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      10 Easy Social Media Tips for Your Hard-Working Small Business


      Whether you sell routers, pillows, shared web hosting, or car washes, your customers — and potential customers — are on social media. Not only do you need to be there too, but you also need to be there in the right way.

      Jumping into the world of likes, snaps, pins, and tweets can feel overwhelming. But if you know the basics, you can build a social media brand that supports your company the same way a loyal employee does. Follow these 10 rules as you start this journey.  

      1. Limit Your Platforms

      From Twitter to Snapchat, there are a lot of social media sites and apps out there that everyone seems to be using — plus another dozen you’ve probably never used or even heard of. However, being active on social media doesn’t have to mean using every social media platform there is. Choose just two or three and learn to use them expertly, rather than floundering your way through them all.

      To determine which two or three to pick, figure out where your business’ audience already is. One way to find out is by surveying your mailing list. You can also check Google Analytics to see which social media sites most readers use to find your website by looking under Acquisitions → Social. A third way would be to watch where your competitors and other influencers in your niche spend their digital free time.

      Once you’ve narrowed down your social media targets, it’ll be a lot easier to focus on offering quality content for your audience. (Plus, since you’ve only got a few places in which to learn the ropes, you won’t have to worry as much about making embarrassing social media snafus! Not that you ever would. We believe in you.)

      2. Plan Everything

      Although many people are attached to their phones, they are hesitant to actually use them for calling a stranger. Nowadays it’s much easier, often preferable, to post a question to a company page or feed. And if your company is too slow to respond, it will most definitely make you look bad.

      Social media, however, can suck up a lot of time for busy small business owners. That’s why we recommend picking one day a week to schedule all of your posts in advance and then checking in daily to review comments and answer questions. Schedulers like Hootsuite, Buffer and Sprout Social all allow you to sync multiple social media accounts and plan your posts in advance. You could also use If This Then That to apply a rule. (For example, “If I add a new item to my Etsy shop, automatically post a photo of it on my Instagram.”)

      Also strategically choose when you’re going to post. Morning is better because then you’re on the clock when questions and comments come in — as opposed to when you’re driving home in the evening.

      3. Curate Content

      Scheduling a week’s worth of social media in advance might seem daunting if you’re worried about where all that content is going to come from. But you don’t have to do it alone.

      Chances are you already see a lot of share-worthy content online that is extremely relevant to your business. For example, if you run a grocery for people with food allergies, you probably read a lot of articles about food and health in the news. Perhaps you’ve read relevant blog posts from chefs or health advocates. These types of content may come from other people, but as long as you give credit where it’s due, there’s no reason you can’t share these links.

      Sharing other people’s work isn’t just a useful way to provide content to your audience — it’s also just a nice thing to do. When you promote other people’s work (with attribution) on your social media accounts, it’s likely they’ll notice and perhaps even return the favor. Get into the habit of bookmarking helpful missives from other people so you can schedule them into posts.

      4. Be Pretty

      Taking Picture

      Gone are the days in which you can use boring or low-quality pictures. People expect professional businesses — even small ones — to have a social media image to match.

      While a slightly blurry photo may slide on Snapchat, that same picture will not translate well on Facebook viewed on a desktop, and it can subtly damage your reputation.

      A couple of options: watch tutorials on how to take good shots with your smartphone. Or track down someone with a nice camera who can spend a few hours taking pictures of your office, candids of your employees, and stylized products.

      If you decide to DIY, take multiple shots, pay attention to lighting (natural light is usually best), use the rule of thirds, and remember that a picture is worth a thousand words.

      5. Write Killer Captions

      As important as it is to have good images, a strong caption will take your photo to the next level. Review the following tips for making your captions captivating.

      Tell a Little Story

      You could introduce your new sales manager with a simple “Here is so-and-so” or you could share her experience selling Girl Scout cookies. Which one would make a lasting impression? Cookies. Always.

      Watch out for Repetitive Info

      You don’t have much space to capture readers’ attention, so carefully choose your words. Use the “location” tool if available so you don’t have to repeat that info. Avoid using the same word twice and be succinct.

      Always Proofread

      Reading your captions slowly and out loud will catch a lot of embarrassing typos. You’re just one “s” away from turning “assess” into a social media blunder.

      Avoid Clichés

      “And they’re off!” “We had so much fun today!” “We’re over the moon.” If you don’t see these phrases on social media posts every day, you’re not on it enough. Just kidding. But start to think of using clichés like filing your taxes — an annual event.

      Captions Just Want to Have Pun

      See what happened there? While you generally want to avoid clichés, you do have permission to take one, tweak it to make it relevant, and voila: you’ve just entered a whole new level of caption writing. Use this site to find the idiom that’s right for you.

      Run Captions by Someone Else

      Something that’s funny to one person could be offensive to another. And when social blunders happen online, people take note.

      Quality Is Way Better Than Quantity

      If you’re showing up too often in people’s feeds, you’ll look too eager and possibly annoying. Composing thoughtful posts or tweets twice a week will fare better than hastily sharing two every day.

      6. Harness Hashtags

      Who would have guessed that the symbol formerly known as the pound sign would have a mid-life crisis and rebrand itself as a hashtag?

      These little guys are A-list characters now, and using them correctly can help your business reach a wider audience. Obsessed with the venture capital world? Search for #VC on Twitter, for example, and you will find hundreds of thousands of posts to peruse — and lots of infographics too. Instagram now lets users follow hashtags specifically instead of individual accounts.

      Using popular hashtags for your field can help potential customers find you, but, like anything that should seem simple, there are a few dos and don’ts for this catchy form of communication.

      Do:

      • Use popular hashtags to garner a broader interest. Instagram, for example, quantifies how many others are using a particular hashtag  (Search function > tag tab). Say you’re in the business of selling bow ties. The most-popular hashtags are #bowtie, followed obviously by #bowties. Scroll down, and #bowtiesarecool, #bowtietuesday, and #bowtieready are other top options. Using all these hashtags will help you reach people who are obsessed with this form of neckwear. 
      • Include your company’s name and nickname in your hashtag list.
      • Jump on the #TBT bandwagon. #TBT, also known as Throwback Thursday, has more than 413 million TBT hashtags on Instagram. Read this article for more marketing tips related to this retro movement.
      • Try using hashtags to make people smile. If you’re selling socks, try something like #nostinkyfeet or #happyfeet.

      Don’t:

      • Use too many. Unless someone is really patient — or married to an employee — he or she won’t read through a long list of hashtags. Put the most relevant ones at the beginning and the funniest ones at the end, the two places people are most likely to read.
      • Create long hashtags. Since they are harder to read without spaces, limit them to four words.
      • Use hashtags that beg for bots to follow you. Remember that quantity is nice, but real, live people are best. And begging for followers is not professional. Avoid hashtags like #followme, #like4like, or anything else that could be considered pandering. 
      • Forget to proofread. Some words without spaces can be read different ways.

      7. Know — and Engage — your Audience

      Figuring out your demographic is an important step as you understand your audience. The more specific details you know about your customers, the more effective your social media messages will be. An easy way to start is to review the questions and exercises presented here.

      Another tip is to build suspense. Got a new product coming out soon? Tease it a few times before you introduce it at a specific time on your accounts. If your company is hosting a conference, highlight individual presenters via social media the weeks before registration goes live.

      You could also try hosting a contest or a giveaway. We all love the idea of getting something for nothing. One popular contest strategy is to give people extra entries in exchange for tagging a friend, who may end up following you. Check out a few more tips here.

      Instagram App on Phone

      Be sure to take advantage of the polls functions on Instagram and Facebook. They offer quick and painless ways to get into the minds of your customers. Or flat out ask a question in one of your posts. If you haven’t noticed by now, people are more than willing to share their opinions online.

      You can also get help from your fans. Gently encourage the people who already love your business to make it a point of discussion on social media. The easiest way to do this is to make your website effortlessly shareable. You can use the Social Bookmarks or Shareaholic plugin for WordPress to add one-click share buttons for a variety of different social media sites to each post and page. Since images improve shares, you can also use a plugin like WP Facebook Open Graph Protocol to ensure that your posts automatically include a featured image when posted on Facebook.

      8. Keep a Social Eye on Competitors

      Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right? Obviously, copying everything your competition is posting is bad business. But looking at other accounts can also spark creativity. (And in reality, there isn’t a ton of originality on social media anymore, just everyone doing the same thing a little differently.)

      Ask yourself these things about your competitors — and other top brands on social media. What hashtags are they using? What kinds of posts are generating lots of comments or shares? What pins are getting lots of saves?  

      You can also look at the people who are interacting the most with your competitors — and follow those people too. If they are taking the time to converse about the field, there’s a good chance they will engage with you too.

      Beyond social media stalking, you could even try following or liking your competitors’ posts. Just because they’re rivals doesn’t mean you can’t be friends. Who knows? They may even like you back.

      9. Show Personality

      If you make people snooze, you’re going to lose — followers. Brainstorm with key people to conceptualize the image you want to present, but keep in mind that social media is all about fun. It’s an escape for people, and you want to be subtle as you promote your company — and even post things that aren’t self-serving.

      To get your creative juices flowing, consider these ideas and read the success stories of some other bigger businesses.

      Highlight Your Employees

      That guy who wears flip-flops year round? The woman who brings in a new scented candle each month for her desk? Share their stories, and you’ve got an opportunity to connect with followers.

      Showcase Your Customers

      Same idea here. Who was your first customer? Who was your last? Who’s your youngest? Who comes to your store every day at 2:15? It doesn’t have to be super unique — it just has to make people smile. Then, as people start posting and tagging your company, you can share their posts (assuming they’re positive and have high-quality images), and you’ve just scored some extra content in minimal time.

      Use Holidays to Your Advantage

      You know the main ones: Halloween, April Fools, Christmas, etc., etc. But then there are hundreds of other, slightly unofficial holidays that people go crazy for, like Star Wars Day (May 4), National French Fry Day (July 13 this year), and there’s even a Programmers Day (September 13 this year). Use this list and start brainstorming how you can use these “hashtag holidays” to influence your social media accounts. Don’t forget to tag these posts with the correct holiday name to reach a wider audience.

      Share Inspirational Quotes or Fun Facts

      Creating a simply-designed quote or a meme is another way to connect with your audience. Sending out happy vibes is always a good idea, just make sure you’re sourcing the right person and sharing accurate stats.  

      10. Product Promotions

      Always Link Up

      The product you’re touting needs to be a tap or a click away or else people will lose interest quickly. Including links on some social media platforms can be a little trickier than others. Instagram, for example, relegates links to bios and stories, and Snapchat has only recently allowed clickable URLs. But the extra seconds that it takes will pay off in the long run.

      Offer Discounts

      Who isn’t hunting for a good deal nowadays? Sharing discount codes or free shipping for followers will keep them bonded to your business. Forbes reported that 72 percent of Millennials search for a coupon before making an online purchase. Another survey said 71 percent of consumers follow specific brands on social media with the purpose of getting coupons.

      Connect with Influencers

      Influencers — the lifestyle accounts with large social media circles — live up to their title, and most thrive off of collaborations too. By connecting with an influencer and offering a free product in exchange for social media promotion, you’ll not only get a personal endorsement (the marketing equivalent of gold), but you’ll also get a potential new audience from their followers. Here are more details on what to expect if you dabble in influencer marketing.

      Purchase Ads

      We know, we know. We’ve spent the last 2,000+ words talking about how you can do this yourself. But hear it out. A lot of these social media platforms can figure out who might be a potential follower/customer/friend based on things like bios, web and app usage, and other algorithms. (If you’re really interested, read this article on some ways Facebook collects data on its users — fascinating and a little creepy too.)

      If you’re serious about taking this to the next level — and especially if your target audience is on the younger side — then spending money on social media ads can help. Chances are these ads will go much further than any email newsletter will.

      Although social media is used all over the world, it doesn’t mean you have to have deep pockets to jump into the game. The ads can be targeted, and these platforms offer a variety of pricing options. Check out this detailed social media advertising guide — broken down by platform — complete with steps on how to buy and create your ads.

      So now you’re armed and ready with enough information to make your head spin. But just remember: social media is an escape for most people. Enjoy the creative outlet and the ability to connect with your customers in a whole new way. There will be a little rush when you get that first retweet, guaranteed.





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      What makes a good WordPress theme for small business?


      WordPress is the most popular website building platform on the internet, powering just under a third of all the sites on the web, and is used by business of all sizes in all sectors around the world. It is used for practically every kind of business website, and is a top choice for entrepreneurs and startups, as well as major companies and global brands like TechCrunch, Sony Music, Mercedes-Benz, and shoe company Bata.

      WordPress sites are generally built with Themes, which WordPress documentation describe as “a collection of files that work together to produce a graphical interface with an underlying unifying design for a weblog.” The files are that make up the Theme are called “Templates,” and they allow the appearance and functionality of the website to be changed without making any alterations to the underlying code.

      Once a business has decided to use WordPress, choosing a Theme is the next step, as it establishes the basic layout, design and style of the site. Choosing a Theme is hardly a simple matter, however, of finding one that provides an attractive, professional looking sample.

      Universal needs

      Every business needs a website that looks good and works properly. For a Theme to deliver both characteristics, it has to have both high-quality design and coding. A website that has poorly written code in the back-end may look nice, but fail to function properly or break down as you attempt to customize it. A website with well-written code and a nice-looking sample page but lacklustre design may not look the way you want when you are finished customizing it.

      An important element of both functionality and professional, on-brand appearance is responsiveness, which refers to how the site shows up on different devices. Many websites are built on a desktop computer, but fail to resize properly for mobile devices. It is also not safe to take the word of a Theme’s marketing material that it is completely responsive. Check any user comments available to see if there are complaints about the way it looks on tablets or other devices, and once you have selected a Theme, test its responsiveness thoroughly to avoid losing all the customers the page won’t load properly for. If it is not convenient to test the page on a variety of devices, Google offers a responsiveness testing tool so you can still be certain your site will look and work the way you want it to, regardless of what kind of device your site visitors are viewing it on.

      Most businesses will want a Theme that allows them to customize their WordPress website with a drag and drop interface. This enables you to customize the website without the coding skills of a programmer. If you are motivated to perform more complex customization, look for a Theme that offers shortcodes, which are small code samples that are meant to be cut and pasted into the site.

      Another common need that some Themes fail to meet is a full range of colors and fonts. Even if you don’t have a specific color scheme or style of text in mind, the limitations imposed by Themes with only a few options is likely to force you to make unnecessary compromises on site appearance, preventing the business from being shown in its best possible light.

      Beyond these basic criteria for a good WordPress Theme, there are some considerations specific to the kind of website your business needs.

      Retail Site

      Ecommerce functionality is obviously important for any retail site, but the quality of the catalog is even more crucial – if your products or services are hard to find, displayed poorly, or difficult to update and manage, your customers are unlikely to reach the purchasing stage.

      There are several popular catalog plugins for WordPress, such as Posts Table Pro, WooCommerce Product Table, WP Catalogue, Product Catalog, and WordPress Catalog. They mostly share similar basic features but have different strengths in terms of functionality. Whichever plugin you choose, make sure it is easy to update, otherwise keeping your site aligned with your actual inventory will be a constant headache.

      An important thing to keep in mind when choosing a Theme is that not all Themes will be compatible with every plugin, so determining what catalog plugins a Theme supports is a major part of evaluating it for an ecommerce site.

      The plugin that manages transactions is also important. Not only does it need to accept payments in the right form for your customers, it needs to meet increasingly high standards of security and usability. Research by ecommerce tools provider Barilliance indicates that 15 percent of incidents of online shopping cart abandonment are caused by security concerns, and 9 percent by a long and confusing checkout process.

      Media

      For a media business’ website to be effective, it has to be able to deliver its media files on demand without errors or lag. This makes plugin compatibility a key determining factor in which Theme to select, in order to deliver your content the way you want to.

      Performance is important for all sites, but particularly critical for all media sites, as the relatively large amounts of data that must be transmitted from the site to the visitor can easily be bogged down. A lightweight Theme – meaning one that with “clean” code, in which every line that must be processed is doing work essential to delivering the website.  This is one of the main differences between more costly “premium” Themes and most inexpensive or free options – professional programmers tend to write cleaner code than enthusiastic amateurs, making their Themes “light” and fast.

      Membership

      Community websites that use a paywall or otherwise restrict access to certain content or areas generally rely on plugins like MemberPress, Restrict Content Pro, or Paid Member Subscriptions.

      Sites with community forums use a plugin like bbPress or BuddyPress to set up and manage them. There are many Themes that come with one of those or a similar option integrated, which helps keep things simple.

      Depending on the specifics of your business, you may also want your membership or community website Theme to also come with capabilities like a user rating system and email list integration.

      Whatever kind of business you are thinking of running your WordPress site on, there are good Themes out there for you to choose from. Once you have decided what plugins you need to meet your business’ needs, and considered the other characteristics or features you need from your theme, or even for help figuring those things out, give us a call, and we’ll get you started.



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