social media

Using Social Media to Build Professional Skills

If you think of social media as the sole province of vacation selfies and muffin recipes, the idea of using it for genuine professional development may seem absurd. But there are plenty of ways you can use social media to build professional skills, knowledge, and relationships, without getting overwhelmed.

To get real learning value out of social media, ask yourself these three questions:

What do I want to learn?

Want to learn more about your industry? Follow smart industry leaders on LinkedIn and Twitter to see what they’re reading and what they’re thinking about. From that you can learn key industry hashtags on Twitter to discover great new resources. Seek out the best blogs and podcasts in your field by reading or listening further when you find an interesting story that a colleague has shared online. Think about the specific subfield or topic you want to learn about next, and focus your reading in that specific area so that you develop expertise instead of just learning a tiny bit about a lot of subjects.

Think about your skill gaps, too. If you do a lot of presentations and are getting tired of those boring old Excel pie charts, start looking at infographics on Pinterest to get inspiration for how you can do a better job of presenting data. If time management is an ongoing issue for you, follow a list of productivity experts on Twitter to get their latest tips.

Using social media to work on areas like these will not only strengthen your professional skill set; it will also help you broaden your network. By re-sharing the useful resources you find on LinkedIn and Twitter, you can find others who are interested in the same topics as you and build a community of learning (more on this later).

When do I have time for learning?

Social media can be an effective way of pursuing professional development because it fits easily into your daily life. Yes, you can get a lot out of attending a few conferences a year—but there’s nothing like an ongoing learning process to get you fired up and thinking in newly creative ways. Put some thought into when you have time and mental energy for learning, and what formats would work best for your schedule. Then use your social networks to find the information you want in the format you need.

For instance, if you want to work on self-development while working out, doing household chores, or commuting, that’s a great time to listen to the podcasts you’ve discovered. If you commute by public transit and can read while you ride, set up an RSS reader like Feedly, which you can use to subscribe to blogs in your field.

You’ll be able to get a lot more learning in if you spend your time actually reading or listening to the sources you’ve unearthed instead of skimming the latest headlines.

Whom do I want to learn from or with?

Many of us learn best when we’re part of a learning community. This is where social media really shines: because social media is all about being able to share ideas with other people, it’s a great way to engage in active learning, with a community of people who want to hear your ideas and insights in addition to sharing their own.

There are a lot of ways to find or form a learning community online. If you’re looking for a community of practice — a group of fellow professionals in your field, sharing the inside scoop or best practices with one another — you can find those communities on Facebook, LinkedIn or even Slack.

To find a group that works for you, ask friends or colleagues whether they’re part of any learning or professional communities that could help you in a specific field or area of your working life. The clearer you are about what you want to learn, and the types of people you want to learn from, the more likely you are to find the right community for you.

In my experience the most valuable groups are smaller, invitation-only communities in which every member knows at least one other person in the group. That creates the level of trust necessary for people to share difficult experiences and inside tips, as well as to ask questions they might not feel comfortable asking in a more public setting.

Setting your learning intentions for what, when and who you want to learn from can turn social media into a powerful and timely resource for your ongoing professional development. Yes, there’s still room for snapping photos of your breakfast foods — but when you’re ready to settle down to work, remember that social media can help you with your next career goal, too.

Source: Harvard Business Review. Article by Alexandra Samuel (https://hbr.org/2016/08/using-social-media-to-build-professional-skills)

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5 Content Marketing Tips on Social Media for Small Businesses

If you own or operate a business that is reliant on web traffic in order to drive sales, much of your marketing efforts should be focused on attracting visitors to your website and converting them from prospects to clients or customers. One way to gain targeted web traffic through social media is to implement a content marketing strategy. Content Marketing is the process of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire and engage your target audience. Let’s consider 5 Content Marketing tips to help your small businesses to build credibility, increase brand awareness, establish relationships and provide value to your target audience.

Keep social media posts “short and sweet”

Social networks use algorithms to read and analyze every social media post. The ever-changing algorithms determine what sort of content will be displayed in users feed. The algorithms analyze the post content (words, photos, link credibility), timing and users feed preferences among many other factors. Most social networks tend to favor short and meaningful content as well as engagement. Users are also more likely to view and interact with smaller ‘bite-sized’ content.

Share your own unique content to build your brand

Many small businesses are unaware of the significant advantages that unique content serves. Besides developing a brand and interacting with customers or clients, the objective of social media marketing is to drive traffic to your website to either attain email addresses, sales or prompt the visitor to contact you. If you are not sharing content on social media that is not inbound to your website, it simply isn’t going to result in web traffic. Use your content as a magnet. When you share content from other websites you will be providing value by sharing useful industry-related tips or entertaining your followers. When you share content from your own website you are trying to attract visitors to it where you will be able to encourage the desired transaction. It is often recommended to share a mix of outside and unique content. This will decrease the amount of content that you will be required to make and still allow for you to share useful content that will help you to enhance your digital brand.

Post content that will make followers look good when they share it

Engagement seems to be a metric that social networks are taking increasing cues from when it comes to showing up more users newsfeeds. Social media is an excellent branding tool and by sharing content that your followers would look good to share, they will be more likely to share it which will help you to expand the reach of your post and company page.

Include a web link, photo, video or any other form of media to increase reach and engagement

When social networks use algorithms to sift through content, they seem to favor content that includes some form of media. Video seems to display more often than photos or posts with links oftentimes. Reach (or impressions) are the key to attaining more engagement which will lead to more exposure for your brand.

Popular forms of content include: photos, slideshares, blog posts, podcasts, videos, graphics, news updates, quotes, webinars and livestreams

Your web content can take many different forms. Live or native video content seems to perform at a very high level (especially on Facebook and Twitter) and I would expect to see this trend continue. A varied content strategy would be wise attract a diverse audience. Once you are able to determine what forms of content are the most effective, continue to build upon them.
Source: Business 2 Community. Article by Andrew C. Belton (http://www.business2community.com/content-marketing/5-content-marketing-tips-social-media-small-businesses-01614048#J7AY2ozIoI7RiebG.97)

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4 ways startups can get into digital marketing

Many startups worry about spending money on their marketing efforts, especially when there are so many necessary expenses driving down profits. While a high-quality commercial seems like a good idea, it has to take a backseat to costs like payroll and rent.

However, it’s possible for startups to invest in digital marketing without breaking the bank. You just have to be more strategic and focus on the return on investment (ROI). Follow these four steps to dive into the digital marketing world.

Identify Tailored Audiences on Facebook

Facebook advertising is only as expensive as you make it, which means you can set a daily or monthly budget that you can afford. The key to successful ads is making sure your posts are getting in front of the right eyes. It’s easy to blow through your targeted budget if you open up the demographics to everyone. Instead, tailor your message to audiences in your area, users who work in your industry, or people with common interests. This will improve the quality of your ads while driving your costs down.

Invest in Viral Content Creation

While many startups focus on text-based content and outreach efforts because of the low cost of creation, it may pay off to invest in a large piece of viral content that has a larger ROI. A blog post might draw a few hundred readers, but an amazing infographic can draw thousands of readers, which generates more likes and shares of your content and brand.

Furthermore, you can share an infographic on social media and in your email marketing, providing more opportunities for engagement. If you launch it strategically, you could benefit from the infographic release months after its debut.

Use Smart SEO Strategies

If you’re already investing in a major purchase like a website redesign, make sure it’s SEO-friendly from the start so that you can immediately start benefiting from organic search traffic. Start with the basics, making sure your that pages are mobile-friendly, having meta descriptions that are relevant to your content, and casually mentioning your keywords in a natural way. This will help you in the long run while you’re building up funds for a strong digital marketing strategy.

Test — and Reject What Doesn’t Work

As you try new digital marketing strategies, conduct tests to discover what generates ROI in both the short and long run, helping ensure that you’re making the most of your marketing dollars. You may find, for example, that Facebook sponsored posts don’t generate as many leads as Google Ads, which may prompt you to switch your spending accordingly. Also, what works at one point in your history might not work six months or a year from now. Always test new strategies and revisit old ones to see whether there’s a new spin that could be profitable for your business.

It’s possible to have a multitiered digital marketing strategy even as a cash-strapped startup. You just have to know where your marketing dollars go and what they offer in return. Don’t be afraid to try new things or invest in one particular strategy as long as you’re willing to take the risk and have a plan in case something goes wrong.

Source: KnowTechnie Article by Chris Smith (http://knowtechie.com/4-ways-startups-can-get-into-digital-marketing/)

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5 Clever Retail Offers That Won’t Eat Your Profits

Discounts and deals. These words bring up different reactions depending on who you ask. If you’re a consumer, these terms will likely generate excitement. You’ll perk up, and you’ll want to check out what the store has to offer.

But if you’re a retailer, you probably won’t get too excited. Sure, putting products on sale could generate traffic and customers, but it also lowers profit margins. And running sales too often may diminish your brand and attract shoppers who never want to pay full price for anything.

To avoid this, retailers must be smart about their discount strategies. Contrary to what some might think, it’s possible to run sales while maintaining a healthy profit margin and brand image. Take a look at the ideas below, and see if you can apply them to your business.

1. Reward profitable customers instead of deal-hunters.

Rather than sending offers to deal-hunters, determine who your best customers are — like your top spenders and frequent shoppers — and send them targeted offers. Doing so not only maximizes profitability but also helps increase loyalty among the shoppers who matter most.

If you’re planning to run a sale, go through your customer database first, and offer discounts to those who are likely to spend more. It’s also a good idea to analyze the types of customers who come through different marketing channels. From there, you could determine what offers to craft and how to promote them.

“Understanding customer lifetime value per marketing vehicle helps retailers craft the right offers while ensuring that they’re catering to customers who will keep purchasing and hopefully spend incremental dollars, says Antonella Pisani, founder of OfficialCouponCode.com

“In other words, it’s best for merchants to offer deals using marketing channels that attract customers who come back through free or cheap channels such as organic search, email, or brand keywords.”

2. Don’t put your flagship products on sale.

Avoid discounting your flagship or most desired products. Being selective with the items you put on sale protects margins for your best merchandise. It also elevates your top products so shoppers won’t see you as a deal-centric brand.

Thom O’Leary, President at Fixer Group Consulting, says that keeping specific items at full price enables retailers to continue driving revenue through sales without diminishing brand value. “Some online stores will run tons of sales, but never on their flagship items. They’ll even make it clear that those items are never on sale, or only on sale once per year. This is typically done on their most desirable or best-known items.”

He continues, “My client, SCOTTeVEST, does this. Their flagship vests almost never go on sale, and the strategy has worked out well for them.”

3. Avoid falling into a discount pattern.

Being predictable with when and how you run sales trains customers to wait for deals. One retailer that learned this the hard way is Bed Bath & Beyond. The home furnishings retailer got a little aggressive with their coupon strategy, mailing out tons of “20% off” coupons on a regular basis.

And while the effort did drive sales, it also lowered profits for the retailer. Last year, Bed Bath & Beyond made retail news when it announced on its Q3 earnings call that despite revenues increasing 1.7 percent, profits were down 10 percent, mostly due to its coupon-happy strategy.

Don’t let your company suffer the same fate. If you’re going to run sales, keep shoppers guessing via sporadic and short-term promotions. Or better yet, be more targeted with the promotions you’re putting out there. Segment your top customers then send them an unexpected offer such as exclusive access to a flash sale or a generous coupon. You’ll reap the rewards of an uptick in sales without training shoppers to wait around for a deal.

4. Offer conditional free shipping.

Have you considered offering free shipping? You should. A ComScore study found that 58 percent of shoppers purchased more items to qualify for free shipping, and 83 percent don’t mind waiting for a couple of days for delivery if shipping is free.

Clearly, free shipping can drive ecommerce purchases. Shipping incentives can increase average order value and — if implemented correctly — could protect your margins at the same time. That said, you have to be smart with how you structure the offer. Rather than offering the deal to everyone who buys from you, implement specific conditions for deal redemption.

For example, you could set a minimum order value before shoppers could redeem the deal. Another approach would be to offer free shipping for qualifying items. Some retailers offer free shipping for just a limited time. The right free shipping approach depends on your business. If you’re selling small items that are easy to pack, then you can probably offer free shipping at a lower spending threshold than a retailer that sells heavier products.

Be sure to study your shipping costs when crafting your deal. Remember, the key is to create an enticing offer without killing your profit margins.

5. Implement promotions that add value.

Deals aren’t only about discounts. Consider running promotions in which you add value to the sale instead of slashing product prices. For instance, you could offer a free product with every purchase. This is an excellent way to move inventory that you’re unable to sell. You could also add value through personalization. If you’re selling jewelry, for instance, why not throw in a free inscription?

Think about why your customers are buying a particular product. What do they want to do with it? Is there anything you could offer that would complement the item or would help customers get the most out of it? Find the answers to these questions, and use them to craft your value-added offer.

Your brand image and profit margins don’t have to take a hit every time you run a sale. By offering data-backed and well-thought out deals, you can effectively attract customers, drive sales and maintain decent profits at the same time.

Source: Entrepreneur. Article by Francisca Nicasio (https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/278404)

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The 6 Online Marketing Strategies Every Entrepreneur Needs

The internet has radically transformed how we build and promote businesses: We have access to far more resources and far more potential than ever before. So, why do so many entrepreneurs end up neglecting these fruitful opportunities by forgoing marketing, or delaying it as an unnecessary expenditure?

There are a handful of online marketing strategies you need — as in, your startup won’t be able to thrive without them.
Criteria for “need”. You “need” these strategies? After all, isn’t marketing optional? Isn’t it possible to build a business even without an online presence? Technically, yes, but you’ll be missing out on enormous potential by doing so.

All the strategies I qualify as “necessary” exhibit the following traits:

  • Expected. People expect you to have these things in place, and if you don’t have them, they may think less of your company.
  • Accessible. None of these strategies is particularly hard or complicated; there may be a bit of a learning curve, but on some level, these are accessible strategies.
  • Affordable. You won’t have to spend much money on any of these strategies, making them easy to pick up even for tight-budget startups.
  • Valuable. These strategies all offer high potential returns, meaning that the cost for you, if you neglect them, will be significant potential.
  • Time-sensitive. The more time you invest in these strategies, the more powerful they become. The sooner you get involved, the bigger the payoff you can potentially get.

It’s the combination of these factors that makes your work in these areas necessary. These are the strategies I deem “necessary”:
1. Personal branding.

Successful businesses can generate a ton of momentum from successful entrepreneurs who lead them. Branding yourself, before your company, gives you the opportunity to leverage a more trustworthy, personal image to promote your brand.

It also gives you more power to meet and network with others, form more partnerships and lend a face to your otherwise faceless organization. And it’s free to do, from a monetary perspective, though you will need to invest a significant amount of time.
2. Content marketing.

Content marketing takes a variety of forms, and depending on how you form your strategy, could accomplish a number of different goals. For example, you could use white papers, ebooks and other long-form content to attract downloads, signups and conversions, or you could use an on-site blog to attract more inbound traffic to your site.

You could even use content as a form of help and troubleshooting, or some combination of these applications. Content marketing is incredibly versatile and useful, and, if it’s valuable, your customers will expect you to have at least some of it in place for them.

3. Search engine optimization (SEO).

SEO is the process of making your site more visible in search engines, so you get more traffic from people searching for the products or services you offer. Much of your organic search position ranking comes from the technical structure of your site and your ongoing content development strategy.

So, SEO is not much more of an investment if you’re already creating new content regularly — and it’s well worth that extra investment if for no other reason than to make sure your site is properly indexed.

4. Conversion optimization.

Most of these strategies aim to get more people on your site, but what do those people do once they’re there? Conversion optimization helps you ensure you get more value out of each and every visitor by maximizing your rate of conversion.

Sometimes, this means including more conversion opportunities, and other times, improving the ones you already have.

5. Social media marketing.

Social media marketing isn’t the get-rich-quick scheme you may have been promised, but there is significant potential in building and nurturing a social media audience. Again, content will come into play heavily here, as it will likely be the factor that attracts your audience to begin with. Here, you stand to gain greater brand visibility, a greater reputation and far more inbound traffic with your syndicated links.

6. Email marketing.

Email marketing has astounding potential for ROI because it costs almost nothing to execute. Start collecting subscribers from your existing customer base, your social media followers and other new opportunities; from there, even a simple content newsletter can help you encourage repeat traffic to your site, facilitate more engagement with your brand and keep your brand top-of-mind with your audience.

There’s one other key advantage these strategies offer: They all work together. While they can be pursued individually, each connects with and feeds into the others in some way. If you pursue them all, complementing your efforts across these multiple areas, you’ll see an even higher potential return.

Source: Entrepreneur. Article by  Jayson Demers (https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/278923)

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