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It’s always difficult for small businesses to compete with large brands, but the holidays are particularly challenging. Everyone hits the holiday theme hard — and some businesses have particularly clever ideas and big budgets. To keep up, you need to find ways to stand out.

One thing you can do is create local pages to enhance your visibility. At a minimum, there are four places where you should have a presence: Google, Yelp, Apple Maps, and Waze.

Once you have your local business pages set up, it’s time to start making them stand out for the holidays. As some local business pages have limited capabilities, you’ll only be able to use a few of the following tips. However, the simplest of these tactics work on every local page. Applying them to as many places as possible will increase your impact.

1. Upload Holiday Photos

Some local business pages (Apple Maps and Waze, for instance) have a limited number of uses. One thing you can do specifically for the holidays is upload a new photo. Show how you’ve decorated your business, what you have to offer your customers for the season, or even how your staff are celebrating. Any of these options will show a human side of your brand and encourage people to visit you.

Humanizing your brand increases consumer trust — more than 40 percent of people say that they distrust brands. By showing your face and values, you become more accessible and less out of reach. Photos are one of the top ways to achieve this.

2. Advertise Holiday Promotions

Use your business description to mention the special offers and promotions you have for the holidays. Give consumers a reason to visit you over your competitors. One-third of consumers say they made a purchase over a holiday weekend because of a promotion or discount. There’s no need to create promotions for all your products — pick one that is particularly popular for the holidays.

On Yelp, you can go a step further and create a Yelp Deal to incentivize users who check out your listing. Yelp Deals are prepaid vouchers available just to consumers who find your business on the platform. Users can purchase the voucher through both the Yelp website and the mobile app. You pay nothing upfront to Yelp, but the platform keeps 30 percent of every sale.

3. Publish Holiday Content

Google My Business allows you to create short posts that will appear when users search for your business by name or find you on Google Maps. These posts are another way to advertise promotions, but they also have many other functions over the holidays. For example, you can post teaser videos, announce events, or highlight products and services you have that are perfect for the holidays.

Product-specific and promotional offers are the best choice for Google My Business posts. This is because such posts appear directly on your Google Maps listing for everyone specifically searching for you during the holidays.

On the other local pages, you can leave links to social media profiles, holiday posts on your blog, or seasonal landing pages. Don’t go overboard with links — one or two is plenty.

4. Start a Holiday Review Campaign

When users find your business, they are more likely to choose you if you have a high ranking and great reviews. Almost three-quarters of consumers say that positive reviews increase their trust in a local business and almost half say that they will only choose a business if it has at least a four-star rating.

One thing you can do is to launch a campaign where you ask satisfied customers to tell others why your brand is the perfect choice for the holidays. To do this, send out an email newsletter with a link to your Google or Yelp listing or include a “Review Us” link in the footer of your regular holiday email campaigns.

5. Respond to Customers

Ignoring customers who reach out to your business is an easy way to lose a sale. Customers can contact you directly on both Google My Business and Yelp. The faster you respond, the more likely you are to close a sale.

On Google My Business, you can set up chat to receive messages straight to your phone. On Yelp, customers can send you messages to request quotes, appointments, and information about your offerings. You’ll need to turn messages and quote requests on to receive these — the feature automatically disables if you don’t respond to your messages.

Bonus: Update Your Open Hours

You most likely have different open hours than normal during the holidays. Make sure that your local pages have accurate information. This will avoid disappointment (and, therefore, a bad impression) for customers who want to visit you.

Keep up your efforts maintaining your local pages long after the holidays — they can have a big impact on your small business SEO. Ensure that your information stays up to date and that your pages stay fresh with the latest information, deals, and useful links.

The post How to Use Local Business Pages to Amplify In-Store Visits Over the Holidays appeared first on Visibility Magazine.

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Growth hacking– In the competition of marketing buzzwords, it’s one of the top contenders. But still, with all of the hype around growth hacking there are many misconceptions about what it really is, how easy it is to implement, and whether or not it is actually effective.

I’ve been in the marketing business for over 15 years and (hopefully I can say this without sounding completely obnoxious) I know what I’m talking about. That’s why I’m going to set the record straight about growth hacking.

What is growth hacking on Social Media?

In general, growth hacking refers to using marketing techniques for measurable goals of rapid growth. This takes places across different channels – including Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. It involves strategically following others to encourage followbacks to help increase your own account popularity.

This process requires maintaining a healthy balance of having more followers than people you follow back. And that means that you are often unfollowing people after initially following them. It also involves, sharing, liking, and commenting on others’ content to increase your own brand awareness and social growth.

Why Do People Do It?

Growth hackers aren’t following and engaging with hundreds of other social media users just because they have nothing better to do at work. They do it because it of the perks. And the perks aren’t just ego-boosts and being able to say, “Hey, look how many followers we have.”

For example, on Instagram, accounts that have over 10,000 followers are allowed to add links to Story posts. The ability to add links may not seem that important, but as a business it’s HUGE when it comes to lead generation and adding a call to action to your content.

Additionally, big accounts get influencer marketing recognition. With that recognition, other companies may pay you to promote their products or services on your account.

And finally, whether it’s Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or another channel, people are attracted to what the majority already assumes to have social value. Which means that once you already have a large following, your following is likely to naturally keep growing. When done right, that means a continuous flow of sales for your business or influencer marketing opportunities.

To find out more about how to growth-hack for Twitter and Instagram, read this.

Is it worth it?

When you read why people growth hack, it’s easy to jump out of your chair ready to start growth hacking. But while growth hacking DOES come with many benefits, there are also cases where it can go wrong and actually harm your business in the process. So, to give you the well-rounded, complete understanding of growth hacking, let’s compare the benefits we just heard about with some warnings:

Why you need to be careful

1- Large followings, especially from people who aren’t actually interested in your content, may lead to low engagement on your posts or vague comments that don’t actually make much sense. This may make some of your “true followers” distrustful of you or your brand and may lead to people who were originally interested unfollowing you. It is more important to have hundreds of followers that actually have something to do with your brand than it is to have thousands of random followers.

2- A sudden large influx of new followers also may not sit right with your original followers. Avoid this by NEVER buying followers. And I mean never. Take the harder route and still grow quickly, but more steadily.

3- With everybody growth hacking, suddenly it’s getting harder. As more and more adopt growth hacking techniques on social media, it’s not as easy to get a followback as it once was. The bar has risen as you need to leave relevant comments, and produce your own relevant content.

4-Social channels may fight back. In 2017 ALL of the Instagram growth hacking bots were shut down one by one. In the past, these bots would like, comment, and follow a user based on their hashtags, location, and own followers. The sudden loss of these bots was a blow to many marketers. However, those who regularly posted high-quality content, and took over liking and commenting on their own, were able to keep their good social standing online. Still, it’s a hard lesson. Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook will throw curveballs to avoid tricks like these from users.

So back to my original question above: Is growth hacking worth it? I’d say, yes. But, only if you are sure to avoid any big mistakes in the process, and are willing to accept any negative consequences that come with the ride. Keep this reality check in mind, and you should be just fine.

The post The Reality Behind Growth Hacking appeared first on Visibility Magazine.

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Whether you work at or own your own marketing agency like I do, or you manage a suite of social media accounts for your own business while managing everything else that being a business owner throws your way – managing multiple social media profiles can be confusing.

The basics: you need to post the right content to the right platform at the right time.

However, that’s obvious. Your social media followers engage with you for completely subconscious reasons. At the core, a follower will engage with you once they know what to expect from your page. In a single word: trust. Building trust involves CONSISTENCY across the board. That means – consistency with your scheduling and consistency with your brand!

Keep in mind the brand image you want to promote when communicating with users. This becomes more complex when you are managing accounts as you want your accounts to have their own life without being exactly the same. Enter one of the most valuable yet ignored tips I could ever give you:

Do not simply turn on “share to Facebook” and “share to Twitter” causing your accounts to have the exact same content at the exact same time.

People communicate differently across each social media site and they expect different content that matches the overall culture of that social medium. Take the time to build unique content for each site. Very few sites share the same base culture and, ironically, those sites that do don’t have an automated “share to” option.

If you are an agency, you’ll likely have many accounts on the same platforms. This leads to the potential for many things to go wrong. It is easy to build a brand that looks too much like someone else’s or to accidently post the wrong thing for the wrong client. If you post the wrong content, post the same content twice, post at the wrong time of day, or forget to post to a platform entirely, you can ruin engagement. You may even lose followers–and your client.

The good news is that there are plenty of tips and tricks you can use to keep your strategy straight. Here are seven of my favorite:

  1. Use a Social Media Scheduling Tool That Matches Your Level of Business

Social media management tools schedule posts, analyze the performance of campaigns, and compare activity across various platforms. They can also provide you with insights to make improvements. By using tools to automate as many tasks as possible, you remove some of the effort (and possibility of error) from managing your social media accounts.

Top choices to consider include:

To find the right tool for you, consider factors like price, supported platforms, automation capabilities, and depth of analytics. Also look at how many accounts you’ll be able to add, since some tools are designed for businesses rather than agencies with many clients. For example, small business owners often start with a site like Buffer because it is inexpensive and simple to use. Agencies may be more keen to lean toward Sprout Social, which allows scheduling, social listening, social response, and amazing reporting elements for clients.

Note that social media apps like Buffer and MeetEdgar do not allow you to respond to incoming messages. SproutSocial does.

  1. Detail Your Strategy in Writing

For agencies, write down all the details of your strategy for each client, including how it differs for each platform. Include a style guide and a list of all content you posted in the past, highlighting the most successful posts. You can refer to this document when planning posts, when responding to comments, and for any other activity on the platform.

For small business owners, create a content calendar that is a minimum of two weeks ahead of your current date. Plan to be active across your social media accounts at least five times a week. Note that certain social media sites are fine to minimize number of posts, like Facebook or LinkedIn. Other social media sites, like Twitter, expect a lot more daily interaction.

  1. Use an Editorial Calendar

Use an editorial calendar for each of your clients, specifying what content you will be publishing and where. This will ensure that you always have plenty of content that speaks to the target audience. An editorial calendar also makes it easy to quickly check that content is varied and that there are no gaps.

  1. Schedule Time for Social Media

It takes time to perfect a social media marketing service for your clients. It is critical that you schedule sufficient time for each one of your accounts. During the time you have planned for managing a particular profile, focus all your attention on the task at hand. Avoiding distractions and thinking about other profile strategies will decrease the chance you make a mistake.

If you upload content ahead of time, spend the time scheduled for an account responding to comments, answering questions, and planning future content. Only posting and never interacting with users will lead to a one-sided presence, whereas joining conversations will help you better demonstrate the brand’s personality.

For agencies, be sure to set a proper expectation of time for social media efforts. Many small business owners don’t have a realistic concept of how long it takes to create high quality posts and interact with social media.

  1. Create Content According to the Platform

Of course, creating content with a specific platform in mind improves engagement and visibility, but it also makes things simpler for you. It will ensure that you create posts that are unique, avoiding overlaps in your strategy. This is especially important if some of a brand’s audience follow the business on more than one platform.

For instance, save your top photos for Instagram. You can also share quotes that express the values of the business or create stories to tell through pictures. On Facebook, you’ll gain more visibility if you stick to short videos, although you can also publish curated content. Post longer videos to YouTube. When you have a new blog post or industry news to tell, put it on Twitter. Company news, job offers, and other professional content should go on LinkedIn.

  1. Use Different Platforms for Different Purposes

Another way to prevent overlaps is to assign different purposes to each platform. Learn about the followers of each account, including their demographics, what they are looking to gain from being active on the platform, and why they follow your client. Then you can decide how to meet their needs.

Bear in mind that an audience on one platform may be interested in a certain type of services, whereas on another platform users may be following your client to keep up to date with news. On yet another, users may be seeking entertainment or information.

  1. Analyze Individually and Collectively

It is essential to look at the performance of each account on its own and consider how a profile plays a role in the overall social strategy. You may find that, for some clients, certain platforms are seeing little engagement. In this case, it may be a waste of time to maintain a social presence. Dropping these accounts will give you more time to focus on profiles that are having a positive impact.

When you apply these seven steps to your strategy, you’ll be able to maintain as many profiles as you need. Experiment with any ideas you have to keep brand personalities and audience demographics separate in your mind to avoid confusion and mistakes.

The post 7 Steps to Managing Multiple Social Media Profiles appeared first on Visibility Magazine.

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What’s the first thing you think about when you think about threats to your privacy online? Phishing scams? Hackers? The Darknet? Secret programs? How about the browser on your computer or smartphone?

The way that companies such as Facebook and Google track consumer data and harvest it as part of their business models has come under increasing negative attention recently — but many consumers are still not sure what to do about it.

However, they’re learning — and looking for ways to combat it. This is where alternative search engines like DuckDuckGo are finding their niche (and growing).

What Is DuckDuckGo?

In order to understand what DuckDuckGo is, you first need to understand what it isn’t.

How Other Search Engines Use Your Data

It isn’t a traditional search engine or platform that stores bytes after bytes of information from everything you do online, cataloging it, analyzing it, and deciphering it. It doesn’t build a model of you, or any consumer, out of data and try to predict your wants and needs almost before you’re aware of them.

Traditional search engines use sophisticated algorithms to figure out what you like. They use your past searches, most of the websites you’ve touched, many of the past purchases you’ve made, and every cookie your computer’s accepted. When you type a set of keywords into Google or a similar search engine, the SERPs you get may bear very little resemblance to the SERPs that someone else (with different search habits and interests) would get using those exact same keywords.

Why do Google and other search engines do this? They use your data to tell advertisers who to follow around from site to site. That’s why, if you search on Google for “a new mattress,” you suddenly find yourself viewing ads from mattress stores everywhere you go online that’s supported by advertising.

That’s also why you’ll suddenly find yourself looking at ads for related products as well, like bedroom furniture and sheets. The data lets the search engines predict that if you’re buying a mattress, you may need a bed, a dresser, pillows, or sheets to go with it.

How DuckDuckGo Uses Your Data (It Doesn’t)

DuckDuckGo doesn’t do any of that. It’s a search engine (paired with a mobile app), but it doesn’t track its users. The browser doesn’t use cookies. It even stops the sites you visit from knowing what search terms you used to get there. It doesn’t rely on a complicated analysis of your browsing history. Instead, it pulls data from a variety of crowdsourced sites and other search engines, with the goal of giving you the top few best results for your keywords.

When you use DuckDuckGo, you get the exact same SERP that anyone else using the same keywords would get. Their personal browsing habits — and yours — cease to matter. You still get ads (because that’s how DuckDuckGo makes money), but those ads are directly related to just your keywords.

While you lose the constantly-customized (and re-customized) features of search on sites like Google, you gain back your privacy.

For many consumers — and businesses — the trade-off is increasingly worth it. It may be especially so in light of the fact that sites like Google store your information and searches forever. Not only does that information have the potential for misuse in the wrong hands, it can also be subject to search through governmental subpoenas.

Why Should You–As A Business Owner–Care?

How important are sites like DuckDuckGo going to eventually be to business owners? Consider this: DuckDuckGo launched back in 2009. At the start of 2017, it was just celebrating its 10-billionth search. A year later at the start of 2018, it had already counted its 16-billionth search — which is a 50% jump in just a year’s time!

That’s a sign that consumers are growing sensitive about their loss of privacy online — and are educating themselves about how to take more control over the situation.

DuckDuckGo Impacts Your SEO

For businesses of all kinds, however, it means rethinking (yet again) how your brand approaches SEO — at least when it comes to those consumers who are actively trying to reduce their digital footprints.

On one hand, your business doesn’t have to worry about paid search and advertisement features to get at the top of the SERPS for DuckDuckGo and similar search engines. On the other hand, you do have to worry about organic interest and SERP rankings a lot more. The highest ranking brands in any given industry are going to pop up for every consumer that uses the same relevant terms in a search.

That means going back over your both your regular and mobile website design and all your social accounts and making adjustments that refine your keywords. It also means keeping organic interest alive in your brand by consistently posting on social, updating your brand’s blog, running contests and making noise that will attract the right kind of consumer attention. Make sure that you provide content that will naturally rise to the top when a consumer asks an industry-relevant question.

Where do you begin? Probably the best place to start is on DuckDuckGo’s site itself. You can do some searches and see where your business falls in the SERP — and start your strategy from there!

The post DuckDuckGo (and Why You Should Care) appeared first on Visibility Magazine.

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New social media sites come and go. In some cases, they break into the scene as the next best thing – like Snapchat. But contrary to what anyone would have guessed, they make very little difference on similar social mediums, like Instagram. If you’re not on Instagram, that probably still means you’re primarily using Facebook. And guess what? That’s old news. There are literally more people graduated to “Facebook stalking” (aka “I have a profile because I want to see your profile but I don’t post anything) than there are people still utilizing the platform. And form follows function; business follows the users. Businesses today that take the time to really perfect their Instagram game are sure to stay on top with their customers.

In the business world, Instagram isn’t all about selfies and what you’re eating for breakfast. It is about engagement and new leads and amplifying your storyteller content with actual Instagram Stories! So, say goodbye to your Instagram doubts, because I’m about to show you why Instagram is a major international player in the marketing world.

What Instagram Does Great

Instagram is so popular with businesses and individuals because it does a few things really, really well. The main things are: user generated content, brand influencers, and visuals.

User Generated Content

What is user-generated content? It can be defined as “any type of content that has been created and put out there by unpaid contributors or, using a better term, fans. It can refer to pictures, videos, testimonials, tweets, blog posts, and everything in between and is the act of users promoting a brand rather than the brand itself.” (source)

For example, did you watch the Superbowl?

Personally, I mostly watch the Superbowl for the commercials and the halftime show. (Call me basic, but it is what it is.)

Every year we get a great series of creative, funny, innovative car commercials from the biggest brands. These companies drop millions on their TV spots and commercial production.

But this year, Volvo took marketing for a spin and full-advantage of the power of user generated content through what we have been calling “The Volvo Interception.” Volvo opted out of running any commercials at all, and instead took a giveaway approach challenging viewers to tweet during and car competitors’ ads using #VolvoContest to nominate someone that inspires them for a brand new XC60.

In 4 hours, Volvo received 50,000 tweets with the contest hashtag, and began trending nationally and globally. Overall they received nearly 200MM media impressions, basically without lifting a finger.

Cannes Lions 2015 - "Volvo Interception" by Grey New York - YouTube

Brands like Starbucks have also done this as they challenge fans to post pictures of their Starbucks cup doodle design in contests like the White Cup Contest. In 2014, this contest led to nearly 4,000 customers submitting entries in just three weeks.

User-generated content works great not only because it is cost-effective, but because consumers are much more likely to take a recommendation from a friend than they are a brand. In fact, people 16 times more likely to read a friend’s post about a brand than from the brand itself.

This is the point where businesses everywhere should be on their knees thanking Instagram for making this so possible.

Brand Influencers

Piggy-backing off user-generated content, let’s talk about brand influencers.

A social media influencer is someone with a large social following who has established credibility in a certain industry. This could be someone famous, or it could be the neighbor down the street who’s great at what they do.

So, if an Instagrammer has a large following for their workout routines and healthy lifestyle, a gym or a company selling healthy snacks might benefit from establishing a relationship with this influencer. Of course, you’ll have to pay, but every picture they post featuring your brand or product will lead to their followers interacting with your brand.

In a recent blog post we found that: “marketers who implemented an influencer marketing campaign earned an average of $6.85 in media value for every $1 they spent on paid media.” (For more on how social media influencers can boost your brand, read the entire post here.)

Visuals

Even if you aren’t a marketer, you know how visual content works. Because you are, at some point of every day, a consumer.

You may have recognized how you are more likely to watch a video of someone trying out a new recipe than you are to actually read through that recipe.

You may have noticed how brands that use compelling images on billboards, social media sites, and even in print catch your eye quicker than the ones that rely on pure text.

Your experience is not unique (sorry if that bursts your bubble).

According to webdam.com, online posts including images produce 650% higher engagement than posts without images. That’s a big ‘ole number. And what is Instagram made up of? B-I-N-G-O. Pictures and videos.

If you want some examples of how brands have used visual content on Instagram to tell their company story, look here and be amazed.

Where Instagram beats other social media sites

With an increasing number of social sites out there and, of course, the constant big players like Facebook and Twitter, I’m sure you want to know about the specific advantages of Instagram. Well, Instagram is advantageous regarding their: International audience, successful company model, and measurable platform.

International audience

Instagram has officially bypassed Twitter, Snapchat, and even Pinterest as far as global social reach. Instagram has 800,000,000 active monthly users. And 80% of users live outside of the United States. Which means for businesses hoping to scale globally, Instagram is a great tool.

This is something I can personally attest to! As a bit of a nomad and a U.S. born expat currently residing in Australia, I can tell you that Instagram has made expat life easy! And it wasn’t because of my use of Instagram! I wasn’t going out ot try to find others on Instagram. On the contrary, Instagram has been such a rockstar for International traveling that when I travel, businesses find me! As soon as I post something about the area and especially when I am obviously a traveler, local cafes tend to add me as a friend or comment on my photo. Naturally, I am going to look at this delicious new friend and see what they’re all about! I have found numerous favorite cafes, restaurants, gyms, pilates studios, nutritionists and more through the direct engagement these businesses have with me!

Successful company model

Instagram has staying power. Even among competitive new mediums like Snapchat, they have stayed in the ring and come out on top. They have done this by introducing the right things at the right time. They consistently bring out new features to help marketing for businesses be even more effective.

Not a dark social platform

Instagram is a measurable and public platform. Whereas dark social platforms make it difficult to track who is engaging with your brand, Instagram actively avoids this. You’ll be able to look at metrics like where your traffic is coming from, which of your hashtags are most popular, and your referrals. Which means you’ll constantly be able to improve your strategy.

The post Why You Need to Be On Instagram in 2018 and Beyond appeared first on Visibility Magazine.

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