News This Week: Facebook Changes, Email Charter, Bank Fees

Tito is horrified by BofA. He can still get tuna, right? 
What should you be paying attention to this week?

First, Facebook has made some massive changes to the way user feeds look and information is organized. Some of the engagement tools are really cool.

On the other hand, early results are bad for small and medium-sized brands - those with only a few hundred or few thousand fans may find themselves disappearing from fan feeds. Check your Facebook insights to see if your impression numbers are affected. That's what I'm noticing for the corporate Facebook pages I manage. Look for fixes soon - there will have to be workarounds or brands will start giving up on Facebook, which Zuckerberg won't like. (Search Engine Watch)

Next, do you find that email is taking over your time, and not in a good way? I often feel overwhelmed by the sheer amount of email that I receive. I am a conscientious person who tries to read everything, but I sometimes find I'm deleting information that may be important because I know I'll never get to it in favor of trying to get to the stuff I know that I have to respond to, which is often more urgent, but less important. Check out the Email Charter, which is trying to change all that. I have to say I'm on board!

Finally, Bank of America is going to start charging customers $5 a month for use of a debit card, starting in 2012. This is as a result of Congress capping the fees that banks can charge retailers for accepting debit card purchases.   (Business Insider)

What does this mean for you?

Take a look at how many of your customers are using their debit cards to buy with you - these customers will now either have to pay cash or use a debit card to avoid this $5 fee. It's hard to say what kind of affect this will have - debit cards sure are convenient and $60 a year may not be enough to make most consumers avoid using them. Are people really going to stop using their cards? Early chatter is more oriented around customers boycotting Bank of America, rather than ceasing to use their debit cards. Definitely keep an eye on this one if your customers use debit cards.

Have a great weekend, and thanks for reading! What do you think of this week's  news?





Improve Your Web Site

Now is a great time to take another look at your web site.

Why?

Old-school web site. Photo: Flickr user Cybershotking.
It's a smart idea to do a regular site audit. Sometimes when we upgrade our design and update our content, important things get lost. Take some time today to go through this checklist:

  • Is it easy for users to find multiple ways to contact you (online form, phone, email, live chat)? Is your contact information on every page?
  • Are your navigation bars intuitive, and complete on every page?
  • Does your search function deliver results that make sense? 
  • Do graphics download quickly?
  • Does your site look good using different web browsers and screen resolution?
  • Does the user's natural progression through your site end in the result you want - an inquiry, purchase, or other engagement?
  • Are you promoting your other customer channels, like Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn so users can join you there?

Hopefully you can answer yes to all of these questions. If not, fix these now, before they cost you more sales. Need help? Let me know.

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Starting Your Marketing Plan

So you you've been updating your Twitter account like a good kid, posting to Facebook often, but not too often, you make sure your blog and your web site always have fresh content, and you may finally get that press release done this week. For some reason, though, you feel like none of this is helping. The traffic just isn't coming.

Planning Essentials: Photo: Flicker user JacQueLyne
Why?

Because it's not part of a larger marketing strategy. Twitter, Facebook, blogs, web site, and PR are tactics, not strategies.  These tools play their part to support a larger plan. If you don't have a larger plan, then won't realize their true potential to grow your business.

OK, so now what?


I like to lay out an annual plan, mapping out the year and determining some major themes. Marketing events might include promotions around holidays, the launch of a catalog, a major web site update, and a quarterly PR push. This is also a good time to think about new product that will be launching in the next year, where that goes on your marketing calendar and what you'll be doing around it.

"But, I can't possibly think of every single tweet, Facebook update, or blog post I'm going to do for the next year!" you say.

And you're right. You'll plan those things out on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis, depending on how you prefer to work. It's important, now, though, to lay out your year so you can see what needs to be done in advance. For example, if you're launching a major new product line in the next year, you'll need to build in time to update your web site, put together a new catalog, write a press release, and make sure the rest of your online properties are updated.

Your Takeaway?

Set a goal to put together a marketing plan for 2012 by the end of October. Think about what your major campaigns will be, and what you'll need to do to execute them. I'm happy to review what you've put together and offer my feedback. You can connect to me on twitter at @leahibraheem or on LinkedIn here.

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News This Week: Google+, Facebook, Gifting

What should you be paying attention to this week?

News - Google+ has opened access to everyone - no more invites required. It now also has search functionality, which really seemed like an odd oversight to begin with - a social network created by a search company that doesn't have search? Glad they resolved that one. This also means the war for stickiness between Google+ and Facebook is officially underway. (Mashable)

Meanwhile, Facebook has changed, among other things, the way your news updates appear, and it's now unclear whether users are getting all of their friends' updates - the "most recent" news option is gone (though you can get it back by un-designating all of your stories as top news), and Facebook now decides what's important, ticking off millions and millions of people. In cooler news, Facebook will be launching "Facebook Gestures" which means you'll be able to read, watch, and do other things in your status updates besides just "like"-ing everything. (Mashable, too)

Your takeaway: It might be time to take another look at Google+, which might be more useful now that more of your friends are on it.


At the same time, good advice from Harvard Business Review to practice a little temperance when it comes to social media. Users are feeling social network overload. Do we all really need to maintain a presence on Facebook, Twitter, Klout, LinkedIn, ReferralKey, Bebo, Ravelry, Google+, and Yammer? HBR recommends you take a good look at all of your social properties and make sure you're adding value for your followers on each one. Figure out why people are following you and tailor your content appropriately.


Finally, watch this space for more on gifting innovators like Giftly, which allows you to give a gift certificate for anything, whether the merchant is set up for gift certificates or not, Treatly, which is focused on fine dining, and LetsGiftIt, which takes the complexity out of group gifts. (FastCompany)

Your takeaway: The holiday selling season will be upon us before you know it. What are you doing to encourage more gifting this year, and how can you participate? Check out what these innovators are doing for inspiration.

Have a great weekend, and thanks for reading!

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Last week's news: Target, Twitter, Jobs

Do you need to be on Twitter?

How LinkedIn Can Help You Build Your Business

You're a consumer-oriented business, so you don't need to be on LinkedIn, right?

Wrong. There's plenty on LinkedIn for you, even if you're not using it to sell directly to your customers.

Chain links. Photo: Flickr User Horia Varlan.
1) It's a great place to connect with others practicing your craft. Join groups, keep abreast of the news, and share ideas with folks who do what you do.

2) It's a great place to find vendors. Need an accountant? Need a PR or marketing manager? You can go on LinkedIn to read profiles and recommendations, and then connect to do business with just the click of a mouse.

3) It's a great place to recruit new employees. Search for the expertise you need, post open positions, and recruit. Find people who know people you know - people you can trust.

If you're looking for more ways to use LinkedIn to build your business, click here for an excellent post from Guy Kawasaki. 


Are you on LinkedIn? It would be great to connect with you there. Click here to connect with me.

Why All Marketing is Local

OK, all marketing isn't really local, but local marketing should be a strong component of your marketing strategy, whether your customers are consumers or other businesses. Why?

Local businesses. Flickr user RachelVorhees.
1) Being local gives you a natural connection to your customers. You're from the same place. You live and work in the same place, and this gives you a serious, valid reason to support one another.

2) You'll be able to make face-to-face connections. This is especially important if your customers are other businesses. You can call on new and prospective clients in person, sharing local stories, and building long-term connections. Your customers won't need to wait for you to fly into town to see you - you'll be able to stop by anytime. If you sell to consumers, you'll also be able to invite them to your store or call on them much more easily.

3) You'll have a much better understanding of the market than your non-local competition. Since you'll be selling to people who live and work in the same community as you do, you'll have an intrinsic understanding of the needs, environment, and conditions of that community. Knowing your local market inside and out will put you one rung above your non-local competition.


How do you access that local network? Simple is best - use your local papers (web and print properties), local events, local chambers of commerce and business groups, and local groups on LinkedIn to connect. Facebook also allows you to advertise by location, so you can find local customers there as well. Don't forget other networks that focus on local business reviews - like Yelp, ServiceMagic, and MerchantCircle.

What are you doing to strengthen your connection to your local community? Please share in the comments.

Are you local to the DC area? Drop me a line or let's connect on Twitter or LinkedIn.

News This Week: Target, Twitter, Jobs

What should you be paying attention to this week?


Sold-out Missoni suitcase. Image: Target.




The price of success: Target's Missoni sales event generated more traffic than on Black Friday, and more traffic than its site could handle, locking out desperate Frugalistas for hours. (Consumerist)

Your takeaway: Do you know how much traffic your site can really handle? What's your backup plan? Do you need to expand your bandwidth? Now's a good time to investigate your limits, just in case.

Because knowing is half the battle: In an appeal to businesses, Twitter launches a new analytics tool. The new Twitter Web Analytics will help users understand how their web properties are shared across twitter, how much traffic twitter drives to their sites, and measure usage of the Tweet Button application.  (Social Media Today)


Your takeaway: According to this study, Twitter influences more purchases than Facebook, so this is great information to have all in one place. At the moment, the new tool is only available to a small group, but be sure and give it a whirl once it's available to everyone in a few weeks.

The word of the day is "job": Last week, I wrote about the American Jobs Act, which President Obama debuted in a speech on September 8th. This week, Congressional Republicans have drawn a line in the sand about taxes (they don't want to raise them), so it remains to be seen what will happen with the bill. In the mean time, here are a few things you can do to create jobs while Congress gets its deal on.

What are you thinking about this week? Please comment or drop me a line.

Do You Need to be on Twitter?

This is an important question to consider as people have less and less time and resources to do more and more. After all, Twitter can take over your life if you're not careful. Is it REALLY necessary to have a presence?

Twitter. Image: Flickr user Danilo Ramos.
In a word, yes. Why? Let's do the numbers.

First, how many people are on Twitter?

  • 13% of US online adults use Twitter.
  • Half of those people are accessing Twitter using their mobile phones.
  • 20.6 million US adults access Twitter at least once a month.
  • 460K new accounts are created each day.
  • 177 million Tweets sent daily.
  • 77% of the top US companies have Twitter accounts, and 72% of all US companies are on Twitter.

Your Takeaway: Simply, a huge number of people are on Twitter. If you need to reach more people, it's worth a try to start talking to them, and more importantly, to see what they are talking about.

What kind of People are on Twitter?

Statistically, the person who is most likely to use Twitter is a female Latina in her 20s who attended college, lives in a city, and earns less than $30K annually, or $50 - $75K, though all kinds of people have Twitter accounts.

Your Takeaway: This means that if your product appeals to minority audiences (African-Americans are currently adopting Twitter at higher rates than other groups), this is a great way to reach them. You'll reach people at all income levels, and fairly educated users, some low-income, but others moving up in the world. If you'd like to reach people who are looking to save money, who like to follow the news, and who are interested in pop culture, Twitter is one place to find them.

What are people doing on Twitter?

Posting their own status updates, but also keeping in touch with friends, checking the news, using it for work-related needs, and for research.  About 25% of Twitter users check their accounts several times daily, from multiple devices, including their phones.

Your Takeaway: Once you've started posting to Twitter, make sure you include content that other people want to retweet and that you're meeting the needs of your followers. Are they following your feed because it helps them with their research or work, to save money, for entertainment, for news? Keep this in mind as you craft your posts.

How do I use Twitter?
I use Twitter to keep in touch with others in my industry and small business owners who are looking for guidance on marketing. My feed is a mix of retweets, replies, links, suggestions, and references to my blog. I have a modest, but growing following (thanks all). Click here to see my profile.

Stats thanks to the generous folks at Pew Internet and Hubspot.

How do you use Twitter? Please share.

Using Facebook to Drive Traffic to Your Store

Like most retailers, you've got a Facebook page. You put one up because you felt like you couldn't afford not to have one, and you were right.

Facebook. Photo: Flickr user Max-B
But having a Facebook presence is only the beginning. The Facebook page itself won't bring people into your store - you've got to turn it up a notch to really drive that traffic. What should you do to your page?

First, make it relevant.

Your fans want to know about your sales, specials, and upcoming events.

Second, make it engaging.

You can't spend all your time on Facebook selling - you'll turn people off. Try quizzes, contests, and questions to get people talking. Make sure you're checking back regularly to respond appropriately.

Third, make it trackable.

Use tools like Facebook Insights and Hootsuite to monitor your Facebook reach and engagement. You'll be able to see what kinds of posts generate the most comments, likes, and shares.

What are you doing on Facebook to make your presence known? Please share in the comments.

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News this Week: Jobs, Jobs, Jobs

What should you be paying attention to this week?

Whether you agree with his politics or not, I hope you watched Thursday's speech by President Obama.

Photo: Flickr user Buggolo
There are a number of things to think about.

1) If you're a small employer, there's a proposed tax cut for hiring anyone who's been unemployed for six months or more.

2) For manufacturers, the President has proposed making it easier to export your products all over the world.

3) If you're a visionary, Obama wants to make getting patents quicker and simpler.

4) More controversially, the President has called upon the richest of the rich and the largest, most profitable corporations to "do their part" and pay more taxes.

5) For the rest of us, a proposed income tax cut should save most families about $1500 next year.

6) There was also a great marketing angle to this speech. Obama repeated the words "Pass this jobs bill" many times. "Pass this bill now," he said again and again. He clearly messaged what he wanted and why. We can all take a cue from that.

What does this mean for your business?

It's hard to say. Certainly, the Republicans will oppose the plan, but Obama has also employed some strong rhetorical strategy - according to the President, people who are against the American Jobs Act are against building infrastructure, supporting products that are made in the USA by Americans, business tax cuts, and shoring up our educational system so we can be more globally competitive. Watch for a Republican alternative plan building on the prebuttal they already released, coming ASAP.

It will be interesting to see what the American Jobs Act looks like in the end, and how it will be paid for.

What do you think?

We can't end this week without considering how September 11th has affected all of us, our families, our lives, and our businesses. We all have our own memories of that day, and this is a good time to reflect on how we can value each other more and appreciate each other's differences.

Confident Consumers and Consumer Confidence

The Consumer Confidence Index®, which had improved a bit in July to 59.2, was down sharply at the end of August, to a worrying 44.5 - a 14.7 point drop.

Pensive piggy bank. Photo: Flickr user Bradipo.
How does consumer confidence affect your business?

Consumers are feeling pinched by gas prices, which remain fairly high, and poor job prospects, which aren't getting any better. Consumers surveyed felt that the short term outlook wasn't improving, and this means they are going to be holding off on purchases.

Couple this with the fact that negative customer reviews now mean more than ever, and you've got a recipe for slow sales.

So what do you do?

It's up to you to make your customers feel more confident - enough to buy from you for the first time, or to buy again. There are a couple of things you should consider here.

1) What's your guarantee? Do you have a 100% satisfaction guarantee? Customers want to know that you'll stand behind your product.

2) What's your return policy? If people change their minds, is it easy and quick to send it back?

3) How are you dealing with any negative reviews and problems? If you're not addressing these issues, and letting people know you are, people will be looking for a brand that's more reliable.

4) Like Mom said, don't you catch more flies with honey? Now is a great time to thank your customers for sticking with you during this difficult time, and to offer them incentive to shop with you again.

What about you? How are you sticking it out in these days? Drop me a line or leave a note in the comments section.

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News this week: Daily Deals, Social Networks, Customer Reviews

What should you be paying attention to this week?

Photo: Tim Malone, www.timmalone.id.au.
Is the daily deal bubble bursting? Facebook and Yelp getting out of the daily deal business, Groupon traffic is down 50%. I agree with the folks at Mashable, who say that customers will always appreciate a great deal, but this concept has reached its saturation point in the US. (Mashable)

Your takeaway? Here are my two cents on the daily deal concept. While the trend isn't over and will continue to evolve in different ways, it's still important to make sure it's financially advantageous for you to participate. You can always do your own coupons to your own customer list without these deal sites if you want.

65% of American adult Internet users are on social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and Google+, according to a new report from the Pew Research Center. This is up 4% from last year. The Baby Boomer generation is seeing the most significant growth, up 60% over last year. (Pew Internet)

Your takeaway: If you're not participating in at least one social network, it's time to try this out. You don't have to be on all of them, but test Facebook if you're consumer-oriented, or LinkedIn if you're B-to-B. Also, if your customer cohort is age 50+, you officially have to stop ignoring social media - your customers are on it and they'll be looking for you there.

Negative customer reviews growing more powerful, with 80% of consumers indicating that they've changed their mind due to negative reviews of a product which they were considering. On the flip side, 87% of consumers surveyed said that positive reviews helped them decide to make a purchase. (MediaPost)

Your takeaway: It's always a good idea to allow customers to review your product. If you do, make sure you also have the ability to respond publicly to poor reviews and resolve customer issues. Bad reviews can be overcome if you'll step up and make it right with those customers.

What's on your mind this week? Please share in the comments.

Have a great weekend, and thanks for reading!