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Three must-have tools for SMBs

In many ways, developing a marketing strategy in the digital age is more complicated than traditional methods. On the bright side, digital marketers will never have to devise advertising campaigns from scratch again.

 

If you're a small business owner, there are more effective, yet affordable tools at your disposal than at any point in history. Do you want to know which channels your customers frequent? Certain applications can provide this information. Are you in need of a free website to promote your message? There are plenty of those out there, too.

 

At times, selecting the right programs to use can feel like finding Waldo. If you're struggling to decide, here are three tools that, above all else, you simply need to use.

 

Four steps to making online marketing leap

If you've been listening to me, you've probably taken to heart some of the lessons about the key components you need for your company to achieve online marketing success: a strong website, social media strategies and an SEO campaign.

 

If you have all of these things in order, take a moment to pat yourself on the back. That's a big first step.

 

Now, it's time to kick-start your campaigns into further action. This requires some extra steps and leveraging of new technologies - but don't worry if you might be struggling with this.

 

Improve online sales by delivering better social customer service

Written by Kevin Plankey
On the

Not many people these days do business with a company blindly. Whether you're purchasing round trip tickets to Australia or buying a new pair of shoes, chances are you've read a review before seeking their service. In fact, nearly 90 percent of consumers are influenced by internet reviews, either positive or negative. 

 

One of the biggest influences on those reviews is how good - or bad - a business' service is. Customers are slightly more likely to report negative incidents than they are positive ones. This places an even bigger emphasis on customer service than ever before - including interactions on social media sites, which have become an incredibly common medium for communications.

 

Kill two birds with one stone

By now, you've probably heard so much about social media marketing that you're getting a little sick of it. You've been told that social networking sites are a gold mine, that they're a great way to communicate with customers, they're effective for targeting your messages and improving the likelihood you come up in local searches. 

 

And those are just the benefits I've talked about. 

 

If it's any consolation, social media marketing has proven to be more than worth the hype. In fact, a recent study, which polled a group of SEO experts, found that social marketing is the top driver of website traffic for small businesses. SEO was also found to be a large traffic generator for small businesses.

 

Use Facebook to win over your local market

Written by Kevin Plankey
On the

If you're a local business owner, it makes sense that you want your company's listings showing up at the top of consumer search results. 

 

After all, it doesn't help a restaurateur based in Boston to have a California native land on his or her website while looking for a bite to eat. And it certainly doesn't benefit a local barber when a person halfway across the country is trying to get a haircut and winds up on your site. 

 

So how can you make sure your website is the first to show up? Tailor your marketing strategies to meet Facebook's local search requirements.

 

What 'local search' can do

According to Facebook's website, "local search is the use of specialized internet search engines that allow users to submit geographically constrained searches against a structured database of local business listings." 

Social media - The tool that improves customer service, loyalty and sales

Written by Kevin Plankey
On the

Social media gets a lot of hype in the business world, to the point that it's been labeled a necessity. But is all that hype warranted? 

 

A recent study revealed that it is. Not only that, but the report indicated that you should be jumping at the vast opportunities social media marketing provides.

 

The survey polled decision-makers who have joined the world of social media, and they identified several advantages, including:

 

* Marketng (cited by 86 percent of respondents)

* Customer Service (73 percent)

* Sales (31 percent)

 

And those numbers appear to be on a steady incline.

 

Mining for gold - Picking the right social networking site for you

Written by Kevin Plankey
On the

You may have caught on by now to my strong feelings about incorporating social media into your marketing strategies. 

 

I've called social networking sites an advertising gold mine in the past, and a recent survey revealed that small business owners are beginning to share those feelings. LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube and Pinterest all grew in popularity exponentially over the past year, and 82 percent of respondents now consider Facebook an effective marketing channel. At the same time, more than half of respondents said they need help with their social marketing strategies. 

 

Do social media well or don't do it at all

You've probably seen the flashing lights and heard the emergency warnings by now about the importance of social media: You absolutely need to have a Facebook and/or Twitter account going forward if you want to be able to compete.

 

Yes, it's true that you will need to implement some form of social marketing strategies, but keep in mind that's far from the entire truth. 

 

Social strategies can affect your sales - both ways

Whether you're a social media fanatic or not, chances are a large portion of your customer base is. 

 

Social networking sites, from the aforementioned Facebook and Twitter to Instagram and Pinterest, have essentially become regular mediums of communication. People use them to stay in touch with relatives, friends who have moved away, former colleagues and, apparently, their favorite brands. 

Social media - Integrate, don't stand alone

Written by Kevin Plankey
On the

Social media advertising has been all the rage for some time now. You've probably heard from every self-proclaimed expert, myself included, that you need to market to your audience on Facebook, Twitter and whatever other sites they use regularly. 

 

You might be alarmed, then, if you saw the results of a recent study, which found that more social media followers hasn't necessarily equated to more sales. Coca-Cola, for instance, which has 61.5 million Facebook followers, the most of any brand, hasn't seen any statistically significant relationship between their buzz and their short-term sales. 

 

That means you should pull the plug on social media marketing, right?

 

Not by a long shot. 

 

Use new Twitter tool to improve targeted marketing strategies

If you're involved with your company's marketing campaign in any way, one topic that's bound to come up is how you can ensure your messages are reaching the right audience. 

 

Unlike giant corporations, small businesses don't have the luxury of developing large-scale ads that will reach the majority of the population. It would be nice to produce a minute-long commercial that appears at 7 p.m. on Super Bowl Sunday, but for most companies, that's slightly outside their budget constraints. 

 

If you fall into this category, you really have no reason to worry. Through the use of innovative technology, you have more effective channels than ever by which you can reach your customer base. Better yet, you have more effective tools at your disposal to determine what those channels are.

 

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