12 Tools of Social Media

12 Tools of Social Media

Tis the season, and I don’t mean the holiday season.
Tis the season for setting your social media sights right for 2019. Many business owners are working to set goals and make big plans for the coming year. If you haven’t started, you may want to get to it as Q1 is right around the corner.

Getting new business tends to be the focus for many business owners, but often they forget the importance of nurturing repeat clients/customers. This alongside promoting a healthy and valuable social presence is incredibly necessary. As many business owners are bootstrapping their way to success in the beginning, they may not have the resources available to hire a company to take over their digital presence for them.

For that, I present to you the 12 Tools of Social Media!
I’ve compiled many of my tools and tips here for you to use as a resource for DIY-ing your social presence for your brand or business. Best of all, they’re all FREE in some fashion.

Trello

Trello is a fantastic app for workflow capabilities. It allows you to create, save and edit right in the app itself. It can be accessed on your computer or on your phone for ease and convenience. I use Trello to plan content for the month. My clients are then able to view, edit and comment on any changes they may need. This is a great resource for planning, organizing and collaborating beyond social media as well. Many businesses upgrade to the paid Trello plan for added options and customization. Here’s a business builder’s example board for you to view.

Image Creation Resource

Images and videos are king on digital platforms. The idea is that you want to get followers and potential followers to stop scrolling long enough to consume your content. For that, you’ll need compelling, on-brand content, usually in the form of images. I use Canva and PicMonkey as my two main image creation platforms. They both allow you to create images based on the correct sizes for each platform. You can layer text, edit photos, and create all new graphics that will help to promote your business, brand or products. Best of all, they are also available on your phone for on-the-go access.

Image Library Resource

In order to create great images, you need to have great images. Where can you get great images that are free for commercial use? Aside from spending hours taking, editing and creating new images or paying TONS of money on stock photo sites, you can visit Unsplash or Pixabay to find many images that are royalty free. Please do NOT copy images off of Google as they the majority have copyright protections that prohibit their use by the general public. Always check the permissions for the photos you find and use and when in doubt, ask the author.

Facebook Scheduler

As much as one might like to spend time scrolling Facebook, the reality is that business is-a-calling. There are other needs that require tending apart from social media. If you’ve created content that is evergreen, it may be smart for you to schedule it out to save some time. Nothing beats hitting “publish” live but the days fill up quickly and time needs to be saved wherever it can. Facebook offers a native scheduler that will publish content on your business pages or within your group to make this process easier. Bonus: it won’t say “posted by a third party” when your post goes live!

TweetDeck

Much like Facebook has a scheduler build into the platform, Twitter has something similar. TweetDeck allows you to schedule out evergreen content tweets that you’d like to utilize for your posts. I always recommend interacting live on Twitter daily, but if you’d like to fill the gaps with evergreen or curated content, TweetDeck is great for that.

Instagram Hashtags

You can use up to 30 hashtags on Instagram. The sweet spot seems to be somewhere between 14 and 29 hashtags. There should be a mix of general, niche and industry tags peppered in. A hot tip for these tags is to keep a list, or note, in your phone of the 10 tags you use regularly. Then you can add, remove or update them once you have copied and pasted them into your Instagram post. This is a way to save you time and a potential insta-headache.

Content on the Go

Your phone is the best and most convenient camera you have for on-the-go content. Use that little pocket camera’s capabilities for Instagram stories, capturing photos that you can use later as well as checking in and posting when you have a few minutes. I love using my phone for Twitter as I can interact quickly and in real time. You pay oodles of dollars for that phone, make it work for you too!

Funny Holidays or Days of Note

Do you always forget “Talk like a Pirate Day” (it’s September 19th, by the way) or “Administrative Assistant’s Day”? There is a resource I use when creating content for each month which is called Days of the Year. It lists multiple fun and interesting holidays for every day of the year. When you’re stuck for lighthearted content, pop over and see what’s going on that day! You’ll be surprised what you find!

Feedly

Content curation should be a good portion of the content shared. An excellent way to showcase great work that others have created is by filtering industry-specific content through Feedly. Feedly is a site where you can curate and peruse article, videos and more based on interest or keywords. You can save these searches to get daily updates and stay on top of the day’s trending topics.

Tribe

A tribe is an important part of your social presence. Connect with others in your industry, networking group or in Facebook groups that you can build connections with as a business owner. These connections, when invested in you and your success, will be more likely to read, like and share your content. Don’t forget to reciprocate. Share, like and comment on the content of those you work with, admire and support. Social media is meant to be social!

Email List

Your social media presence is at the behest of the platforms in which it resides. That’s why it is so important to have a website where you can cultivate an email list. This list will serve as your foot in the door to more eyes on your content. You can share updates, give reminders and funnel your readers toward becoming paying clients or referral sources.

The Social Suite Group

Join a free group on Facebook to connect, network and learn tricks of the trade in any industry. If you’ve thought of it, there has probably been a group created for it. Personally, the Social Suite Group is a free Facebook group for DIY social media tips to jumpstart your digital presence. Join us where no question is too small, and no problem is too big!

If you just don’t have the patience or the time for social media, check out MOKup Media for assistance creating content, posting and engaging with your current and future followers. Your business will thank you!

Facebook Dislike Button Debate Rears Its Ugly Head Again

Facebook Dislike Button Debate Rears Its Ugly Head Again

Facebook Dislike Button Debate Rears Its Ugly Head Again - Web and BeyondThe Facebook Dislike button has been debated for years, requested by many users, and confused Small Business owners on what they should do about it all. As any changes are tested, here is how you should approach your marketing.

Let’s start with the facts:

So, what’s a business owner to do about marketing in light of these changes? As I noted in my last article, Is Facebook Really Implementing a Dislike Button?, back in September 2015, about the Facebook Dislike button:

One thing I am sure about and that I’ve counseled all my Small Business clients about is, do not use the feature as a business. This is for a couple of reasons:

1. you don’t know yet how people will come to like or dislike (pun intended) the new feature;

2. unless you really are in a business where showing empathy and invading someone’s personal life makes sense, it’s likely inappropriate for your business (and just plain creepy) to be offering condolences about, say, a family’s loved one passing away; and,

3. if you (again) really are in a business where you have that kind of relationship with your customers or clients, you should be writing a comment to show genuine concern or sending a personalized, private message to your customers or clients. If you’ve lost a loved one or something powerful has negatively impacted your life, how dismissed would you feel to get a click-of-a-button response from your favorite business? I thought so.

A community’s culture changes slowly and any release of a major feature can become an animal of its own kind. There’s no sense in getting caught up in a feature that the media will likely report on only the salacious, shocking and negative. Of course, if there’s a legitimate argument for using these tools (see nos. 2 and 3 above, or if reporting spam/abuse), go for it.

My general recommendation is to do nothing with any Dislike features. Ignore the hype and focus on creating positive, useful content with a coordinated sales strategy.

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Branding Your Email Address Is as Important as Your Business Domain

Branding Your Email Address Is as Important as Your Business Domain

Branding Your Email Address Is as Important as Your Business Domain - Web and BeyondI’m likely preaching to the choir if you’ve ever heard me talk about email marketing. But, it’s worth stating again and again for every Small Business owner to hear this message loud and clear: if you have a Gmail, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail, or any other free email address that’s not [email protected], you are missing out on an amazing marketing opportunity. And, you’re likely hurting your professional reputation. I’d like to unpack how branding your email address is as important as your business website’s domain, and ways in which you can take advantage of a branded email address by getting and using it.

Professional Reputation and Legitimacy

Think about the ubiquity of email in business today. And you’re telling people implicitly to visit AOL or Yahoo instead of your company’s website by not having a brand-enabled email address. As well, some people look down on your business or don’t see you as stable by using a free email service.

As an example, I get at least one email a week from a purported Small Business owner asking me if we can help them with their website and whether we “take credit cards.” It’s the strange way the senders write their email messages that make it a dead giveaway that it’s a scam, but their email addresses are always from generic email services. Identifying this kind of scam spam is important for everyone receiving email today. I see email from those I don’t know and I immediately don’t give them as much credibility because they so similar to those that aren’t legitimate. We all only have so much time in the day to manage our email and if you decrease your legitimacy factors to not only spam filters, but to the humans trying to identify you as a real business, having a professional email address is vital.

Furthermore, when you create a branded email account and their accompanied aliases, you can setup DMARC records for your email accounts (as well as DKIM and SPF), which is an email-validation system so that when mail exchange servers receive, they know it’s coming from you (or third-party services you’ve approved to send on your behalf, like your email marketing software). This increases chances you get into the inbox of your intended recipient in the first place.

Proper Email Boundaries

Turn off your email when you are away from the office, whether for just a few days or on a multi-week vacation. That’s simply a free bit of life-work balance for you as an entrepreneur.  However, setting good email boundaries and expectations is a form of customer service (which is, in my opinion, a part of the marketing department in small businesses). When you use your personal email account for business email, now you have conflated those two roles in your life. This makes it difficult when you wake the screen on your phone in the morning on vacation and you see an “important” email message from a client. Instead of that client getting a professional automated response noting that you’re away and when you’ll respond (logically), you react (emotionally). Responding to email messages when you’re in work mode is always going to be better than reacting when you’re trying to rest and rejuvenate.

I personally don’t check my personal email accounts that often, but when I’m on vacation I turn off my work email accounts and switch my personal email accounts to notify me as messages come in. I’m usually traveling and wanting higher engagement with my friends and family at those times, and having a separated business email account structure gives me the comfort in knowing those email messages coming in are the right context for me at any given time.

As well, using a branded email, I can add the appropriate persons in my company to contact in my absence via my autoresponder “away” message, or I can forward specific client emails to staff, should they be able to help in my stead.

Marketing Your Website

Your website is where sales happen. And, it takes time, energy and resources getting visitors to your business website. So, why would you squander the marketing opportunity to expose your website domain name to people with whom you share your email address? When someone meets you and receives your email address, this is the chance to get them to become curious in checking out your website. But, you most often than not won’t ask them directly to visit your website. By, giving them a branded email to stay in touch, say, at a networking event, you have planted some curiosity for them to check out your website when they see [email protected]

For different marketing campaigns you can set up forwarding email addresses (which are not real email accounts, but merely fronts for forwarding inbound email along to another email address of your choice). So, when leads and potential clients email you from a business card, flyer, postcard or brochure, you can identify from where they learned about you and/or your business.

As well, your email is more memorable when it’s [email protected] When you give someone a generic email address, like [email protected] or [email protected], it’s harder to remember why they were going to email you or what your name or your business name is.

A good rule of thumb: whenever you have an appropriate chance to share your website domain name, do so.

Present Yourself (as Bigger or Smaller) Depending on your Business Situation

With branded email, you can create accounts such as [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], and s[email protected] These represent departmental emails that go to the correct person for handling inbound messages. In a Small Business, all these hats may be centralized to a few people, if not one person–you. But, your clients don’t need to know that!

Also, as I do, I have separate public and private email addresses. I use my public email address for all public-facing marketing materials, such as when I present to audiences at workshops and seminars. However, I have a private email address that’s only used between my staff and me so that those messages can be segmented and focused on our client needs, and not distract me from all the other email I get every day. This public-facing email is also a shared account with my assistant so email I don’t need to deal with can be processed and organized while I’m in meetings, presenting seminars, or teaching workshops. The remaining, non-time sensitive email messages from the public email address will then we be waiting for me when I get to it.

Branded Email Is Low-Cost and High-Value

I think a big concern for most business owners, established and startup alike, is that branded email is going to cost a fortune. And, the reality is, that most branded email today is very cost effective.

By hosting with a proper email hosting service provider, you get technical support. Email is important for your business and free email services don’t have any guarantees about their uptime. But, your email hosting provider will be able to give you 99.9% uptime guarantees.

As you might imagine as the Google Small Business Advisor for Productivity, I’m a huge fan of G Suite, Google’s business productivity suite. It includes almost every type of software a business owner needs today to get started and grow their business over time; what’s not available in G Suite proper is possible through an integration partner in the G Suite Marketplace. But, to our topic at hand, every G Suite license comes with branded email powered by Gmail. This is substantially and substantively different than consumer-grade Gmail as G Suite email is your business data, owned by you, private, no advertising, and secure. Yet, it has all the features you have come to love about Gmail; it does have the ability to turn off features you don’t like. As well, for those who are in a Microsoft-preferred ecosystem, you can get business email through Office 365 Business Premium or Exchange.

Also, W3 Consulting’s Web Services provides 100 free email forwarding aliases for departmental email addresses (as I indicated above, such as [email protected], [email protected], etc.) with the purchase of any domain registration or Managed WordPress hosting purchase. These will forward to one or several email addresses in your company that cover the appropriate roles. If you’re using G Suite, you can create these within the Admin Console as Groups.

Protecting your Brand with Employee Emails

When you hire new employees, you want them to use your company’s email address when corresponding with clients. This not only positions them professionally and legitimately as acting on behalf of your company, but it also gives some protections for you and your employee.

When an employee leaves, you don’t lose control over that email account. You can change the email alias (which is the yourname in [email protected]) and direct it to your email or another employee’s email account when an employee resigns or the business terminates an employee. This continuity with your client communications is very important in marketing and other operations management areas of the business.

How to Create a Branded Email Account for your Business

It’s increasingly easier to get your branded email account set up for your business today.

If you didn’t know, you can have branded email without having a business website yet. I recommend that you have your business’ branded email account set up as soon as possible when you are starting out. You can plan and launch your website thereafter, but it’s never too early to get your audience aware of your business website’s domain.

So, here are the basic steps to getting your branded email account for your business.

  1. Register a business domain name, which you want to use for your business and email.
  2. Decide on your business email hosting provider, whether that’s G Suite or another email hosting provider.
  3. Set your domain’s MX (mail exchange) records in your Domain Manager to direct to your email hosting provider.
  4. Now, choose an email program that you want to handle your email management on desktop and mobile. From your email hosting provider, get the email setup information so you can establish control over the branded email within your software on both desktop and mobile.
  5. Create a professional email signature for your email account, and you’re ready to go!

Do you have any questions about branding your email address? How about creating a branded email address? Feel free to contact us, or comment below, and we’ll be happy to answer questions or direct you to a resource that can help!

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Responding to Google Reviews — The Good, The Bad and the Ugly

Responding to Google Reviews — The Good, The Bad and the Ugly

Responding to Google Reviews - Web and BeyondWhile the first phase of Google review traffic success is getting them, taking your Google review strategy to the next level is most certainly responding to Google reviews. Setting and managing buyers’ expectations is tough when you control little about the platform on which such opinions rest. This is why we discussed our strategy for getting (mostly good) Google reviews. So, if you haven’t read about this yet, I suggest you read that first and then continue on here to learn how effectively responding to Google reviews can be profitable (and mostly painless) for Small Business.

Many business owners don’t know, but you can read and reply to Google reviews. Google gives you this ability from the Google My Business dashboard, and you should use this powerful feature.

Responding to Google Reviews — The Good

The best responses to Google reviews for most Small Business owners are the good ones (three stars or more, in my book). I’m not going to lie; they’re nice to receive, look at, and bask in all your Small Business greatness and glory. The tactic of primary importance here is that you show appreciation. While most business owners don’t see it this way, you add value when you thank reviewers for leaving a good Google review. If you didn’t prompt them to leave the review, these are the people you should thank publicly. Then, move on. Don’t offer a discount. Don’t lavish them with praise. Simply thank them for their kind gesture, and wish them well.

And, if you start to get hundreds of good Google reviews per week, thank every 100th and move on. These reviews are seen by everyone and not everyone at that volume needs a thank-you.

Responding to Google Reviews — The Bad

Now comes the most challenging of all responding to Google reviews—the bad ones (of two stars or less). Why are these the most challenging? Business owners avoid facing reality, asking unhappy customers what made their experience bad, and doing the hard work to fix it.

Good business owners will overcome these challenges. And, I’m here to confess that sometimes these challenges are gnarly. Some, you may have to cut your losses and not fix. But, here are my thoughts about how to deal with responding to Google reviews gone bad.

Publicly acknowledge the reviewer with an apology that they had a poor experience with your company. This isn’t a time to be defensive, since you’re apologizing that their opinion of you is bad, not culpability for first degree murder. Your task is to review the text of what the reviewer wrote to see if you have sufficient information to understand why a reasonable consumer would feel this way, and if you should make it right. When you determine it legitimate, let the reviewer know that you’d like to make it right.

If, on the other hand, the reviewer didn’t provide enough details, in the reply to him or her ask them to reach out to you (perhaps via that same dedicated customer service email address we discussed in “Getting Mostly Good Google Reviews”). Once offline, turn that frown upside down! Within law and reason, help that unhappy customer become a raving fan. Once you’ve done so, ask them to re-review your business on Google. If you’ve done well, in my experience with my clients’ businesses, no reasonable customer won’t edit their Google review to four or five stars.

Handling bad Google reviews is challenging because it takes facing that you have a customer service problem, may have to correct your staff, or realize that there’s some major defect in your operations, product manufacturing, or otherwise. But, if you learn this and fix it, your business is better for it and more resilient through economic downturns. I consider bad reviews a proper service to Small Business owners everywhere.

Responding to Google Reviews — The Ugly

Lastly is actually one of the easiest Google reviews to manage, because they require very little effort. It’s one that probably frightens you. The ugly Google reviews are those that are always one-star and long, sometimes cogent and sometimes rambling prose about how you wronged them.

They hate your business. They’ll never do business there again. You suck. Your staff sucks. Your product or service sucks. And, your logo sucks, too! Hate spews from every orifice of these ugly reviews. There are many exclamation points, question marks, and ellipses.

And, you cringe. You’re a normal, decent human being. And, who wouldn’t cringe at that?

So, what’s a business owner to do? Nothing.

Yes, you heard me right. Absolutely nothing. Ignore that garbage and move on. This is known as “flaring” and it’s similar to if a child has a meltdown on their mother or father in a shopping mall. It gives you pause, and then you realize it’s a child throwing a temper tantrum so you continue on your merry way. Flaring doesn’t deserve your energy, because these are not happy people. And, they won’t ever be happy customers. And, everyone around your business will recognize flaring when they see it.

The only time someone like this should be responded to, is at the request of your legal counsel. If they have stated your business has committed a crime or extraordinary wrongdoing, they’re harassing you or your staff, or posting this not once but everyone they can find a spot to do so on the Web, I’d communicate this to your legal counsel in order to determine the best course of business and legal action.

Responding to Google reviews can seem daunting at first. But, after you know this rubric for how to deal with the good, the bad, and the ugly, you start to be able to plow through Google reviews.

Good reviews get simple, plain gratitude. Bad reviews get attention on the unhappy customer and on your operations, product or service to improve for the future. And, ugly reviews get ignored.

None of these are easy, and some of this is downright tedious. But, after starting to manage Google reviews well, my clients tend to see more and better Google reviews from their proper handling. And, I hope you do, too!

Getting (Mostly Good) Google Reviews

Getting (Mostly Good) Google Reviews

Getting Mostly Good Google Reviews - Web and BeyondGoogle commands nearly 80% of Web and 90% of mobile search traffic on the planet. With global search leaders such as Yahoo, Bing (Microsoft), and Baidu (in China) still commanding between 5 and 15 percent each, they are forces not to be ignored, but we know the clear winner of this battle in the war for consumers’ attention. People google things. And, they’re googling your business’ products or services to see Google reviews.

So Google has decided that these local reviews of your products or services are important to the decision-making process for consumers. And, if the search juggernaut thinks this is important, it’s best to take advantage of the opportunity that Google’s review platform provides (which is built within Google Maps and is managed with the Google My Business dashboard).

Often, local businesses don’t understand how to gain traction with Google reviews. Or, they don’t understand Google’s review policy. So, here I’d like to outline how to take your business to the next level with getting (mostly good) Google reviews.

Note: If you have a bad product, service, location, staff or customer service, this methodology won’t help you, unless you decide to fix these management/operations issues. I can’t also help you remove Google reviews. If the problem is deeper than that and not working, I’d head over to the Google My Business community to learn how to handle spam, fraudulent, and other wrongful review issues.

Get Your Google My Business Listing Completed Fully | Getting Google Reviews

To start, get your business listing claimed and verified. Not everyone can have a business listing on Google My Business; I don’t make the rules, but you do need to follow them. You will need a Google account (or G Suite account), so create one or sign in using yours to Google My Business, then follow the “get your business listing claimed and verified” support article. While you can do this on a mobile device, I recommend doing so from your desktop Web browser so you have all functionality available to you.

Set Your Review Capture System Up | Getting Google Reviews

Now that you have your business listing claimed and verified, you can watching the Google reviews pour in, right? Uhm, no. Sorry. There’s still quite a bit of work ahead. But, that’s an important milestone on your way to getting (mostly good) Google reviews! To really start getting the reviews flowing, follow my three-step process for soliciting and capturing customers’ reviews on Google.

Step One

Get your Google Review link. I don’t know them, but (for creating such a great tool and being Canadian, I can’t help but think they’re good and nice people) the folks over at White Spark agency have provided the free Google Review Link Generator.

Step Two

Create a special customer service email address that is handled by someone dedicated to handling negative feedback, preferably you or someone high enough to make substantive, timely decisions and actions to turn unsatisfied customers into raving brand advocates.

A happy customer who buys and leaves your business and says nothing about you to anyone is of no really value in the world of reviews. An unhappy customer that you’ve helped fix their issue is one that will tell many more people about his or her experience and has a great value to you for review purposes! Seize opportunities of unhappy customers turned happy ones, and the meat of how to do this is in Step Three.

Step Three

Send your customers either upon purchase, delivery or at their highest satisfaction peak in your relationship, a review request. Turn this into a system that is executed precisely and consistently throughout your business operations.

This review request communication will read something like this:

Hi, [Customer’s Name],

We appreciate your business! As part of our process to continually make good on our [product/service] and our customer service promises, we would really appreciate your feedback. This also helps new customers evaluate our [product/service/business] and helps us grow our business to continue living up to our standards. Could you take a few minutes to review us?

Yes, I love our [product/service]!              No, I had a bad experience.

Thank you,

[Name]

[Business Name]

Now, the “Yes, I love your [product/service]!” is hyperlinked to your Google Review link that you generated in Step One. And, your “No, I had a bad experience.” link is to your special customer service email address. Mostly good reviews go to Google, while bad feedback primarily gets sent to someone who can deal with it.

Your responsibility is now to handle the negative feedback with “white glove” treatment. That’s a topic we cover in our next blog post. But, it is imperative to solicit these Google reviews well and consistently. Train your staff (and yourself ) to identify appropriate times and places for asking for Google reviews from your clients, including but not limited to:

  • by email,
  • printed on receipts,
  • by phone,
  • In-person, or
  • on your website after purchase.

Once you’ve managed to get this three-step process in place and tweaked it so that you can see it working consistently in your business, you will start to reap the rewards of mostly good Google reviews while having a pipeline of new reviews coming in regular. And, in doing so, hopefully that will start to bring meaningful, profitable traffic to your Google My business listing and to your business.