Social Media: New Rules of Engagement

social media engagementWhen we talk about social media do you immediately think of your kids’ Facebook or Twitter proclaiming what they had for lunch and decide social is a frivolous and dangerous time-waster?  Are you one of those who put together a social media plan that cranks out posts and updates in a well scheduled highly mechanized manner?  If you answered yes to either one of those questions you must read the rest of this post.  Right now.  Please.

A conventional approach to social media

Social media has been part of the business landscape long enough that we are beginning to become entrenched in a method of management that is only partly effective.  As businesses adapt to managing an online presence they are becoming too mechanized in their approach.  A conventional approach favors a campaign that requires you to spend weeks or months planning to hit targets by developing messaging strategies and content with strict adherence to your marketing calendar.  Stuffy, formal and only taking advantage of half of the opportunity social offers.

A real-time approach to social media

Social media was designed around the idea of real-time communication.  A real-time approach  recognizes and leverages the importance of speed.  Let’s look at customer service for an example of leveraging speed.  Mike O’Brien at ClickZ Marketing News explains:

If a consumer contacts a business with a question or complaint, they typically expect a response within the hour. However, a Social Media Marketing University (SMMU) survey conducted in February shows that only 17 percent of businesses respond to customer complaints via social media within that hour time period and a surprising 21 percent of businesses never respond at all, which often leads to customers feeling negatively toward brands and sharing their bad experiences with their social networks.

The fact is the balance of power has shifted to the connected consumer. Real time response to customer inquiries will be the standard by which all companies will be judged in the very near future.

Stay calm and respond

First thing you absolutely must do is abandon the idea that social media is a frivolous and dangerous time-waster.  Real adults, real customers, in fact your customers are using social media to share their experiences.  Second, do not abandon the more conventional marketing content plan and calendar you took time to develop.  As we stated earlier it is fully half of the opportunity that social media offers and must work in concert with your real time engagement efforts.

In our next article we’ll be taking a closer look at using social media as a customer service tool.

By the way, does your business use a real-time approach to social media?  We’d love to hear about it so please leave a comment.

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Posted in Content Marketing, Inbound Marketing, Social Media | Tagged | Leave a comment

Your Mobile Ready Website: To eCommerce And Beyond

eCommerceIn the last few articles we’ve been exploring the topic of mobile ready websites.  We started out by explaining the need for a Mini Me website then went on to discuss your mobile site from your customer’s perspective.  In this discussion we’ll tackle the topics of eCommerce and overall usability of your mobile ready website.  The goal here is to present helpful, valuable points on a technical topic in a simplified, easy to understand way.  Leave your comments at the bottom and let us know if we’ve hit the mark.

Timing with eCommerce really does matter

When it comes to eCommerce the timing and order of steps in your process does matter.  And that timing is even more important for the mobile user.  For example requiring registration too early in the process has the potential to turn users away.  Some best practices regarding eCommerce:

  • Make browsing easy and registration optional
  • Allow purchases as a guest but promote registration
  • Enable autofill of data for registered users
  • Provide a click-to-call button for complex or detailed orders and requests
  • Add a save to cart feature for users who might need to return later

Optimizing for mobile really does matter

We’ve talked a lot about your landing page but ultimately every page on your website should be optimized for the mobile user.  Some best practices regarding optimizing for the mobile user:

  • Make every page mobile ready to eliminate zooming and users missing a call to action
  • Use high quality images (for products) that can be easily enlarged for better viewing
  • Keep as much functionality as possible in a single window to avoid switching windows
  • Explain your user’s location requests as fully as possible
  • Make sure your page content loads in logical order (specifically for mobile)

Check out the GoMo Meter

We found this really cool analyzer that will evaluate your website and rate it on performance and readiness for multiple screen sizes.  The tool can be found on this Google page about halfway down the page on the right.  The analyzer will rate your mobile and desktop page speed, provide a user experience rating and make a list of suggested fixes to improve performance.  This page also offers some in depth whitepapers on mobility and websites for mobile users.

The bottom line

Some businesses and industries have a more urgent need to be mobile ready and user friendly.  But ultimately every business will have to deal with the multiple screen issue. Users will continue to demand easy access and fluid navigation from a variety of devices. And with the rapid advance of devices like wearable technology the challenge will be to keep pace and capture every possible user and make them a customer.

Did we do it? Did we hit the mark on this topic?  Please let us know in the comments below.

 

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Posted in E-commerce, Mobile, Websites | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Does Your Mobile Ready Website Meet Your Customers’ Needs?

 

Mobile ready website

In our blog last week we emphasized the importance of having a website that is mobile ready.  Nearly every business must have a Mini Me version that is easy to navigate.  We shared some facts from the experts and their insights on the growing demand.  This week we will look at your Mini Me mobile ready website from your customer’s point of view.

Searching from a handheld equals ready to act

According to a study and whitepaper done by our friends at Google they discovered a common theme:

All mobile users are goal oriented; they expect to get what they want from a mobile ready site easily, immediately and on their own terms.

Now that’s rather demanding. Or is it?  Think for a moment about your own personal experience with your handheld or mobile device during a recent search.  If you were searching for a gas station, a coffee shop or even booking a reservation you were ready to buy and just wanted to get it done.  This point truly emphasizes the need to be mobile ready.  Your customers are ready to buy and you need to be ready when they find you.

What they see first really does matter

Your website landing page should serve a number of purposes like a welcome, marketing and promotional page.  Mobile ready websites need to perform differently.  Here are a couple of points to get you started:

  • Keep a call to action obvious and located in a prominent space
  • Keep the menus short – long words can require zooming out or swiping side to side
  • Make navigation easy- best practice: use your logo as a navigation button
  • Turn on the autocomplete feature to reduce the amount of typing required

What they experience next really does matter

Again, your mobile ready website needs to perform differently for the mobile user.  Site search functionality must be streamlined and very efficient.  Here are a few functionality points to consider:

  • Site search box or tool- make it easy to locate preferably at the top of your website
  • Site search effectiveness-make sure a search returns relevant results and avoids zero results
  • Site search filters – provide simple filter options to make search more efficient

To eCommerce…and beyond

The simple suggestions we’ve made here are the basis for making your website mobile ready.  In our next article will discuss eCommerce transactions, forms and overall usability. As with all our posts we focus on making technology easy to understand and to implement for your business needs.  By the way, are we on track with this topic? Let us know in the comments.

 

 

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Posted in (2) Design for Websites, Mobile, Websites | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Mobile Ready Website: Why You Need a ‘Mini Me’

Photo credit: Google Images

Photo credit: Google Images

If you are a fan of the Austin Powers comedy film series you know how much entertainment value the character “Mini Me” added to that story line. For those unfamiliar with this character he was literally an identical mini version of the villain Dr. Evil.  Mini Me added critical supporting role value to the story providing tons of comedic depth.  What does this have to do with your website?  Quite a bit actually and we’ll attempt to make the connection clearer for you in the next few paragraphs.

Why should I care about ‘Mini Me’?

Your website must be mobile ready in order to play that critical supporting role for your business. Your Mini Me website must be easy to find, to access and navigate without pinching, shrinking or zooming.  If your website is aging and has not been upgraded to be adaptive or responsive to mobile your business will be impacted.  Let’s cut right to the chase and hammer you with a few facts from the experts:

New data released by Adyen shows strong growth in mobile commerce. Web-based mobile transactions in North America increased 48 percent in the past year and represent 16.9 percent of all transactions, according to Adyen.

Smartphones have been steadily increasing in size, making it easier for consumers to shop and pay for goods online. This explains some of the shift in payments from tablets to handsets. The rapid growth also reflects retailers’ efforts to optimize their online businesses for use with mobile devices. In the future, it will be important for merchants to spot emerging trends in consumer payment preferences for particular types of devices in order to maximize e-commerce performance. Mobile-initiated e-commerce transactions will likely continue to be one of the best performing segments of mobile payments. Source: PaymentsJournal.com

“Nearly every business needs to adapt to reach consumers effectively on any screen. There are two basic strategies for building websites that display well on all devices: responsive and adaptive,” says Janine Warner, a globally recognized digital design and Internet trends consultant.

Should Mini Me be adaptive or responsive?

In the simplest terms an adaptive website has the technology to identify the user’s device and generate a page designed for that device.  Large organizations like American Airlines utilize this type of technology.  Generally speaking it is pretty sophisticated and often cost prohibitive for small to mid-sized business.

A responsive website uses CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) technology to create one version of your site in multiple sizes or formats that will then auto-adjust to display properly on most devices.  Older cell phones are the only exception.  This technology is far more cost effective for the average business and it delivers a great mobile user experience.

Options, workarounds and the bottom line

You do have a few options to address the Mini Me dilemna:

  • simplify your current website navigation (a duct tape approach)
  • create a second URL and site just for mobile (complicated and messy)
  • upgrade your website platform to a mobile responsive technology (prepared for the future)
  • put this off and hope for the best (please don’t)

Creating a Mini Me mobile ready website really is the best option to position your business for the future.

What option have you chosen for your mobile ready website?  Share your missteps and victories in the comments below.

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Changes To Google: How Your Business Can Benefit

Google+

Google+

Google+ Local and Google Places and Google My Business, oh my!  The changes that Google is making to their business related offerings has generated a fair amount of confusion.  Most business owners are already struggling to keep up with social media management so if you are feeling a bit frustrated with Google you are not alone.   We will do our best to clarify a few important points about what has changed and where you should be focusing your efforts from this point forward.

What exactly is Google trying to do?

In their defense, Google is trying to create a central, easy to manage point of access for you as a business owner.  We found this summary on the Google and Your Business Help Forum:

With Google My Business you can:

  • Maintain up-to-date business information on Google
  • Build loyal customers using a Google+ page.
  • Track engagement with insights for Google+ pages and posts
  • See information on your related Google Analytics account and YouTube channels
  • Seamlessly create and track performance of AdWords Express campaigns

Businesses with a physical location can also:

  • Help get your business found on Google. Google can use the business information you provide in local search results.
  • Read and respond to reviews from your customers
  • Get insights on how customers searched for your business, and where they’re coming from

A key advantage to this new service is that Google My Business puts your business info in important places like Search, Maps and Google+ so that customers can find you, no matter what device they’re using.  Last fall we talked about the importance of Google Local for restaurants in this blog article.  However, the new Google My Business is a valuable tool for any storefront, virtual or service based business.

What exactly are we supposed to do?

If you are already using Google+ or Google Places for Business your account has automatically been upgraded to the new dashboard. If you are new to this platform you can sign up for a free account at Google.com/mybusiness.  We recommend that you take time to verify the location and contact information for your business if you have an existing account. An important best practice is to use the same images and branding that appear on your website providing continuity so your customers will recognize you easily. Another key advantage of this tool is the ability for customers to recommend your business using the +1 Button.  Google provides the code for adding the +1 button to your website allowing your users to easily recommend you to their circles and drive traffic back to your site. We see a growing number of our clients using this powerful tool and we include it as part of any new client’s social media strategy.  What about you?  Are you using Google My Business?  Do you have any tips or suggestions about this new platform?  Be sure to share your ideas in the comments below.

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