Including Hashtags in your Social Media Marketing

Whether you’re active on social media for personal reasons or for business, if you’re looking to attract attention- hashtags are one way to do to so. Since their initial appearance in 2007, hash tags have become one of the best ways to discover new content and put yourself out there on an international level. Whether they are used on Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr, Instagram or Vine, this current trend is a great way to connect with others and lead to an increase in revenue.

You’ve likely encountered hashtags as of late since they are practically everywhere. But for those of you who are just starting out, hashtags are a word or a group of words that will follow the pound (#) symbol (for example #summer). You can hashtag your brand so that users worldwide can showcase their purchases from your product or service. Highlight and repost those reviews for optimal results and active engagement.

We’ve written blogs in the past regarding hashtagging on Instagram and Twitter, but recently Facebook has adopted the method as well. When you hashtag on Facebook, your post is visible to people who will be interested in your business: a great way to target your niche market.

Some things to keep in mind when using the hashtag feature:

1. Always capitalize the #FirstLetterInEachWord – this will make your hashtag more readable and will further drive your point.

2. Try to not to include too many words in your hashtag—it will be much more beneficial for you to concentrate on specific words that will apply to your business. You will notice that in doing so you will have an easier time reaching your target market.

3. Ensure that they are relevant– while it may be tempting to hashtag everything that comes to mind, you may end up sacrificing your credibility and professionalism.

If you aren’t quite comfortable with using hashtags, try checking out some of your own favourite businesses to see how they are working with this technique, or contact the Business Enterprise Centre for more assistance.

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Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL)- What you need to know

All business owners should now be aware of Canada’s anti-spam legislation (CASL). Currently effective as of July 1st, 2014, Canada’s new legislation requires business owners to request permission to send e-mail marketing messages to their clients. Continue to do so without their consent and you could be looking at major penalties of millions of dollars.

Legitimate complaints are turned over to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), which may investigate the situation to determine if the messages violate the policies set by the CASL. Small businesses are not excluded from these laws either: any commercial enterprise that does not comply with these guidelines will be subject to all major penalties.

Prior to delivering any e-mail marketing, it should be made clear that the recipient has consented to receive marketing information. You must receive recipient permission prior to sending them electronic marketing communications including e-mails, text messages and even social media. Businesses should clearly identify themselves in each message and the unsubscribe button should be visible on the page.

The new law forbids:

  • Any electronic marketing message sent electronically, including e-mail address, social media and text messages, without the consent of the recipient.
  • Webpage destination change resulting in the user being sent to a different destination without his or her consent.
  • Any use of false or misleading depictions to promote products or services
  • Collection of e-mail addresses without consent

To ensure you comply with these new standards, be sure you understand the difference between implied consent and expressed consent. Under implied consent, a previous relationship exists and it is not explicitly articulated. Expressed consent must include your identifying information, a defined purpose for communication and a mutual understanding of the business relationship.

Expressed consent is now the norm in Canada and businesses will have to make the adjustments to cater to these new requirements. Avoid any unnecessary legal battles or burdens by ensuring the relationship is clearly defined and acts in accordance with the new guidelines.

For more information visit:

http://fightspam.gc.ca/eic/site/030.nsf/eng/home

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Mastering Guerilla Marketing

If you’re thinking of cost-effective marketing techniques, guerilla marketing should be on your list. Coined in 1984 by Jay Conrad Levinson, this form of advertising won’t require a large marketing budget. But don’t let the low cost fool you- despite its small budget, it will certainly pack a punch.

 Guerilla marketing is a strategy that uses low-cost, unconventional tactics for ultimate exposure.

Instead of investing money, you will need to invest time, creativity and flexibility to create a series of memorable strategies that will resonate in the mind of your viewers. It’s a great way to get you noticed and stand out from the competition. You will be regarded as fun, different and creative: something all businesses try to capture.

It can be summed up in one sentence: if it isn’t newsworthy, it isn’t guerilla. So mastering the method is paramount. It is all about taking an unconventional method to entice your viewers with elements of surprise. They will be propelled to spread the word to reach potential customers.

Guerilla marketing can often be seen in public areas such as street corners, or bus stops. Think of a creative way to advertise your product by utilizing the space to compliment your brand.

McDonald’s used this method by creating an ad for their Real Fruit Smoothies. The glass of a transportation stop was transformed into the look and texture of a strawberry, creating a 3D effect. The advertisement was enjoyed by many: several even stopped in front of the ad to take a picture. Its power to get your noticed is really undeniable.

These strategies are not uncommon amongst major corporations, but are surely not limited to their use only. Small business can equally reap the rewards of these low cost advertisements. Bear in mind that transforming a space should be entertaining for your viewer as well. While it may require a certain amount of risk taking, if done effectively, it can be extremely beneficial for business.

If you were interested in guerilla marketing, stop by the Business Enterprise Centre and sign out our copy of Jay Conrad Levinson’s book “Guerilla Marketing”!

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Creating a Business Logo

Have you ever glanced at a logo and knew automatically which corporation it represented? This is the result of a properly formulated logo. Take for example the classic Apple logo, or Starbucks’ notable green twin-tailed mermaid. These impressive logos leave a resounding impression on viewers, who are immediately able to identify them as they are seen. Creating a well executed logo is paramount for larger corporations, but can be equally as beneficial for small business owners.

A logo is the visual representation of your company. It graphically imparts brand information to everyone who views it. As a tiny representation of your business, viewers can get a glimpse into your business ultimately informing them whether your organization is creative or conservative, playful or serious. Creating the perfect logo is not as easy as it seems, especially bearing in mind the representational message it can transmit. It will take creativity and diligence to capture the essence of your company with just a momentary glance.

You will want to consider developing a quality logo in order to look more professional and established. There will be a certain amount of trust that will be associated with a well-developed logo. It will convey that you are reputable and committed to your business through the refinement of your marketing efforts. This will in turn solidify and enhance your brand image and leave a lasting impression.

Remember that a logo should be able to last for several a few years. It’s a long term business investment, and should be regarded as such.  Know your brand personality, values, target market, competition and budget to have it reproduced. Once you have devised your strategy you can then go on to select the appropriate designer to implement the logo. Look for artists with previous business experience and explore their past work to ensure their approach coincides with the vision for your business.

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Reaching your Target Audience

If you’re currently invested in social media for business, you will have likely spent some time trying to accumulate as many Twitter followers, Facebook likes and Linkedin company page followers as you possibly can. Maybe it isn’t working out to the best of your ability. But sometimes the more followers are not always the best. For some small businesses, having a small customer base is perfectly fine. You will naturally want to accumulate as many followers as possible, but the more customers you try to reach, the more time and money it will take to do so. You may also be left with followers who are not necessarily interested in your business. As a result, you will want to concentrate your efforts on those individuals who will be interested in your products or service. Segmenting your followers will allow for increased engagement and active communication for optimal results.

To identify your target audience, you will want to begin by having a deep understanding of your business. Who exactly are you as a brand? What exactly are you looking to achieve? Consulting back with the goals you have set in your business plan will help answer some of these questions. Identify what makes your product or service unique and drive the concept to interested parties.

As you have consulted your business plan, you will have likely indicated who your target audience is. Revisit this information for clarity of purpose. Twist the question so that you aren’t looking to answer who you would like to sell to, but rather, you should think with the customer in mind. Who would be interested in the products or service you are selling?

That said, you should ensure that your business is fulfilling a need. It should look to address a gap in the current market so that your customers will be gaining something in return. Start a secondary market research by pulling together information about your competitors, industry and market. You can conduct interviews, surveys and so on. You can develop a customer profile from there with demographic information (age, gender, location, income… etc), and psychographic information (hobbies, interests, values… etc). Both will help to shape your profile. Find out where the customers are, monitor their activity and evolve to remain current and on top of your competition.

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Cost Cutting Suggestions and Techniques

The old saying goes, “count your pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves”. While the penny may not exist anymore, the saying holds true today more than ever for small business owners. With the effects of the recession still being felt, many entrepreneurs are stretching every dollar they have to go the extra mile. Ongoing business expenses can add up quickly. Only those who can reduce those costs to a sustainable level will be able to prosper in economic challenges. Even small changes to reduce expenses and improve profitability can prevent more painful cuts later on.

Here are some considerations to help you save those hard-earned dollars.

1. Eliminate Unnecessary Spending.
Some may call you cheap, but being as frugal as possible will only benefit the business in the end. Ask yourself whether you need the item that you’re purchasing, and try to be completely honest. Assess the services you purchase and decide whether you should be decreasing the frequency of that service. Consider replacing the paid services with free ones. You can also consider using Skype instead of using a business phone at times to save money. These subtle reductions will add up over the course of time and can be well worth it.

2. Find Cost Effective Marketing Techniques.
Marketing and advertising can be quite costly when you factor in the cost for the production of flyers, business cards and for internet, newspaper and radio advertisements. But there are several cost effective solutions as well. Consider creating a webpage and utilize social media to its maximum potential with discounts and good content that will be useful for your clients. Feature positive reviews of your business on your page. You can also maximize the opportunity at the point-of-sale by including coupons and promotional flyers.

3. Buy Used/Rent Materials or Supplies.
Renting equipment or real estate will also work with a penny pinching budget. Ownership comes with a lot of responsibilities, and while it’s true that the purchase becomes an investment in the long run, money well-invested can go a long way as well. If you only use the particular piece of equipment occasionally, it is reasonable to rent on occasion until you require it on a more regular basis. Should you choose to buy the materials new, you can also share the items with others to gain maximum value.

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Managing your Online Reputation

Many businesses are directly impacted by customer reviews and opinions put forth online. Local small businesses are in many ways very vulnerable when the barriers between customer exchanges are reduced. The ability to make an impact on others after a less than positive experience is often the motivating factor for the release of negative criticism online. Whether or not you would like for it to be the case, you’re being assessed from every angle, and simply one negative criticism can cause damage to a well-developed reputation. There’s hardly a single business that doesn’t have the occasional issue arise with a customer, but if you’re prepared and have planned for the situation at hand, you can greatly reduce the impact which could otherwise pose a major potential threat.

Small business owners can be in a precarious position if you have not developed proactive management of your online reputation. When something negative has been posted online, whether that is on social media or on any general webpage, it can negatively affect your Google search listing. Your website may appear on the same page that includes the harmful criticism, in turn jeopardizing the credibility of your business. Neglecting these remarks will only make the situation worse. Always remember that no one can damage your reputation as seriously as you can yourself if you are not prepared to handle the situation properly.

Here are some tips when dealing with your online reputation:

1. Be Prompt and Active on Social Media
Be on as many different social media platforms as possible. You will need to develop a strong social media presence with your audience to vouch for your business. This will further extend your influence. It is simply not enough to have these resources without utilizing them to the best of your ability. Remember to accommodate and protect the individuals loyal to your brand. When a negative comment is made about your business, be quick to respond. Don’t try to hide the comment, but express almost instantaneously that you would like to continue the conversation offline. You should apologize and rectify the situation, but not in the public eye.

2. Listen and Respond
When people complain about the product or service you are offering, it’s important to listen and identify potential weak areas in your business. This will not only prevent the issue from reoccurring, but will also allow you to address the problem at hand. Remember that the customer is always right. Find clever and creative ways to provide what is missing to your client so they are satisfied. Remember to genuinely apologize for the mistake. Own up to your shortcomings. This will diffuse transparency, you will seem real and people will trust your business to a greater degree. You will want to try to make amends to the best of your ability so you can resolve the issue at hand before it blows up like wildfire online. You will also want to consider compensation. Remember that it is an investment you’re making to set your business on the right path.

 

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