Five Social Media Tools To Optimize Your Performance 

By Steve Hoag

social media tools

Social media is becoming one of the most important factors in online marketing today. Virtually every company needs some sort of social media presence to connect with its customers. A lot of tools available these days are either free or ‘freemium.’ By that I mean you can acquire a basic version with only some of the features, and then if you want more you need to buy their product. So let’s take a look at all these tools!

HootSuite

HootSuite is one of the premier business tools available. It seamlessly aggregates all of your social networks into one program, allowing you to cycle through different feeds without having to keep 100 tabs open on Chrome. Also, it allows you to create a variety of reports, but you will need to pay a subscription fee to gain access to the more advanced versions. HootSuite has some powerful search options, allowing you to create advanced searches on Twitter to pinpoint your target audience.

TweetDeck

TweetDeck is very similar to HootSuite in that it aggregates your different social networks. It is completely free, and a bit more novice friendly as well. TweetDeck was originally its own company, but has since been bought out by Twitter. If you have 1-3 feeds you want to keep track of then this is a perfectly good option. However, more custom search columns/accounts will make the UI a bit cumbersome.

Tweepi

Tweepi is an excellent freemium product. One of the biggest headaches on Twitter is finding accounts that are relevant to your business, unfollowing people who are inactive or haven’t followed you back, and following people who follow you. All of these tasks can be handled automatically with Tweepi! You will have to pay some money to get access to the more advanced features, but it is still a worthwhile product to check out!

Bit.Ly

Bit.Ly is a great site to use if you are constantly sharing content, or trying to increase your website traffic. You input the desired URL and it will automatically be shortened. From that point on you can copy/paste the new URL and all clickthrough statistics will be tracked. These include things like clicks per day/time/location/network etc. Overall an excellent tool for the modern marketer!

Google Alerts

Google Alerts is supremely underrated. You can find all sorts of gems by using it. Essentially, you set up a variety of keywords that you want Google to automatically search for. Every day it comes up with a list of links that it deems relevant, and emails you. These can vary from great articles, to press releases, to even job postings!

View User Profile for Steve Hoag Steve is a recent graduate from UW, and the Marketing Coordinator at Fast Track. He primarily has experience in the tech and start-up industries. When he's not busy promoting Fast Track, he's watching Huskies or Green Bay Packers football. You can find him on Twitter @steven_hoag .
Posted by Steve Hoag Thursday, September 5, 2013 6:17:00 PM Categories: B2B enterprise SMB social media website

The Ultimate Website: 7 Design Must-Haves 

By Steve Hoag

website design must-haves

First impressions are everything regardless if it’s for a job interview, your girlfriend’s parents, or team try outs. Securing that good first impression will have ripple effects on all future interactions, and make life much, much easier for you. The same goes for your website! Follow these seven tips for designing your site, and we promise you won’t be hearing crickets from your customers:

Ensure your site is easily accessible.

This is becoming more and more important nowadays. People aren’t only using computers to view your site. They’re using tablets, mobile phones, iPods, gaming consoles, and TVs. Consumers are throwing everything but the kitchen sink at you. This means your site must be able to support these different devices. Avoid using Flash and JavaScript, and focus on using HTML5 to ensure that your site is rendered properly.

Include social share widgets.

Social media is the hottest new technology trend of the past decade. Pretty much everyone in the world with Internet access is using it in some shape or form. In related news, people love sharing things they find with others. What does this mean for your site? It means that you need to include social sharing buttons on every single page! Make it easier for consumers to virally share your site and you will be surprised with the results.

Avoid excessive or unnecessary use of gadgets, animations and other media.

The main questions you need to ask yourself are: a) does it support my content? b) is it excessive? c) will it irritate customers like a fly? Everything on your site must support each other. Likewise, including things that sound cool like background music will only succeed in making your site look like a 13 year old’s MySpace page. Make absolutely sure that every image you choose is relevant to your business or area of expertise.  Everything on your site conveys a message to your viewers.

Use colors that synergize with your brand/business, and don’t burn your customers’ retinas.

When it comes to colors, usually going safe is a better option. Try to avoid choosing crazy colors for your site template, or too many colors. Both of these can create a negative viewing experience. Choose 3-4 colors for your entire site to be based around and you’ll be in great shape. Also, keep in mind what each separate color evokes. There are a lot of great marketing theory articles that touch on this.

Use easy to read typography.

I think everyone would agree that cursive writing looks pretty cool, especially when done right. But everyone knows that sense of frustration when they receive a birthday/holiday card and can’t figure out what their grandma is trying to write in cursive. Cool in theory, bothersome in practice. The same goes for websites. Some fonts look really interesting. Who wouldn’t want to try making a website purely in the WingDings font? However, the most important thing is making life easy for your customers. People who aren’t fluent in WingDings are going to have a lot of trouble figuring out you’re a successful lawyer if your whole site is in that font. When in doubt, choose a safe option like Times New Roman, and avoid using crazy font colors.

Create a clear, consistent layout

One of the most important things to do when designing a website is to create a clear and consistent layout for pages. Focus on creating 3-4 templates that are replicated throughout the site for certain pages. For example, one template for your homepage, another for form pages, content pages, and finally landing pages. You want your different pages to flow together so that it doesn’t appear like a different site whenever a link is clicked on. This can be done by keeping the different elements on the page relatively the same from template to template.

Navigation – KISS (Keep it simple, stupid)

Read the subtitle above. Read it again. And again. Third time is the charm right? When it comes to navigation, less is more. Don’t make it too deep; keep it around 3 levels of depth. Also, keep it at the top of the page, and use breadcrumbs so viewers can easily backtrack through the site. Place some nav items in the footer as well, and avoid using Flash or JavaScript for navigation since lots of mobile devices can’t use these formats.

View User Profile for Steve Hoag Steve is a recent graduate from UW, and the Marketing Coordinator at Fast Track. He primarily has experience in the tech and start-up industries. When he's not busy promoting Fast Track, he's watching Huskies or Green Bay Packers football. You can find him on Twitter @steven_hoag .
Posted by Steve Hoag Wednesday, August 21, 2013 4:51:00 PM Categories: B2B enterprise SMB social media web design web trends website

Social Media: Your B2B Mistress 

By Steve Hoag

Social Media: Your B2B Mistress

Social media can be quite the fickle mistress.

You can stay active and see relatively little growth. But, the minute you stop posting, Hell has frozen over.

Now time for the good news! This doesn’t have to be you! There are a variety of ways you can easily bolster your online presence through social media. All you need is a push in the right direction, a little dedication, and an unpaid intern. I’m just kidding about the unpaid part. You should compensate them for their efforts. They are broke college kids after all.

So without further ado here are 10 easy pointers for helping to promote your website via social media:

1.Promote your content and website on every channel that is relevant to your business.

A lot of people think that it’s necessary to post on every single social media channel for their business. This is absolutely not true. For instance, let’s say you own a factory that makes screws, bolts, and nails. You create LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube company accounts. That’s great because they’re relevant.

Then you go way out into left field and create a Pinterest account. What’s Pinterest you say? It’s a social network that people (and by people, I mean mostly girls with an avid fashion/photography interest) post photos/images in a collage format. Do you think these people are interested in screws, bolts, and nails? I would venture to say no.

The point is this: Only become active in channels where your target audience is present in large numbers. The important B2B social networks are usually LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. Most business professionals/targets are active in Linked In. The same can be said for Twitter, but to a lesser extent. Twitter has almost become a job posting/RFP network of sorts, with people actively looking for help in projects. Finally, Facebook is primarily used for direct to consumer products that have a quick purchasing decision process such as Pepsi, Xbox, Old Spice, video games, music etc. With regard to B2B, creating a company page on Facebook can be useful for developing an online community with your employees.

2.Create usernames/handles that reflect your business.

No one will be able to find you online if you have an account that doesn’t make people immediately think of your business. If you’re a graphic design company, use something like CompanyNameDesign, or something similar. The same goes for any other company. Include your company name in your handle, even if it is an acronym, along with another keyword that’s directly applicable to your work. Try to keep the handle as short as possible to make the most use of Twitter’s character limit.

3.Share content at peak hours.

It’s important to post when people are most active on social networks.  This will help to gain the most visibility. Activity varies a great deal between networks. For example, people are most active on Linked In during the weekends. Therefore, post content on Fridays when people are done with work and surfing their social networks. Focus on posting during business hours on weekdays for Twitter, especially between 1-3pm EST. This may vary depending on your business, but it is a good rule of thumb. Post on Facebook midweek between 1-4 pm.

4.Engage people you know and use them to share your content.

Who is more likely to do you a favor: A total stranger or friend?  Unless they’re a Good Samaritan, it will usually be your friend or even an acquaintance. The easiest way to immediately spread content is through people you already know. Leverage your network to engage potential clients in your contacts’ networks.

5.Stay active on other blogs, groups, and pages that your targets are active on to establish credibility.

What’s easier? Talking to that random girl at the party? Or making friends with her friends, impressing them, and then getting introduced that way? Here’s a better question: which is more effective? The first option is easier, and can be effective, sure. However, it is a lot easier to establish credibility if you focus on leveraging the contacts of your target. This goes back to pointer #4. People trust people they know. If you engage their personal network that your targets trust, then that immediately boosts your brand image in their mind.  A lot of companies focus on trying to promote their brand directly, where the indirect approach can be just as effective. Some practical ways of doing this are identifying blogs, groups, and pages that your targets are active on. Make comments on topics you are knowledgeable in, and post questions as well as interesting content you found to gain exposure.

6.Don’t spam your followers. Talk with them rather than at them.

Who likes someone that texts them incessantly throughout the day? No one. It’s annoying. When it comes to social networking treat your followers like you would your significant other. Don’t across as desperate for attention or needy. Give them just enough to keep them interested, but not too much so that you push them away. Spread out your posts so that you don’t flood their newsfeed. There are a lot of tools out there that can help you achieve this. One of the most prevalent in B2B circles is HootSuite. It aggregates all of your social media accounts from different channels, and allows you to schedule posts ahead of time. This means you don’t need to immediately post every interesting thing you find. You can save it for later! By spreading out your posts you are able to stay top of mind among your target market.

You know that one friend who can’t stop talking about themselves? Yeah, so does everyone. Don’t be that guy (or company). No one enjoys hanging out with them past the first 5 seconds. The same goes for social networking. Don’t constantly push your products on people. Talk with them rather than at them. This can be done by posting content that appeals to them, which in turn builds engagement, and makes people want to come to you. By posting interesting, and fun content you can engage them in a way that other companies who focus on hard selling and heavy advertising can’t. You will gain respect, and become a thought leader in their minds. When they do eventually have to purchase a product that you provide, you will already be top of mind.

7.Include share buttons on all of your content to make it as easily as possible for people to share it.

Once you drive people to your site, make it easy for them to share your great content! Install social share buttons on every blog page of your site so that you make sharing as seamless as possible.

8.Promote other people’s content, and ask them to share yours! They will more often than not return the favor.

Fact: Everyone loves attention. Nothing feeds the ego like seeing other people value what you have to say, and demonstrating that. When it comes to social media that means sharing, re-tweeting, reposting etc. Feed your followers’ egos by sharing their content, as long as it is directly relevant to your business and core competency. This goes both ways. You will be surprised how often people will share your posts as long as you ask them. For instance, asking for retweets on Twitter leads to 4x as many RTs! Cite hubspot It never hurts to ask.

9.Pre-populate article/blog content on your site to show that you are not new to the game.

This follows the idea that more content equals more credibility. Who do you trust more: The author with 30 books on the subject, or the one who is writing his first book? Definitely option A. If people go to your blog on your site and see only one post, does this convey your expert knowledge in your field, or commitment to your social networking? Nope. An easy way to avoid this is by posting several blog articles before promoting them on social networks. Backdate these so people see that you have had this blog going for a significant amount of time, rather than having 5 blog posts from the same day.

10.All posts and bios should use appropriate keywords to help you gain exposure.

Increasing exposure of your site and social media accounts are intrinsically tied in some ways. SEO for your site depends on prevalence of keywords and links, and the same goes for gaining exposure on social media. Include keywords that are relevant to your business in all blog/social media posts, as well as bios. If you are a designer, that doesn’t mean trying to force fit words like design every other sentence of your blog post. Make sure the article flows! When it comes to social media, including #hashtags with keywords makes your posts more easily searchable for other companies. For instance, Fast Track operates in website design and development, so including hashtags like #webdevelopment, and #webdesign are great options for any posts we have.

View User Profile for Steve Hoag Steve is a recent graduate from UW, and the Marketing Coordinator at Fast Track. He primarily has experience in the tech and start-up industries. When he's not busy promoting Fast Track, he's watching Huskies or Green Bay Packers football. You can find him on Twitter @steven_hoag .
Posted by Steve Hoag Wednesday, July 10, 2013 12:06:00 PM Categories: B2B enterprise SEO SMB social media social media marketing website
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