Customer Reviews and Your Search Engine Ranking

Screen Shot 2015-05-27 at 9.23.47 PM

Many people once relied almost exclusively on word-of-mouth and face-to-face recommendations to determine whether a business was worth its salt or not. Now, we’re all living in a world where online customer reviews are an incredibly popular, massively powerful medium for consumers to share sentiments and help determine the fame and fortune of small businesses.

You’re already aware of the “incredibly popular” part, as you undoubtedly come across some form of online customer reviews for various products, services and enterprises daily. However, you likely haven’t taken the time to consider how often people pay any mind to these reviews, or what tangible effects they have on your business. Just how powerful are these reviews?

Do People Even Pay Attention to Online Customer Reviews?

Yes.

Sorry to be abrupt, but we wanted to make a point. Online customer reviews are indeed a powerful resource that affect consumer sentiment. Let’s look at a few facts and figures:

– In a 2014 consumer usage and attitudes questionnaire, BrightLocal gathered consumer sentiment toward the potency of online customer reviews for the fourth year running. The questionnaire (“Local Consumer Review Survey”) they conducted found that nearly 90% of study participants read online reviews to determine the quality of a local business. This number was up from the previous year (88% versus 85% in 2013).

– The same survey determined that 85% of consumers read up to 10 reviews of a single local business to educate themselves on the merits of the business’s services.

– BrightLocal’s survey also found that a startlingly high 39% utilize online customer reviews to gauge the quality of a business on a regular basis.

– Yelp!, one of the biggest players in the online review business, commissioned a Nielsen survey that found four out of five of their users head straight to Yelp! to check out a business prior to making a purchase.

Where Do Online Customer Reviews Show Up? Are They on Google?

The above are some pretty convincing numbers, but they wouldn’t matter much if existing reviews weren’t easy to find online.

Yelp! has become a name synonymous with business reviews and personal recommendations, and it’s incredibly easy to visit the site and type in a business to collect intel from consumers. What’s more, businesses don’t have any ability to prune unwanted reviews, which is why consumers enjoy Yelp! so much.

But Google’s the key here, right? Will positive (and negative) reviews show up purely when doing a Google search for your business? They can. Even if the search engine user in question doesn’t search using the term “reviews,” just typing in your business may bring up reviews under its Google business listing on the right side of the Search Engine Results Page (SERP). There is a link under your business listing that allows users to immediately add reviews, and these added reviews will show up whenever someone searches for your business.

Additionally, anytime someone leaves a Google+ review of your business the review will automatically be pulled and listed under your business listing on the SERP, too.

Do Online Customer Reviews Directly Affect My Google Ranking?

They certainly do. While it’s difficult to currently determine the effect online customer reviews have on search engine optimization rankings overall, we do know that when performing a local search a user is first presented with matching businesses that have received many good reviews. The more highly-ranked online customer reviews your small business has received, the higher up among local businesses it’s likely to be listed.

This also applies to Google Maps. When searching directly within Google Maps, results are fed back to the user based on the “highest-rated shops nearby.” If you’re not highly-rated, your small business won’t be joining the party here. The same applies when a Google user performs a Google search on their mobile device, as well. Highly-rated businesses will be receiving the billing.

What Can I Do to Improve My Online Customer Reviews?

Responding to both negative and positive online customer reviews — and regularly communicating with customers and potential customers via social media and blogging — can lead to improved reviews for your business. This is highly dependent on understanding how to engage with your audience and how to incorporate the correct “tone” in your social media content and communication.

Read inBLOOM’s 5 Tips To Take When Responding to Negative Reviews for some expert advice.

Handle your reviews with compassion and brand integrity, no matter how upsetting the situation might be. Responding to reviews is a great way to learn from and build goodwill with your most vocal customers and brand ambassadors. Reviews are also important, as noted above, for increasing your visibility on search engines.

photo: menéame

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Email

10 Ways to Improve Your Small Business Media Pitches

Screen Shot 2015-07-23 at 6.49.23 PM

Contacting the media and garnering coverage can be intimidating, and sometimes tricky business. Maybe you’ve tried it before with no results and don’t want to face the rejection (or being ignored) again. I’m here to tell you to do it again, and again, but in a more intentional, strategic way. Because attention means more visibility for your company.

The inBLOOM team has tons of experience pitching media and gaining great coverage, but we’ve also learned some lessons the hard way. Today I’ll share some of what we’ve learned on the job, with some bonus inside knowledge from the media trenches. (Some of us are even former journalists, so we’ve got some insight into why some pitches fall flat, while others get a quick call back.)

Here are 10 ways to make you and your business stand out through the barrage of emails media get on a daily basis:

1. Have a compelling story

Not every idea is newsworthy. Ask yourself what is unique and different about your story and make that your angle. Example of something not newsworthy, you’re moving your business to a new location. This is a fact you need to advertise, but it’s not a news story. Crafting a pitch around that is a waste of your time and a reporter’s. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a news nugget in that moving story. Does the new location have a unique history? Are you significantly changing your services? Are you being forced to move because of changes in the town or the industry?

2. Focus on people and narratives, not products

If your company founders have deeply rooted qualities that shape the organization – patriotism, innovation, risk taking – then there are stories to tell around their business decisions. Unique angles can come from anywhere. Think about tapping employees and customers to help determine the most newsworthy and creative story and ask them to help you tell that narrative. Like, why did you even start this business? Or why did you close your storefront and move your operation online?

Once you have an angle, it’s time to use narrative to tell your story. In Entrepreneur Magazine, Al Lautenslager uses Nike as an example of a company whose culture and marketing is shaped by stories. “Stories create buzz,” he says. “The more buzz about a product or service, obviously the more awareness there is about that brand.”

3. Offer up thought leaders

Members of the media love to talk to experts in whatever field you’re pitching them, and often won’t consider taking on a story without them. Thought leaders are people who have innovative ideas in their respective industries, and know how to talk about those innovative ideas. Figure out where your thought leadership lies by looking at your business experience. Is it software? Design? Manufacturing? Healthcare? Where ever you are invested through your business is an opportunity for you to be a thought leader. Use your blog or social media, or even your email newsletter, as a forum. Write about what’s bugging you in your industry or comment on the changes in the economy around your industry. If you can relate it to a current event you’ve given a reporter the news hook she needs to pay attention to your pitch.

4. Be a grammarphobe 

An email that comes through riddled with grammar mistakes is the first one tossed out. All the more reason to spell check, double check, and even triple check your pitch. As small as they may seem, mistakes using your and you’re, their, there, and they’re, and other common errors can make or break a pitch. The writers at inBLOOM have years of editing experience and are happy to create tailored pitches free of grammar errors for you and your small business.

5. Avoid over the top language  

Clichés are an everyday way of speaking, and sometimes they can even make their way into writing. But phrases like these — along with over-the-top language, such as world acclaimed, first of its kind, and cutting edge — can clutter a pitch. While these phrases may sound great, journalists can sniff out marketing buzzwords and chose not to pursue the story. It’s best to keep things short and succinct, and most of all, clear.

6. Consider a listicle 

What’s a listicle you say? Just what it sounds like. It’s a list of your main ideas, most commonly in bullet points (kind of like this blog you’re reading). Breaking out the pertinent information can be a great way of getting a reporter’s attention without losing relevant info in wordy paragraphs. If a busy member of the media can glance at your email pitch and pull out the necessary information, along with the unique aspects of your story, they’ll be more likely to pick it up and run with it.

7. Be responsive and available 

The last thing you want is an interested and ready reporter trying to contact you with no response. Just like you, reporters are busy and will move on to another story with someone who answered that phone call or email. Make sure to give the reporter the best means to contact you, whether that’s email, phone, or even Twitter. Once they contact you, be willing to answer their questions and provide any additional information they may ask for. (And don’t ask to review the story before it’s published. Just don’t.)

8. Target the right contacts

Your story isn’t a fit for every media outlet out there, which is why a good strategy is to research specific publications or broadcasts that deal with the topic of your pitch. Own a restaurant? It’s useless to pitch to a boating magazine. The same is true for a reporter. Before you pitch a media person, find out their area of expertise. Read their past stories so you don’t pitch something they’ve done. Your story should be one related to their past experience but focuses on a new idea.

9. Use visuals

Our society is a visual one, and our eyes are drawn to pictures or graphics that get our attention. Consider including an image with a pitch. If you have a great photo of your story in action, include a high-resolution image with the pitch. Don’t have a photo? Think outside the box. Maybe a graphic related to your idea will suffice. If your pitch is regarding a process or product, an attention-getting way to illustrate it might be using an infographic showing the method or development. Be sure to always include proper credit for images as well as a caption.

10. Follow up is key

Once your pitch is perfected and sent to the right contacts, your work still isn’t done. The key to media pick up is most always in the follow up. Emails get lost in the shuffle and voicemails sometimes get ignored. Following up ensures that you stay on a reporter’s radar, and a phone call can allow you to explain the idea in more detail, potentially sealing the deal.

Pitching the media isn’t complicated, but it does require attention to detail, thoughtful execution and time. A quick hit email once in a while isn’t going to garner the media attention you’re hoping for. When we pitch media on behalf of clients we start first with relationships. We nurture our media contacts by keeping in touch regularly on social and via email offering helpful connections, story ideas and feedback, even when it doesn’t benefit us directly. Nurturing those relationships today gives us the privilege of the media’s attention in the future.

If your business has a story to tell (and they all do) we can help you shape, pitch and promote it to the right media, so you can get back to business. Not sure if your story is newsworthy? Drop us a line and we’ll help you figure it out.

cover photo: ceBIT Australia

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Email

Turn Employees Into Brand Ambassadors On Social Media

Turn Employees Into Brand Ambassadors On Social Media

“Employees are a company’s greatest asset…” – Anne M. Mulcahy, Former Chairperson and CEO of Xerox Corporation

Employees are an organization’s greatest asset, so why aren’t more companies tapping into their greatest resource? The lines between personal and professional social media accounts are becoming more and more blurred, making it possible and even ethical to promote organizational successes on personal pages.

Employee personal social media accounts can serve to enhance your brand, and more often than not those employees are proud of the work they, and their company are doing and they want to shout that pride from the rooftops. Just think, their reach can be your reach. So if you have that enthusiastic employee base, why not use it!

Here are some things to consider when turning employees into brand ambassadors:

1. Make a goal and communicate it

Think about what your organization’s overall goal is and how it can be satisfied by using employees as brand advocates. Is your goal to increase brand awareness? If so, give employees the tools necessary to introduce your brand to their audience. Is your goal to get more unique visitors to your website? Then give employees a way to share or retweet posts that link directly to your site. Goals come first, and they must be communicated to employees, especially if you want them to be an ambassador for your brand. These goals should be measurable and relate directly back to the organization’s business plan.

2. Give employees the training and tools they need to be successful

We all know posts on social media can turn ugly in the drop of a hat, but with the proper training and tools at their disposal, employees can become amateur social gurus in no time. The training needs to be face-to-face, the guidelines need to be in writing, and the tools need to be easily accessible and full of content. There are several online resources that can help organizations compile content for employees to share on social, such as Addvocate, Command Post, and Everyone Social. These tools can help guide you on your organizational social media journey. Also, it doesn’t hurt to make it clear that the organization encourages employees to use social media at work for organizational posting. Communicate the importance of sharing content on Facebook, posting blogs to LinkedIn, and using hashtags on Twitter. The more you teach them, the more excited they’ll be to become a brand ambassador, and good ones at that.

3. Encourage open conversation

Trusting your employees with organizational content can encourage open and honest dialogue on social media channels. This, in turn, can create confidence in your brand with a wider variety of audiences. Publics who see organizational content shared on personal accounts may view the brand as more authentic.

4. Measure, measure, measure

Understanding how employees are using social media is vital to understanding how successful an employee social media campaign is. And to do this it is absolutely necessary to measure everything. Make sure you’re using analytics to track social media activity. LinkedIn posts low? Facebook shares up only in the winter months? Analytics can help you pinpoint where your strengths and weaknesses are and allow you to make a plan based off real numbers. Hashtags are also a great way to measure employee activity on social media, and are an easy way for employees to keep track of what they’re posting. Once you have a few month’s worth of numbers to crunch, you’ll be able to see which employees are having success with their social media use. These staff members would make great social media champions for the company and can encourage other employees to promote the brand on social. Don’t forget to tout success stories with the entire company, it can be a boost for morale!

5. Monitor

While giving employees the training, tools, and trust to be brand ambassadors on social media is important, management should also monitor social media channels. This is true not only for employee posts, but for entire organizational social media accounts in general. Have a screening process in place to ensure quick action if something goes awry. This will allow you to get out ahead of a potential crisis quickly.

6. Don’t force employees to be brand ambassadors

No company should require employees to share posts on social media. This action should be voluntary, but there is no harm in providing incentives or rewards for those who feel comfortable using their personal social channels for professional posts. Check with your Human Resources department before you do anything.

Have questions about how you can turn your employees into brand ambassadors? Ready to take the plunge but not sure where to start? Contact us and we’ll help you navigate the waters of employee social media use.

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Email

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

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Email

5 Summer Strategies for Your Blog

picjumbo.com_HNCK3983

The lazy days of summer are here. But bloggers, summer just might be the prime time for you to get ahead of the eight ball. Sure, relaxing on the beach all summer may sound tempting, but this time of year is a good time to get inspired, get creative, and get writing!

Here are a few tips for the small business owner or nonprofit leader on how to make the most of your summer blog schedule:

1. Think ahead.

The last thing you may want to think about in the middle of the summer is school starting, winter coming, or Christmas shopping, but thinking ahead to holidays, season changes, and big events coming down the pike can keep you on track, ensuring that you don’t miss any relevant topics for your blog. Kids will head back to school before you know it, and with it comes school shopping, football practice, and choir concerts. The leaves will change soon after, and with it comes a busy fall, packed with festivals and outdoor activities. The weather will start to get cooler, and we’ll dust off our jackets and scarves and start craving hot chocolate. All of these topics are jam-packed with ideas that could relate to your blog, or the people who read your blog. Think about how you can creatively tie in products that relate to whatever topic you pick. There’s always room for cross-marketing in the blog world.

2. Recruit a guest blogger.

This summer doesn’t have to be all work, however. If you feel like you need a break, think about recruiting a guest blogger. Guest bloggers can bring new audiences — audiences that can become a part of your loyal following. A new writer can bring a fresh perspective on a topic and even spawn new blog post ideas. Make sure you trust the person you pick and don’t go overboard on the guest blogs. A nice sprinkling between your posts is sufficient. But how do you find these guest bloggers? You can post a call for writers on your blog, making sure to list the requirements and responsibilities. If you have a specific topic, you’d like a guest blogger to write about, search out a respected person in that field and ask if they’d like to write for you. They’ll gain exposure and introduce themselves to a new audience. Or you could let the writers come to you by creating a ‘write for us’ page for people to submit a request to produce content. This allows you to screen for quality. Once you find the perfect fit, you can sit back and put your feet up for a bit!

3. Expand your creativity.

Summer is the time for vacation and play, and these things make us more relaxed — mind, body, and spirit. When we’re less stressed, our creativity can soar, opening up a new world of possibilities. This is great for keeping blogs fresh and interesting. Try to set aside time each week to jot down a few ideas that may pop into your head once your troubles start melting away. Then when things start to ramp up again, you have a list of new, fresh, and creative ideas to get you writing!

4. Tell your story.

Like we’ve mentioned, summer is full of exciting and new adventures, and you should write about them! Your audience reads your blog because you have something interesting to say, and they want to see what you’re up to and what new escapades you’re having.

5. Don’t forget the important things.

Just because things get a little off kilter in the summer, doesn’t mean you should drop the ball on the important things. Don’t forget to: Email your contacts a link to the blog.
Linking to a blog and including a teaser email featuring your blog posts is a great way to build buzz on your blog and increase readership. inBLOOM sends weekly emails to our contacts highlighting our latest posts.

We give a brief overview of the post (about one to two of the best lines), 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 and also take note of which blog topics attract the most interest. Continuing to write about a topic that falls flat is a waste of your valuable time.

Think about SEO and keywords.
The more you post, the more exposure you get. And the better your search engine optimization (SEO), the better your traffic will be. To ensure you’re getting the most bang for your post, make sure you know the right keywords to use to increase your SEO. But you’re not all on your own here. Tools like Yoast, Moz and HubSpot can help you with SEO and get you started on the path to SEO success.

Still want to sit in your beach chair and soak up the sun and let the waves wash your stress away? No worries, inBLOOM can take care of all your blogging needs. With our team of expert writers, you can rest assured your blog is in good hands with people who understand the importance of promoting your brand, keeping your audience engaged, and responding to rising trends. Contact us to find out more.

cover photo: pic jumbo

 

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Email

The Do’s and Don’ts of Crisis Management and PR in a Viral World

Do’s and Don’ts of Crisis Management and PR in a Viral World

In a world gone viral, bad news can spread in the blink of an eye. Literally.

Companies and organizations both big and small are at risk for potential crises that may hamper profits, destroy reputation, and cause general harm to assets. When a public relations crisis strikes, there are things organizations can do to help minimize the negative effects of a negative situation.

But first things first…

Are you really in a crisis?

Just because another electronics store opens down the street from your electronics store, doesn’t mean you’re in a crisis. That’s just how the cookie crumbles sometimes. W. Timothy Coombs, a leading guru in the public relations crisis management world, defines a crisis as “an unpredictable event that threatens important expectancies of stakeholders and can seriously impact an organization’s performance and generate negative outcomes.” That being said, a crisis is perceptual. If your organization’s stakeholders believe the company is in a crisis situation, you are, and you must act accordingly.

Prepare, prepare, prepare

No organization should be caught unprepared for any crisis. And these days there are more opportunities for crises to arise than ever before. Social media escalates the rate at which undesirable news spreads, and online review sites can spread negative comments like wild fire. A crisis management plan can ease the pain of dealing with a crisis, and possibly prevent the situation from crippling an organization. Identifying potential crises is a good place to start. Is your organization at risk for a widespread impact from a flood or another natural disaster? What would reports of employee misconduct do to your company? Murphy says anything that can go wrong, will. So prepare for it.

Once potential crises have been identified, a crisis management plan, complete with a communication strategy, designated crisis team, and post crisis plan, should be created. When a crisis occurs, this complete plan will prevent many headaches, and serve as a guide for handling negative situations.

So you’re in a crisis. Now what?

The Do’s

  • Yes, social media can work against an organization in crisis, but it can also work wonders to connect audiences and stakeholders. When Superstorm Sandy hit in 2012, energy company Con Edison took to the Twittersphere to communicate power restoration efforts to its anxious customers. Over 1,650 tweets went out, and Con Edison was able to communicate directly with those who used Twitter to get in touch with the organization. Twitter, along with other social media platforms, allow organizations to communicate quickly and effectively with large audiences, which is vital in a crisis when time is of the essence.
  • Public relations professionals must keep their fingers on the pulse of public opinion at all times, and during a crisis this is especially true. People talk, good or bad, and responding to questions and comments is a good way to be transparent and honest in trying times. Know what’s happening before, during and after a crisis.
  • Any good communication plan has an entire section entirely focused on post-crisis, where all the lessons learned from dealing with a negative situation can be evaluated. Then a plan for the next potential crisis can be made based on those lessons.
  • Image restoration tactics should be implemented once a crisis dissipates. After the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, BP rolled out a multi-level image repair campaign, focusing on its connection to the people impacted most by the disaster. The hope was that the campaign would rebuild trust with publics and restore its image with stakeholders.

The Don’ts

  • Don’t wait; deal. If a crisis arises, the first reaction can be to ride it out until it goes away, but often it does not. Begin to communicate with the public early and work to reassure them that the issue is being resolved.
  • Don’t lose focus. Crises can snowball quickly. Don’t lose focus on the crisis at hand, and make sure your communication efforts are firmly grounded in your communication plan.
  • Don’t forget about employees. Employees can be the best resource for spreading the good word about an organization, and they are usually eager to do so. Image restoration efforts should include employees, who can be used as brand ambassadors.
  • Don’t take advantage of consumers. Many businesses, such as American Apparel and Urban Outfitters, showed a lack of sensitivity to the citizens affected by Superstorm Sandy, using marketing ploys offering discounts for those impacted by the storm. The backlash from these gimmicks was harsh, and hurt the companies’ images.
  • Don’t say ‘no comment.’ Saying ‘no comment’ to any question implies guilt and is often just a bad as saying nothing at all. Stick to a crafted message until more details about the situation emerge.

When disaster strikes, take a deep breath, keep a cool head, and delve in to the issue. Guided by a strategic crisis communication plan and an ace crisis management team, a public relations crisis will be much easier to handle.

cover photo: Kriston Lewis

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Email

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

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Email

8 Ways to Raise Your Email Newsletter From the Dead

8 Ways to Raise Your Email Newsletter From the Dead

Email newsletters aren’t dead, but there are some that may just bore you to death. Today, we may be more accepting about receiving email communication from a brand or service provider on a more frequent basis, say even weekly or daily. But the way we digest the content we receive is different.

Thanks to a convenient mobile lifestyle, we search and view content almost exclusively on our smart phones and tablets – reading and processing nuggets of info on the go. Email newsletters can survive this faster, friendlier mobile world but they need to be more strategic and savvy to succeed.

Every email does not need to be a sales pitch, and newsletters will have you working harder to understand your customers’ needs. The payoff is a closer, more trusted relationship. Follow these tips to make your email newsletter stand out and get read, not killed, in your customer’s inbox.

1. Link to a blog and include a teaser

Emails featuring your blog posts are great for building buzz on your blog and increasing readership. inBLOOM sends weekly emails to our contacts highlighting our latest posts. We give a brief overview of the post (about one to two of the best lines), 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 and also take note of which blog topics attract the most interest. Continuing to write about a topic that falls flat is a waste of your valuable time.

2. Include images

The images you include in your email newsletters should be high resolution and relate to the content. Use photos taken at events or on-site. They should showcase your latest and greatest news and happenings. Avoid stock photos when possible – people want to see you!

3. Speak casually

Striking the right tone is essential if you want to reach and connect with your audience. By speaking casually, you come off as personable, friendly and trustworthy. Casual is just a bit more formal than conversational. When using this tone, you may want to fall back on sanctioned grammar and punctuation rules and rely more on word choice to keep the communication light.

4. Get real

Give some insight to your team and process –show people you’re “real.” You may want to include recent announcements or interesting facts about employees/volunteers in your email newsletters.

inBLOOM recently sent out a creative Mother’s Day email, showing our realness. We included a greeting and then our photos with quotes about why we love being moms. It was a fun way to show people a more personal side of who we are.

Another great way to get more personable is to include your photo as a signature at the bottom of your emails. This is particularly ideal if you are your brand – for example if you’re a psychiatrist, book author, personal trainer or veterinarian.

5. Keep it clean, modern and optimized for mobile

Don’t overwhelm the eyes with the design or too much copy. Your email should be visually appealing, with a clean and modern look. It should also be optimized for mobile. Mobile email will account for 15 to 70% of email opens, depending on your target audience, product and email type. (eMailmonday)

You may want to keep a consistent look and feel to all your email newsletters so that people easily recognize the email is from you business. The best way to do this is to customize a template in your email marketing software and keep using that same template. We’re fans of Constant Contact for small businesses and nonprofits.

Be creative when choosing the right font, color scheme, images, header, and footer. The ideal size for a header image is 600 pixels wide and no more than 200 pixels tall. We recommend your header include your logo with your company tagline and services. It’s a good idea to hyperlink your website with your header.

6. Give people the option for more

Don’t stuff your email with too much information – less is more! People aren’t going to spend too much time with your email open. Instead, give people the option to read more about a certain topic. Link to content on your website that gives this information. Also use your email as an opportunity to link to recent third-party blogs and articles in the media that mention your company. It’s great PR and elevates your reputation.

7. Use an enticing subject line

Use a subject line that entices people to open your email, but one that won’t cause it to end up in spam. Similar to a blog post or news article, the headline needs to be good or else it’s less likely to be read.

So, how do you write an enticing subject line that will get the recipient to open your email? The length of your subject line matters – keep it short, simple and descriptive. We recommend no more than 5-8 words or 40 characters. Many email providers will cut off subject lines with greater than 60 characters.

8. Release insider info

Who doesn’t want to be the first to know something? Give your audience insider news about an event, promotion, expansion/renovation or new product/service. It’s as simple as that. If your readership feels valued, you’ll see better results.

To get started sending emails that get better results, sign up for Constant Contact here. Have questions along the way, comment on this blog and we’ll be in touch.

For some other reads on email marketing, check out inBLOOM’s posts on:

Know the 6 Types of Emails That Deliver Success

4 Ways to Get Better Results with Email

Tips and Tools for Using Constant Contact To Promote Your Events

 

For my fellow Bansky and art fans, this cover photo is by stencil artist Bandit.

Photo cred: flickr: Bruno Girin 

 

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Email

The Machines Are Rising Say SEO Experts. Are You Ready?

The Machines Are Rising Say SEO Experts. Are You Ready?

Digital marketer, professor and SEO expert Marcus Tandler believes we are entering an age where links will no longer be a part of online SEO ranking formulas. In fact, he thinks Google may be already working on leveraging the power of machine learning to separate itself from old school ranking factors, becoming more independent in the SEO game.

At this year’s YoastCon, a Netherlands conference dedicated to website optimization, Marcus will discuss the changing world of SEO and the next evolutionary steps in search engine rankings. He’ll talk about the approach of Russian search engine Yandex, and how at the end of 2015 its announcement to stop counting links as a ranking factor for commercial queries stunned the SEO community. And the Russians aren’t the only ones annoyed by linkspam. Google has taken measures to tackle the problem and Marcus expects OnPage SEO to become more important in years to come.

What is OnPage SEO?

It refers to factors that have an effect on your Web site or Web page listing in natural / organic search results. There are marketing agencies like inBLOOM available to help you improve your website’s SEO by focusing on usability, content, tools, and quality, instead of trying to cheat search engines with keyword stuffing and spam links.

So how does a search engine like Yandex now assess the importance or authority of a website without the help of links?

Yandex looks at over 800 factors, including those that are internal (content of the website and its structure) and external. They collect all data about the website they can collect while complying with users’ privacy policy.

What does all this tech talk mean to your digital marketing efforts? You should spend less time and money on paid links and more on SEM (search engine marketing). Instead, start focusing on your site’s design, content, and visitor behavior. Offer value and search engines like Google will take notice.

Here are some general things to know about SEO optimization according to Marcus:

  • Over 5 billion searches are done on Google every day
  • Search is the most visited website on mobile phones and Google has become a mobile-first company
  • Search, search behavior, search needs, search expectations have evolved, and search engines have no choice but to respond
  • You need to learn who is clicking in order to know what is providing value
  • It’s not just about finding what you’re searching for; it’s finding answers to your questions and needs as quickly as possible
  • Search must become more personalized, moving from a web search to a contextualized search that answers people’ questions

So how does Google rank content if there aren’t a lot of links to a post?

It reverts to the way search engines were before links – judging based on the text on the page. The way Google works is that it says the first time we see the word on the page, count up a little bit more. The next time, ok a little more but not a ton more, but after a while they say we’ve seen this word a few times maybe this page is about the topic. However, it doesn’t help you to keep repeating that keyword over and over again. And at some point, Google might view that as keyword stuffing and the page would not do as well as it would with just a moderate mention of a keyword.

Page rank doesn’t just focus on backlinks. There are several ways Google accesses the quality of content, such as determining if the page sits on a domain that seems reputable. But typically, if a user is typing a rare phrase and there are no other pages on the web that have that particular phrase, even if there aren’t that many links, the page can be returned because Google thinks it might be relevant to what the user is looking for. The search engine is looking at the quality of the content that is on the page, rather than looking for links.

Getting external links was once the single most important objective for attaining high rankings. This stems from the idea that external links are one of the hardest metrics to manipulate and thus, one of the best ways for search engines to determine the popularity of a given web page. This idea was first used by the early search engine Alta Vista and later improved upon by Google.

Google first made its mark by introducing the Stanford community to PageRank (an algorithm developed by Google co-founder Larry Page). This algorithm counted hyperlinks as votes for popularity. The pages that had the most links pointing at them were considered the most popular. When they were deemed relevant for a particular query, the most popular and relevant pages would become the first pages listed in Google’s results. Although this algorithm is much more complex today, it still likely includes the notion of external links as votes.

So now that you have the prediction for what’s up Google’s search engine sleeves in the coming years, it’s important that you gear up for the change. Start providing your website visitors with engaging, helpful experiences from the start and you will be rewarded.

Cover photo: Martin Gommel

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Email

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.

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Email