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Marketing Your Small Business with Customer Reviews

Customer testimonials make great small business marketing tools, but the process of acquiring them—and using them effectively—can feel overwhelming. And for some people, the thought of asking customers for reviews makes them squirm. Fortunately, we talked with a couple of experts who say there are a number of painless ways to start leveraging those great customer comments.

How to Solicit and Use Customer Reviews

“One idea is to approach your top customers—five or 10 of them who you know absolutely love you already—and ask them for a review,” suggests Lowell Sheets, CEO and founder of Baltimore-based business communications and marketing agency Sheets and Associates.

Customers may be willing to give you a phone interview, or they might send you a few sentences by email. Once you’ve received their input, your job is to package their testimony. “Put it into written words and email it to them,” Sheets says. “Ask, ‘Is this the gist of what you said; is this what you meant, and can I use it?'”

Another method is an email marketing campaign that creates awareness of the online presence you already have on review sites such as Yelp or TripAdvisor. “The emails could contain post-purchase reminders, as well as links with a message that says, ‘Check us out on Yelp / TripAdvisor,’ or ‘Like our business? Rate us on Foursquare,'” says Chris Campbell, chief tracking officer at Review Trackers, an online review-management and reputation-monitoring platform based in Chicago.

You can also generate reviews by providing offers specific to those sites. Campbell says that Yelp, Foursquare and Google+ Local are just some of the sites that let businesses post such offers. “Not only is this a great way to attract potential customers to your establishment, it’s also an opportunity to give them a pleasant surprise, which in turn can give them an incentive, or at least some encouragement, to write positive reviews,” he explains.

Most businesses content themselves with gathering a few good reviews here and there, but Campbell says they’re only reaping half the rewards. “There are so many ways you can leverage these reviews to increase your visibility and gain a competitive advantage,” he says. Simply thanking a customer for a good review can go a long way in demonstrating that your business takes feedback to heart.

And it doesn’t hurt to share positive reviews where other clients—both existing and prospective—can see them. “Customers today use multiple digital channels to research information about local businesses,” Campbell says. When people say good things about you, be sure potential customers who may be researching your business know about it. “It’s good to cover all your bases and be in a position to reach out to information-seeking leads,” Campbell says.

When adding reviews to your small business website, Sheets says that placement is critical. First, don’t bury them on a hard-to-find review page. Instead, dedicate a spot on your home page for your best testimonials. “They can float in a widget,” Sheets suggests. Next, rotate the reviews so customers will likely see a different one each time they visit.

Businesses can use a similar method to gather testimonials, too. “There should be a button or menu item on your website that says, ‘Leave a review’ or ‘Rate your experience,'” Sheets says. This gives customers an easy way to say good things about you, and it also gives your business a quick way to confirm it received permission to use customers’ comments.

The Value of Negative Reviews

It’s a rare company that garners all five-star reviews. But Sheets says there’s actually a significant upside to criticism. “If you had to pay for a focus group to evaluate your business policies, your performance, your service or your people, you’d pay a lot of money,” he explains. Reviews that point out deficiencies give you that kind of constructive information without spending anything. Of course, that’s only a good thing if you actually make use of the data to improve your practices and connect with your customers in a more meaningful way.

Campbell says small business owners may be “terrified of the impact that bad reviews and low ratings can have,” but he believes they can be good for your business in the long run. Not only are bad reviews valuable for improving your operations, they can actually make you look more real. “Today’s consumers are smart and savvy, and if they see a business with 100 percent positive reviews and five-star ratings across the board, they might doubt the authenticity of what they’re seeing,” Campbell says.

In an era where reports of reviews being bought and paid for are plentiful, prospective customers might be inclined to follow the old adage: If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.

Julie Knudson is a freelance writer whose articles have appeared in technology magazines including BizTech, Processor, and For The Record. She has covered technology issues for publications in other industries, from foodservice to insurance, and she also writes a recurring column in Integrated Systems Contractor magazine.

Do you have a comment or question about this article or other small business topics in general? Speak out in the SmallBusinessComputing.com Forums. Join the discussion today!

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How to Boost Sales by Marketing to Different Personality Types

According to my personal survey results from The Quant Method (TQM), I’m a diplomat personality: I’m sympathetic, friendly, helpful and open. I’m also introspective, warm, altruistic and positive. As a charismatic, creative and imaginative person, TQM says I would do well in a leadership role.

Now, an individual’s personality traits might not mean much to you, unless they happen to be on your retail website looking to make a purchase or on your email marketing list.

If this were the case, your best sales tactic would be show me (and all diplomat personalities) social proof or testimonials in small bites and also provide your personal assurances and a rock-solid guarantee.  You’d also need to go easy in your marketing messages. According to TQM, a “hard sell” leaves a diplomat personality type feeling uncomfortable and threatened — making it less likely they will buy from you.

“People want to do business with companies who are most like themselves,” said Trish Wend, a mastermind personality type who manages marketing, social media and PR strategy at TQM. “If the person getting an email from a company is a very task-driven person and the email has a lot of details, they won’t read it.”

What Exactly is The Quant Method?

In development for more than two years and currently in beta, The Quant Method is a behavioral marketing strategy that claims to “create chemistry between clients and their customers” and influence people through their personality type.

In a nutshell that’s the theory behind The Quant Method. Businesses can learn their customers’ personality types and then tailor communications to build trust and break down a consumer’s resistance to buy.

Wend says that TQM helps businesses speak to customers in their own language. TQM surveys prospect and customer lists with a brief series of questions and use proprietary technology to identify their personality types so you can optimize sales messages to target each type.

The Four TQM Personality Types

According to TQM there are four main types of personalities. Each type thinks and feels differently and each type processes information differently, especially when making a buying decision.

Thinker:  Thinkers likes facts, details, and proven examples, and they are highly organized.  The Thinker personality is careful and conservative. They are unlikely to make snap decisions and will need to be fully convinced of your credibility and competence before they will buy.

Mastermind: Masterminds are characterized by a more assertive approach to business. They tend to be fast-paced, results-oriented, and they get right to the point. They are efficient, logical and task-oriented. Sell trust and value and anchor the pricing realistically. Because this personality type is quick to reach a decision, it is imperative that you make a good first impression.

Olympian: The Olympian personality type is characterized by an expressive, aggressive approach to business, and aspires to great heights because everything is possible. Because this personality can become bored, maintain their interest by explaining how your offer affects them directly and personally. Olympian personalities crave excitement and energy and are unlikely to be convinced by a soft sell. Be expressive; they love it.

Diplomats: Diplomats are friendly, compassionate, “feeling” people that desire to contribute goodness to the lives of others.  Of the four personality types, the Diplomat ranks third to buy. Show empathy and give them rock solid guarantees. They are counting on you.

How to Integrate the Quant Method in Your Ecommerce Business

The Quant Method is especially useful when you have a longer, ongoing relationship with a client.  For service-based businesses where you might develop a more personal relationship with a customer (e.g. online service booking, legal or real estate firms) this kind of in-depth detail can help you to better communicate with clients.

For online retail sites, knowing more about personality types can help you to provide content in emails and on webpages that will appeal to different types of consumers. For example, a short testimonial sentence which links to a more in-depth testimonial beside a quick bullet point list gives different personalities options to quickly see and access what they need to make the buying decision.

Wend also says that TQM is a great tool for email marketing. In marketing you can use personality types as a metric to segment your lists. Use the more common metrics like demographics or age to create personality-specific, highly-targeted messages that speak to each personality type.

Once you determine the personality types of customers on your lists you can optimize email messages and websites to include specific landing pages with information that the four different personality types like in order increase conversion rates.

Based in Nova Scotia, Canada, Vangie Beal has spent the last decade contributing featured articles and reviews to more than 20 technology-focused publications, including Webopedia and Ecommerce-Guide. You can tweet with her online @AuroraGG.

Do you have a comment or question about this article or other e-commerce topics in general? Speak out in the SmallBusinessComputing.com E-Commerce Forum. Join the discussion today!

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Why EBay Templates Improve Listing Pages for Sellers

Templates can help eBay sellers stand out from the crowd. With more than 200 million listings running concurrently on the online marketplace at any time, it’s important for sellers to present a unique and professional look that encourages potential buyers to buy. 

Chris Taylor, vice president of marketing for Page Mage, Inc., says that templates can help an eBay seller look professional, and it will also save you time. Using an eBay template means you can “click once” and have all your important item and business details automatically included in each listing.

5 Ways to Use eBay Templates

Page Mage, which started as an eBay listing designer tool now offers a Billboards app that lets sellers create custom headers and footers to embed in listing pages.  Ranked as one of the “Top 10 Most Popular Applications” in eBay’s Apps Center, Billboards is based on the original Page Mage listing designer.

“The big thing we hear from sellers is that they want to look unique,” Taylor said in describing the Page Mage listing designer that now runs the Billboards app.  “With Billboards you can upload and use product images, your logo and any other graphics or information that is unique to your business.”

Taylor said that many eBay sellers use templates to obtain a professional-looking listing page that’s well-branded and that conveys a message trust to the potential buyer.  It also makes updating some areas of your pages easier, because you add the information once and automatically apply the template to all your eBay listings.

Here are five ways you can use a listing designer tool – or an app like Billboards – to improve your eBay listing:

1. Use Templates for Branding

You can use a professional eBay listing template for branding and to help potential buyers feel connected to you. Include a business logo and a statement in a header; it adds credibility about you and your eBay business.

2. Communicate Special Offers

Include details on free shipping, discount shipping, holiday gift wrap services or any other promotional offer you have running in the template. When you change promotions, a custom header lets you update the details across all your listings.

3. Use Templates for Cross-Selling

You can cross-sell categories or specific products by adding links in the template. For example, if you sell clothing on eBay you can pull a picture of a summer item and remind potential buyers that now is the time to stock up on these seasonally-related products.

4. Communicate Business Policies

If you carry the same policy information across all your listing — for example shipping policies regarding a second-item purchase, international shipping policies, guarantees or returns —  a footer is a great place to mention these. Because you can apply changes across all listings, it’s much easier for a seller to provide this kind of information in a template instead of in the description area of the listing.

5. Display “About Me” Details

A template footer is a good place to display unique information about your business. You can include videos, images or a description of your business to help buyers feel more confident about buying from you.

Want to Sell on EBay?

Are you looking to start an eBay business or sell products online? Try these best tips and guides for small business ecommerce owners:

 
Based in Nova Scotia, Canada, Vangie Beal has spent the last decade contributing featured articles and reviews to more than 20 technology-focused publications, including Webopedia and Ecommerce-Guide. You can tweet with her online @AuroraGG.

Do you have a comment or question about this article or other e-commerce topics in general? Speak out in the SmallBusinessComputing.com E-Commerce Forum. Join the discussion today!

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Social Media Marketing: Twitter Tips in 140 Characters or Less

When used effectively, Twitter is a great social media marketing tool that can help you connect with customers in a much more personal way than you can on an ecommerce website. On Twitter, your messages — or tweets — are limited in character space, so be creative with your words and tweet about things that your customers value to get the most out of social media marketing.

If you want to be successful, you can’t make every tweet you send a marketing message.  The best social media marketing advice is to always offer a good mix of knowledge, fun and promotion to encourage your customers to interact with your business on Twitter.

Best Twitter Tips to Promote Your Ecommerce Business

The following ecommerce Twitter tips — in 140 characters or less — will help you build a presence that customers will want to connect with.

1. Learn Before You Tweet

There’s a lot of information available for Twitter novices, so take the time to learn about the social platform before you start tweeting.

2. Personalize Your Profile

Customize your profile to reflect your unique personality. Display relevant and interesting information and always add your website address.

3. Draw Attention to Yourself

Use an eye-catching picture as your Twitter photo. A standard logo is good, but try customizing a snappy version for social media use.

4. Make it Personal

Lighten the heavy business tone to connect with customers in a more personal way. Ask for opinions and offer fun tips or witty advice.

5. Share a Good Story

People love a good story so share great Web content. A pet clothing retailer could tweet about amazing pet stories or cute photos.

6. Track It

Use Bit.ly to shorten Web content links and track which ones are retweeted or followed. This helps you figure out what followers like best.

7. Make a Follower Feel Special

Offer special links and Twitter deals just for fans. Link from your website to encourage customers to follow you and stay connected.

8. Refrain from Total Automation

Twitter is not a network of robots so don’t rely on automation all the time. Limit your use of social sync tools and auto-follow programs.

9. Be Standard Across Social Platforms

Customers will seek you out on other social sites so use the same profile picture and present the same personality across social media. 

10. Use Tools to Track Reach and Exposure

Know you have good exposure, learn what tweets people like and know which tweets result in conversion to your website. Try these tools.

Social Media Marketing Made Easy

Are you looking to get a better handle on integrating social media marketing into your ecommerce marketing plan? Try these best tips and guides for small business ecommerce owners:

Based in Nova Scotia, Canada, Vangie Beal has spent the last decade contributing featured articles and reviews to more than 20 technology-focused publications, including Webopedia and Ecommerce-Guide. You can tweet with her online @AuroraGG.

Do you have a comment or question about this article or other e-commerce topics in general? Speak out in the SmallBusinessComputing.com E-Commerce Forum. Join the discussion today!

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How to Find and Do Business With International Suppliers

Securing a manufacturer to produce unique items or finding a trustworthy supplier to purchase large quantities of general products for your online store is a big challenge for a small business.

“When you’re a small business person, remember that each deal could be your first or last, depending on how you conduct business,” said global trade expert, Jim Angleton, president of Aegis.

The last thing you want to deal with is the cost of losing an uninsured container at sea or transacting with a fraudulent supplier. The good news is that this kind of devastating situation can be avoided when transacting business overseas.

Alibaba.com Connects Small Businesses with Global Trade Partners

To start, you need to find a supplier who is a good match for your business. One of the leading global trade facilitators, Alibaba.com, provides a business-to-business (B2B) marketplace that helps connect businesses with suppliers and wholesalers in more than 240 countries and territories.

Alibaba.com is a good starting point to find an ecommerce supplier for larger orders and for securing customized goods. An on-site search tool can help you find general product wholesalers, but for more complex requirements you’ll need to submit a request for quotation (RFQ) to be matched with up to 10 customized sourcing companies. Smaller businesses looking to source a smaller quantity of consumer products should look at AliExpress to find a supplier. For buyers, both sites are free to use.

Linda Kozlowski, director of global marketing and customer experience, said that small businesses often use Alibaba.com to purchase large quantities of general product, to look for complex machinery or to find a company to manufacture a new invention or product.

Alibaba.com has a number of services to help facilitate the relationship with any supplier or manufacturer you find on the site. Since most orders require customization and discussion, the transaction takes place off of the Alibaba.com platform, making it extremely important that you take the right steps to protect your business.

Due Diligence is an Absolute Must

Once you have narrowed down the list of suppliers to the best candidates you have to investigate the company you plan to do business with to ensure it is a legitimate supplier that delivers quality product. Fraud is an issue for these types of B2B transactions, no matter what supplier or website you use.

“We always — no matter what supplier you are using on our site, any other site or even offline — encourage people to conduct their own due diligence. For any B2B transaction, you must look for references, ask for samples and that sort of thing,” said Kozlowski.

The Alibaba.com site was plagued with fraud issues in February 2011, related to false companies listed on the site as Gold Suppliers. The company dealt with the fraud, which resulted in the resignation of its then CEO, COO and 100 sales people, and it propelled Alibaba.com to implement a series of trust and safety services — like options for escrow payments and inspection services — to protect the experience of all Alibaba.com users.

The reality of doing business overseas today is that you need to have as much data as possible at your fingertips.

Describing the initial steps you should take when conducting business with international suppliers, Aegis’ Jim Angleton added, “It begins with a Google search for negative or positive business conduct by your proposed customer. You need to ask for letters of recommendation from at least two banking sources, and then you need to check those references, review customs validations or certificates and shipping.”

Aegis also provides research and due diligence services to businesses when they go offshore by running checks on the companies, the banks involved, brokers and any other individual or company involved in the transaction that you might not have the resources to investigate on your own.

Global ecommerce

Alibaba.com, a B2B marketplace,  connects businesses with suppliers and wholesalers in more than 240 countries.

Another important thing to do is make sure the global trade partner can deliver the goods as promised. This usually requires and on-site inspection — and there are a number of services and contractors who can help small businesses with on-site inspections in many countries.

Aegis has its own ground troop of expert inspection agents on its payroll. On Alibaba.com, the service lists more than 30 pre-screened inspection service vendors that small businesses can contact to perform on-site inspections on their behalf. Alibaba.com offers its Inspection Service for $1 as a time-limited promotion price to encourage small businesses to become familiar with using an inspection service to ensure quality products are manufactured and delivered.

Tips for Secure Payments, Escrow, Shipping and Insurance

Aside from knowing whether a company is legit, you also need to secure payments overseas and to make sure the goods are as described. To help facilitate the trade process, Alibaba.com recently launched an escrow service to hold payment until the supplier ships the goods and you confirm the order is received in good working condition.

Kozlowski advises buyers to use escrow payments on Alibaba.com, especially for the first transaction with a new supplier. The escrow service carries a three percent fee, but it helps establish a good relationship with a supplier and can prevent a fraudulent transaction from taking place.

Aegis offers a different solution to help manage transactions using a secure corporate card system. A primary card is held by the small business and a second card on the corporate account is sent to the international supplier. The business loads funds on the card that is held in an account that your global trade partner can see. When the products are shipped, payment is released and the supplier can pick it up by using the second card at their own bank.

Angleton said that no fee is charged to the small business for loading the card, and small business owners also benefit from controlling the transaction in the currency they choose.

Purchasing the right shipping insurance is another common concern. Angleton said he advises clients to obtain adequate shipping insurance, especially on container shipments. Without proper insurance, if there’s an accident or a container gets swept out to sea, the loss is damaging to a small business.

The Cost of Global Trade

The cost of conducting global trade varies — but above the actual product purchase you have to consider the cost of due diligence, shipping, insurance and other transaction fees related to payments and escrow services, if you use one.

In today’s world, Angleton said that you can expect to pay upward of $3,000 for the most expensive and comprehensive set of due diligence and to send a qualified person in for the on-site inspection. Depending on the product and situation the inspection could be a lengthy process.

While that might be steep for some ecommerce businesses, in the end it could save you hundreds of thousands of dollars in embarrassment and litigation. And it can potentially keep you from sinking your business in bad deal when conducting business with international suppliers.

Based in Nova Scotia, Canada, Vangie Beal has spent the last decade contributing featured articles and reviews to more than 20 technology-focused publications, including Webopedia and Ecommerce-Guide. You can tweet with her online @AuroraGG.

Do you have a comment or question about this article or other e-commerce topics in general? Speak out in the SmallBusinessComputing.com E-Commerce Forum. Join the discussion today!

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Expert Ecommerce Website Design Advice

When it comes to ecommerce website design there are many options for getting a unique layout and feel that matches your small business brand and presence.

An ecommerce site design — compared to other types of business sites — has a very specific goal of converting a site visitor into a paying customer, and everything from writing an original product description to providing organized Ecommerce Website FAQs and custom shopping carts must focus on making that conversion happen.

If you don’t have a good website design and you’re looking at your options, our expert website designers offer tips on using ecommerce templates, how to find the right design firm and how to add curb appeal to an existing ecommerce website.

Ecommerce Website Design: Templates or Design Firm?

If cheap and easy is on your requirements list, an inexpensive ecommerce template design is something you’ll consider. Template ecommerce sites are popular with the very small businesses (including SOHOs and entrepreneurial start-ups), because you can dip your toes in ecommerce website design without a big cash investment for an operational site.

 Ecommerce Website Design Advice

A template is the fastest and easiest way to get a professional-looking ecommerce website, but the downside to using an ecommerce template site is that any business using the same service provider might have an ecommerce site that looks just like yours. You’ll also have less control and fewer options for functionality.

John Miles, chief of What’s Next and CEO at Integritive, a Web design and emarketing firm, recommends that you determine your business intent before opting into a template-based website.

“Templates generally do not set a business apart from their competitors but make them all blend into a homogenous, undifferentiated mess, making it more difficult for prospects to discern who to select,” Miles said. “Ultimately, a well-designed site should leave the Web user with a positive feeling inside, and the innate sense of connection.”

Tips for Finding the right Ecommerce Website Design Firm

If you lack in-house ecommerce website design expertise but want go beyond a basic template site, the next best-option is to hire a good website designer or firm. This route will cost you money, but the website is the backbone of any ecommerce business, so it’s a worthwhile investment in the long run.

Know that finding the right designer will be challenging. Start the process internally and decide what type of website you need, set a project budget and do your research to make sure the design firm or freelancer you hire is good fit.

Jay Melone, CEO of DigitalXBridge offers these three tips to help business owners select the right digital vendor.

1. Find a good fit

You can choose from freelancers and design agencies with hundreds of people around the globe, and you want to find a match that’s right for you. “If you’re building a large-scale technology platform that will be the basis of your business, even the most talented solo freelancer probably won’t be able to deliver all of the pieces in a reasonable amount of time,” said Melone.

In addition, Melone continues, “if you’re a startup, hiring an agency that has a tendency to work with Fortune 50 clients, is likely going to be out of your budget and won’t get you the attention you deserve. Start your interviews by asking agencies to speak about their typical project budget.”

2. Educate the design firm about your business

Melone says that the most important thing you can offer the design firm you hire is an education about your business. “Consider that many design agencies are serving dozens of clients across as many industries. You want to provide a background on your trade, and then guide them along your specific business concept so that they can provide you with an accurate estimate, and create what you asked for. But be prepared for things to shift,” he explains.

3. Come with an open mind and be prepared to be flexible

“You may have spent years vetting out your business concept with industry experts. You prepared a business plan and then further refined the technical components into a requirements spec. You’ve done your homework. Now be prepared for some or all of that to bend and sway as your product is built and your customers begin using it,” said Melone. “Just like Facebook, Groupon, Instagram, Flickr and many more, pay attention to what’s working, refine and then be prepared to pivot.”

Ecommerce Website Design Tips to Boost Curb Appeal and Conversions

If you have an ecommerce website design that you’re mostly happy with, you can look at adding small features and ecommerce software to boost curb appeal — and conversions. From basic tweaks to designing a smartphone-friendly version of your site, here’s what industry experts recommend:

Include Mobile Website Design in Your Plans

For an ecommerce site owner, growing consumer adoption of mobile devices changes everything. Diane Buzzeo, CEO and founder of Ability Commerce, calls the mobile revolution a “culture shift,” and it means you have to adjust your website for mobile to be successful.

“You need to supply your website in a smartphone-friendly version, display it a different way to customers on a tablet and, differently again on a computer,” said Buzzeo. “And make sure that your ecommerce site can determine what device a site visitor is using, so that it can display the appropriate look.”

Website Design Tweaks Anyone Can Do

While ecommerce website elements like products reviews and mobile versions of your site are extremely important, good website design doesn’t always mean new software or a total overhaul — but the basics must be present.

Bryan Boettger, chief creative officer of The Buddy Group, has helped build business websites for clients like Reebok and Old Navy, and he recommends the following website design tips for ecommerce business owners.

  • Embrace open space: sitting in a field or looking out at the ocean relaxes us, thanks to the calming effect of the open space. The same goes for website design. You need to pack a lot of information in a tight space, but make sure to provide some breathing room between products and content blocks.
  • Think like an onion: Not because you want to stink or make people cry, but because you want layers. Give the basics on the first layer, some details on the second layer, and in-depth specifications on the third layer.
  • Make it Pinnable: more and more people are using Pinterest as a potential “wish list” when researching and browsing the Web. Make sure your product detail pages are easily Pinnable with a quality image of your product. Test it to make sure Pinterest reads your website code correctly.

More Ecommerce Website Design Tips

Are you looking to improve your ecommerce business? Try these website design tips and guides for small business ecommerce sites:

Based in Nova Scotia, Canada, Vangie Beal has spent the last decade contributing featured articles and reviews to more than 20 technology-focused publications, including Webopedia and Ecommerce-Guide. You can tweet with her online @AuroraGG.

Do you have a comment or question about this article or other e-commerce topics in general? Speak out in the SmallBusinessComputing.com E-Commerce Forum. Join the discussion today!

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Facebook Offers: Coming Soon to Business Pages

If you have a local Facebook Business Page you’ll soon have a new tool to add to your social media marketing arsenal. The new “Offers” service, announced by Facebook last month, is expected to roll out to more Facebook Page admins over the next few months.

Facebook Offers is a new feature for page admins to create and share discounts or coupons with the people who Like their Page. Currently, Offers are available in beta to a limited number of local business pages, but Facebook said it plans to launch Offers more broadly soon.

If Offers has not yet been made available to you on Facebook — and you don’t want to wait for a broader roll-out of the feature — you can take the proactive step of asking Facebook to use the feature by filling out an application/request form.

How Do Facebook Offers Work?

In typical Facebook style, Offers is an easy feature to use. From the Sharing Tool at the top of your Facebook Timeline, you can click  Offer, Event + an then click Offer. A simple form will require you to:

  • add a headline for the offer (e.g. Buy one pair of shorts, get a second pair free)
  • upload a photo that resizes well as a thumbnail icon image
  • set a number of “claims” (e.g. good for 500 customers)
  • choose the offer start and expiration dates
  • add terms and conditions for the offer

Facebook Offer specifications require the headline text be no more than 90 characters, while the terms and conditions text is set to 900 characters, and your offer image should be 90 x 90 pixels in size.

With the details in place, you can preview your new Facebook Offer and publish it — or make edits until you’re happy with it. If you start an Offer campaign but decide you no longer want to run it, you can delete the offer (simply  remove it from your Page like you do any post) but remember that people who have already claimed the offer might still redeem it, and Facebook warns you must honor any such redemptions.  

To redeem the offer, people will click the “Get Offer” link that’s shown below your Offer headline text. The offer is then sent to the primary email address associated with the person’s Facebook account.  

Facebook cautions businesses to make sure an offer complies with applicable laws and also makes it clear that you cannot user Facebook’s offer creator tool to offer “the equivalent of a gift card, gift certificate or store value card.” When you’re not sure about regulations, it’s always best to check with an expert rather than risk losing your Facebook account because you violated Facebook’s Pages Terms.

Minimal Targeting Options for Facebook Offers

When you create an offer, you have only one basic targeting option to control who will see your Offer when it’s published. You do this using the dropdown Public menu (next to the Post button) and select Language/Location. Here, you type in the countries or languages of the people you want to see the offer.

Facebook has said it is not possible to target offers by other demographics at present time; anyone visiting your Page will be able to see your offer, unless you’ve targeted it to a specific country or language.

While Facebook Offers is free to use, it’s a feature that compliments Facebook’s options for Sponsored Stories — an advertising option that is generated from the actions people take with your business.  Sponsored Stories, like any of Facebook’s advertising campaigns, lets you be more specific with targeting.

Best Tips for Creating Successful Facebook Offers

On Facebook, businesses need to make sure all posted messages, including offers, are well created and designed. Since people can easily hide your posts in their news feed, it’s important to make sure your Offer is clear, that the offer has value and that it doesn’t look like a “Facebook Spam” message.

When creating an Offer, Facebook does not force any minimum values or discounts, but the social networking giant does recommend you offer substantial discounts of at least 20 percent off regular prices or offer something free to reach more people. Here is Facebook’s list of recommendations for creating Offers:

  • Keep it simple: describe your terms and conditions as simply as possible, and don’t require customers to perform unusual activities.
  • Use a clear and engaging image: photos of people using your product typically perform better than photos of your product by itself, and both of these generally perform better than your business’s logo.
  • Pin it: keep the offer pinned to the top of your Facebook Page so more people will see it.
  • Use direct, natural language: make sure your headline leads with the value of the offer instead of marketing slogans.
  • Use a reasonable expiry date: give people at least a few days to see and claim an offer. Take advantage of word-of-mouth promotion by allowing time for your offer to be shared between friends.
  • Share existing offers: re-share an existing offer instead of creating the same offer twice so it’s easier to track how many people are claiming it.
  • Train your staff: Make sure your employees know the terms of your offer and how people can redeem it.
  • Track offers: keep track of how many people claim, like, share, comment and use each offer to better understand what works and what doesn’t for your customers.

More Facebook Small Business Ecommerce Tips

Are you looking to get a better handle on integrating Facebook into your ecommerce marketing plan? Try these Facebook tips and guides for small business ecommerce sites:

Vangie Beal is a seasoned online marketplace seller, frequent contributor to ECommerce-Guide.com and avid online bargain hunter. She is also managing editor of Webopedia.com.

Do you have a comment or question about this article or other e-commerce topics in general? Speak out in the SmallBusinessComputing.com E-Commerce Forum. Join the discussion today!

Read more

Facebook Offers: Coming Soon to Business Pages

If you have a local Facebook Business Page you’ll soon have a new tool to add to your social media marketing arsenal. The new “Offers” service, announced by Facebook last month, is expected to roll out to more Facebook Page admins over the next few months.

Facebook Offers is a new feature for page admins to create and share discounts or coupons with the people who Like their Page. Currently, Offers are available in beta to a limited number of local business pages, but Facebook said it plans to launch Offers more broadly soon.

If Offers has not yet been made available to you on Facebook — and you don’t want to wait for a broader roll-out of the feature — you can take the proactive step of asking Facebook to use the feature by filling out an application/request form.

How Do Facebook Offers Work?

In typical Facebook style, Offers is an easy feature to use. From the Sharing Tool at the top of your Facebook Timeline, you can click  Offer, Event + an then click Offer. A simple form will require you to:

  • add a headline for the offer (e.g. Buy one pair of shorts, get a second pair free)
  • upload a photo that resizes well as a thumbnail icon image
  • set a number of “claims” (e.g. good for 500 customers)
  • choose the offer start and expiration dates
  • add terms and conditions for the offer

Facebook Offer specifications require the headline text be no more than 90 characters, while the terms and conditions text is set to 900 characters, and your offer image should be 90 x 90 pixels in size.

With the details in place, you can preview your new Facebook Offer and publish it — or make edits until you’re happy with it. If you start an Offer campaign but decide you no longer want to run it, you can delete the offer (simply  remove it from your Page like you do any post) but remember that people who have already claimed the offer might still redeem it, and Facebook warns you must honor any such redemptions.  

To redeem the offer, people will click the “Get Offer” link that’s shown below your Offer headline text. The offer is then sent to the primary email address associated with the person’s Facebook account.  

Facebook cautions businesses to make sure an offer complies with applicable laws and also makes it clear that you cannot user Facebook’s offer creator tool to offer “the equivalent of a gift card, gift certificate or store value card.” When you’re not sure about regulations, it’s always best to check with an expert rather than risk losing your Facebook account because you violated Facebook’s Pages Terms.

Minimal Targeting Options for Facebook Offers

When you create an offer, you have only one basic targeting option to control who will see your Offer when it’s published. You do this using the dropdown Public menu (next to the Post button) and select Language/Location. Here, you type in the countries or languages of the people you want to see the offer.

Facebook has said it is not possible to target offers by other demographics at present time; anyone visiting your Page will be able to see your offer, unless you’ve targeted it to a specific country or language.

While Facebook Offers is free to use, it’s a feature that compliments Facebook’s options for Sponsored Stories — an advertising option that is generated from the actions people take with your business.  Sponsored Stories, like any of Facebook’s advertising campaigns, lets you be more specific with targeting.

Best Tips for Creating Successful Facebook Offers

On Facebook, businesses need to make sure all posted messages, including offers, are well created and designed. Since people can easily hide your posts in their news feed, it’s important to make sure your Offer is clear, that the offer has value and that it doesn’t look like a “Facebook Spam” message.

When creating an Offer, Facebook does not force any minimum values or discounts, but the social networking giant does recommend you offer substantial discounts of at least 20 percent off regular prices or offer something free to reach more people. Here is Facebook’s list of recommendations for creating Offers:

  • Keep it simple: describe your terms and conditions as simply as possible, and don’t require customers to perform unusual activities.
  • Use a clear and engaging image: photos of people using your product typically perform better than photos of your product by itself, and both of these generally perform better than your business’s logo.
  • Pin it: keep the offer pinned to the top of your Facebook Page so more people will see it.
  • Use direct, natural language: make sure your headline leads with the value of the offer instead of marketing slogans.
  • Use a reasonable expiry date: give people at least a few days to see and claim an offer. Take advantage of word-of-mouth promotion by allowing time for your offer to be shared between friends.
  • Share existing offers: re-share an existing offer instead of creating the same offer twice so it’s easier to track how many people are claiming it.
  • Train your staff: Make sure your employees know the terms of your offer and how people can redeem it.
  • Track offers: keep track of how many people claim, like, share, comment and use each offer to better understand what works and what doesn’t for your customers.

More Facebook Small Business Ecommerce Tips

Are you looking to get a better handle on integrating Facebook into your ecommerce marketing plan? Try these Facebook tips and guides for small business ecommerce sites:

Vangie Beal is a seasoned online marketplace seller, frequent contributor to ECommerce-Guide.com and avid online bargain hunter. She is also managing editor of Webopedia.com.

Do you have a comment or question about this article or other e-commerce topics in general? Speak out in the SmallBusinessComputing.com E-Commerce Forum. Join the discussion today!

Read more

How to Sync Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn Social Activity

Ecommerce business owners love social media. Used correctly and this new communication channel is a great way to connect with your online customers. While Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are free to use, they do come at a cost: your time.

Ecommerce SOHO and small business owners already have a full-time job running a business, and social media can increase your daily work load and take away from time that should be spent on other business management tasks.

One way to cut down on the amount time you spend managing social activity is to use a social app that can manage social identities, simultaneously post content across Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn or even schedule posts in advance.

Caution: Think Before you Sync

Before syncing your Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts, look at each service and how you use it. Most businesses tend to use each social service for a different reason, so a tweet to your Twitter followers might not be the kind of message you would normally share with your LinkedIn connections.

There’s a difference between sharing content between Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn and auto-syncing the accounts. Syncing means you send the exact same message to all three services from a single post. This should be a short-term solution and not something you always do. To be socially successful you have to take the time to be unique and creative and syncing won’t win you big points with followers.

Sharing content is a good option when you post special announcements or direct users to Web articles or blog posts. You can do this more often because the messages are suitable for all three social platforms.

5 Tools to Manage Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn Activity

The best reason to use a social management tool is because it gives you the option to share content and sync accounts when you need to. For example, if you’re short on staff or if you plan to travel, you still need to maintain your social activity, but you have less time to fit it in. A social app can help you get multiple updates out on each social service faster than logging in and updating each one manually.

If you use a third-party app to manage the accounts instead of linking accounts from within the social platforms you get the best of both worlds. This lets you use the app’s single dashboard to cross-post content, but you can still post unique messages directly from your Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn profile.

HootSuite Social Media Dashboard

HootSuite is a social media dashboard that lets you update Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and WordPress from a single app. It features custom analytics to track follower growth, it incorporates Facebook Insights and Google analytics, plus you can schedule posts in advance and connect RSS feeds to auto-update posts. 

HootSuite offers a basic free account, but it’s ad-supported and offers limited features (five social profiles and two RSS feeds). The upgraded Pro plan ($5.99 per month) offers a team collaboration function, so that a second contributor can share social profiles and activity. Additional team member pricing starts at $15 each per month.  

The free account might work well for SOHO and entrepreneurs, but if you invest a lot of time in social activity for your business, the Pro Plan is more likely to meet your needs.

Seesmic Social Service Management

Seesmic is a free beta service that synchronizes and manages multiple online social accounts including Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Tumblr.  Depending on the application you use (e.g. Seesmic Desktop,  Seesmic Mobile or Seesmic Web), you may have access to Klout, Zendesk and Salesforce Chatter integration as well.

New users need to create a Seesmic Profile, then add other social accounts and choose a Seesmic app to access your social dashboard. With Seesmic you can see all social profiles from one dashboard and use social features such as post scheduling, shorten URLs, search and sync accounts.

Yoono Unites Social Networks

Available as a desktop, browser or mobile app, Yoono supports a number of popular social services including Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, Twitter, Flickr, FriendFeed, Foursquare, LinkedIn, AIM, Google Talk and Yahoo Messenger. Yoono’s single dashboard lets you connect to all the supported services and update and share your status messages across all the platforms. Yoono is currently in beta and free to use.

Manage Your Identities with DandyID

If you have profiles and identities across a number of social and online platforms, a very handy tool for ecommerce business owners is DandyID. This service is designed to “collect” all your social profiles to help customers find the verified version of your business online.

The key benefit for business owners is that you can access all of your social accounts (individually) from within DandyID, and you’ll save time getting to the social sites. The free version of DandyID lets you add and manage your social profiles from many online services and share your identities and profile with DandyID tools and plug-ins.

The Pro version ($4.99 per month) offers extra features including SEO-enhanced links, personal stats and social analytics.

How to Manually Link Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn

If find yourself short on time (or staff), you can manually connect the social accounts from within each social site. This process will allow you to sync Twitter messages with Facebook and LinkedIn:

1.  Log in to Facebook and use Facebook’s Twitter app to Link a Facebook Business Page with a Twitter account. Follow the step-by-step instructions and test auto-syncing by posting on Facebook and checking your Twitter account to make sure the message appears in both places.

2.  With Facebook and Twitter connected, from your LinkedIn profile choose Edit Profile, and make sure you have provided your Twitter name. You will need to choose Manage your Twitter Settings and check the box to display your Twitter account on your LinkedIn profile. Save your Twitter settings on LinkedIn.

3. Log in to Twitter (or Facebook) and post a message. You should see your message update on all three social sites.

Remember that auto-syncing from within the social platforms will send any update from Twitter or Facebook to all three social sites, and you may need to be a little more careful about the messages you send. To remove syncing, you need to manually remove the applications and change settings on all three profiles.

More Social Marketing Tips for Ecommerce Businesses

Are you looking to get a better handle on integrating social media marketing into your ecommerce marketing plan? Try these tips and guides for small business ecommerce sites:

 Based in Nova Scotia, Canada, Vangie Beal has spent the last decade contributing featured articles and reviews to more than 20 technology-focused publications, including Webopedia and Ecommerce-Guide. You can tweet with her online @AuroraGG.

Do you have a comment or question about this article or other e-commerce topics in general? Speak out in the SmallBusinessComputing.com E-Commerce Forum. Join the discussion today!

Read more

How to Sync Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn Social Activity

Ecommerce business owners love social media. Used correctly and this new communication channel is a great way to connect with your online customers. While Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are free to use, they do come at a cost: your time.

Ecommerce SOHO and small business owners already have a full-time job running a business, and social media can increase your daily work load and take away from time that should be spent on other business management tasks.

One way to cut down on the amount time you spend managing social activity is to use a social app that can manage social identities, simultaneously post content across Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn or even schedule posts in advance.

Caution: Think Before you Sync

Before syncing your Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts, look at each service and how you use it. Most businesses tend to use each social service for a different reason, so a tweet to your Twitter followers might not be the kind of message you would normally share with your LinkedIn connections.

There’s a difference between sharing content between Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn and auto-syncing the accounts. Syncing means you send the exact same message to all three services from a single post. This should be a short-term solution and not something you always do. To be socially successful you have to take the time to be unique and creative and syncing won’t win you big points with followers.

Sharing content is a good option when you post special announcements or direct users to Web articles or blog posts. You can do this more often because the messages are suitable for all three social platforms.

5 Tools to Manage Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn Activity

The best reason to use a social management tool is because it gives you the option to share content and sync accounts when you need to. For example, if you’re short on staff or if you plan to travel, you still need to maintain your social activity, but you have less time to fit it in. A social app can help you get multiple updates out on each social service faster than logging in and updating each one manually.

If you use a third-party app to manage the accounts instead of linking accounts from within the social platforms you get the best of both worlds. This lets you use the app’s single dashboard to cross-post content, but you can still post unique messages directly from your Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn profile.

HootSuite Social Media Dashboard

HootSuite is a social media dashboard that lets you update Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and WordPress from a single app. It features custom analytics to track follower growth, it incorporates Facebook Insights and Google analytics, plus you can schedule posts in advance and connect RSS feeds to auto-update posts. 

HootSuite offers a basic free account, but it’s ad-supported and offers limited features (five social profiles and two RSS feeds). The upgraded Pro plan ($5.99 per month) offers a team collaboration function, so that a second contributor can share social profiles and activity. Additional team member pricing starts at $15 each per month.  

The free account might work well for SOHO and entrepreneurs, but if you invest a lot of time in social activity for your business, the Pro Plan is more likely to meet your needs.

Seesmic Social Service Management

Seesmic is a free beta service that synchronizes and manages multiple online social accounts including Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Tumblr.  Depending on the application you use (e.g. Seesmic Desktop,  Seesmic Mobile or Seesmic Web), you may have access to Klout, Zendesk and Salesforce Chatter integration as well.

New users need to create a Seesmic Profile, then add other social accounts and choose a Seesmic app to access your social dashboard. With Seesmic you can see all social profiles from one dashboard and use social features such as post scheduling, shorten URLs, search and sync accounts.

Yoono Unites Social Networks

Available as a desktop, browser or mobile app, Yoono supports a number of popular social services including Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, Twitter, Flickr, FriendFeed, Foursquare, LinkedIn, AIM, Google Talk and Yahoo Messenger. Yoono’s single dashboard lets you connect to all the supported services and update and share your status messages across all the platforms. Yoono is currently in beta and free to use.

Manage Your Identities with DandyID

If you have profiles and identities across a number of social and online platforms, a very handy tool for ecommerce business owners is DandyID. This service is designed to “collect” all your social profiles to help customers find the verified version of your business online.

The key benefit for business owners is that you can access all of your social accounts (individually) from within DandyID, and you’ll save time getting to the social sites. The free version of DandyID lets you add and manage your social profiles from many online services and share your identities and profile with DandyID tools and plug-ins.

The Pro version ($4.99 per month) offers extra features including SEO-enhanced links, personal stats and social analytics.

How to Manually Link Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn

If find yourself short on time (or staff), you can manually connect the social accounts from within each social site. This process will allow you to sync Twitter messages with Facebook and LinkedIn:

1.  Log in to Facebook and use Facebook’s Twitter app to Link a Facebook Business Page with a Twitter account. Follow the step-by-step instructions and test auto-syncing by posting on Facebook and checking your Twitter account to make sure the message appears in both places.

2.  With Facebook and Twitter connected, from your LinkedIn profile choose Edit Profile, and make sure you have provided your Twitter name. You will need to choose Manage your Twitter Settings and check the box to display your Twitter account on your LinkedIn profile. Save your Twitter settings on LinkedIn.

3. Log in to Twitter (or Facebook) and post a message. You should see your message update on all three social sites.

Remember that auto-syncing from within the social platforms will send any update from Twitter or Facebook to all three social sites, and you may need to be a little more careful about the messages you send. To remove syncing, you need to manually remove the applications and change settings on all three profiles.

More Social Marketing Tips for Ecommerce Businesses

Are you looking to get a better handle on integrating social media marketing into your ecommerce marketing plan? Try these tips and guides for small business ecommerce sites:

 Based in Nova Scotia, Canada, Vangie Beal has spent the last decade contributing featured articles and reviews to more than 20 technology-focused publications, including Webopedia and Ecommerce-Guide. You can tweet with her online @AuroraGG.

Do you have a comment or question about this article or other e-commerce topics in general? Speak out in the SmallBusinessComputing.com E-Commerce Forum. Join the discussion today!

Read more