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3 Innovative Ways Startups Are Driving Results Over Social Media

Some small businesses are getting creative and earning their social media followers’ trust.

Kim Lachance Shandrow

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Small businesses understand that social-media platforms are fertile ground for potentially lucrative two-way conversations with their target customers. To these companies, there’s much more to social marketing than peddling their brand story as bait for hollow likes, re-pins and re-tweets.

Here’s a look at three such businesses using inventive and effective social-media strategies to boost brand awareness, build relationships with customers and drive sales:

'Home Try-On' campaign-Online Marketing

Warby Parker’s ‘Home Try-On’ campaign lets customers get feedback from their social-media friends on which glasses they should purchase.

1. Warby Parker

Social strategy: Encouraging user-generated content that drives brand awareness.

Warby Parker, a New York City-based online seller of vintage-inspired eyeglasses and sunglasses, is using social media to reinvent how people shop for and purchase eyewear. It does this by shipping customers five pairs of frames that they select from Warby Parker’s website in packaging that encourages them to take pictures of themselves wearing the glasses and then post the shots on their Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts. Customers can take five full days to test the glasses before shipping them back and, the company hopes, placing an order.

The strategy behind the Home Try-On campaign is for shoppers to get feedback from their social-media friends and contacts on which pair fits them best, while generating a positive, social buzz around Warby Parker’s brand “in a natural, organic way,” says co-founder and co-CEO David Gilboa. Customers who post photos of themselves in frames are buying at twice the rate as those who don’t, he says.

Shoppers seeking opinions outside of their own social-media circles can submit pictures to Warby Parker’s Facebook page for additional feedback. Home Try-On participants have posted some 25 000 images on the company’s Facebook Timeline and more than 40 000 on Instagram since the promotion was started in February 2010.

“Don’t view social media as just another way to push your marketing messaging,” Gilboa advises. “Think of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter as critical customer service gateways and take the time to respond to each and every customer who reaches out to you there. Each comment, photo and tweet gives you an opening to directly communicate with them on a meaningful, personalised basis that encourages brand loyalty.”

Pork Barrel BBQ Social Media Campaign-Online Marketing

The founders of Pork Barrel BBQ created their own social-media platform for BBQ fanatics.

2. Pork Barrel BBQ

Social strategy: Creating its own social community.

Who needs Facebook when you can invent your own social-media network specifically tailored to your target demographic? That’s what Heath Hall and Brett Thompson did in February 2011, creating Backyard BBQ, a social-media network for barbeque enthusiasts.

The co-founders of Pork Barrel BBQ, an Alexandria, Virginia-based barbeque sauce, restaurant and catering company, noticed that barbeque fans from around the world were interacting on internet message boards and forums that didn’t allow them to share, comment on or like photos and videos.

In response, the company developed a free online social space for grillers of all skill levels, from backyard beginners to competitive pit masters, so they can swap recipes, cook-off stories and pictures and videos from the pit.

Hall and Thompson invited legendary pit masters, such as Johnny Trigg, Pat Burke, Rod Gray and Melissa Cookston, to join the social network and help spread the word in their own social networks and grilling circles.

Backyard BBQ has grown to 4 312 members from in the US and in more than 20 different countries, Hall says, and it is driving “a significant amount of traffic” to the company’s main website where people can buy sauces and rubs.

From concept to launch, it took about six months for Hall and his Pork Barrel BBQ co-founder Brett Thompson to develop BBQ Backyard. They developed the platform using Ning, an online service that lets individuals and businesses quickly, relatively easily design, create and host their own custom social networks.

Ning offers a 14-day free trial and basic monthly prices range between $25 and $99. Hall says it cost about $500 in all to get BBQ Backyard off the ground.

Pork Barrel BBQ has its own member profile on Backyard BBQ, of course, featuring blog posts, how-to cooking videos, recipes and promotional event photos. Hall encourages fellow small-business owners to launch their own specialised social networks “if there is a void in their particular market.” Hall says the benefits “can be enormous in terms of networking, spreading your brand message, learning about new opportunities and giving back to the community.”

Oysterpedia-Online Marketing

Love oysters? Try the Mermaid Inn’s highly social iPhone app, Oysterpedia.

3. The Mermaid Inn

Social strategy: Building a custom app that is informative and highly social.

The Mermaid Inn, which operates three popular seafood restaurants in New York City, launched its own aptly named, highly social iPhone app, Oysterpedia. It’s a quirky-cool, yet practical digital encyclopedia of more than 200 North American oysters that lets users discover, rate and share their favourite oysters on their Facebook and Twitter accounts.

The mouthwatering, image-rich app also offers a glossary of terms to help users appropriately describe an oyster’s origins, appearance and flavour profile (“beach cultured,” “brininess,” “meaty,” among others). A less informative, yet equally important feature is Oysterpedia’s “About” option, which includes a direct link to The Mermaid Inn’s website. There, visitors find the company’s latest social media promotions, including weekly “Social Media Monday” meal discounts, which are also advertised on the company’s Facebook, Tumblr, Google+ and Twitter accounts.

Adam Conrad, who manages the company’s social-media accounts, says the hope is that consumers who use the app will feel inspired to experiment and order new types of oysters, as well as order their favourite ones again. Ideally, they’ll also be moved to share their favourite oysters – and exactly where they slurped them down – with their Facebook friends and Twitter followers.

Conrad says the app, which is downloaded about 200 times a week, along with a frequently updated menu of daily and weekly social-media campaigns, has contributed to a notable uptick in The Mermaid Inn’s overall brand awareness and sales.

Conrad believes it’s critical for companies to dedicate an employee to their social-media marketing efforts to help ensure they’re continuously posting interesting images, videos and news. “Most importantly,” he says, “make sure they’re publicly responding to comments, tweets and posts several times a day, especially to negative comments. This lets consumers know that no matter what they say about your brand, you’re listening and responding swiftly and appropriately.”

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Essential Questions to Ask When Creating a Social Media Marketing Plan. Find Out More Here

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Kim Lachance Shandrow is a Los Angeles-based tech journalist who specializes in writing about iPhone, BlackBerry, and Android phones, as well as social media marketing, startups, streaming TV, apps and green technology. Her work has appeared on NBC’s The Today Show, MSNBC.com, NBC.com, and in The Los Angeles Times and The International Business Times. She also consults for Ameba, a Canadian multiplatform children’s streaming TV startup.

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10 Online Marketers To Watch In 2018

The more diverse your sources of news and inspiration, the better. These ten people can help get you there.

Jayson Demers

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Online marketing requires experience, creativity and a working knowledge of the latest trends and technologies necessary to stay competitive in the modern landscape. And while there aren’t any shortcuts to gain more experience, there is a convenient way to stay up to date on the latest marketing trends and get inspiration for your creative campaigns.

That way? Following and paying attention to the best, smartest marketers in the industry.

With 2018 just getting started, I wanted to list some of my favourite marketing influencers, some of the most influential experts in the industry and some of the most promising creative minds to pay attention to this year:

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The Best Conversion Rate Optimisation Tips To Help You Grow Your Business

Whether you’re the owner of a company, or an online blogger, knowing conversion rate optimisation techniques will help you immensely.

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Conversion rate optimisation, otherwise known as CRO, is a 21st-century way to turn visitors to your website or blog into followers of your information or customers of your product or service.

Therefore, whether you’re the owner of a company, or an online blogger, knowing conversion rate optimisation techniques will help you immensely.

What Is Conversion Rate Optimisation or CRO?

Internet marketing, or what some people call online marketing, is promoting your product or service on the Internet through the digital channels available. Driving traffic is to your website or blog is hard, but it’s something you need to do in order to sell your product or service, so the last thing you want is to leave money on the table.

Traditionally, from the traffic you drive to your blog or website, a percentage of that traffic will become your customers or followers.

CRO is conversion optimisation strategies that puts a focus on your blog or website to determine what small or big changes need to be made to convert as many of your visitors as possible.

It’s the classic case of not working harder, but smarter.

Changes such as a new headline, new sales copy, a different coloured CTA (Call-to-Action) button, and more, are tested for effectiveness. This helps you take out all the guesswork and make changes that are proven to convert more sales.

Techniques such as A/B testing, where you create two different landing pages and send the same amount of traffic to each, is one example.

At the end of the day, the version that receives the most conversion is the one you would choose. A site with significant traffic may successfully test over a shorter time. On the other hand, in order to get accurate data, a site with a smaller amount of traffic will likely need more time than a larger one for testing.

Related: Beginners Guide To Digital Marketing In South Africa

What Happens When You Convert More Visitors Into Customers?

It’s a no brainer, when you convert visitors into clients and customers, your sales increase, and that’s the number one goal of any company or business. CRO can help you grow your business by receiving the same amount of traffic that you’re currently receiving.

Technically that means that you can make more sales without having to spend more money on marketing.

That also means that you’re not focused on the number of traffic you pull in with a mind on percentages, but rather focused on making the most of the traffic you currently have which makes the most of your marketing efforts.

Not Utilising CRO Means You Are Leaving Money on The Table

money-on-tableLet’s say you’re a small company with a goal of R50,000 a month in revenue. Your job is to turn a percentage of your visitors into customers. Without the correct conversion rate optimisation strategies, you’re looking strictly at numbers. You find that 1,000 visitors turn into 50 customers with a revenue of R20,000, which is R30,000 away from your goal.

Without the correct CRO strategies in place, you would work to increase the number of visitors to your site. However, with CRO, you implement e-commerce CRO tips that result in those 1,000 visitors turning into 125 customers.  That brings you to your R50,000 goal.  Without performing conversion rate optimisation, you’ve left R30,000 on the table.

Now that you’ve reduced your cost per acquisition, or what you pay per sale or click or form submit, you can either invest more in advertising or just bank the profits. Now that you understand what conversion rate optimisation is all about, let’s have a look at some of the best strategies that can help you take your business to a whole new level.

20 Of The Best CRO Strategies

You can spend loads of money on a fancy website or blog, but if it isn’t converting correctly, you’re losing customers and sales. That’s why conversion rate optimisation is becoming the number one priority with websites and blogs in the 21st-century.

1. Create an Effective Headline

If you are trying to convert visitors into followers or customers from a specific post, then your headline is one of the most important elements. It’s not there for a hard sell; it’s there to draw your potential customers to your site so that they’ll check out your product or service.

Your headline must show people what benefit they will receive from using what you have to offer.

Keep changing up those headlines till you find a strategy that works.

Related: Beginners Guide To Digital Marketing In South Africa (PART 2)

2. Reduce Huge Blocks of Text with Bullet Points

The way you present the content on your website is crucial. Give a potential customer too much information, and they’ll leave your site with eyes glazed over. Any material you present should be not only easy to understand but short and to the point.  One of the best ways to do that is with bullet points.

Bullet points create an organised presentation that keeps potential customers interested.

3. Include Your Contact Information

Significant changes can be done to your website or blog to increase conversions, but so can small ones. Include your contact information on your site or blog. This shows that you’re accountable and don’t mind being contacted, which can lead to customer trust and eventually sales. Include your phone number, email address, and even your mailing address.

4. Replace Phony Stock Photos

Stock PhotosYou know what a phony stock photo looks like. It’s the kind that you purchase from stock photo sites, and they’re the kind that you often see at more than one website. These types of photos look phony, and they reduce your credibility. Replace fake-looking stock photos with professional, unique photos or good quality photos that you’ve taken.

For example, instead of using a stock photo model with a cheesy grin, use a picture of one of your employees.

5. Use a Pop-Up Form

One effective way to convert visitors into followers and subscribers is a pop-up form. When visitors come to your side, a form pops up that encourages them to leave their name and email address, or just their email address, to become a subscriber. When you have a list of subscribers, you can then turn them into customers through newsletters, emails, etc.

Related: Beginners Guide To Digital Marketing In South Africa (PART 3)

6. Eliminate Unneeded Form Fields

A website or blog that is not user-friendly when it comes to form fields may not translate to customer conversion. A form field is where your customers type in their information.  What is the bare minimum of customer information that you need? You ask for the name, but do you also need the company name, for example, or can you do without having a customer type that in?

7. Remove Automatic Image Sliders

Images that flash before your eyes automatically may look attractive, but automatic image sliders have been proven to create banner blindness and therefore, reduce conversion. Use static images instead.

8. Include Videos

Videos have proven to be effective in drawing visitors and turning them into customers. If your site sells fishing products, for example, include a video of an expert fisherman using one of your fishing poles. Make sure the video is no more than two to three minutes long and be sure to put one on your landing page.

9. Make Your Call-To-Action Button Pop

Here is another strategy that seems small but that may prove to be very effective. Alter your call-to-action or CTA button. For example, is it more efficient for your button to say “Download Now” rather than “Buy Now”?  Is it better for your CTA button to be a bright red rather than a navy blue? By testing changes to your call-to-action button, you can determine if such a change will be effective.

10. Limit Your Call-To-Actions

If you have one call-to-action button on your website, that’s a wise choice. Too many call-to-actions can confuse potential customers and turn them off from your site. Put your focus on one effective call-to-action.

11. Have You Included the Word “Free”?

If there’s one thing that people love, it’s free stuff. What can you offer potential customers that are free?

For example, let’s say you sell psychic readings. Offer your potential clients a 10-minute free reading and display the offer prominently on the front page of your site. Chances are you’ll get a lot of conversions for your niche. Once you’ve drawn in customers with the free deal, you can better bring them to your paid services.

Related: Beginners Guide To Digital Marketing In South Africa (PART 4)

12. Match Your Landing Page to Your Ad

When your ad matches your landing page, the colour co-ordination and organisation can translate to conversions. In addition to the colour, the copy you use on your ad should match, in some way, with your landing page. So, when you draw potential customers to your ad, you gently move them to your landing page with no sharp differences.

13. Incorporate Trust Seals on Your Checkout Page

If there’s one thing that draws customers to a product or service, it’s trust. Incorporating trust seals on your checkout page and other places on your website is an excellent way to show that you are legitimate and to increase conversions.

For example, if you are offering dental products, a seal from a trusted dental association helps with customer trust.

14. Convey a Sense of Urgency

When you are promoting a product or service letting your potential customers know that a particular price will end soon, or that a product or service will only be offered for a limited, time greatly helps with conversion.

For example, let’s say yours is a site that sells cookware and you’re providing a crock-pot at a temporarily discounted price.

You would display on your blog or website a photo of the crock pot, along with content and possibly a video, and you would show the price and when the price ends.

15. Give Them a Money-Back Guarantee

There will always be a percentage of customers who are on the fence about your product or service. So how do you get them over that hump and create a conversion?  One way is to offer a money-back guarantee and to display it where it can be seen.

Keep in mind that it’s good to put a time limit on the money-back guarantee to something like 30 days or 60 days.

Related: Beginners Guide To Digital Marketing In South Africa (PART 5)

16. Include Live Chats

live-chatsMany companies are adding live chat prominently on their websites to answer customer’s questions in real-time. This is an effective solution that can lead to conversions. It allows you to take care of all a client’s issues to lead them into a sale. Many companies utilise chat apps to help with this process.

17. Retarget Your Ads

There are large and small changes that can be made to your website to increase conversions, but changes to the way you’re handling your ads could be done as well. Retargeting customers, can help increase conversions period.

When visitors come to your site, you create a customised targeted ad to get to them as soon as they leave.

If a visitor has come to your cosmetic store looking for an eye shadow, when they leave your site you target them with an ad for a different eye shadow in your line. The goal is to keep a visitor engaged with your product or service while staying top of mind.

18. Give Them Free Shipping

Shipping costs for a product can often make or break a sale. So, if there’s one thing that can contribute to conversion, it’s free shipping. Let your customers know that shipping is not a cost that they have to concern themselves with.

If free shipping seems unaffordable for your company, work with ways to cover shipping costs with your product prices.

19. Include Real Testimonials With Photos

One of the best ways to instill confidence in your product or service is with real testimonials. Have customers write testimonials of 50 to 100 words about your product or service and include a photo of the customers next to their testimonials. Include their full name with their picture.

Related: Beginners Guide To Digital Marketing In South Africa (PART 6)

20. Get Customers to Share Their Purchases on Social Media

These days, almost all of your clients are likely to be on at least one social media site. Encourage them to share the purchases they’ve made of your products on social media, such as Instagram.

Every time a customer buys one of your products or your services, automatically give them an opportunity to share and talk about what they’ve bought with a user-friendly share process included on your site.

The sooner you work on conversion rate optimisation tips on your blog or website, the sooner you’ll be bringing in customers in the most efficient way.

Customers translate to profits and profits translate to a successful company or business. CRO takes time, but with patience, your website or blog will see vast improvement in conversions.

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Implementing 2 Advanced Google AdWords Strategies

Find out how Dynamic Search Ads and Call-Only Campaigns can give you that competitive edge you need on Google AdWords.

Perry Marshall

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Let’s explore two advanced Google AdWords campaign types: Dynamic Search Ads and Call-Only campaigns. Give these two campaign types a try. They’ll let you squeeze even more from your AdWords account.

Dynamic search ads (DSAS)

Dynamic search ads are magical keys to reaching your customers. And the best part? Using them is easy once you master the setup.

What Are DSAs?

Google knows it’s hard to keep your campaigns perfectly in sync with your website. If you have an e-commerce site with thousands of products changing regularly, it’s a chore to be constantly creating new keywords, new ad groups and new ads inside your AdWords account.

DSAs were created to fill this gap. They let you show ads to excellent prospects who might be searching for items you sell on your site even if you don’t have a corresponding keyword for them in your account.

Related: The Secret to Building A Profitable AdWords Campaign

Why should you set up a DSA?

As long as you set a low cost-per-click, dynamic search ads typically have a decent CPA and provide additional relevant traffic. They’re also great for research as you get to uncover new search terms that people are using to find your site. (You can use this intelligence after the fact to add new keywords to your account.)

Let’s say you’ve just started selling wrought-iron fire pits on your e-commerce site but you don’t have the keywords for them yet in your AdWords account. A new prospect – we’ll call her Kim – is currently online searching for this by name. Kim types it in verbatim: “wrought iron fire pits.”

If you have a DSA campaign set up, you’re in luck: Google instantly recognises that you sell these but don’t yet have keywords for the purpose. Thankfully, you don’t miss a beat with Kim – Google shows her your Dynamic ad, then she clicks, comes to your website and makes a purchase.

How do they work?

It starts with Google regularly scanning your website and keeping an index of all its pages. When you’re starting out, you can choose to point Google to your entire site – we recommend this for your first DSA campaign – although later on you can target specific categories within your site.

Google knows what keywords are in your account and, more importantly, what keywords are not there. This means they can make accurate judgments about when to step in and show your DSA ads.

When setting up DSAs, Google creates the headline and you write the description. They choose the final URL and you set the bid.

Related: 7 Questions To Ask Before Hiring An Adwords Agency

Here’s how to set up a DSA:

  • Create a new campaign. One of the options you’ll see is to create a DSA campaign. We suggest not using that as it would limit your options further along. Instead, create a new Search campaign with “all features.” Your plan will be to only use DSAs inside that campaign.
  • You’ll need at least one ad group to hold your DSAs, and one is typically enough if you’re just starting out.
  • You still want to be split-testing, even though Google chooses your headline for you. So, create two different DSA ads with different body copy in each.
  • Choose the target. Start with the “all webpages” default. Save the advanced target­ing for later.
  • Add in ad extensions just as you would for a regular campaign.

Ongoing management of your DSA

dynamic-search-ads

Review your data. Keep an eye on the search queries Google chooses, particularly in the first few days. This lets you add any new negative keywords that you don’t want your ads shown for. And it’s a good way to identify and add new keywords you hadn’t yet thought of for other functioning campaigns. (You can add these new keywords as negatives in your DSA campaign, which forces that keyword traffic over to new campaigns in your account. Your DSA campaigns won’t be affected.)

Call-only campaigns

These allow you to create search ads where Google shows your phone number rather than a headline. As such, they only show on mobile devices capable of making calls.

A person clicks on your ad, which starts the process of calling your business directly from their mobile, rather than taking them to your site.

Related: 3 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Google Adwords

Why use call-only?

Call-only campaigns force people to call your phone number rather than visit your site. If generating more phone calls is high priority for your business, call-only campaigns are worth testing.

How to set up call-only campaigns

Setup is simple. You can create a new campaign from scratch or just copy your existing search campaigns and change the ad type. Replace regular ads with call-only ads.

Tip: Google wants to see individual ad groups with a reasonable number of impressions at the ad group level. So a small number of ad groups with more keywords in each one – generating more impressions per ad group – will work better for call-only campaigns.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com

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