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So many times I’ve heard businesses — especially small businesses — say that social media just isn’t for them. It takes too much time. They’re not sure where to start or how to keep it going. And besides, they should be focusing on actually running their business –not just posting pictures online — right?

Wrong.

Numerous small businesses use social media to repeatedly shove their sales pitch right into the faces of their customers. Then, they complain that their social media campaign is too noisy, expensive and time consuming. They claim that it doesn’t bring sales and thus doesn’t produce a good ROI for any business; that there’s no point to such a marketing campaign at all.

That’s a big fat lie.

In a recent survey of 500 small business owners by Vertical Response, 43% said that they spend 6 or more hours every week on social media.

No consumer likes to get bombarded with consistent sales messages. You need to invest time in building a relationship with your target audience on their choice of social media platform. That involves engaging with them by posting high-quality content and asking their opinions.

TARGET YOUR AUDIENCE

Let me share some stats, to show you why you miss out on a golden opportunity to engage with your target audience and reach more than one potential customer by abandoning social media.

So, where do you start….Facebook, right?

You might be thinking that since Facebook is the biggest social media platform, your target audience will definitely hang out there.

Nope. Not necessarily. 

Because there’s more than one major social media channel out there.

As social media continues to change the way people communicate, it has become an increasingly important tool for small businesses. Let’s face it: Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and LinkedIn aren’t going away. While many social media platforms began as a way to connect friends and family, it’s become the norm for all types of business to have some sort of social media presence.

In today’s connected world, customers research purchases online and seek recommendations from friends and family. So, it’s in the best interest of small businesses to have a vibrant and interactive social media presence.

MAXIMIZE YOUR TIME

The time to embrace social media is now. It’s where your customers are, so go to them! Don’t be afraid to get close to them and give them a big squeeze.

Your return on investment for a few hours a week and a few clicks of a button can be huge. You can support and grow your brand while building and maintaining relationships with current and new customers.

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You don’t have to post all the time on your social media channels. But you do want your messages to get out there on a regular basis. Still, as a general rule of thumb of what and when to post, remember this: Quality always beats quantity.

Remember that customers shop at small businesses for value. Be radically transparent. Don’t be afraid to have a personality online and keep giving your customers something to come back for. When you build your relationships, you build your business.

Focus on community.

It’s been proven by experts that social media marketing can widen your reach, help you engage more audience and create more fans. But social media isn’t like traditional advertising where you put a message out into the world and hope someone responds. It’s more conversational and centered around the idea of a community.

Social media allows small businesses to directly communicate with their customers and has the potential to turn those customers into a virtual sales team. Conversations are two-way street. Make sure you’re replying to people who interact with you on social media. Engage with strong social influencers, such as bloggers that your customers read or individuals with robust followings. Engaging the online community is core to social media and one of the keys to your success.

You’ve invested the time. Invest a little money, too. Don’t be afraid to throw a little money behind your social media efforts.

SOCIAL MEDIA BUDGET

If your budget allows, put some funds toward Google AdWords to help bump your website to the top of search engine results. To do this, you’ll need a defined list of keywords that represent you and are found frequently on your website. It’s important to have both in mind so you get the best bang for your buck.

You also amplify your social media message on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. You can develop very specific, targeted ads on these networks with just a few clicks. Know your audience, and you can easily promote posts, share offers, gain more followers and drive traffic to your website.
Repeat what worked.

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There’s no need to reinvent the wheel. If your social media efforts were successful, repeat the steps you took to do it again. It’s that simple! And if something doesn’t work, try something else.

Boost your posts. Facebook has added some targeting tools to boosted posts, including the ability to target lists you’ve uploaded through Facebook Ads Manager. Target a segmented email list of local people to make sure they see your important posts.

Promote Facebook events. Hosting local events such as social media breakfasts, lunch and learns, or business after hours increases your visibility both online and off. Create a Facebook event and share it with your fans and friends or promote it.

Everyone invited to the event will continue to see it in their notifications and in upcoming events unless they decline the invite. Again, focus your invites on people who live and work near you.

Just keep in mind, if you incorporate a Facebook ad that didn’t work, for example, don’t ditch the idea of advertising on social media. Try it again, redefining your audience or the amount of your investment.

Social media is a marketing tool like many others small business owners can use. It’s unique in that it can heighten a company’s visibility, broaden reach and engage current and future customers. But it will only work if you do it.

ANALYZE YOUR COMPETITORS

You don’t necessarily need to start with the 5 biggest social networks. Your customers might hang out on a smaller social media site.

Surveying your existing customers to find out which social media site they favor is a great way to understand your audience preferences and appeal to a new potential customer or more.

You can also glance through the audience demographic of various social networks and match them with your prospects. This compilation, by Sprout Social, of major social network demographics, should help.

Or, you can scout your competition and analyze where, as well as how, they perform their social media marketing.

For instance, GrubHub uses Snapchat to surprise their audience, announcing it through a series of snaps.

Snapchat GrubHub

Twitter – On the microblogging network, you can ask your customers to come up with a 140 character creative story that’s centered around your brand.

Dunkin’ Donuts asked its customers to come up with creative stories around how the popular Dunkin’ coffee fits into their life. After receiving an overwhelming response, the company chose several winners and asked them to star in their own Dunkin’ commercial.

Dunkin Donuts Commercial

SOCIAL MEDIA TOOLS

Mention – Local businesses might not publish content on their own blog. But, they might get mentions from other blogs, videos and social networks.

That’s where the social monitoring tool, Mention, can help. Y,ou can enter your (or your competitor’s) brand name or an industry keyword.

Mention Social Tool

Also input the sources where you want the tool to search and index your entered keywords.

Mention Manage Social

As soon as you tap the “Create my alert” button, the tool starts its search and returns with your typed keyword mentions.

If you want, you can also get daily email summary alerts.

Ahrefs Content Explorer – Enter your competitor’s domain and tap search. If your competitor has an active blog, you’ll see stats on the number of shares of their content on various social platforms.

Ahrefs Explorer

You can also find out the sharing velocity of the content on various social networks by clicking on the down arrow in the far-right cell.

Ahrefs Explorer Rating

FINAL THOUGHTS

Social media marketing is far from a waste of time and resources. Connecting with your potential customer(s) on their preferred social media channel is one of the greatest ways to generate leads and build real engagement with your audience.

77% of B2C businesses have acquired a customer through Facebook.

Determine, too, the social media site where your customers and prospects hang out. Then, start posting high-quality content that will interest and entertain them.

If you want to quickly gain social media authority, conducting a contest on a social media channel or two is a great idea.

In terms of making the most of your time, spend it on the sites where your customers are. Just because you think you should be on Facebook doesn’t necessarily mean that it will pan out for you.

Survey your customers to find out which sites they’re on, whether in-store, via email, or when they call for an appointment. You’re likely to get a running start on your social media campaign if you “fish where the fish are”.

About Blair

 5 Golden Rules for Sharing on Social Media

Blair Evan Ball is a Social Media Coach and founder of Prepare1, a company that works with businesses, individuals and non-profits. He is a former executive with a Fortune 50 company, and his national division did $1Billion+ in sales annually.

Blair has written three e-books: Facebook for Business Made Easy, Facebook Pages for Business Made Easy, and WordPress Blog Setup Made Easy.

Blair also educates, trains entrepreneurs and business professionals how to amplify their brand, increase revenues, and raise more funds.

 5 Golden Rules for Sharing on Social MediaThe Race is ON! | PREPARE | Get into the Game and WIN!

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Local -Storefront_Prepare1 Image

Are you familiar with keywords?

Do you understand the importance to you and your brand in search?

Those words or phrases that you input into Google or Bing to serve you results are keywords.

LOCAL SEARCH – IT’s ALL ABOUT MOBILE

Local search is critical for a local business.

Optimizing for local search is important, but if you aren’t optimizing for mobile, you’re going to miss out on your most important source of local traffic.

These days, Google serves customized results based on who you are, your search history, your location, and the intent someone on mobile or a desktop might have. For example, on a mobile device, you’re more likely to see the “snack pack,” which is a map and three location listings followed by the option to see more locations.

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For years, Google has been improving the relevance of local search, from its “Pigeon Update” to Promoted Pins. And since there are more searches on mobile than desktop, it’s no wonder that Google has put a big emphasis on mobile-friendliness in its ranking algorithms.

Small businesses with physical locations and a geographically targeted audience need to do everything they can to get into that snack pack, which appears above the organic listings. Even if your business is number one in the organic listings, the snack pack makes your number-one ranking less important.

Local businesses need to get into the top three results.

The top three results (a.k.a. the “snack pack”) appear above the organic listings.

To get into the snack pack, standardize your name, address, and phone number (sometimes called the NAP) online. For some reason Google struggles when you abbreviate street as “St.” in one place and “St” in another, and spell out “Street” in a third.

Make sure your company name, address, and phone number are identical everywhere: on your website, on all of your social media sites, and on all listings in online yellow pages.

Positive reviews that accumulate organically can also help your business appear in the snack pack. The three critical review sites are Google, Yelp, and TripAdvisor. (Note: You’re not supposed to ask people for reviews on Yelp; you can only tell customers they can find you on Yelp.)

Mobile and desktop are different

You use your computer differently than your smartphone, right? Your mobile and desktop users do, too.

Since desktop computers tend to be kept at home or in the office, that’s where they get used. As a result, if someone is conducting a local search on their desktop, they probably aren’t looking for instant gratification. Their searches are still important, but they’re more likely to be making plans for the future (that can change pretty easily).

On the other hand, people searching for a local business on mobile are looking for instant gratification. People search on mobile because they have an immediate need, and in this day and age, people with an immediate need want things fast.

So, if you want to win at local search, you need to be the quick answer to people’s problems.

Optimize your site

Identifying your target phrases and keywords is only half the battle. Now you need to work on the site pages you’d like to rank well for mobile searches.

  • Analyze your On Page Optimization
  • Analyze your Off Page Optimization
  • Analyze your backlinks
  • Analyze your alt text on images
  • Do you have Duplicate content
  • What about 404 and other server response code errors
  • Do you have broken links and HTML code errors

Organic search on mobile

Long-tail keywords are a best practice for desktop searches, but when you’re on your phone, you generally don’t type out everything the way you do on a computer… do u?

People don’t make long-tail search queries nearly as often on mobile, so if you’re optimizing for mobile search, it doesn’t make sense to prioritize long-tail keywords.

Instead, it’s better to go after shorter phrases and keywords. After all, that’s what your audience will be typing into their phones. In addition, you’ll need mobile-optimized landing pages if you want those keywords to do anything for you.

Identifying mobile keywords

Remember, desktop and mobile are different — that still applies when it comes to the specific keywords you target. You’re going to need to research your keywords a little differently from the way you do on desktop, and most of the tools out there for keyword planning are not optimized for mobile.

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Align keywords with business goals

  • Think holistically about how customers could reach you.

Why: Your keywords should reflect all of the different types of user queries that could help someone find you when they’re looking for something you offer.

  • Align your keywords and their management with your overall business goals. 

Why: Different keywords have different purposes, and they should be held accountable to the goal that most aligns with their purpose.

  • Analyze your keyword list and delete low search volume keywords.

Why: Reduce clutter. If keywords aren’t going to drive any traffic for you, there’s no need to keep them around.

Manage match types for growth and control

  • Use broad match to capture long tail queries, reserve exact match for your primary volume and value drivers. 

Why: Maximize coverage on queries relevant to your business while keeping account management reasonable.

  • Don’t create minute variations of phrase/exact match keywords. 

Why: Phrase and exact match types expand to cover close keyword variations, so you don’t need to worry about creating additional keyword clutter in your AdWords account.

Expand the reach of existing keywords

  • Maximize the presence of your keywords by improving their Ad Rank. 

Why: Adding new targeting options isn’t the only way to grow volume. A more aggressive bid coupled with higher quality ads can drive volume on existing keywords.

  • Extend your reach to users that aren’t on Google.com by targeting search partners. 

Why: Get more volume from the same set of keywords in your account.

Identify the Right Keywords to Target

For most advertisers, their AdWords accounts are powered by keywords. There are a host of different sources available to you to find the right ones. Regardless of the sources that you use to generate your keywords, you should think holistically about all the different ways that potential customers could reach you.

Here are the biggest sources you should consider when determining how to find new keywords:

  1. Your Website
    Stay on top of your site’s offerings. Find any gaps between your site’s content and your keyword list.
  2. Your Products
    Be sure that you’re bidding on core product keywords. When your audience is at the end of the buying cycle they’ll be searching for a specific product or service. If you’re a retailer, things like product names and models can make for high-performing keywords.
  3. Your Brand
    Remember the value of your branded terms as well. If you deal with multiple products, add keywords that are combinations of your brand name and high-volume products that people often search for in the same query.
  4. The Research Process of Your Customers
    What are all of the different ways that they could potentially search for what you’re offering?
    Map out their research process and be sure that you’re present at every step.

Pay particular attention to keywords that are rich with commercial intent (a common example is terms with “buy” in them). Think of words in your industry that can reveal a similar act-now mindset.

Manage Match Types for Growth and Control Key Takeaways

• Use broad match to capture long tail queries, reserve exact match for your primary volume and value drivers.

As 15% of queries each day on Google haven’t been searched before, broad match gives you the best chance to capture anything that’s semantically relevant.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Understanding your keywords can unlock previously untapped potential in your account. Connecting with user queries via thoughtful keywords is what search advertising is all about within AdWords.

Your customers are constantly connected—be sure that your keywords account for all the different paths that their journeys take.

If you have a local storefront think optimizing for Mobile first.

About Blair

 5 Golden Rules for Sharing on Social Media

Blair Evan Ball is a Social Media Coach and founder of Prepare1, a company that works with businesses, individuals and non-profits. He is a former executive with a Fortune 50 company, and his national division did $1Billion+ in sales annually.

Blair has written three e-books: Facebook for Business Made Easy, Facebook Pages for Business Made Easy, and WordPress Blog Setup Made Easy.

Blair also educates, trains entrepreneurs and business professionals how to amplify their brand, increase revenues, and raise more funds.

 5 Golden Rules for Sharing on Social MediaThe Race is ON! | PREPARE | Get into the Game and WIN!

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7 Habits of Winners in Business_Prepare1 Image

Do habits affect our winning in life and business?

Is there a common thread?

Why do some people and businesses always seem to win?

The Habits of Winners In Business
To succeed greatly in business, there are additional habits that you need to develop, as well. One of these habits is the determination to win, to succeed, to outperform your competition and to ultimately be successful. This competitive instinct and determination to win in the face of any obstacle or difficulty is a chief motivating power that drives entrepreneurs and eventually assures successful careers.

The determination to succeed is an absolutely essential habit for you to develop, through practice, by never considering the possibility of failure. Instead, you use speed and flexibility to find solutions to problems, to overcome obstacles and to achieve business goals, no matter what is happening around you.

This decision, or attitude toward winning, motivates and enthuses other people and enables ordinary people to achieve extraordinary results.

And according to BuzzSumo, “The number of pages Google has indexed over 7 years from 2008 to 2014 has increased from 1 trillion to 30 trillion.

This means one thing: more competition.

You have to be at the top of your game.

As businesses create more and more content, it results in more “noise,” which inevitably makes it harder to bring attention to your business and content.

1. BE OPEN TO NEW INFORMATION

Develop the habit of questioning your assumptions on a regular basis, especially when you experience resistance or temporary failure. Many people leap to conclusions and assume things about their customers, their competitors and their markets that have no basis in fact at all.

Always be prepared to ask yourself…

  • What do I base this assumption on?
  • What are my facts?
  • What evidence do I have?
  • What is my proof?
  • And most important, be prepared to ask, “What if my assumptions about this customer, product, service, market or competitor were not true at all?
  • What changes would I have to make?”

The most dangerous assumption that an entrepreneur or businessperson can make is that there exists a large enough and profitable enough market for a particular product or service. Very often this is not the case at all.

The primary reason for the dotcom implosion was because there was no real market for the products and services that the dotcom companies were offering. They fell into a false form of thinking called “argument by assertion.” People often get caught up in an argument because it is asserted loudly and vigorously, even though it may have no substance at all.

Assertion is not proof.

Only facts are facts. It is essential that you develop the habit of sorting out facts from fantasy, and making your decisions based on demonstrable, provable truths with regard to customers, markets, products and services.

2. THINK BEFORE ACTING

In a fast changing business world, an important habit that you can develop is the habit of thinking before acting. Often, when we are pressured from all sides with decisions that have to be made, we leap to conclusions and make decisions without carefully considering all the possible ramifications of those decisions.

Instead, develop the habit of buying time between the pressure to make a decision, and the actual decision itself. There is a rule that says, “If the decision does not have to be made now, it has to not be made now.”
Your mind is incredibly powerful, and never more so than when you give it time to reflect upon a decision before you make the decision in the first place. Make it a habit of asking for a day, or a weekend, or even a week or a month, before you make a final decision. Put it off as long as possible.

The very act of allowing the various pieces of information to settle in your brain will enable you to make a much better decision later on than you might have made if you decided too
quickly.

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It is amazing how many people say, “If I had just thought about that for a little while, I would have made a completely different decision.” This is almost always the case. Make it a habit to delay and defer decisions as long as you possibly can.

They will invariably be better decisions when you finally come around to making them.

3. EXCELLENCE IS THE ANSWER

Another key result area is the habit of thinking in terms of quality all the time. Customers only buy a product or service because they feel that it is of higher quality in some way than that of competitive offerings.

  • How do your customers define quality?
  • What qualities or attributes of what you sell cause them to buy from you in the first place?
  • What quality elements do they see in your competitors?
  • How could you offset these elements to get them to buy from you?

 

4. REORGANIZE YOUR BUSINESS CONTINUALLY

The other habit you can develop is to build your business is the habit of organizational development. This habit requires that you continually look for ways to organize and reorganize your business so that it functions more efficiently and effectively in getting the results you desire.

You continually move people around to assure that the job gets done better, faster and with less friction or interruption.
Some years ago, if a company announced that it was going through a “major reorganization,” it would be a sign that there were serious problems in that company. Today however, with the rate of rapid change in the business world around you, you and your company should be in a state of continuous
reorganization.

Every day, week and month, you should be thinking about how you can deploy and redeploy people and resources to assure the highest level of productivity, performance and output.
Within the context of organizational development, you should develop the habit of not only learning and growing continuously yourself, but also thinking in terms of training and learning experiences for the key members of your staff.

Sometimes, one additional skill is all that a person needs to dramatically improve his or her productivity and contribution to the organization.

5. BASE YOUR CONTENT ON INDUSTRY TRENDS

Get in the habit of following industry trends and then choose topics for your articles based on what’s trending at the moment in your industry.

Although this may not have the longevity of evergreen content and get you shares for years to come, it is a viable social media strategy for quickly amplifying your immediate reach.

Here’s the logic behind this technique:

  • you know for a fact your audience has an existing interest in a particular topic
  • you can prove it by analyzing metrics such as shares and engagements
  • you’re likely to get plenty of shares and links by creating high quality content based on that topic.

But how do you know what’s hot at the moment?

Well, there are several ways to tell:

  • You could simply pay attention to social outlets such as Facebook, Twitter, and even Reddit
  • You could stay on top of industry publications to see what’s being talked about
  • You could check Google Trends
  • Or you could streamline your efforts by using a great tool like, BuzzSumo.

6. BUILD MEANINGFUL RELATIONSHIPS

Successful marketers know that relationships are the fuel behind business success. To keep the pipeline full, you must build meaningful relationships with both consumers and other business owners.

A recent Gallup study found that most business owners inherently understand that “running a successful company is a collective effort that requires interaction with a range of people: suppliers and potential investors, employees and customers, peers, competitors, public officials, and members of the media.”

How You Can Establish This Habit

Most business professionals have built a gold mine of relationships over the years, but haven’t mastered how to turn them into mutually beneficial connections. Your goal is to compile a list of relationships that will allow you to consistently connect with people vital to your success.

Here’s how to create that list:

  • Define your perfect client and referral partner. What qualities make them ideal?
  • Make a list of your top 100 contacts based on the qualities you’ve defined above. This list should include prospects and potential referral sources.
  • Schedule one hour each week to connect with everyone on your list. This contact could be through social networks, social media groups or a handwritten note.
  • Be a giver as you interact with your top 100. Offer your time, resources, knowledge, encouragement or support.
  • Repeat each step weekly.

7. NEVER BE SATISFIED

The fifth habit you can develop is the habit of continuous innovation. As we discussed earlier in this chapter, you should encourage everyone to be thinking creatively all the time. Apple is a great example of innovation. Hard to believe the iPhone came out only 10 short years ago, and look at the innovation that has taken place.

One way to encourage creativity is to ask each person to bring an idea to each weekly staff meeting. Start off the meeting by going around the table and having everyone contribute their ideas. Lead the general discussion about these ideas.

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When someone comes up with a great idea, lead the group in applause for the idea. Thank and congratulate the person. Encourage them to keep thinking in this way throughout the week.

The most important area for you to apply the habit of continuous innovation is to your products and services. Remember, fully 80% of products and services being sold today will be obsolete within five years. You must be developing and producing product and service innovations as a regular part of your business activities. If you don’t, your competitors will. One major innovation by a determined competitor can put you out of business.

Be a leader, not a follower.

About Blair

 5 Golden Rules for Sharing on Social Media

Blair Evan Ball is a Social Media Coach and founder of Prepare1, a company that works with businesses, individuals and non-profits. He is a former executive with a Fortune 50 company, and his national division did $1Billion+ in sales annually.

Blair has written three e-books: Facebook for Business Made Easy, Facebook Pages for Business Made Easy, and WordPress Blog Setup Made Easy.

Blair also educates, trains entrepreneurs and business professionals how to amplify their brand, increase revenues, and raise more funds.

 5 Golden Rules for Sharing on Social MediaThe Race is ON! | PREPARE | Get into the Game and WIN!

 

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How to Really Master Any Skill

by Blair Evan Ball March 2, 2017

What is the tipping point for mastery? Is it the 10,000 hours that author Malcolm Gladwell professes in his book outlier? Malcolm Gladwell gave us the 10,000-Hour Rule. In 2008, Malcolm Gladwell published his New York Times bestseller, Outliers. It’s within this book — based largely on the research of Anders Ericsson — that Gladwell […]

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7 Critical Skills to Navigate the Social Media Maze

by Blair Evan Ball February 23, 2017

“If a group of children goes for a walk, which child determines the speed of the entire group?” When I ask this question during my presentations they will always reply and say, “The slowest child.” Exactly. Your “slowest kid” is your weakest key skill. It sets the speed at which you move ahead in your life […]

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Top 10 Overused Buzzwords on LinkedIn Profiles

by Blair Evan Ball February 16, 2017

Have you looked at your LinkedIn profile recently? Do you regularly change the words on your resume, LinkedIn profile or Company page to match the market? New Year. New You! If you’re hoping for a job change in 2017, that move usually starts with updating your resume and LinkedIn profile. Before you start to freshen things […]

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You Determine Your Own Destiny

by Blair Evan Ball February 6, 2017

Is your destiny waiting to happen? Are you settling for a life ordinary? Too many people whine about not having the life they want. The main reason people fall short of their own expectations is the same reason most companies fail to achieve their objectives: poor planning and execution. In fact, I am amazed at […]

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LinkedIn Ranks Top 10 Jobs of 2017

by Blair Evan Ball January 30, 2017

Are you looking to change jobs or career? Maybe someone you are close to is looking for a change. With the advancement of technology, jobs are rapidly changing to match their environment. Social Media career leader LinkedIn is taking the lead. Workers are switching jobs at an accelerating rate and more than twice as often […]

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Why You Need a Social Media Calendar

by Blair Evan Ball January 25, 2017

Do you use a social media calendar? Have you used other calendars? How many times do you get up in the morning, stare at your phone or computer screen, and wonder aloud, “What the heck am I going to write about and post today on social media?” Too many times to mention, I bet. It’s only […]

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10 Reasons Why Multitasking is Killing Your Productivity

by Blair Evan Ball January 19, 2017

Do you multitask? Do you feel it makes your more or less productive? The multitasking myth We all do it: Texting while walking, sending emails during meetings, chatting on the phone while cooking dinner, checking social media while in another conversation at lunch. In today’s society, doing just one thing at a time seems downright […]

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