Social Media: A Survival Guide

Social media has become the prevailing mantra in business circles as a ‘must have’ part of any marketing strategy.  This mantra is leaving business owners to wonder: Do I really need to be on every social media platform out there?  New social media platforms are emerging almost daily.  It’s becoming a full time job just to keep up and manage your company’s internet presence.  In this second article of a four part series we are taking a closer look at social media to help you understand how to take advantage of the opportunities in the changing world of internet, inbound marketing and social media.

So Many Choices

The literal explosion of social media has left its fair share of casualties in its wake.  If you are trying to figure out the best options for your business you may be feeling like one of them.  The good news is that you can be selective and limit your participation based on your specific needs and marketing strategy.  A great resource and starting point for looking at all the social media platforms is at KnowEm.com.  This site allows you to check for the use of your brand, product or personal name on over 500 popular and emerging social media websites.  And for a fee they will reserve your username across all platforms. Yikes! Do I need to be on over 500 sites?

Narrow It Down

We recommend a simple process of selecting only the platforms that offer the best potential for reaching your ideal audience. We agree with Scott Levy in this article at Entrepreneur.com that:

“Most people and companies can’t be amazing on every platform; that takes a huge amount of bandwidth and resources. Instead of having a sub-par representation in a lot of places, be awesome on a few of them.”

Each social media platform attracts users from specific demographic, economic, business or industry and interest segments.  You will want to have a clear definition of your target audience and the media tools you plan to use before choosing the best platforms for your strategy.

Where Are Your Customers?

Or what social media platform do they use the most?  This infographic is a snapshot of the top social media platforms:Social media infographic.png

The credit goes to Leveragenewagemedia.com for providing this handy infographic.  We’ve place arrows at a couple of important points you should note about the users for each platform.

The Bottom Line

As you can see in the infographic each social media platform has a unique profile. So if your target audience is a business professional over the age of 35 you can focus on LinkedIn as the platform that you master.  Let’s summarize:

  • Facebook: a powerful tool for building relationships with your customers and projecting a ‘human’ side of your business.

  • LinkedIN: the consummate business networking site; great for connecting with potential clients and business partners; great place to establish yourself as a subject matter expert.

  • Twitter: a great platform for breaking news items and in-the-moment interaction with followers; we recommend using this tool as a customer service format.

  • Pinterest/Instagram/YouTube: all are powerful platforms if your business translates well visually; before and after photos, video instruction or education, products, etc.

Your Next Step: Content

Once you’ve decided on the best social media platforms for your business it’s time to plan and create content to post and monitor.  In the next article in this series we’ll explore the details of content creation and marketing, monitoring effectiveness and more.  Stay tuned!

 

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Inbound vs Outbound Marketing: Understanding the Basics

MarketingThe internet is driving changes to the business world at a fast and furious pace. What was true yesterday may not necessarily be true today when it comes leveraging your web presence.  One thing we do know is that traditional outbound marketing tactics are being replaced by an ever-evolving inbound marketing methodology.  This shift started several years ago and is now dominating the discussion among marketing and business professionals around the world. In this first article of a four part series, we are taking a closer look at this shift to help you understand how to take advantage of the opportunities in the new world of internet, inbound marketing and social media.

Outbound Marketing Defined

On a basic level outbound marketing utilizes traditional methods of promoting, selling and pushing products and services on to potential customers.  You are the unwilling recipient of tactics such as TV commercials, email blasts, phone calls and piles of direct mail in your mailbox.  You have little choice but to receive it and determine what to do with it. However, there is a fundamental decline in the efficacy of these tactics due to our ability to filter them out.  People resort to channel surfing, spam filters, do-not-call lists and the trash basket to eliminate what are increasingly perceived to be nuisance marketing.

Inbound Marketing is the New Standard

The basic tenet of inbound marketing is to create the opportunity to be found by potential customers in their searches on the internet.  This methodology is the direct opposite of the outbound push and promote tactics we mentioned above.  The two core tools of this method are content marketing and social media participation.  The idea is to create content that educates, entertains and attracts your target customer.  The most common formats are blogs, white papers, ebooks, infographics, slideshares, podcasts and videocasts. Combining these formats with active social media participation gets people talking about your business and sharing what they find in a viral or word-of-mouth manner.

What Works For Your Business

Ultimately the best strategy for marketing your business is one that thoughtfully blends both inbound and outbound marketing tactics.  You should not abandon an outbound marketing tactic that continues to serve you well in bringing leads to your business just because it’s outside of the current trend. However, you must now incorporate inbound and content marketing into your ongoing strategy to stay relevant to an evolving socially savvy customer base.

We recommend starting with a simple plan that includes a blog and the appropriate social media platforms based on your target market. And we would be remiss if we didn’t mention that at Evolve Systems we offer a variety of marketing support plans that include online marketing, blog writing, social media and website management.

In our next article we’ll tackle how to decide which social media platforms are best for your business.

 

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Level 3 Processing: What Every Merchant Needs to Know

Use a Level 3 Merchant Account to Grow New CustomersIf you are like most business owners you already understand the basics of credit card processing and merchant services.  Your business already accepts most major credit and debit cards and for the most part the system is functioning well.  But did you know that Level 3 capabilities would allow you to expand your target market?  If bigger business-to-business or business-to-government sales are part of your growth strategy then you need to know a few key details about Level 3 processing.  Let’s get started.

Level 3 Processing Basics

Very simply stated the primary difference between levels of processing (Level 1, 2 & 3) is the type of additional data that must be captured with each transaction.  Therefore your payment processing system must be set up to capture and transmit the additional data to meet Level 3 requirements.  Some examples of the data that your system must capture would be Customer Code, Merchant Postal Code, Tax Identification, Item Quantity, Duty Amount, Destination Postal Code and Alternate Tax Amount. We created this reference guide that compares the amount of data required for each level of transaction.  This additional information not only provides greater detail to the buyer for tracking and management purposes but also provides significant cost savings because Level 3 rates are lower than Levels 1 & 2.

From Basics to Benefits

The benefits of Level 3 processing are many for you and your business. We’ve listed just a few benefits for you to consider.

  1. Cost savings is the primary benefit because both the buyer and the merchant enjoy a lower processing rates.  And a Level 3 merchant account will improve your profitability and reduce payment time from 1-2 months to 1-2 days. Check out our article on reduced fees for more details.
  2. Offering Level 3 processing is also a great selling tool for your business giving you a competitive advantage.  A large corporation or government entity looks to suppliers that are set up to support this type of transaction and often make it a requirement before agreeing to do business with a supplier.
  3. The expanded features associated with this technology include the ability to do a variety of time saving tasks. Features such as accepting payment by electronic check; automated online invoicing; shopping cart integration; and integration with a merchant’s accounting system make this a technology worth exploring.

Go Big as a Growth Strategy

Expanding your target market to include large corporations and government entities is a solid business strategy that could really jump start your company’s growth.  But be sure to take time to plan and to put the necessary resources in place first.   Becoming a Level 3 processing merchant is one way to support your ‘go big’ strategy for the long term.  You take care of the strategy and we’ll take care of the details.  Give us a call and we’ll be happy to answer any of your Level 3 processing questions.

 

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SEO is Dead? OK, Now What?

Those of us in the web design and digital marketing industry have recently been inundated with information and articles touting the death of SEO.  As Google makes changes to its platform and functionality the entire industry responds and tries to make sense of the ‘new normal’.  If you are not in this industry or an internet geek this all may seem like gibberish to you.  You’re probably wondering why you should care.  Well, we’ve taken a stab at sorting out the recent developments to help you understand how they will impact your business and your website.

Don’t miss the great infographic at the end of this post

A Little SEO Background

Very simply put SEO (search engine optimization) refers to putting the right words or keywords in place at the best frequencies and densities to ensure that the search engines find your website.  And for the record, SEO is not actually dead it’s just changing.  As with everything about the internet change happens constantly at a fast and furious pace.  Website traffic is now generated from Google search as well as a broadened range of sources including social media, blogs, video, forums, etc.

Content, Content, Content

In real estate we often hear that it’s all about location, location, location.  In this evolving internet landscape it’s now all about content, content, content.  The single most important thing you need to know is that the content that appears on your website, blog and social media platforms plays an integral part in driving traffic to your website.  Yes, all of it.  Images too.  One of the best articles we found so far on this topic is at Copyblogger.com that discusses Optimizing Content for Discovery and Conversion.  They do a thorough job of introducing you to the concept of content marketing.

Two Areas of Focus for Optimization

This new approach of content marketing focuses in two distinct areas: external or off-page and onsite, sometimes referred to as, on-page.  The external focus looks at numerous traffic sources such as search engines, social media sites, as well as aggregation and syndication sites like Slideshare.net and various news sites. The onsite focus looks at your website for functional efficiencies like load times, usefulness of content, responsive design and navigation.  The two, then work together to drive and convert website traffic.

Content Marketing Strategy

The Copyblogger article lists six tactics you can implement to improve content optimization.  And the content that appears on your website, blog and social media platforms should be consistent with your overall online marketing strategy. Does this all still sound a bit overwhelming to you? Does the idea of creating yet another strategy leave you shaking in your shoes? It’s really not that bad. It simply means a change for you and your business, but a change you simply cannot afford to ignore. And you do have a choice: go it alone or give us a call.
SEO is Dead - Infographic
Like this infographic? Get more content marketing tips from Copyblogger.

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Your Website Is Shouting: Is That Good News or Bad News?

Updating your website

There’s a good chance your website is shouting from the mountain tops. And that can be a good thing.  But if it’s shouting all the wrong things about your business then that would be a bad thing.  So how do you know the difference?  Let’s take a closer look at some examples of websites behaving badly.

One Page…or Less

It may seem rare that a business would not have a presence on the internet these days but it’s more common than you might think.  If you’re one of those entrepreneurs who doesn’t think they need to do much with a website you are not alone.  Take a look at these disturbing survey results posted in this 2013 article from Yodle:

“Many small business owners are still not adopting modern technology and marketing approaches.  Although just over one in two SMB owners (51%) use technology to help with accounting operations, this dwarfs technology utilization for appointment booking and scheduling (39%), customer relationship management (34%), point-of-sale systems (25%), and acquisition marketing (14%).  Additionally, more than half of SMB owners do not have a website (52%) or even measure the results of their marketing programs (56%).”

Fact: most people go to the internet first to learn more about a business before they ever set foot at your doorstep.  And mobile devices make that search quicker and easier than ever.  Right or wrong your potential customers are most likely judging your business by what they find or don’t find online.   A solid online presence shouts legitimacy, professionalism and ‘welcome’ to anyone who sees it.  Little or no online presence shouts “I can’t be bothered” or “I’m not considering your business needs, ideal customer”.  Ouch.

Dusty and Musty

Seven years ago when your 14 year old nephew built your website the information was current.  Great.  If no one has refreshed that information, now that your nephew is away at college, then your site is probably looking old and dusty. Even if your site was designed professionally and is 2-3 years old.  A lot has changed on the internet in all those years.  To be brutally candid a lot changes on the internet every day.  If your website has gone untouched for more than six months you run the risk of looking outdated. A website that shows current news, events or blog articles shouts that your business is alive and well.  A website and your internet presence requires search engine optimization, social media and content to attract a continuing stream of new prospects and customer service options to your current customers. A website with outdated information shouts ‘buyer beware’.  Ouch.

Why All the Shouting?

We’ve used the term shouting in this article to emphasize the fact that your website and online presence have a significant impact on your business.  To quote the writer Ralph Waldo Emerson  “Your actions speak so loudly, I cannot hear what you are saying.”   The actions you take or don’t take online do the same thing for your business.  Like it or not your website is shouting on your behalf.  Make the effort to direct and manage your message, your image and your online presence.  Your business depends on it.

Do you know the 2014 trends to leverage for your web presence?

What frustrates you most about outdated websites?  Leave a comment below to get the conversation started.

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