8 Ways to Increase Engagement on LinkedIn Company Pages

8 Ways to Increase Engagement on LinkedIn Company Pages

With slower summer days at the office, now is the perfect time to revisit your marketing plan. Although your office may not be experiencing a flurry of activity, you don’t want the same to be happening with your social media pages. Use your downtime wisely by taking a look at how your pages are doing with engagement from your audience.

In this post, we’re focusing on LinkedIn. Your strategy may be holding you back from getting the most engagement on your Company Page. Here are eight ways to get more from your audience on LinkedIn, and take advantage of all of its features.

1. Post a variety of compelling content

Mix it up! Avoid posting the same kinds of content over and over on your Company Page. People will get bored if you’re only posting promotional material or solely industry news.

Types of content to post:

  • Articles that would interest your audience
  • Links to your company’s blog posts or articles
  • Visuals: graphics, photos, videos
  • News and exclusive content about your company
  • Industry news

2. Make your updates stand out in the mix

Here are some ways to make your updates stand out from the rest (this applies to both Company Pages and personal profiles):

  • Sum up whatever you are sharing with a concise intro and snappy headline, or share an interesting quote from the article as a way to spark interest.
  • Include a call to action with a link. Including a link will drive 2x the engagement.
  • Make sure the images or thumbnails posted with your updates are relevant to the content being shared since they further convey your message. Sometimes the wrong image pops up, and this could throw people off. No thumbnail image at all will take away value from the post.
  • Including an image or some rich media will help your updates stand out. Images result in a 98% higher comment rate.
  • Post videos from YouTube. Links to YouTube videos play directly in the LinkedIn feed and usually result in a 75% higher share rate.
  • Engage with people who comment on your posts. Keep the conversation going!

3. Post at optimal times of day

Increase engagement with your content by posting your updates at a time of day when most of your followers are on LinkedIn. Data from HubSpot shows the best days of the week to post updates on LinkedIn are Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. The best times to post are between 7 – 8 a.m. and 5 – 6 p.m. (beginning and end of a typical work day). Posts get the most clicks and shares on Tuesdays between 10 – 11 a.m. LinkedIn consists primarily of a B2B audience, which is most likely the reason the highest engagement rates are during weekdays and business hours.

However, you’ll also want to post updates throughout the day –even on the weekends – to increase post visibility and engagement with those logging in throughout the day. There are some professional who do engage all week long, so consider an always-on approach.

4. Sponsor important updates

Like other social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, LinkedIn gives you the option to advertise updates to expand your reach. If you’re a business with a healthy budget moving from print to digital advertising, you may want to allocate some money towards sponsored updates.

With sponsored updates, you can reach your target audience beyond your followers and get your message out to the right people. Sponsored updates raise greater brand awareness, generate quality leads, and promote deeper relationships with your audience by extending the reach of your company’s updates. You’re able to define your audience using criteria such as location, company size, industry, job function, and seniority. You can monitor the performance of sponsored updates with LinkedIn’s detailed reporting tools.

Before you go through the process of sponsoring an update, know your audience. Are you speaking to colleagues or companies you might do business with? Remember, LinkedIn consists primarily of a B2B audience, so you may need to speak to them differently than you would speak to your customers. Make sure your message is appropriate for your audience.

LinkedIn’s Sponsored Updates User Guide will show you step-by-step instructions on creating, managing and analyzing sponsored updates.

5. Create Showcase Pages

Showcase Pages are extensions of your Company Page, designed for spotlighting a brand, business unit, or initiative. They are niche pages. With this awesome feature, you can create a page for aspects of your business with their messages and audience segments to share with. All Showcase Pages link directly back to the Company Page, which means your pages are all centralized around your company.

LinkedIn users can follow singular Showcase Pages without following the business or their other Showcase Pages. This allows businesses to promote for and cater to the audience specific to the page.

As with a Company Page, you can share updates and sponsored updates with LinkedIn members who can now follow the aspects of your business they’re interested in. However, unlike a Company Page, there are no careers, products, or services tabs at the top of the page. And employee profiles cannot be associated with a Showcase Page.

You can create up to ten free Showcase Pages. To create Showcase Pages, click the “Edit” menu on your Company Page. Select “Create a Showcase Page.” For more information, review LinkedIn’s frequently asked questions about Showcase Pages.

6. Choose the right profile and banner images

As with your other social media pages, your company’s logo and a banner image will bring your LinkedIn page to life. Your logo appears when members search for your company as well as on your employees’ profiles, so be sure it’s the right size. Also, be sure your banner image is the right size as well.

Banner Image: minimum 646 x 220 pixels; PNG/JPEG/GIF format; maximum 2 MB; landscape layout (image should be wider rather than taller).

Standard Logo – 100 x 60 pixels (image will be resized to fit); PNG/JPEG/GIF format; maximum 2 MB; landscape layout (image should be wider rather than taller). LinkedIn will be supporting higher resolution logos up to 4 MB, which require a minimum size of 300 x 300. This change will be rolled out gradually and won’t impact the quality of the image currently being used.

Square Logo – 50 x 50 pixels (image will be resized to fit); PNG/JPEG/GIF format; maximum 2 MB.

7. Monitor and analyze through analytics

Leverage Company Page analytics to track engagement on posts, follower growth, and key metrics and trends. Use that valuable data to optimize, refine, and customize your content. Page admins can view rich data about their Company Page divided into specific sections: Updates, Followers, and Visitors.

The Company Updates section has three areas: Updates, Reach, and Engagement. The Followers section is divided into four areas and provides information on where followers are coming from, their demographics, trends, and competitive comparisons. The Visitors section contains information on visitors and viewers of your page. This information was previously available under Page Insights and was moved into the Analytics tab.

8. Link your Company Page to your personal profile

By linking your Company Page to your personal profile, you’ll create awareness for your business and the page. To do this, go to experience, click on your company name to edit the position, click “Change Company,” and then start typing the name and the page should pop up.

Get some inspiration for improving your Company Page from the brands that are on top of their game. LinkedIn has named these Company Pages as the best of 2014:

Dell
Evernote
Hootsuite
L’Oreal
Luxottica Group
Marketo
The Nature Conservancy
Procter & Gamble
Tesla Motors
Wells Fargo

If you’re overwhelmed by how much time and effort it takes to optimize your LinkedIn Company Page, feel free to contact us for assistance. inBLOOM offers a complimentary consultation for new clients. We’ll incorporate our ways to increase engagement on your LinkedIn page into a social media strategy tailored to your business.

Resources

15 Tips for Compelling Company Updates on LinkedIn –LinkedIn Marketing Solutions

Best Practices for Your Company Page –LinkedIn

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Why Social Media Strategy Determines a Company’s Success

Why Social Media Strategy Determines a Company's Success

If you haven’t already realized it, social media MUST be part of your marketing and PR mix, and it must be taken seriously. The fact that businesses can reach out and communicate on a personal level with current and prospective customers on a daily basis through social media is a game changer.

When your business is on social, you get the opportunity to engage in marketing, PR, sales, customer service, and internal communication, all from within each one of your pages. It’s an incredibly powerful tool with so many benefits and every business should be taking advantage of it. Honestly, how could you pass this up?

According to Hubspot a leader in B2B and B2C marketing, 92% of marketers in 2014 claimed that social media marketing was important for their business, with 80% indicating their efforts increased traffic to their websites.

So how are these successful businesses seeing results through social? Do they just hop on whenever they get a chance, post and communicate when they can? Maybe log on early a couple of mornings each week before they begin the work day? Is it that simple?

Not so much.

To be successful on social media, it takes more than that. It requires a planned, strategic approach. With the help of a social media manager, whose main job is to carry out a strategy involving page interaction on a daily basis, your business will see results.

Part of executing this social strategy should involve a daily to-do list. In the world of social media marketing, there’s a lot to be done and it’s not always easy to keep track. The handy to-do list will make a social media manager’s job so much easier.

If your social media manager is able to check off all (or at least a majority) of these tasks, then your business is sure to succeed.

A Social Media Marketing Manager’s Daily To-Do List

1. Engage with customers

When you engage with customers, you’re telling people that your company takes customer service seriously. Social media is THE PLACE to connect with existing and potential customers. Post interesting content several times daily without selling something. Read all the comments and messages on your social media pages. Address any questions, even if you don’t have actual answers (it shows you’re paying attention). Remember, people like talking to real, relatable people, so be casual (but stay professional). Use these virtual interactions to show them that you are not a robot! Where are said virtual interactions?

According to HubSpot, these are the best times to post on social media:

Facebook

  • Early afternoon – 1 p.m. to get the most shares; 3 p.m. to get the most clicks.
  • Engagement peaks on Thursdays and Fridays.

Twitter

  • Weekdays provide 14 percent more engagement than weekends with B2B.
  • Engagements and click thru rate (CTR) are highest on weekends and Wednesdays with B2C.
  • The best time of day to tweet Is 5 p.m. for retweets; 12 p.m. and 6 p.m. for highest CTR.

LinkedIn

  • Weekdays during business hours are the best time to post, from 7 – 8 a.m. and 5 – 6 p.m.
  • The most clicks and shares occur on Tuesdays, 10 – 11 a.m.

Instagram

  • Engagement stays consistent throughout the week with slight spikes on Mondays and a slight dip on Sundays.
  • The best time to post is off business hours.

2. Stay on top of customer service

Unfortunately, you may find customers criticizing and complaining from time to time through posts directly to your page or on their own page mentioning your brand. Take the opportunity to fix any issues and ensure satisfaction. Do a search for your company name and see what people are saying. If you have a unique hashtag, see what’s being said under it.

3. Touch base with employees for content

Your company employees are thought leaders and their blog posts are SUPER helpful. They also drive tons of traffic to your site. If you already know this, you’re probably pushing out content weekly. Share this content on your social media pages during those strategic times we mentioned.

If you don’t have a staff cranking out articles for you, ask your employees to share with you articles they find interesting and explain why. Have them share photos and video of what they’re up to throughout the day. If you work at a restaurant or bakery, ask them to send you photos of their culinary creations. If you work with pets, you’ll need photos and video of the pets doing whatever they do throughout the day (playing, grooming, napping, etc.).

If you want to grow your business consider investing in a professional writer who can provide you with researched blogs based on a keyword strategy that lines up with your growth goals. That content will be a long term online asset that customers and clients will return again and again to, making an investment with long term dividends.

4. Build relationships with media and social influencers

Face it – press releases alone aren’t cutting it when it comes to attracting media. You need a way to cut through to the people making the news online. By socially connecting with bloggers, journalists, editors, producers, etc. who cover your industry, you’re ahead of the rest. Platforms like LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook are excellent places to reach out to these folks.

You can attract media by researching and finding the Twitter accounts for the people covering stories related to your business or area of expertise. Once you follow them, create lists on your Twitter account to make it easier for pitching when the opportunity presents itself. Connect with them on LinkedIn if you’ve already established a relationship. You can communicate there as well.

Work on creating lasting relationships with social influencers – those people in your industry with large follower accounts and high visibility. These people possess the power to influence others in their social media circles. The content they share should be relevant to your business, and their follower base should consist of people that would bring value to your business. Their blog or website should rank high on Google and they should have a large following on social media.

5.  Attend a tweet chat

Tweet chats happen when a group of people all tweet about the same topic at a scheduled time using a specific hashtag. They are prearranged and sometimes repeat weekly or bi-weekly.  Think of it as a virtual get-together.

When you’re part of the chat, you’re engaged in conversation. You may notice on Twitter many users are constantly just pushing out content, but not really interacting. Tweet chats give you the opportunity to easily interact, while showing your expertise on a topic. TweetChat.com is a great tool that will make a tweet chat easier to follow.

You can find tweet chats that meet your interests and/or industry through sites like Chat Salad, Tweet Reports, or Twubs.

6. View social insights/analytics

Want to know if your strategy is actually working? View your page’s social insights /analytics. On Facebook, go to the Insights tab, where you’ll be able to see what’s going on behind the scenes of your page. Among many things, Insights monitor your post engagement, reach, page likes, most popular posts, and how you’re comparing against competitors on a weekly basis.

On Twitter, go to the Analytics tab and you’ll find monthly summaries of data. See the amount of tweet impressions, new followers, link clicks, retweets and favorites you’ve received. You’ll also discover your most popular tweets.

Keep track of your social insights/analytics as often as possible. The more you review them, the better your strategy will be.

7.  Read about what’s trending in social media marketing

Platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and Google+ often change their features and designs. As a social media manager, it’s important to keep up to date on what’s new in your world.

Sites like Facebook for Business, Social Media Today, Social Media Examiner, HubSpot, Mari Smith and Entrepreneur are all great sources for this information. We recommend subscribing to their email lists to help keep you on top of things.

Have questions about any of these to-do list tasks? Feel free to contact me for assistance. inBLOOM can also come up with a social media strategy tailored to your business. We offer a complimentary consultation for new clients and can connect you with professional writers who can leverage your industry knowledge in the online space.

photo: picjumbo

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Tips for Businesses Facing Facebook’s Friendlier News Feed

Tips for Businesses Facing Facebook's Friendlier News Feed

Your Facebook News Feed is about to get friendlier. As a result of user feedback, Facebook has decided to increase the amount of content from close friends appearing in News Feeds. The most popular social network is going to make some key changes to what content it displays in users’ News Feeds, and yes, these changes may have an impact on business pages.

Here are the three key changes:

  1. Users will start to see more content. Facebook is going to lift restrictions on seeing multiple posts from the same source appearing in a row.
  1. Users will see more important posts from close friends that they weren’t seeing before, which means less media and corporate posts. Facebook will show more photos, status updates, links and videos from friends higher in the News Feed.
  1. Posts about your friends liking or commenting on others’ posts will have less importance and will either appear lower in the News Feed or not at all.

So, what does a friendlier News Feed mean for your business page? Basically, organic post reach and referral traffic could potentially decline, resulting in your page having less visibility in News Feeds.

But even though competition to appear in News Feed has once again increased, as long as you continue to post entertaining and valuable content, you can still reach your fans. The more your audience engages with your content, the more reach you’ll have.

To see what works for your Page, monitor the reach of your posts by checking the bottom of each one to see how many people you’ve reached. You should also be checking your Page Insights to monitor post engagement and organic and paid reach.

You should also allocate some of your advertising budget towards boosting posts. This way, you can reach more people and target specific audiences. Here are some tips for boosting posts:

Tips for Businesses Facing Facebook's Friendlier News Feed

POST ENGAGING CONTENT

Be sure to include high quality photos and videos – visuals are more engaging than plain text. Images should not be made up of more than 20% text (this includes logos and slogans). Try not to be overly salesly in your post.

Keep your business’ target personas in mind when writing your content. For example, if you’re advertising camps or classes to moms and dads, write as if you were talking to them specifically. This way, you’ll instantly connect as you share content that resonates with them.

To increase traffic to your website, boost a post that includes a link to your site. This is an effective way to get people from News Feed to your website.

REACH THE RIGHT AUDIENCE

The big question when boosting a post – who are you trying to reach? Facebook gives you the option to select “People who like your Page,” “People who like your Page and their friends” or “People you choose through targeting.” Select people through targeting for a more predictable reach. You’ll be able to target people by location, age, gender and interests.

Are you looking to reach locals or expand into other locations? What are these people interested in? You can add up to 10 interests for your target audience.  Reach those who will care by choosing topics relevant to your post.

SPEND A LITTLE, REACH MANY

Your budget will determine the amount of people your post will reach. Even if you start small with just $5.00, you’ll still see some great results.

MEASURE YOUR RESULTS

You can check in on your results anytime from the Boost Post button on the post itself to see how your ad is performing. Be sure to review your Page Insights to see which types of posts resonate best with your audience.

Yes, Facebook may be getting friendlier, but if you have the right social media strategy, you can still make it in the mix with those real-life friends! If you have any questions about the changes to Facebook’s News Feed or need assistance with your social media efforts, feel free to contact us. We offer a complimentary consultation for new clients.

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Know the 6 Types of Email That Deliver Success

Know the 6 Types of Email That Deliver Success

In order for a business or organization to thrive, it needs to stay in touch with its customers and prospects. Email marketing is the most effective tool for staying top of mind and ahead of competitors, and it’s important to know the six types of emails that deliver success to achieve both.

Successful marketing campaigns can empower people to take immediate action from making a purchase, signing a pledge, to taking a survey. The statistics show many of us favor email as a communication tool and welcome the daily or weekly communication we receive from the brands, businesses and organizations we know and love. Spammers need not apply.

Your emails should be visually appealing, relate to your audience, and optimized for mobile. An understanding of your subscribers’ needs is also important. If the content is relevant to them, the return on your time developing an email campaign will result in increased revenue and repeat business.

Email marketing delivers the highest ROI (about $44 per dollar spent, on average) of any digital marketing tactic. (SEO is second, and banner ads have the lowest ROI.) (Mark the Marketer)

Here are six types of emails that help you deliver success:

1. NEWSLETTER

What’s new with your business or organization? Keep everyone updated through a newsletter. Topics to consider include upcoming events, a recap of a past events with photos, current promotions or sales, new hires, new products or services, and any recent media attention brought to your brand.

You may even just want to send out an email with one message such as a holiday greeting, special announcement, press release, or letter from the company executive.

The key to creating a great newsletter, especially if you have a lot of announcements, is to make it easy to read and attractive. Constant Contact’s Toolkit offers a variety of newsletter templates.

2. PROMOTIONAL

If you’re offering a product or service promotion, you could create an email with the information and also offer coupon codes for an in-store discount. Your customers can print the coupon directly from the email. It will encourage new customers to sign up for emails, drive traffic to your website, and give you a bigger and more receptive customer base to send news and information.

You can also offer online coupons that are trackable, redeemable and sharable through email, the web, and social media. Whatever kind of promotion you’re running, email marketing is a great way to spread the word.

3. BLOG POST

In order to build buzz for your blog and increase readership, you should be actively promoting every post, via an email. inBLOOM sends weekly emails to our contacts highlighting our latest blog posts. We give a brief overview of the post, include the main image hyperlinked to the post and provide a call to action such as “read it here.” In Constant Contact, we keep track of our open and click-through rates, also taking note of which blog topics attract the most interest.

4. EVENT ANNOUNCEMENT / REGISTRATION

Event announcements commit people early. Before you send out an email with online registration, you can send an event announcement or save-the-date to let people know the who, what, where and when, so they can plan on attending. Constant Contact offers several templates for this purpose. Sending an event announcement to your contacts is the most important way to promote your event, along with social media promotions, print and online event calendars and advertisements.

Online registration for an event saves a lot of time and keeps you organized. It’s convenient for both you and your guests. Through Constant Contact’s online registration, all responses are organized as received. What’s great about the online registration is that it’s available 24/7 so if someone decides they want to register at midnight, they can do so. And it also means that you can log in and manage the event at any time. All the information you need is collected in one central location so you can stay organized, which is key to planning any successful event.

5. SURVEY / FEEDBACK

Turn your communications into conversations: send online surveys through emails or social media to get feedback and segment your audience. In Constant Contact, you can create surveys with a customizable survey template that includes sample questions or you can start with a blank survey. Surveys will give you ideas for new products and services, and provide you with a deeper understanding of what it takes to satisfy and keep your valued customers.

If you’ve just hosted an event, send out a thank you email to those who attended. Create a survey to get feedback on key insights such as the event venue, timing, food, entertainment, interests, and demographics. You can also include a newsletter sign-up, so those not subscribed have the chance to opt in.

Looking to get rates and reviews for your online listings sites? Ask, and you will receive! Constant Contact has both feedback and review email templates to keep things simple for you. If you have you’re on any business listing sites, such as Google, Bing, Yahoo or Angie’s List, you can share a direct link to the listing page. You can also ask your customers to share feedback and experiences with you in order to improve your customer service.

6. FUNDRAISING

Through email marketing, you can promote your organization’s fundraising campaign and collect donations instantly. Constant Contact has an email template where you can create a donation page, linked through a third party service provider, to raise money for your cause. There is a fee for this service, but that’s pretty much the norm with any online fundraising tool.

Set a default donation, goal amount, and most importantly, let people know why you’re raising money. You can share your donation campaign on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

As a Constant Contact Solution Provider, inBLOOM is offering a 60-day trial so you’ll be able to get hands-on experience with the email marketing software. You are now able to email up to a 100 contacts during the trial.

Register for the Constant Contact Toolkit here.

Have any questions or comments about email marketing? Feel free to comment on this post or contact us.

If you found this blog helpful, also check out…

4 Ways to Get Better Results with Email

5 Tips for Running a Better Business Survey

Tips and Tools for Using Constant Contact to Promote Your Events

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Charitable Marketing: Which Charities Make Good Partners?

Charitable Marketing: Which Charities Make Good Partners?

Most businesses, both large and small, want to generate the most profit possible. But in order to gain, sometimes you have to give. Partnering with a charity or non-profit organization is a smart marketing strategy to grow your business. Even if your marketing campaign involves donating a portion of sales to the partner charity, your business will surely benefit.

Charitable marketing not only builds goodwill for your business and establishes positive associations for your brand, it’s also a great way to gain exposure for your business. By leveraging the audience and trading on the recognition of the charity, you’ll broaden your reach. You’ll also increase traffic to your website and place of business as your promote the charitable activities on social media, and through email marketing and press releases.

When people know certain businesses share their values and support a cause that means something to them, they will often choose to support those companies. According to the 2013 Cone Communications Social Impact Study, 89% of U.S. consumers are likely to switch brands to one associated with a cause, given comparable price and quality.

Some people will even pay more for products and services that support a cause they care about. According to the Nielsen 2013 Consumers Who Care Study, 50% of global consumers said they would be willing to reward companies that give back to society by paying more for their goods and services (44% in the U.S. and 38% in Canada).

Lifestyle brand Alex and Ani has established a great charitable campaign, Charity By Design, to sell charm bangles supporting different causes. They work with non-profit organizations on an international, national, and local level to support causes by building brand awareness. Charity By Design supports philanthropy in many ways, from donations and in-store events to the creation of symbolic, creative designs. On their website you can either shop by charity or bracelet. Twenty percent of each charm bangle’s purchase price goes directly to whatever charity it’s associated with.

After four years of giving back through Charity By Design, Alex and Ani has donated 20 million dollars to the thousands of charities. The considerable amount of money they’ve been able to raise proves just how much people care about giving to the charities they care about.

Now that we’ve encouraged you to partner with a charity that supports a meaningful cause, how do you know which one would make good partner? From a business standpoint, here are five qualities good partner charities possess:

1. THEY ARE PASSIONATE ABOUT YOUR BUSINESS AND VICE VERSA

Similar to a marriage or friendship, if your business and your partner charity don’t value each other’s work, then the relationship just isn’t right. It’s important that your business supports the charity’s mission, and also that the charity cares about your product/services and employees.

Our client Purr’n Pooch Pet Resorts and the non-profit United States War Dogs Association have an outstanding partnership because they both value each other’s work tremendously. Purr’n Pooch chose to partner with this organization because they support their mission to educate the public on the history of military war dogs, honor the memory of those who sacrificed their lives, and assist the military dogs and handlers in need today. The United States War Dogs Association appreciates all the work the business does through the Purr’n Pooch Foundation for Animals.

Throughout the holiday season, Purr’n Pooch Pet Resorts collects donations for U.S. Military Working Dog Teams who have been deployed to the Middle East. They also host a volunteer day to write letters to the military dog handlers overseas and prepare packages for shipment. Former and current U.S. military dog handlers join them for the day to give presentations and assist the volunteers. The event is covered by many media and attracts all ages from around New Jersey, bringing attention to both Purr’n Pooch and the United States War Dogs Association.

2. THEY ARE FINANCIALLY STABLE

Trust is key with any kind of partnership. With a partner charity, you want to be able to trust that it is financially stable, meaning that it is able to stay out of debt and fund its current programs. You also want to make sure the organization isn’t hoarding money. A charity that hoards rather than spends the donations it receives is not operating in line with the goals of most donors.

Rather than just taking their word for it, refer to the charity’s IRS tax Form 990 to see financial statements. If you aren’t comfortable reviewing financial statements, there is an alternative way to find out if a charity is in financial trouble. Check the “Independent Auditor’s Report” (IAR) to see if the charity has a “Going Concern” audit. If so, this means the outside accountants who audited the charity believe the organization may not be able to continue its operations for more than one year due to the charity’s debts and other factors.

3. THEY ARE INVOLVED IN THE COMMUNITY

When your partner charity is involved with the local community or multiple communities, your business will be able to directly reach those community members, broadening your exposure.

inBLOOM works with the non-profit EarthShare New Jersey (ESNJ), which is greatly involved with communities and environmental causes throughout New Jersey. ESNJ supports the work of both statewide and national non-profit organizations as well, and many businesses partner with the charity because they appreciate the organization’s community involvement.

4. THEY HAVE A STRONG ONLINE PRESENCE

A strong online presence will allow you and your partner charity organization to both further broadcast your relationship. Check to see if they maintain a well-designed website, blog and social media accounts.

Just like with a business, having a good website is extremely important for any non-profit or charitable organization. The organization’s website should be informational, updated frequently and include a portal for online giving that is supported on mobile devices. The organization should also be blogging often.

Social networks provide a central place for charitable organizations to connect with donors and the media. Frequently posting, conversing, maintaining relationships and building new ones on social media networks like Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and Google+ are all signs that the organization values lasting connections.

5. THEY ARE MEDIA SAVVY

It’s a great sign if you see a lot of news about an organization in newspapers, magazines on the radio and TV because it means they have a good relationship with the media. There are many things a charity might like to inform the media about, including major donations, new projects, and partnerships.

Keeping the media up-to-date with what’s going on is essential to the charity because it can help promote its work, which in turn brings in donations and ultimately allows the charity to continue its mission. Your business will also benefit if the news is about your partnership and goodwill.

If you need advice on whether or not a certain charity would make a good partner for your business, or you need guidance on how to go about searching for a partner charity, feel free to comment on this post or contact us. We’d be glad to help set you on the right track.

Resources:

Don’t Judge a Not-For-Profit by Its Profits, Charity Watch

Statistics Every Cause Marketer Should Know, Cause Marketing Forum

photo by gfpeck

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4 Ways to Give Your Local News National Mileage

4 Ways to Give Your Local News National Mileage

Can a local story attract the attention of national media? It sure can! Local news has the power to resonate with a larger audience if it offers a greater level of relevance and importance to the media. The tricky thing is it’s hard to tell what’s on an editor, producer or reporter’s mind, unless you’re a full-time publicist.

There are, however, several reasons why the media prefers one story over another, and you can give your story more mileage by doing a few simple things. Let’s review four ways your local story can resonate nationally by attracting the media’s attention from the start:

1. ARRIVE ON TIME

Your story may arrive just in the nick of time for a source working on a related topic. Often, it’s better to send a story you know the media is looking for, rather than just pitching it to the wind and hoping it sticks. You can plan by reviewing editorial calendars, which are yearly coverage schedules used to organize advertising campaigns and editorial pitching efforts. Many magazine editors and bloggers publish annual calendars of the upcoming articles and topics they’ll be covering. Deadlines are typically 90 days prior to publication. You can contact each outlet for this information.

We also recommend signing up for HARO alerts. Help A Reporter Out connects news sources with journalists by sending daily alerts with the content reporters seek. If you spot someone with an interest in your story, respond fast because HARO has grown to gigantic subscriber proportions and many people have their eyeballs on the inquiries.

2. UPLIFT AND INSPIRE

Everybody loves a story that hits them on a personal or emotional level. You’ll find all kinds of inspirational stories featured in the media every day, whether it’s online, on television, in the newspaper or on the radio.

LifeBuzz, one of our favorite sites, is dedicated to inspiring, uplifting and fascinating content. Other news sites like Mashable and the Huffington Post also frequently cover social good and inspirational stories. Their stories all do the following:

  • showcase strength
  • trigger emotions
  • motivate action
  • resonate
  • leave an impact
  • empower to take action

Review your story, and if you have the goods listed above, you may just grab the attention of a widely read and circulated media outlet and be on your way to becoming tomorrow’s national news.

3. OFFER CREDIBLE SOURCES

The media are hungry for credible and authentic content from seasoned professionals. If you know your stuff and are well known for it, people are going to want to hear from you. Maybe you’re a professional dog trainer looking to share your expertise on positive reinforcement training and tools. Gather a list of national pet-related media and pitch away! Be sure to include your bio, links to pics and video, and the expertise you bring to the table.

If you have a story involving well-known people or organizations, there’s a good chance national media are going to take an interest as well. Make sure to include this exciting information in the subject line of your email in order to grab the source’s attention.

4. BE ON TREND AND EXCITE

Trends come and go, but when something is a hot topic, the media is eager for sources and content. Emerging trends are new, fresh ideas or products that are becoming increasingly popular. People like hearing about the latest and the greatest so naturally, emerging trends attract the media. Some of the emerging trends we’ve recently seen floating around the news are smart machines, wearable technology, millennial behavior, the wavy bob (adorable new hairstyle), and STEAM in schools.

With a little research online, you too can find out what’s being talked about and maybe you’re on target to be the next trend to sweep across the country.

Getting your local story covered by national media isn’t always easy, and sometimes it seems impossible if you don’t have the resources or time.  But, if you follow the above guidelines, you’ll have a better chance of getting the most media miles out of your local news.

If you have a story and are unsure if it has the goods to be picked up by national media, feel free to comment on this post. I’ll be checking in to answer your questions and look forward to hearing from you.

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4 Creative Ways to Use LinkedIn Groups to Build Relationships

4 Creative Ways to Use LinkedIn Groups to Attract New Clients

If you’re looking to network, you’re most likely to turn to LinkedIn, the number one social media network connecting professionals. Today, LinkedIn users are more engaged than ever; however, it wasn’t always the case. LinkedIn has a come a long way! Remember when you first joined, and it was pretty much just a forum to make your resume visible to employers and your job postings searchable for recruitment? As you’ve grown with LinkedIn, you’ve seen the many great opportunities it’s come to offer.

As an active user, you probably take advantage of these opportunities every day. You’re frequently sharing updates, giving recommendations and endorsements, commenting on posts and networking through messaging. But there’s one opportunity you may be not be utilizing: LinkedIn groups.

Like some LinkedIn users, you might have joined a bunch of LinkedIn groups when you set up your profile and forgot all about them. Maybe you occasionally join one that looks interesting if you see someone else in your network has, but you never bother to check it out more than once. By now, you’ve joined maybe 20+ groups.

You may already know that with LinkedIn groups, your company or organization can keep in touch with members about current events and to discuss issues of common interest. But did you know that they’re also beneficial for boosting your business and attracting new clients? By continuously contributing to group discussions, you will successfully make connections with prospects, both businesses and consumers, while establishing yourself as an expert in your industry and promoting your company.

LinkedIn allows you to join up to 50 groups but there’s no need to join that many. Search and identify groups with members who are experts in your industry, but also ones with prospective clients/customers. We recommend joining a max of 5 groups that fit this criteria.

Before you begin searching for groups, identify your goals. Are you looking to connect with consumers, businesses or colleagues? Is promoting your business what you’re after or is it building relationships?

photo: HubSpot

4 Creative Ways to Use LinkedIn Groups to Build Relationships

 

In order to find the right groups without doing too much digging, here are a few steps to take.

  • Perform a search in the Groups category based on keywords. If you’re looking for prospects, use the Advanced Search. You can filter by relationship, groups, location and industry.

  • Take note of whether or not the group is active with daily discussions and a minimum of 50 members.

  • When you see a group that interests you, click on it and read through the description. For example, if your business does social media marketing for non-profits, the group Social Media for Nonprofit Organizations may interest you for B2B relationships. This group is for anyone interested in how nonprofit organizations are utilizing social media. Members can post resources, share information and/or ask questions or seek advice.

  • Click on the Members tab and take a look at the Group Profile to see more information about the group and its members.

  • If the group is private, you will need to join and your request will be reviewed by the group manager. If the group is public, you can join without waiting to be accepted.

  • You can also search for groups from LinkedIn’s Groups You May Like page.

So now that you’ve found groups that are right for you, what’s next? It’s time to start connecting with members and get in on group discussions! The last thing you want to do is join a group and just visit from time to time without contributing. Whether connecting with colleagues, consumers or businesses, be an active member – let yourself be seen and heard.

Let’s review four creative ways to join Linkedin group discussions while boosting your business and building relationships (without over promoting or being too pushy).

1. Create and share content relevant to the group

The sole purpose of joining a LinkedIn group is to connect with members, and the best way to do this is by sharing information that will interest them. Maybe the group’s topic is interior design, and you’re a professional interior designer. If you have a blog that you update weekly (we hope you do!), share your latest posts when published. We recommend republishing the content on LinkedIn by writing a new post.

Another way to share your knowledge and establish your brand as an industry leader is to create how-to’s and guides. An easy-to-follow step-by-step guide will surely be helpful to members and show them that they can turn to you for assistance. inBLOOM created a free Checklist for Social Media Newbies with 14 tips that will help you to get started and track your marketing and networking efforts on social media. You must sign up to receive our guide, but you can share yours by publishing on LinkedIn or making it downloadable from your website.

Sharing your own content is an effective way to self-promote in the group without being so in-your-face about it. Rather than posting something like “Hey check out our products and services at this link,” sharing informational content will allow you to self-promote in a way that is natural and organic. This method is found to be much more effective.

Just as you do on your Facebook, Twitter and Google+ pages, you should also be sharing articles, infographics, etc. from other sources. Whatever articles interest you may also interest the group.

Here a visual artist shares a link to his free design resources for interior designers and decorators in the group ASID (American Society of Interior Designers).

4 Creative Ways to Use LinkedIn Groups to Build Relationships

 

2. Contribute to group discussions

If you are simply just visiting a group from time to time, maybe posting once in a while but not really commenting or participating in discussions, you’re not going to succeed with boosting your business and building relationships. According to LinkedIn, people who post or engage in group discussions get an average of 4 times as many profile views. And more profile views can lead to an increase in your network and possible inbound leads.

If someone posts a question, give an answer demonstrating your knowledge on the topic. Use your own experiences or resources for reference. Be professional but also friendly and relatable –you don’t want to sound like a know-it-all. Remember, you’re contributing to share your knowledge but also make connections and establish relationships with group members.

Encourage employees to contribute – it will make a bigger impact! When employees actively engage in group discussions, it builds your brand’s reputation. People will see that you’re all passionate about what you do and your company as a whole knows what it’s doing. You’ll also create a larger company presence and build industry awareness.

3. Connect with the group by asking questions

Sharing content and answering questions are fantastic ways to connect with members, but you know what’s even more fun? Asking questions! Of course, the questions you ask should be related to the topic of the group. Post content along with your question to give some insight, then see if it sparks any interest with comments. Even better, share an article or blog post written by you. This will establish your credibility, and also drive traffic to your website.

You don’t necessarily need to accompany your question with content though – I’ve seen great discussions with just a question. For example, a member of the group Social Media Marketing posted the question “Can you describe Social Media Marketing in one word?” and it received 3,605 comments.

You can even ask questions you need answers to or for feedback on something. Either way, you’re sure to get people talking and get yourself noticed. Feel free to jump right in the conversation, too!

Here a social media manager member in the Social Media Marketers group includes a link to her blog post to give insight to the question.

4 Creative Ways to Use LinkedIn Groups to Build Relationships
Here’s an example of an interior designer who simply needs advice. She reached out to the group ASID (American Society of Interior Designers) to get some feedback.

4 Creative Ways to Use LinkedIn Groups to Build Relationships

4. Continuously engage with the group

You don’t necessarily need to constantly keep tabs on your LinkedIn groups each day, but you should be continuously engaging in discussions with content, comments, questions and answers at least 2-3 times per week. If you’re not engaging several times weekly, it will be difficult to keep up with discussions and you’ll lose noticeability. You’ll also miss the chance to develop new business opportunities, as well as create and deepen connections.

Another reason to engage: LinkedIn will award you for your continuous contribution! LinkedIn has established contribution levels, a system that shows members how influential they are in a group. Top Contributors are group members who post the most interesting discussions and comments. On the right side of the group page you’ll see a list of those with this rank. You’ll also see Top Contributor underneath their names and titles when they post content.

Contribution levels are group specific and recalculated every day. To increase your contribution level, start interesting discussions and comment thoughtfully on other group members’ discussions. As people interact more with you, you’ll see your score go up. Your contribution level will go down if you are not active or your posts are promotional or inappropriate for the group.

Maintaining a presence on LinkedIn takes effort and time out of your busy schedule –time that you might not have. Hiring a social media manager could help you take advantage of all the networking opportunities LinkedIn has to offer you and your business. If you need assistance with maintaining your LinkedIn profile or have any questions about joining groups and contributing to discussions, comment on this blog and we’ll be in touch.

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The Future of Social: 9 Social Media Marketing Trends for 2015

The Future of Social: 9 Social Media Marketing Trends 2015

It’s 2015 and sadly, many of Back to the Future’s predictions failed to come true. As the Hollywood Reporter mentioned, power shoelaces, Garden Center fruit dispensers, robotic dog walkers, mid-powered video games, food hydrators and size adjusting clothing just never happened. They were way off on the fashion, too! Two things that have come close though are flying cars and hoverboards, thanks to how advanced we’ve come with technology.

This year, we’re going to see more of 3D printers, context-aware security, smart machines, apps you can use simultaneously on multiple devices, smartphone technology advancements and technology embedded everywhere.

Along with these new technologies, expect to see big changes on social media – new features, new algorithms, and new trends. Change can be fun, but also overwhelming! This year you’ll need to change things up and think of new social media marketing strategies.

Although you might not have a DeLorean time machine to see how these new social media features and trends will affect your business, if you stay on top of your social game your business will thrive. Here are our predictions for social media marketing trends you can expect for 2015. Be prepared to get those creative juices flowing – these trends involve authenticity, originality, personality and creativity.

1. Visuals dominate social media 

Video marketing is expected to take off in 2015 in exciting ways that will allow you to be super creative. Regular video segments, like podcasts and blog posts, are expected to come into their own as a form of content. Short behind-the-scenes style videos which give audiences a glimpse at the people who are behind the product or company will also be trending this year.

Video is the preferred communication style for customers. By 2017, it expected that 74% of all internet traffic will be video. So now is the time to start taking text-based information and turning it into a video. Have fun with it and get creative, but also keep your audience in mind. Will they enjoy watching? Or maybe you’re trying to attract a new demographic?

In the past, when we thought of posting a video on the web, we would immediately think to upload it on YouTube and share the link. Now, video posting has moved away from YouTube towards Facebook, Instagram and other social media networks. Statistics show that in 2014, Facebook videos received significantly more shares than YouTube. Check out Buzzfeed’s Facebook Page and enjoy their many short, humorous and relatable videos.

Not only do we see more video on social, but also more photos and graphics. But because visuals are trending like crazy on the web, users expect higher-quality images, resulting in a lot of competition.

Here’s a tip: If you’re taking photos with your phone and posting them on social, make sure they’re not blurry, too dark or unclear – people will be less likely to share your photo if it’s unattractive.  Read our post on free photo usage for blogs and social media for a list of our favorite free photo databases along with guidelines for using them.

If your business is on Instagram, we recommend using Iconosquare. It lets you manage multiple Instagram accounts, browse your most important statistics, search for users and hashtags and monitor competitor and hashtag feeds. Iconsquare is also available on Hootsuite.

The Future of Social: 9 Social Media Marketing Trends 2015

 photo: picjumbo

2. Mobile devices used more than ever to access social networks

For several years now, a majority of internet users have been consuming most information via smartphones and tablets, but this year the percentage is going to increase. In 2015, being plugged in at all times is essential, and the easiest, most effective way is with a mobile device – especially for those with an on the go lifestyle. Not only are mobile devices the go-to for searching the web, checking email and recently for making in-store purchases, they’re also first choice for accessing social networks.

In 2014, 80% of users engaged in social media through a mobile device, and that number is set to hit over 90% by 2018. These statistics mean big adjustments for marketers. We will need to put mobile first in our social media campaigns, which means creating designs intended for mobile devices.

Even social media managers are using mobile devices to update social pages –it makes our job so much easier when we’re on the go! Social media apps are used far more than the mobile friendly versions because they’re user-friendly and convenient.

Speaking of social apps, if you’re having issues with updating your Facebook page, try out Facebook Pages Manager App. If you manage several Facebook Pages, you’ve probably noticed it’s not easy to update your Facebook Page from a smartphone or tablet –the app can be a bit glitchy. The Facebook Pages Manager app helps administrators manage their Facebook Pages from mobile devices a lot easier.

3. More content, less promotion on Facebook

On Facebook, 2015 is the year of authenticity, creativity and wit when it comes to content. No longer can you be too pushy or promotional with call to actions like “click to see more” “enter here” “download now.” As you may know, this month Facebook will begin showing less promotional posts on News Feeds. According to Facebook, these are some of the consistent traits that make organic posts feel too promotional:

  • Posts that solely push people to buy a product or install an app

  • Posts that push people to enter promotions and sweepstakes with no real context

  • Posts that reuse the exact same content from ads

Pages publishing great content — content that teaches people something, entertains them, makes them think, or in some other way adds value to their lives — will reach their followers’ News Feeds. Be sure to monitor the reach of your Page posts by checking the bottom of each one to see how many people you’ve reached. You should also be checking Insights to monitor post engagement and organic and paid reach. All of this will give you an idea of what works for your Page.

You should also be avoiding content that is too promotional on your other social media networks as well. Your followers don’t want to constantly see your brand with logos, products, etc. Heavy branding just isn’t necessary, and it isn’t effective. Focus more on sharing experiences, interesting stories, high-quality visuals, and user-generated content.

4. Republishing updates grows your social reach

Between Facebook’s Newsfeed changes and the continued growth of social networks like Twitter, Instagram and Linkedin, it’s not easy to always make an impression on your followers. In order to be sure content is seen, social media managers are republishing updates multiple times throughout the day, week and even month.

On Twitter and Linkedin, post several other updates in-between the original and republished update, otherwise followers will see that you constantly post the same thing over and over. On Facebook, you can change up the message a bit with different visuals when you republish so it’s not so repetitive.

We recommend using Hootsuite to manage your social media accounts and schedule updates. This way, you can schedule your republished updates so you won’t forget, and you can keep track of how often you’re republishing.

The Future of Social: 9 Social Media Marketing Trends 2015

 photo: HubSpot

5. More personal interaction with fans and followers

You’re business’ employees are not robots – they are real people with personalities and interests! In 2015, your followers are going to want to want to get to know the people behind logo and see who it is they’re engaging with. Companies who are one step ahead and have already gotten more personal see more interaction on their content and a higher level of trust.

This is where the video comes in. By hosting a podcast or video segment, you’re introducing your audience to the people that make the company. You can even have a video Q&A and create a hashtag for it so viewers can join in. By having a Q&A like this, viewers get that personal interaction as you read out loud and answers user-submitted questions.

Connecting with followers on your personal Twitter, Instagram, Linkedin and Google+ accounts are excellent ways to establish relationships. Sharing what you know about your industry and interests outside your company allow people to meet the person behind the logo.

Be sure to respond in a timely matter on both your business and personal pages. This is very important for keeping that personal connection by letting people know that you’re there, and you care.

6. E-commerce and social media integrate        

In 2014, both Twitter and Facebook began beta-testing “buy” buttons, which appear alongside certain tweets and posts and allows users to make purchases with a simple click without leaving the page. Be prepared to see e-commerce and social media integrate in 2015.

For customers, the payment experience will be safe and secure – credit and debit card information will not be shared with other advertisers. They will also be able to save payment information for future purchases.

With this integration, businesses will truly profit from the direct relationship they build with their followers on social media. It all sounds fantastic for both customers and businesses. Facebook and Twitter have said they’ll be sharing more information in the future. We’re excited to see what comes of this integration!

7. Facebook uses voice-recognition technology

Microphone check 1, 2… In 2015, you might  be talking to your Facebook Page rather than typing. Facebook has recently announced it acquired the voice-recognition startup Wit.ai that claims to “turn speech into actionable data.” Wit.ai’s technology could allow Facebook users to speak commands that could be converted to text as posts or messages. The technology could have other uses as well.

This move could give the social network more information for targeted advertisements. If Facebook integrates this technology into apps and home-automation devices, it would allow Facebook to gather more data. It will be interesting to see if there will be any privacy settings.

8. Businesses and organizations budgeting for paid media

With the drop in organic reach and less promotional content appearing in the News Feed, you may want to consider budgeting for advertising on social media for any content you want to push. The great thing about advertising on social media is that the cost can be as low or high as you want, and you can target people based on their location, age, interests and more.

Although it is possible to reach your followers still organically, creating advertising campaigns with objectives such as to boosting posts, promoting your page or raising attendance at an event will help you expand your reach.

The Future of Social: 9 Social Media Marketing Trends 2015

 photo: picjumbo

9. Public Relations professionals manage social media

As we enter 2015, you may be wondering if you should change your social media strategy. With all the new changes and things you should be doing in order to succeed, it can seem overwhelming. Maybe the person managing your social media pages is wearing many hats and doesn’t have enough time to focus solely on staying social online. So what are you to do? Does your business need a separate social media division? Who should be managing all of this? The answer: your PR team.

If you’re a small or medium business, you probably have many things on your plate, so developing a social media strategy may seem overwhelming. Your PR team is your best bet for managing your social media pages. They should know that social is different from traditional marketing/PR and how to leverage those differences.

Social media is extremely public and whatever is said can be seen the second it’s posted. When a customer posts a review on your page, good or bad, it will stay there. If someone comments on your post and you don’t like what they said, you need to respond in an appropriate manner. When managing social media pages, be prepared to respond to both positive and negative feedback consistently. A customer complaint can easily turn into a PR nightmare. Let your PR team take the reins and handle everything for you.

Who knows – maybe sometime this year you’ll see us riding hoverboards while we tweet!

Have any questions about the social media trends for 2015, please feel free to comment on this blog or contact us. Subscribe to inBLOOM’s blog alerts, and you’ll get Social Media Marketing and Public Relations tips for success emailed to you weekly.

If you thought this blog post was helpful, here are similar posts on the topic:

cover photo: Terrabass

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New Year Brings New Changes to Facebook for Business

New Year Brings New Changes to Facebook for Business

As always, the New Year brings change as many of us make our long lists of resolutions. We hope to change our diet, attitude, exercise regimen and achieve personal goals. But this New Year, those of us who manage Facebook Pages can expect to add another resolution to our lists – to keep our Page posts on our followers’ News Feeds.

Beginning in January 2015, Facebook users will see less promotional posts on their News Feeds. Through an ongoing survey of hundreds of thousands of people, Facebook determined that people want to see more stories from friends and Pages they care about, and less promotional content. You’re probably thinking that means less ads, right? Well, Facebook actually determined that the content people see as too promotional are posts from Pages they like, and not ads.

News Feed has controls for the number of ads a person sees and for the quality of those ads (based on engagement, hiding ads, etc.), but those same controls haven’t been as closely monitored for promotional Page posts. Facebook is bringing new volume and content controls for promotional posts, so people see more of what they want from Pages.

So what qualifies posts as being too promotional?

According to the results of Facebook’s survey, these are some consistent traits that make organic posts feel too promotional:

  • Posts that solely push people to buy a product or install an app

  • Posts that push people to enter promotions and sweepstakes with no real context

  • Posts that reuse the exact same content from ads

Here are two examples, provided by Facebook for Business, of types of promotional posts that will keep you off your audience’s News Feeds:

New Year Brings New Changes to Facebook for Business

 

 

 

New Year Brings New Changes to Facebook for Business

As more people and Pages are posting content, competition to appear in News Feed has increased. Because there is continually more and more content from your family and friends, as well as businesses, it’s becoming harder for any post to gain exposure in News Feed.

The good news is that Pages publishing great content — content that teaches people something, entertains them, makes them think, or in some other way adds value to their lives — can still reach people in News Feed. However, if your Page is posting promotional content, you should expect your organic distribution to fall significantly over time.

If you ever doubt the importance of your Facebook Page, remember that constantly maintaining your Facebook Page matters ALOT!

Your Page is an important destination for current and potential customers. Statistics show that very many Facebook users are still visiting Pages. In October, for instance, nearly a billion people visited Facebook Pages. Of those visits, more than 750 million happened on mobile devices.

Because of the large amount of traffic to Pages, Facebook is now exploring ways to build more features into Pages. A lot of this is in response to how they are seeing people interact with business Pages. Interactions include messaging to communicate with a business directly or browsing video and photo content. They’re also exploring ways to better customize Pages based on the industry a business is in, similar to how they rolled out menu sections for restaurant Pages.

Despite the News Feed changes, you can still reach your audience organically.  Monitor the reach of your Page posts by checking the bottom of each one to see how many people you’ve reached. You should also be checking Insights to monitor post engagement and organic and paid reach. All of this will give you an idea of what works for your Page.

You should also allocate some of your advertising budget towards boosting posts, as well as video ads. Both will enable you to target specific audiences with predictable reach. Learn more about video ads here.

If you have any questions about the changes to Facebook’s News Feed or need assistance with your social media efforts contact me.

photo credit: Death to the Stock Photo

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6 Holiday Marketing Tips to Stay Off Your Customer’s Naughty List

6 Holiday Tips to Keep You Off Your Customer’s Naughty List

Photo: Viktor Hanacek

The holiday season is a hectic time of year. Your business is working on marketing strategies to compete with others, both larger and smaller, for the best holiday deals and with all the events and promotions going on, your business still needs to have good customer service. Are you getting back to people in a timely fashion? Are you being courteous with a warm, friendly attitude?

On top of all things business related, you and your employees also need to deal with personal holiday agendas. Planning vacations, making time for family, figuring out what to get your 10 year old niece (what are kids that age even into these days?) And if you’re hosting a holiday at your house, forget it!

It’s easy to let these issues get the best of you, but rather than coming across as crazed and stressed, it’s better to be personable, warm and friendly for both you and your business. It’s helpful to do this by planning ahead, reprioritizing and realizing that the little things matter during the holiday season.

As W. C. Jones said, “The joy of brightening other lives, bearing each other’s’ burdens, easing others’ loads and supplanting empty hearts and lives with generous gifts becomes for us the magic of the holidays.” 

Now that we’ve got you in the holiday spirit, whether you’re feeling cheerful or crazed, let’s review a few marketing tips that will keep you off your customer’s naughty list.

1. Know the holidays.

This time of year is jam packed with holidays, other than just the well-known Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Christmas, Hannukah and New Year’s, celebrated daily, weekly and monthly. Did you know that December 12 is National Poinsettia Day? Until recently, neither did we! Don’t miss out opportunities to celebrate holidays you may not be aware of. Do some research and keep a calendar organized by month with all the holidays that your business should celebrate or incorporate into your marketing strategy through blog posts and social media with related graphics and hashtags.

Here are just a few daily holidays to mark down for November and December 2014.

  • November 28: Black Friday
  • November 29: Small Business Saturday
  • November 30: Cyber Sunday
  • December 1: Cyber Monday
  • December 2: Giving Tuesday
  • December 8: Green Monday
  • December 12: National Poinsetta Day
  • December 18: Free Shipping Day
  • December 20: Super Saturday
  • December 21: First Day of Winter
  • December 22: Last Sleigh Day

bigstock-vector-red-satin-bow-15599711Tip: If you’re having Black Friday sales, make sure your website is mobile friendly. According to TechCrunch, in 2013, 24.9% of all online traffic on Black Friday came from smartphones – that compares to tablets at 14.2%.

2. Be responsive.

Although it’s a busy time of year, make sure you’re getting back to people. The last thing you want to do is let your email inbox pile up to the point where you’ve got unread emails from days ago or you’ve read the emails but forgotten to respond. It’s helpful to dedicate a chunk of time each day to email reading/responding.

However, if that chunk of time happens to midnight to 1 a.m., you might want to consider scheduling your emails to go out at a more appropriate time – yes, being woken up by an email alert at 1 a.m. will put you on the naughty list. You can install an application such as Boomerang for Gmail, which allows you to write an email and have it be sent automatically at the time you choose.

Make sure you’re checking your social media messages as well. Customers enjoy communicating this way and it would be a shame if you lost business by missing a message.

Okay, so you’ve got your email inbox under control but don’t forget your voicemail inbox! Of course, the best thing to do is listen to the message right when you notice it and get back to the person ASAP, but that’s not always easy when you’re swamped and have multiple phones lines.

A helpful tool for keeping track of messages is Google Voice. With Google Voice, you can have your voicemail for all of your forwarding phones in one place, with transcriptions, access to your past voicemails, and voicemail sharing options. You can check your voicemail on the web or through your phone and you can also add notes to a voicemail if there’s a particular part of a message that you’d like to remember without going through and listening to the message again.

These tools will surely help you stay responsive. With all those sugar plums dancing in your head, it’s not easy staying on top of things!

bigstock-vector-red-satin-bow-15599711Tip: If you’re out of office during a certain period of time, it’s a good idea to use a temporary or out of office voicemail greeting and response email to let people know why you’re unable to get in touch with them.

3. Follow proper business etiquette. 

Treat people with consideration, respect, and honesty and be aware of how your actions affect those around you this holiday season. Consider your audience and employees – do they practice different religions? If this is the case, stay neutral with decorations, greetings and celebrations. If you put up a Christmas tree, display a Menorah as well.

Send holiday greeting cards, both digital and paper. Holiday cards may seem like a waste of time and money when your marketing budget is tight, but remember that people want to do business with people that value them and make them feel important during the holidays and throughout the year. Cards leave a lasting impression and let others know you’re thinking about them.

Constant Contact has holiday templates for Christmas, Thanksgiving, Giving Tuesday, Lunar New Year, Cyber Monday and Small Business Saturday. Let your customers know you wish them well and maybe even include a special coupon or promo code.

Look for expert resources on business etiquette such as Emily Post. Although these values may seem old fashioned, they still hold true today.

bigstock-vector-red-satin-bow-15599711Tip: The best time to mail holiday greeting cards is the second week of December. You want to be sure your cards are received before vacations begin.

 

4. ‘Tis better to give than to receive – don’t be a grinch.

Giving is more joyous than receiving, especially during the holidays, so use this time of year as an opportunity to give to those in need. Maybe your business is already affiliated with a charity or multiple charities. If not, do some research and choose a cause that you and your employees care about.

inBLOOM’s client Purr’n Pooch Pet Resorts is collecting pet toys, collars, leashes, bedding, and nonperishables for local animal shelters and rescue groups in partnership with the Purr’n Pooch Foundation for Animals through November 30.

Our client the New Jersey Vietnam Veterans Memorial Foundation, in conjunction with the United States Marines Combat Logistics Battalion 25 in Red Bank, NJ, is currently collecting new, unwrapped toys for the Marine Corps Reserve 2014 Toys for Tots Program.

Maybe your customers could benefit from your business giving to a certain charity?  For instance, during the past two years many businesses around the Jersey Shore were making disaster-related charitable donations as a way to help customers affected by Hurricane Sandy.

Of course you’re donating to charity for altruistic reasons, but it’s beneficial to both your business and the charity to publicize your donations of goods or services by sending a press release to the media. Include your charitable involvement in your marketing campaign as well.

bigstock-vector-red-satin-bow-15599711Tip: When searching for a partner charity, you can use websites such as Charity Navigator, Philanthropedia and GreatNonprofits.

 

5. Include clear and correct messaging in your promotional graphics and website.

With Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Christmas, Hannukah and New Year’s around the corner, now is the time to set holiday business hours. It’s crucial that you indicate on your website, social media, voicemail and at your business location if you’ll be open certain hours or closed on certain days.

Make sure this messaging is clearly visible and correct wherever you post it. Otherwise, on the naughty list you’ll go! Your customers will not appreciate it if they show up at your business for goods on Black Friday and you’re lights are off and doors are locked when you gave no indication you’d be closed.

If you’re hosting any holiday events, create promotional graphics and post details on social media, your website and send through Constant Contact. We understand that planning these festive events can take up so much time and energy that you may not be promoting them as much as you should. Don’t be afraid to seek help with your marketing efforts.

bigstock-vector-red-satin-bow-15599711Tip: Post your holiday business hours on Facebook a few days before the holiday and then pin the post to the top of your Page the day of.

 

6. Do something special for employees and customers.

Dust off that apron on a lazy (or not so busy) Sunday and bake some holiday goods for the office. Something as simple as a tray of cookies in the lobby with coffee and hot cocoa will have your business come across as warm and personable. Show your employees and customers you appreciate them while spreading some holiday cheer. It will create a positive atmosphere and maybe even bring you some 5 star reviews on your online business listings!

Another idea you may want to consider is having a giveaway or special promotion. Woman’s Day Magazine is having a Holiday to Remember Sweepstakes where participants enter to win $10,000 to decorate their home for the holidays. Purr’n Pooch Pet Resorts is currently having an Annual Holiday Photo Contest where participants submit their pet’s photo for a chance to be featured on Purr’n Pooch’s holiday greeting card and email, and also receive a complimentary day of boarding in a luxury suite and bath upon check-out.

bigstock-vector-red-satin-bow-15599711Tip: If you’re running a photo contest on Facebook, we recommend using the Offerpop app.

 

Hopefully these marketing tips will help your business come across as personable, warm and friendly, rather than crazed and stressed, this holiday season. Be the calm within the storm. We hope you can find some holiday cheer in all the hectic hubbub. If you need a helping hand, feel free to reach out to us for assistance. Even Santa can’t do it all on his own – thank goodness for those elves!

 

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