Running contests on social media offers one of the best strategies for getting audiences engaged, earning shares, and generating impressions. Following a careful procedure can increase your contest’s chances of success.
On the other hand, not having a plan and a strategy can mean that even the most popular contests accomplish little in the way of marketing goals, while taking resources from other campaigns. Or, worse, the contest can turn into a giant mess that leaves a sore spot on your brand image.
So, to make sure your contest has the best odds of helping boost your social media marketing performance, use the following 11 steps below. They’ll help you strategize for your contest, plan it out, create a schedule, and follow through on everything in a way that leaves both your participants and your fellow co-workers satisfied with the results.
1. Decide on a Social Media Marketing Goal
Many contests start by thinking of a great promotion, prize or theme. The goals get defined later.
While this approach feels natural because thinking about prizes or contest themes is exciting, there’s danger in not having a focus from the beginning. Your goals can easily get diluted or intermingled in a way that makes them ineffective.
For instance, let’s say you are a scuba diving certification company. You want people to enter into a contest to win some free gear. If your ultimate goal is to get people to sign up for lessons, then the format of your contest needs to be positioned toward people who have never scuba dived before.
The problem is that only people with scuba experience may share your contest since they are the only people who know how valuable the gear you’re offering is. To fix the problem, the contest needs to highlight from the beginning how winning your gear set makes it easier than ever to start scuba diving. Without this perspective, you may instead end up pitching the value of a feature-packed diving watch, which will read as “all Greek” to people who aren’t familiar.
So, start from a defined goal and let the structure of the contest expand organically from there.
Common goals include:
Increasing overall purchases.
Increasing brand awareness.
Increasing conversion actions like demo signups/free lesson signups/webinar registrations/content downloads.
Increasing site traffic.
Earning more page likes/followers.
Make sure that no matter what, your contest reinforces your goals. If, for example, you want to earn more traffic, make visiting a landing page on your site mandatory for entry. The landing page should also have a call to action suggesting people browse your content or your products. Similarly, if your aim is to increase purchases, you can make a purchase a necessary part of entry.
2. Decide on Your Hosting and Promotional Venues
The venue you host your contest on can have huge consequences for how your contest is structured and how it will play out over time. Some platforms – i.e., Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram – have strict rules regarding how contests are held and how they are conducted.
Eventually, you will need a legal team to review your contest plan before you put it into action. The venues you use to host and/or promote the campaign will affect their recommendations for what you can and cannot do.
Note that “hosting” a contest refers to all of the contest activities taking place on that platform. For instance, if you are going to make the entry requirement sharing a post and the prize drawing comes from those shares, the contest is occurring on that platform.
On the other hand, if you are going just to be promoting the contest on social media and the actual entry and other activities takes place on your own site, that creates a different set of conditions.
Realize that the more channels you have your contest hosted on, the more complex your campaign will become. You can reduce complexity by directing everyone to one point of entry, such as prompting “Enter on Facebook” or “Visit Our Website to Enter!” This strategy makes promoting your contest across multiple channels easier without having to add data-gathering and community management headaches.
3. Decide How People Will Enter Your Social Media Contest
A few entry requirement options you can consider are to:
Submit email and other contact information.
Require a connecting action, such as “liking” or “following” your page.
Require an engagement action, such as “liking,” commenting, or sharing a particular post.
Ask people to cast their vote using polling tools on Facebook or Twitter or on your own website.
Create and submit user generated content for judgement, meaning the selected best entry gets the prize.
Direct submissions of emails typically take the least amount of effort to track, especially if you use a custom form. Requiring people to comment, like or share a post can be similarly easy, although this engagement may not connect meaningfully with the desired goal or conversion action.
Voting can be another easy entry mechanism, but you may want to steer people to a custom form since many social platforms register votes anonymously.
Creating user-generated content is an awesome idea since it leads to the creation of marketing assets you can later use while bringing higher levels of engagement to your campaign. However, you will need to review the legal requirements of such a campaign and disclose details like ownership rights and liability to anyone who submits.
Software tools are available to help you track data such as new page “likes,” so you can differentiate new entrants from people who already like your page. These tools include Strutta, Shortstack, Wishpond, and Rafflecopter. Of these, Rafflecopter has the best pricing and is singularly dedicated to contests.
4. Create a Contest Theme and a Name
Your social media contest theme should have its own set of branding devices in play. The more vivid your branding, the more excited entrants will be. Well-branded and themed contests also have a way of attracting more attention.
Remember that the clarity of the theme and also the clarity of a contest title can make or break participation. Shorter names are usually better, especially since space is limited on social posts for Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and other platforms.
5. Settle on a Contest Timeline
Decide on a date you will make the final prize announcement. Then, work backward from this date to plot out when drawing/judging will start and end. Going further, decide when entry is closed, when it is open, when promotion for the contest starts, and any other key dates involved.
Build in the needed time to handle everything, especially if snags or hurdles emerge. You need to give yourself time to plan and design creative elements, get approval from legal, and accomplish other milestones.
6. Decide on Prizes or Giveaways
You may have already had a prize or giveaway in mind, but you should wait to finalize this decision until you have all the other above elements in place. Holding off prevents you from getting locked into the prize aspect and losing focus on everything else. If you’ve seen the Office episode where Michael Scott auctions off non-existent Bruce Springsteen tickets, you know what we mean.
As we suggested above, ensure the prize directly ties into your goals, your desired customer path, and your business as a whole. Offering a generically appealing prize like a free iPhone can earn you thousands of entrants, but most of these entrants will not be viable customer leads.
Instead, think of prizes that connect to your business, your brand, and your most important values. Also, try to think of a storytelling angle so that your prize winner can become a testimonial of sorts, illustrating what makes your company great.
7. Draft an Editorial and Social Content Calendar
Using the timeline you created, plan out ahead of time exactly what types of social media posts and other promotional collateral will be needed and when it will be published. You can always use placeholder content or deviate from your calendar, but the last thing you want to do is promote your contest off-the-cuff with no real approval or planning.
To help you decide what kind of content will be needed when, think of your social media contest in six discrete phases:
Last chance for entries.
Closed for entries.
Post-contest promotion and related campaigns.
8. Develop Your Promotional Strategy
You want to amplify visibility for your contest as much as possible, especially during the first few days of launch. Having a “slow burn” strategy actually hurts your chances for entrants since posts with little engagement tend to get buried. However, posts that get tons of engagement the moment they are created tend to be discovered more readily by late-comers.
Include paid ads, organic promotions, website content, and social media content within your promotional strategy. You don’t have to have a huge budget for any one particular thing, but generally the more you can invest, the better your results will be.
9. Have a Community Management and Crisis Plan in Place
Since it will be hosted online, your contest will essentially run 24/7. You therefore need a plan for someone to monitor activities during off-business hours.
Remember that contests tend to overwhelm unprepared social media marketing teams since they create a flood of engagement compared to the normal day-to-day. Be prepared for this in advance.
Also, have a backup plan in case things go wrong. Hopefully, you will never have to implement your crisis management plan, but having it prepared ensures you have a set damage containment strategy rather than responding on-the-fly. Sometimes when we improvise while handling stressful situations, we can make things worse, so have your backup plan written down.
10. Finalize Your Rules, and Have Legal Review Everything
The last thing you want is for your contest to result in a lawsuit or bad PR. You should therefore have experienced legal counsel verify that all your rules, prizes, and general procedures are appropriate and legal.
Consider that if you run your contest nationally or internationally, different states may have different rules regarding contests and prizes. You want to be in compliance everywhere possible, which may even mean restricting entry within certain geographical areas.
11. Document Everything So You Can Learn in the Future
As an extra step, make sure you take notes on as much of what you learn as you can. Also, gather data throughout the contest, so you can trace ROI and whether you’ve met your goals. This documentation may be extra work, but it will pay off by helping you learn lessons and improve over time.
If you need help with social media marketing or hosting a social media contest, you can always look to outside expertise. Contact us today if you need assistance planning your contest, tying it to your goals, or simply verifying that it has the best possible chance of bringing you success.
Business-to-business (B2B) content marketing uses many of the same principles as business-to-consumer (B2C) strategies but with a few key differences. Honing in on these differences can ensure that your B2B marketing strategies remain relevant and effective in our ever-evolving business climate.
In fact, your B2B content marketing strategy will include several “must have” components. Without them, your ability to generate leads, convert those leads, and retain existing customers could suffer greatly. With these “must haves,” you can increase your chances of success and ensure that your content marketing campaigns follow all of the latest recommended best practices.
So, to help you improve your B2B content marketing strategy to be as effective as possible, here are the six “musts” you need in place.
Looking at just the B2B companies finding the most success with content marketing, only 62% said they had a documented content marketing strategy. This, despite the fact that they dedicated 40% of their total marketing budget to content marketing on average.
The danger in not having a documented strategy is that important details are left up in the air. You may not realize there is a gap in how your content strategy is able to nurture late stage buyers to an actual purchase. Or, you may fail to define your specific content marketing goals, leading to campaigns that are poorly optimized.
Most worrisome, not having documentation leaves critical parts of your content marketing campaigns open to interpretation. A writer may create content with a completely different audience in mind than your target personas, and without documentation there is no way for them to know otherwise.
Every person involved in creating content should have the same intent and abide by all of the necessary markers of quality, so the content you create is consistent and up to your expectations.
Define your content goals. Outline your expectations for each piece created. Ensure that your content marketing campaigns account for your buyer personas during key stages in their journey. Getting all of these things down in writing can help you have more precise control over your results, while achieving quality more in line with your expectations.
Conduct Original Research and Publish It
Your B2B company can survive by simply regurgitating and repackaging information obtained by others, but it will face stiff competition from those that publish their own research.
Conducting your own research can be tough, but the efforts pay off. People will share and cite your information readily, as long as it provides current information that answers an important business question. Your research can also earn you a top spot on search engine results if it covers an important topic, follows SEO guidelines, and earns shares from websites with high domain authority.
Aim for Content Downloads, Which Correlate to the Highest Customer Conversion Rates
B2B companies don’t just want engagement or occasional readers. They want paying customers. Therefore, they should seek out the content marketing methods most likely to earn them a customer conversion out of their sales leads.
Surprisingly, content downloads had the highest conversion rate according to the same survey cited above. 66% of companies listed them as the asset with the best conversion rate. Webinars came in second, which seems counterintuitive given how much of a time investment registering and attending one can be. Equally surprising – demo requests came in third.
Nevertheless, creating premium content and requiring a download seems to be the most effective content marketing tactic for generating qualified leads and converting them to completed sales. Consider this as you determine which types of content are priorities and most deserving of your time, money and effort.
Tap Subject Matter Experts and Industry Influencers to Gain More Traction
The right input from the right source can make a huge difference in the perceived value B2B marketing content offers. By crowdsourcing information, ideas, and quotable phrases from recognizable names in your industry, you can amplify the authority your content projects while making it more appealing.
One company revealed to Forbes that onboarding influencers was a game changer for their content marketing effectiveness. They switched from a focus of educating target audiences to engaging them in discussions. The topics they covered had no right answers, making them more interesting to explore and contribute to. Having influencers submit their own input completed the package and helped the content have broader appeal.
When seeking out influencers to contribute, make the process of responding as simple as possible. Ask one direct, easy-to-grasp question, and let them know exactly what the intended guidelines are. If you can reduce the effort required to contribute to the project, you can improve your response rate and get more people to contribute their valuable input.
Don’t Neglect Video and Visuals
Visuals help “sell” content and make it into a much more appealing package. When you have the resources, make sure to pull important quotes and statistics from your content and repurpose them into easy-to-read graphics.
These graphics will undoubtedly get more visual attention and shares compared to text-only options. They also make for impactful assets any time you want to promote your content on social media. Don’t be surprised if many people seem to just read the photos and not really dig into the article itself!
Like graphics, video combines well with other content and can also be a great way to repurpose it. Creating an executive summary of a research report can encourage downloads, for instance, while providing a more appealing and easily shareable format to earn more impressions.
Remember B2B Content Marketing Is for Retention and Not Just New Leads
Offering content for those in the post-purchase phase can enhance their buyer satisfaction while keeping your business top-of-mind. Your content can also help turn them into brand evangelists by giving them information they’d be excitedly willing to share with their friends, colleagues, and social media followers.
Because of these benefits, make sure to account for repeat buyers’ needs within your persona and your B2B content strategy in general.
Ready to Start Selling More? Get Help Creating and Optimizing Your B2B Content Strategy
The path to success for B2B content marketing is never easy nor obvious, and it must be customized to fit the unique needs of your particular company and your target personas.
Get help forming a strategy that accounts for all of the above “must haves,” while increasing your chances of meeting or even exceeding your marketing goals. Contact us today to find out how!
Every business needs a social media presence, and most can benefit from actively trying to market and generate leads on the most popular social platforms.
The fact of the matter is that social media has become the preferred form of media in our day and age. 67% of people say they get their news from social media first, for instance. News breaking most often comes from shares or second-hand sources on platforms like Facebook and Twitter. In effect, content publishers have to have social media at the front of their mind if they hope for their outlet to get exposure for breaking a story as opposed to a competitor.
For businesses, this same principle holds true. If you aren’t active on social media, others may talk about your business and seize control of the narrative. Or, even worse, your business is all but invisible until someone else shares content or news talking about you.
In addition to providing visibility, having a proactive social media marketing strategy can help boost your sales performance and help you achieve your marketing goals. You can earn new customer leads, increase brand awareness, and even offer customer support through social channels.
To cover the full scope of why your business needs to be on social media, consider the following five benefits described below and how they are an essential part of any digital marketing strategy.
Create a Highly Visible “Hub” for Your Business’s News and Announcements
Let’s be honest. Very few people are going to religiously check your business website’s “News” or “Blog” page for announcements and press releases. If most people don’t visit news sites to get news, they certainly aren’t actively going to business’s websites to see the latest developments.
This assertion isn’t meant to discourage you from tending to your website at all, but rather to make you realize just how much more visibility being on social media adds for your business. Sharing news and announcements on social is dead simple, and your followers may even help share those materials for you once you release them into the wild.
In this way, your social media profiles serve as your business’s online “hub” away from its main website. Your profile photo, the content you share, and the announcements you make all have the effect of turning your social accounts into an official mouthpiece for your brand. From here, you can help shape your public image and control the flow of information you release into the world.
Increase Your Visibility on Search Engines
The jury is still out as to whether social media engagement and content shares can raise the search engine ranking for a business’s website pages. Hootsuite, for instance, found a small correlation but concluded that a deeper study with more data points was needed.
Even if social media can’t help raise your web page rankings, it can help you occupy a more obvious spot in the rankings altogether. Why? Because social media platforms have great domain authority, which allows them to rank highly any time a search is made.
So, if someone searches for your business name or a related topic online, your social media page and posts talking about your business are highly likely to appear near the top of search results. Twitter is especially good at earning top ranks, since Google features recent tweets similar to how they would news posts.
Having a social media profile and actively discussing your areas of business can therefore give you additional opportunities at ranking near the top of search engine results.
Publish Your Content and Earn Traffic for Your Marketing Campaigns
While people are more likely to check your social media pages than your homepage for business news, you can encourage more traffic to your website by posting on social media.
With the right images and messaging, you can easily pull in huge amounts of traffic just from one post. The aim is to get people’s attention and to make full use of your available resources. In other words, you are going to craft great content previews for content like shared blog posts.
For campaign-related traffic, you can describe your offer in attractive terms to earn attention and traffic. A retail business can describe a sale for their website store, for instance. Or, you can encourage people to sign up for entry in a contest by posting a link to the relevant landing page.
Social media posting is particularly useful for boosting the ROI of your content marketing campaigns. Without social sharing, many businesses would get little traffic to their blogs. By posting on social, the business can boost traffic and potentially up their correlated domain authority, which explains the positive effect Hootsuite saw between social engagement and SEO rank.
Raise Brand Awareness and Earn New Customer Leads
Social media creates opportunities for countless people to discover your business and what it does. Google searches for business names spike if that business can generate social buzz, for example.
You also have the opportunity to earn exposures through people who follow and engage with your brand on social media. For instance, someone who “likes” or comments on your post on Facebook can have those interactions appear on their friend’s newsfeeds.
Social media advertising is also another potential source of significant new impressions and customer leads. Platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn have powerful audience customization tools that allow you to get in front of your most valuable buyer personas with just a minimal budget.
A landscaping company could target business owners in their area, for instance, by selecting job titles as an audience filter. Or, they could target a wealthy neighborhood with large estate-style land plots that can offer lucrative contracts.
Software companies can similarly offer free demos or pitch their product’s benefits to relevant audiences. Social media provides the visibility, and once you have someone on your landing page or on your email list, you have opportunities to convert.
Interact With Your Audiences and Provide Customer Support
Brands can do an excellent job of building relationships with their audiences when they can create content that encourages engagement.
The UPS Store, for example, came out with a powerful social media post that piggybacked off the popularity of a recent Nintendo product release. To date, the post has gotten 3,200 shares, over 200 comments, and 10,000 “likes.”
Interactions like these don’t just multiply brand impressions. They also change the way people might perceive a brand. Someone who loves the playful tone of the post can then translate these positive associations to the business posting it. Or, the brand can help forge strong associations between itself and the values it cares about most.
People who interact with the brand can therefore end up being more loyal customers, while repeating the desired positive brand associations to their friends and followers. According to one survey, 48% of people say they are more likely to make repeat purchases from a brand that engages with them, and 90% of millennials consider it “cool” when a brand responds to their questions.
But what about people who have nasty things to say about your business on social media, or people who have a complaint? That is actually a great opportunity!
Don’t Ignore Social Media Marketing, Or the World Could Ignore You!
Because of all these benefits social media marketing provides, especially for visibility, having a social media strategy is no longer optional for businesses. Even if they do not intend to advertise or promote themselves on the major social platforms, they need a professional presence that responds actively to people looking for support and answers.
If you want help forming your own social media strategy for your business, look no further than us! We have experience creating content, earning followers, interacting with audiences, supporting cross-channel marketing campaigns, and creating paid social media advertising campaigns based on your goals.
Facebook has evolved quite a bit since its launch in 2004 …for better or worse. When it comes to your business, you may lean closer to the “worse” category considering how hard it’s getting to reach your audiences without paying for ads.
On the bright side, there are more options than ever for connecting organically to your audiences in effective ways. For instance, Facebook’s emphasis on live video can create a quick path to engagement since the platform eagerly notifies people when a Page or person they follow goes live. Facebook messenger is also exploding in popularity, giving businesses the opportunity to create chatbots or personalized social support through chat channels.
So what exact changes should your business take note of the most, and how can you adjust your Facebook marketing strategy in response? Read on to find out!
Organic Reach Plummets for Facebook Pages, Businesses
The first thing businesses need to recognize is that organic reach for their Pages is plummeting. What this means is that if you have people who “like” your Page, and you post an update hoping it will reach them, there’s a good chance it won’t.
According to some agencies, the portion of their total audience that saw their unpromoted (no paid ad budget) posts was just 2%. This change happened at the same time that rates for promoting posts shot up 35%. Clearly, Facebook wants to motivate companies to spend money on advertising for the reach they once got for free.
“Because space in News Feed is limited,” the company’s public announcement reads, “showing more posts from friends and family and updates that spark conversation means we’ll show less public content, including videos and other posts from publishers or businesses.”
According to Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, the aim of the update is to “prioritize posts that spark conversations and meaningful interactions between people.” That’s fair since most Facebook users really do prefer to see posts from friends over businesses they follow, but that isn’t true across the board. Even if someone loves a local restaurant or wants to see what a friend’s business is up to, posts made by businesses just aren’t likely to show up as often anymore.
However, the announcement contains a silver lining: if your Page gets lots of engagement, you won’t notice as much of a decline in reach. “Pages making posts that people generally don’t react to or comment on could see the biggest decreases in distribution” asserts Facebook, while “Pages whose posts prompt conversations between friends will see less of an effect.”
So, the aim of your new content strategy should be to create things that get a response from your audience. It could be a quote they want to share, or a question likely to stir up debate like “should you put mayonnaise on your hamburger?”
Think in terms of what people enjoy seeing when they log on and have this type of content dovetail with your marketing goals. You can also make smart use of a few tools we’ll mention just a little further down.
Live Video Gets a Relative Boost
Facebook’s live video feature already has a pretty obvious presence on people’s newsfeeds. Any time a person or Page they’re connected to goes live, the app automatically shows the video and sends out an alert by default.
Reading between the lines of another section of Facebook’s newsfeed algorithm changes, it sounds like business Pages can still reap all of these benefits.Quote:
“Page posts that generate conversation between people will show higher in News Feed. For example, live videos often lead to discussion among viewers on Facebook – in fact, live videos on average get six times as many interactions as regular videos. Many creators who post videos on Facebook prompt discussion among their followers, as do posts from celebrities. In Groups, people often interact around public content. Local businesses connect with their communities by posting relevant updates and creating events. And news can help start conversations on important issues.” (Emphasis ours)
Live video provides many great opportunities to businesses that know how to use it right. You don’t have to spend a lot of time or money preparing for a video since you’re basically hosting a webcam-type session. You get to be yourself and give people a behind-the-scenes look, two things that breed authenticity and therefore trust.
So, start experimenting with live video as a way to keep your audience’s attention and stay on their newsfeeds. Options for a live video session include:
Behind the scenes tours
Q&A sessions for common questions your business gets
Interviews between key staff members
Step-by-step explanations of the process the business uses
Marking events, like singing “happy birthday” as an office to celebrate the anniversary of the business’s founding
Silly stuff, like office pranks or mascots engaging in everyday work
Connecting to People Through Facebook Messenger Becomes More Important
While getting your Page’s posts on people’s newsfeeds may have gotten harder, nothing’s there to stop you from receiving messages through the Facebook Messenger platform.
So, people are willing to connect to businesses on social media, and companies need to be prepared for these types of interactions.
Those that are prepared create excellent opportunities that stem from personalized, 1:1 conversations. You get to hear the exact information the customer or lead needs to hear to get you closer to a sale, and you build a relationship in the process.
If you want to scale your ability to handle these conversations or be able to respond 24/7, you could always rely upon a chatbot. These computer-controlled services can automatically respond to messages and answer simple questions. If they get something they don’t think they can handle, they can hand off the conversation to a human.
Whether using chatbots or your own thumbs, don’t overlook the potential interacting with customers through Facebook messenger can offer.
Starting a Facebook Group Is Now Even More Effective
Another method to bring your audience to you is to create a new group on Facebook. People who join your group are very likely to see most of the messages posted there. You also get the advantage of directly interacting with people while gathering information on things they talk about related to your area of business.
The key thing to remember about creating a group is that it’s not just another chance to throw ads at someone. Instead, the group should offer them value. Typically, this value comes in the form of information or talking about a thing the entire group loves.
So, for instance, a handyman company may start a new group about handling do-it-yourself projects around the house. The company can tell people how to fix things on their own, but in the process, they can reveal how much work really goes into doing it right. If anyone thinks they’d rather go to a professional, they have a strong pull to turn to the group creator first.
Or, a landscaping company can start a group about lawn care and inspiration for designing your own outdoor areas. People can share photos of their projects, swap tips, and talk about their passion for gardening or landscaping.
With this strategy, the connection between the company and the group focus is obvious but not obnoxious. The business demonstrates what it can offer and builds a community while also creating new lead opportunities.
Facebook Local Launches, Could Be Worth a Look for Event-Based Facebook Marketing
Combining these features can be very handy, especially if your business happens to throw lots of events. Creating Facebook events is a convenient way to gauge how big attendance will be and send people automated reminders about when the event’s happening.
On the other hand, adoption of the Facebook Local app has been slow to pick up. If it feels like a good fit for your business because you’re a social butterfly, feel free to give it a try, but others may want to wait and see.
More Incentives to Try to Find Your Local Influencers
Since posts crossing from brands to people seem to have a hard time earning reach, a business’s best bet is to try and make person-to-person mentions of their brand more common.
In other words: you want to find your own version of “influencers.” That doesn’t mean paying a YouTuber with a million followers thousands of dollars to create poorly edited videos on your behalf. But rather, find people within your community or industry niche who already tend to engage with your brand on social a lot. Each time this engagement happens, it can show up on the newsfeed for friends of that person.
You can then cater your approach towards these highly vocal and friendly individuals. Let them do the broadcasting of your content for you. This strategy works especially well if you create things they are willing to share directly to their wall or tag someone else in.
Keep an eye out for allies, tap the resources you have available, and get creative with how you drive engagement. If you can do all of these things, the Facebook changes currently going into effect won’t have to hurt your marketing performance.
Starting a business out of your home is a brilliant idea for creating new income streams or pivoting to a new career path. If you can master the art of internet marketing, your living room or home office can be just as good a place for generating personal wealth as any skyrise office building.
You have a ton of digital marketing tools at your disposal, too. A few of them are absolutely 100% necessary, while others you can pick and choose based on your unique needs.
To help you get started, here is a quick guide to the basics of internet marketing, what you need to effectively earn leads, and what optional tools could help you along the way.
The Absolute Essential: A Google My Business Profile
Just a few months ago we might have listed a website as the #1 priority for a small, home-run business, but claiming a Google My Business (GMB) listing is now even more important by far.
Why? Well, for one, you can create a mini website through your GMB listing. That barebones site might not get you as far as a legitimate website with its own custom domain name (web address), but the fact that you can have your GMB listing site up and running lightning fast means there’s no reason to put it off for even a second.
Even more importantly, the mini-site is already mobile optimized — which is critical for reasons we’ll delve into in just a moment.
So what is Google My Business? Simply put: it’s a business listing that shows up when people search for your business or things related to your service areas on Google.
A GMB profile:
Reveals your business location on Google Maps, which is incredibly important if people are meeting you at your home office
Lists your phone number and/or an email contact form
Shows a button that can quickly take search engine users to your website
Displays business information, such as your hours, service category, and a short description of what your business does
Allows you and others to upload photos of your business
Enables customers to leave online reviews
Creates the above-mentioned mini-website that loads quickly and looks great in mobile
The simple fact is that millions of people use Google Search as their first step when looking for goods or services. With a GMB created, you can ensure that they see the correct information while giving your business a visibility boost compared to those who didn’t bother to create their own listing.
A website is another essential element to any business run out of the home. Customers and potential leads will want to see a website before they can feel like your business is legitimate. 75% of people want to see a quality website design before they will even consider a business credible!
Websites give your business an environment that you can control to create that all-important first impression. You can present your services in a persuasive, easy to understand way.
And, you can also give people reasons to go ahead and start interacting with your business so that they are more likely to return as a paying customer. For instance, you can create a business blog full of helpful tips your typical clients or customers might love to read. Or, you can offer them free information, free content, or a chance to learn more about you with a simple email form.
Harping on that last point, don’t expect too many customers to email you out of the blue. Even if they are highly interested in what you have to offer, they may hesitate if you make getting in touch with you too difficult.
To make capturing emails and earning new lead opportunities easy, give your website an email submission form that:
Shows up before people have to scroll (above the fold)
Has as few entry forms as possible, preferably just one for their email address
Having a form like this makes it easy to convert casual clicks into genuine customer leads, so test different designs to see what works best.
A Social Media Page: Your Digital Home Away From Home
Social media is used by 69% of all American adults and 83% of adults under the age of 50. Many people will also spend most of their time online exclusively in a social media app. This trend means that if your business isn’t on social media, you may be invisible to thousands of potential leads.
Very few businesses need to be active on more than a few social media platforms, though. You should review which ones your target audiences use to ensure you aren’t wasting efforts on pitching your business to people who aren’t really there.
For instance, Snapchat is incredibly popular with people under between 18-24, whereas LinkedIn is more popular with adult professionals in the 30-49 age. Some businesses, like studioSPACEnyc, even conduct most of their business activities through social media rather than their website. “If we look at the analytics of the website and how many people view my Instagram account, we’ll see 200 a day on Instagram and 15 on my website,” says CEO Jacob Fisher.
No matter what platform you choose, give a professional touch to everything you do. Add a branded logo and header image to your pages. Share only content that is consistent with your brand voice and your customers’ values. Post at least once a week, and definitely don’t ignore people who directly try to ask you a question or start a conversation.
So, remember that social media is more than just a place to share silly cat photos and inspirational quotes. Give people good reasons to interact with your brand, and keep an ear out for anyone trying to use the platform to engage with you directly.
Email Marketing: Essential to Small Business Internet Marketing
Setting up a two-way email conversation is about more than just business-as-usual. True, you can handle client interactions or send things like appointment reminders over email. But email is more special than that!
That’s because email inboxes are much less cluttered than the typical search engine results page or social media newsfeed. As a result, when you send people something through email, such as a newsletter or a personalized offer, they are much more likely to actually see those messages compared to an online ad.
For many home-based small business owners, their email list is their most precious resource when it comes to drumming up business. It serves as their modern Rolodex, letting them know just how many leads they have, how many are past customers, and which opportunities are about to convert into a sale.
Cultivate your email list carefully, and strongly consider creating a good reason for people to open content from you in their inbox at least once a month to keep your business top-of-mind.
Learning About Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the bridge between simply creating things online and priming the pump for those things to create actual leads.
What, exactly, is SEO? Simply put: SEO is paying attention to the factors that help your business rank when someone searches for a term related to your goods or services. For instance, if your home business offers event photography in the Phoenix, AZ region, you probably want to rank for search terms like “wedding photographers in phoenix” or “phoenix event photographers”.
Making this happen is the subject of another blog, but the trick is to ensure that key search terms like the ones listed above and their related terms appear both within your website content and in the code you create behind-the-scenes. To get you started, take a look at the helpful Beginner’s Guide to SEO from Moz.
In the meantime, focus on setting up the rest of your internet marketing channels listed above. Your goal should basically be to not be embarrassed or feel the need to make excuses should anyone search for your business online, visit your website, find you on social media, or expect professional-grade email correspondence.
Good luck, and get in touch with us if you need any help! We are experts in getting small business owners off the ground and ensuring they have all the elements they need to earn customers and grow their company.