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Instagram for the Small Business Owner

Instagram is a platform with over 600 million monthly active users. It’s the fourth most downloaded app, and 60% of people on Instagram discover new products through it. If you’re not already using it, you should be.

Some find the visual presentation of Instagram to be daunting. But all you need to interact with millions of potential customers is a cell phone and a little creativity.

Taking a Great Photo

These are a few tips that can help you out with your Instagram photography every time.

Composition

When making an impression, composition is one of the most important things to consider. A photo that a customer’s eyes can follow easily is always going to be more popular. Use the rule of thirds in this process by taking photos with the grid on your phone. The grid will help you to perfectly center your shot or align a subject on the grid to produce an off-centered shot that still works visually.

Lighting

Overly bright and overly dark photos just tend to be less inviting. If you don’t have a good system for lighting your shots, take advantage of natural light.

Palette

When a customer looks at your Instagram, they don’t just look at one photo, they view it as a whole. If your account has a unified look to it, users will be more likely to follow.

Filters

Filters are not cruise control for cool, but they can help. There are many to choose from and you can add a little, or a lot. Don’t filter excessively, or you will appear unprofessional and your products wont’ be represented accurately!

Videos

A newer feature to Instagram, videos and stories (videos and still images that are sent out to your followers and disappear after 24 hours) are excellent tools, though some still choose not to use them. However, with an app like Instagram it’s important to remain at the forefront of anything new they’ve implemented. If it’s available – use it!

Play around with videos. You’ll have fun and your followers will love it. Stories are especially great for announcements that don’t need to permanently remain on your account.

Hashtags

Hashtags are the lifeblood of Instagram. If you want someone to find your post, you need to tag it. That wall of text under a photo may look like overkill, but it’s been proven that those who use the maximum amount of hashtags (30) get triple the likes.

It’s important to note that you should not make up your own hashtags.  Pick ones that are used a lot so that your photo can show up as “trending” in the category. If you’re using long made-up hashtags, no one is searching for them and no one will find you.

Regramming

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and on Instagram you can do that by regramming. By downloading the app “Repost”, when you find a photo you love, you can post it to your account. The original poster will be credited and they’ll probably throw a like and follow your way.

Influencers and Ads

Up until this point, everything we’ve mentioned is free. But if you want to take your Instagram to the next level, you can do so by contacting influencers and purchasing ads.

An influencer is a user who has thousands or millions of followers. Depending on your budget, you can find someone to work with who is mildly popular, or extremely popular. When they share your products, their followers will check out your business!

You can create ads on Instagram by turning your page into a business page, and promoting posts. Or, you can use your Facebook account to launch custom ads that will show up to your chosen demographic.

In Closing

Instagram is a great platform to show off your products and give customers a closer look into how your business functions. For as small or as large a budget as you would like to put into it, it’s guaranteed to give back. So get ‘gramming today—we promise you’ll love it!

Business Owners’ Bad Review Responses A Case Study

Reviews are a fact of life when it comes to running a business.

They can be your best friend, or your worst enemy—depending on how you deal with them.

While it is tempting to write a scathing and entertaining response to people who leave negative reviews, as a professional, it is your duty to hold your tongue and not let your emotions do the thinking.

Below, are some examples of negative review responses, and how they could have been handled better.

1.

Where to start?

Firstly, admitting that you are inebriated when discussing a business issue is never OK. One shouldn’t be drunk in the first place when you’re on the clock (and yes, if you’re responding to reviews in your own time, that counts), but publicly admitting it is highly unprofessional. Next, making personal critiques (grammar) and suggesting a customer see a psychologist is not constructive. Especially when your own grammar and sanity could be up for review.

A more appropriate response to this review would be to apologize for their bad experience, and address the price issues. If your restaurant does have fluctuating prices, that should be noted in store and online so customers are prepared. There can certainly be reasons for this practice but it should be transparent so customers aren’t surprised.

2.

This one isn’t quite as extreme as the last, and could very well be true. However, this response is tinged with sarcasm and, if true, reveals unnecessary personal information. An apology in this case would have been better—state that you were unavailable for serious personal reasons, list that it was no excuse to not communicate with customers and let them know it won’t happen again. Offer them a discount or other incentive on a future booking should they be in town again.

If for some reason the situation is an emergency that keeps you away from your work, and you don’t have someone who can help you out with your business in this way, maybe think about hiring an assistant.

3.

As a business owner, your responses should not look like it was written by a ten year old

…and this one is a great example of what that means. Sure, this review was not the classiest, but the appropriate response would be to take the higher ground. As always, apologize! If you were having a bad day, admit that you were and say it was wrong of you to take it out on customers. Depending on what the prices are, they could be explained/defended in some way. Maybe point out that your aim is not to be cheap but to provide quality food.

What review responses come down to is the old adage “The customer is always right”. They may really not be, but your job as a business owner is to represent yourself and your company in the best way possible, no matter what others are provoking you to do. Responses can always be formulated to be reasonable even when defending oneself, but if you don’t have the time to compose something that is well thought out, apologies are the best policy.

Happy review reading, everyone!

How to Respond to Instagram Comments

instaMost small businesses see social media channels like Facebook and Twitter as valuable marketing platforms, but have a hard time throwing Instagram in with the mix. One reason is that it can be difficult for those who don’t sell products to find ways to create a presence. The fact of the matter is that you don’t necessarily need to be selling products to use Instagram. There is a boat load of things that can be captured and shared, such as photos of your staff, ongoing fundraising events, and projects. If your business isn’t already using Instagram, it’s worth considering – it’s a great way to display your business, show your human side, and enhance your image! If you are already using it, then this blog is for you. Having an account is one thing, how you interact with commenters is another. It never hurts to read up on appropriate ways of responding, so let’s dive in.

Compliments

Have you ever been told that you need to learn to take a compliment? A lot of people have trouble accepting compliments out of fear of coming across as vain, but there is no reason to deny sincere words of praise. The key thing here is to not overthink your response. You may be tempted to gain an advantage over their compliment by returning a compliment. Fight this knee jerk reaction and simply say thank you. If there is room to elaborate, go for it, but there’s no problem in keeping it short and sweet.

Q & A’s

Including a question with your photo is a great way to gain feedback and get a conversation going. If you are halfway through a project, for example, take a snap of the work in progress and encourage others to share their thoughts by posing a question. If you do choose to go the question route, be ready to respond. Not acknowledging someone’s response is not only rude, but a missed opportunity to interact with like-minded folk.

Negativity

There’s a lot of advice available online about ways to respond to negative comments. We too at LinkNow Media have brushed upon appropriate ways of responding. Keep in mind that these are merely guidelines. You needn’t abandon your brand voice because you feel inclined to follow a certain formula, especially when dealing with internet trolls – because unfortunately they exist. If you’ve been active on social media for some time, you’ll be able to spot them. Don’t be afraid to get a little cheeky, but be tactful. Emojis are a great way to keep matters light. Of course, if someone is sincerely upset or has a genuine issue with your post, it’s important to respond directly and appropriately. Hear them out, and offer an apology if necessary.

Final Thoughts

Responding to comments on Instagram isn’t very different from the ways you respond to people on other social media platforms. In fact, it might be easier. Since there is a picture at the center of the conversation, comments and responses are likely to be shorter here – a picture is worth a thousand words, after all.

Sharing Button Integration: See More Friction in The Comments Section

 

beachYou’ve likely already scrolled through your Facebook newsfeed at least once today, and probably came across a plethora of different types of shared content, from baby videos to political articles to personality quizzes. Despite the variety, there’s a common denominator here. Your Facebook friends were not posting a website, but an article from a website, and that means they likely hit a sharing button.

What Is A Sharing Button?

A sharing button is exactly what it sounds like – it’s a button that enables visitors to share content on their social media pages. These buttons are something that visitors have come to expect on a website, especially on blogs, and are often placed at the bottom of the page. We suggest placing them there too since this is where readers who want to share are looking. Provide your visitors with the experience they’re expecting, or else they’re heading elsewhere.

Why Do You Need It?

There are so many elements that go into making a website successful, and sharing buttons are definitely on that list. The more people you have reading your content, the more voices there will likely be in the comments section. This is of course going to help you discover more about your customers, which will allow for more effective communication.

Obviously, if you want to get more customer reviews, you’ll want to get more visitors to the content that you wish to have shared. Adding sharing buttons any place that you wish to have content shared is a sure fire way to gain a wider audience. This includes landing pages, blogs, and web pages, or, any place where a visitor can join a conversation in a comments section.

The comments section provides an awesome opportunity to discover more about your customers. It’s not only what they’re saying, but HOW they’re choosing to say it. The latter is extremely important when it comes to the ways you communicate with your customers. The words you choose, and the way by which they are arranged says a lot about you.

Final Thoughts

This post from LinkNow Media is a short, casual reminder about the importance of integrating a sharing button. It’s a simple way to get more people chatting about your products or services, which presents the opportunity for you to join in as well. Don’t yet have a sharing button on your blogs or landing pages? Get in touch with your web designer. You’re sure to see more friction in the comments section.

3 Tips for Responding to Negative Online Reviews

hot airAs long as there are reviews, there will be negative reviews. Read up on all the tips you want about responding to harsh criticism, but you’ll still be at a loss for words when someone is badmouthing your business and staff. It never hurts to read a blog like this one for a refreshment on appropriate ways to respond to negativity. The last thing you want to do is call over your coworkers to show them the outrageous claims some crazy person made (because let’s face it, it sometimes feels that way). That will only deepen your rage, and kill the mood in the workplace. Instead, take a deep breath and respond with these points in mind:

Use the phrase “I hear you.”

Businesses don’t become successful because they get it right the first time. Success is achieved when businesses face their problems and find appropriate resolutions. Don’t let a negative comment get you down. Rather, look at it as an opportunity to highlight how committed you are to making things right for your clients. If your knee-jerk reaction is to jump right into justification, you are essentially saying that you know better than them. Instead, think over what they’re saying. Look at where they’re coming from. Let them know you hear them, and offer an apology if necessary. The bottom line is that people want to be heard, so listen. By doing so, you show that you value your customer’s feedback, even if negative.

Address the customer by name

All reviews deserve to be handled with care, even negative ones. If you continuously use the same framework for addressing negative reviews, you run the risk of leaving a cookie-cutter response. Every customer is different, and each problem must be addressed individually. One way to connect personally with unsatisfied customer is by using the customer’s name in your response. Addressing someone by name is a form of flattery. As author, Dale Carnegie stated, in his 1936 novel, How to Win Friends and Influence People, “a person’s name is to that person, the sweetest, most important sound in any language.” Keep this principle in mind when addressing an unsatisfied customer. It’s an effective way to engage with someone who is ticked off. Just remember to check your spelling before hitting reply.

Ask a question

Most the time, issues between a customer and a business owner are due to a miscommunication or misunderstanding. One way to clear up confusion is by asking a question. By asking a question, you are calling attention to the problem in an indirect, unconfrontational manner. For example, if you’re a restaurant owner, and have a customer who is unhappy about the hour wait time for a table, ask if they had made a reservation, and inform them of your reservation policy. Or, ask when they arrived, and provide them with alternative time when it might be less busy. Always look for the opportunity to ask a question. This helps to avoid the conversation from getting into he said/she said territory, and creates an open dialogue.

Closing

At LinkNow Media, we’ve looked at ways of responding to negative reviews in the past, and are likely to revisit this topic again in the future. We believe that if you can handle the situation competently, you’ll be given another chance.

How to Get Bloggers to Review Your Product

cafeThink about the last time you were on the fence about a product. You likely went to an online review site, like Amazon, and scrolled to the review section to see what others were saying about the product in question. If you still weren’t convinced, then you may have dug deeper to a product review blog to read a full-length account of someone’s experience. If the opinion was trustworthy and favorable, you likely followed through on the purchase. Was this the case? If so, there’s no denying it – you are like most consumers.

It isn’t hard to see how powerful the opinions of bloggers are when it comes to the buying process. They have revolutionized the way we make decisions in the market place, and are imperative to running a successful business. It goes without say then: the more buzz around a product, the more likely it is that people will make a purchase.

If you are looking to get the name out there about your product, then there’s no question that you are committed to finding people who have positive things to say about it. Working with a blogger is a great opportunity to get the word out there, increase brand awareness, and reach relevant consumers. Here are some recommendations about contacting someone to review your product:

Who to Ask

A blogger that gets a lot of traffic likely gets bombarded with emails asking to review this and that. If you plan to ask a popular blogger to write about your product, you’ll need to stand out. In a previous blog post, we focused on helpful tips for writing an email campaign, and a lot of those same marketing principles can be applied here. It’s important to keep your subject line concise. Don’t be afraid to make a pun, ask a question, or crack a joke – this is your chance to show that you’re unique. Be personable. Provoke curiosity. An email with a boring subject line isn’t going to get opened.

When it comes to the body of the email, put yourself in the shoes of the blogger. What’s in it for them? Bloggers want publicity, so you’ll need to sell them on that point. Explain why your product would be of interest to their audience. Be wary of coming across as too sales-pitchy or using a lot of corporate jargon.

Not getting any bites? It might be in your best interest to ask newer bloggers. They’ll be flattered by the request and they’ll love getting a freebie. Even if they’re new to the world of blogging, there are a few key things to look for, such as the consistency and frequency by which they post, and the level of engagement in the comments section.

Where to Find Review Bloggers

Pinterest is  a great place to find bloggers. Join related group boards, post your product, and interact with like-minded individuals. This is the first step to finding a pinner who might be interested in reviewing your product. They might even be the ones inquiring about it. If not, contact those who you feel you can build a relationship with. Be sure to familiarize yourself with their content before diving in.

Keep At It

These tips are a great place to start on your quest to reaching the blogger that will get your product noticed. Of course, what works for some businesses might not work for others. In the end, it’s all about what works best for your audience. Don’t get discouraged by rejection – it simply wasn’t meant to be.

At LinkNow Media, we are always looking at ways to help business owners get more online reviews, so stop by often!

5 Customer Appreciation Tips For 2017

penWhile a simple gesture, saying thank you is a sign of respect, appreciation, and gratitude. As a business owner, you can’t afford to overlook the importance of these two little words. Thanking customers is a huge factor in customer retention, as well as your online presence. Below are 5 creative ways to express gratitude. Not only will the following techniques make your customers feel appreciated, they also ensure your marketing efforts don’t go to waste.

Discounts

Who doesn’t like saving money? Offering loyal customers discounts via email is a great way to show that you are thinking of them. Make sure the content of the email is well-structured, playful, and fun. This is a chance to display a creative edge over your competition!

Freebies

Many businesses are beginning to see the value of saying thank you in the form of a freebie. Take advantage of holidays and clients’ birthdays (if you have that information), by offering a free service or product. This will make your customers feel valuable and appreciated.

Trials

When people are on the fence, a free trial can diminish any worries they may have about your company, products, or services. By doing so, you’re saying that you appreciate their interest. Thanking someone for even expressing interest may seem odd, but it says a lot about how far you will go for your customers.

Showcase

Brining attention to your customers on your website or social media pages will make them feel special. Let others know how much you appreciate their loyalty by being as specific as possible. This is a great way to reach a wider audience, as your customers will likely share your words of praise, if they haven’t already been tagged.

Refer

As a small business owner, you have the amazing opportunity to work with people in a wide range of industries. A great way to show them that you appreciate their business is by sending business their way. What goes around comes around.

Closing

It can be tricky for new businesses to find a creative, genuine way to express gratitude, but don’t let that discourage you from venturing outside of the box. Giving thanks will become more intimate and refined as you build stronger relationships with your customers. Understanding your audience is the key to making the most of the after-transaction phase.

Who to Thank During the Holidays

cinnamon

With the holiday season in full swing, it’s high time to express gratitude to the people who help strengthen your brand and build your business. Rather than send a generic season’s greetings email to every person in your database, you should consider sending a thoughtful, personalized message. While it would be nice to send unique content to each your clients, there simply aren’t enough hours in the day. The best way to personalize your messages and still have time for holiday shopping and festivities is to divide your customers into groups and create different content for each. Of course, we’re looking at this from a marketing perspective.

Potential Clients

Potential customers are people who have shown interest in your product or service, but will need an extra nudge to follow through on the purchase. Here’s where bottom of the funnel type of content comes in handy. To convert these potential customers, you will need to diminish any concerns they have about getting on board. Put yourself in their shoes. Do they need more information about your company? About how they will benefit? Is money the problem? Address these concerns in the form of a thank you. Thank them for showing interest by offering a free test-trial or a discount, in the spirit of Christmas.

Existing Clients

Existing clients don’t need more information about your company history, services, or pricing. They’re already sold. You likely already have an established relationship, and now is the time to strengthen this relationship. A good way to do this is by boosting what they already have, or cross-selling. Cross-selling is the practice of selling a different, but related product or service to an existing customer. If you are a company that sells different tiers of packages, give them the gift that keeps on giving by offering a discount on upgrading.

Collaborates

No company is without business partners and suppliers. Whatever yours provide you with, display your gratitude by sending a gift. You can do this via email with a digital gift card or via mail. Keep in mind that the businesses that you work with have employees too. Express your thanks with a company-wide lunch on you. This is a surefire way to show that you appreciate everyone and all they do to help your business grow and succeed.

Employees

The holiday season is a wonderful time of year, but it can be stressful  for employees who are scrambling to complete work tasks before break, while juggling Christmas shopping, cooking, and planning. Show your employees you appreciate all the work they do by organizing a holiday office party with food, beverages, and fun presents. It’s a great way to destress, rejuvenate the holiday spirit, and display gratitude.

Closing

Many businesses are seeing the benefit of creating separate messages for different clients and business partners. It allows for deeper relationships, without sacrificing precious time, which, let’s face it, can be scarce around the holidays. It’s not too late to send off some holiday emails, but you’ll want to be creative. Businesses everywhere are taking advantage of the season by offering special deals and promotions, so you’ll need to find a way to stand out. Think outside the box when it comes to subject lines, and keep the body of the email concise!

 

Why Use Customer Reviews in Your Email Campaign?

MailboxesWhen your business first started out, you may have urged happy customers to spread the word about your good service – but that has all changed. A lot. With social media, smartphones, and online customer review sites, there is no need to encourage. Customers have very few barriers in the way of sharing what they think about your business, for better or worse. If you’ve made it easy for your customers to leave reviews, getting them is a cinch – but that doesn’t mean you can go on autopilot once you do. There are many ways to enhance your online performance with positive reviews. One such way is with email campaigns.

Make the Most Out of Online Reviews

We’ve written in the past about the benefits of sharing positive reviews on your social media pages, and this week we’re looking at the benefits of using positive reviews in your email campaigns.

Many companies shy away from using email campaigns because, well, let’s face it – emails can be annoying. If you’re like most people, you get dozens of emails a day. Do you really have time to read through all of them?

It can be difficult to see the benefits of email campaigns because of the association with spam, but there are ways of reaching your customers without flooding their inbox. If you are interested in learning ways to do this, part 6 of The Ultimate Guide to Online Marketing for Small Businesses is devoted entirely to email campaign best practice. This was written by Lauchlin, one of the digital marketing specialists here. Whether your emails are sent with the purpose of sharing information or offering discounts, you’re sure to find great tips there. If you like what you see, you can buy the full version here.

Reviews Can Help You Connect with Your Audience

With information bombarding us everywhere we turn, we don’t have time to sift through text that isn’t speaking to us. If you are going to use email campaigns as part of your online marketing efforts, you need to connect with your audience, and you need to connect with them fast. A fantastic way to do that is by including a review from a satisfied customer. Featuring a review gets the message across about your service or product in a highly economical manner.

Not only does a real review from an actual customer establish a relationship with a prospective customer, it helps keep the email concise and to the point. If you have their permission, include their photo and name for a personal touch.

Closing

There’s no shortage of people sharing advice on what to do about negative online reviews, but advice on positive reviews is few and far between. These are just a few tips on what you can do to make the most out of your positive online reviews. We’re sure to share more advice on ways to make the most out of positive reviews. Stay tuned!

3 Mistakes You Need to Stop Making When Saying Thank You

chalk boardThis week we’re looking at the technical side of things when it comes to customer appreciation. Whether you’re giving thanks via a handwritten note or email, errors can detract from the sincerity of your thank you. Not to mention, you run the risk of looking less professional. Don’t let a silly mistake get in the way of your thank you! Keep these points in mind when expressing gratitude:

Check for Grammar Mistakes

There’s no doubting you’re busy. You need to get your message across, and you need to get it across fast. But as the old saying goes, haste makes waste. It pays to double check your work, even something as short as a thank you. Here are some of the most common grammar mistakes to look out for:

  • Their vs. there vs. they’re
  • Your vs. you’re
  • Affect vs. effect
  • Who vs. that
  • Then vs. than
  • Assure vs. ensure vs. insure
  • Complement vs. compliment

If you ever have a grammar question, Grammar Girl is a great source for grammar tips and rules.

Avoid Passive Voice

Passive voice is one of the most common mistakes people make when writing. Many people don’t realize they are writing in passive voice, so it is an important point to keep in mind when proofreading.

A sentence where the subject performs the action expressed by the verb is considered to be active voice. Passive voice, on the other hand, occurs when the subject is acted upon. See, we did it right there – is acted upon!

The Hemingway App is a great tool to check for passive voice. It also checks for the level of readability and for phrases that have a simpler alternative. Clear writing made easy!

Keep an Eye on Tone

Have your target audience in mind. This is true for all forms of content, including thank you notes and emails. Are you thanking a new or long-term customer? Casual language is OK for someone you’ve established a relationship, but aim for higher diction when thanking a business partner. It’s also important to consider the deed at hand when writing. An over-the-top thank you for a small favor, is, well, over-the-top.

Closing

These points might seem small, and they are – but when it comes to saying thanks, it’s the little things that count. Errors like these will take away from your message, so it’s worth having a second pair of eyes look over your writing.

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