8 Social Media Selling Solutions & The New e-Commerce Frontier

Social media e-commerce is a marriage that was bound to happen. With social media attracting more and more of consumers’ time and attention, and mobile technology allowing people to instantly connect whenever and where ever they want, it’s a no-brainer that businesses would try to turn all of that activity into sales.

With social media e-commerce, you can turn your social media accounts into online stores and run a profitable e-commerce business. While it is still advisable to maintain an online store hosted on your own website, since social media and selling platforms tend to change their rules a lot, social media e-commerce nevertheless allows you to get your foot in the door with little to no initial investment.

If you are new to social media selling, then there are several solutions out there that can get you up and running in no time. Here is a list of some popular options to consider:

Shopial

Shopial allows you to instantly turn your online store into Facebook and Pinterest storefronts. You can also use the platform to create and activate Facebook ads in order to generate more targeted traffic and sales. The system works with all the major e-commerce platforms, such as eBay, Etsy, Amazon, Magento and Shopify.

Olapic

Throw those stock photos away! Olapic allows you to boost sales with user-generated images from social media. The platform aggregates images submitted by users on various social media channels such as Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook. Then, using a curation algorithm and human editors, Olapic identifies which images are best suited to for use in your marketing campaigns.

Soldsie

If you are looking to monetize your Instagram feed, then Soldsie may be for you. Its selling solution, have2have.it, lets users shop your posts via a unique URL (have2have.it/yourstore). You just need to add the link to your profile, and customers will have easy access to a e-commerce version of your Instagram feed.

Soldie also supports an interesting Facebook app that turns the comments section into an e-commerce machine. Once customers leave a comment under a photo, Soldsie automatically adds the item to their shopping cart for quick and easy checkout.

Beetailer

Beetailer is another great social media selling platform for Facebook. The system quickly catalogs and imports all of your products on Facebook. The best part about Beetailer is that it is a set it and forget it system. Once the initial migration is complete, it requires no configuration or maintenance, and products are automatically updated as your website’s inventory changes. Beetailer also supports a wide range of marketing tools like campaigns and promotions, offers detailed analytics, and integrates with existing checkout systems.

Chirpify

Chirpify is an “engagement loyalty program” that integrates online and offline channels with social media. It works by using unique campaign hashtags to enable purchases across multiple social networks. The goal is to convert relevant social media activity into rewards for users while generating valuable data and sales for you the business owner. All users have to do is post the hashtag on their Twitter, Facebook or Instagram feeds to activate a purchase or take advantage of a promotional offer.

Facebook for Business

If you want to sell your products or services on Facebook, you might as well go to the source. Facebook for Business is a robust platform that allows you to create Facebook business pages and purchase Facebook ads and then integrate your Facebook campaign into a business website or mobile app. The platform also provides extensive analytics and reporting that will give you key insights into your campaign performance.

Pinterest for Business

Pinterest for Business allows businesses create branded Pinterest accounts. There are two important features that are valuable to businesses when it comes to Pinterest. First, businesses can add the “Pin It” button to any images of their products found on the web. When Pinterest users click on the button, not only is the image is added to their boards so their followers can see it, these pins also include the seller’s shop name and pricing information. The second feature is Buyable Pins. This feature allows you to add a Buy button on every pin you place on Pinterest. All sales generated are free of charge.

Twitter Buy Now

Twitter currently offers “Buy Now” buttons that allow followers to make purchases from your Twitter feed in real time. This means customers don’t even have to go to your online store to buy your products.

With one or more off the platforms mentioned above, you can turn your business’ social media presence into some serious social sales.

10 Ways to Update Your Social Medial Profiles

Now that the new year is upon us, it’s time to start developing some new habits in the way you market your small business- especially online. If you have been procrastinating when it comes to updating your social media profiles or you have been filling those accounts with “fluff” content, now is the best time to change that. Social media offers endless opportunities for small businesses to connect with their customers. But, it can be a big black hole of time and money if you don’t approach it in the right way or you are inconsistent in your efforts.

Don’t let this scare you away. Keeping those social media accounts active and engaging doesn’t necessarily have to be a big drain on your precious time, energy, and money. You don’t have to bang your head against the wall trying to come up with update ideas, either.

Case in point, here are 10 different update ideas that you can use to generate content on social media that will inform, engage, and entertain your followers:

1. Helpful tips and tidbits. Social media is the perfect medium to dispense helpful nuggets of information. Your update doesn’t have to be long or drawn out; just a quick tip, hack, or how-to that you know will be valuable to your target audience.

2. Re-sharing product-related posts from your customers. If your customers post positive photos or comments about your products or services, you can re-share it on your own social media accounts (in some cases, though, make sure to ask their permission beforehand). This accomplishes several things at once: 1) by recognizing your customer’s post and re-sharing it, you can increase good feelings and engagement among your audience; 2) you create more instances of your brand being mentioned on the given platform(s), which will help your online exposure and reputation; and 3) it forces you to keep tabs on customer sentiment.

3. Conduct a short poll or survey. Not only may this give you valuable customer feedback, but if you act on it, then it will also help to build trust and engagement among your target audience. But note: these questionnaires don’t have to always be heavy or serious. You can do something as simple as asking your customers what their favorite product feature, color, or taste is, or creative uses for your product/service. To encourage engagement, offer a discount, free give away, or other small prize.

4. Behind-the-scenes posts. You can post some pictures or short videos of your team getting ready to open the business or during the production production process. These kinds of updates makes your account and your business a bit more personal.

5. “Customer source.” Ask your customers to help you come up with the next product feature, name, or even the next line of products or services. Your customers will feel more “invested” in your business- even if their suggestions weren’t accepted, and that will help to increase both engagement and sales.

6. Hold a live discussion, chat, or workshop. Many social media platforms allow for some real-time interaction among members. Twitter, offers for “chats,” while platforms, such as Periscope, Facebook Live, Snapchat, and Google Hangouts, support live video streaming with followers.

7. Share resources. Found a good resource that your target audience may find useful? Share it in an update. Perhaps you have some resources of your own, such as an ebook, webinar, app, or a free download. As you update these resources, you can re-promote them across your social media channels.

8. Updates for a cause. Is there a cause or a charity that you are passionate about? You can promote them on social media.

9. Case studies. Case studies are pieces of content that share specific information about how your business helped a particular client or customer. You don’t have to include the whole account on social media. Just write up a few teaser sentences, and then link the update to the full article or interview hosted on your website.

10. Company announcements. Whenever you have company news or updates to share, like new locations, new products or services, upcoming events, and new leadership, social media is a great way to get the word out.

So, there you have it, 10 ways to keep your social media accounts active without making it look like you are running it on autopilot. Have any ideas not mentioned on this list? Let us know in the comment section below.

Why a Social Media Graveyard Can Hurt Your Business

Are you are Instagram? Pinterest? Snapchat? How about Meerket, Periscope, or Blab.im…

It seems that with every new social media platform that comes out, there is the ever increasing expectation that small business owners should maintain a presence there. Sometimes, business owners will have a compelling reason for setting up an account and giving it a go. But even with the best of intentions, chances are that most of a business’ social media profiles will eventually lay dormant, collecting a whole lot of Internet dust.

The reality of running a small business is that your time, energy, and money are limited. Yet, each new social media platform comes with its own learning curve; it’s own draw on resources, and it’s own ability to offer an ROI on those resouces.

Many business owners will try out a new social media platform because everyone else is on there or because they are looking for a magic short-cut to good marketing and customer engagement. But, they then eventually abandon that platform when it doesn’t deliver what they were hoping for. They are hurting their business in a few of ways:

  1. They take a loss on all the resources they put into maintaining a presence on the platform
  2. If potential customers see these abandoned profiles it makes the business look unprofessional.
  3. They continue to miss the whole point of social media marketing

Case in point: there has been a lot of discussion lately about the use of live streaming video apps, such as Merkeet and Periscope. Many successful Merkeet users “defected” to Periscope when it first came out- eventhough the two platforms do essentially the same thing.

What happened? These users understand that their audience of fans and buyers relate to the spontaneity and engagement that live video streaming offers. It almost doesn’t matter which platform this happens on.

This applies to any business with any form of social media. First seek to understand your target market or audience. What is important to them? How do they would want to engage with you? Where are they already hanging out online, what are they doing when they are there, and what does that tell you about them?

Once you know these answers, then it’s just a matter of finding the platforms that allow you to best connect with your audience today. If you go in with this attitude, then even if a new, shiny platform appears, you will know ahead of time whether or not you should be there.

Moreover, when really important platforms make important notices or changes to the way they operate, small business owners will know when and how to respond. For example, a couple of weeks ago Google has issued a notice for small business owners with a Google My Business account. The notice states that business owners who have not logged into their Google My Business accounts in over a year may receive an email asking them to sign in and confirm their business information. If no action is taken then Google could turn a business’s account into an unverified one, and even more dangerous, Google could also remove a business from Google Maps which could seriously affect both a business’ online search traffic and off-line foot traffic.

Bottom line: you don’t want to litter the Internet with a social media graveyard of inactive or outdated accounts. Get to know your audience and spend your time and resources where it matters the most.

Image Credit

5 Quick, Effective Ways to Do Market Research

Conducting effective market research has always been an essential part of business start-up, development, and growth, but these days it’s even more so. It’s hard to deny that the pace of business has been turned up several notches. There is this unspoken rush to get from concept to market in lightning speed (i.e. before anyone else does or anything changes). Moreover, countless young entrepreneurs and their Icarus moments are often being turned into public spectacles, heavily glorified and even praised by the media.

compassThe high stakes business crash and burn is has become a badge of honor.

In short, a kind of recklessness has emerged in the business world, and at the risk of sounding like a parent, it’s not the most positive of influences.

If you really want to get your new business idea off on the right foot- whether this idea is for a start-up or an established business- you’ve got to put in the time and the effort to be very clear about the current market demand and conditions.

Often, you don’t have to spend much money on this process. Here are five quick things that you can do to test out the efficacy of a new idea:

1. Get on the phone. Call up a few potential customers, the ones that best fit your ideal customer profile, and ask them if they would be interested in your product or service. This is a good way to initially gauge demand.

2. Get on social media…for research. Social media platforms are a great source of information and market research. Many of these platforms have their own built-in search functions that will help you to spot certain trends. Just a note here: don’t just focus on the trends themselves, but also pay attention to how people and businesses talk about them. What words and phrases keep coming up? What is the tone behind it?

3. Test with content. One relatively easy way to test the market waters is to create a piece of content that touches on the problem you are trying to solve and hints to the solution. You then need to post it in a place where many of your potential customers will see it and wait to see what the response is. If it generates a lot of activity and engagement from people then it’s a good sign that you are on to something.

4. Snoop out your competition. What is your closest competition doing in these space? What is working and what isn’t? What are customers’ reactions?

5. See what already works. Even if another company is not operating in your niche, you may be able to draw on their successful marketing, promotional strategies, and even products and services as examples of what you can do in your own company. Just make sure that there is some overlap in the target market.

In short, good market research is and always will be an important foundation in any business, and these days it doesn’t require a major drain on resources to do it properly. So, do yourself a favor, and don’t jump the gun in the implementation of a new business idea. Take the time and make the effort to ensure that you’ll have a profitable customer-base waiting for you at the finish line.

Zoho Targets Small Business Owners With “Pay What You Want” Campaign

Among corporate circles, Zoho is practically a household name as a robust customer relationship management (CRM) solution. But, for smaller companies, the range of products and services are often too much and too complicated.

zohoThat’s about to change, though. Several weeks ago, Zoho introduced a new CRM product specifically for small businesses called Zoho ContactManager. What’s interesting is not so much the effort to target smaller companies, but more it’s unique pricing strategy. After a 30-day trial (no credit card required), you can pay whatever you feel like paying, from as little as $1 a month.

The new ContactManager is an entry-level, cloud-based contact manager intended for small businesses that need to organize, share, and manage a broad range of business contacts. It gives users a unified view of activity related to a given contact, including email and social media activity, all in one place. The platform is also supported on a wide range of mobile devices.

Though there are other platforms out there already doing this for small businesses, Zoho brings with it, its vast experience and knowledgeable of the CRM and data management industry. This new product is particularly suitable for those who have yet to make the jump to any CRM solution, and instead are relying on “old fashioned” methods like an Excel spreadsheet.

Why would Zoho offer such a valuable service with such a “crazy” pricing model? Well, for one, it removes a lot of barriers, making it extremely cost-effective to at least give the platform a test drive. Plus, many small businesses may jump on board out of shear curiosity. Those who stick it out with the service may then pay more for add-ons and other product extras later on. Plus, if any of these small companies experience a major growth spurt down the road, they can then become customers of the full-featured CRM solution.

It definitely looks like a win-win for both small companies and Zoho in the CRM space.

10 Good Online Groups and Communities for Small Business Owners

Knowing where to turn to for advice and support in your business, can really make all the difference between success and failure. I know that may sound a bit strong if you are looking at this statement from the outside. But as small business owners, we see our fair share of ups and downs, questions, set-backs, and high learning curves. It’s the stuff that scares many aspiring entrepreneurs away. The minute they stick their toes in the water and it feels a bit chilly, they’re out in a flash.

In order to maintain some sense of balance, as small business owners, we need a place to ask questions, receive support, and get some much-needed feedback.

teamwork-1-1254520-mIronically, though the Internet is seen as a super connector, bringing individuals together across tremendous physical and cultural divides, it can sure feel lonely if you don’t know where to put yourself. There are all these conversations going on, yet it may be hard to find them or even know where to jump in once you do.

That said, the following are some great online groups and communities for small business owners to check out:

LinkedIn Groups

Many business owners may have some vague idea that Linkedin is a place where business connections happen, but they may not realize the full potential of LinkedIn for business knowledge, support, and advice. This is where LinkedIn Groups comes in. While there are many great groups to choose from, the following three provide a consistent flow of quality posts and discussion:

Small Business Accelerator– This is a great networking and information sharing group for entrepreneurs. You have to apply to join.

Small Business Online Community– An engaged online group for small business owners. Like the group above, you have to apply to join this group.

Social Media Marketing Networking Club– This group originally got it’s start on Social Media Examiner and has since moved over to LinkedIn. It’s one of the best LinkedIn groups there is for small business owners and has a very helpful, supportive community.

Google+ Groups

Google groups are a relatively recent addition to Google’s G+ social network. But, they are all abuzz if you know where to look. Here are my top three picks for small business owners:

Building a Company– Content and discussions around the nitty-gritty of building a business.

Entrepreneurs, Self-Employed, and Small Business– An active community for new and upcoming small business owners

Social Media Strategy– Active discussion on social media for small businesses and non-profits

Notable Forums

Compared to the fast-paced flow of information and constant changes that have come to characterize social media, forums may seem like an old school tactic that has past its time. Not so! There are plenty of vibrant forums to turn to for advice and support. Here are my two top picks:

Open Forum– This well-known online community and forum is hosted by American Express. Ask and receive advice and keep up to date on the latest in small business news.

Small Business Brief– This forum has been around for a few years, and it still supports an active community

Business Blogs and Social Bookmarking

We can’t leave out business blogging communities and social bookmarking sites from this list. Many niche sites have an active and helpful following. The two best in my opinion are:

Firepole Marketing– “Marketing that works!” This blog has a very active, loyal, and cohesive following. It definitely pays to spend some time there not only to absorb the insights, but to learn from and connect with the other readers.

BizSugar– This is a social bookmarking site for small business news run by the same people behind Smallbiztrends.com, and it supports a pretty active community.

Last, but not least, one other option that I didn’t mention above is Facebook groups. The reason I’m not including examples here is due to the fact that you’ll be better off finding a smallish group on Facebook that is specifically targeted to your niche or interest. There offer a lot of potential engagement, though, so it pays to search around for something relevant and not spammy.

Now it’s your turn. Where do you hang out online for inspiration, support, and advice?

Understanding the Basics of Inbound Marketing

The growing acceptance and implementation of inbound marketing represents a definitive shift in the way businesses are approaching sales and advertising. Instead of running after customers and looking for ways to make them open their wallets, smaller companies in particular have recognized the value of creating and sharing valuable content in order to encourage potential leads and to make current customers come back for more.

sales onlineIn other words, it’s a way of doing business that is based on “giving,” something that very much flies in the face of the traditional business model. For this reason, smaller companies are coming out ahead and leveraging content creation channels, such as blogging, videos, imagery, and even audio along side social media, to level the playing field against their bigger competitors.

If you are new to the ideas behind inbound marketing for your own business, then here is a rundown of the major themes:

Focus on Content Creation and Promotion. You create targeted content that answers your customer’s most pressing questions and needs, and you make a concerted effort to share that content in ways that will get it noticed by your target audience.

Marketing as an Organic Process. Your customers will go through stages as they interact with your company, and at each stage you need different marketing actions and approaches. It’s as if you want your marketing efforts to “grow” and mature with your customers.

The Power of Personalization. Without realizing it, many of your customers are already be getting bombarded with personalized content and promotional offers every time they go online. This trend cannot be ignored. As you learn more about your customers over time, you can better personalize your messages to fit their specific needs.

Multi-channel Efforts. Inbound marketing is inherently multi-channeled because it is based on reaching people where they already are, in the channel where they will most want to interact with you.

Big Integration. The platforms that support your content creation, promotion, calls-to-action, and customer support as well as the analytics tools you have in place to keep tabs on it all, must work together like a well-oiled machine. This allows you to focus on publishing the right content in the right place at the right time.

In short, inbound marketing is definitely a new way of doing business. But, it presents a great deal of opportunity to smaller companies that understand that in order to encourage the interest and investment of their customers, they need to give in order to receive.

4 Power Tips To Generate Sales on LinkedIn That Most Users Miss

Over the past few years, LinkedIn has been growing in both it’s user base and it’s reputation. The social networking platform has practically become synonymous with the online resume and business hobnobbery and recently boasted over 225 million members across 200 countries.

LinkedIn-LogoBut, with so much happening on LinkedIn, getting noticed can be a real challenge. Add to this the fact that LinkedIn has chosen to discontinue several services and apps, such as LinkedIn Answers and Polls, that were quite popular among small business owners. For this reason, if you are just starting out on the platform, you need to do what you can to optimize your time and presence there.

To get you started, here are four LinkedIn success tips that are frequently over-looked, yet can generate a tremendous amount of interest in your business:

Include a call to action. You can have the most optimized profile in the whole of LinkedIn that’s generating tons of traffic, but if you don’t have any calls-to-action, it won’t do you much good. Instead of simply filling in LinkedIn’s generic “my website” or “my blog” links on your profile page, make the effort and to give your visitors reasons to click on your links.

Showcase your products, services, and expertise. There are several areas in LinkedIn where you can showcase your work. In your profile page, you can now highlight specific projects including media-rich documents. If you are maintaining a company page, then be sure to fill out the “Products and Services” section. Not only is this your opportunity to explain what you offer in a compelling way, individuals can recommend and share the products you list, becoming ambassadors for your brand.

Optimize your profile for search. With hundreds of millions of people searching LinkedIn, you want your company’s profile to stand out. When crafting your profile language, be sure to include keywords that are related to your business and industry to help improve the chances of your name appearing in LinkedIn’s internal search results. Think of these keywords as the words a potential client would type in when searching LinkedIn.

Use InMail and targeted updates. LinkedIn gives you the option of putting your updates and messages in front of the people who matter the most. LinkedIn’s internal mail system, InMail, can help you reach professionals that may not be so reachable elsewhere. Targeted status updates can be an effective way for business owners to tailor the content in their status updates to specific types of company followers. These can be accessed from your LinkedIn Company Page.

In short, when it comes to success on LinkedIn, you need to make sure that your presence is properly optimized. It gets your foot in the door to take advantage of all that LinkedIn has to offer.

How Social Media Can Increase Trade Show Success

In a world where business communications are moving at the speed of light, trade show marketing may seem like a dusty relic… from the outside. If you’ve had any experience manning a trade show booth or attending such an event, then you know that trade shows are alive and well. They remain hubs of intensely concentrated marketing, presenting, and networking.

Biz CardAccording to the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR), 81% of trade show attendees have buying authority, and 99% of marketers say they find unique value from trade shows they do not get from other marketing mediums. The top most valued aspect of trade shows are the ability to see lots of prospects, customers, and other players, such as suppliers and resellers, in one place all at the same time.

But all of this activity presents a couple of major challenges for the presenting companies: how do you stand out from the crowded field of other presenters and how do you help to ensure that you are connecting to the right people?

This is where social media comes in. If you can think strategically and get the ball rolling before the actual trade show event takes place, then here are three ways you can increase trade show success via social media:

Generate some pre-event buzz. Set up an event page on your blog or on Facebook specifically for the upcoming trade show. Not only will this help to build excitement for the event, but interacting with customers before the show will give you a better idea of what they want to see.

Spice up your contests and giveaways. Trade shows have become synonymous with swag. But, you can break away from the custom key chains and pens by offering a few big-ticket items that will draw more interest to your booth. The catch is that to snag these top prizes, visitors must interact with you via social media.

Maintain relationships. One of the biggest benefits of encouraging social media engagement among attendees is the ability to maintain a connection with these people long after the event has ended. You can encourage trade show visitors to follow your social media sites by letting them know that you’ll be running a series of special promotions after the trade show.

In short, for many businesses, trade show marketing can be a lucrative endeavor. But, you may have to think outside the box in order to maximize the benefits. Social media provides the tools to help you do just that.

Image credit: http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/

The Traits of Successful Authority Business Bloggers

After Google started changing the search game a couple of years back, there’s been a lot of discussion about blogging “authority.” Now, plenty of people throw around the term indiscriminately. But what does being an authority within a given blogging niche look like? And, how do you get there with your business blog?

If you examine the most well-known A-list bloggers, you’ll find several traits and characteristics in common:

They communicate with authority. Just about any known authority blogger will agree that the biggest names out there are not necessarily the ones who know the most about their chosen niche. Part of what sets them apart from the rest is how they give over the knowledge and observations that they do have. Now, there is a paper-thin fine line between talking with authority and sounding like a know-it-all. To find that balance just keep this in mind: someone who is truly an authority in a particular subject won’t try so hard to get others to acknowledge it, and he or she will be open to further knowledge and understanding. Having a question, needing help, or even making a mistake won’t seem threatening.

They are connected to other authority bloggers. The top bloggers in any given niche know each other, work with each other, and promote each other’s work- even if they seem to have competing websites. Unless you are working in a hyper small niche, there is enough of an Internet traffic pie that you don’t have to worry about another site stealing your traffic. On the contrary, there is definitely strength in numbers, and you’ll frequently see top bloggers mentioning, promoting, working with, and in general supporting other top bloggers.

They have large follower numbers across channels. Take a look at the online social profiles of successful bloggers and you’ll no doubt see that they have an active presence on several different platforms and mediums and a pretty significant following in each. Now, obviously, what constitutes as “large” will really depend on your niche, so take that into consideration. Also, I suspect that many top bloggers hand over some of their social media maintenance to their hired staff or virtual assistants.

They have Klout. Put simply, it’s not just that people share your content, it’s also that those who share your content are influential in their own respects and have large followings themselves.

Their content is about relevant and timely issues. Top bloggers know their audience really well. They know what topics to discuss and how to discuss them. They also excel at content curation, using services such as Paper.li and Scoop.it.

They know where to promote their content, products, or services to get the biggest impact. The minute a successful authority blogger has a new product, service, or announcement to promote, he or she just sends out a few emails and instantly has recommendations and several links back to his or her site. This last trait is really a build up from all the points above, and it allows the blogger to instantly get targeted, quality traffic to his or her site.

In short, being an authority business blogger involves having the right mindset, realizing the importance of networking with other bloggers and being in touch with the needs and wants of your target audience. Understand this, and you’ll rise up in the ranks of blogging authority in no time flat.