Basics of Social Media for Small Busiesses

Here’s a real basic tour of the wonderful and complicated world of social media.

What is social media?
Social media is any website or mobile phone function that allows you to share content and ideas with other people. Just think of it as a variety of methods for getting in touch with like minded people from all over the world.

What are the main social media sites?
The main (this is by no means a complete list) social media sites that you want to know about and possibly be active on include:

Your blog
Let me be really frank about this. Your blog is still your most important social media site. Some “experts” might disagree with this but it is your blog that forms the basis of all your other social media activities. More about this later.

Facebook – 845 million users
Facebook is not just personal profiles for sharing photos of your dinner with your uninterested friends. It is actually a hugely important way to get thousands of people interacting with your business online and offline. People can use GPS to “check in” at your business, share your Page with their friends and much more.

Twitter – 300 million users
If Facebook is for contacting friends, Twitter is for following people you wish you knew. It is a wonderful way to stay up to date with real-time news straight from the fingers of news reporters, celebrities, corporations and regular people. It is also extremely good for contacting other people in your industry.

Linkedin – 135 million users
This one is pretty much like an online resume. Not so important for small businesses unless you are scouting for some other work. It is, however, a huge force for people looking to network with others in a professional sense. Lawyers meeting lawyers, for example.

Youtube – 3 billion views per day
Yep, Youtube is social media. Its all about videos and providing quality content to people who are trying to learn more about what you do.
A great way to create viral buzz or increase customer loyalty.

Google+ – 62 million users
This is Google’s reply to fears that Facebook is taking over. Its all about integrating your online social media life with your search engine. You can add people to your circle of friends and then your search results change based on what those people recommend. You can now also have a business page.

All the rest
And then there are all the hundreds of others like Foursquare (location based check ins), Pinterest (collages and images), Flickr (photos), etc.

Advertisements

How To Use SEO Properly: Diversify

Sometimes I think that all the information necessary for success in life is contained in the classic nursery rhymes. You’ve heard the adage “don’t put all your eggs in one basket”? Well it turns out the goose’s advice reigns just as true for digital marketers as it did the gatherers of old.

When it comes to search engine optimization, or SEO as it’s more commonly known, the biggest mistake digital marketers make is focusing solely on one tactic. “Blog, blog, blog!,” “We need links,” “The website, people!” In channeling all your efforts into one of these activities, you optimize that area only at the expense of all the others.

Why not diversify your tactics and reap the benefits of many methods? In doing so you’ll reach a larger audience, build a more complete brand, and save yourself from many monotonous afternoons engaged in the same SEO activity.

Here are some areas in which you should switch things up:

1. Your Blog

The casual nature of blog format lends itself well to variety. Your blog is the one place on your site where you can let loose a bit and showcase the personality of your brand. So rather than have a single writer contributing all articles in the standard 300 word paragraph form, spice things up a bit. Feature guest bloggers whenever possible and ask all employees to contribute posts on their areas of expertise. This way the personality of your blog will vary depending on the given writer.

Another way to add variety is by trying out different formats. Podcasts are a great choice when posting a demonstration. Infographics encourage interaction and are helpful in illustrating complex topics, and bulleted or numbered lists always make for easy reading.

2. Your Traffic Sources

Google is great, and if your site is properly optimized you can generate a lot of traffic through it. But even the king of SEO can’t solidify his company’s top place in the rankings. A competitor could suddenly churn out novels of content and climb ahead or a new agency enter the industry and knock you down a few places.

So while it’s important to optimize for search engines, it’s essential to seek out other sources of traffic. Make use of e-mail marketing as a quick and easy way to reach a large number of potential clients. Spend time on social media engaging potential clients, or go back to the basics and spread your company’s charm through word of mouth.

3. Your Links:

It’s important to remember that it’s not just the number of links your company has that affects its standing with search engines but the quality of these links. So if you have 50 links but they’re all coming from the same business (which just happens to owned and operated by your brother,) you need to look elsewhere.

The more relevant to your industry the site providing you a backlink is, the higher the quality of said link. So search for businesses providing similar services and share content with them. Use your clients as well. They know you, and clearly trust your business, so they’ll more than likely be willing to credit your company on their own site.

In making efforts to diversify, make sure you don’t spread yourself to thin. Blogging, link-building, and lead generating are useless without the proper resources to maintain them. This article from SEOMOZ will help aid you in adding variety to your SEO campaign.

If you’re interested in using social media to diversify your traffic sources, get started with a free social media marketing assessment.

– – –

WittyCookie is an award-winning digital agency that specializes in affordable web design, graphic design, and SEO solutions to help small businesses grow.

Service plans start at just $19/month, all-inclusive with web design, web hosting, email setup, ongoing maintenance, and unlimited updates. We charge no setup fee, no cancellation fee, and no term contracts with a full money back guarantee.

Visit wittycookie.com to get started.

[INFOGRAPHIC] Optimizing Your Website for Mobile Viewing

In the age of “always on” and “on-the-go,” small business owners who haven’t thought about how their websites function on a mobile phone are in danger of being left behind. Fifty-five percent of smartphone owners use their phones to go online, and 57 percent wouldn’t recommend a website they had trouble accessing on their phone.

So, how can you optimize your website for mobile browsing without the hassle and cost of a developer or engineer? We’ve compiled some helpful tips and guidelines in the infographic below. Just click to enlarge!

Intuit Optimize Mobile Website

– – –

WittyCookie is an award-winning digital agency that specializes in affordable web design, graphic design, and SEO solutions to help small businesses grow.

Service plans start at just $19/month, all-inclusive with web design, web hosting, email setup, ongoing maintenance, and unlimited updates. We charge no setup fee, no cancellation fee, and no term contracts with a full money back guarantee.

Visit wittycookie.com to get started.

Deep Dive into SEO Implementation [INFOGRAPHIC]

– – –

WittyCookie is an award-winning digital agency that specializes in affordable web design, graphic design, and SEO solutions to help small businesses grow.

Service plans start at just $19/month, all-inclusive with web design, web hosting, email setup, ongoing maintenance, and unlimited updates. We charge no setup fee, no cancellation fee, and no term contracts with a full money back guarantee.

Visit wittycookie.com to get started.

 

10 Things Customers Want on a Website

Want to make your small business look big? Here’s what customers are looking for when they visit

So you want your website to make you look big. But the business experts I talked to recently say small is cool with customers, too. Small businesses, they say, have a personality, flavor and sensibility that big businesses can’t match. And when it comes to what you put on your website, they urge: Don’t be afraid to tout your smallness.

“Small businesses can have more fun with their sites, more so than large corporations,” says Alice Bredin, president of Bredin Business Information, a Cambridge, Massachusetts, company that helps large business-to-business companies market themselves to small businesses. “A small-business site needs to include something that reflects the creativity and personality of its owner.”

Maybe you’re a couple working side-by-side in a spare bedroom or a fourth-generation entrepreneur working to someday hand it over to a son or daughter. Maybe you’re putting yourself through grad school. Or you operate from a remote site in the hinterlands and you use only recycled materials. Presented well on a home page and/or an “About Us” section, all of these may have unique selling points to customers.

“People want character; it has meaning,” adds Kelly Cutler, chief executive of Marcel Media, a Chicago-based Web advisory firm. “How folksy you get depends on your industry.” An attorney may not want to project an image of him or her working on a leather sofa with a dog curled up nearby. But that may work well for an artist or craftsperson, even an architect, Cutler and others say.

Whatever your industry, “Tell your story online,” Cutler says. Customers want to know who you are and, if you lead a team, who is on it and what they do. “You must talk about the team,” Bredin seconds. “When there is nothing [on your site] about who you are or who’s on your team, people wonder about whether you are a good company to buy from.”

Here are the 10 most important things these experts say customers want to know:

  1. How your business is unique
    Answer the question “Who are you?” as interestingly and compellingly (and honestly) as possible. This includes writing management bios that mention your expertise, years of experience and any unique attributes or details that may set you apart from others.You need to answer, Bredin says, “What is unique about your business? Why should I buy from you?” This is missing from many business sites because the owners haven’t done the strategic thinking necessary to figure that out, she says.

    Be concise, too, Cutler adds. “You don’t need to write a novel.”

  2. A clear sense of what your company offers
    “It’s incredible how many sites you visit and you’re not sure what the company offers,” Bredin says. Make it a priority on your home page to provide at least general information about your products and/or services, with links to specifics on a Products page.Many service-oriented companies, Cutler says, are concerned about divulging too much information about their offerings, for competitive reasons. Some also feel that consumers will have no reason to contact them by phone if they get all they need from the website. “There’s a balance that needs to be reached” in giving the potential customer enough info to make a buying decision, she says. More often than not, consumers will not contact a company for the missing product information–they’ll just move on to a competitor.
  3. Contact information, including a phone number and physical location
    This may seem like a no-brainer, but many companies are purposely vague about their location. Some prefer to do all of their business online and see no need to publish an address or phone number. Others are home-based or they worry that giving a street address or hometown will somehow hinder them.”This is a must, and it’s one small way of building credibility and trust” with the consumer, says Wayne Porter, co-founder of ReveNews, an online marketing publication, and former senior director of research at FaceTime, a business security solutions provider. “A phone number, a street address and even pictures go a long way toward building credibility.”

    Showing a physical location, even one that no one will ever visit, comforts a customer that your business is real and legitimate, Bredin says. Provide a phone number that maps to that location, rather than just an 800 number, she advises.

  4. Third-party validation
    This means customer testimonials, client lists, case studies, awards and recognition you’ve received, positive news clippings and the like. Potential customers indeed want to know who you do business with, and what current customers have to say about their experiences. Such items “forge the underpinnings of trust,” Porter says.Client lists are especially important if your customers are businesses. “If you’ve got some big-name customers, people like to see that,” Cutler says. But make sure you get approval from those you list as clients, she adds.

    Porter adds that having a presence on social networking sites and blogs, especially those serving your industry, is an increasingly popular form of validation among customers. “Social networking now has strong validation,” he says.

  5. Secure Socket Layer (SSL)
    SSL is an encryption system that helps protect the privacy of data exchanged between a customer and a website. If you have an e-commerce site that takes credit card information, customers want to know that their sensitive data is encrypted. Get SSL if you don’t have it. If you do, let customers know that and about any other safeguards you proactively take.
  6. Ease of use and navigation
    If people can’t find it, they can’t buy it. Porter advises keeping sites “crisp, clean, and easy to navigate,” but also for site owners to study traffic and usage patterns to adjust their sites based on what visitors are coming for. “The ability to search a site is very important,” he says. “Businesses should study their search data to see if there are trends and what to make front and center.”
  7. Clear guidance on your processes
    Let customers know, step-by-step, important things such as how to order–and where to go and what to do should something happen out of the ordinary. Customers also want to know your shipping costs and procedures and how they can get status reports. (Don’t list your shipping costs and procedures after people enter their credit card information, Cutler urges.) Last but not least, customers want to know how you handle complaints and problems, return procedures and whether you have a money-back guarantee.Your processes can be described in a FAQ (frequently asked questions) page or separate “how to order,” shipping and/or confirmation pages. Include a way customers can contact your business or fulfillment agency for more information.
  8. An ability to give feedback
    Encourage feedback about your products and services, your ordering process and your site in general, by providing a feedback mechanism–either feedback forms or e-mail links. Not every small business prefers to offer this, in some cases because of resource constraints. “You definitely want to look at how and what feedback to gather, and you should consider offering an incentive or perk [to the customer],” Porter says. “You might get some good stories to feature on your site or in your blog.”
  9. Clear calls to action
    Customers want signs or buttons in order to act, be it “Buy now” or “Sign up for our newsletter” or “Click here for more information.” But many small-business sites don’t provide calls to action or they don’t present them clearly enough, Cutler says. “This is one of the biggest things that nags me,” she says. “If you have a captive audience, this is the time to grab them!”
  10. Special offers and personalization
    By personalizing a sale with a special offer, incentive or coupon, small businesses can gain an edge on their bigger counterparts, Porter says. “This can be as simple as a hand-written thank-you note, free gift wrap services or a special offer for repeat business.”Having a personalized touch,” he says, “is something small businesses can do that many big businesses can’t.”

– – –

WittyCookie is an award-winning digital agency that specializes in affordable web design, graphic design, and SEO solutions to help small businesses grow.

Service plans start at just $19/month, all-inclusive with web design, web hosting, email setup, ongoing maintenance, and unlimited updates. We charge no setup fee, no cancellation fee, and no term contracts with a full money back guarantee.

Visit wittycookie.com to get started.

The Most Tried and Failed Small Businesses [INFOGRAPHIC]

 

small business dashThe U.S. thrives based on the millions of jobs created by small business owners. Although these small businesses play such a vital role in our economy, a huge amount of risk surrounds new ventures that makes most prospective entrepreneurs hesitant to jump on board for just any promising idea.

Nearly 95 percent of new ventures will close within the first five years of operation. Essentially, these owners lack the business acumen that is all but required in today’s business environment for success and longevity. Having knowledge of how to successfully and efficiently market your product can take you a long way in your industry, so keep the tips provided in this infographic, like starting small and knowing your market, in mind when you hammer out your strategy for success.

Shareable Facts and Stats

  • 40% of small businesses are profitable. 
  • 95% of new ventures fail within the first 5 years. 

– – –

WittyCookie is an award-winning digital agency that specializes in affordable web design, graphic design, and SEO solutions to help small businesses grow.

Service plans start at just $19/month, all-inclusive with web design, web hosting, email setup, ongoing maintenance, and unlimited updates. We charge no setup fee, no cancellation fee, and no term contracts with a full money back guarantee.

Visit wittycookie.com to get started.

The Importance of Updating Your Website

Creating a website is a great accomplishment, and often the start of lucrative businesses or exciting opportunities. However, the work isn’t finished once the website is completed. Website maintenance is important to be sure your visitors are getting the very best information, that maneuvering through the website is easy, and that you’re converting more visitors into customers.

Updated Content

It’s important that the content on your website is always updated, so that individuals receive the latest news and information. You can avoid having to update content regularly if the content is “green” or relevant at all times. To ensure that your content is green, avoid references to current events or anything else that might date the content. If new products or updates are released, be sure that the information is added to the content on your website.

Navigation

If a new product or service is added to your website, it’s important to ensure that the navigation is easy. If a new page is added, it should be available from the home page, and it should be easy to move from that product page back to the home page, and throughout the rest of the website. Visitors can get frustrated easily if it’s not easy to get from page to page on your website, and this could result in lost customers.

Backing Up Your Website

Another important part of website maintenance is backing up your website. Sometimes, technology fails, and the last thing you want is to lose all of your website’s information and formatting. This is especially true if you’re updating frequently, or having other professionals work on your website content, design or other aspects. It should be backed up frequently, so if something does happen, you still have access to your website files. Backing up your website at least once a month is a great idea.

Links

Another thing you’ll want to do is make sure that all of your links are working. If customers attempt to click on links that aren’t working or that take them to an error page, they may easily become frustrated. This can result in the loss of potential customers as well as a decreased number of conversions. There are link checker tools that you can use, so it’s relatively easy to make sure each link on your website is working.

Platform Updates

If your website is created with a platform like WordPress or something similar, it’s important that you regularly update the platform. There are usually updates fairly regularly with these services, and those updates make the website run more smoothly and operate more efficiently. Most offer alerts when updates are available, so keep your eye on that and update when updates are available.

Website maintenance is about more than just adding new content. It’s important that the website runs smoothly and is user-friendly for those who visit. This can go a long way toward increasing conversions and in turn, increasing sales and profits.

– – –

WittyCookie is an award-winning digital agency that specializes in affordable web design, graphic design, and SEO solutions to help small businesses grow.

Service plans start at just $19/month, all-inclusive with web design, web hosting, email setup, ongoing maintenance, and unlimited updates. We charge no setup fee, no cancellation fee, and no term contracts with a full money back guarantee.

Visit wittycookie.com to get started.

3 Reasons Why Your Website Needs a Video

Every company wants to engage and grab the attention of their viewers, but how can you do that?

Almost every site you go on, visiters are bombarded with something. Whether its  fancy text, a ton of text or even graphics everywhere.

Keep your site simple, don’t let your visitors lose site as to why they came to your website in the first place. One of the top reasons why bounce rates are so high is because visitors are overwhelmed with the amount of information being placed in front of them.

A great way to introduce your company and brand to your viewers, upon visiting your site is with an introductory video. According to The Deep End, “a website has ten seconds to capture a visitor’s attention before losing them forever“. A video is just the thing you need to keep them engaged and on your site.

3 Benefits of an Introductory Video

Your homepage leaves an impression on your visitors, so what do you want that impression to be? It should be amazing, make them want to keep coming back. Just remember to keep your video between 1-2 minutes, no one is going to want to watch an hour video.

 Why video is valuable:

  • Improved user engagement
  • Brand awareness
  • Search engine optimization

The impact of videos can be seen, especially since your visitors attention span has decreased from 12 seconds to 8 seconds. With the right script, you can maintain the attention of your visitors after those 8 seconds.

Informational

There is so much information on your site, with an introductory video, it’s an easy and interesting way to provide your target audience and visitors with an understanding of what the company does without them having to read through a bunch of text. Still not sure if you should add a video to your homepage? tmg Custom Media, says that “60% of respondents said they would watch video previous to reading text on the same webpage, and 22% said they generally liked watching video more than browsing text for examining business information”.

You can provide information with your homepage video by:

  • Summarizing who the company is
  • Explaining your product or service
  • Explain your terminology

Engage and Connect with Viewers

The main objective of your introductory video is to get your visitors to engage and connect. The best way to do that is by telling them what its like to work with you and the members of your company. And a great way to show people what its like to work with you is through your personality. All that text on your website makes conveying the personality of your company limited. Whereas videos give you an opportunity to show viewers exactly how you look, sound and act. What a great way to project your core values. Visitors and other companies want to know, are you young and fun? Bold and assertive? You can answer their questions about your personality and the culture of your company through your introductory video. Another benefit of using video, is being able to  reach out to your visitors in a more personal manner, really let them get to know you.

Now that you’ve told them about your company and they understand your culture, you can further engage and connect with each visitor by showcasing people using your product or service.

 User engagement is achieved through:

  • Perception
  • Appraisal of meaning
  • Evaluation of meaning
  • Emotional response

Give them Direction

Do your visitors know what to do next after landing on your homepage? Sometimes they have no idea where to even start. With your video you can provide each visitor with some sense of direction. You may have talked about something that interested them. This especially comes in handy when showing people using your product or when mentioning how your service can bring them results. They will want to learn more about that product or service.

Something interesting and different that some companies have implemented into their introductory video is lead capture forms. Everyone wants to generate more leads, some companies actually ask you to enter your email to continue watching a video. According to Unbounce.com,  ”Approximately 30% of page visitors watch your introductory video and 50% of those viewers watch the video in its entirety“. Another added benefit of adding a video is that sites that actually had an introductory video on their homepage saw a 10% increase in their conversion rates.

With your video encourage visitors to:

  • Visit other parts of your site
  • Share your video through social media
  • Act on some next steps that were mentioned in the video

If you still need some convincing, check out these six brands that created amazing introductory videos that will  grab your attention and reel you in.

– – –

WittyCookie is an award-winning digital agency that specializes in affordable web design, graphic design, and SEO solutions to help small businesses grow.

Service plans start at just $19/month, all-inclusive with web design, web hosting, email setup, ongoing maintenance, and unlimited updates. We charge no setup fee, no cancellation fee, and no term contracts with a full money back guarantee.

Visit wittycookie.com to get started.

Top 7 Web Design Mistakes Small Businesses Make

Web Design Mistakes

As a small business, your website is a vital piece of your marketing and branding efforts. Visitors are coming to your website for a specific reason, and you want to ensure that you answer their questions and use your website to sell your product or service.

If you get your website designed wrong, you can easily lose thousands of dollars initially, and ultimately lose even more money in potential revenue that you could be making from a well designed, properly functioning website.

Grow your bottom line by avoiding many of these common mistakes among business owners:

1. Putting urgency over understanding your target market.

Instead of focusing on getting your website done as soon as possible, you must first research your target audience in your specific market. Then, design your website around your research.

For instance, if your target market is older, perhaps the font size should be larger. Or if your product is geared towards a younger demographic, then you need to think about catering your site to be smartphone compatible.

You’re going to have to determine where should your users go once they get to your site? That question is easily answered if you know your market.

2. Design is too busy or flashy.

My company, Ciplex, is a web design and development company, and we know that in order to be successful on the Internet you need to focus on marketing your website — not a flashy design. Your design should not just be focused on bringing users there, but also getting them to the right place once they reach your homepage.

Plus, flashy websites don’t look good on mobile phones or tablets, and a large majority of Internet users now visit websites from these wireless devices.

Remember: when a visitor comes to your website, they probably already know what they want out of it. If within three seconds they can’t figure out what to do next, you might need to go back to the drawing board.

3. No clear call to action.

What do you want users to do once they’ve found your website? Do you want them to buy your product, contact you, or subscribe to your business e-newsletter? You need to tell visitors what the next step is and when (ideally, now!). Your content should answer the question, “What’s in it for me?” and then the call to action tells them what to do next.

4. Paying too little or too much.

You don’t know how many times people come to my company after they’ve hired a cheap designer, let them make business decisions that are poor, and ended up with a horrible product. At the same time, companies get distracted by expensive agencies that work with big brands, and don’t realize these agencies might not be able to help a small business that’s ROI focused. Simply put: don’t blow your budget on your website, but do your research to ensure you’re receiving a quality product.

5. Stale, out-of-date content.

Customers expect your website to contain the latest information about your products, services, and company. When it doesn’t have this, they may assume you’re not in business any longer, or simply aren’t innovative and ahead of the competition. Your content must address the needs of your customers (or potential customers) and be updated as things change. If you have a blog, updating it at least once a week — if not more — can help you drive visitors to your website and keep search engines happy.

Additionally, avoid putting links to your Facebook or Twitter pages if you only have a small following. People may think your business is too small and end up not hiring you.

6. Trying to target everyone.

This goes back to knowing your target market; your website will be a mess if you try to accommodate every kind of visitor you might end up getting. It’s best to figure out your most frequent users and focus on creating the best possible experience for them. If you try to please the masses you’ll likely end up not pleasing anyone.

7. Taking the DIY route.

Your website is often your customers’ first experience with your brand. If you don’t have design experience, do you really think you can do it justice? Remember first impressions are everything. Don’t allow your customer to make assumptions about your business because of a poorly designed website.

What do you think? What web design mistakes really drive you crazy?

– – –

WittyCookie is an award-winning digital agency that specializes in affordable web design, graphic design, and SEO solutions to help small businesses grow.

Service plans start at just $19/month, all-inclusive with web design, web hosting, email setup, ongoing maintenance, and unlimited updates. We charge no setup fee, no cancellation fee, and no term contracts with a full money back guarantee.

Visit wittycookie.com to get started.