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Just Say No to Micromanaging

Fri, 04/26/2013 - 06:00

Micromanagement. It may seem like a little thing that’s isolated to a few managers, or staff in your company, but the effects of micromanagement could have a huge long-and short-term negative impact on your ability to be effective as a manager, and your ability to achieve or exceed your company’s goals. Take a second to think about these questions:

  •     Do you tell your employees what to do?
  •     Do you oversee all aspects of their projects?
  •     Do you direct rather than empower?
  •     Do spend more time on day-to-day tasks vs. the growth of your company?

If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, you may just be a micromanager, so I’ll ask another question… at what cost?

What You Want

You want things done a certain way. The “right” way, and maybe even your way. I get it. But, when you tell employees exactly what you want, how you want it and when you want it, you’re basically just telling them to execute. And, unless they don’t enjoy thinking very much, they won’t be satisfied for long.

The bigger question to ask yourself, or that micromanager you’ve got is, “can you articulate what you want the outcome to be, but let your employee chart how they get there?” Letting them become part of the journey can pay off big-time because, not only will they feel more valued, but you may actually get a better end product because you’ll have more people generating ideas and solutions. Even though you’re the boss, you may not always have all the best answers.

What Your Employees Want

So we know you want things done and you want them done a certain way. As I discussed, allowing employees to be a part of the journey can have a far-reaching positive impact because we know employees don’t just come to work for a paycheck. They come for so much more including a sense of belonging, having a purpose, being productive, learning and contributing to a common or shared goal, having engagement and maybe even some recognition.

When you do all the thinking for them, possibly robbing them of their creativity, ability to problem solve, their trust and ability to be flexible.

Just Say No to Micromanaging

The good news is, you can start to shift the habit of micromanaging by identifying why you or a manager does it, and make a few easy changes.

1. Identify Why

Do you have a new team that you don’t know well, haven’t established trust and confidence in? Do you have folks who don’t carry through, or miss deadlines? Identifying the “why” will help you address the root cause and take action to help curb feelings of distrust, lack of confidence or other things you have identified.

2. Accountability with a Capital A

If you want your team be accountable, make sure you work this into SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-sensitive ) goals for them that are realistic. If people aren’t held accountable, they may never know they aren’t meeting your expectations. At VerticalResponse, we work off of periodical reviews to make sure that what we want for our business is what our teams know they need to do. It’s pretty cut and dry.

3. Let Go

Knowing when to step back and give your team the space they need to explore a problem, brainstorm, come up with solutions and execute on them is at the very core of every good manager. If you overstep your boundaries, give your team the right to give you feedback so you know how much rope to give them, and respect when they tell you to scram. When I’m in a meeting and a decision needs to be made, my team looks at me and asks what I think? A lot of times, I turn it around on them and say, “What do you guys think?” This way they know they have a say.

Have you had to step back and let go? How did your experience play out? I’d love to hear some real-life examples.

This article by VerticalResponse CEO and founder Janine Popick originally appeared on Inc.com.

© 2013, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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Convert Facebook Likes into Sales with These 4 Simple Steps

Wed, 04/24/2013 - 06:00

Small business blogs are filled with advice on how to get more “Likes” and engagement on your Facebook Page. By following this advice, you’ve hopefully seen the number of people reading and engaging with your posts steadily increase. Success! But is all of that engagement leading to increased sales?

There’s no direct path from a “Like” to a sale, so you must master the gentle art of shepherding your fans through your sales funnel. Use your Facebook page to develop relationships with your customers and make it easy for them to find links back to the content you create on your blog and website. Once they’ve arrived, you can guide them further through your funnel through cross promotions and well-placed calls-to-action, all in an environment you control. But it all begins with the “Like.” Here are four tips to help you make the most of your Facebook business page to drive more traffic to your site:

  1. Post content that demonstrates the utility of the products or services you’re selling in a fun way. My favorite example of online viral marketing will always be BlendTec’s “Will It Blend” series. It’s not only humorous, but it made people want to buy a BlendTec blender. It also changed the way we view their competitors (“Yes, it has many cool functions, but can it puree an iPad?“). Post a snippet of your content to your Facebook page, and link it to the full version on your site, making sure your site includes a quick and easy path for making a purchase.
  2. Create Facebook-exclusive offers. We typically think of these as discounts, coupons or other opportunities for your fans to save money, but that’s what everyone else is doing, too. Get creative – try packaging multiple products or services together to create a special Facebook fan-only product and encourage your fans to share it with their friends. Or partner with a complementary company and drive traffic to each other’s pages with special combined deals. Give your fans unique, exclusive benefits and demonstrate the value of liking your page.
  3. Keep an eye on your Facebook Insights and adjust accordingly. Insights may not update in real-time, but it’s close enough that you can rapidly adjust posts you’ve made that are having an impact. If you see a post’s engagement start to skyrocket, consider paying to promote it to a larger audience. You’ll not only drive more traffic to your page, you should also see a lift in clicks on any links you included in the post.
  4. Understand why people are liking your content. Posting fun content is a great way to gain your fans’ attention and interact with them. You may find, however, that those posts are getting far more attention than the ones that will lead them back to your site. Find a way to balance their appetite for fun and still drive them back to your site by taking your products and services a bit less seriously.

If you’re still in the process of just trying to get people to like your Facebook page, keep focusing on that goal. But keep these tips in mind as you post and, when you’re at the point where you can begin optimizing for sales, you’ll already be on the path to success.

© 2013, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post Convert Facebook Likes into Sales with These 4 Simple Steps appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Full-Screen Facebook Ads a Game Changer?

Tue, 04/23/2013 - 06:00

Facebook is stepping up its advertising game! Turns out, the social media giant is planning to implement full-screen ads that’ll require users to watch a 15-second video commercial while signed into the service. Steamfeed.com’s Brian S. Hall recently wrote a compelling analysis about the coming changes, first reported on AdAge.com. Hall writes, “Facebook is reportedly working on full-screen autoplay video ads it will supposedly roll out no later than this summer. Facebook is expected to charge nearly $1 million for these new ads, which are designed to leverage Facebook’s massive scale — but not the company’s vaunted ‘social graph.’”

This is obviously a significant change for Zuck & co. as it’s a tell-tale sign of Facebook looking to leverage its overall size for revenue dollars. This is a major departure from Facebook’s past practices of micro-targeting consumers based on location, interest and behavior. In fact, Hall’s article reports that Facebook is only considering four different demographic packages for its four daily “slots” of video ads:

  • Women over 30

  • Women under 30

  • Men over 30

  • Men under 30

Hall explains how this new revenue source could mean major changes to advertising’s biggest guns, “If successful, the new ad platform could bring in nearly $1.5 billion in additional revenue to Facebook — and might also kick off a war with the television industry for major ad dollars.” Adoption of such large-scale advertising options could certainly have a major impact across the industry.

What goes unexplored in the article, however, is the impact that such advertising techniques could have on smaller businesses who typically rely on the careful targeting of Facebook’s Pay Per Click campaigns, search advertising or email marketing.

It’s still unclear when this expected change is scheduled to roll out, but the article says it’ll start with Facebook’s desktop users and eventually transfer to mobile and tablet technologies as well. As the online advertising landscape becomes more crowded, smart business owners and organizations should prepare themselves by developing strong organic social connections that don’t rely on escalating advertising costs.

If Facebook begins showing full-screen ads several times a day, how will it affect your use of the social media site, and how will it affect your social media marketing strategy?

© 2013, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post Full-Screen Facebook Ads a Game Changer? appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

3 Free Photo Editing Tools That’ll Give Your Pics Sham-Wow

Mon, 04/22/2013 - 06:00

With the influx in popularity of sites like Pinterest, Instagram and marketing materials like infographics, poppin’ pictures are a must – Plus, it’s been proven that images invoke more engagement (up to 20x more!) on social. Spicing up your images or photos could do wonders for your email or social media marketing. But where can you edit and enhance plain Jane images? Here are 3 free photo editing tools (that you don’t even have to download) that’ll give your pics some serious sham-wow:

Pixlr.com
Pixlr is excellent for your basic photo editing needs, and includes the following features: crop, rotate, erase, paintbrush, paint bucket, basic shapes, type tool, and red eye remover. There are also tools for more advanced adjustments like: brightness & contrast, hue & saturation, color balance, color vibrant, levels, curves, exposures, layers and history tool box  (which we use a lot), and more.

*Pixlr Bonus: There’s a mobile Pixlr app and a filter editing site/app (Pixlr-O-Matic) that are also free. Pixlr-O-Matic does whimsical effects (filters), overlays, and frames.

If you’ve ever used Photoshop, Pixlr should be a snap. If you need some extra guidance, there’s a community-powered support site that can get you started.

 

PicMonkey
PicMonkey appears more basic than Pixlr, but does include more features. The great thing about PicMonkey, is that makes things super simple for people who are just getting started with photo editing. The tools are clearly marked and the editor uses very simple navigation. There are also classic filters like Sepia, in which you can adjust the tint and fade.

About half of the features on PicMonkey are free, anything labeled with a tiny white crown means you have to upgrade to $4.99 a month.

*PicMonkey Bonus: There’s a theme section (the jack-o-lantern icon in left menu) that allows you turn your photo into a Vampire, Zombie, Day of the Dead, Witch, Demons, Trick or Treat, Winterland, or Sweatheart scene with effects and objects.

 

FotoFlexer
FotoFlexer contains all of the basics seen above and also includes the following sections: Basics, Effects, Decorate, Beautify (with wrinkle cream), Distort, Layers, and Geek effects and tools. The editor is really easy to use with its labels and icons.

The only downside: It can take a while load inbetween editing. The other two programs are a little snappier.

*FotoFlexer Bonus: The animations tab lets you add GIFs (animated clip art) to your image – Fun! You can also import a photo from your computer or from a variety of image hosting sites like PhotoBucket, Facebook, and Flicker. Check out this patchwork effect:

All of these editors allow you to either save the edited image to your computer or share on social media sites right from the platform. Remember to save your images as you edit so you don’t lose your work – That’s always the worst!

Do you have any favorite free and/or cheap photo editing tools of your own? Share with us!

© 2013, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post 3 Free Photo Editing Tools That’ll Give Your Pics Sham-Wow appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

How to Pick Keywords That’re Kind of a Big Deal

Fri, 04/19/2013 - 06:00

So let’s cover the basics first: What exactly is a keyword? A keyword is a word or search term that someone types into Google, Bing or any other search engine when they’re looking for information online. This (hopefully) directs users to information relevant to their search and ultimately to your site. Any keywords you use within your website should obviously be related to the content, products, etc. found on your site. For example, if you own a custom coffee mug business called, Chipper’s Coffee Mugs, a valuable keyword would be “custom coffee mugs.” There will never just be one keyword for your site, but there will be handfuls of words that are more valuable to you than others. And, if you pick/use the best keywords and keyword tools (that are kind of a big deal), customers will come. Here’s how:

What Makes a Good Keyword?

Value: There are lots of different factors that’ll tell you how valuable a keyword is. All of this data can be found from the Google Adwords Keyword Tool amongst others. There’s usually a nice sweet spot with all of these value factors, which makes it easier to pick the best keywords. Just like with everything in life, there will always be a little booger of a keyword that doesn’t fit the bill perfectly. We suggest using your best judgement on how to blend the values to pick the best keyword.

Impressions: An impression is when a keyword shows up in the SERP (search engine results page). One-word keywords will have much higher impressions, but are usually not the best keywords to go with. Think of one-word keywords as being the big fish in the sea; it would feed your family for a month, but is impossible to catch because there are millions of other fishermen in the water. On the other hand, you don’t want to spend too much time trying to catch a keyword with no or little impressions.

Competition/ Difficulty: This is a statistic that tells you how many other people/companies/sites are competing against you for a particular keyword. Sometimes this is a stat that can be a little misleading. If you type in the term: “Facebook” on the Google AdWords Keyword Tool, you’ll get this result: Competition: Low. Monthly Searches: 3.7 billion. This means, there aren’t very many websites or companies using “Facebook” as a keyword, however, 3.7 billion people are searching for it on a monthly basis! Holy search volume BATMAN! Before you jump to the conclusion that you need to pick the keyword, “Facebook,” you have to use your noodle. This is a prime example of where the competition stat is a misleading. “Facebook” is a great keyword to start with, make it the head of your keyword, and then find a longer tail search. A longer what?

Long Tail… Like a Giraffe? This certainly sounds like a funny term, but it has a lot to do with keywords. Having the right amount of tail on your keyword can go a long way for your business. There are a few parts of a keyword. The head, middle and tail. Let’s revisit the Chipper’s Coffee Mugs website scenario. Here’s an example keyword: custom coffee mugs. The head portion doesn’t have to be right at the beginning of the keyword. In this case the head of this keyword is “coffee,” the middle is “coffee mugs” and the long tail is “custom coffee mugs.”

Head: coffee

Now don’t get us wrong it would be awesome if you could rank well in the SERPs for “coffee,” but that might not be the best keyword for a custom coffee mug business. If you think about it, people searching for “coffee” might also be looking for the closest place to get their caffeine fix, not necessarily how to obtain the coolest new custom mug.

Middle: coffee mugs

Now we’re getting closer to that great keyword! We’ve narrowed it down from just coffee, to what you put the coffee in, which happens to be what you sell. Now these middle ground keywords are relevant to your business, but they’re highly competitive keywords.

Long Tail: Custom coffee mugs

This is the keyword sweet spot. It combines the right amount of search volume without being too competitive and is also highly relevant to your business.

Can your tail be too long? Yep! Here’s an example of an overly long tail: black custom coffee mugs with lid – Talk about getting down to the details! While we would imagine the conversion rate would be pretty high, but there may not be many searches on Google for this overly long keyword.

Wondering how to research keywords? There are tools for that! Google’s AdWords Tool is the industry standard, but there are plenty others that have lots of value! Mix and match the tools until you find the best ones that work for you.

Free Keyword Research Tools

Google AdWords Tool- The industry standard for keyword data.

Google Trends- Another cool tool from Google that compares how certain keywords are trending.

Scribe WordPress Plugin- A useful built in keyword tool if you run a site on WordPress.org

Microsoft Advertising Intelligence- Similar to Google’s tool, but for Bing.

Wordtracker

Paid(ish) Keyword Research Tools

Pro SEOmoz Keyword Analysis Tool- This is a great keyword tool if you already have a Pro SEOmoz Account.

Other Keyword Research Ideas

These aren’t mainstream methods for keyword discovery, but they might get your brain wheels churning in the right direction:

Google Instant- This is what Google suggests for the searcher when they start typing in theory search term. This is a great tool to use for blog post ideas because everything Google suggests is highly topical or has been recently been searched.

Google Related Searches: These are searches that Google will display after a traditional SERP has been displayed. This will usually be longer tail keywords. 

Now, you should be seeing the value in having some long(er) tail keywords in your keyword mix. Know of any keyword tools we may have missed, or do you have a tool mixture that works well for you? Let us hear it in the comments.

© 2013, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post How to Pick Keywords That’re Kind of a Big Deal appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Help Your Employees Get More Done

Thu, 04/18/2013 - 09:50

When you think about your team, would you describe them as happy, content, and fulfilled with their work? Or, have you got more issues than a magazine rack with grumpy, discontent, unsatisfied people in your ranks? What can you do to ensure the former?

In my 12 years of leading VerticalResponse, I’ve learned that a huge factor in my team’s satisfaction, is the ability to get sh*& done! There, I’ve said it. Yes, the simple ability to get what they need done goes a long way, baby.

Remove Obstacles

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I work for my team and one of my biggest goals is to remove obstacles for them so they can keep moving forward and meet their deadlines. There’s nothing worse than getting held up by some bureaucratic approval process, or having to do a “dog and pony” show for simple things. No one enjoys being in perpetual hurry-up-and-wait mode. Trust me, we all know how frustrating that is!

Tip: Empower your team and keep approvals and other blockers to a minimum. One simple question you can ask to help identify potential roadblocks is, “What can I do to help you get your stuff done?” Then work together to remove roadblocks proactively. Be aware of your team’s deadlines and prioritize accordingly. For example, if one of my content marketers is on a tight deadline with an editor, I’ll look at the piece ASAP so she gets it done.

Give ‘em What They Need

Take a look around at the tools and resources your team uses in their day-to-day. Is there something newer that could help employees get work done more efficiently? Are they doing things manually that could be automated? Are they doing tasks that may even be totally unnecessary because that’s they way “it’s always been done”? That last one always kills me.

Here’s an example: A few years ago a member of our team needed a new version of the software he was using for graphic design. Our Head of IT at the time made him make a federal case (okay, I’m embellishing just a bit, but it was pretty crazy) to get the software update. How do you think this made the designer feel? He was just trying to get his job done better and faster. Now a few more years have passed and he just got an email from our current Head of IT informing him that a new update was available and that we got him the very latest version with all the bells and whistles, not just for him, but for his entire team. Big difference, eh?

Tip: Make sure everyone at your company is on the lookout for affordable and practical ways you can get things done more efficiently. Whether it’s that new software, or instituting a meeting-free day, see what will make the most impact on your team and their ability to get things done.

So, what can you do to help your team get stuff done? Whether you remove obstacles, automate a manual process, or just get out of their way, helping your employees get stuff done may be the best thing you ever do.

© 2013, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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The Secret to Content Optimization for People and Search

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 06:00

Working as a content marketing director, my team and I are responsible for the creation, editing, publishing and optimization of dozens of pieces of content each week. We strive to create relevant, meaningful and ultimately useful information for our readers. But, we live in the world of the internet, and no matter how beneficial our content may be, if no one sees it, it doesn’t matter. So, how do we optimize our content for search, but create content for people? The secret is not as hard as it might sound.

Write for Humans, Not Search

You don’t set out to create content for search engines, of course. You create content that helps, answers questions and provides utility. And, if you’re doing that, keep at it. If you’ve been creating content with the sole purpose of getting search engine optimization (SEO) juice, you need to rethink it and flip your intention on its head. Create your content for your customers and prospects first and foremost. Then, optimize it for the search engines.

Keywords for the Win

Keywords are your ticket to creating content for both people and search engines, and they’re an important component to any piece of content. By using keywords that people frequently search, you help search engines direct readers your way. The fine art of using keywords though, is finding the balance of using them in a natural way so they come across effortlessly and aren’t included to entice search. Keywords should merely be a part of the content and occur a few times within it.

We often get asked if there’s a “secret formula” for keyword density, or how often you should use a keyword within your content. Of course, it depends based on the length of your piece, but a good rule of thumb is about every 100 words, or so (disclaimer: This can vary and is not a hard and fast rule). If you have a 500 word blog post, try to use your keyword in the following key places:

  • Title
  • URL
  • Meta description
  • Photo name and description (if you have imagery)
  • Intro paragraph, in the body of your post once or twice and in the last paragraph.

Above all else, content should rein supreme, so if using a keyword will disrupt your content, don’t use it.

Content Rules 
When it comes to search engines, content still rules. Another way to give yours a boost is by including phrases that are related to your keywords. Search engines don’t just look for keywords, they also crawl your content for both keywords and phrases that are relevant to a specific keyword – this has a jargony name called latent semantic indexing which sounds a whole lot more complicated than it really is. For example, if you own a dog bakery and your keyword is “dog cakes,” some other related terms might be dog birthday cake, dog cake recipe, dog cake mix, etc. If a search engine sees these related terms within your content, it should rank your site over sites with just keyword optimized content. You can use Google Keyword Tool to research and find related terms.

So the big secret to optimizing your content for people and search? Create kick butt content that’s relevant and useful to people. Use your keyword prowess to help the search engines find your killer content and the people will come. The more people who come, the more the authority you build with search engines, and everything will be well in the world of content and SEO.

How do you optimize your content for people and search? Share your favorite secrets and tips!

© 2013, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post The Secret to Content Optimization for People and Search appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Non-Profits That are Doin’ it (Social Media) & Doin’ it & Doin’ it Well

Mon, 04/15/2013 - 06:00

Social media marketing may seem challenging for any business, even non-profits.

But MDG Advertising has created a super informative infographic citing just how stellar non-profits are doing on social media, as it’s become an integral part of fundraising. According to the infographic, the average donation through social media continues to increase each year, and “incorporating social media can dramatically benefit a fundraiser, with the addition of Twitter generating almost 10 times more money raised.” 68% of people are also more likely to take the time to learn about a charity if they see a friend posting about it on social. To find even more stats, check out the rest of the infographic here.

With that, we’ve found examples of inspiring non-profits that are hot on the social media trail. We’ve broken it down by each of the popular social media networks:

Facebook

The key to success with Facebook is mixing it up with fun and inspiring posts. Using images and videos engages people and gets them to your website. You can then use the built-in analytics on Facebook known as Insights, to find out what your followers like and interact with so that you continue to post more of what they want.

The San Francisco and Marin Food Bank has found success on Facebook doing just this. They incorporate a variety of posts, including videos and images, both behind the scenes and of those of volunteers, and they share lots of fun events they host, or are participating in. Posting on a regular basis and including their Facebook page on their website and emails has gained them a following nearly 12,000 strong and growing.

Tip: Facebook has great tips for non-profits on their Causes page.

Twitter

With just 140 characters to communicate your message, your Tweets need to be short and succinct  but they can still have major impact.

The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust used Twitter to get 6,000 visits to their website, receive hundreds of donations, and gain a 92% increase in Twitter mentions. They used promoted Tweets and trending topics to get attention, and even got Twitter influencers to tweet messages as well.

Tip: Twitter has a helpful page for businesses of all kinds, including non-profits, full of inspiration.

Pinterest

With Pinterest, it’s all about the visuals, so pin interesting, engaging images. Great ideas include: Behind-the-scenes pictures of your organization, events that you host or attend, people that you’re helping, projects you’re working on, goals for your organization. You can even create boards of things your staff or supporters are interested.

If you sell products, pin them and include the price. You can also pin donation opportunities with a recommended dollar amount. Make sure you link your images back to your website to help drive traffic, and donations. And remember your audience when you pin; most Pinterest users are women, about 80%, and women also tend to make household spending decisions, so make your pins appealing to them.

charity: water has embraced Pinterest and the hard work has paid off. They have over 5,000 followers, and they’ve created all kinds of relevant and useful boards. They share pictures of the people being helped by their work, fundraising ideas and videos. Videos are highly interactive, interesting and can drive people to your website, blog or YouTube page.

Tip: Pinterest has a section for businesses with great tips and examples.

Pinterest also offers analytics to help you. Business accounts include information like how many pins come from your website, how may repins you have, and which pins are the most popular. This will help ensure you’re pinning what people are interested in.

The key things to keep in mind when posting to any social network include:

  1. Know your audience, what they like and what appeals to them.
  2. Have a goal or purpose that you’re working toward.
  3. Share on all your social networks and let your followers share as well.
  4. Be yourself and let your personality shine through -  Show readers what’s happening behind the scenes and with your volunteers.

How will you incorporate these non-profit examples into your social media plans?

© 2013, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post Non-Profits That are Doin’ it (Social Media) & Doin’ it & Doin’ it Well appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Give Your Company Profile (aka ‘About’ Page) Some TLC

Fri, 04/12/2013 - 06:00

If you’ve got a website, you know that your company profile page (also known as your “about” page) is essential. This page answers the critical question nearly every new visitor and potential customer asks: “Who are you?”

When someone is thinking about buying from or engaging with your company, chances are they want to know a little more about you. The “about” section is an opportunity to highlight your history, personality, accolades and more. It’s a glimpse into your company beyond what’s on your product pages.

So why is it most corporate “about” pages seem cobbled together at the last second? Or so filled with superlatives that your eyes glaze over?

At the end of the day, people want to work with businesses they trust and are comfortable with. So show them who you really are! Here’s how:

1. Show, Don’t Tell

According to Jeff Haden’s excellent Inc. article, “8 Ways to Improve Your ‘About Us’ Page,” padding your company’s description with high-falutin’ adjectives only tells readers that you know how to use a thesaurus. Any shmuck can call himself “innovative.”

Instead of telling readers how great you are, prove it with facts. Tell a story (but don’t write a novel). Share when the company started, who started it and why. Include photos from back in the day. List some (not all) of your biggest awards, company stats and any significant articles written about you in the press – this adds legitimacy to your claims. Name-drop some of your best or most well-known customers.

2. Have a Personality

Often, what closes the deal for a prospective customer is being a “good fit” – that intangible feeling of likeability. How can you show that you’re likeable? By highlighting your own unique writing voice … and the “about” section is a natural place to do this. Showing some personality on your company profile (and throughout your website in general) could be the ticket to landing business that would otherwise have gone to your competitors.

Take a cue from big companies like Zappos and Google. They’re known for being fun and a little off-the-cuff, and their “about” sections reinforce this; it says a lot about their culture and the way they approach their work.

3. Highlight Your Peeps

People want to do business with people, not name-less cogs. At the very least, show photos of your executive or leadership team (and include their Twitter handles); this is a great opportunity to put faces to names and let people know that you’re the real deal.

But why limit yourself to just the founder or owner? Include photos of the receptionist, driver and everyone else who contributes to the growth of your business. They’re just as important! While you’re at it, why not shoot a quick video of “a day at the office” and post that, too? One of our favorite customers here at VerticalResponse, a pet care business in San Francisco called Pet Camp, not only posts photos of their staff and camp counselors in the “about” section, but also their beloved pets, too. A picture is worth a thousand words, and no more so than online where attention spans are shorter than ever. (For more tips on how to use images online and on social media, download our free “You Oughta Be in Pictures” guide.)

4. Use SEO Best Practices

Include a couple of keywords that you think people will search when they’re looking for the products or services you offer. Link those keywords to their specific product sections of your website. This not only improves the user navigation experience, but gives your website a boost when it comes to search engine optimization (SEO), too.

5. Make It Easy to Find

Don’t bury the link to your “about” page at the very bottom of the home page in teeny tiny font, if possible. Considering it’s one of the most-visited pages of a company website, you want to make it easy for people to find – above the fold or in the main top navigation bar is ideal.

Also: If you don’t have a separate “contact” section, include all your contact information – address, phone number, email address, links to social media profiles, etc. – in your “about” page. Better yet, include a link to your “contact” page in your “about” page anyway, just in case.

Need some more inspiration to get those creative juices flowing? Check out http://bestaboutpages.com, a site dedicated to – you guessed it – the best “about” pages online. You’ll see some common themes: lots of personality, photos and bold text.

Have you come across some memorable company profile pages? How about ones that made you cringe? Share in the comments below!

© 2013, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post Give Your Company Profile (aka ‘About’ Page) Some TLC appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Should Brands Only Speak When Spoken to on Social Media?

Thu, 04/11/2013 - 06:00

Most modern brands and businesses want a vibrant social media marketing campaign. But, figuring out the secret sauce of using your social media networks to engage users without annoying them isn’t always an easy task. A recent article by Avi Dan on Forbes.com reveals some fascinating research that suggests brands, like children in the 1950s, should only speak when spoken to.

“The majority of consumers, 64%, insist that they want companies to respond to social comments only when spoken to,” writes Dan. This is significant when viewed alongside the fact that, “51% of consumers simply do not want companies to eavesdrop on their conversations and 43% believe that monitoring is an intrusion on their privacy.”

So how do you make new connections if reaching out is viewed negatively? Understand the context in which your brand is being mentioned through social media. Dan suggests asking, “Are consumers reaching out to you directly or just venting to their friends? If the customer doesn’t invite you to participate in the conversation, keep your distance. Remember that their context—not yours—is driving their expectations of a response.”

Additionally, for those instances when you do choose to engage, explain why you’re using social media software to monitor conversation in the first place. Dan writes, “Explain why you are listening. Make clear that your primary reason for doing so is to provide the best possible product or service to customers.”

Social media carves a delicate line between people’s public and private worlds. As Uncle Ben so famously taught Peter Parker, “with great power comes great responsibility.” Sometimes , he most responsible thing to do is to just shut up and listen.

Have you ever entered a social media conversation where you didn’t feel too welcome? What strategies did you use to make your future interactions more positive?

© 2013, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post Should Brands Only Speak When Spoken to on Social Media? appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

A Social Media Photo Sharing Smackdown: Instagram vs. Twitter

Wed, 04/10/2013 - 06:00

Instagram, the beloved photo-sharing site with an avid cult following, (100 million monthly active users to be exact), gave Twitter a swift upper cut just three months ago in a social media smackdown of sorts. What was the straw that broke the Twitter bird’s back? Instagram nixed its Twitter cards integration – Cat fight! But wait, what the heck is a Twitter card? I’ll let Twitter do the explaining: “Twitter cards make it possible for you to attach media experiences to Tweets that link to your content. Simply add a few lines of HTML to your webpages, and users who Tweet links to your content will have a “card” added to the Tweet that’s visible to all of their followers.”

Simply put, Instagram removed the ability to view an Instagram photo on Twitter, forcing a user to click (gasp!) a link instead to view the image housed on Instagram itself. So instead of Instagram directing traffic to Twitter, the roles have been reversed. Was this a wise decision? In an opinion piece on Mashable entitled, “Instagram Declares War on Twitter, Social Media Loses,” Chris Taylor exclaims, “…social media became a little less cozy. What was once a tightly-knit web of popular services that seemed almost agnostic about where you shared stuff is starting to drift apart.” Whether this is war or a strategic decision on Instagram’s part, Digital Network Agency has created an informative infographic about this very topic, and how it affects brand management (see below).

DNA’s infographic states that after Instagram’s ‘low blow,’ “engagement with brands on Instagram grew by 35% in the past 3 months,” and “Brand Instagram follower count grew by 41% over the last 3 months.” What does this tell us as brands and businesses? Get snappin’ on Instagram stat! (if you’re not already). Take a look at our post, “Get Snappy, Gain Engagement – 8 Instagram Tips for Your Biz” for Instagram must-knows. Also take a look at  Instagram’s Tumblr site made for businesses specifically. Aside from tips, API examples, news and more, they include stellar brand spotlights like handmade clothing designer, Michael Masterson:

And, though Twitter photo engagement seems to be trending downward due to Instagram’s severed ties, it’s still a vital platform for reaching current and potential customers. You do, however, have the ability to tweet pictures directly onto Twitter while using snazzy new filters of their own. Twitter also just recently revamped their Twitter for Business site, giving you helpful info about the basics, marketing, ad products, the art of tweeting, tools you need, and more, including success stories by business size!

Has the severed Instagram integration with Twitter affected your business? Will you be more active on Instagram and Facebook now because of it? Let us know what’s up!

© 2013, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post A Social Media Photo Sharing Smackdown: Instagram vs. Twitter appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Google Adwords Changes You Want to Know

Mon, 04/08/2013 - 06:00

If you’re already using Google Adwords to run your pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns, you may have noticed some changes within your Adwords campaigns recently. In February, Google released the option to upgrade to Enhanced Campaigns. By mid-2013, all campaigns will be automatically upgraded to Enhanced Campaigns. What does this mean for you and your business? Let’s take a peek at these new changes and how they’ll affect your PPC campaigns.

Targeting Options – People are constantly switching between devices – mobile, tablet, or desktop – and using the one that works best for them based on their location/time and their end goal. Google’s new Enhanced Campaigns focus on this idea and are meant to allow you to better target the context of users searches. Whether it’s context in the form of a location, time of day, and/or device, enhanced campaigns allow you to customize your targeting strategy even more all from single campaign adjustments versus individually managed device campaigns. This provides you with more opportunities to reach people with more relevant and targeted messages.

Bidding - Because all devices perform slightly differently and some may be more relevant to your specific business model, it was a considered best practice to separate campaigns for each specific device, whether it was mobile, tablet, or desktop, each had specific keyword bids. Now you’ll be able to set bids according to each specific device that you’re targeting within the very same campaign. Per Marketingland.com, “The key difference is that desktop and tablet device bids will be grouped and mobile devices bids will be based on a percentage of the desktop and tablet bid.”

Ad Scheduling - With enhanced ad scheduling, you can dictate when certain ads and extensions appear to which users and on which device. For example, if you have a retail location, when your store is open, you can have ads that show links to a store locator, as well as your business phone number for mobile users. After business hours, you can sets ads to only show links to your website where customers can place online orders.  Additionally, you can adjust bid percentages to show more for peak times of business hours.

Extensions - Previously, one of the biggest drawbacks to ad extensions was the fact that they were only at the “campaign” level. In addition, to use these extensions, all the extensions had to be approved in order to be seen. In other words, if you had multiple extensions and one was denied, they all were denied. But now with Enhanced Campaigns, you can have more granular control over each extension and also at an “ad group” level. By being able to target a specific product, feature, or web page through the use of sitelink, call, app, or offer extensions in conjunction with targeted ad groups, you as an advertiser have the ability to deliver highly relevant business information, which in theory should yield more conversions.

Advanced Reporting – Some of the new advanced reporting will be especially helpful, specifically for extension and call data tracking.

Extension Tracking - Before the enhancements, tracking the success of extensions individually was only available by building unique URLs. While doable, it’s a lot more time consuming and could prove to be difficult for new or novice users. Now with enhanced extensions tracking, you can view individual statistics for different extensions, whether it’s a link to a specific page on your site, coupon redemption, or an app download.

Call Data Tracking - According to Search Engine Journal, today, with Enhanced Campaigns, you’re able to configure the conversion tracking to record calls over a duration of time as a “lead.” Now not only can you see how many times a phone number was clicked on, you can see if it was determined to be a “lead” or not.

Noticeable Drawbacks to New Enhanced Campaigns

Of course with Google trying to unify all devices into one campaign, it may ultimately cause you, the advertiser, to lose some control over the granularity of your campaign management. Below are some of the more notable drawbacks:

Keyword Level Bidding - In a nutshell, with these new changes, you may lose the ability to set device-specific bids at the keyword level. Because the way the devices are grouped, Marketing Land states tablets will be considered the same as desktops and mobile bids will actually be based on a percentage of your desktop bid as opposed to setting individual bids for each keyword. This may cause you to over or under spend on certain keywords on certain devices. It’ll also require you to really consider which devices bring in the best customers, and to adjust bids to reflect which is more important to you.

Ad Scheduling - With Enhanced Campaigns, you can still adjust bids by day-of-week or time-of-day but Marketing Land says that same schedule will be applied across all devices. Whereas before, you could make separate campaigns for desktop and mobile, setting different schedules for each, this option is no longer an available with enhanced campaigns.

Quality Score – Again because these different devices can’t be separated, Search Engine Journal states that the Quality Score becomes averaged throughout all these devices. This could mean a drop in quality score if your campaign is performing poorly on one of the devices.

By utilizing these new features, small-to-medium-sized businesses stand the most to gain. Ignoring any of these 3 areas (tablets, mobile, desktop) not only leaves the door open for your competitors to engage with your customers, but could also mean missed opportunities for your business to get noticed and most importantly, missed sales.

For more information and how to get started with Google Enhanced campaigns, you can download a step-by-step guide on how to upgrade your existing Adwords campaigns, as well as find other valuable resources like Webinars.

© 2013, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post Google Adwords Changes You Want to Know appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Stellar Customer Experience: 4 Tips

Fri, 04/05/2013 - 09:12

I’ve been thinking a lot about our customer experience lately as we’ll soon be making some sweeping changes to the way we do business at VerticalResponse. When I see other businesses that do a bang up job with their customer experience, I take copious notes of how we might incorporate it into the way we’ll do things.

I’d like to focus on a company that originated in San Francisco called One Medical. If you can believe it, they’re reinventing the dreaded doctor’s office visit! I’ve broken it down into four customer experience touch points that make a difference for this business and that all of us might learn from.

1. Ease of Use, Right from the Start

You might hear about One Medical from a friend like me, and go to their friendly website where you might sign up and become a member, or log in. Then you see which physicians are available in a location, or a time slot that’s convenient for you (Same day? Yup!) and you can make your appointment. Easy? You bet.

Lesson: Ask someone who doesn’t know about your business how they feel about visiting your store or website. Is it the experience you want to portray?

2. Comfortable and Short Wait Time

Every One Medical location has nice, tasteful decor. There aren’t a bunch of cheap chairs all facing each other, and no cheesy magazines from last month that an employee brought in. The waiting area is divided into comfortable sections and you get a warm and friendly greeting from someone sitting at a desk, not in back of a glass wall with a bunch of color-coded folders behind them. Plus, you always get seen on time. Waiting becomes a comfortable experience.

Lesson: Is your location set up to reflect your business? Are you edgy or subdued? Does your website reflect how you want your business portrayed? Does your team greet your visitors the way you want them to?

3. Friendly and Informational Visit

Each physician has a comfortable office with a laptop where they document your consultation directly into your account so you have a record of it. They put off a kind, approachable vibe, and never make you feel rushed. A rarity these days when most doctors have about 15 minutes tops, to spend with you.

Lesson: Are your salespeople dressed casually or suited up? How do you want them to speak to visitors whether they call in or come to your business? Is the interaction with your team and your business the way you want it to be? Send some people in and have them describe how they perceive what your biz is all about.

4. Quick Follow-up

One Medical physicians email your prescription directly to the pharmacy of your choice (no paper here) and they email you after your visit to find out how you’re feeling.

What’s more is you can email your physician anything you want to ask, at any time and expect to get an answer within a few hours!

Lesson: Are you thanking your customers for buying? What does your confirmation email say? Does it reflect your style, or is it too stuffy for how you want to sound? Are you set up to get back to customers quickly with chat, or a phone call, or do you even follow up?

Whether your business is online, offline, or both, take a note of everywhere a customer or a potential customer has to interact with you and form their quick opinion. Then make some changes like we are and give your customer experience a clean bill of health!

This article by VerticalResponse CEO and founder Janine Popick originally appeared on Inc.com.

© 2013, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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4 Reasons You’ll Fail at Entrepreneurship

Thu, 04/04/2013 - 06:00

This article by VerticalResponse CEO and founder Janine Popick originally appeared on Inc.com.

I went to a great tech event called VatorSplash. It’s an event where tech entrepreneurs claw their way to center stage in hopes of getting their demo seen and receiving the coveted Vator award. The real benefit is they get in front of some impressive VCs that might love their idea enough to fund it to the next phase. The night I went, I was lucky enough to get to listen to the CEO of Evernote, Phil Libin speak. And as I write this, I’m using his great tool.

Libin walked us through his beliefs on entrepreneurship; specifically who should be an entrepreneur and where they should launch. As he chatted about the “who” part, I pulled four reasons why anyone thinking they want to start a business should NOT DO IT and related it to my day-to-day and boy, was he spot on. So here’s my take on his words. Don’t start a biz if…

1. You Want to Be Your Own Boss

In general, most boss’s report to someone on some level. Yet even if you fund your company yourself, you still have people to answer to. You need to understand that your No. 1 job is making sure people in your company are successful. I have a bunch of people who report to me at my VerticalResponse. Their biggest problem? Getting s*it done. My to-do list? Removing obstacles for them so they can get stuff done, which benefits our team. I report to them and they know that.

2. You Want More Flexible Time

It’s such a great thought, “If I have my own company I can come and go as I please!” (LOL). For what it’s worth, if you want more flexible time, you should not be an entrepreneur. As I sit here at 9 p.m. writing this, I owe this article to the person who manages content for us. (see No. 1). You live and breathe your business, you can’t think of anything else and your time is your business. Get used to it.

3. You Want to Make Money Overnight

When I started VerticalResponse, I wanted to commoditize email marketing for small business. In 2001 there wasn’t a tool for small businesses to do their email marketing affordably, so I wanted to ensure there was something reasonable that would help their business grow. Do I want VR to be successful? You bet, whatever format it comes in, be it an acquisition, IPO or simply making it on its own.

4. You Can’t Afford to Fail

If you want to start your own business, you have to be okay that you’ll lose your own investment. And if you’re lucky enough to have them, you’ll lose your investors investment and you’re still okay with that. If you’ve got a soul, you’ll lose sleep. For me, every time I went back to my friends and family for investment money, I made sure to put my money where my mouth was and invested alongside them. I couldn’t see taking friends money if I wasn’t willing to put more in myself!

All in all, a great gig, thanks Phil for an awesome chat, and for bringing to the surface the realities of running your own business. What you talked about was complete reality, but I wouldn’t trade if for the world!

Do you agree with who should be an entrepreneur? I’d love to hear about it!

© 2013, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post 4 Reasons You’ll Fail at Entrepreneurship appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Give Customers Something to Yelp About

Wed, 04/03/2013 - 06:00

If you own a small business, you might be using social media networks like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest to boost your social presence. However, another site you should highly consider is the ever-informative review site, Yelp.

If you’re not aware, Yelp, founded in San Francisco in 2004, is an online directory service and review site that connects people with local businesses. In January of this year, Yelp crossed the 100 million unique visitor mark for the first time, and it doesn’t show any signs of slowing down.  And, just last week, Yelp’s blog stated that “A Boston Consulting Group Study indicated that local businesses with a free Yelp account saw an average of $8,000 in annual revenue from Yelp, and that for advertisers, this figure was more than $23,000.”

For local small businesses, Yelp is a critical component to conducting commerce in today’s environment. People all over the world use Yelp to choose which restaurants they want try, where they want to buy their latest frocks, and where to get their oil changed.

Consumer decisions are influenced and altered by peer reviews on Yelp, and those reviews impact where people will ultimately spend their hard earned cash – Just another reason why your Yelp page should tout your biz big time!

So how do you maximize usage of Yelp? In correspondence with Yelp’s overview video, here are a handful of things you should absolutely do:

1. Complete Your Profile

If you’re new to Yelp, you can easily set up an account by following a quick three-step process. You need to find your business (just know that your business may or may not already be in the system), create your account and verify your identity.

Once you’ve signed up, you’ll have the ability to provide as much information about your business as you can. Tell potential customers what you do, and what sets you apart from the competition. Also provide pertinent information such as your hours of operation, a link to your website and an unlimited number of photos to visually appeal to would-be customers.

2. Respond to Reviews

When someone leaves a review on your page, whether positive or negative, you have the ability to respond with either a private message or public comment. Be tactful with your response. Customers have the right to voice their opinions and how you respond to those opinions tell a lot about how you conduct business.

Yelp has worked hard to build an authentic community based on proactive reviews and if you provide extraordinary service, people will take the time to let others know about it. That’s word of mouth marketing at its best.

3. Create Exciting Promos

Most people appreciate a special or discount when evaluating comparable products and services. Yelp Deals give you a competitive advantage when coupled with positive reviews on the Yelp website. Yelp Deals can also provide your business with additional exposure as Deals are highlighted on search results, business listings and even on their highly popular mobile site.

4. Monitor Your Traffic & Revenue

Just like you may use tools like Google Analytics to monitor activity to your website, you can use Yelp Metrics to see how many people are visiting your business on Yelp. In addition you can see how people interact with your business, such as leaving comments, uploading images, or mobile check-ins.

This provides an excellent opportunity for you to see trends in both activity and sentiment, allowing you to react immediately to developments in customer reactions both good and bad.

If the above-mentioned tools weren’t enough, Yelp has also recently released the Yelp Revenue Estimation Tool. This tool allows business owners to calculate how much revenue they’ve generated from Yelp customers. Plus, businesses can see any increase in profits if they’re participating in Yelp Deals or advertising on the site.

Do you current use Yelp, or have plans to? We’d love to know about it. Leave us a comment below or chat with us on Twitter to tell us about your Yelp experience.

 

© 2013, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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3 Businesses that Rock Pinterest

Mon, 04/01/2013 - 06:00

Any company can create a business page on Pinterest, but it takes a savvy company to really get it right. In this post we’ll look at 3 very different businesses that have enviable Pinterest pages and what they’re doing to stand out amidst the piles of pins.

Drake University

What’s cool about Drake University’s Pinterest Page:

1. No gimmicks. Drake is not soliciting students to apply in any way on their boards. There is no board for “Admissions” or “Campus Gear.” Instead, they focus on topics that truly interest students, like sports, study abroad trips and cooking in your dorm. The boards and pins shared by Drake give a sense of a fun and inviting college community. (They use great content, instead of selling to sell!)

2. Lots of engagement. Drake has shared over 1,000 pins, and has more than 4,000 followers. It’s interesting to note that many other universities have the same number of pins or more, but have a much smaller following. This indicates that Drake is appealing to their audience in an organic way, through likes and repins.

3. Compelling images. We’ve all witnessed that cats and dogs are the real stars of social media sharing. How fitting that the Drake University mascot is a bulldog. Check out their aptly titled board, “Adorbs Bulldogs”. We’re pretty sure you’re going to want to share some of these right away!

Takeaways:

  • Share great content, don’t sell.
  • If you’d like to hug it, pin it (if it suits your biz or your fans).
  • Keep it fun and keep pinning.

 

General Electronic (GE)

What’s cool about GE’s Pinterest Page:

1. Adaptation. GE has been around since 1892.  It’s a very established company, hardly defined as sexy. But here they are on Pinterest with 25 boards, nearly 2,000 pins and a whopping 16,236 followers. Why? Because they’ve adapted to today’s marketing trends and invested in social media.

2. Appeal. When you visit GE’s Pinterest page, the first board you see is called “Badass Machines” (They said badass!) Hey, it made me look.  There’s also a pretty cool board filled with intellectual quotes called “That’s Genius!,” but by far, my favorite is the “Hey Girl” board with some stellar nerd memes. Clearly GE gets that we’re here to have fun and be entertained.

3. Focus on inspiration. Who doesn’t love to be inspired? It’s a driving force to keep us inventing. GE’s Pinterest pages ooze inspiration and innovation right from the beginning in their page description – “Pinning things that inspire us to build, power, move and cure the world. Welcome to the official GE Pinterest page!”

Takeaways:

  • Social Media is part of the game. Get in the game.
  • Have some fun. No seriously. Have some fun. (Would you read your content?)
  • Think about your overall message and stay true to your brand with a twist of creativity.

 

Trulia

Trulia is a real-estate listing/rental site. In just 7 years the company has grown to 4.5 million real estate and rental listings in the US.  Part of the success is due to the company’s clever incorporation of social media throughout the user experience.

What’s cool about Trulia’s Pinterest Page:

1. Polished look. High quality images and the use of alliteration each board title make Trulia’s Pinterest page appear very regal. It spans all areas of home décor – including “Winning Wine Cellars,” “Terrific Theaters” and “Modest Mud Rooms.”

2. Contests worth winning. Anyone can give away an iPad, but giving away a month long internship with the Altman Brothers (stars of Million Dollar listing LA) is a whole new level, especially for aspiring agents. They advertise the contest on Pinterest and also make it easy to share from the contest page on their website.

3. Redirection. You will end up on Trulia’s website. See a home you love and click, suddenly you’re at a detailed listing page for a house on Steiner St. in San Francisco!

Takeaways:

  • Reflect your brand with your boards.
  • Give people something worth engaging over and possibly competing for.
  • Show them the way (to your website, that is).

Want to see more examples? Pinterest has created a number of case studies on businesses that are having success with Pinterest.  This is a great resource if you’re looking for some creative inspiration.

If you’re looking to learn more about setting up your Pinterest Business page, check out this getting-started guide, How Pinterest Works for Your Business.

© 2013, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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Find the Perfect Social Media Network(s) for Your Biz

Fri, 03/29/2013 - 06:00

There are a ton of social media networks out there, and the list seems to grow every day: Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, LinkedIn, Reddit, App.net, Instagram, Vine, Youtube, Pinterest, Stumbleupon, Myspace, Tumblr…

Stop. Breathe.

The good news is, you don’t have to be on every social media network, nor do you need to spend tons of time on them. You also definitely don’t need to be a social media master to be successful on them. So how do you decide which social networks are the perfect match for your biz? When evaluating whether a social media network is worth your valuable time and efforts, consider these questions:

What kind of audience does the site attract, and how do those people use it?

LinkedIn, for example, is heavily focused on attracting professionals and encourages online business networking via their Groups, which is perfect if you’re marketing to another business.

Facebook, for all of their attempts to be business friendly, is still seen by most of their users as the place where they interact with friends and family on a more personal level. If your business doesn’t fit well with that type of interaction, you may not want to spend as much time and money marketing on Facebook, in spite of its popularity. Also, read up on what people like or don’t like from businesses via Facebook, and what will gain the greatest engagement based on your industry. This will also give you an idea as to how often you should or shouldn’t be marketing to an audience on Facebook.

Take a look the demographics of the people using each social media network. Pinterest, Tumblr and Reddit are great for compelling pictures and engaging content, but Pinterest is far more popular with women, and Reddit trends more towards men – 72%, ages 25-34 years to be exact, according to DoubleClick. The content you share on these sites should be targeted to the audience that’s there. But don’t completely eliminate one of these based just on gender or assumptions – Do your research! We know Tumblr appears to have a young demographic, however, surprisingly, 46% of Tumblr users are over 35 (the other half are under 25) and 51% are male. Also remember, women buy for men, and vice versa, so you can still hit your target audience by appealing to the opposite gender on these seemingly gender-homogenized social networks.

How much time will I have to spend on these social networks promoting my business?

Reddit is more than just a place to share images, links and funny memes – it’s an online community that rewards folks who consistently contribute valuable information. One popular meme portrays the average Redditor as one who checks the front page right before bed, but can’t pull away until dawn breaks.

Twitter, on the other hand, allows for a more hands off approach. Either way, it’s important to post consistently and you should spend time engaging with other users. You can use third-party services to pre-schedule tweets and get all your posts for an entire month done in about 20 minutes. Remember, though, don’t just set it and forget it, interact with your followers.

When you’re in the exploration phase of your social media plan, spend some time on each site to see what others are doing. Read articles about getting started and how to best accomplish your goals and don’t be afraid to ask for help. These are social networks after all, and there are plenty of people out there that love to give advice and lend a helping hand (like us).

What social media sites are your current customers on, and where would they prefer to engage with you?

Unless you’re breaking into an entirely new and uncharted market, your existing customers are often your best resource to find more customers. Whatever worked to draw them to your business will likely draw more just like them. Don’t be afraid to ask where they want to connect with your business online, whether you do it through a survey, ask them when they’re making a purchase  in your store, or by asking the question on Facebook or Twitter. Showing an interest in your customers and asking for their advice has the side benefit of making them feel like they’re part of the team. This could also turn customers into advocates for you, which will likely result in their sharing your posts when you start showing up on their social media feeds.

Once you’ve evaluated the social media sites that look like a good fit for your business, select one to focus on and master it. The lessons learned there will serve you well as you expand to other sites, and you’ll often be able to reuse the content you create. Most importantly, you’ll only have to focus on a single audience, allowing you to make the best of the limited time you have to create valuable engagement with your customers.

What social media sites are you planning to check out for your business? Have you found success on one network that surprised you? Let us know in the comments.

© 2013, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post Find the Perfect Social Media Network(s) for Your Biz appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

The Pros Dish: Email & Website Design Tips

Thu, 03/28/2013 - 06:00

Wondering if your website or email design is up to snuff? We sat down with VerticalResponse design pros who dish their helpful tips. Whether you’re starting from scratch or looking to spruce up what you’ve already got, here are answers to your most frequently asked email and website design questions:

Email Design

What are the three most important things to remember when designing an email?

1) The most important thing is to make sure your design is clean, uncluttered, and easy for the viewer to scan. Think bullet points, images that are relevant to your message, and a good balance of images and text. Keep images, text, and buttons on a grid so everything remains aligned. Remember: Keep it simple!

Rookie mistake: Not enough white space. Breathing room is a good thing!

2) Include a clear and easy-to-find call-to-action, preferably in the form of a button. What do you want your reader to do as a result of receiving your email? Make it super-easy for them to take that action. If they’ve got to hunt around for a link or type in your URL, chances are you’ll lose them. If you want them to visit your site, a large “Visit the Site!” button makes it easy.

Rookie mistake: Only including your call-to-action in only one spot and/or forgetting to link it!

3) Consider your use of images, colors and fonts wisely. Use appealing color contrasts; bold and/or jarring colors might grab attention, but may not result in a positive reaction! Use fun, but clean and easy-to-read fonts. Also use a hierarchy of text: Include a clear, bold headline, then a smaller sub-headline, etc. Use visually pleasing, appealing and compelling images and/or illustrations. Keep popular sites like Pinterest in mind. Would you “pin” that image?

Rookie mistakes: Using too many typefaces or fonts – stick to one or two max; Combining photography with illustrations – use one or the other.

I know a lot of people read their email and look at websites on their mobile devices. How do I incorporate mobile into my designs?

First, make sure your content is succinct. Don’t be afraid to scrupulously edit yourself. Mobile users have even less time than desktop users to read your message. Second, choose a simple layout (one or two columns) that’s easy to scan. Keep in mind that it’s easier for mobile users to scroll vertically than horizontally, so long layouts are better than wide ones. Third, make your email touch friendly. Put your your calls-to-action on a button (we’ve got a handy free tool for that), instead of just a text link (easier for touching), and keep your links large and easy to click.

 Is there anything I can do in the design of my email to avoid the spam folder?

You put a lot of hard work into your emails, and there are a few things you can do to get them delivered to the inbox.

  • Use clean HTML (i.e. nested tables and closed tags).
  • This isn’t necessarily design, but of course, always avoid spammy words and phrases, include an unsubscribe method, valid links and a postal address, as well as a clear “from” label and an accurate subject line.

What do most people forget when designing an email?

It’s important to remember that there is a person on the other end of your email. Ask yourself the following questions: “Would I like this email? Is it visually appealing to me? Is it enticing? Is it too cluttered? Do the images make sense? Is it too long or wide? Does it grab my attention? Do I know what action to take in this email?” If you answer “no” to any of these questions, try again. If you aren’t pleased with the design or purpose of the email, your customers won’t be either. And, have others take a look at your email for 10 seconds, then ask them what they remembered from the email. If it doesn’t match what you were going for, you may want to go back to the drawing board.

Web design

 I already have a website, but it could use some improvement. What are some common mistakes you see on websites?

  • Too much clutter. A lot of websites, and particularly homepages, struggle with too many messages at once. You’re awesome, and you want people to know all the awesome things you do, but focus on your main selling point or mission, and make it clear on the homepage. Once you’ve convinced your visitor to stick around, they’ll be happy to click further into your site to get more details, or learn more.
  • Lack of a clear call-to-action. This seems to be a theme with both email and web design. Don’t be afraid to tell people what you want them to do: Shop now? Register for a webinar? Request more information? Whatever it is, make it easy for them.

 I don’t have the skills to design my own website. Do you have recommendations that can help me work with a designer?

You could use a service like Wix, which makes it pretty easy for the less tech-savvy of us to create good-looking websites. Or, you can find sites you like and see who designed them, or do a search for a freelance designer on Elance or Odesk and look at the reviews.

What are some of the VR Pros’ favorite websites, and why?

  • Apple of course, is king of being clean, clear and visually appealing.
  • Warby Parker is sleek, classy and simple, just like their glasses.
  • Join.Me is simple, yet sucks you in.
  • Appsbuilder makes it look really fun and easy to create your own mobile app.
  • Mint.com uses bold images and a simple design with a prominent call-to-action.
  • Airbnb is simply stunning, beautifully designed, and extremely easy to navigate. You can easily browse this website for hours.
  • Kickstarter is fun, clean, and extremely informative.

That’s our take. Have any of your own your best tips for email and web design? Share away!

© 2013, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post The Pros Dish: Email & Website Design Tips appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Content Your Customers Actually Care About

Wed, 03/27/2013 - 06:00

Content marketing seems to be all the rage right now, right? But as it turns out, businesses have been using content to give customer-value for over a hundred years. Here’s a great example: In 1904, Jell-O door-to-door salesmen would give out their cookbook for free. Jell-O’s sales rose like crazy in just a few years. True story.

At VerticalResponse, we have a content marketing team that produces the lion’s share of our content whether it be our blog, webinars, free guides or videos that we produce that help small businesses grow. That’s cool, but we also have every member of our marketing team, as well as folks from every part of the company contributing. By making content not just a function of one group, or of just the marketing department, we ensure the entire company is lending their expertise and knowledge to help customers, not just to sell to our customers.

1. The Master of Your Domain

What a great Seinfeld episode! But seriously, you and your staff are masters at what you do, so you should write about it, post it to your social networks, make a PDF that prospects and customers can download and share it with fellow bloggers.

At VR, our domain expert for email deliverability, Kirill, has a depth of knowledge about the ins and outs of how we get email to the inbox second to none. By sharing a blog about the latest developments, he helps our customers have the most up-to-date information so they can create emails that get delivered to inboxes. A win-win.

2. Great Stories from a Conference

If you have anyone on your staff attend a conference or event for employee development, it should be one of their tasks to write down what they learn and publish it to social media or your blog. There’s not a better way to show your customers you’re up on the latest and greatest on their behalf.

And, whenever someone on our staff attends a conference (Check out what I’ve published attending the amazing Inc.com conference) we make sure they write about what they’ve learned through the filter of a small business owner. We include takeaways that apply to our customers. That way, we pay the big bucks to attend events that they might not have the time or money to, and they reap the benefits through our content.

3. Customer Service is Your Ultimate Content Treasure!

If you’ve got a ton of calls or emails asking the same types of questions over and over, you can craft a great piece of content that answers the questions quickly! At the end of each week, ask your team members what the top 5 “hot buttons” were from the calls and questions they received. Tabulate and answer them in multiple formats: post a blog, send an email marketing campaign and post it to social networks.

Another bonus? We’ve found that many of the folks that work here at VerticalResponse have personal blogs and are talented writers. While it might not be in their specific job description to contribute content, we’ve found many of them have actually asked to write for us. How cool is that? When your company is creating useful content in service of your customers, everyone benefits–your company, your employees, and your customers.

Now that’s what I call content for the win! How are you using content for your biz?

© 2013, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post Content Your Customers Actually Care About appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

6 Ways to Keep SEO and Content Sittin’ in a Tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G

Mon, 03/25/2013 - 06:00

Think back to high school and your first puppy love experience. If you were a rebel, you might have written your name and your new love interest on the bathroom wall with a big heart surrounding the two names. Well, in the bathroom stall of Small Biz High School, you will surely find SEO <3′s Content. SEO has always had the hots for content, but never had the courage to make it known to the world. After a slew of Google updates that attacked poor, low quality content, SEO and content are now the cutest couple on the block.

Here are 6 great ways to keep your SEO and content k-i-s-s-i-n-g in the tree:

Quality Over Quantity

The landscape of SEO has drastically changed in the past few years, and the days of building thousands or millions of links are long gone. The same goes for your relationship between SEO and content. Having low quality blog posts or articles will not only hurt your website in Google’s and Bing’s eyes, but your readers will notice the lack of substantial content. If your readers don’t find value in your content, they won’t return, and more than likely won’t share your posts on their social networks.

Diversity

“Diversity” is the SEO buzzword of 2013. Keep your anchor text, landing page and links diverse. We know you may have the urge to only link to your top selling item on your home page, but resist this temptation. We now know that Google doesn’t like that and won’t rank your site as high if you have an artificial or over-optimized link profile. A link profile consists of the links from other sites that are pointing to your site. Search engines want to see a natural link profile. Here is a great way to double check and make sure you are linking naturally in your posts: If you mention a cool new marketing resources blog, like Skadeedle, you would expect to be linked directly to that site. That’s how you want to link to your own site in your blog posts. This is also known as internal linking. If your internal linking is smooth and easy to read, and the content is valuable, readers should enjoy it and share your content.

No Minimums

Setting up minimums for word count and/or keyword requirements on your blog or blog posts leads to unnatural looking posts and not to mention hard-to-understand posts. If you own an online coffee mug store called Chipper’s Coffee Mugs, and every 5th word on your site is “Chipper’s Coffee Mugs,” it’s difficult to actually gather any substantial information. If your post is too short, readers might suspect that it lacks any value. A post that is too long runs the risk of losing the reader’s attention. Over time, you’ll find that word count sweet spot that your readers enjoy.

Google Authorship

You have great content that’s relevant and high quality, and you want to rank high in Google. How do you get the two together? Google Authorship is the answer. Authorship has been buzzing in the SEO community for the past year or so. With cool SEO plug-ins (available on self-hosted blogs) like Yoast, setting up your Google Authorship is easy. We could spend a whole post just explaining why Authorship is so important, but Mike Arnesen from SwellPath did a top-notch job, so check out why author rich snippets are important.

Small Stuff You Need to Sweat and Not Forget

Once you finish that masterpiece of a blog post, don’t set it and forget it! Make sure to remember these small details that’ll help your content get all the juicy SEO love it can:

Meta Data

This is getting into some semi-technical SEO stuff, but don’t get scared and stop because that Yoast plug-in makes it so very easy for you. Meta data is what’s displayed when your site is served in the SERP. A SERP is the search engine results page, or in layman’s terms, the Google or Bing results page. The meta title is the title of the page and it should be a maximum of 70 characters. The meta description is a preview of the post that’s also served up in the SERP. Be sure to limit your meta description to 160 characters for optimal results.

Images count too!

Don’t just paste your images into your blog post without first adding some nice SEO value to it. Images need some love too! Make sure to include the keyword in the file name of the image. So change “photo1472368.jpg” to “chipscoffeemuglogo.jpg” to make your images complement your amazing content. Remember the Google Bot doesn’t have eyeballs, so you have to tell it what your images are. That is where alt text comes in. You want to make sure to include some descriptive alt text on your images so the Google Bot knows what your image is about. Before you go crazy on your images, don’t keyword stuff your alt tags or file names. Your photo called “coffeemugsmugscoffee_coffee_mugsmugsmugs.jpg” will surely get the Google Bot’s attention and not in a good way.

If you’ve been thinking of starting, ramping up or enhancing your content game, these six tips will not only help your content get all the SEO love it can, but will help you avoid being negatively impacted by any Google updates like the Google Skunk. Remember, good SEO takes time and implementing these changes won’t get your to page to the first page over night. Like Billy Joel said, “keep the faith” and these SEO tips will help in the long run.

Do you have a success story from using Google Authorship or any of these other tips? We’d love to hear about it!

© 2013, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post 6 Ways to Keep SEO and Content Sittin’ in a Tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

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