2712, 2014

Don’t Make These Marketing Mistakes

Customer Loyalty, email marketing, Facebook, Marketing Advice, Other, Sales and Marketing, Small Business Advice, Small Business Selling Tips, Social Media Tips, Tips and Tricks for Bike Shops|Comments Off on Don’t Make These Marketing Mistakes

There are a few glaring marketing faux pas that crop up everywhere, from newsletters to email campaigns, over and over again. But what could seem like a small social media offense to you could actually be costing your business thousands of dollars — a price most early-stage startups can't afford to pay.

To find out which marketing mistakes are truly embarrassing, I asked a panel of entrepreneurs from Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) for major marketing don'ts. Their answers are below:

1. Using a hashtag for everything

There's been a lot of hashtag blacklash (hash-lash?) that I've seen on the marketing end of either established brands or emerging startups. Try to make sure your hashtags aren't already being used, and try not to overcrowd your messages with hashes — it'll seem like you're a teenage girl tweeting out to the world. You wanna appear professional, yet engaging. So be strategic with your social media choices. - Rob Fulton, Exponential Black

2. Not engaging with your customers on social media

It drives me nuts when brands post so many things about themselves yet don't respond in the comments when people ask for more information. If you have time to write the post, talk to your people. As clichéd as it is, social media is all about connections. Your page should be entertaining, educational and a resource of inspiration with your own unique brand voice. The benefit of doing this right is creating the perceived value of your company. Having a high perceived value is a great recruiting tool.   - Kenny Nguyen, Big Fish Presentations

3. Buying followers to boost credibility

It's a sad paradox really. You create a Twitter profile for your startup, but have no following to start with. Not good for social proof right? So, you do what you've heard some brands are doing: You go out shopping and buy 1,000 to 10,000 Twitter followers for a few bucks. Problem solved! How's that for instant credibility! But wait, is there a catch? Of course there is. The followers you just bought are not real. If they are, chances are they are not in your target audience. But you know the worst part? What do you think happens to your credibility when people find out you've cheated your way to "social media stardom?" Or Twitter suddenly filters out the fake followers? Take this lesson to heart: Build real relationships from the start. You'll be glad you did. - Juha Liikala, Stripped Bare Media

4. B2C incongruence

I saw one local restaurant come and go because it catered to a younger demographic with graffiti-style art and over-the-top innuendos on its menu. Although the food was top notch, that avant-garde environment was inconsistent with the demographics of the area. - Daniel Wesley, DebtConsolidation.com

5. Waiting to "go viral"

Web traffic, video views and RTs do not all come organically. First, marketers need to create compelling content. Second, they need to promote it to a highly targeted audience that may begin snowballing by word-of-mouth. Startups do not always realize that engagement is earned, and that there's a lot of marketing that goes into even the most innocent of viral videos. If you want anything to start getting traction, make sure you do your part in making people aware that your content even exists. - Firas Kittaneh, Amerisleep

6. Looking to a PR firm for a quick media fix

PR firms are way too expensive for most startups and you do not get enough bang for your buck. Back in the day when media was centralized, I could understand how a PR firm could be useful. But now? Don't think you should go with a PR firm because "they can get you in Tech Crunch." Focus and build relationships on your vertical. Provide value to the community when you can. An industry-specific blog with 2,000 daily readers can be more valuable than a widely read broad website. Focus on these things and be your own cheerleader (even create a pseudonym if you'd like). - Adam Stillman, SparkReel

7. Worrying too much about imitators

Being the new kid on the block is never easy, but as you start to do things right, the bigger guys will inevitably start to “borrow” from your playbook. And while imitation is the biggest form of flattery, it can be challenging to stand by and watch your brand value become confused in the market. Trust that your audience will support you and your brand and focus on continuing to be one step ahead. - Jess Levin, Carats & Cake

8. Using Facebook ads

I have spent a lot of money on Facebook ads for hundreds of companies. Seventy percent of the companies out there will not benefit at all from Facebook ads while 10% will thrive on them. You do have to find out which one you are. Twenty percent of companies basically break even. I recommend setting aside a $500-$1000 budget for Facebook ads. Test several ads and targeting audiences for a couple different landing pages. Spend the money evenly throughout the week. You will find out if it works within seven days. Run it every day of the week. You may find it works on certain days and not on others. Test to see if it works but don't bet the farm on Facebook Ads, as it doesn't work for most of the startups I've worked with. - John Rampton, Host

9. Advertising without testing

Most marketing requires a component of paid marketing in the form of ads, but it is vital that you focus on getting a positive ROI from those ads. We made the mistake of running an online ad campaign right after launch without ever analyzing and testing our early user flows. We found that our campaign was an utter failure because nobody converted. We then focused heavily on improving conversions, retention and monetization, which led to our next campaign being a resounding success. Don't waste money on ads without making sure they will work first. - James Simpson, GoldFire Studios
Thanks Mashable!
1809, 2014

Bike Shop Guide to #Hashtags

Blogging, Instagram, Marketing Advice, Pinterest News, SEO, Small Business Advice, Social Media Tips, Tips and Tricks for Bike Shops, Twitter News|Comments Off on Bike Shop Guide to #Hashtags

Park Tool #ToolFeverI was at a cycling industry trade show (Interbike) this week and realized there is a missed opportunity for both Manufacturers and Bicycle shops in using hashtags in their marketing. Being the analyzer I am, I found myself looking for those who had used social media to help their brand and I was disappointed.  There were very few who encouraged customers and prospective customers to "Follow our Brand" in some form or other.  In social media you can't wait for someone to find you--a business must seek them out.  Social media channel choices (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) are plentiful so asking for followers on your chosen channel is a MUST.  During my visit to Interbike 2014, I was inspired to explain some Hashtag basics for those who post Images online.  

What are Hashtags?

Hashtags are a new way to identify and start trending topics on social media. They enable people and businesses to access a global community that promotes, joins, and fosters interaction with your product or service.  Hashtags are any word in your message that begins with the "#" symbol. Americans refer to it as a "pound sign", but it's known as a "hash" pretty much everywhere else. A "#" in front of a word like "cycling" makes it a hashtag:#cycling! Hashtags are everywhere. Politicians have them (#Obama), sport leagues (#Superbowl, #NBA) and television shows like "American Idol" (#idol). Hashtags simply let you associate your tweets or posts with a larger topic, group or conversation.

It's like adding keywords to your message to make it globally searchable.

According to USA Today, hashtags act as a “force multiplier” for Internet advertisement revenue. A well-placed hashtag can lead to a huge increase in web traffic and tap into new sources of global revenue.

When should I use them?

You should use a hashtag when you are trying to talk about a specific topic #bikes, #BikeRepair #BikeRacing #TourDeFrance. You can use one that's floating around and join in on that conversation, or completely make up your own and get a new topic started.  Using hashtags will enable others to find your contribution to the global conversation without having to know or follow you.IMG_3178 Hashtags usually refer to things like: Subjects: #Cycling, #BikeNews Events: #TourDeFrance, #GiantDemo Places: #NYC, #LAX, #Boston, #Seattle etc. Things: #coffee, #computers, #cars, #HybridBike, #IBike, #bikes etc. Verbs: #cycling, #crashing, #wheelie Descriptor #HappyBiker, #BusyBikeShop, #QuickRepair, #BrokenSpoke  

Mastering the Hashtag Like a Social Media Pro

To  help those who are unsure how to use hashtags correctly, I’ve created a short best practices guide to help you find the best hashtags to engage your audience.

• Know the basics.

Hashtags don’t have spaces or special characters, so it’s important to type in "Camel Case" by capitalizing the beginning of each word. Failing to do so could be a disaster. Consider a hashtag about an album release party, #SusanAlbumParty. When you fail to capitalize each word, you get #susanalbumparty — not the message you’re trying to send.

• Check your spelling.

One of the biggest hashtag faux pas is misspelling your hashtag. To avoid this embarrassment, proofread your hashtag, then check it one more time for good measure.

• Examine your acronyms.

Social media outlets often have their own vocabulary of acronyms. Before choosing an acronym, investigate to determine whether it already exists within the community or in another context. Blackberry ran into this problem when trying to promote its Research in Motion Limited jobs campaign with #RIMJobs. Obviously, Blackberry failed to do adequate research and became the victim of many sarcastic re-Tweets.

• Know your platform.

Not all social media platforms support hashtags. Do your research to avoid looking like an Internet rookie. Currently, hashtags are only supported on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Google+, Tumblr, Vine, and Pinterest.

• Pair your hashtags.

If you’re creating a hashtag for your involvement with a large venue such as Interbike or the Tour De France, take advantage of trending hashtags from that event. Pair your unique hashtag with one that’s more broadly associated with the venue to establish a direct connection and appeal to a larger audience.

• Don’t overuse hashtags.

Limit your hashtags to no more than two per post. Studies have shown that using more than two hashtags will drop engagement by 17 percent.

• Be concise.

No one wants to decode a hashtag that’s more than 100 characters long, and long hashtags are a waste of valuable Twitter real estate.

• Give context.

Make sure your audience knows why you are using a hashtag. Even though you may be #happy, your audience should know why you are happy (e.g., #HappyForGiantBicycles).

• Track your progress.

Many great resources can help you benchmark or even improve your hashtag efficiency. Some of my favorites are Hashtags.org, Twitalyzer, RiteTag, Tagboard, and Trendsmap. Getting feedback on your hashtags can help you become more proficient and successful. If you’re not already using hashtags, you should be. Once you learn the basics, it’s relatively easy to create fun, clean hashtags that will draw social media users and help you connect with a broader audience. You can promote your events, keep your brand relevant, and become a trendsetter. If you follow these tips, you’ll be well on your way to introducing your brand to the global community of hashtag users.
1808, 2014

Beginners Guide to Google +

Google+, Marketing Advice, Small Business Advice, Social Media Tips|Comments Off on Beginners Guide to Google +

When Google+ entered the social space in 2011, it was met largely with skepticism. Joining a crowded field with platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, many users questioned the need for another social network. But roughly two years later, Google+ has established itself as the second-largest social media site in the world and boasts a monthly active user base of 235 million. And some of the products that Google built into the platform, such as Hangouts and Communities, along with its added integration in Google News If you're a newbie to Google+, these tips will help you get started.  

Creating a Google Account       Screen Shot 2014-08-14 at 2.20.27 PM

  First things first, in order to have a Google+ account, you must have a Google account. To do that, go to plus.google.com and find "Create An Account" located at the top right of the screen. From here, you will be asked to provide a few pieces of information, including your name, birth date and current email address. NeScreen Shot 2014-08-14 at 2.21.08 PMxt, you'll be prompted to add a profile photo to accompany your Google Account. You can either take a web camera shot of yourself to add to your Google profile or upload a headshot. Regardless, the image must be a minimum size of 250 x 250 pixels. After adding your profile picture, you will then be redirected to your new Gmail account. From this new account, you can navigate to Google+ from the dashboard icon located on the top right in your account.   You are now ready to add friends, family and others to your Google+ Circles.    

   

Creating Circles

The first time you access Google+, a screen will prompt you to add people you know or want to follow, as well as a list of suggested users Google has curated for you to follow — also known as a Circle.

Much like how Twitter works, you can follow someone and see all the activity that he or she publishes publicly. When you want to add someone to a Circle, there are already four default Circles you can choose from: "Family," "Friends," "Acquaintances" and "Following."

But if you want to add a person or brand page to a Circle that isn't listed, you can create a new Circle in the open box provided below the list.

Circles act very much like filters — you can share content with those in your Circles and you can see what they choose to share publicly. People and brands will be notified when you have added them to your Circles, but they don't know which Circle or who else is in that Circle with them.

Adding Extra Details to Your Google+ Profile

After you've added all your favorite people to Circles, Google will ask you to share just a little more information about yourself — including your current place of employment, where you went to school and where you live — to make your profile a bit more interesting. These sections will be public initially, but you can edit the visibility of this information once you have your profile set. Google+ is a very visual platform, so beyond your profile picture, you also have quite a bit of real estate on your profile page for a cover photo. If you're a Facebook user, you already know the large cover photo on that platform, which is 851 x 315 pixels. But Google+ takes that to an even more extreme level: 2120 x 1192 pixels. With your profile set up with a profile picture, cover photo and background information, you're ready to browse the network.  

Navigating the Stream

When you arrive at the Google+ home screen, you will see a variety of posts, products and more. On left sidebar of the platform, you'll see 10 options to choose from, including "Profile," "What's Hot," "Communities," "Events" and "Hangouts On Air," among others, many of which we will cover shortly. On the right side of the screen is your Hangouts box, which shows the list of individuals or brands in your Circles. From here you can text chat or video chat with those on the list. In the center, you will see all posts from your list of Circles. You can filter through these posts by navigating to the Circle of your choice — from "Friends" to "Following" and more. This section will also include posts that Google+ has deemed popular on the network. When interacting with posts, there are a number of things you can do, including +1'ing a post (which is essentially "liking" the post), sharing the post or commenting on the post. On the top right of each post, there is a downward carrot symbol that gives you more options for things you can do with this post, such as viewing its activity, embedding the post, muting the post or linking to the post, among other options. Now that you know how to interact with a post, let's dig into how to create your own.  

Posting on the PlatformScreen Shot 2014-08-14 at 2.22.19 PM

Google+ makes it incredibly easy for your posts to target a large or small group of accounts when you post on the platform. When you try to post on Google+, you will need to select who you want to share it with — whether that's with the public, "Family" or with just one person, for example.   Much like with Facebook, you can tag individuals or brands in your posts. Tagged users or brands will get notifications that they have been mentioned on the platform. A tagged post can also serve as a private message with an individual or group. If you do tag another page, be cognizant of whether you want to share that post with just that person, brand or Circle, or if you want to share it publicly while also tagging that page or multiple pages.  

Communities  

If you're looking for where a lot of the conversations take place on Google+, look no further than Communities. Launched in December 2012, Screen Shot 2014-08-14 at 2.13.47 PMCommunities are where users can find vibrant discussions around very specific topics with other users who are just as interested in the conversation. And the topics on the platform seem endless — ranging from social media to animals to comedy and more. In order to join the conversation, all you need to do is request to join. Sharing to Communities is much like sharing to a Circle. Although you can post to the Community directly, you can essentially share to these pages from anywhere on the platform. If you are posting to a public Community, this post will also show up on your profile page and will be visible to users who navigate to your page. There are also private Communities, where you have to request to join in order to post content or see other users' shares. And unlike public Communities, anything you post within a private Community is exactly that — private from anyone outside of the group to see.  

Hangouts

Google+ Hangouts are one of the most popular features on the platform. There are three types of Hangouts — the text chat version that has essentially replaced Gchat, private Hangouts and Hangouts On Air. For this tutorial, we will be discussing the latter two: Hangouts and Hangouts On Air. Hangouts are a great option for individuals or companies who want to host a private video chat with up to 10 different accounts. Unlike Hangouts On Air, this will not be publicly viewable and will only be seen by those who are invited to join. You can initiate a Hangout from the Hangouts box on the right side of the web platform, or from an individual's profile page. Hangouts On Air are the public version of Hangouts, which can be viewed by all and are also archived as YouTube videos. You can navigate to this by finding the "Hangouts On Air" icon in the options on the left sidebar of the platform. In order to start a Hangout On Air, your account must be associated with a YouTube account; otherwise, you will not be able to move forward. Hangouts On Air also allow you to video chat with up to 10 users (including yourself). Because you are choosing to host a public Hangout, it's important to follow a few easy, and important steps:
  • When possible, try to host Hangouts On Air when you are in a place with high Internet connection speeds.
  • Have headphones in case there is audio feedback on your end.
  • Set yourself up with good lighting.
Not all of these are always achievable — in fact, Google now offers an audio-only mode and a bandwidth slider within Hangouts On Air if you are in a location with low bandwidth.  

Events

Google+ Events is an essential tool for individuals and brands who want to promote everything from a Hangout On Air to fundraising events to private parties. An added layer for Events is that it can fully integrate within Google Calendar for added organization. Events can be found on the left sidebar of the social platform. When you arrive in the Events section, you will have to click "Create Event" to get started. The Events interface is incredibly easy to set up. As with scheduling any kind of calendar event, you should create a strong event title, set the day and time, location (if needed) and any details that are necessary to explain the event. Finally, similar to using Google+ posts, you can set the event to be seen publicly or to be seen by just a select group of people.  

What's Hot   

The "What's Hot" section of Google+ is one of its major standouts as a social network. As with Hangouts and Events, you can find this section on the left sidebar of the platform. "What's Hot" shows the posts, topics and hashtags that are trending on Google+ at any given time, as well as suggestions for Communities that may interest you. Speaking of hashtags, Google+ has gone all in with hashtags, and it has added a whole new level to social search on the platform. Using hashtags in your posts can improve your content's discoverability. Beyond that, though, Google+ will also suggest related hashtags for your posts to make them resonate more on the platform.  
 Have you tried Google +?  Tell us how you like it.