Social Media

Why Businesses Should Consider Social Media Engagement

Let me start this article by asking you a very simple question. Have you seen anyone with no social media accounts in today’s world? If yes, how many people? I believe you can count them on your fingers. Today, almost everyone has multiple social media accounts, especially younger groups of people.

According to the statistics, around 2.45 billion people are active on various social media platforms today with the Facebook far ahead of other social media platforms with over two billion active users. However, there are many other social media platforms with millions of active users, which cannot be ignored as well.

The brands that are not active on social media platforms are missing out on plenty of things. There are plenty of companies that have already started being active on social media platforms, and these companies are reaping a lot of benefits from their social media engagement.

Top five reasons why businesses must engage in social media platforms.

There are plenty of reasons for businesses to engage on social media platforms. If we list all of them out, the list could cross over 100. For that very reason, I am not going to list out all minor and major reasons for businesses to be active on social media platforms. We’re only listing out five top reasons for businesses to be active on social media platforms.

Here are the five of the top reasons why businesses must consider social media engagement.

  1. Referral visitors.

The social media active users follow their favorite celebrities, brands, and experts on social media platforms. The influencer marketing is so popular today because anyone with a good content and offer has an opportunity to build a fan base on their social media accounts.

The brands that come up with a right social media marketing strategy have an opportunity to reach and retain loyal followers. If their fan base is satisfied with their products and services, they could well share the page with their friends and loved ones.

In fact, the study shows that around 71 percent of the customers who have had a pleasant experience with the specific brands on social media platforms share recommend the brand to their loved ones.

  1. Enhance customer relationship.

So much depends on customer relationship in today’s world of intense competition. The big companies are not only focusing on reaching out to new customers by doing Facebook marketing, Twitter advertising, and so on, but they are also doing their best to retain their existing customer base.

With social media platforms, the companies can provide a top notch customer service to their customers, and provide instant answers to their queries. Having a strong relationship with existing customers will not only help in retaining your existing customers, but it will also increase your brand reputation, as they are likely to tell about your brands to others.

  1. Crisis management.

There is no guarantee that business will always have a smooth run in the world that is full of uncertainty. There are many cases of business where the bad news or event has ruined the overall business operations.

The businesses who are active on social media platforms can somewhat manage the crisis. The social media platforms are the part of a person’s daily life now. The people almost immediately share their happiness and dissatisfaction with their social media accounts.

And, the people are also likely to contact the pages directly with their queries and complaints. The companies who are very active on various social media platforms can get the direct feedback and opinions from their angry customers. They can detect and monitor most of the negative reviews and comments circulated on social media platforms.

When they get the direct feedback and customers’ opinions, they can respond to their problems in an effective manner. They may not control all the damage done, but they can certainly minimize the damage by responding to negative comments on social media platforms.

  1. Lead generation.

The social media platforms will help in reaching out to potential clients and bringing them to your lead page. According to the statistics, around 50 million small businesses are there on the Facebook, and around four million of them pay the Facebook for advertisements.

It’s because social media platforms, such as Facebook can help the businesses to reach whom they want to reach with their ads. It allows targeting the people based on age, demographics, interest, and so on.

If you promote the relevant content on social media platforms, they will visit your website. If you have an enticing lead page, there is a good chance that there would be a conversion as well.

  1. Content analysis.

Not all content is a great content. This is true, but we sometimes perceive that every piece of content that we generate is awesome. With a social media platform, you can actually test the quality of your content.

There are analytical tools that are offered by social media platforms that allow the publisher to see the engagement in the post. The great content will get a very nice engagement while other content may not get that much engagement. This helps the brand to analyze their content.

Conclusion

The social media engagement is not for gaining competitive advantage anymore because many brands are already very active on various social media platforms. The study shows that over 85% of the American companies with more than 100 employees are active on Twitter.

The companies are so concerned about social media engagement now that they are spending a lot of money on mixing artificial intelligence with their social media accounts to be more active on social media platforms. If your business is not yet active on social media platforms, you should hurry and start being active on social media platforms.

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5 Absolutely Essential Lessons For Startup Newbies

Upon graduating, a couple of my really close friends felt the urge to initiate something impacting. You can say, to begin their life’s work.

I Joined The Tom, Dick, and Harry Crowd.

It is safe to say, I made the mistake of joining the bandwagon of attempting to initiate a startup like all the Tom, Dick and Harry almost with zero knowledge of how to go about it. It is true, we were inexperienced and naive in thinking startups are easy to set up but it really is the opposite.

We found that the hard way.

In the Literal Sense, we Failed Before we Even Began the Journey.

To give a little context, my co-founder and I made an earnest attempt to target the fitness market in our country. Although hitting the gym and maintaining a fit lifestyle is an established routine in most developed countries, it is only a rising trend prevalent among posh areas in Pakistan.

Tapping into this sea of potential customers never was the difficult part; however, it was the execution part of the plan that was what brought about significant hurdles along the way.

We began with the 36-day challenges which gained momentum as we got several signups but after the first session; in a nutshell, our resources were drying up and to continue towards the second session since we needed signups which we failed to achieve.

Hence, to make our product stand out, we tried to pivot by making our product more female-centric, but that too did not go as well as we planned. Eventually, the startup fizzled out and became a thing of the past.

This experiment was not as much of a loss as we thought it would be — since we learned a great deal out of the whole gig.

Through this personal experience, I felt it necessary to write down and list and really explain only the MOST essential problems that came up. As we now know, the traps my friends and I fell into are the ones that many entrepreneurs and startup-would-be’s need to be aware of before deciding to take the big leap. The big world of entrepreneurship is a great place.

But make sure you internalize these lessons I learned. Please learn them wholly.

1. Remember: Thoroughly Research Your Customers.

Before even beginning to think about creating your own business, you need to keep customers ahead of everything. You need to know your customers very well. Research into them. You must utilize time and energy to study the important demographics, the culture, social and financial class of your customers.

Plus, you cannot make any assumptions — because most likely, they might turn out wrong and erroneous. They are the key to revenue generation and eventual positive ROI for your investors.

During the ideation phase, ideally, you would talk to your potential customers. You would ask about the problem that they seem to face. Ask them how they go about the process of reaching their goals. Identify and let them explain in full their “pain points.” 

These customers can look at your product and know how your product will provide leverage to help solve their problem. Listen. With the initial data you gather, you analyze and start creating your business model before proceeding towards building your minimal viable product.

2. Design Your Startup’s Blueprint, Top To Bottom.

When I say blueprint I am referring to your startup’s business model. Several tech writers and serial entrepreneurs stress upon this point — and rightly so. If the founder does not know what he is building, then they might just as well pack their bags right now.

You need to know certain elements relevant to your business such as your customer segment, revenue streams, cost structure, value propositions that your product is offering, the team, channels and potential partners.

Once you compile them into document or chart form (whichever is easier), you will have a reference point that you can revisit if you feel some form of deviation from the line.

The main gist is to have the tenacity and focus to generating original ideas and building a viable model over it. That’s the first step, though a hard process in itself which is not to be taken lightly.

Then with that model, you execute the plan with full swing. In the world of entrepreneurship, remember that timing is crucial and a number of people may have the same idea as yours. How you execute the blueprint matters and how you express it in the form of a story is discussed next.

3. Teach Yourself To Be A Storyteller.

Even if you are a coder who has confidence issues, you can still train yourself to become a speaker. You should develop this ability. Work on this skill so much that you know for sure that you are on the level to sell even the most normal looking vegetable or stationary.

You have to grab your potential investor’s attention through a popularized practice called the Elevator Pitch. Even if you have to rote learn that story — memorize this story deeply — and practice it, even if only to your mirror. 

Make this story as appealing as you can and try not to use cliched terms that the investors have already heard a thousand times before. Investors are very bored with these overused terms and you will see their eyes get a type of glassy look in them when they hear you say these tacky words.

Know that a story can be and should) be personal, inspiring, out of the ordinary or a mixture of all three. There should be an element of surprise to pique someone’s interest. Make it so that your audience at least remembers the gist of your product.

On a lighter note, your story should be such that your potential investors/customers are literally like this gif. 

There is no feeling more glorious than this. Period.

4. Launching Your Product Is Just The Beginning

You got the blueprint ready, you have begun coding or developing the next disruptive product but when the time comes to launch, be ready to listen to feedback, bug reports, possible faults or loopholes in your product.

You will run into obstacles that may range from logistical to financial to operational.

Startups usually follow the Lean methodology; to iterate over several sprints, in order to release only the product with the most necessary features. The point is to gain traction in the initial stages.

Snapchat can be taken as an example. Initially, the mobile app’s most distinct feature: being among the first social apps to open directly to the camera and the photos captured and shared self-destructed on the time set by the user.

Over different updates, features were regularly added such as face filters that became the main source of planting Snapchat as one of the fastest growing app to date.

The point of including Snapchat as an example was that more features have to developed, tested then rolled out with the passage of time.

If your product is not gaining enough users, chances are you might pivot and/or start from scratch (which is an extra pain) in order to drive your business forward.

5. Find Different Forms Of Social Media To Spread Awareness Of Your Product.

Know that Facebook, Twitter and Instagram might be the giants in social media especially when it comes to marketing but what matter is how effectively they are used. Content is king when it comes to social media marketing and the way you do publicity of your product matters significantly. 

More typical ways to spread awareness is through word of mouth. Talk to your family, friends and acquaintances. People are kinder than you think and are ready to help out. Network, network, network! I cannot stress enough on how important this is to get your product across.

Attend conferences, hackathons, open mics and startup competitions. Sooner rather than later you will notice that you have successfully created a ripple effect, after which you’ll place your product on the radar. 

With these different techniques, make sure you back up all the hype. Combining all the points from above, you should be ready to take the plunge and ‘Go Live’ with your product. The rest is good luck and timing. 

YOU WILL NEED IT!

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How Social Media Marketing can boost Your Marketing Campaign

Social media marketing is probably one of the most affordable and effective ways of marketing. It’s not only affordable and effective for big corporations, but also for small and medium-sized companies. According to the study, the budget allocated for the social media marketing has increased to 12%.  And, social media marketing is also the vital part of digital marketing.

According to the statistics, there are over 2.45 billion social media users all over the world, and this number is expected to reach to 2.9 billion in 2020. Some of the popular social media platforms with millions of active users are the Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Snapchat, and so on.

The people spend a lot of time on these platforms, and the most of the marketers are already capitalizing on this thing. The return on investment is really impressive with social media marketing.

Despite the fact that social media marketing can provide a handsome return on investment and people spend a lot of time on various social media platforms, there are still many marketers that are not being able to enjoy the same return like other successful marketers.

How can a marketer utilize the power of social media marketing?

The key to success in social media marketing or any forms of marketing is knowledge and implementation of the strategy.

Here are some of the ways; a marketer can use social media marketing to boost their marketing campaign.

1.  Start with a concrete plan

There is no point in starting a social media marketing campaign without a concrete plan. The first thing to do before starting a social media marketing plan is to make a concrete plan. Be absolutely sure of what your business objectives are and expectations from the campaign.

Here are some of the things to consider before making a concrete plan.

·  Expectations from the campaign: The first thing to consider before making a plan is to decide what you expect from the overall social media marketing campaign. The expectation must not be overly ambitious or very low.

·  Target audience: Not all the people would want to purchase the product, and one must understand this fact. The target audience must be decided before running a campaign. Most of the social media marketing platforms provide an option to filter the audience.

·  Message: Plan what kind of messages you want to deliver to the target audience. Keep track of various social media trends before planning a message.

·  Plan how social media marketing can fulfill your marketing goals: Be specific on what you want from the campaign, whether it is a conversion, brand awareness, web traffic, or others.

2.  Choosing the best social media platforms

There are many popular social media platforms on the internet, and the best social media platforms depend on the various factors. The Facebook is obviously the social media platform that you do not want to miss out on. For some brands, such as fashion brand or fast food, the image-sharing platforms would provide them with a better rate of return.

Similarly, the Linkedin platform could work out very well for the B2B businesses because it’s a social media platform for professionals. Choose some of the social media platforms that best suit the needs of the brand before starting a campaign.

What next?

After having a concrete plan and selecting the best social media platforms, you’re ready to start promoting a product. Here are some of the ways you can use social media platforms to improve the performance of your posts.

1. Focus on headlines

The people will read the headline before they decide whether to read the whole content or not. The headline must be interesting to grab the attention of the readers. There are hundreds of posts that are promoted on the social media platforms, so the readers will not bother to read the content with a lousy headline.

Create a new and better title to grab an attention of readers. Do not be limited to only one title, instead create multiple titles and do A/B testing to see which content can be promoted effectively.

The tools, such as Buzzsumo can help in researching the interesting titles for the social media content.

2. Customize the content for the platform

It’s not an easy task to customize the content for each social media platform, but in order to perform better on every social media platform, it’s necessary. There is a need to customize the headline, images, description, and the way the message is delivered.

The same content that performs well on the Facebook may not perform well on other platforms, such as the Twitter. For an instance, the Twitter has the word limit, so the way of delivering the message must be different on the Twitter than the Facebook.

3.  Embrace the visual

The study shows that visual content has 40% more chance of getting shared on the social media platform in comparison to the plain text content. And, the more shares mean a better reach and a better engagement.

Try to create an attractive and eye-catching image not only for the brand but also for every single post that you’re planning to post. This can lead to an increment in an engagement. Try experimenting with varieties of images, such as infographics, memes, and so on.

In the case of the image-sharing social media platforms, such as the Pinterest, Instagram, and Snapchat, the post with a lousy image has no hope of getting an engagement from an audience.

4. Post at the right time

The timing of the post matters a lot. It is one of the important factors that determine the engagement of the particular post. For the post to reach the maximum number of people, the content must be shared at the time when the maximum number of people are online.

The peak times for various social media platforms are different. Conduct a research to be aware of the best time to post on various social media platforms. There are tools, such as Facebook insights, Followerwonk, and so on that can help you determine the right time to post.

5. Post multiple times

Many popular pages and channels on the social media platforms share the same old content, multiple times, and it has given them wonderful outcomes. Most of your followers will engage with the content without even knowing that it is the same content.

There is a good chance that the post will not reach out to each and every one of the followers, so it’s not a bad idea to post the same content multiple times. However, it’s better to make a minor adjustment in the headline, description, and the image before sharing the content.

6. Ask questions

One of the best ways to engage the followers is by asking relevant questions to them. Every person wants to share their opinion, and the comment section is the best place for them to share their opinions.

Do not just drop links on the pages. And, the people will be engaging with one another as well when there are plenty of interesting comments on the comment section. It helps to bring the human connection on the post.

There are plenty of creative ways to ask questions to the followers. Ask a compelling question so that the people would not be able to resist the temptation of sharing their opinion.

7. Reach out to influencers

According to the study, an average return on investment from the influencer marketing campaign is $6.5 for every dollar spent on the campaign. This demonstrates the power of influencers and influencer marketing campaign.

There are hundreds of influencers on the social media platforms, and there is no need to hire influencers with hundreds of thousands of followers. Find some relevant influencers, and ask them to promote your content.

The posts shared by influencers are reached to many people in the niche market. You will be surprised to see the results from the influencer marketing campaign.

Conclusion

Most of the marketers think that the social media marketing is really easy, but this is not the case. Social media marketing is challenging like every other form of marketing. It takes a lot of planning and hard work to succeed in social media marketing.

Following the tips mentioned in the above section of this article will help you to plan and implement a social media marketing campaign to give a huge boost to your overall marketing campaign.

According to the study, around 95% of the online US adults in the age group of 18-34 are likely to follow the brands online. You will be able to get a massive return from your social media marketing campaign if you manage to promote it in a right way.

If you lack enough time to focus on the social media marketing campaigns, then it would be better to hand over this task to an experienced digital marketer or some good marketing agencies.

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Which is better? Data-driven or data-informed?

A month ago I got a chance to speak at Tech in Asia Product Development Conference in Jakarta about data-driven versus data-informed. Post-conference I was approached a few times to discuss more and speak at other events about the topic. Since people attended my talk found it useful, I thought I might as well share it with the global community.

Recently, the term data-driven started to become a buzzword, adding on to the list of other cool, techie jargon: disruptive, pivoting, design thinking, and many more. So, let me first attempt to get us all on the same page.

What’s Data-Driven?

Being data-driven means letting data be the center of a team and company’s decision making process. Data then plays an essential part of your company. Decision makers reply mostly (and sometimes solely) on data. Some decisions can be made without human being involved.

Some of the conversations that came up from a data-driven company are:

  • “Let’s A/B test this, and implement the version with the better result”
  • “Don’t talk to me unless you have have data”
  • “We’ll just follow what the data tells us,”

The truly data-driven organization will implement this process across teams and functions. This means that every team (product, marketing, customer success, operations, etc.) uses data intensively for all their decisions.

So, what are the benefits?

It eliminate a lot of human biases involved in decision making

In fact, a mentor of mine Misha Chellam created flashcards to help you memorize them. Data helps get the team members and stakeholders on the same page with less of their own judgement.

It is a lot less time-consuming because we take human out of the equation

How many of you have been in a 3-hour long meeting that people argue back and forth with no sign of compromise? Even better if you work in at a startup. Sometimes we discuss and argue for the sake of doing it, then the HiPPO made the final decision. (Yep, I know how you feel).

In fact, a study from MIT has proven the benefits of being data-driven. Prof. Erik Brynjolfsson and his colleagues studied 179 large publicly-traded companies and concluded that those companies are 5% more productive and profitable than their competitors.

However, being data-driven also has its drawbacks.

It requires a huge amount of data for the decisions to be accurate

You have to watch out for outlier distortion. Outliers are a data point from which are radically different from your average data. In gaming, positive outliers are considered “whales.” Those customers whom make either big purchases or make them very frequently, generating a significant amount of revenue for the company.

At my previous company, we even coined the term, “whale hunting.” In other industries, it might be those customers who use your product to solve a different problem than most of your customers. Their behaviors are so different, thus should be excluded from your data to make decisions about your average customers. Few data points together with the outliers can lead your company toward the direction that you don’t want to go.

It requires someone with data science knowledge and a lot of resources to be beneficial

For startups and big organizations that just started Data Science department, it might be hard to be completely data-driven due to lack of capabilities and resources. Current employees might not have enough knowledge to build the infrastructure to support. Some might not even have anyone who has expertise with data. At my previous company, we have 10 data scientist and at Kulina, we have 0.5 person (myself and our head of tech).

There is still a bias in the way we gather data

Most of times, what people say is not what they do. So, if we gather data by asking them implicitly, we risked making decisions on the wrong information. For example, during the scandalous time of Uber and the #deleteuber movement, most of my friends said they would never use Uber again. When Lyft (its main competitor in the US) has a surcharge, they went back and ordered Uber for their regular rides!

Let’s look at an example from my experience

Another great example is when we were trying to figure out which social media platform we should spend more time and money to engage with our users. We sent out a survey asking them, and the result was quite surprising. We saw Facebook on top of the list, which is expected. However, what puzzled us was the fact that Google+ was second on the list (no hard feeling to the team at Google).

A few team members asked if I would agree with letting them spend more time building our Google+ presence. “Maybe we didn’t know our users well,” a team member mentioned. Being data-driven, I would probably greenlight this. But being stubborn as usual, I discussed with another product marketing manager on what could’ve gone wrong.

We came to a conclusion that our users might not understand the difference between Google and Google+. In fact, when we look deeper into the way the question was asked. Instead of using the icon, we used the wording Google+ in the questionnaire. If you didn’t pay close attention to the survey, you probably thought we were asking if you use Google!

So, what is a data-informed decision?

Making data-informed decision takes data only as a factor that can be dismissed from time to time. This kind of decision making allows other factors such as customer experience, gut feeling, brand consistency and the HiPPO to take the lead.

The benefit is that data is put to be challenged

Because we don’t purely base our data, we use it to create a hypothesis. No matter how good data is, it has its limitation. It is just a snapshot of reality that doesn’t paint the full picture of our customer journey and behavior. We are forced to user other factors to help make better decisions, including our own judgement.

One of the example was at my previous company. To give you a little bit of background information, the nature of our gaming business was having great revenue on the weekend because that’s when our users played games. On a Monday, one of the new product directors approached me regarding a low weekend revenue, and he was very worried.

With some experience and guess, I suspected that our revenue was down because we ran sale the prior weekend. The same effect occurred for the past five times we ran sales. If we look at the same cycle before, our average was actually better. In fact, we figured out later that it was because one of the marketing campaigns that were launched to encounter this specific problem.

Facebook’s Newsfeed version that moved the key metrics was actually done without being data-driven

Adam Mosseri and his team back then decided to create the newsfeed without data. In fact, it got a lot of negative reactions that users were angry and even created a Facebook group I AUTOMATICALLY HATE THE NEW FACEBOOK HOMEPAGE (watch his talk here).

“At the end of the day, we have to have a gut to make bold decisions without data.” Adam Mosseri

This doesn’t mean that data-informed decisions don’t have their drawbacks

It requires a lot of time to discuss and analyze, and conclusions could not be formed easily. But remember at the end of the day:

“All the data in the world won’t fix a fundamentally bad product.” Andy Carvell.

In order to be innovative and build the right product for our customers, we cannot just sit in the room looking at rows of data and charts. Hint: Data doesn’t have to always be big data. Gather qualitative feedback by talking to your customers, observing customers struggles through usability tests and figuring out the jobs customers are hiring you for are key to building products.

So, my recommendations to you is

For smaller companies, you should always aim to be more data-driven. You probably don’t utilize the data you collect (or even collect them at all). The more data you have, the better hypotheses you will generate.

For larger companies, you should be able to make bold decisions that not move the key metrics but also improve customer experience. We should use data to help us make better decisions, but don’t reply on it a hundred percent!

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Launch A Successful Instagram Influencer Campaign

Influencer marketing is a hot buzzword these days, and for good reason.

It leverages the power of people in all niches and corners of the globe to help companies build brand awareness. Essentially, influencer marketing is today what public relations once was, and it’s a strategy utilized by small startups and major corporations alike.

Without question, it’s one of the best social marketing strategies you can employ for long-term growth and scalability.

Through Influencer Marketing

Through this marketing practice, businesses can bypass the declining effectiveness of paid ads and go straight to the source: the people that consumers know and trust.

One of the best things about influencer marketing is that it doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. Typically, influencers aren’t looking for a big check: some free products usually does the job (just as long as the product or service is relative to their own brand).

From there, these influencers will use their personal creativity and influence to help you tap into their audience.

Instagram

With 600 million active monthly users, Instagram is a treasure trove of opportunity, and as the platform grows, so does it capabilities. Other brands have done it, and you can too. Here’s how to launch a successful Instagram influencer campaign

Find Your Target Audience

Finding relevant influencers can be highly time-consuming, and this is where social tools like Grin come in. Grin’s Instagram search tool allows users to locate the most influential people across all major niches. You can check it out here.

Once you’ve signed up, use its proprietary filtering tools to sort through over 100,000 well-known Instagram users based on gender, location, age, industry, and more.

Tools to Use

A combination of machine learning and artificial intelligence allow the tool to gather comprehensive portfolios that show exactly what a user enjoys based on the content they post. From there, easily export your shortlisted candidates into your CRM and scale your recruitment efforts.

Look at Other Brands

It can also be helpful to take a look at other brands and the type of content they post. Review the social strategies of both direct competitors and outside brands who share similar audiences. Pay close attention to the people they tag on their social media.

This will give you a better idea of the unique ways you can deliver information, as well as how well-known brands are running their own influencer campaigns. Keep an eye out for what’s garnering the most engagement and why

Work With Your Influencer

To improve your chances of success, it’s best to consider the influencer before you make any moves. The type of content one influencer would like to produce differs from the next.

Go through their Instagram profile, blog, and other social media pages to get a feel for their aesthetic. Furthermore, don’t be afraid to ask for their input. This will make them feel even more valuable, creating a better partnership.

Goals and Expectations

Be very clear about your goals and expectations. You can use mood boards to help convey the type of content and message you’re looking for.

Mood boards are valuable tools for marketers and designers alike. Tools like MURAL and Niice are great for piecing together different types of content and collaborating on ideas

When it comes to sealing the deal, your content usage rights and payment should also be discussed upfront. Depending on your business, you may allow the influencer to retain full control of their content, or you might request the rights. Whatever the case, it’s important to avoid later surprises, and the best way to do this is by being honest from the beginning

Promote Your Content

Don’t expect the influencer to do all the work for you. An influencer campaign is a joint effort. You can embed your Instagram content on your website and other social channels, publish it on your personal accounts, and encourage sharing from friends and family

Facebook?

You can also go ahead and pay for Facebook ads based on your Instagram content. Facebook advertising is very effective for businesses, and just because you’re targeting Instagram doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of other platforms.

This also promotes your influencer, too, providing them with additional benefits and motivation for your influencer.

Track and Measure

Lastly, you should be able to track and measure your success. If you want to work with the same influencer in the future, you should be able to truly understand the value they brought to the table.

You can also see what types of content worked best, and what could benefit from some reworking

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You Only Get One First Impression: Make it Count

As an entrepreneur, you understand the power of first impressions. You know how to turn things on when you walk into a room full of potential networking opportunities. You understand what it looks like to dress for success when delivering a pitch to investors.

But do you know how to prepare your startup for its introduction to the online world?

Why You Need to Nail Your Internet Launch

There are dozens, if not hundreds, of different elements and actions that go into launching a startup. But in our current digital world, few things matter more than how you handle the internet-side of things to get your startup online.

How you deal with web design, social media, and marketing your website, to a large degree, will determine your success. If nothing else, it greatly influences the momentum your startup experiences when getting out of the gates.

Ultimately, it all comes down to your positioning.

Are you intimately familiar with your brand’s positioning? If so, are you doing everything you possibly can to make sure others resonate with your stance?

If you want to take a formal approach, you should start by developing a concrete positioning statement.

“At its core, positioning is a statement,” one entrepreneur explains. “It’s a sentence or two that clearly defines the problem you’re setting out to solve and why your solution is compelling. Your positioning statement should remain internal, but it’s critical to everything that follows: Aligning teams, hiring the right people, developing the best product, communicating the value of your work — the list goes on. It all starts with positioning.”

You could add “launching” to that list. You need to understand who you are and what your purpose is. Only then can you move forward with a strategic launch that resonates with a specific target market.

While it starts with understanding your positioning, it certainly doesn’t end here. The goal of a startup launch is to reach other people and reveal to them exactly what your position is and why they should connect with it.

A Three-Part Approach for Making a Positive First Impression

You only get one first impression with every customer your brand interacts with. The stakes couldn’t be higher. How are you going to make a positive first impression when 100 percent of the interactions happen online?

Here’s a three-part approach that many have found helpful:

  1. Show Your Website Some Love

Your website, which is essentially your home base, is arguably the single most visible element of the entire launch. It’s also one of the more challenging to get right.

It takes a person less than two-tenths of a second to form a first opinion of your brand once they land on your company’s website – this according to research out of the Missouri University of Science and Technology.

It then takes just another 2.6 seconds for the viewer to concentrate in a way that reinforces that first impression. So in less than three seconds, a potential customer has formed a first impression and then reinforced that idea in their own mind. At this point, it’s going to be pretty difficult to reverse that impression (positively or negatively).

A study worth a second look.

The study from Missouri S&T was conducted using eye-tracking software and infrared cameras to monitor the eye movement of participants as they browsed different pages. Participants were then asked to rate sites based on visual appeal and design factors after spending 20 seconds on roughly 25 different websites.

Aside from the fact that first impressions are formed quickly, the study also revealed some pretty interesting details about what sections of a website spark the most interest in visitors. The data revealed that visitors spent 6.48 seconds focused on logos. 6.44 seconds looking at the navigation menu. 6 seconds staring at the search box. 5.95 seconds reviewing social media icons. 5.94 seconds checking out the main graphic/photo on the homepage. 5.59 seconds soaking up written content, and 5.25 seconds reviewing the bottom of the page.

This study gives you a glimpse of what really matters when a visitor is first exposed to your site. Who would have thought that your logo and navigation menu get more focus than the written content? If you want to nail the first impression, then clearly you need to be focused on these elements (among others).

Behind the scenes.

You also have to focus on what’s going on behind the scenes and how it impacts user experience. Take web hosting as an example. The website host you choose to work with directly impacts the speed and uptime of your site.

Consider this:

Considering that page loading speed is one of the single most important factors in determining bounce rates, it’s pretty apparent that choosing the right web hosting provider isn’t a decision to be taken lightly. Also, look for one that is well suited for your type of website. For example, if you’ve built a site with WordPress, be sure to choose a good WordPress web host

Where to look — What to study.

There are entire websites and books dedicated to making a positive first impression with your website – and it’s recommended that you spend some time studying what they have to say – but the point is this: You need to spend more time preparing your website for its launch. It’s the only way to ensure you’re actually ready to make a positive first impression.

  1. Be Strategic With Social Profiles

Social media plays an integral role in your startup’s ability to make a positive first impression. While your website should garner a healthy amount of traffic, it’s your social profiles that will see the most exposure (directly and indirectly). Merely setting your logo as the profile picture and securing a branded username isn’t enough.

You have to treat your profile like it’s the only extension of your brand a customer will ever interact with.

Consistency is the word you’ll want to focus on – consistency in both visual appearance and messaging. It’s much easier to remain consistent in the future if you start with a solid foundation.

“If you look at the colors of any well-known brand, you’ll see that they use the same colors over and over again,” marketer Melanie Perkins says. “In their logo, in their text, even their images. Take a page from their book: Choose two to four colors to use consistently throughout all of your social media posts and marketing. Using the same colors over and over again will help consumers become familiar with your brand.”

Social Media consistent from platform to platform.

On a broader scale, make sure your social media profiles are consistent from platform to platform. People should be able to go from Facebook to Twitter to Instagram and know that they’re viewing your profile, even if your name and logo are covered up. This sort of consistency speaks to the fact that your brand clearly understands its identity.

  1. Have a PR Plan

Even if it’s nothing more than a grassroots strategy, you need some sort of PR plan in place. Today’s customers are skeptical of heavily branded marketing. They see anything that comes directly from the brand as being potentially biased. This isn’t to say they won’t listen to you, but it’s wise not to count on yourself. You need a PR plan that kicks in from the very start and helps you control your image in a way that’s viewed as being authentic and organic.

Social influencers.

Social influencers play a big role in this and you can help your launch get off the ground much faster by connecting with the right people in your market. It’s actually a really popular element in the PR plans of budding startups all over the country. Just ask Jolie Jankowitz, director of marketing for FabFitRun.

“Influencer marketing adds tremendous value for the brands in our box because it isn’t solely used as a means to acquire new customers,” Jankowitz explains. “When influencers do a mini ‘unboxing’ or share their favorite products from the box, they’re not just talking about FabFitFun, they’re talking about why they love these brands and tagging them in the post.”

So while most people see influencer marketing as just another way to sell, Jankowitz and her team understand that it’s all part of making a solid first impression that will eventually result in a conversion.

Connecting with influencers is just one aspect of a PR launch strategy, though. You should also be connecting with bloggers, attempting to get featured in major industry publications, and drumming up interest in any way possible. T

he moral of the story is to be prepared. Don’t wait until after launch and assume that everything will fall into place. Things can always change post-launch, but you must take a proactive approach.

Avoid the Temptation to Rush

One of the biggest mistakes startup founding teams make is rushing out of the gates. They feel like they have to hurry up or they’ll miss out on the opportunity to be successful. Rarely is this actually the case, though. In most situations, it’s far better to take a couple extra months and really nail the first impression than to hurry into the marketplace and miss your opportunity to wow your audience.

Conclusion

There’s a lot more that goes into making a positive first impression online, but the three issues highlighted in this article should provide you with a good starting point upon which you can build.

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Why are Instagram “Instapods” Important For Startups?

An Instapod is a themed group message of between 10-15 content creators on Instagram.

Your Instapod

As a content creator myself, I’ve been researching fellow creators and brands over the past 2 years on YouTube and Instagram. By far, Instagram “instapods” are the fastest growing underground trend on Instagram I’ve seen in the past 12-months.

Publishing

Content creators need to be publishing new content regularly to provide value to their audience and maintain steady grow similar to startups. For small content creators, the constant hunt for ideas and collaborations with other creators is a weekly struggle.

Over the past two years, I’ve been in twelve Instapods leading to rapid growth on all my channels.

That being said, currently, my software development focused Instagram @CodingBlog is active in two large Instapods focusing on technology and programming. These are the rules from the moderator (all names have been blurred to protect their identity)

My experience with Instapods so far has been extremely effective, especially with larger groups. Every time you publish a post you can share your content to the group to boost engagement and reposts.

Supercharge Your Engagement

In the event that you are just starting and you need to build a following these groups will supercharge your engagement and reposts from other creators. Many of the largest influencers on Instagram regularly use Instapods for aggregating like-minded creators. With a group of similar creators, the probability of reposting your content skyrockets.

Having worked with hundreds of startups over the last two years, there is tremendous hidden value behind starting an Instapod for your company, with your own creators.

Every time you post new content, being able to share instantly with a group of targeted influencers can speed up the process of shoutouts by an order of magnitude. 

Also leveraging companies like FameBit and Blanket Media to reach thousands of content creators on Instagram, you can effectively remove the first pain point of identifying key industry influencers.

If you’ve already hired influencers to promote your business, continue the relationship by leveraging an instapod and measure the increase in engagement you see within the first two months.

From my experiments, I’ve measured an increase of 5x and sometimes 7x engagement within the first 90 days.

Have fun creating your pods.

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Jeremy WebbWhy are Instagram “Instapods” Important For Startups?
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How Customer Reviews Can Make Or Break Your Business

No matter how great your data-driven, predictive marketing algorithms are, they can always be trumped by one old-school type of brand information: customer reviews. If they’re great, they’re the best asset your brand has to gain the trust of new customers and retain old ones; if they’re terrible, they’re the hardest setback to overcome.

The Data

The data is in: over 80% of shoppers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, and 90% read less than 10 reviews before they form their opinion about your brand. That’s a pretty tough crowd to please, and it’s pretty obvious why bad reviews are so detrimental. As long as the poor review is in your top 10, they’re driving away potential clients before you even get a chance to talk to them!

The only thing worse than bad reviews? No reviews. Where bad reviews tell leads what to be wary of, no reviews indicates that none of their peers have bothered with your brand at all.

Customer Reviews

Here’s how to make sure your customer reviews are in tip top shape, so you can see the leads start rolling in:

Provide Proactive Live Chat Support

There’s a reason you’ve seen those chat popups on other sites – in addition to helping drive up sales by avoiding abandoned carts, they’re also a great way to get customer reviews and feedback!

After each interaction, have your representative ask – in a human way, not as a robotic popup – if they could have a little feedback about the customer’s experience, including what was good and what could be better. You’ll be much more likely to get an honest, in-the-moment response!


Reach Out Directly

If you want something, ask nicely – this life principle applies to customer reviews as much as it does any other part of life. But make no mistake, an email blast is not going to really cut it in 2017 – you’re going to have to be personal and genuine to get the results you want.

Personalize

Personalize your outreach, and you’ll see a massive increase in responses. If you’re going with an email blast, make sure at least to have their name on it. Mention their last purchase (or something that’s in their shopping cart), and a few specific questions about their experience.

Acknowledge if they’ve had a bad experience recently. Accept responsibility and take care of their problem. Also, there are few mistakes that are worse than a brand sending out a satisfaction survey to a customer who has recently complained – especially if they haven’t heard back yet!

Engage on Social Media

You already know that social media is the best place to start conversations with users and learn what their interests are – but it’s also the best place to ask for reviews, and to have them be highly visible!

The best ways to ask for reviews are: 

  • Post statuses with leading prompts that ask customers for feedback

  • Comment on pictures of your products and ask the customer what they thought publicly

  • Run mini-sweepstakes through social that offer coupons for answered questions

  • Post a dedicated feedback form that is pinned in a visible location on your profile

Engaging users on social media is as close as many brands get to engaging in “real life,” from the customer’s point of view. If your profile acts human – jokes, asks questions, comments on relevant events and listens – then your customers will treat it as human.

Respond to Blog Comments

This may seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many brands fail to check their comments inbox for their blog and products on a regular basis. One of the best ways to control your brand is to respond directly to reviews and comments on content that your brand owns or is included in – and it will make your customers feel listened to.

Create blogs and articles that specifically request customer feedback on a regular basis, publish news about upcoming product releases and site changes, and remember – if they talk, make sure to listen!

When you’re looking for customer feedback, the most important step you can take is making it clear that a group of real, live people is paying attention.

Nobody wants to take the time to fill out a survey and then never hear anything back. Instead of paying for an agency to complete a focus group for you, just give your customers some real human attention!

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4 Social Marketing Strategies with the Highest ROI for Start-Ups

I’ve had the pleasure of working with multiple start-ups as both a co-founder and an outside consultant. If you had asked me while I was in the storm of my first start-up, the word, “pleasure” would probably not have been the first word that came to mind.

But, on balance, I learned something new every day (usually because of some hard knocks). I highly recommend jumping into the startup world if you can properly backstop your financials with an emergency fund.

For startups on a budget, social media is a valuable space to advertise on because it offers such a powerful platform for engaging with customers. It allows you to use your most powerful value proposition – the personal touch based on your unique experience and personality.

1. Take Advantage of Facebook’s Ability to Target Advertising.

There are a few things you should never skimp on, but advertising is one area that can get expensive if you let it get out of control. I love social media ads because they save you money over other marketing strategies – advanced audience targeting allows you to put compelling content in front of the right person with minimal expense.

Facebook advertising is an art form in and of itself. I recommend checking out this guide which outlines the different steps to kick-start your Facebook advertising.

Here are a couple takeaways in case you don’t have time to read it right now:

  • You can use Facebook Pixel to customize the experience for your audience based on their past interactions with your site. This is an AMAZING tool for rescuing abandoned checkout carts.
  • There are more than eight types of ads Facebook allows you to utilize. Different ones make sense for different use cases. For example, domain ads are great for gaining click-throughs to your site. Carousel ads are better for quickly showcasing products and scoring an impulse buy.
  • Getting “frequency” right is almost as important as the content of your ad. Pay close attention to avoid overwhelming your audience – something that will turn off potential buyers.

2. Respond Quickly to Direct Messages and PM’s.

I know that I’ve primarily talked about Facebook up to this point. That’s because Facebook seems to be pioneering the way social media is utilized and it’s gaining momentum – the other platforms are largely playing catch-up.

The following strategy is applicable to every social media platform. When someone sends your social media page a direct message, private message or leaves a review, you should drop everything and respond.

Why? There are many statistics supporting this advice, like the fact that 78% of salespeople using Social Media Outsell Their Peers. But I’ll pivot to some personal experience here.

I have built some of the strongest (and most profitable) client relationships I have by taking the time to chat with the customer via Facebook messenger, Skype, Twitter Direct Messages and Google Hangout. I believe this is because potential clients get to instantly interact with someone who is ready and willing to solve their problems.

And a text message is so simple. There’s no commitment beyond the last message sent. There’s zero sense of dread that a salesperson will try to guilt the client into the sale over the phone or in-person. This form of communication also fits within a busy schedule. 

3. Twitter Has Become the Most Popular Social Platform for Business.

I mentioned before that Facebook has become the trailblazer for social media advertising. There’s one exception that proves the rule. When it comes to viral content, it’s difficult to beat Twitter. The 140-character limit forces marketers to be brief, present and hyper-engaging.

This is a takeaway that could be valuable for companies using every type of social media platform.

The most powerful features on Twitter that helped me engage with my audience were:

  • The ability to retweet powerful information from other thought-leaders. This reduced the pressure on me to create a ton of original content.
  • Having public conversations with other individuals and brands. If the conversation results in powerful takeaways retweets almost always follow.

4. Create an Engaging Ad That Asks a Question.

Engagement is a buzzword that’s thrown around with regularity during my conference calls with teams attempting to maximize marketing dollars. This is understandable. If someone reads an ad and leaves without engaging, that’s not a very good ROI. Granted, you have created an impression, but impressions are almost never tied to dollars hitting the balance sheet.

To maximize engagement, I have learned to dive deep into the information I know about my potential customers. Then, I find a way to ask them a question that both sparks a thought and positions our product or service as an easy solution.

If you want an excellent chance of scoring a conversion, combine a thought-provoking question with a video. You’ll find that video advertising significantly maximizes engagement and viewer comprehension.

If you combine this strategy with the ability to target the audience for your ad, you will find social media becoming a powerful tool for your marketing efforts. You’ll be able to present new information to the right person, at the right time, with a variety of presentations.

Have you had some successes or failures with social media advertising? I look forward to discussing the benefits and pain points in the comment section below.

Photo credit: Pixabay

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Jeremy Webb4 Social Marketing Strategies with the Highest ROI for Start-Ups
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4 Social Media Secrets all Startups Need to Know

For most startups, social media marketing is an absolute. Most companies have already gotten onboard with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn. However, few have been truly successful at manipulating social media in a way that accomplishes their business goals.

There are more than 2 billion social media users in the world today. That number is expected to double soon. With so many brands getting into the social media world and constantly competing for the user’s valuable attention, simply having a presence doesn’t cut it.

Image source: #entrepreneurfail

As a startup, you must fight a fierce uphill battle with the more established brands to gain exposure.

Putting together an effective strategy that brings your startup into the growth stage is no easy task. If your goal is to become a force to be reckoned with on social media, keep these few secrets in mind to help leverage your brand’s messaging and leave a lasting impression on users.

Success is Unpredictable

First off, this is a concept that all startups need to be well aware of, straight out of the gate.

It’s commonly said that “nothing is guaranteed.” This statement could not be truer when dealing with a social media campaign, regardless of how great it looks on paper.

Every business is unique and has a different target audience and a different competitive landscape. It is virtually impossible to create a campaign that appeals to everyone. Also, social media is an entity that is rapidly evolving and changing every single day. An approach that worked once might be obsolete in a matter of hours.

For those reasons, predictability is perhaps the biggest unknown in the world of social media.

Design Consistency = Branding

Social media is saturated with brand messaging and sales tactics throughout the pages. With that being said, it is crucial that your page is designed with the proper elements that reflect your brand. After all, this is what will be showcased to the world.

This is all the more important in e-commerce, where you need to give your customers a consistent brand experience. For example, see how startup online eyeglasses retailer Firmoo has a consistent UX across Facebook (top) and Twitter (bottom):

Both do a phenomenal job in conveying everything from their brand’s color scheme, all the way to their diverse market.

If your profile is created with impactful elements that show off your business’ unique value proposition, users will be drawn to your page.

Additionally, design can impact SEO as your profile strength plays a vital role in the overall search visibility. A well-crafted page is SEO-friendly in the sense that the search engines are able to crawl and index it with ease to determine a ranking.

Just be sure that your page is comprised with every aspect of your company’s branding and demonstrates the benefits you bring to the table.

Social Media is NOT Free

As much as Facebook assures you, social media marketing is certainly not free. On one hand, it will not cost you anything to claim your business profiles or update them on a regular basis. However, a successful campaign requires lots and lots of hours and as we all know, time is money.

On the other hand, if you do not have the time or expertise to keep up on a social media account, it could cost you a pretty penny to bring in an expert to make sure your accounts are properly managed.

Chances are, as a startup, you will be managing social media on your own. It will take hours to build up your profile, examine analytics, and find ways to alter and optimize. Further, staying on top of updates that social networks routinely make to their platforms, and changing your strategy accordingly is very time-consuming.

When you look at the clock, the cost will become clear.

Mistakes are Inevitable

With an absurd amount of posts being released every single day, there’s bound to be some regrets. This is simply a reality all startups must know before diving in. You cannot please everyone. You will make mistakes. Some will be worse than others. No matter how smart and social media-savvy you are. No brand is immune to slip-ups.

Take Total Beauty for example. They are perhaps one of the most reputable, expert brands in the nearly $200 billion fashion industry.

But, there was one instance where they released a tweet confusing Oprah Winfrey with Whoopi Goldberg.

Oops.

On the flip side of the coin, every mistake you make will be an opportunity to get up, dust yourself off, and learn from it.

There will be some mistakes that aren’t completely obvious. Therefore, be sure you keep up on your social media analytics to find what is working and what isn’t.

Over to You

Like most marketing tactics, social media is a brand project in which the results won’t likely be apparent for some time.

Chances are, you won’t gain thousands of followers overnight.

Think of social media as a relationship. It can take a while to establish trust and demonstrate value. As a startup with your marketing hat on, your main objective is to locate the people who would be a good fit for your product or service, and then make a lasting impact on them.

There is no reason to rush it. The last thing you want to do on social media is come across as desperate.

Keep in mind, you are dealing with human beings. Building relationships requires a great deal of commitment, time, and consistency. Keep at it and the results will come.

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