’ settings.
Shortcode that you program yourself. If there is a feature you are imagining for your site but it doesn’t exist – you can create it. That’s a bit advanced though. If there is an element you want to add to your page that requires complex code you can simplify it with a shortcode to reduce the opportunity for error. For example, if there is a stylized button that will be used often within the site you can write the code within the functions.php file so that wherever you want to add the button, you just have to write simple tags like:
WordPress has some shortcodes that work with every WordPress site. I used the built-in gallery shortcode for this site. The gallery shortcode has default options that you can change by specifying within the brackets. The options allow you to specify which images display within the gallery (ids=””), how many columns (columns=””) the gallery will display, the size of the image (size=””), and how to order the images within the gallery. There are a few other options as well.
In the past (pre surge in smartphone and tablet use), web pages were designed to accommodate a specific, or fixed display resolution like 1024 x 768 or 1366 x 768. But the recent boom in tablet and smartphone use over the past few years has changed the way designers have to think about design. Tablets and smartphones all have varying screen resolutions and sizes so a site that was created for a resolution of 1024 x 768 with a 9-inch screen is going to look a lot different on a 4-inch smartphone. A lot of horizontal and vertical scrolling, zooming in and out is needed to maneuver through the site. The initial solution to this was having an additional mobile site. The problem with that is the chore and cost of maintaining two sites.
CSS Media Queries
While some people may not mind either of these web experiences there is a much more functional solution with responsive design. Responsive design first emerged in 2010 in an article by Ethan Marcotte (I recommend checking this out – see the link below). The main idea behind responsive design is the use of CSS media queries. CSS media queries within the stylesheet call to the device being used and display the site based on the device’s width using the layout designed for that particular width.
For example, I would create three different layouts, one for each media query. There is one layout for a device with a width greater than 1200 pixels, one for a device whose width is less than 600 pixels, and another for a width less than 400 pixels. Ethan Marcotte’s article has an image of a photographer taking a team picture that displays this concept really well: at the screens largest the team members are standing side by side in one row but as the screen scales down the players are standing in two rows, then three rows with the top row of players sitting on the second row’s shoulders, until there are five rows of players some standing on other team member’s shoulders. Each variation corresponds to a different media query in CSS.
Applications of Responsive Design
This concept can be applied to more elements of a page other than images. It can be used to shift the placement of the navigation menu from the right of the logo to below the logo, it can also change the orientation of the menu to display vertically instead of horizontally. Depending on a site’s content, there are many ways to use CSS media queries to rearrange a website’s layout based on the device. This allows a site’s style to remain coherent among different devices and it offers a similar web experience among devices.
WordPress offers a massive library of themes but there are also a lot of websites out there that use these themes. So the likeliness of using the same theme as someone else is pretty high. There are a few ways to customize your theme to set your site apart from any site that might also be using the same theme.
Changing Colors in the Style Sheet
Colors are very easy to change, so when shopping for a theme you don’t need to base your decision on the colors used in order to match your brand. The first thing to do is access your style sheet(s) which can most likely be found in the Admin panel under “Appearance” and then “Editor” though it might also be located under your theme’s options. If you are unfamiliar with CSS that is ok, changing the colors just involves substituting the hex codes of the color that is already there for the one you want.
Scroll through your style sheet and notice how it is divided up in sections like Header, Footer, Layout, and Fonts. Find the section that corresponds to the element whose color you want to change (for example if you want to change the background color of the header, look for the h1 tag). (* In CSS, “background-color” pertains to the background of an element while “color” pertains to the color of a font) When you’ve found the element you want to change, paste in the hex code of the color you want in-between the hash tag and semi-colon (those are important so make sure you leave them). A good tool I use for picking colors and getting hex codes is Adobe Kuler. You can also use it if you see just a hex code and are unsure of what color it is.
(* If you don’t have write permissions to make changes to the style sheet, contact your hosting company.)
Using Google Fonts
Google Fonts is a free and easy way to customize your website in WordPress – there’s even a plugin for it that allows you to choose which fonts you want for specific elements. However, if you would rather not use the plugin, you can also just add the fonts you want to use with the snippets of code that Google Fonts gives you on their site. After choosing the font(s) you want and adding them to your collection, click the “Use” button in the bottom right corner. Uncheck the styles that you don’t want. Then in step #3, copy and paste the code within the head section of your “header.php” template. Then copy and paste the CSS to the corresponding selector in your style sheet.
Changing the colors and fonts used on your theme is a quick way to customize your WordPress site. While there are many other options, like adding unique graphics, widgets, or other features, these are a good start.