I have some bad news for you. Just because you are posting content on Facebook doesn’t mean you’re instantly going to get new customers. Social media is not a silver bullet, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing.
Having a strong social media presence is an essential part of any good marketing strategy, but like any type of marketing, it’s just one piece of the puzzle.
Too often, I see clients post about an upcoming concert, class or workshop on Facebook and then wonder why they didn’t have more people show up to their event. “But we posted about it on Facebook!,” they say.
What many people don’t understand is that each post on Facebook is only shown to a handful of your followers. Facebook uses an algorithm to determine how relevant posts are to each person, and each thing you post will only be seen by a tiny percentage of your fans. Facebook has a very good reason for doing this: They want you to purchase ads to ensure you’re reaching your audience.
And, if Facebook determines that what you’re writing about is an event, they’re even less likely to show it to your fans for free, in hopes that you’ll pay to boost your event. It doesn’t seem fair, but that’s how it works.
So what are some things you can do to make your social media marketing more effective?
If you are a small business owner you know you want to make your business more visible. You can’t do it yourself, but who is the best to turn to for help – a public relations or an advertising professional?
First, know that both public relations and advertising fall under the umbrella of marketing. Marketing professionals help you generate more business by increasing your visibility, and often times they provide both public relations and advertising services under one roof. Other times, however, companies specialize in one or the other.
But what are the differences between public relations and advertising and which service can you best benefit from? Here are the differences between the two and the advantages that both can reap.
WHAT IS PUBLIC RELATIONS?
PR generates awareness by sending press releases to the media gatekeepers, such as newspaper reporters, magazine editors, TV and radio producers and more.
PR agencies write press releases as a means to entice reporters to write about their client. Many people think that a press release is an article that you write that gets placed verbatim in the newspaper. In fact, however, a press release is simply a story idea that you send to a reporter, who then will pull inspiration from the press release and write his or her own story. It does not guarantee a written spot in a publication.
It’s important to understand that press releases need to be timely. For example, if a business is launching a new product, offering a new service, or hosting a new event, this is the perfect time to send out a press release.
ADVANTAGES OF PR
WHAT IS ADVERTISING?
First of all, let’s go over what advertising IS. It’s a TV commercial, radio spot, billboard, print display ad, online banner ad, etc. It is NOT a press release. Advertising is key to getting your brand recognized and seen by a larger audience, but in most forms of advertising you don’t have much time or space to explain much.
Advertising agencies help you create and write your ads for various mediums, and they also help determine the best spot to place your ads to reach your desired audience.
One type of advertising that does allow you to explain more about your business is an advertorial. An advertorial often appears in print publications like a magazine. It looks likes a piece of editorial content but is actually an ad that someone paid for.
ADVANTAGES OF ADVERTISING
I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Public relations is not rocket science. In fact, a lot of it is just common sense.
The first step is to ask yourself what is NEW about your company. In other words, what makes your company worth writing about, and worth writing about right now? Reporters don’t write stories about business as usual. Do you have a new product that you’re launching? Do you have an annual event coming up? If not, can you talk about what you’re doing as part of a trend? Think about how you can make your story newsworthy.
Once you know what you’re story is about, it’s time to write the pitch. Here are some tips to writing a good public relations pitch that is guaranteed to get your story looked at.
1. Send Your Pitch the Right Person
OK, this seems easy, but it's not always easy to do. If you are sending something to a print newspaper, you want to send it to both the reporter who covers your subject matter, as well as the editor who oversees that section. One way to find the right reporter is to do a search for other stories that have a similar focus to yours and look at the person’s byline. Often, reporters will have their email address either in their byline or at the bottom of the article. Another tactic is to go to the publication’s website, click on the “Contact Us” tab, and look for a staff directory or email address to send it to. If all else fails, call the phone number and ask for the person who covers your area (business, theater, health care, etc.).
When contacting people on TV, do NOT send a pitch to the host of a show, unless you happen to be personal friends with them. Producers and assistant producers are the ones who make decisions on stories, not the hosts. This is also true at radio, except at WGN radio and other very small talk stations, where the hosts do decide what they're going to talk about.
2. Personalize the Email
Once I get the name of the person I want to send a press release to, I always address them by name in my email. I highly recommend taking the time to send a personalized email to each reporter, rather than sending out a generic, mass email to everyone. If you can mention their specific section, or reference other things they have covered in the past, they'll know you took the time to think about their publication, and you’ll get much better results.
3. Customize the Angle
Just like you want to change the greeting for each reporter, you always want to vary your pitch based on each publication. If you have an organization that raises money for sick kids on the North Shore, you want to mention kids from Glenview if you send it to the Glenview paper, mention Evanston when you send it to the Evanston papers, and mention kids when you send it to Chicago Parent. Make sure you adjust the subject line of the email to reflect the different angle, too.
4. Start with the Facts
Now, let's talk about the actual email. You don’t need a long introduction about yourself or your company when you send in a pitch. Remember to give the “who, what, when, where, and why” in the very beginning of your email. Keep it short, and you can send a more lengthy press release as an attachment.
4. Include a High-Resolution Photo
This is ESSENTIAL for print newspapers or magazines! Don’t make the reporter do extra work to bug you for a photo later. Make sure you attach a photo that is at least 150 dpi in resolution.
5. Submit News Yourself
These days, lots of websites allow you to post your own content directly to their sites. For example, if you’re promoting an event, you can post it on Metromix, ChicagoParent.com or MakeItBetter.net. You can post articles on Patch.com or Triblocal.com. Check for other sites specific to your industry that have user-generated content, as well.
6. Make It Timely
Reporters and editors are always trying to “peg” stories to other timely events to make them relevant. For example, they’ll be more likely to write about new home sales in May or June, fitness in January, and hotels in the summer. Look for anniversaries, holidays or other significant days of the year to tie your coverage to.
Have a question about how to write a good public relations pitch? Let me know!
One of the most frequent questions I get from clients is how frequently they should be posting on social media, writing blogs and sending out newsletters. “I want to increase my awareness,” they say, “But I don’t want to overdo it. I don’t want to bother people.”
Here is a quick tip: You are not bothering people when you write blogs or post on social media! They want to hear from you. In fact, it’s been proven that the more frequently you post, the more followers you will have – not the other way around.
The real question should be, how much manpower can you put behind your social media and blogs? If you have enough time and manpower to write one blog a month and post on social media every few days, start with that. If you can manage to get out two blogs a week and several social media posts a day, by all means, go for it.
Will some people unfriend you or unsubscribe from your newsletter when you increase your frequency? Sure, that will probably happen. But more people will also become fans, because the more content you put out, the more chances you have to reach people.
Here are some reasons why increased frequency is important on various platforms:
Facebook does not show every post to every person who likes your page. In fact, some posts may only be seen by a handful of people, while others may be seen by hundreds. Why? Because Facebook has a little thing called an algorithm that determines what to post on people’s news feeds. Their goal is to show people only what they think would be the most interesting to them. If you can, I suggest posting up to three times a day and varying the types of things you post.
If you only post once a day on Twitter, you’re most likely getting lost in the shuffle. That’s why many experts suggest you Tweet several times a day. Social media expert Chris Brogan often posts six to eight times a day, and he’s only getting bigger because of it.
According to the book Platform by Michael Hyatt, there is a direct correlation to how frequently you blog and your blog traffic. I have seen this play out with my clients, as well. When I encouraged my husband, Jimmy Carrane, to increase his blog from every other week to once a week, his website traffic and newsletter subscribers increased dramatically. However, according to many studies, your website traffic will get the biggest increase if you can post five or more times a week (a very tall order).
When Increased Frequency Can Backfire: Email Newsletters
When it comes to email newsletters, more frequency does not necessarily mean better results. Actually, studies have shown that if you send more than three emails per week, you can actually turn off readers and reduce your engagement. But if you send, say, less than one email per month, you can also lose engagement because readers forget about you. So it’s best to keep your emails somewhere in that sweet spot between once a month and once or twice a week.
Blog writing is not always easy for businesses. Unlike in a personal blog, as a business owner we can’t just talk all about ourselves and what we had for lunch. So if you have a business blog, what do you write about?
To determine the best topics for your business blog blog, you first have to ask yourself, “Who is my audience?” Spend some time thinking about who are they, what they care about, and what their pain points are.
Once you know this, start brainstorm possible blog ideas. Here are five of easy ways to get you thinking about good topics for your blog:
1. The customer profile – If you brag about yourself, it’s tacky. But if you get someone else to brag about you, it’s smart. In fact, writing profiles of your customers where they talk about why they’ve benefited from working with you is one of the most simple and effective blog strategies out there.
I used this strategy for about two years with a wholesaler, and wrote profiles of a different retailer every month. In each profile, I told the retailer’s story – how they got started, how they’ve grown and what they love about the business. I also asked them about the struggles they faced in their business and how they overcame them, and then asked them why they chose to carry products from the wholesaler. These blogs worked well because they resonated with the audience (which was made up of similar retailers), and they helped put the wholesaler’s products into a human context.
2. Tips – As a business owner, you have a lot of knowledge in your field that can help your clients. To establish yourself as an expert, write blogs that break down simple concepts into bite-sized tips. Remember, keep your audience in mind. What is it that they would like to know?
3. Anniversaries and Milestones – As you come up with a list of potential blog topics to use throughout the year, make sure to acknowledge milestones and anniversaries along the way. You can write about the 100th sale you’ve made, the fifth year you’ve been in business, or the work anniversary of one of your employees. Each of these emphasizes your longevity in the marketplace.
4. Seasonal tie-ins – In addition to thinking about your audience, you also want to think about timeliness. What is going on throughout the year that affects your customers, and how can you tie that into a blog? For example, a home remodeling company could write about designing fireplaces in the winter and building porches in the spring. A chiropractor could talk about reducing stress during the holidays or reducing injuries from running during the summer. The possibilities are endless.
5. Commenting on News Items – Writing a blog based on current events can be a great way to get your blog shared with lots of people on social media. For example, one of my clients is an improv comedy teacher, and he recently published blogs about Robin Williams’ death and the Big Bang Theory actors getting $1 million per episode contracts. A word of warning, however: Steer clear of talking too much about politics or other controversial subjects in your blog, because you do not want to alienate customers. Instead, use topical subjects as a jumping off point to talk about something relevant to your audience.
Have any other good blog writing ideas? Let us know!
Have you ever dropped a rock in a pond and watched the waves ripple out into the water? The ripples closest to where the rock lands are the most pronounced, and they fade out the further away they get from the center.
This is how you should think about your marketing. When you come up with a marketing plan, you want to put the most effort into marketing to those who already know you, and spend less effort marketing to those you don’t.
You might think this sounds counter intuitive. After all, if you want to grow your business, don’t you want to reach new customers?
Yes, of course everyone wants to reach new customers, but in today’s crowded marketplace, it’s highly unlikely that your message will get through to someone who has never heard of you. But if those who are closest to you love your company or your service, they will tell other people, who will fall in love with your service and will tell someone else, so creating extremely connected, satisfied customers is the best way to reach new people. These days, developing loyal, loud fans is key.
If you’re just starting a marketing campaign and are trying to decide where to spend the most money, ask yourself, how can I make the biggest impact on those around me? Here are a couple ideas to get you started:
1. Tell your personal friends: Do all of your personal friends and family members know about your business? Don’t be shy about telling your friends what you do. Offer them discounts if they refer new business, and make sure to talk about it on your personal Facebook page. Also, set up a business Facebook page and invite all of the people you know to like it.
2. Set up an email newsletter: Sending out email newsletters is a great way of staying connected and engaged with your current and former customers. The more they see your name in your inbox, the more you will be at the top of their mind when they are talking to their friends.
3. Thank your customers: One way to be the kind of business that your customers rave about is by doing small things that make your customers feel special, such as thanking them with a note or gift at the end of a project or sending them a card when it’s their birthday. Also consider offering them incentives for referring new business.
4. Get involved in your community: People are more likely to buy from companies that are near them rather than ones that are further away. The more that you are involved in your local chamber of commerce, attend networking events in your area, or volunteer with community organizations, the more visible you will be in your community, and the more leads you will generate.
5. Get local publicity first: If you’re looking to get publicity for your business, remember to start with the newspapers, magazines and blogs that are closest to where your company is located. Journalists always care more about things that are local, and the more local clips you get, the more legitimate you will seem when the larger news outlets come calling.
Once you’ve done everything you can do locally, then, and only then, should you start trying to market to people outside of your core circle by buying ads in newspapers, magazines, or on the Internet. Trust us, the return on investment you’ll see from marketing to those you know first will be much higher than marketing to those you don’t.
Customers who have bought from you before are the ones who are most likely to buy from you again, and sending out email newsletters is a great way of keeping your current customers engaged with your brand.
But just collecting someone's email address doesn't mean you're automatically going to have good engagement with your email newsletters. If you've been sending email newsletters out for a while now and noticed that your stats aren't as high as you would like, you're not alone.
Here are some common problems companies face with their email newsletters, along with some simple solutions. Let us know what you think!
Problem: My open rates are down
Possible Reason: You need better subject lines
A boring subject line is death to any newsletter. Have you ever been enticed by a subject line like "X company's June newsletter"?
Keep your subject lines short, catchy, and with your audience always in mind. And if you can promise to solve a problem for them, even better.
Remember, however, that catchy shouldn't mean cryptic. I got one today from Athleta (a clothing company owned by the Gap), that said "LBD is going on vacation." What is LBD? A person? A brand? I had no idea. (Turns out it was "little black dress.") Confusing people shouldn't be your goal.
Problem: My click-through rates are down
Possible reason: You have too many graphics or too much text
If your entire newsletter is one big graphic or a big flyer, people may automatically assume that there is nothing to click on and will just glance at it and close it. Not good. Instead, make sure your newsletter has some graphic elements, but it also has lines of text.
However, too much text can be as bad as too many graphics. If there's too much text, people will skim it, or there will be nothing left for them to read on the website.
The best approach is to write a blog on your website and then include the first paragraph of your blog in your newsletter and provide a link to read more.
Problem: I have too many unsubscribes
Possible reason: Your content is too sales-heavy
People do not want to be sold to (too much). Remember, people will open newsletters that will help them in their lives. Always think about the customer's pain points when deciding what to include in a newsletter.
For example, if you own a pet store, you could write blogs that provide advice such as "Is Your Dog Getting Enough Exercise?" or "3 Easy Ways to Give Your Dog Medicine," instead of only sending out emails about your upcoming sales. Content will always get better engagement than messages about sales, and sometimes, when people only get information about sales, they will simply unsubscribe. Just try to write about topics that you think are of interest to your readers.
Remember email newsletters aren't an exact science. Sometimes you have to tweak your formula to find one that works for you. The most important thing is that you do it!
Maintaining a company Facebook page is not always as easy as it sounds. Often, we assume that simply having a Facebook site for our company is enough. And while having a Facebook page for your business is certainly better than not having one, it’s not going to be very effective if you don’t approach your page with the right strategy.
Here are some simple tips to help you make the most out of your company’s Facebook page:
1. Know your audience: Before you do anything else, put yourself into the minds of the people you are speaking to. In the beginning, you'll basically be talking to people you already know -- your friends, relatives and current clients. Eventually, your page will get big enough that you'll (hopefully) be talking to potential clients. Who are those people? What do they want? What do they need? What drives them crazy in their everyday lives and how can you help them? That's the stuff you should be writing about.
2. Be Useful: OK, this isn’t all that different from the one above, but it’s worth reiterating. You want to HELP people. Give them useful information. You’re not there just to promote yourself all the time. Always try to think about what you audience would appreciate knowing about.
3. Be Personal: It’s not only OK to share about yourself, it’s actually a good thing. People want to know who the person is behind the keyboard. Go ahead and post pictures of yourself, tell us when it’s your birthday, talk about what the weather is like where you are, etc. Just because it’s a business page doesn’t mean it needs to be aloof. Be human!
4. Use a lot of photos: Facebook’s currency is photos. People love ‘em, and posts that have them will get more engagement. One of the best things you can do to increase the number of photos on your page is to pay for a subscription to a stock photo site, such as istockphoto.com. That way, you can post professional-looking images, and if you’re graphically inclined, you can even add quotes on top of the photos.
5. Ask questions: Back in the day, social media was a tool for having a dialogue with people. Used properly, it's a great way to form a connection with your audience and have a virtual conversation, not a one-way shouting match. One great way to make your readers feel more connected to your brand is to ask them questions and get their input on topics. Warning: If you don't have a big enough fan-base, this strategy is going to be a dud. Start first by advertising your page and paying for boosted posts so you have a wide enough audience that people will start responding.
I’ve seen it time and time again. People realize that they need to get more clients, that their business is no longer surviving strictly off of referrals and they decide it’s finally time to put some money into marketing.
So they contact me. And they say “We don’t have much money. How can we get new clients right away?"
And the answer is, you can’t. Marketing is a marathon, not a sprint. You can’t do one marketing effort and expect to see immediate results. But I can guarantee that creating a long-term marketing strategy and consistent effort over the long haul WILL net you much more business.
Think of marketing like strategizing in war. If you’re the general, you need to know why you’re fighting, where the enemy’s strongholds are and how you’re going to plan your attack. If some battles don’t go well, you don’t give up on the overall mission. You just re-group keep fighting.
To create an effective long-term marketing strategy, you have to zero in on your marketing goal. Your goal should be targeted and specific. It should NOT be as general as “I just want to make more money.” Duh, of course you do. But that’s not going to sharpen your focus enough to tell you where to spend your marketing money.
Here are some simple steps to putting together a long-term marketing strategy:
1. Identify your ideal client – Marketing is all about getting the right message to the right
people. If you don’t know who you want to reach, you’re going to be all over the place and waste valuable time and money. Once you know who you want to reach, try to get inside their heads. Where do they live? How old are they? Where do they hang out? What problems do they need solved? Put a name and a face to that person and put it up on a wall to remind you who you are going after.
2. Build your email database – When you want to build your business, think about concentric circles. Market first to the people who already know you the best – your current and former customers and contacts. They are the ones who are the most familiar with you and the most likely to buy from you again or refer you to someone else.
One of the best ways to marketing to your existing customers is to send out weekly or monthly emails to them (provided they give you the OK), and let them know what you are doing and how you can help. Every single time you make a new connection with a new potential client, ask if they would like to be added to your email list. Use any opportunity you can – such as at trade shows, networking events, etc. – to get more people onto your mailing list. You’ll be surprised at how quickly your list will grow. The other benefit of email: It's practically free.
3. Think hard before you change direction – Often when business is slow, we think we need to shift the direction of our company. But sometimes, we have to ask ourselves if changing directions is worth the time and effort. For example, if you’re currently an interior designer for homeowners, but you’d really like to be doing interior design for hotels, you’re going to have to put a lot of effort into reaching a whole new market. It will take time to gather a list of hotels and hotel managers, start to network with them, and for them to know who you are. It’s not that it can’t be done, it’s just that it’s going to take longer to establish yourself in a new market. If you do start down a new path, remember, this is going to take time. Don’t give up.
4. Be Consistent – Have you ever gone to a company’s Facebook page that doesn’t have any recent posts? It’s like going to a store with a “closed” sign out front. If you’re not
consistently updating your social media accounts, you might as well not be doing them.
Consistency is key to developing trust and legitimacy, and it also helps keep your brand at the forefront of your customers’ minds. Blogs or newsletters should be sent out the same day every week or every month. Facebook pages should ideally be updated at least once a day. Set a schedule for yourself and stick to it.
Let’s face it: No one really reads anymore. Oh, I know you’regoing to lambast me and say you LOVE to read, you devour a book a week and you even have War and Peace on your nightstand.
But I’m here to tell you that online, you don’t really read. You search and you scan.
Unfortunately, too many companies look at their blogs more like term papers or well-respected tomes about their industry, and the more boring the blog, the less likely that anyone will read it.
To help you out, here are a few tips on how to write an effective blog.
1. Use numbers. Numbers are great. They help writers organize their content, and they help readers scan the information quickly. Look, I’m using them now!
2. Keep it short. I just said this at the top of the article, but if you’re like most readers, you skipped the intro because you’re just scanning anyway. The longer the paragraph, the more likely someone won’t read it.
3. Give advice. Blogs should be helpful to the reader. Instead of writing about my own experience writing blogs, I chose to make this article more of a “how-to” story, giving people direct advice, rather than making them read between the lines. Also, some of the most popular searches in any topic begin with the words “How to…”
4. Use your keywords. If you’re trying to write an effective blog, you have to use the keywords that you think people are going to be typing in. Don’t be shy about using them frequently, in fact. Don’t make your sentences sound weird, but just try to be strategic about how many times you can work them into the copy.
5. Use a casual tone. Yes, lawyer/consultant/engineer, this means you. Many times, businesses think they have to write in a professional tone in order to be respected, but actually, readers respond better to content that seems like it’s written by a regular person, rather than a lawyer, and it makes the company more trustworthy and accessible.
6. Use internal links. If it’s possible, refer to previous blogs or other pages on your site
and provide links to them. This will help Google determine what certain pages are about, and keep visitors on your site longer.
Need professional blog writing help? Contact Sharp Pencil Marketing for more
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