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If you stick around long enough in the digital marketing business, you get to read a lot of these types of columns — one expert or another prognosticating about the future. If I had such a talent, my sense is that it would be put to best use in selecting next week’s lottery numbers. Like you, I have no crystal ball. But I have spent a great deal of my career meeting with marketers in search of innovative ways to acquire and retain new and existing customers, build lifetime value, and win back lost customers.

What follows are five digital marketing predictions for 2012 that are a direct result of numerous client and prospect meetings. 

1. The year of the tablet. All of this is likely to occur in the next 13 months:

  • the installed base of tablet devices will continue to grow exponentially;
  • consumer adoption of tablets will continue to accelerate;
  • new tablet devices will enable traditional print units to be displayed effectively;
  • the rising cost of paper, printing and postage will continue to fuel marketers’ desire for more cost-efficient delivery formats;
  • the web makes a comeback in terms of tablet applications; and
  • the App StoreOpens in a new window still dominates, but will have new competition.

 

2. New demands for greater attribution analysis tools and methods. As a result, be prepared for the following:

  • company finance departments will require greater proof and validation of cost efficiency;
  • marketers will demand greater accountability from channels on media plan optimization; and
  • there will be a new focus on integrated marketing proficiency and effectiveness.

 

3. Get mobile … and fast. The following trends around mobile will emerge next year:

  • consumers will spend more time accessing and communicating via mobile devices;
  • marketers will get their websites in shape to reap the benefits of the new mobile economy; and
  • mobile search and advertising will ramp up dramatically.

 

4. Social media grows up. Here’s what you can expect when it comes to social media marketing in 2012:

  • most marketers will aggressively launch a new array of social strategies and programs;
  • growth in social gaming will flatten out;
  • marketers crack the code in terms of turning community building into measurable transactions; and
  • websites will play second fiddle to social media destinations.

 

5. Digital will play a pivotal role in presidential politics. With 2012 an election year, don’t be surprised to see the following:

  • candidates will be smarter about how to use the full spectrum of digital tools at their disposal, following President Obama’s lead when he leveraged social media in building a coalition and donor base four years ago;
  • the battle will heat up in late 2011 and throughout the primary season; and
  • whoever wins the battle online will win the White House.

 

It’s challenging to predict trends in a marketplace that continues to evolve and change as quickly as the digital landscape. I continue to watch for signs that marketers are getting smarter about using the digital tools available to monitor the dialogs they’re having with their customers in real time.

As we watch the tremendous shift in media consumption patterns and the lamentations about the demise of direct mail, my sense is that digital still has a long way to go before it can be viewed as much more than electronic junk communication. It’s our responsibility as marketers to step up and show consumers that we can be trusted with their data. In earning this trust, we must build more meaningful relationships with them.

Of all of the predictions that could be realized, my sincere hope is that a new awakening to the power of the digital tools and strategies within our current toolkit comes to reality. Consumers have been waiting for years.

 

Provided by Al Diguido

If you want to participate in the kickoff of the holiday shopping season without feeling too much like a market-driven drone, check Small Business Saturday with the help of these social networking tools.

Between Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and the unending onslaught of online deals, there is another holiday shopping day that might get lost in the shuffle: Small Business Saturday. This year marks the second annual such event, a new tradition that tries to steal some addition from chain retailers and big e-commerce sites and give it to local vendors.

And this year, the fledging ritual is getting some serious attention from social media sites. Facebook, Twitter, and Google have all pledge their efforts in support, offering and encouraging small business owners to use their sites’ tools to promote shopping this weekend.

Local retailers aren’t the only ones who stand to benefit this weekend. What happens to consumers who want the discounts but sans the chain names (that are sometimes attached to controversy) they go hand in hand with? Small business Saturday can fill that void along with the help of some geo-social applications.

Foursquare

amex-foursquareFoursquare has been at the top of the social-meets-location game since it began, and Small Business Saturday will be no exception. If you have an American Express card, sync it to your Foursquare account following these directions. Then when you check-in to shops who have partnered with the service via Foursquare on Saturday, you will see a button that says “load to card.” Then when you spend at least $25 or more at the participating store, you’ll get a notification saying $25 was credited to your Amex account. American Express is a sponsor of Small Business Saturday, so ratcheting up sales is in its best interest, but turns out they’re willing to compensate you for helping make the event a success.

 

etsy_iconEtsy

The purveyor of all things handcrafted is a natural fit for small business Saturday—and will appeal to those who want to buy “local” without leaving their living rooms. Just searching “Small Business Saturday” on the site brought up a slew of items that will be on sale this weekend, andthis blog catalogued some of the best e-shops on the site that offered discounts last year.

 

 

thedealmixDaily deal sites

While the likes of LivingSocial and Groupon tend to offer food and spa deals, the occasional local retailer pops up. Between now and Small Business Saturday, a minimal amount of homework and creating an account with one (or all) of these sites could save you some Monday. We’d advise getting with something likeThe Dealmix, which collects a large variety of all these local deals. Keep an eye out on any of these applications for vendor or shop deals in your area. Then make a call or check Facebook to see if they are participating in Small Business Saturday. Then add those savings to whatever discount the daily deal site was offering. Of course, you should check that you can use coupons during the Saturday sale.

 

 

 

Facebook

Facebook is offering a slew of tools for small businesses to take advantage of, but the site is also catering to consumers. Check out the Small Business Saturday Facebook page and you’ll have access to a variety of information, including city guides for optimizing your local shopping in New York, Chicago, and San Francisco, as well as organized events in cities nationwide. Some of them include raffles, free gift wrapping, Santa visits for the kids, and community breakfasts.

 

 

 

 

smallbiz twitterTwitter

Be sure to follow your favorite local business on Twitter, if you haven’t already. We’re sure a great many of these sites will have implemented a Follow button (one of the tools in the Small Business Saturday kid), and will be using the hashtags #ShopSmall, #ShopSmallNov26, #SmallBizSaturday and #SmallBusinessSaturday to spread word of their discounts this weekend.

There’s bad news and good news about the way consumers interact with brands on social media.

The bad news? When customers complain on social media, those complaints can tarnish your brand’s name for a wide audience faster than ever.

The good news? Just as complaints travel at light speed thanks to social media, so do compliments.

If you think you’re not “on” or “doing” social media, you’re wrong. Your company may not be active, but I guarantee your fans and your non-supporters are there. Because of this, it is the brand’s responsibility to create a social media experience that can turn a dissatisfied customer into a raving fan.

To help your brand do this, here are seven ways to create a memorable customer experience on social media.


1. Give Your Customers a Place to Talk


Some companies are afraid to set up Facebook pages because they allow customers to comment, which means someone might write something negative. It seems counterintuitive, but you should actually wantcustomers to complain on your company’s Facebook page. If your customers are complaining about you on their personal, privacy-protected Facebook profiles, you have no way to know if they’re complaining, much less reach out to them and make it right.

When customers complain on your brand’s Facebook page, you can respond and resolve issues. If you do it right (and get a little lucky), unhappy customers will turn their opinions around and recommend you to friends because of your fantastic customer service.

 


2. Integrate Social Media Into Your Customer Service


Neglecting your social media properties when they’re full of customer complaints is suicide for your brand. It’s like publishing a customer service hotline phone number that no one ever answers. (Except worse, because the whole Internet can see your negligence.)

Don’t open up the floor for complaints without a plan to handle them. Predict the complaints you may get and construct policies for replying to them. You should also plan on responding to fans who compliment you. At the very least, you should thank customers for the compliment. But if you really want to make customers happy, show happy customers your appreciation with coupons or other rewards.

 


3. Activate Your Existing Customer Base


Most brands have more customers than they do Facebook fans and Twitter followers. Start building your social media fan base by reaching out to your current customers — after all, they already “like” your brand in real life.

Think about how you currently contact your customer base and how you can use those communication channels to draw customers to your social media properties. For example, you could run a contest or promotion on Facebook and then include that promotion on your product’s packaging, in your next email, and in any touch point you have with your customers.

 


4. Be Proactive


Don’t just wait for someone to post on your wall or tweet your account. It’s especially easy on Twitter to monitor for mentions of your name and reach out when someone has a problem, even if they haven’t mentioned your account. Set your brand apart by proactively interacting with customers who are talking about your brand, whether you’re thanking them for a compliment or helping them solve a problem.

Think about why your customers use social media sites like Twitter — it’s because they want to “connect” and to have a voice out there. Make them happy that someone, most importantly your company, is listening to what they have to say.

 


5. Reward Influencers


Find the social media influencers for your audience and give them extras. This could be as simple as giving them advance notice of a special promotion, or complex as giving them a free trip and tour of your facilities. For example, check out what Musselman’s apple sauce did for its blogger network. Making people feel special will help turn them into advocates for your brand. Reward your brand ambassadors when they least expect it and you’ll see some pretty phenomenal results.

 


6. Create Compelling Content


Give your fans something of value on your page. For example, Nordstom’s “Beauty Central” on Facebook provides a ton of relevant, useful content. You can do something similar to this in every industry. If you’re a movie producer, post behind-the-scenes photos, and if you’re a bank, write money saving tips. It’s hard to get people to engage with your brand when you don’t have anything interesting to say. Every brand can (and should) create quality content.

Social media can be a channel to make customers or followers feel special, like they’re in an exclusive club with your brand because they follow you. Make them feel this exclusiveness whether you have ten social media fans or 100,000.

 


7. Stand Out From the Crowd


Some of the most memorable social media experiences are created by going beyond text. This can be as complex as Starbucks’s Pumpkin Picture app, or simple as using voice applications to let your brand’s spokesperson actually speak to your fans. The more interactive and engaging your social media presence, the better. In part, social media is a little anti-social because there can be a lot lost in plain text. By giving your fans a true voice on social media, or encouraging participation through photos and videos, you humanize the experience that much more. You’ll be doing so when most of the other companies out there aren’t really participating effectively this way.

 

Provided by Dave Toliver

bill gates

All you aspiring 1-percenters, take heed: Bill Gates says that, after you become a millionaire, it doesn’t really make much of a difference how much more money you make.

 

It’s one thing to be told that money isn’t everything by someone who has never had any. It’s quite another when the person giving the advice is the wealthiest man in the world.

This lesson was recently learned by a lucky group of computer science and engineering students at the University of Washington, who had the opportunity to listen of Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, a native of UW’s hometown of Seattle, give his two cents about life, technology and getting rich.

“I didn’t start out with the dream of being super-rich,” said Gates. “And even after we started Microsoft, and the guys who ran Intel—Gordon Moore and those guys—were billionaires, I was like, ‘Wow, that must be strange.’ And so—it is, it’s quite strange.”

He added: “But wealth above a certain level, really, it’s a responsibility that then you’re going have to either, a.) leave it to your children, which may or may not be good for them, or b.) try to be smart about giving it away.

“So I can understand wanting to have millions of dollars, because there’s meaningful freedom that comes with that. But once you get much beyond that—you know, I have to tell you, it’s the same hamburgerDick’s [a local fast food chain] has not raised their prices enough. But, you know, being ambitious is good. You just have to pick what you enjoy doing.”[Emphasis ours]

Gates also said that he believes ” that the rich should be taxed a lot more,” but that the best thing America can do for those with thinner wallets is to provide a quality education that can “give them an opportunity to move up into the top few percent.”

Read a full report about Gates’ talk here.

 

Provided by Andrew Couts

If you’re buying a car, do you check Facebook? Or do you read up on Kelley Blue Book values and scour the company website for every spec, from horsepower to miles per gallon? What about music — do you check Top 40 radio charts or scope out what your Facebook friends are actually listening to on Spotify?

Social media has infiltrated the purchasing funnel, helping consumers make informed decisions, from what to have for lunch to where to go on vacation. Depending on the decision, sometimes you turn to your social graph, and sometimes you turn to Google. So, as a brand marketer, you want to know what online channels you should be targeting in order to reach the perfect audience for your product.

But regardless of what kind of consumer you’re trying to reach or what you’re selling, your SEO better be top notch — search is the most important influence on the web.

The infographic below, featuring data from M Booth and Beyond, analyzes the differences between high and low sharers and various purchasing decisions, helping brands to understand how should be targeting consumers.

What kind of consumer are you? Let us know in the comments below.

 

 

Provided by Lauren Drell