Recent Posts

  • IT Marvels: How Business Partners Can Work Together From Anywhere

    Posted Feb 21st, 2014 By in Business With | No Comments

    Every successful business must keep employees, executives, suppliers and customers in touch, empowering them to communicate on any device wherever they go. Modern digital collaboration tools are becoming more and more indispensable. What are some of the most popular solutions?

    IT - BusinessBasecamp

    A project management website, Basecamp features wiki-like text documents, to-do lists, calendars and milestones, time tracking, file sharing and messaging. The online software connects people to the files and project data that matter, keeping everything in one place. Basecamp is one of the most popular project management tools in the world.

    Google Drive

    This online office suite is offered by Google (free for individuals). Using a web browser, anyone can create and edit documents collaboratively; all files are stored online. Documents are saved automatically to avoid data loss. Users can create or import documents, spreadsheets, and presentations, and export them in numerous different formats. Multiple users can open and edit documents simultaneously.

    iDoneThis

    This productivity tool tracks accomplishments and motivates employees using a daily email reminder. Team members on a project, using only email, can share and monitor their progress. Each morning, team members receive a digest of everyone’s accomplishments from the prior day.

    Unified Communications

    This term refers to an all-encompassing collaboration suite, such as the Unified Communications and Collaboration (UCC) solution from Mitel Networks. Such a solution typically combines telephone service, messaging, presence services, and audio/video/web-conferencing. Thus all team members, regardless of location, have all possible communication methods available to them, from one provider.

    GitHub

    This is a distributed code repository and version control system typically used by developers to store and manage code. GitHub allows team members to work on files simultaneously; the service keeps track of all files and file changes. The online software supports issue tracking to help manage bugs and customer problems. GitHub also features a wiki in which technical documents can be stored.

    Evernote

    “Evernote makes it easy to remember things big and small from your everyday life using your computer, phone, tablet and the web.” This software handles all types of information, which can be uploaded and shared with colleagues. Each bit of uploaded content becomes a note. Notes are organized into notebooks, which can be viewed by other people.

    Google Groups

    This service from Google affords discussion groups for people wishing to share common interests. Additionally, the service provides a gateway to Usenet newsgroups using the same user interface. As of 2013, a Google+ account is needed to access the Groups. The service functions as an unofficial archive (dating back to 1981) of all newsgroups.

    The possibilities for online and mobile communication and collaboration are nearly unlimited — truly an embarrassment of riches.

  • 5 Website Changes to Improve Your Loading Speeds

    Posted Feb 11th, 2014 By in Website With | No Comments

    Website LoadingHow many times have you been surfing the Internet only to run across a page that loads like its from the 90s? Let’s face it, we are all impatient web surfers and with broadband speeds get faster each day it makes site load time more important than ever. Speedier web pages result in more time spent on the site, higher conversion rates, better search engine rankings and less bounces. Visitors tend to place more trust in sites that load faster as well. If you want the best load times with the most possibility for success you should read on and consider implementing some of these tips.

    Choose a Good Host

    A website is only as fast as the server it is hosted on. Choosing a reliable web host that features advanced, uncrowded servers is the foundation for speedy pages. If you are a large company going with a dedicated hosting service is extremely flexible because your IT department can choose their own operating system or hardware like a rackmount chassis to store your server. A smaller company that may not have the resource to have their own server can go with shared hosting or even cloud servers. Webmasters should research different hosting services and read reviews to find the right fit as there are many options to go with all with varying degrees of quality.

    Use a Content Delivery Network

    An easy way to speed up a site is by using a content delivery network, or CDN. A CDN works by offloading objects such as scripts, videos and images onto other servers in different global locations. This allows for the fastest delivery of these objects by utilizing a server closest to the visitor. The CloudFlare CDN is offered free by many web hosts.

    Downsize Objects

    Once a CDN is in place, the webmaster can reduce the overall number of objects loading on each page. Every call to a CSS file, script or advertisement can slow down loading time. The optimal number of objects on any page should be less than 20. Reducing image file sizes or converting them to a different type can be another great way to eliminate load time. Managing these data stream can go a long way to reducing your website’s loading time.

    loading timeOrder the Code

    An easy strategy to give the appearance of fast loading is placing the images, text and style code at the beginning of the page. Those elements will load first, while more complex objects load in the background. This approach works well when used with the steps already covered. Best practice is to keep the code as simple and clean as possible.

    Compress with GZIP

    Advanced webmasters can compress JSON, HTML and XML file requests on each page by using GZIP compression. This method is compatible with all modern browsers and will reduce unnecessary space for faster loading times for most pages. GZIP also offers the benefit of lower bandwidth usage for the entire site and server.

    If you want to go fast then using the suggestions above will be sure to increase the speed of nearly any website, regardless of size. After you’ve implemented these things you should be able to keep track of how fast the site is loading, how speed is affecting conversation rate, how long visitors are staying on the site and if there are any bounces. Compare the number and see how loading time can seriously help you business’ website.

     

  • 5 Reasons Your Company Needs to Develop Mobile Apps

    Posted Jan 8th, 2014 By in Social Media With | No Comments

    In a world of increasingly complex technology, many businesses are still playing catch-up when it comes to user interface. The online shopping industry has changed drastically, and you’ll need to step up your game if you want to draw in today’s savvy shoppers. How do you generate interest for your brand without breaking your marketing budget? Develop a mobile app. Here are five good reasons why your business, even if it is a small one, needs to develop a mobile app.

    Increased Networking

    Designing a mobile app opens your business up for instant connection with social media sites. Your primary customers are already updating their statuses and tweeting about their favorite brands. You need a mobile app to connect with them where they go. Syncing up an app with social media sites boosts your networking capabilities

    mobile appsBetter Visibility

    Did you know that most people do their online shopping from their smartphones these days? If your company doesn’t have a mobile app, then you’re not reaching a large percentage of online shoppers. Your customers want instant access to things like shipping info and store hours; developing a mobile app will enhance their experience with your brand.

    On-the-Go Access

    Because phones and tablets are so much smaller than traditional electronics, people want easy-to-use versions of the websites they know and love. You’ve probably experienced the frustration of attempting to load a large website onto a tiny screen. Creating a mobile app allows your customers to access information more easily wherever they may be at the touch of a few buttons.

    Cost-Effective Advertising

    Building a mobile app version of your website can significantly reduce the amount you spend on overall marketing. Many companies offer affordable ways to revamp your existing mobile site or upgrade it entirely. Expert development companies like SolutionStream can help you find ways to expand your brand by utilizing professional mobile developing services.  Once you have a solid app that your customers enjoy, you will enjoy immediate and continual access to your key clients right where they most want it.  Your initial development investment will yield huge continuing returns.  This will then allow you to ease back on other elements of your marketing budget, if desired.

    Special Deals and Incentives

    Thanks to increased connectivity with social media sites, your mobile app could open up new possibilities for contests, coupons, and special promotions. Users could take photos on the go and upload them directly to your company’s social media page or write in reviews directly from the app. A quality mobile app will encourage people to continue sharing and shopping exclusively with your brand.

    From saving you money on marketing costs to connecting you to a whole new demographic, developing a mobile app can be one huge leap in the right direction for the future of your business. Before you attempt to create one yourself, consider letting a professional web development company offer you the tools and tips you need to create a solid mobile experience.

  • Unconventional Marketing Tools – Using Alternative Social Media

    Posted Aug 29th, 2013 By in Social Media With | No Comments

    Social media is a wildly popular tool these days. Social media provides a unique, useful way to communicate with customers and clients, convey a brand and spread the message your business has to share. Many incredibly popular social media sites are available for marketing, like Facebook, Twitter and Google+. While you should definitely consider a social media presence on these popular sites, choosing some alternative options as well can help you to expand your brand in a really meaningful way. If you’re interested in using alternative social media for your own company, consider the options below to get started.

    social media consumersInstagram

    Instagram is a photo-sharing network, based primarily on mobile usage. Within the network you can capture, edit and filter both images and video. You can then share it with your followers, add hashtags to allow others to find you and interact with potential customers.

    Start by creating an account, updating your bio with a link to the company website and adding an image representative of your brand. Then you can start sharing images, choosing to share things which are relevant to your existing marketing plans. Consider sharing photos of your work or products you have for sale. Take photos of clients receiving your services (with their permission of course) and remember to always add the most appropriate hashtags, making your images (and account) searchable. (more…)

  • Dos and Don’ts of Operating a Company Twitter Account

    Posted Aug 5th, 2013 By in Twitter With | No Comments

    Twitter is becoming one of the top social media networks for companies around the world. With over 500 million users, Twitter is a treasure trove of potential clients and connections worldwide for companies. Speedy and concise, tweets are continuously rolling out in major batches daily. However, with a limited character space per tweet and the prevalence of sub-par grammar and spelling, there are plenty of ways to make a bad impression through Twitter. With this list of dos and don’ts, a company can make the most of this revolutionary social platform and ultimately build a stronger online presence.

    Twitter Dos:

    1. Showcase The Company’s Brand
    Use the brand’s logo as the company’s Twitter profile picture. It’s a signature design that represents the company and helps it stand out from the millions of Twitter users, including other businesses. Add more of the company’s signature look by matching the Twitter profile background color with the profile picture. Not only is appearance important in attracting followers, but so is the bio part of the profile. Be sure to mention what the company’s goal is for social media networking with its followers and clients in the bio. Don’t just talk about the company itself; let the logo and the tweets tell followers what the company is all about.

    2. Share More Than Company Promotions
    Interact with your followers by sharing more than just the company’s newest products, services or specials. Tell the story of a funny moment that happened in the company’s morning meeting. Share photos of a company holiday party or birthday celebration for an employee. Tweet about or comment on positive, interesting news stories. However, remember to keep personal, deeper opinions and beliefs out of Tweets since the company should maintain a professional tone on its Twitter profile.

    (more…)

  • Five Ways Social Media Can Help Your Start-Up

    Posted Jul 2nd, 2013 By in Social Media With | No Comments

    Social media has become a powerful platform for companies to promote their products and services. While many major corporations are using these channels to their potential, a majority of start-ups aren’t completely aware of the possibilities. Just because you have a social media profile doesn’t mean your profile is generating interest in your company or communicating the value you offer. The key to using social media platforms to your advantage is to identify which users to engage and then determine how to engage them. Here are 5 ways you can use social media to help promote your start-up.

    social media for start-up

    1.  Increase Brand Awareness

    You’ll need to have a cohesive brand before you even think of using social media for promotion. Once you’ve created a voice, designed a logo and constructed your message, you can use social media to build brand awareness. Studies show it can take 4 to 6 exposures with a brand within a short period of time for someone to recall the company name. The quicker you can get users to recall your brand, the quicker you can build trust.

    2.  Promote New Products

    Studies show 87 percent of all of the companies using social media use the platform to promote their products. If you’re launching new products, you can post pictures and descriptions of these products to spark interest. Using social media to promote products is about engaging the customer and finding an original way to communicate value. (more…)

  • Why 4G matters most to businesses

    Posted May 7th, 2013 By in Business With | No Comments

    Given that most business takes place in a traditional office setting, few would say that the development of high-speed mobile internet in the form of 4G would be big news in the business world. High-speed mobile internet has been portrayed as great for media lovers who want to watch Netflix on the go, when in fact it is businesses that could benefit the most. Strange as it sounds, businesses now follow models which require flexibility—making 4G a godsend for startups and conglomerates alike. Here are 5 reasons why 4G will make a big difference in the business world, and why it could be a great addition for any business package.

    1. Hire the best and brightest: even if they lives miles away

    It is not always possible to get the best and brightest employees to move to where your office is located, but luckily the internet has enabled businesses to hire employees who can work remotely from home or on the go. 4G is important for such businesses who have employees working remotely, as it means that they can field video calls, process dense data sheets and bounce internet traffic whether they are at a coffee shop or on the train. Get get the best talent or to get the cheapest talent, you have to look further afield, and 4G makes that field of possibilities even larger.

    2. Send your employees to your clients without losing productivity

    If you need to send an employee out on assignment or to meet a client, days can often be wasted in transport and other unforeseeable circumstances all for the sake of one meeting. If your employee has a laptop, tablet or smartphone, plus access to 4G, they can work wherever they are. Productivity isn’t lost and you can be in constant contact with them from the moment they leave the office to the moment they return.

    3. It makes for a great office back-up

    If your fixed-line internet goes down, then it is always great to have a high-speed alternative that you can automatically connect to without any set-up or bother. Many businesses are now completely reliant on the internet: for example, many card machines use the internet or phone-lines to process credit card payments. If you are having problems with your service, then you can be comforted that you have a back-up to keep things running over while you get your main line fixed.

    4. Helps customer-end interaction

    4G isn’t just great on the business side of the business-consumer relationship: it also helps regular people better interact with businesses, which in turn makes them more money. If consumers have access to a steady and reliable high-speed network, they are much more likely to do things like shop online while on the go. It also means that businesses with a heavy online presence have more options when it comes to customer outreach. The proliferation of 4G is therefore great for businesses in a more abstract manner.

    5. Deploy quick and fast

    If you are moving office or are setting up a temporary office for working on a particular project (for example, if you work in construction), then 4G is great because you can have instant access to the internet in places where installing a fixed-line is either impossible or where installation will take a long time. Instead of being stranded without internet access, you can quickly and cheaply get online, helping your business move at your pace instead of the pace of broadband providers.

    Guest Author:  This is a guest post by Sam, a freelance writer and a part-time blogger. She likes advanced technology and cool gadgets, this is why she chose clear 4g wimax for blogging this article.

  • 5 Business Software Tools to Help You Maintain Your Sanity

    Posted Apr 3rd, 2013 By in Business With | No Comments

    Owning a business can quickly drive you to insanity if you are not resourceful. With so many different business software tools available to help entrepreneurs automate some of the tasks involved in running a business, you can now be an entrepreneur and stay sane if you use these tools to your advantage. There are a number of different types of software programs that are designed for business owners in every industry that will help them expand and manage their current customer base. Here are 5 business software tools that you should rely on so that you can put your focus where it counts.

    1. Quickbooks

    If you are not quite big enough to hire a commercial accountant, you can keep your accounting expenses down by using Quickbooks. You do not have to take college accounting courses to learn the basics of accounting and file your forms. Enter invoice information, track your expenses, and prepare reports and financial statements easily with this advanced accounting tool.5 Business Software Tools to Help You Maintain Your Sanity (more…)

  • Top CRM Thought Leaders Reveal Future of Mobile, Social and Data

    Posted Feb 4th, 2013 By in Business With | No Comments

    Like most of you, I am continually bombarded with articles and blogs claiming mobile, social and data will “forever change the way we do business.” So why would I write another one? I take issue with most of these articles because few actually dig into specifically how these buzz words will change our lives. I have an iPhone, I use social media and I’m sure there’s all kinds of data about me floating around the Internet. I want to know how each of these is being used to sell to me better, make me buy more, or otherwise affect my behaviors.

    With that in mind, I recently reached out to five top analysts in my field to garner their thoughts on how mobile, social and data will impact customer relationship management specifically. We came up with a list of what we are calling CRM’s Next 5 in 5 – a play off of IBM’s five innovations that will change our lives in the next five years. My colleague Lauren Carlson devised a similar report last year, so I wanted to update her findings.Future of CRM

    For this article, I consulted with each of the following analysts:

    • Denis Pombriant, CEO of Beagle Research Group LLC

    • Brent Leary, owner of CRM Essentials

    • Esteban Kolsky, principal and founder of ThinkJar

    • Brian Vellmure, CEO and founder of Initium LLC / Innovantage

    • Paul Greenberg, owner of 56 Group LLC

     Here’s a list of specific aspects of mobile, social and data they see impacting CRM software during the next five years.

    Curating Technologies Will Siphon Data for a Specific Business Goal

    As we all know, Big Data means nothing unless you can actually do something with it. But there’s so much out there, it’s difficult for a business to know what pieces they can use to actually grow their business. Do they want to generate leads? Garner market intelligence? Develop their product?

    Curated data services will start with the business goal then filter out the data that achieves it. Let’s say you wanted to better score and generate leads off of your website visitors. One technology could, for example, automatically score site visitors as a lead with Dun and Bradstreet, social media and IP address information. Then adjust that score based on how they interact with your website.

    In the hypothetical above, sales reps might be alerted through their CRM if a website visitor at that moment is in their buyer persona sweet spot, on the site for the fourth time that day, and just emailed a white paper about your product to a colleague.

    Companies Will Leverage Contacts in New Ways with Crowdsourcing

    Customers and clients are paying less and less attention to traditional marketing and sales strategies, such as television and print. Just take a look at this recent report showing a huge disparity in marketing spend between traditional and digital channels.

    What customers do pay attention to – particularly in today’s social and Yelpified world – is what their friends, family and contacts say about your brand. This is where crowdsourcing comes in. It isn’t a new concept, but technology developers will come up with services that empower customers and contacts to be personal brand advocates. This could layer in gamification elements, but the idea is leveraging contacts to market your brand for you.

    Social Media Will (Finally) Directly Prove ROI

    Many of you out there will probably fight me on this, but I still struggle to see the direct ROI in social media. For me, it’s a wonderful tool for relationship building and staying “in the know.” But generating leads off the channel is still cumbersome and inefficient because it’s a mostly manual process – if you do it at all.

    There are definitely some products out there innovating in this space, but they face one huge challenge. The data needed to automate this process is accessed through open social APIs – these are evolving so quickly that the data is often imperfect and unreliable. As these APIs improve, technology developers will innovate new products that leverage social data to generate leads and produce revenue.

    Voice-Enabled Technology Will Mobilize CRM

    Many CRM mobile apps today essentially work and function much like the desktop version. They might be optimized with slimmed down dashboards and navigation with swiping and pinching. But they still require a lot of tapping and fishing around various pages.

    Voice is one way to work around to this. Apple innovated in this space with Siri. But I can’t count on one hand the number of times I’ve seen comedy sketches poking fun at her for getting commands hilariously wrong.

    Eventually Natural Language Understanding – the algorithms that understand not just what is said, but the context of it – will perfect voice-enabled navigation. Once they do, CRM developers will feel more comfortable leveraging that technology in their mobile experience.

    Predictive Analytics Will Improve Personalized Marketing

    Predictive analytics tell companies what a customer is likely to be attracted to based on their past behaviors. We see early versions of this from Amazon, which suggests products based on what you’ve already purchased or searched for.

    Uses for this intelligence will continue to improve so personalized messaging, offers and deals will happen right at the moment when there is the greatest opportunity.

    Imagine, for example, that you go to a clothing site and add five items to your cart. Five minutes later you navigate away from the page without buying. In the future, you might receive an email or text message a minute later saying “Buy those five items now and get a 10 percent discount and entry into a drawing for an iPad.” This wouldn’t be sent to everyone that abandoned their cart. Just to me because the site knows from my history I only buy sale items, or shop when there’s a special; and I enter every contest. Additionally, I’m a loyal customer and a big spender. It makes sense to spend money marketing to me.

    These are just a few of the specific ways our experts see mobile, social and data changing CRM in the future. What do you see in your crystal ball? Join the conversation with a comment here.

    Guest Author:  Ashley Verrill is a market analyst that writes for the Software Advice website. She has spent the last six years reporting and writing business news and strategy features. Her work has appeared in myriad publications including Inc., Upstart Business Journal, the Austin Business Journal and the North Bay Business Journal. Before joining Software Advice in 2012, she worked in sales management and advertising. She is a University of Texas graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism.

     

  • The Best Tips on Writing Email Subject Lines That Work

    Posted Oct 8th, 2012 By in Email Marketing With | No Comments

    There’s no point sending out an email with a subject line that doesn’t grab attention, speak to the readers, and compel them to open and read the rest of your email. Yet the subject line is all too often an afterthought — written in just a few seconds, after the body of the email has already been finished. Much like a headline on the front page of a newspaper, an email subject line is your best chance to attract the reader, and it can make — or break — your email campaign.

    Let’s explore what makes for a successful subject line.

    Aweber, an email marketing company that has studied millions of subject lines, lists its most effective subject line to date as, quite simply: You Are Not Alone.

    Why does this subject line work so well? It’s all about the “need to belong,” according to Sean Platt in a post on Copyblogger:

    “I’ve seen this subject line used successfully on emails ranging from content marketing to personal development to potty training, with a dozen verticals in between. The results are always the same. I don’t want to be alone is a compelling, universally recognized statement. The need to belong, to know that others are going through the same life experiences, is primal.”

    Besides using “You are not alone” as the subject line in your next email marketing campaign, here are some tips to help you create a strong subject line that boosts your open rate.

    Be Relevant: What’s a hot button for your readers? You need to know what’s going on in their world to grab their attention. Try incorporating a relevant and timely item in your subject line.

    Be Clear: Don’t get too clever with your subject lines. Be clear, and tell the reader what to actually expect in the email. An article from MailChimp sums this up nicely: “Don’t sell what’s inside. Tell what’s inside.”

    By the Numbers: Including a number in your subject line can make it seem like the content won’t ramble on forever. “4 Ideas for Improving Sales Today,” for instance, makes me think, “OK, I have the time to look at four ideas and maybe get a good one or two.”

    Active Is Better Than Passive: Subject lines that lead the reader further into the email, that suggest action, are better than subject lines that go nowhere. Have the subject take the reader by the hand into the text. Be active.

    Word Count Counts: Conventional wisdom tells us that a subject line that works is only 5-8 words and 40 characters long. Think of passing a billboard at 60 mph, or a bus with a banner on the side passing you on a crowded street. Similarly, Microsoft Outlook, Mac Mail and just about all email applications display only the first few words on a subject line, so make sure yours is short and sweet.

    Test and Test and Test:  A/B split testing doesn’t have to be overly complicated. Just try the following: If you want to see what subject line is getting the best results, write two. Take 25% of your mailing list, split that in half, and send one subject line to Group A and another to Group B. Wait a few days and then look at the open and click-thru rates to see which performed better. Use the subject line that performed better for the remaining 75% of your mailing list.

    For inspiration, check out some of the best and worst email subject lines from a comprehensive study by MailChimp of over 200 million emails.

    What other email tips have worked for you?

    Guest Author:  David Grebow is a freelance small business journalist who writes for Vistaprint, a leader in custom websites and other marketing products and services for micro businesses all over the world. David holds an MBA from Harvard, and has written for Harvard Business Review and The Economist.

     

  • A Guide to ‘Dreaming’ Up Savvy Social Service

    Posted Oct 2nd, 2012 By in Social Media With | No Comments

    An estimated 90,000 experts, media and social media presenters descended on San Francisco last month for the biggest cloud computing event of the year. Dreamforce 2012 featured more than 750 education sessions, but it was a live social customer service demonstration that I remember most.

    In the middle of the expo floor, the “Salesforce Service Cloud Call Center” fielded calls, tweets, posts and updates from Dreamforce attendees in real time. The center was ringed by flashy streams of social conversations that resembled stock exchange tickers. These enabled onlookers to watch and learn from their practiced responses.

    I was able to glean a few key takeaways from watching the center in action. For those of you that weren’t able to attend, here’s a few of those best practices for better socialized customer service.

    Always Post a Public Response

    Salesforce.com Senior Vice President of Solutions Marketing Fergus Griffin told me every company should at least be thinking about customer service through social.

    “I guarantee your customers are already using the channel, and they’re probably already talking about your brand,” he said.

    If these mentions are negative, social media gives your consumers a means to spread the news far and fast. To mitigate this risk, companies should always acknowledge the comment in social before taking the interaction to another channel. Salesforce Service Cloud Call Center agents demonstrated this in best practices at Dreamforce. If an attendee asks a highly technical question on Twitter, the agent might reply, “I’m emailing you now!” or “Here’s a link to a Chatter discussion on this topic.”

    This approach publicly demonstrates that the company is listening and responds to everyone.

    Plan Your Process

    Many companies struggle with creating an efficient process for handling social media requests. If the community manager sees the comment on Twitter and responds, how does the company track that interaction? What if the question on Facebook or Twitter needs to be discussed privately? Do you tweet your service phone number? Provide an email address? What are the risks of either?

    Make sure that your team defines clear answers to all of these questions. You want the resolution to be seamless and for nothing to fall through the cracks. At Dreamforce, for example, simple questions were answered right in the feed, while more complex queries were taken into email, or live chat. It’s up to your team to define what’s best for your product or service. Just make sure it’s consistent. These experiences increase your chances of turning a latent social media follower into a brand advocate.

    Hashtag Common Questions

    Griffin told me that last year during Dreamforce most interactions across all service channels involved questions about where things were located, recommendations for events, and tips for getting around the conference. Hashtags allow customer service managers to instantly create a knowledge base for topics such as these.

    During this year’s event, Salesforce Service Cloud Call Center agents used hashtags like #Dreamforc2012, #DF2012 and #DF12 to index conversations about the event. That way they could quickly reference those tweets for relevant questions.

    Then, when a Dreamforce visitor tweeted, “What sessions are best for social customer service?” the agent could respond “@UserName check out everyone’s food recommendations by searching #Dreamforce2012! and #socialcustserv” When they search those hashtags, the visitor could scan through everyone’s suggestions. This saves the agent time, while still providing a helpful personal response.

    Prioritize Thoughtfully

    One of the biggest challenges with providing customer service through social is dealing with the sheer volume of requests. Griffin said companies should have a well-defined strategy for prioritizing responses.

    This should include ranking factors from social–a Klout score, for example–and customer history. A company might choose to respond first to longtime customers or those with a history of high-value purchases.

    “Companies should strike a balance between who [the customer] is in the community, but also who they are to you,” Griffin says.

    At the Salesforce Service Cloud Call Center, social mention identification and prioritization was automated through Salesforce.com’s Radian6 Social Hub. This system trolled the Web for #Dreamforce, @Dreamforce and Dreamforce mentions on Facebook, Twitter and other platforms. These were instantly turned into a service ticket, prioritized and routed to the appropriate social response agent.

    Engage Customers You Might Never Have Known

    Customer service through social media is not just about providing another interaction channel in addition to phone, email or live chat. Social allows you to find customers who might never have sent their question otherwise. And if they never send the question, they may never get their problem solved and fears of buying eased.

    How does your company handle customer service through social? Let us know by commenting here.

     Guest Author:  Ashley Furness is a CRM Software Analyst for research firm Software Advice. She has spent the last six years reporting and writing business news and strategy features. Her work has appeared in myriad publications including Inc., Upstart Business Journal, the Austin Business Journal and the North Bay Business Journal. Before joining Software Advice in 2012, she worked in sales management and advertising.

     

  • Infographic – Why iPhone 5 Users May Be More Prone To Debt

    Posted Sep 25th, 2012 By in Mobile With | No Comments

    Are you one of the millions who puts yourself in debt to purchase a new iPhone every time a new version is launched? A study shows that iPhone users may be more prone to debt. Check out the stats by clicking on any of the icons of the cool interactive infographic below.

  • An Infograph – Getting Started with SEO

    Posted Sep 21st, 2012 By in Search Engine Optimization (SEO) With | No Comments

  • Right and Wrong Ways to Use Coupon Codes in Business Promotion

    Posted Jul 20th, 2012 By in Business With | No Comments

    With the economy succumbing to an extended slump, many businesses are looking for ways to keep their operations afloat. For some that means layoffs or lowering prices across the board. Others will attempt to diversify their lineup of products or services in order to attract more patrons and one-up the competition. Still others may resort to massive marketing efforts in an attempt to reach untapped groups of consumers. But for companies that are trying to save money, provide value to customers, and still turn a profit, offering discounts and deals will require little cost while still enticing the consumer public to buy. However, there is a right way and a wrong way to go about using coupon codes for online purchases. Here are a few tips to ensure that your strategy is a success.

    The first way that many businesses go right is by offering promotions that help to get consumers interested in their brand. The first way they go wrong is by failing to place any restrictions on these campaigns. You have to expect that when you create coupon codes and release them to the public, people are not only going to use them; they are also going to share them with their friends and some may even try to take advantage of them multiple times. Without any limitations in place you could quickly find yourself losing money instead of gaining it. This is a problem, especially for a business that is struggling in a tough economy. So you should implement rules and regulations such as one use per customer or purchase, as well as a time limit (good through only a certain date). This will allow consumers to try your brand without encouraging them to take advantage of you.

    Of course, you do want to inspire patrons to become brand ambassadors, spreading your company name to their trusted contacts, so you might not want to restrict codes in such a way that they can’t be passed around to multiple participants. In other words, don’t encode them in a way that means they’ll only work one time; or if you do, offer codes to anyone who wants them by, say, requiring a membership with your site in order to gain access to the coupon code. This is a good way to track who is utilizing codes while potentially adding to your contact list for future promotions.

    The real trick with promotional codes (or any kind of promotional item) is to formulate a strategy that doesn’t make you look desperate. Although both loyal patrons and new customers will no doubt appreciate offers that allow them to save some money on your products or services, you don’t want to overplay your hand by offering too many promotions. Consumers may start to think that there is something wrong with your products, that you have ridiculous markups to begin with (how else could you lower prices and still turn a profit?), or that you are in such dire straits that you may not be around to honor your deals or provide customer support. You don’t want to give off the stink of desperation, so temper your offers just enough to keep the consumer public interested without raising any red flags.

    Guest Author:  Sarah Danielson is a contributing writer for Amazon Promotional Codes where you can find the latest promotional codes to save you money on the products you love.

     

  • Poll: Do you belong to any paid membership websites?

    Posted Jul 10th, 2012 By in Polls With | No Comments

    Please take the poll and leave your comments below.  I would love to get your opinion on membership websites and please share which sites you belong to, if any.  Thank you!

  • 3 Ways to Add a Human Touch to Your Business

    Posted Jul 6th, 2012 By in Business With | No Comments

    Today’s business world is largely driven by sophisticated technology. Even the smallest of businesses can offer products and services on an international scale, which has been a boon for business owners. However, many consumers feel that business have lost the human touch, or the ability to relate to customers. Executives who wish to optimize business success should consider humanizing their brands.

    Adding a human touch to your business doesn’t need to be difficult. You can do so by paying close attention to the messages you send to consumers and to the marketing platforms you use. It also pays to build strong communications and relationships with customers. After all, consumers are more likely to patronize a business when they feel that they are more than just their pocketbooks. Keep the following in mind when working to humanize your brand, no matter how large or how small.

    Think Through the Language Used in Marketing Messages

    Crafting slogans and marketing messages presents a challenge to any business leader. In an increasingly technologically connected world, it’s more important than ever before to make sure that marketing messages are both sophisticated and relatable. In other words, consumers should feel that they can relate to your messages without feeling that content has been dumbed-down.

    Making marketing messages more relatable means choosing the right language. Avoid using impersonal pronouns, opting instead to use pronouns such as she, he, his and her in marketing messages. It’s important that the consumer is reflected in advertising. Messages that focus only on products may seem cold. Remember that humans use your products and should be included in your marketing messages.

    Evaluate Company Visuals

    In addition to thinking through the wording of your marketing messages, you should also think carefully about visuals connected to your company. What sorts of illustrations, photos and videos do you use in connection with your company? Do these videos feature products and services or do they feature consumers? It’s important that consumers see themselves reflected in the visuals used by your company.

    Of course, most companies have brand-related images that consumers recognize. It’s important to retain recognizable logos. However, consider using rich visuals with models or actors who reflect your consumer demographic. Many customers also enjoy seeing videos of a company’s executives and employees. Consider posting videos that go behind the scenes of your business on a company blog.

    Establish Strong Customer Communication Systems

    Any business can use new technologies to stay in touch with customers. Building a profile on a social networking site or establishing a company blog is a great way to put a human face on your business. By creating a profile or blog, you can also attract consumer traffic to your website. You’ll be able to draw in consumers and provide them with a way to contact your company.

    Remember that it’s important to clearly present company contact information on your website and on marketing materials. Consumers will be frustrated if they have no way to contact your business. To make the most of communication with customers, you should also establish a communications tracking system. Make a note of when communications were received from customers and when your company responded. Remember to respond in a personable, friendly tone. Always respond respectfully to your customers and they are sure to fall in love with the human side of your business.

    What ways have you added a human touch to YOUR business?

    Guest Author:  Dane Cross is a blogger and online marketer who writes extensively about trade show marketing. He is currently writing on behalf of Marler Haley.

     

  • Top 5 Mistakes to Avoid When Building a Customer Loyalty Program

    Posted Jun 12th, 2012 By in Business With | No Comments

    Loyal customers have always expected something in exchange for continuing to support one business over others. In the service industry, for example, restaurant owners may comp frequent customers a meal once in a while, or offer free dessert. But for most businesses, the more expedient (and fair) option is to provide some kind of tracking program that offers deals, discounts, upgrades, “miles”, or other rewards to customers that deliver ongoing patronage. However, just because you decide to create such a program doesn’t mean you’ll get it right straight off the bat. So here are just a few common mistakes you’ll certainly want to avoid.

    1. Same rewards for all. There’s no denying that some customers purchase far more goods (or make more frequent purchases) than others. For this reason you may want to offer tiered rewards based on purchase volume. Some customer loyalty programs give additional perks to their “gold” or “platinum” members, those who spend more than the average patron on an ongoing basis. Many businesses in the travel/hospitality industry (airlines, hotels, rental car agencies, etc.) have employed this tactic to ensure the loyalty of frequent travelers (who have to take their business somewhere, after all).
    2. Complex requirements. People don’t want to have to read the fine print when they join a rewards program, so don’t make it too hard to get the freebies. They’re not filling out a credit card application, they just want to get preferential treatment of some sort for remaining loyal to your brand instead of checking out every competitor that comes along. So keep it simple. Even if they only get coupons to use on their next trip, it shows that you appreciate their patronage.
    3. Downgrading rewards. This is the absolute worst thing you can do. If you want to alienate consumers, just go ahead and promise them something and then fail to deliver. The idea here is that you need to be very careful about what you offer initially. If you start small and then realize that you can afford to give bigger or better rewards later, no one will be miffed that you’ve upgraded them. But if you do it the other way around you’ll face a lot of angry customers and likely some public criticism for the snafu.
    4. Mimicking programs that don’t fit your model. Just because some credit cards offer a virtual grab-bag of rewards to their customers (travel discounts, home goods, and even cash back), automakers give key chains, t-shirts, and other branded items, and grocery stores offer coupons and rebates, that doesn’t mean any of the tactics you see elsewhere will work for your particular business. This isn’t to say that you can’t get ideas from all over the place, but you need to tailor them to your particular offerings in order to make sure that customers aren’t totally confused by your loyalty program.
    5. Lack of security. If you run a portion (or all) of your business online, or your loyalty program involves an electronic data component (and most do), the burden of responsibility for protecting your customers’ sensitive information is high. So hire yourself the best website builder you can find, along with a reputable web host in order to ensure that all customer data is secured.

    Guest Author:  Sarah Danielson is a contributing writer for Easy Website Builders where you can browse website builder reviews and themes to find the best fit for your business.

  • The Influence of Social Media on Customer Loyalty Programs

    Posted Jun 5th, 2012 By in Social Media With | No Comments

    The reason that customer loyalty programs work is that people like to get something for nothing. So the average consumer, when confronted with major savings simply for signing up, is bound to fork over a name and address in order to get immediate savings at the register with the swipe of a card, and in many cases receive the added benefit of coupons and special offers by mail (or email). Of course, few people operate by such archaic systems these days. It seems like everything worth doing is done with a dose of social networking involved, and customer loyalty programs are apparently no exception. Since most people are spending quite a bit of time checking their Facebook wall or re-tweeting their favorite Samuel Jackson or Ellen Barkin gem (or their own 140 characters of must-share news), many companies are finding ways to use that interconnectedness to their advantage.

    The real trick here is getting customers to connect to your business. Signage or advertising that contains QR codes is a good place to start, and anyone with a smartphone or tablet can use them to get connected to a business by simply scanning the coded square. But once you’ve hooked consumers into connecting with you, how can you best use social media to your advantage? After all, most of your loyal customers won’t be too happy with your brand if they get bombarded with spam day and night. This means you have to be selective in your promotional tactics.

    You could try offering daily deals or click-thru options for discounts, for example. This type of promotion is generally acceptable because it offers loyal customers added value without a necessarily subjecting them to a hard sell. The decision is theirs. But you can take it even a step further. When customers connect through a loyalty program you can track their purchases in order to offer them an individual experience via social networking. For example, in-store programs that come with a card to swipe during transactions store account information pertaining to customer purchases so that deals and discounts can be given on items they buy frequently or those they might like based on their previous shopping preferences.

    Social networking allows businesses to cast a wider net, not only because it is a much more rapid delivery system than snail mail (or even email in most cases), but also because there is more information that may be gathered in regards to a customer’s personal preferences. Some businesses are even using it to infiltrate friend networks in order to offer their customers gift suggestions based on the preferences of their friends (gifts available at their own store, of course). Okay, it’s a little “Big Brother”, but that’s the world we live in. And frankly, your competitors are doing these things, so perhaps it’s time to stop relying on your business signs and print ads to do the trick.

    Of course, one of the best things that social networking can offer both businesses and their clients is a chance to connect on a personal level. Consumers now have the ability to follow a company’s CEO on Twitter or Facebook, just for starters, and potentially even contact said executive with questions and concerns. By the same token, businesses can go directly to customers for opinions about the products they purchase and their consumer experiences. It’s a brave new world thanks to the internet and mobile technology, and businesses are finding ways to make social networking work for them. You can, too, if you get with the program.

    Guest Author:  Sarah Danielson is a contributing writer for Business Signs where you can browse through a variety of signs to find the right one for your business.

  • Building Customer Loyalty: Make Your Customers Come Back

    Posted Jun 1st, 2012 By in Customer Service With | No Comments

    In today’s world, fierce competition exists between all companies that rely upon consumer purchases. Businesses in each separate realm battle each other for customers. Different auto insurance providers, grocery stores, and other types of businesses must compete in order to keep the revenue flowing in regularly. Without a doubt, the key to success for all companies is building customer loyalty. Customers who keep coming back to purchase more goods or services often prove invaluable for businesses. Such a fact cannot be forgotten or ignored.

    One-Time Customers Versus Repeat Customers

    For businesses, one-time customers generate relatively little revenue because they purchase goods or services once and almost never return. There is relatively little benefit for attracting a one-time sales transaction in comparison to repeat customers. Individuals who constantly shop with one retailer or business over the competitors are considered loyal customers. In reality, building such a relationship with customers that causes them to return for repeat purchases is not always a simple affair. No company should underestimate the effort required to succeed on this front.

    Succeeding With Customer Loyalty

    Undoubtedly, the single most important factor for increasing customer loyalty involves customer service. Consumers return to the businesses that treat themselves better than the other options. Employees who are properly trained in providing excellent service will benefit a company most. Every worker the consumer interacts with during a visit should provide hospitable and friendly service but nothing less than that. Sadly, some companies forgo this simple concept of capable customer service and see repeat customers dwindle quickly.

    There are obviously other steps companies can take to succeed with customer service. For instance, offering products and services for reasonable rates often entices consumers to keep returning for more. Nobody wants to pay a fortune for the items they need, and most are unwilling to do so to begin with. Businesses that overcharge for items will quickly see customer loyalty evaporate and disappear. On the other hand, stores that set competitive and reasonable prices often see the best benefits from such a decision.

    Other Options to Increase Customer Loyalty

    Luckily, any company can take other steps to improve the loyalty of their customers and make them return repeatedly. Rewards programs, regular coupons, and seasonal promotions are a small sampling of features that entice consumers to stick with a particular company over the competition. A lot of businesses offer such features yet do so inefficiently. For obvious reasons, these programs and discounts must value the customer’s needs over revenue goals. Customers do not return to businesses that want every last penny from them.

    Loyalty Equals Long-Term Revenue and Success

    In the end, loyal customers wind up acting as a long-term revenue source for companies. These consumers form the basis for success more often than not. No company succeeds by relying upon one-time or infrequent customers that do not identify with that particular company. Most owners and operators quickly realize the importance of making customers want to return frequently. Typically, only the best companies see thousands of repeat customers on daily, weekly, or monthly basis. Retailers that fail on this front quickly start losing money.

    Thousands of companies rely upon customer loyalty for steady revenue and increased profits. In fact, the majority of businesses out there need consumers. A store that fails to sell enough goods or services will quickly fall victim to bankruptcy. Factors like customer service, value for goods, and rewards programs all factor into how likely a given customer is to return and stay loyal to a given company. For the most part, all corporations realize this fact and constantly strive to provide the best experience for consumers.

    This guest article was written by the staff of SBA.com — a site offering business resources for small business owners.

  • The Art of Giving Freebies in the Present Generation

    Posted May 25th, 2012 By in Business With | No Comments

    How important is freebie-giving to you? Do you still consider this as a good way to market your business and establish your brand? These days, it can both be really simple or challenging to market your business or company to your target audiences. The wide availability of social media channels provides an effective way and venue for business owners to establish their niche. But although these social media sites are proving to be useful for companies, you can’t deny the fact that people seem to want more. You need to give them something tangible, so you can get their loyalty and encourage them to always patronize your business. Thus, you need to master the art of giving freebies in this time and age.

    Freebies That Build Customer Loyalty

    What are the kinds of freebies or giveaways that would inspire your customers to place their loyalty to your business? There are lots of different kinds of promotional items widely available nowadays. The question is, “How do you know which ones to give and when do you give them?” If you don’t have an answer to that question, here are some tips that might help you figure it out:

    1. Reflect on and internalize your group’s mission and vision.

    Before you choose any type of freebies, you need to review your company’s character, identity, and overall goals so you’ll have an idea of what kind of freebies will match those objectives. This will make it easy to narrow down a long list of giveaway options.

    2. Highly consider your target audience’s needs.

    Always remember that your potential customer’s are the recipients of these freebies, not you. What seems interesting to you might not be appealing to them. Thus, you need to take careful consideration of their basic needs so you can cater to that with each freebie you give them.

    3. Customize the items according to your marketing plans.

    You have the prerogative and freedom to create a design for your official giveaways. Make sure that it matches your current marketing theme. See to it that it does not overpower the main promotional item.

    4. Think about the manner of freebie-giving to use.

    Once you have figured out which freebies to give to your target audience, you need to decide how to give these products to them. You can choose to give it the traditional way through trade shows and launching days, or you can give them out as online vouchers. The latter method is more convenient for both you and your target market.

    5. Assess the results of your “gift-giving” project.

    Don’t end the whole marketing activity after you have handed out the freebies. You need to determine if your project was successful or not. Try to identify how great and extensive the response was regarding this specific activity.

    Nowadays, it is still very important to give freebies to potential customers as a way of encouraging them to be your regular patrons. Develop a strategy of your own and start reaping reward from this. Have you figured out one yet?

    Guest Author: Niña Angeli Pilapil, a bookworm by heart, is an expert in promotional products used for both marketing and personal reasons. She is employed by Promopeddler.com as their official writer and blogger. This dark chocolate fanatic enjoys her spare time perusing financial books and other reading materials. If you want to connect with her, follow her at http://twitter.com/ninsbonita.

     

  • Starter Social Media Tips for Your B2B Company

    Posted May 17th, 2012 By in Social Media With | No Comments

    If you want to improve the reputation of your brand and gain more customers, you have to go to where the customers are. This concept may seem simple, but it’s something that many top companies are missing out on when it comes to engaging and creating relationships with new customers who will soon become loyal to their brand.

    So where are customers spending the majority of their time today?

    On social networks; they use social media to connect with friends, family, and even top brands each and every day. As a B2B company hoping to make valuable connections with other leading brands, it’s critical to understand that social media is where the fish are biting.

    By making your presence known in the right environment, you can create long-lasting relationships with other companies in social networks to expand the influence of your brand. The following tips will help your B2B company take the plunge into social media waters:

    Put effort into profile pages

    All profile pages for social media websites will ask you to input your basic information. But if you want to make your brand stand out amongst competition, you need to take it a step further.

    For example, on LinkedIn, you’re provided with a perfect opportunity to input detailed information in your company profile that other businesses and professionals can check out to find out more about your brand.

    Make sure to use clear descriptions, keywords, and up-to-date information regarding any recognitions and awards your company has recently received. Although a LinkedIn profile may seem unimportant, it’s your calling card when interacting with all other companies through social media.

    Start a dialogue

    After you have basic profiles set up on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and possibly Pinterest, you can’t just sit back and wait for interested customers to come to you. While that would be nice, it’s definitely not the way that branding works.

    Instead, this is the time to reach out and start two-way conversations with potential customers. For example, you can use the handy search bar on Twitter to search for specific keywords that relate to your business niche. Once you uncover comments, conversations, and questions on Twitter surrounding those keywords, you can provide expert answers on behalf of your brand that will establish you as a leader in your industry.

    To keep the conversation going, make it a point to always respond to questions, comments, and tweets posted to your social media profiles within at least 24 hours.

    Become an expert in your industry

    To expand on the point above, make sure that you are providing other companies with relevant, helpful information in every conversation you have in social media. Customers and businesses on the Internet all have one thing in common: they’re looking for information.

    When your company can become a significant resource of information in social media, you’ll quickly stand out as a top brand among competition.

    When it comes to leveraging social media to market your B2B business, the time to act is now. Even if you already have a solid off-line and online marketing campaign in place, don’t neglect the simple importance of social media marketing to represent your brand and create long-lasting customer relationships.

    Guest Author: Sylvia is an online writer who enjoys writing about B2B business trends.

     

  • 62 Ecommerce Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Tips & Ideas

    Posted May 16th, 2011 By in Search Engine Optimization (SEO) With | 4 Comments

    One of the reasons I like ecommerce SEO is that there is a tremendous amount of opportunities to increase the optimization quality of an online store. Unlike service businesses or online brochure websites which typically only have a few pages, a catalog of products creates a great opportunity to increase the amount of content and provide relevance for the search engines.

    Here at Best Rank, we spend a lot of time educating clients about optimization and how they can use it to gain a competitive advantage in their marketplace.  Having a specialty in ecommerce, my conversations are often about tips and advice on what online store owners can do to improve their rankings and increase traffic. There are plenty of resources for learning SEO online, but not a lot specific to ecommerce.

    For those interested in getting their hands dirty, I have created a list of 62 Ecommerce Search Engine Optimization Tips & Ideas. Of course there are tips here that apply to non-ecommerce sites as well, but ecommerce SEO does deserve its own list.

    The list is in no particular order. If you have some tips or feedback you want to add, please feel free to comment .

    1. Do a search in Google using site:www.yourdomain.com. This allows you to see what pages of your website are being indexed and how they look. The results should be keyword rich and have call to action for users to click.

    2. Do a site: search in Google for your competitors. While you are looking at your own indexing, look at your competition. Are their search engine results better optimized or better written? Don’t let them win.

    3. Use Google’s Keyword Tool to find keywords. If you have an Adwords account you are probably familiar with Google’s Keyword Tool. If not, you can use Google’s External Keyword Tool Be sure set the match type on [exact] so you are looking at the number of searches for that specific keyword.

    4. Don’t forget text on your homepage. Graphics are attractive and are great for users. Be sure that there is some html text on the homepage as well. If you have to put it near the footer, fine. Just make sure it is somewhere.

    5. Be sure your homepage title uses your 3 most important keywords. I prefer to limit any given page to focus on 3 keywords. Some people like 4 and some people 2. Your homepage optimization is really important to tell the engines what your site is going to focus on. (more…)

  • Excellent Etiquette Suggestions for Maintaining a Professional Image While Communicating Behind the Computer Screen

    Posted Apr 14th, 2011 By in Business, Email Marketing, Social Networking With | 2 Comments

    Some people think just because they are behind the computer, etiquette rules do not apply. But, online image and etiquette are just as important and may make a huge difference with how you build and nurture relationships.

    The Internet can be one of the most ambiguous channels of communication. However, it is also one of the fastest and greatest ways to communicate. Nowadays, many of us find it hard to survive without email or social networking sites.

    Networking online is an art; building mutually long term relationships requires the same quality of professional courtesy and dual respect as any other means of communication. Inner wellness can be expressed in many forms through social networking sites and email.

    Netiquette is a code of ethics for the Internet. Unlike the code of professional conduct of accountants, lawyers or doctors, which is supported by legislation, the code of conduct for the Internet requires high levels of self discipline that is ultimately dependent upon our inner quality. When no one can see what we are doing, what else do we have, but our soul, to keep our decorous behavior?

    The suggestions below are a basis of good universal code of conduct for email and online networking:

    Email

    - Never contain too much personal opinion, emotional elements, cartoons, slogans or jokes when sending formal business email.

    - Learn to use the emoticon chart (below) as they are all appropriate for informal business emails to keep us up to date:

    :> or :-> = Devilish grin
    :] or :-] = Friendly
    :( or :-( = Frowning

    :/ or :-/ = Frustrated 
    :) or :-) = Smiling

    :O or :-O = Surprised
    ;) or ;-)= Winking
    :} or :-} = Wry smile

    - Do not show a humorous character that may be offensive to others as we have no way to support our humor with proper body language or to see if our message is being interpreted correctly. Even self depreciating humor could cause others to see you as a low esteemed person. (more…)

  • Poll: What hours of the day are you social networking the most?

    Posted Apr 5th, 2011 By in Polls, Social Networking With | 2 Comments

    Please choose your time zone. More than one choice may be selected.

     

  • Ask Mirna: What criteria do you suggest people use to select a social media expert?

    Posted Oct 17th, 2010 By in Ask Mirna, Business, Social Media With | 5 Comments

    Question: There are so many pseudo social media experts out there, each with his or her “solution,” that it’s become overwhelming to identify the real McCoys. What criteria do you suggest people use? – Jim Taggart, LeadershipWorldConnect

    Answer: Thank you for asking a very important question, and for trusting me to answer it for you. I am asked this same question at least once a week.  Unfortunately, the real social media experts are buried under all the hype of the fake experts because the real ones don’t have time to go calling themselves experts so they can pitch you on why you should have 100K Twitter followers, and why you should hire them to do the job. The true authorities in any industry are not hard-selling 24/7. They are too busy strategizing, sharing, learning, educating, creating, experimenting, executing, testing, growing, and helping others thrive.

    It is difficult for me to answer this question without being too controversial or self-promotional.  However, my intent is to always educate and create awareness. Thus, the answer is not only based on my opinion, but also years of business experience and thousands of hours of research and execution to back it up.

    So, how do you weed out the pundits from the fakes?

    First, let’s define expert.  Here is how Wikipedia defines the word:

    “An expert is someone widely recognized as a reliable source of technique or skill whose faculty for judging or deciding rightly, justly, or wisely is accorded authority and status by their peers or the public in a specific well-distinguished domain.”

    Having extensive knowledge about a topic beyond the average person makes you an expert.  Your skills training and credentials make you an expert.  Your years of experience and education make you an expert.  However, given the above definition, the word expert should not be a self-proclaimed title. This title should be earned and given by peers after a person has logged tens of thousands of hours, and the results should speak for themselves.

    Hence, your social media expert is NOT:

    • Someone who shows you how to use the latest feature on Facebook
    • An individual who tells you to just create pages on the major social networks
    • Your web designer or programmer
    • Your previous mortgage broker who has moved on to social media because it is the next hot industry
    • Your virtual assistant
    • Someone who is simply online
    • Someone who has five different types of businesses going at once to see which one makes the fastest buck

    Am I an expert in social media because I live and breathe the Web every day? It’s possible. However, I wouldn’t use that term.  I am a student of my work. I am constantly learning, experimenting, and educating.  My expertise and knowledge are put to the test every time I have a new challenge, a client, or a new project. If I can’t prove that I have some expertise when the situation calls, it doesn’t matter what I call or describe myself. (more…)

  • 6 Essential Mindset Shifts for Social Media Success

    Posted May 19th, 2010 By in Business, Social Media, Social Networking With | 10 Comments

    Some businesses do now understand that adopting social media means changing their mindset on how they do business; however, I am surprised to see how many are still not aware what type of shift needs to take place, or are not willing to make the changes needed to succeed.

    On a daily basis, I hear many excuses from CEO’s and businesses owners on why they don’t want to use social media — “It is too time-consuming; we don’t have the resources; we don’t understand how it’s supposed to help the business; social media is for teens and techies; we don’t enjoy it; we have no idea where to start.”  Do these sound familiar?

    CEO’s and business owners must understand the philosophy which drives social media.  It is essential to first adopt the social media mindset by recognizing that the rules of marketing, advertising, public relations, and communication have changed.  It is also necessary to be open-minded and make changes in the way you communicate with customers because the social media revolution will not be going away. mind-set

    When deciding to incorporate social media in your business, using social media tools should be the last thing you think about (See the Looking Beyond Social Media Hype post).  In order to experience maximum benefit from social media, the process begins with a complete mindset shift.

    Here are the six essential mindset shifts that need to happen before a business participates in any form of social media: (more…)

  • The 21 Essential C’s of Social Media

    Posted Apr 15th, 2010 By in Social Media, Social Networking With | 15 Comments

    To succeed with social media, you must be open-minded enough to embrace its many essential elements. Here are the 21 essential C’s of social media listed in alphabetical order:

    1. Caring

    The essence of social media is caring.  Consumers want companies they do business with to show that they care enough to listen to their comments, complaints, opinions, ideas, etc.  They want to feel important and appreciated.  Customers know when you genuinely care, and they are willing and ready to reciprocate.

    2. Change

    The rules of marketing, public relations, advertising, and communication tools are changing at the speed of light. In order to succeed with social media, you must be ready to embrace, adapt to, and influence change.

    3. Character

    Character is your online identity or brand, which is an extremely important element. Consumers want to know who the human behind the brand is.  Social media helps to humanize your brand.  People want to do business with a person (YOU), not an object.  Being authentic and letting your true personality shine through social media makes a huge difference to your audience.   The more they know about your personality, the more they feel comfortable to do business with you.  So, don’t think people can’t see that just because you are hiding behind a computer.

    4. Clarity

    When you are trying to communicate your message online, clarity is number one.  Confused consumers want someone that can clarify things for them.  They do not buy if messages are ambiguous or complicated.  They buy when you have simply and clearly solved their problem.

    5. Collaboration

    Social media enables us to tap into the collective wisdom of our audience (crowdsourcing, which is another “C” of social media).  Many social media tools are designed to help us work jointly with our customers, employees, partners, investors as well as competitors.

    6. Commitment

    Too many people are saying social media is free.  Since when did true time commitment and dedication to our businesses become free?  Social media is not rocket science, but you have only scratched the surface if you jumped on the social media bandwagon without a plan.  To stay on track and have social media not be a time-waster for you, it takes a solid plan as well as serious commitment to stick to that plan and make adjustments as needed.

    7. Communication

    Communication has always been an essential element for enhancing relationships offline or online.  You are now able to communicate with your audience across the globe faster than ever before due to social media. Remember, marketing on the social web is not about getting your stories out through one-way communication, but rather two-way communication. (more…)

  • 99 Favorite Social Media Quotes and Tips

    Posted Apr 6th, 2010 By in Social Media, Social Networking With | 60 Comments

    Hot Social Media Quotes

    Hot Social Media Quotes

    Here are 99 of my favorite social media quotes.  Yes, it is a long post, but it is a fast read, and I am sure you will love every quote!  I would like for us to grow this list together.  Please post any other social media quotes that you absolutely love and want to share with others in the comments below.  BTW, these are in no particular order.  Enjoy!

    1. “How can you squander even one more day not taking advantage of the greatest shifts of our generation? How dare you settle for less when the world has made it so easy for you to be remarkable?” – Seth Godin, Seth’s Blog
    2. “Networking is not about hunting. It is about farming. It’s about cultivating relationships. Don’t engage in ‘premature solicitation’. You’ll be a better networker if you remember that.” – Dr. Ivan Misner, NY bestselling author & founder of BNI
    3. “The only way to put out a social-media fire is with social-media water.” – Ramon DeLeon, managing partner of six Domino’s stores in Chicago
    4. “Social Media is about sociology and psychology more than technology.” – Brain Solis Principal of FutureWorks
    5. “Think like a publisher, not a marketer.” – David Meerman Scott, DavidMeermanScott.com
    6. “At Twitter, mobile is in our DNA … For us, it’s all about mobile, and it always has been.” – Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter
    7. “Social media isn’t the end-all-be-all, but it offers marketers unparalleled opportunity to participate in relevant ways. It also provides a launchpad for other marketing tactics. Social media is not an island. It’s a high-power engine on the larger marketing ship.” – Matt Dickman, technomarketer.typepad.com
    8. “Privacy is dead, and social media hold the smoking gun.” – Pete Cashmore, Mashable CEO
    9. “You will make mistakes. If you are sincere about helping the community, the authenticity will show and your mistakes will be forgiven.” – Zia Yusuf, executive vice president for SAP’s global ecosystem and partner group
    10. “There’s no need to re-create everything from scratch … Look at some of the early adopters, see what they’ve done and see if it makes sense for your organization. And then think about what you need to do to customize it.” – Dave Fletcher, Utah chief technology officer
    11. “Whether something brings them joy or pain, when people share and engage in communities, they form bonds and relationships with others who acknowledge their situation.” – Liana Evans, from post on Search Engine Watch
    12. “Social networks aren’t about Web sites. They’re about experiences.” – Mike DiLorenzo, NHL social media marketing director
    13. “What used to be cigarette breaks could turn into ‘social media breaks’ as long as there is a clear signal and IT isn’t looking.” – David Armano
    14. “Businesses used to have a small suggestion box near the door that mostly housed dust bunnies and an occasional piece of gum. Rarely would someone get back to you. But people can now make a post from an iPhone or a BlackBerry while they’re sitting in your restaurant.” – Charles Nelson, President of Sprinkles Cupcakes president
    15. “More companies are discovering that an über-connected workplace is not just about implementing a new set of tools — it is also about embracing a cultural shift to create an open environment where employees are encouraged to share, innovate and collaborate virtually.” – Karie Willyerd & Jeanne C. Meister, HarvardBusiness.org
    16. “Twitter represents a collective collaboration that manifests our ability to unconsciously connect kindred voices through the experiences that move us. As such, Twitter is a human seismograph.” – Brian Solis, Principal of FutureWorks
    17. “In some ways, [Facebook] levels the playing field of friendship stratification. In the real world, you have very close friends and then there are those you just say “Hi” to when you pass them on the street.” – Jason Kaufman, research science fellow at Harvard University
    18. “Conversations among the members of your marketplace happen whether you like it or not. Good marketing encourages the right sort of conversations.” – Seth Godin, Seth’s Blog
    19. “Those who ignore the party/conversation/network when they are content and decide to drop in when they need the network may not succeed. It’s pretty easy to spot those that are just joining the network purely to take – not to give. Therefore, be part of the party/conversation/network before you need anything from anyone.” – Jeremiah Owyang, Web-Strategist.com
    20. “The secret isn’t growing a huge fan base. We have 100,000 Facebook fans, but those fans have all come to us organically. We believe the more organic the growth, the more loyal the fans, the more likely they will be repeat customers.” – Cam Balzer, vice president of marketing at Threadless (more…)

  • Top 50 Social Media Mistakes Made by Small Businesses

    Posted Feb 28th, 2010 By in Social Media With | 20 Comments

    social media mistakesAn increasingly number of small businesses (SMBs) are starting to use social media to attract new customers.  A recent Small Business Success Index™ report sponsored by Network Solutions and the University of Maryland’s Smith School of Business shows:

    - Social media adoption by small businesses has doubled from 12 percent to 24 percent in the last year

    - 75% surveyed have a company page on a social networking site

    - 61% use social media for identifying and attracting new customers

    - 57% have built a network through a site like LinkedIn

    - 45% expect social media to be profitable in the next twelve months

    Despite the increase in social media activity among small businesses and the increase of social media education, I still see many mistakes being made by SMBs.  Here are the top 50 mistakes I observe on a daily basis (in no particular order):

    1. Lack of planning (Huge one!)
    2. Lack of clear and measurable objectives
    3. Not learning about social media
    4. Lack of knowledge about target audience
    5. No commitment
    6. Lack of consistency
    7. Not realizing that there is a time dedication
    8. Worrying too much about negative comments and brand haters
    9. Focusing too much about the technology aspect
    10. Passing the buck to assistants and interns
    11. Spreading themselves too thin by creating profiles everywhere
    12. Not completing profiles
    13. Uploading pictures of pets or children for avatars
    14. Fake friending just to pitch
    15. Only talking about oneself, brand or products
    16. Hard selling
    17. Using the same tactics on every site
    18. Responding to every negative comment
    19. Not thinking before commenting
    20. Not measuring (Another huge one!)
    21. Giving up on social media too easily
    22. Forgetting it’s about 2-way dialogue
    23. Setting profiles and forgetting them
    24. Thinking social media is a magic solution to their business problems
    25. Jumping on without having a hub (web site or blog)
    26. Neglecting to put links back to their web site or blog
    27. Not taking a enough time to do research and listen/observe
    28. No systems in place
    29. Not focusing on core tasks
    30. Not separating business and personal social media time
    31. Putting eggs all in one basket
    32. Continuing with tactics that are clearly not working for them
    33. Not taking the time to put a social media schedule in place
    34. Not setting time boundaries
    35. Not paying attention to customer needs
    36. Not providing value
    37. Not knowing how to integrate with other marketing/advertising efforts
    38. Not knowing how to use all the social media categories together
    39. Focusing too much on number of fans/followers/friends
    40. Not making enough effort to seek out the right sites for their target audience
    41. Neglected (not updating) websites or blogs
    42. Using generic or auto responses
    43. Spamming people with private messages, DMs or e-mails
    44. Using social media as a replacement strategy
    45. Not willing to experiment
    46. Being close-minded about adding strangers to network
    47. Not learning from mistakes
    48. Bribing bloggers and others to write about products and services
    49. Not spending time finding evangelists and influencers
    50. Forgetting that building relationships can be lots of fun

    Some of the above mistakes, I already mentioned in a previous blog post:  Are You Making These 10 Social Media Business Blunders?

    Have you seen any other social media mistakes that I forgot to mention?  Please list them in the comments below.

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  • 15 Categories of Social Media

    Posted Feb 8th, 2010 By in Social Media With | 45 Comments

    The most popular social media question is:  “Where do I start with social media if I want to use it for my business?”  The very first step is to understand the entire social media landscape before jumping on the bandwagon.  This is paramount if you want to succeed with using social media for your business!

    The social web consists of many categories and is not just about social networking.  I have created the below diagram to help you understand the types of social media categories.  The categories you decide to use for your business will depend on your business goals and what you are trying to achieve with social media.

    Of course, there is a cross between many of these categories.  For example, I placed Twitter under micro-blogging, but it also belongs under social networking; I placed Facebook under social networking but it is also the largest photo-sharing site.

    The key to success with social media is to not put your eggs in one basket.  Once you have a clear understanding of the social web, the next step is know how to integrate some or all these categories together so you can leverage and maximize your efforts with social media.

    Please note, in this diagram I am giving a comprehensive look at the categories of social media.  The tools in each category are only an example.  There are literally thousands of tools out there that would fall into each category and would not be possible to fit into a single diagram.  Please feel free to add tools that you think belong under specific categories in the comment section below.

    The logos and images shown are trademarks of each site.  Let’s hope the sites don’t mind that I borrowed them! :)

    Social Media Landscape Image

    Social Media Landscape Image

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  • 21 Twitter Conversation Tips

    Posted Jan 8th, 2010 By in Social Networking, Twitter With | 22 Comments

    There’s nothing like a good social media conversation to ensure that you gain plenty of followers. However, most people just don’t understand how to make the best use of Twitter. Engaging in intelligent conversation is the best way to build trust, gain followers and establish yourself as a guru online. With that in mind, I’ve compiled some tips to help you do all that on this popular social media platform. dreamstime_11436196

    1. Be positive. People shy away from the negative, so stay upbeat and you’ll find more are drawn to you. Also, you’ll get more positive tweets, which is definitely a plus.

    2. Offer information. Giving out useful tidbits will endear followers to you and result in more retweets. Think about what your followers could use and then give them what they need.

    3. Respond to others. When you see an interesting tweet, comment on it. This is the best way to start a conversation and is far more effective than waiting for someone to respond to you.

    4. Stay firm. No one likes someone who wobbles between two opposing views, so don’t be afraid to state where you stand. It might not be popular with everyone, but you’ll gain respect.

    5. Avoid public arguments. If you’re going to be talking heatedly, keep it private with emails or DMs. No need to share with the world!

    6. Know when to DM. Replying to someone will still appear publicly, but a direct message will only be seen by that person. It’s best to DM any private information (email addresses, etc.).

    7. Keep track of information. Is one of your Twitter contacts pregnant? Make note of her due date and check in once and a while. People love it when others remember things that are important to them.

    8. Help others out. If someone is having a problem and you have a solution, let them know. If you can’t help, retweet the message so someone else can help.

    9. Be funny. Who doesn’t love humor? Just be careful, humor doesn’t always translate well over the internet.

    10. Stay active. Make sure you are tweeting on a daily basis. Most people will ignore someone who only pops up once in a while. (more…)

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