Marketing Tip of the Week: Hashtag Etiquette

The humble hashtag has been around a lot longer than social media would lead us to believe. Although adopted and popularized by Twitter in 2007, the hashtag has been around since the late ’90s, used by Internet Relay Chat to categorize images, messages, videos and other items into groups. Since that time, most social media platforms have embraced the hashtag, including Instagram, Facebook, Google+, and Pinterest.

And with that intro, a code of ethics was born. Although, like the Internet, these are not set-in-stone rules about what’s proper when using hashtags, following these 5 easy steps will definitely help your business succeed by increasing your social presence, and preventing you from committing mild Internet no-no’s.

Hashtag Only Relevant Tags

Just because you CAN hashtag a word doesn’t mean you HAVE to hashtag it. Hashtagging the word “new” in the sentence, “Check out the beautiful #new floral arrangement from Bill’s Flowers!” won’t help your tweet any, because “new” relates to so many different topics. Hashtagging “floral arrangement” or “Bill’s Flowers,” however, will direct customers exactly where they need to go to find more tweets or posts related to your hashtagged words. Ex: “Check out the beautiful new #FloralArrangement from #BillsFlowers!”

Stay Away From Excessively Long Hashtags

Hashtags are great for tagging one or two words, or even sentences with only a few words, but when you make the mistake of hashtagging an entire paragraph full of words, you just end up confusing customers. DON’T: “#checkoutouronlineexclusivedealsavailableinourwebstore.” DO: “Check out our #OnlineExclusive deals available in our webstore!” And when you do use multiple words in a tweet, capitalize the first letter of every word in your sentence, to make the tag easier to read.¬†

Use Hashtags For Promotion, But Don’t Spam

No one likes spam, not even the people who make it (we’d like to think). So it’s okay to use hashtags to promote an event, like a #WeeklyNewsletter, but a weekly newsletter means you send it out weekly. Don’t excessively tweet about checking out your business’s newsletter every day. The day before, or day of the newsletter going out is plenty.

#TeamFollowBack #LikeForLike and #RepostForRepost Are Bad

I’m sure we’ve all encountered those random accounts that follow us on Twitter and Instagram for seemingly no reason. Usually, those accounts are spam accounts that are looking only to get the most followers possible and have no interest in what you’re business is actually about. So don’t use your social accounts to follow hundreds or thousands of people that have no relationship to your business. Users get annoyed by this. Make sure to really research those you wish to follow before clicking the button (making sure they’re not spam accounts first, of course).

#Don’t #Hashtag #Every #Word

#Seriously #Don’t #Do #This. It’s unnecessary and makes it almost impossible for tags to be grouped properly. Hashtags aren’t meant to make categorization easier, not more convoluted and infuriating to navigate.

Remember, hashtags are meant to make your use of social media optimal and more efficient. Don’t make it any harder than it needs to be.




Marketing Tip of the Week: The Best Time To Be Creative

Creativity is an extremely important part of running a business. Let’s face it, if you’re continuously rehashing the same old tricks and ideas in the same way that you’ve done it since the ’80s, you’re going to be left behind in the dust by competitors.

Creativity helps your business flourish by  bringing new and innovative ideas to the table; ideas that can give your company the facelift it needs. So here are 3 tips for thinking outside the box and getting those creative juices flowing!

Figure Out If You’re A Morning Person Or A Night Person

Many of us would consider ourselves one of two kinds of people: a morning person or a night person. It’s the time of day when you feel most awake and energized, but that doesn’t always mean it’s the best time to be creative. It’s actually the opposite of what you think. Typically, morning people are better at being creative in the evening, and night people are better at solving problems in the morning. Weird, huh? The reasoning behind this is that when your mind gets tired, your focus actually broadens. When your mind is awake and focused on one task, you actually limit the amount of possibilities and directions that you can take with your business, therefore limiting your potential creativity. It’s kind of like when you’re lying in bed at night, tired from a long day of work, but your brain just won’t shut off. Use that exhaustion to your advantage!

More Distraction Is Better

Seems like a paradox, right? Most of us would assume that being completely distraction free, in our quiet place, would be the best environment for being creative. But according to Harvard University researcher and psychologist Shelley H. Carson, our bodies release much more dopamine, an important neurotransmitter, when we’re doing a distracting mental activity, such as driving, running, showering, or dreaming. And that dopamine aids in many important brain functions, such as memory, attention, and learning. So maybe watching Netflix while brainstorming ways to optimize your social media marketing strategy isn’t such a bad idea.

Find The Best Time Of Day To Write Out Your Ideas

But just because you shouldn’t brainstorm when you’re alert doesn’t mean you can’t write our your ideas during this time. For morning people, like me, writing out ideas in the morning can be efficient because 1) we have the most willpower in the morning, 2) we’re usually in better moods. For the night person reading this, writing out ideas at night can be efficient because 1) it’s the end of the work day and (hopefully) there are no distractions. 2) your experiences from the day might have inspired your or given you a great idea, and 3) deadlines are less apparent in the evening after business hours are over and allow you to be more emotionally involved in your creative thinking. It’s important to make sure you’re using this time solely for writing and NOT for actually brainstorming.

So don’t be afraid to be distracted and a little mentally tired when you start to think of creative endeavors for your company! It might just generate the perfect storm for innovation in your life.


Marketing Tip of the Week: Proper Phone Etiquette

Whether you’re a brand new startup just beginning to get your feet wet in the business world, or an established company with years of experience behind you, good phone etiquette can be one of the most important skills to have in order to connect with your customers. The way you or your employee speaks to customers on the phone can either make or break your business, so check out this week’s marketing tip on five ways to excel in proper phone protocol.

Be Friendly In Your Greeting

Great phone conversations are all about the words you choose and the tone of voice in which your present those words, so what better way to start a conversation off right than with a friendly and informative greeting. Here’s a great formula for the perfect phone greeting: “Good morning/afternoon/evening, this is company name, I’m your name, how may I help you today?” A good greeting starts the conversation off right, and lets your customer know you’re there to serve their needs.

Speak Clearly

No one likes to speak to a mumbler one the phone. Constantly asking “What was that? Can you repeat that please, but slower?” is an instant turnoff for any customer seeking fast and easy help for a problem they have. Try to enunciate your words, and speak slow enough for anyone to understand, but not too slow, or else you’ll end up sounding like Droopy the Dog.

Listen, With No Distractions

Attentiveness to your customers’ needs is a must in a situation where their voice is the only thing you have to pay attention to. In our current world, with smartphones, emails, and Facebook taking up all of our free time, it’s important to put down the distractions and pay close attention to the most important element of your business: the customer. The customer can tell when you’re not paying attention to them.

Try To Be As Helpful As Possible

Let’s face it, your customers are going to ask questions, and sometimes, they’re going to be hard questions. That’s why they called you in the first place. So the best strategy is to try to answer whatever problems they may have with a sincere attitude. And even if you can’t immediately answer their inquiry, let them know that you are going to try to meet whatever needs they have, or at least find someone who can help them.

End It On A High Note

No, I’m not talking about opera here. I mean end the conversation the same way you began it: with a friendly goodbye and a thank you. Customers will love to hear you say, “Thanks so much for calling us. It was a pleasure serving you. Have a good day!” instead of “Okay, bye.” Remember, these are the last words the customer will hear, so make them count. It’s all about a positive attitude.

Marketing Tip of the Week – What Do Consumers Need

Focusing on giving what your customer wants isn’t always as effective as giving them what they need. These are two different things. How do you inform your customers what they actually need? For this week’s marketing tip, lets take a lesson from Seth Godin.

“Or you can dig in, take your time and invest in a process that helps people see what they truly need. When we change our culture in this direction, we’re doing work worth sharing.”

See more about this topic from Seth Godin.

How do you actually show your customers that they actually need a product in your store? The key is relationship marketing. Get to know your consumers. Learn how to market to them and this is how you’ll learn how to inform your customers exactly what they need.

Marketing Tip of the Week: Don’t Forget To Look Up

Unless the name of your business is Wal-Mart, there are probably other companies in your market with higher annual sales. And that’s a good thing! After all, when it comes to marketing techniques and strategies, there’s nothing better than using one that’s already proven itself successful!

Learn From the Leaders

Those businesses that lead the way in your industry are there because they’ve already perfected the marketing techniques required to make money and pique the interest of customers. That makes them perfect models for you. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel. You should be able to make a few small tweaks and simply adapt their plan to your own business.

Never be afraid to learn all you can from the leaders.

Identifying Your Models

But what makes a particular businesses marketing model viable for your business? The key is to look for similarities, not just in products you carry but also in markets you’re targeting.

For example: Wal-Mart is a large company that sells a variety of items. You are probably a bit more specific in the products that you carry, so their general marketing plan may not be the best model for your business. Even so, they have departments that most likely coincide with your own business, and seeing how they choose to use signage and marketing materials for those departments can be applied to your model.

You’re going to have to do more than a simple copy and paste, but using your industry leaders as marketing models is always a great idea!

Marketing Tip of the Week: Keep It Positive

When creating marketing content, you want to leave your customer with a good impression of you and your business. After all, a customer who respects the business is a customer ready to buy from that business.

You may believe achieving that result will take some special writing wizadry, but in actuality it’s a simple effect to achieve. Just maintain a positive tone!

The Power of Positive

Customers tend to be more receptive to positive content. Successful content marketers will tell you that negative images, even if directed at the competition, can still cause an association in the customer’s mind with your business. Conversely, positive images also form an association with your business.

That’s why a funny .gif or video is never remiss on your Facebook page or blog. It may not be talking about your company, but the positive feelings it generates will still be associated with your business.

But what about your writing? How do you write content that shows all the ways your business is better than the one down the street without making an explicit comparison?

Keep The Focus On What You Do Well

Write about all the things that you do well. For example: a local florist knows that big online flower stores require customers choose from a set of preselected floral arrangements. But rather than call out the impersonal nature of such a selection, she can comment on how her services allow for personalized customization.

By showing that she can make arrangements which speak directly to the customer’s need or the intended recipient’s tastes, she has effectively set herself apart from the online store without appearing to say anything negative about them in the process.

Staying positive isn’t hard. It just takes a little thought organization. Just remember that for everything negative you want to convey about your competition, it can better be said by focusing on something positive about yourself!

Marketing Tip of the Week: Keep Your Audience On The Hook

Valuable content marketing isn’t just about getting a customer to view one article or social media post. Single views might be great for whatever you’re promoting at that moment, but to build a successful business, you’ll need to keep those viewers coming back for more!

Setting The Hook

The secret to repeat views is setting the hook. That means never giving all the information in one post. The customer must always be left wanting more so they’ll return to get even more information. This can be accomplished most easily by placing a sentence or paragraph advertising your next post at the bottom of each new one. It may require some thinking ahead as you have to plan each article in advance, but it’s sure to keep your viewers thirsty for more!

For social media, teasers are definitely the way to go. Give your viewers a small tidbit of information, and then include a link that takes them to a larger post with even more information. If you place a teaser at the bottom of that piece, you can keep them coming back again and again!

Reeling Them In

Once you’ve given your viewers a reason to come back, you need to continue feeding them quality information. Hooks are great, but if you aren’t giving them value for their time, customers will find somewhere else to go for the knowledge they need. As a business owner, you are a specialist. Present your advice from that angle, and you’re sure to build even more repeat business!

Building and keeping an audience isn’t as hard as it sounds. It merely involves providing quality information and presenting it so that your viewer always has a reason to come back!

Have any tips of your own? Leave them in the comments below, and don’t forget to come back next week for another great marketing tip!

Marketing Tip of the Week: Beating those Post-Holiday Blues

Small businesses normally carry the chorus of the post-holiday blues. Sure big box stores may sing a verse or two as their sales dip, but they have high-paid marketers whose sole job is to make that dip as slight as possible. But how do small businesses ease their own blues burden?

It’s Okay To Borrow

All great blues singers borrow what works from the greats who’ve gone before, and you can do the same. First, you need to look at the big boys who have a business model similar to your own. What are they doing to keep sales going during the seasonal dip? Are they running a sale to get rid of excess holiday material? Are they focusing on the after-Christmas shoppers, advertising deals for the super thrifty? Maybe they are targeting customers who’ve received an early tax return.

Whatever their method, feel free to borrow from it heavily!

Personalize Your Story

So you’ve found a great tune from a successful business you can emulate. That’s great, but you don’t want to follow it note for note. First you’ll need to personalize the lyrics, and add a few notes of your own to truly make their tune your tune.

It doesn’t require an entire revamp, nor should you try to do one. They’ve done the legwork for you, just riff off their idea and change what’s necessary to make it fit your business.

Don’t settle for the blues this January. Use your resources and let the good times roll!

Marketing Tip of the Week: Inject Some Humanity

If there’s one universal truth, it’s that customers prefer to do business with people over nameless, faceless brands. Not that having a brand is bad. It’s actually quite beneficial, but the secret is in having a brand that evokes a personality. So what’s the best way to humanize your brand? Through your marketing, of course!

Involve Your Team

You probably don’t run your store alone, so why should you be the only one featured in your marketing? Do you have an employee or two that likes to write? Give them a go at a blog post to change up the voice a bit. Also, post photos of you and your team online so customers have faces to go with the brand name.

Even better would be to put up some candid shots of your team working behind the scenes. Let customers see the work they (and you) do so they can garner a greater respect for the effort you and your team put in!

Lighten Up

Not every post you make has to be filled with importance and gravitas. Feel free to lighten the mood now and again with the odd joke. You don’t want every post to be a laugh riot, but just like a first date, tossing in one now and again will help to break the ice.

And don’t be afraid to ask questions of your own. Use your customer engagement to get info you might not be able to find any other way.

Your online profile needs to be as personable and interesting as your in-store personality. Don’t drown your customers in branding, show them that there are people behind the curtain!

Marketing Tip of the Week: The Ever Important Call-To-Action

If you regularly read marketing blogs, you’ve already heard all about the call-to-action. It’s a phrase bandied about by all the greats in the business (the business of business?) that has been repeated so often, many no longer see a reason to explain its meaning.

Still, if you aren’t entirely sure what a call-to-action is or how to optimize its use, read on!

Defining the Call

A call-to-action is what you use to spur your customer to action. It can be a sentence at the end of your blog, a button on the bottom of your email, or a statement splashed across your latest ad. Whatever you choose to use, it needs to be clear and concise so the customer knows exactly what they’re supposed to do next. Simple, right?

Absolutely, but sometimes keeping it simple is the problem.

Don’t Over Think It

Your call-to-action doesn’t have to be a mind-blowing statement or even something your customer has never seen before. It’s just a cue to direct them to where you want them to go. It can simply be a button labeled “Buy Now!” a hyperlink that says “Click here to purchase!” or anything in between.

The goal is clarity of purpose. A confused customer is a customer that gives up and goes somewhere else. The call-to-action is like a road sign. It directs the customer where to go next.

You should be using a call-to-action in every piece of content that you write. Even if the post isn’t direct marketing for you business, you should still direct the customer to your products at the end.

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