Category Archives: Know-How

5 Ways to Use Your Network to Grow Your Business | Entrepreneur.com

Have you ever sought advice from the people in a business network you belong to? If not, you are missing out on one of the secondary benefits of being involved in a networking group.

Sure, the primary reason you’re networking is to get referrals, but you also gain access to professionals in almost every type of business. Every good network can actually become a type of “mastermind” group that you can tap to gain more information and knowledge.

Here’s a story about how a simple request for advice led to much more. An owner of a small creative-services firm wanted to relocate across the country to a state with a more favorable business climate. But she became frustrated by her difficulty in communicating with government entities two time zones away. Her plans came to a standstill.

The business owner decided to approach a certified public accountant, who had recently joined her networking group, and seek advice. She provided a brief overview of her situation to the CPA, who turned out to be very knowledgeable and quickly identified what she needed to do to move forward in her new state.

That sounds like a happy ending, but it doesn’t end there. The owner of the creative services firm hired the CPA to help resolve her problems, then transferred all of her financial and recordkeeping functions to the CPA’s firm and referred at least three other business owners to her. In return, the CPA connected her with a major new customer. Surprisingly, all of this happened from a single request for expert advice from one member of a networking group to another.

But seeking help from other network members requires some finesse. Here are some important tips to keep in mind when preparing to ask your network members for advice:

1. Before you ask for something, give something. It’s important to build some social capital with the people in your network before you start asking for favors. Seeking help from people before you’ve given anything is a little like trying to get a withdrawal from your banking account without having put anything in first.

2. Restrict your requests for advice to a person’s area of expertise. Otherwise, you risk putting a fellow network member on the spot and making him or her uncomfortable.

3. Don’t have hidden motives. If network members believe you are seeking advice as a subterfuge for promoting your services, they will not only be offended and unwilling to help you, but they will also feel less confident about your ability to help them.

4. Avoid potentially controversial and sensitive issues. This may sound like common sense, but if you delve too far into the personal, you could cause discomfort and damage the relationship.

5. Don’t ask for advice people would normally charge you for. A quick question or two is fine, but don’t go too far. In the case of the business owner above, she was quick to recognize when to switch from soliciting free advice to enlisting–and paying for–the CPA’s services.

A powerful personal network not only can help you expand your business, but it also can help you improve your business. There’s nothing more powerful than having a room full of people who are ready and willing to help you succeed.

via 5 Ways to Use Your Network to Grow Your Business | Entrepreneur.com.

How Can I Get Businesses to Advertise on My Website? | Entrepreneur.com

How Can I Get Businesses to Advertise on My Website?

I created a website that I think will actually make people want to view advertisements. I need ads before I can get traffic, but advertisers want traffic first. What do you suggest?

Monetizing your website with ads is a challenging business model. As you’ve pointed out, the best way to be attractive to an advertiser is to make sure your website generates more qualified traffic than your advertisers can generate on their own.

Still, there are a few ways you can make your ads interesting and available while you’re building up your traffic:

Using advertising networks: One way to monetize websites with smaller traffic is to sell your space to an advertising network such as Google AdSense. AdSense provides you with code to display ads created by Google customers that you can place on your site and in your videos. You get a small commission for every click.

Other ad networks include Yahoo! Publisher Network, OpenX and AdBrite.

Pricing your ads based on actions: If you want to sell your own ads without using a network, there are three basic advertising pricing models. Cost Per Thousand (CPM) charges the advertiser for every 1,000 times the ad displays or loads on a page. Cost Per Click (CPC) charges the advertiser for every one click on an ad. Cost Per Action (CPA) charges the advertiser when a click on an ad results in an action such as a purchase or someone filling out a form with an email address.

Generally, actions are the most valuable to an advertiser, followed by clicks and then impressions. Since you are taking more risk by offering a CPA pricing model, theoretically you can make more margin on charging for actions.

For example, an advertiser who makes $100 on every sale might not be willing to pay $10 per thousand impressions or even $.10 per click, but they may be more than willing to pay $50 or $75 per action because they are virtually guaranteed a profit when they receive a sale that results directly from an advertisement.

Working out the math: To get a ballpark idea of how much traffic you’ll need to make the kind of money you want by charging for actions, take the average click-through rate (CTR) and multiply by the average conversion rate you think you can get for an advertiser.

For example, the average CTR on display ads is around .07 percent, so you’ll need around 1,429 visitors to get a click on one of your ads. If you can convert 5 percent of your clicks into a sale or a lead for your advertiser, you’ll need 28,580 visitors to get one sale or lead for your advertiser. The more valuable the sale or lead, the more you can charge for the action.

If you want to charge for clicks, take the average CTR and multiply by the average Cost-Per-Click (CPC) an advertiser is willing to pay. For example, if the average CTR is .07 percent and the average CPC is $.25, you’ll earn around $1 for every 5,716 visitors.

via How Can I Get Businesses to Advertise on My Website? | Entrepreneur.com.

How to Prevent Scope Creep

I want to talk to you about scope creep.

No, not the wait, we never talked about e-commerce! kind of scope creep. Too much is said about that variety of scope violation, and frankly, I’m not convinced that it actually qualifies as creep anyway. Most of the time, when that big-but-not-included-feature comes up, we can simply say, “that’s not in scope,” and explain why and what it might take to add it if necessary. That kind of thing should never be allowed to throw a project off course. This is what “phase two” lists are all about; they exist to catch all those features that are not feasible to do now, but could be manageable later. Under their own budget, of course.

But like I said, that’s not exactly scope creep.

Scope creep is the kind of thing that accumulates so slowly and subtly that you don’t realize it’s happening until it’s too late, like when you’ve already promised it or, worse, when you’re already building it. Scope creep is like slowly loading up your plate with little portions of everything on the buffet until you realize man, this plate is getting heavy and omigod I can’t eat all of this, what was I thinking! Except, for the metaphor to work in our case, we have to imagine escorting our clients to the buffet and willingly loading up their plate with every single thing they want knowing full well that they have no hope of eating it all (and that price-per-pound buffets always win by betting on big appetites).

The only way for that to happen is if we—not our clients—let it happen. That is the kind of scope creep I want to talk about. The kind that, though we may want to blame our clients, is really our responsibility.

Taking Orders is for Scope Creeps

First, the most important thing to remember is this: your client is paying you to lead them, not to take their order. Leadership involves helping them navigate decisions on the basis of a core goal that can serve as a rubric—for instance, will this feature help them attract, inform, and engage prospects and, ultimately, grow their business? On the other hand, order-taking easily leads to scope creep because it’s so inert. When our contribution is simply taking down a list dictated to us, we are not activating our critical thinking. That tends to result in interactions like this:

“We need a slideshow…”
“Ok.”
“…and we’ll need to be able to add images to it…”
“No problem.”
“…and control the speed of the slides, of course…”
“Cool, cool.”
“…and their sort order…”
“Uh huh.”
“…oh, and can we overlay text on each one?”
“Sure.”
“Great, we’re thinking like 15 to 20 slides for each slideshow…”
“Each?”
“Right, we need one of these on every page.”
“Oook.”
“Oh, and it should show a different slide each time a user comes back to the page…”
“Well…”
“…so we’ll need some kind of cookie or something-right, cookie?-to keep track of which images the user has seen…”
“Wait, what?”

Sound familiar?

It’s Just a…!

Our developers call this a “just-a.” They’ve summed up dialogues like this one with that phrase plenty, and no matter how many times it’s been said in the last fifteen years or so, it always causes them to erupt into laughter. Whenever anything is thrown in, they’ll say (often in unison), “it’s-just-a!” But just so we’re clear, they’re not satirizing the client. No, they’re satirizing us—the designers, account managers, project leads—the people supposedly managing the process. Why? Because they know that scope creep always gets by with a little help from its friends. And they’re absolutely right. They know about dialogues like the one I included above. We who do not think critically are scope creep’s friends.

You Owe it to Your Clients to be Critical of their Ideas

So back to my first point: we are here to lead our clients, not to take their order. That requires being critical. Not critical in the sense of making value judgements (e.g. “that’s a dumb idea”) but in the sense of deconstructing ideas in order to justify them. We’ve got to get comfortable with challenging our clients’ requests by asking: Why? What is it for? How will it work? Who does it benefit? What does it cost? We can do this gently and kindly, by the way. I’m certainly not suggesting that we assault our clients with some kind of 3rd degree treatment. Our job is to help them make decisions, keeping in mind that there are priorities to consider with every possible feature: the purpose of it, the user experience, the content management experience, and of course, the cost—not necessarily of that specific thing, though that can be an issue, but of all these little features in the aggregate. In the end, managing the little things is the most powerful means of avoiding scope creep we have.

With that in mind, I’d like to suggest a three-tiered system for evaluating any piece of functionality, no matter how small (“just-a”) it may seem. Starting with the first and working our way down, we should evaluate functionality in terms of the user’s needs, then the client’s needs, and lastly, its cost. Strategically speaking, I find that cost as an arbitrator tends to provoke strong emotions and dissent—no matter how practical an argument it may present—whereas thoughtful, user-focused arguments are much harder to argue with. This is why I recommend keeping budget-focused arguments against minor functionality in reserve. Use them only if user-focused arguments don’t convince your client.

To demonstrate this system, I’m going to use an example similar to the slideshow that was referenced earlier in the you + client dialogue. (For the record: If you’re a client, this example is not about you. Scope creep of the it’s-just-a-slideshow variety is probably the most common example of exactly the sort of lots-of-small-features scope creep this article is about. It comes up all the time. So, if you feel like I’m making a veiled reference to your project, don’t worry, you’re in good company 😉 )

Bad-Idea Triage

To review, here’s the scenario: You’re prototyping (or wireframing, if you’re into that) a new web project with your client. They mention that they’d like to have the ability to include a slideshow on each page—one that can support an unspecified number of images (implied: unlimited). Instead of cycling through them, it would only show one of its many images per page load and, specifically, only an image that the user has not yet seen. The idea here is to consistently deliver a “fresh” visual experience to repeat visitors.

So, let’s dissect the idea…

1. Does this feature meet the user’s needs?
Another way to put this is, does this functionality enable a probable outcome? I would say no.

The client mentioned that they’d like this feature to not be limited to a certain number of images. From their perspective, that gives them the most freedom, which in and of itself is no problem. So let’s say that they have the ability to create five unique images (per page, remember, but I’ll come back to this in a moment). In order to make it possible for a repeat visitor to see a new image each time she returned to this page (well, really, only up to five times since that’s the number of images we’re working with, but sure, it could be ten or twenty or more) the site would have to place a cookie in that user’s browser that kept track of which pages she has viewed and which images were displayed. It’s not the most sophisticated tracking in the world, but it’s an added layer of programming. But the question is, will this functionality actually get used? How likely is it for a user to return to the same page on a website five times? My hunch: Not very. In my experience looking at hundreds of analytics accounts, the likelihood of a user viewing five pages total in their session is low enough, but the likelihood of a user returning to a particular page five times within a session is approaching zero. But just to be sure, I surveyed the analytics accounts of all of our active clients—which is a decent cross-section of business types including B2B and B2C—and discovered that the average number of pages per visit for all of them is 2.98. If the average user sees less than five pages across the entire site, how many could possibly see the same pageup to five times in their session? Little to none, that’s how many. So, why build functionality for a scenario that—according to these statistics—will never happen?

In theory, something like this sounds neat and really wouldn’t take that long to implement (one developer I asked estimated something like four hours), but the data shows that it’s not likely to benefit many users, if any at all.

2. Is this feature manageable?
In other words, does this feature create more work for the site administrator than is necessary? This brings to mind that overloaded buffet diner’s plate: It all may look delicious, but do you have room to eat it? Again, I think the answer is no.

There are two issues here. The first has to do with the content itself. If the client is imagining that this rotating image feature will appear on every page, then they’re going to be very busy with image creation. For instance, if their website has just twenty pages (unlikely these days) and each page has only five images, they’d need to create one-hundred unique images. My guess is that skeptically pointing this out will cause the client to fall back upon re-using some of those images, but that undermines the whole keeping-it-fresh idea, right? But suppose the client says, “One-hundred images? I can do that in my sleep.” In that case, on to the second issue…

The second issue has to do with the structure of this content behind the scenes—how it will be managed using a content management system (CMS). Rather than talking about content in the abstract, we tend to focus in on content “types.” A type might be anything from a product to a case study to an employee bio. In general, if the website administrator is going to need to add content on their own moving forward—a new product, a new case study, or a new employee—then we build a type that can be scaled as far as need be. That way, the client can log-in to their CMS and simply choose “add new product.” So, how might that work for this slideshow feature?

In addition to the page content types, for which there might be quite a large number, we could create a “slideshow” content type that the CMS user can add to the database as needed. She might name it something like “snazzy pictures 1.” We would also need to create a “slide” content type, which would allow the CMS user to add individual images to the database. The workflow would probably look something like this: First, the CMS user would add a new slideshow, which would essentially just consist of naming and saving it. Then, she would create a new slide, uploading the image to the database, naming it, associating it with the slideshow, and saving it. She would repeat this procedure for each image she wanted to include in the slideshow. For a slideshow of only five images, this could potentially require around eighteen unique steps (adding, uploading, associating) just to get the material in place on the site. Then she would need to edit the page on which she wanted to display the slideshow and, using something we call a “picker,” find it in the database and associate it with that page. Then, she would need to repeat this entire process for every page that needed to display a slideshow. Who knows how long this could take. With a good internet connection and some practice, perhaps just a matter of minutes. Probably not, though. Things always take longer than we expect. And of course, this is not including the time needed to create the images themselves. All in all, we’re talking about a lot of work for just a little payoff.

But this could be simplified some. Let’s say the client was willing to limit the slideshow to only five images. In that case, we could simplify the workflow greatly by just adding five upload slots to each page’s edit screen. That cuts out the need to add a slideshow content type, associate it with the page, then add and associate each unique image. Instead of connecting that series of content types with some kind of display logic, we’d just write the display script to pull from the page’s image slots. But, again, that’s assuming the client is OK with limiting the feature to five images even though they started out by hoping to be able to include as many as they wanted.

What these two issues show is that “as many as you want” sounds great, but the question is really “how many will you be able to create?” The time it would take to manage a feature like this is excessive, but it’s really only the tip of the iceberg. The other time to consider is the time it requires to create it, which is ALWAYS substantially more. Why would anyone spend this much time to create and manage imagery that, as I showed in the first section, is unlikely to ever be seen?

3. Is the cost of this feature out of proportion with the overall budget?
Unlike the others, this question should be pretty straightforward to answer. However, the amount of transparency you allow over the process of asking and/or answering it—as far as your client is concerned—is up to you. Generally, I think that alluding to the amount of time an individual feature might require relative to the overall budget is often as far as you need to go. For example, I mentioned earlier that one of our developers estimated that the more complex version of this hypothetical slideshow feature could take roughly four hours to build. Now, I’m completely against this feature and think that the other reasons for ditching it which I’ve already reviewed—that it anticipates an unrealistic user scenario and requires way too much work from a content management perspective—provide a persuasive enough argument upon which to rest my case. But, maybe the client won’t agree. Maybe they don’t fully get my user-focused point and are confident in their image creation and management skills such that my CMS point seems like over-thinking it. Fine. In that case, I’m probably going to be inclined to talk about money. Let’s say that we’ve budgeted forty hours of development time for this project (way less than normal, but I’m just going for a round number here). I would then inform the client of the developer’s estimate and suggest that I thought that a tenth of the overall budget going to just this one feature was probably out of proportion, especially if it was just one of many features like this that aren’t ultimately essential to the website’s purpose.

You could, of course, get more specific about the dollars and cents when it comes to prioritizing features. Do what makes sense for the relationship you have with your client.

Asking whether a feature benefits the user will always draw upon what we believe should be the guiding principles of any website: does it attract, inform, or engage the right audience? In the particular example I used here, that involved questioning whether the logic of the feature itself left any audience to experience it. Having analytics data to guide this type of decision is really helpful, but the case probably could have been made without it. While this first line of questioning should be your priority, don’t hesitate to move on to the next one—which will show your client just how much work they’re creating for themselves—if the user-focused argument isn’t resonating. Buffet mentality is exceedingly common during website development projects, but it’s typical for there to be only one site admin who inherits the overloaded plate once the site needs to be populated. Making a case for that person’s workload is a powerful tool.

3 Steps to Scope Sanity

Though I’ve used a very particular example to describe the three core questions central to this method—is it usable, manageable, and affordable?—it can and should be applied to evaluate every possible feature. The slideshow (and a million variations thereof) is only one of many possible just-a’s that we encounter over and over again. Off the top of my head, others include the overloaded employee profile template (the kind that believes you need to know Jennie’s favorite color or Richard’s top karaoke pick), the content taxonomy large enough to suit the library of congress (it really gives that blog room to breath), the three or four different hidden page templates (you know, just in case), the 30 different discount codes that have no business structures behind them and only came up because you asked, “what kinds of discounts will you need to offer online?,” oh and of course, the live webcam of just about anywhere. There are plenty more, of course (feel free to share your favorites in the comments), the point being that any of these things could seem like a good idea or even an imperative in the absence of critical thinking. That’s what makes scope creep possible.

As I’m confident you’ve experienced for yourself, scope creep really isn’t the result of some surprise mega-function that is obviously out of scope. Instead, it almost always comes from an aggregate of little things that, individually, may seem like no big deal, but taken together, amount to an excessive plate of food that no one can eat and few can afford.

How to Prevent Scope Creep.

Five Money-Making SEO Tips for Small Business Online Stores | Social Media Today

Small businesses operating their own online stores have to use SEO (Search Engine Optimization) to drive traffic, convert visitors into customers and make money online.

But, most traditional small businesses don’t have the time or resources to implement a sustained SEO campaign, or pay a good SEO company to drive traffic on their behalf.

Without a steady flow of qualified traffic (that comes from SEO, social and Internet marketing), operating an eCommerce (online store) site may not be financially sustainable.

Regardless of whether your comapny has SEO experience or not, the following five easy-to-implement SEO tips will ensure that potential customers find your content and start buying. These great SEO techniques can be used by any type of business to drive more web traffic, whether you’re a butcher, baker or candle-stick maker.

1. Add content. Add content. Add content.

I regularly come across business people who are frustrated with the Internet as a medium for business. “Why does a defense attorney need twitter followers?” “I have to work on my actual business. Why should I waste time writing online?”

The answer is this:

Adding content increases online visibility. The more people who happen across your content, the more likely you are to make a conversion and gain a sale.”

Sure, there are other considerations, but that’s the basic formula.

What drives traffic? Content. Lots of relevant and engaging content. Make sure that your blog content is setup to guide people to your store or products so that they can convert into customers and generate revenue for your business.

SEO Tip: Try and get everyone in your company to add content to your website on a regular basis. It could be relating the story of how you satisfied a customer’s need, it could be a story of how you had to drive across town to get some mushrooms for a special dinner (if you’re a caterer). Whatever. So long as you keep adding content.

2. Personalize SEO content with Google Authorship

By implementing Google authorship, you give a face to your content. That’s important for consumer trust. It’s not just another article by someone ‘out there’ – it’s by Joe from “Joe’s Deli”, or Alice from “Alice’s Wheel balancing”. You get the picture.

One of the most important factors in getting people to buy from your online store, is credibility. I am far more likely to buy from someone I feel I know, or know something about, than a faceless unknown business.

To implement authorship:

Create a Google+ account

Link your Google+ profile to your content

Authorship may take a while. Google is pretty slow on showing author information next to its results. Don’t hold your breath, but keep checking every week or so.

3. Improve your online store’s technical SEO performance

Do you know how fast your web pages are being served? Did you know that Page speed is an important factor in Google’s PageRank algorithm. Are your pages cached? Is your CSS compressed and aggregated? Are your JavaScript files compress and aggregated?

If none of this means anything to you, then it is likely that you can improve your SEO performance by upgrading your performance related SEO. You will probably need to speak to someone with web development experience who also knows SEO.

SEO Tip: Read this article entitled “Improve your SEO and compare the SEO of five leading SEO sites

SEO Tip 2: Don’t be seduced by promises of instant SEO magic. Subsequent to Google’s Panda and Penguin updates, businesses that use cheap, unethical SEO contractors are paying the price by disappearing from search results.

4. Localize content for better SEO performance

Google has started to favor local results over more general ones. To appear higher up in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) for customers in your area, you have to make sure that your content has localization information.

If the majority of your store’s sales come from a specific location (i.e. a town or county), then you’ll probably want to implement these three super SEO localization techniques:

  1. Target users in your area using Webmaster tools. Select the relevant option from “Site configuration >> Settings >> Geographic target”
  2. Use localized SEO keywords in your content. Instead of writing an SEO page heading like “Baking the best muffins”, you could write “Baking the best muffins in New York City”
  3. Add your business to Google maps
  4. Use “Location coordinates” META tags in your page content (This is slightly more technical, so you might need to get in touch with a good SEO consultant or firm to help you out)

5. Implement regular SEO and ROI analysis

SEO is nothing without the ability to monitor the results. Ensure that your website is integrated with Webmaster tools and Google analytics.

Without analytics it is difficult to improve your store’s ROI (Return on Investment). Analytics will allow you to see precisely which content is driving traffic, what customers are doing on the site, and give insight into how you can maximize conversions and traffic going forward.

Check out these two quick ROI calculator apps:

SEO Tip: Use analytics to see which keywords are driving traffic to your website. If these keywords are driving traffic that is converting, keep using them. If not, think about other keywords that might drive interested customers and start using those in your online store’s content.

via Five Money-Making SEO Tips for Small Business Online Stores | Social Media Today.

Advertising Made Simple – Traditional Media vs Social Media | Social Media Today

That’s just it…advertising is not simple! It’s kind of like throwing spaghetti at the wall…throw it long enough and something might stick. Possibly the reason social media is the most popular kid in school right now. It’s really a matter of how much time are you willing to spend to discover what makes your customers or clients tick, or do you hire someone to do it for you? Big question! Big answer!

What’s The Formula?

Social media is like everything else, there’s a formula to make it work.

Q:How many times to post.

A: Anywhere from 1-5 on Facebook, 3-5 per day on Twitter.

Then depending on your type of business, it’s the offer, how frequently do you tell your customers/clients, how long does the offer last, etc., etc. *See answer above.

Just like traditional media, only new forum. Most say posting of any kind should occur between 7-9am, 11a-1p, 5-7p and 9p-12a to reach the most people. All of this is very similar to broadcast media.

However, the same rules apply…nothing has really changed except the platform.

It’s funny to me that television, radio and print are now called traditional media. Did you ever think that would happen? Now, it’s Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, StumbleUpon, oh, and let’s not forget Pinterest…still same goal but now with a moving target.

That’s what got me started on looking at the similarities for one media platform to another. One of the local radio stations just sent me a promotion for Facebook. Television did it last year and they will do it again. It’s another revenue stream, so I think we can pretty much count on seeing a new or revamped promotion for Facebook. Is it any wonder that everyone stays confused or at best…dazed? If “traditional” media (corporate groups with big budgets and big research departments) are looking at the new outlets and trying to figure them out, what hope is there for the local business guy trying to compete in his market? Doing it himself?

Local and small business battle daily with competitors and the big chains. Most have learned what it takes to stay in business and stay top-of mind. They’ve learned what their customers want and how to keep them.

Whether 1972 or 2012, it’s still customer service and recognition that pays off, doesn’t matter if it’s through traditional or social media. People are still a product of their last conversation. The best thing you can do is keep “talking”, cross your fingers and hope it sticks!

via Advertising Made Simple – Traditional Media vs Social Media | Social Media Today.

7 Tips for Creating a Successful Social Media Strategy — Multichannel Magic

“Nothing is so common-place as to wish to be remarkable.”
~ William Shakespeare

“Be remarkable” is the catch phrase used by social media early adapters to answer questions like these:

How do I get more Twitter followers?

“Be remarkable”

My blog doesn’t get comments. What should I do?

“Be remarkable”

How do I attract fans to Facebook?

“Be remarkable”

My car doesn’t start when the weather is cold. What is the problem?

“Be remarkable.”

Okay, the last question may be a stretch, but you get the idea. Ask anything about creating an effective social media strategy and invariably the answer will include something about being remarkable.

This advice has some merit. Companies like Apple, Zappos, and Coca-cola have an existing fan base that thinks they are remarkable. They feed that base regularly by continuing to be interesting. It’s little wonder that there is plenty of conversation about them on social media platforms.

What happens if your business is less than remarkable? Your service is good, products are top quality, and customers are happy, but everything falls in the “normal” category. Can you succeed in a channel that expects “remarkable” activity? Why should you even try?

Before answering those questions, let’s look at what social media is and isn’t:

Social media is:

  • A great way to connect with customers. This is especially true for direct marketing and ecommerce companies that have little or no face-to-face contact with the people who support them.
  • A way to boost natural search results. There is a “SEO is dying” rumor floating around social media circles. It isn’t true. Search is the still the best way to drive quality traffic to your website. And, now that the major engines are indexing social platforms, you have another way to stay in front of customers and attract new ones.
  • A tool to expand your reach exponentially. As your community grows and participates with your activities, the potential audience expands. It is critical that you have a strategy with specific goals to take advantage of this opportunity.

Social media isn’t:

  • A replacement for traditional marketing. The platforms are evolving into social commerce, but you still need a point of sale to complete the purchase. The best strategies include an integrated approach that uses all of the marketing tools that fit the company’s market.
  • For everyone. Your customers may not be participating at this time so SEO will be the only benefit. You should still consider participating because you want your presence established when your customers do join.
  • A short-term solution. It takes time to build a presence and see results. A long time. Expect to spend at least a year providing consistent content before you start seeing a return on your investment. It takes a lot of snowflakes to make a snowball, but once it’s rolling, it grows quickly.

Success in social media is different for every company.

Even businesses in the same industry with overlapping communities will see incredible variances. Every organization has a unique personality or corporate culture that is defined by the leadership, employees, and customers. This creates individual perceptions and expectations that affect the experience. Here are some tips to help you succeed:

  1. Start with realistic goals and expectations. While social media has been around for several years, it is still evolving at a rapid pace. It won’t magically morph your business into a super company, but it can help you improve customer relationships.
  2. Have a plan. If you’re just getting started, plan first. If you’ve been at it for a while, make a plan for going forward. (Don’t stop your activity while you plan. You’ll lose traction.) What do you want to accomplish? Connect with customers? Find prospects? Improve website traffic? You can do it all, but you need a strategy. If you’re participating without a plan, how do you know what works or doesn’t? There isn’t a point of reference.
  3. Know your numbers by establishing benchmarks and regularly updating your data. Social media success is hard to measure. You can measure tweets, retweets, likes, and mentions, but none of them come with direct deposit. The purpose of business is to serve customers at a profit. If social media doesn’t contribute, you don’t need to participate. If you have good benchmarks, you can see the effect on the backend.
  4. Be flexible, but stay the course. It takes time to build an interactive community. Social media is changing rapidly. What works today may not be available tomorrow. For example, contests were a good way to attract people to your Facebook community until the terms of service were changed. The platforms make the rules and change them frequently. You have to adapt as needed.
  5. Ignore the noise. There’s a lot of it, loud, persistent, and sometimes ugly. Invariably, you’ll do something that others won’t like and there will be fallout. Here’s a simple rule of thumb to follow: If your customers are unhappy, change what you’re doing. If the social media pundits are unhappy, you’re probably doing something right. Even if it is a mistake, as long as it wasn’t malicious, the fallout will be minimal. Social media bullies have short attention spans.
  6. Be personable but not personal. Everything you do in the social media world should reflect your company’s core values. Chatting about the weather is fine. Leave commenting on world politics to others unless it is part of your business.
  7. Have an exit strategy. Social media isn’t for everyone, but every company should test it. If it works, customers who participate have higher lifetime values and longer lifespans. If it doesn’t, continuing to participate is futile. When you make your plan, define the length of time you’ll test, amount of resources you’ll commit, what defines success, and how you’ll leave if it doesn’t work out.

When someone tells you that all it takes to succeed is being remarkable, remember this: People who are truly remarkable rarely see it in themselves and never talk about it. People who think they are remarkable rarely deliver on the promise.

via 7 Tips for Creating a Successful Social Media Strategy — Multichannel Magic.