The Impact of Social Media on SEO

Social media has billions of users across platforms such as Google+, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram and LinkedIn. And we’ve all heard the saying that “content is king,” so don’t forget about the bloggers. Today, there is a blog for absolutely anything you’re interested in. Everyone and anyone is a critic, expert, photographer, videographer, journalist or authority due to the popularity of social media and mobile apps.

So what does this have to do with your business? Everything. It’s a no-brainer that social media should be part of your business plan, not only because it will impact your sales but also your SEO. While backlinks are still important, social media signals should not be overlooked. In fact, seven of the ten most important SEO factors come from social media! Let’s take a look at how social media, content and SEO all work together to transform your online marketing strategy.

Create quality content that people love. 92% of marketers say content creation is either “somewhat effective” or “very effective” for SEO. When writing a blog, you should consider three things: is this helpful, does this solve a problem and is this relevant? Your content needs to be valuable and shareable in order to engage people, and it needs to be original and high-quality in order for it to rank well with Google.

Engagement increases your rankings. Google+1s increase both your visibility and credibility, and a report from Searchmetrics states that Google+ has the highest impact on SEO ranking. What are other social indicators that help? Facebook shares, Facebook total, Facebook comments, Facebook likes, tweets and Pinterest are all in the top social factors. It isn’t enough to simply be posting on social media, you need to be engaging in order to increase your rankings. Here’s a quick fact for you: tweeting cuts indexation time by 50%!

Build trust. How relevant is your page content to the keyword query of your visitor? Google looks for authority (the number and quality of the links that point at your pages) and relevancy (keywords) when determining search results. A keyword-rich profile is the first step on all of your social media platforms.

Develop relationships. Connecting with your audience helps build your online authority and also creates long-lasting relationships. These relationships can transform into online brand advocates and ambassadors that will help spread the word about your brand to their own communities.

Linked content. When trying to build your brand and authority, having well-known and trusted websites link to you is one of the best ways to gain trust and respect. Think about it as a type of online “celebrity endorsement” vouching for the validity of your business. Keep your content easily shareable by adding social media links on your pages, because you want to make it as easy as possible for people to share your content.

If you’ve been avoiding adding social media to your SEO plan, now is the time to reconsider. Social media is now an integral piece in the SEO puzzle. Social shares, presence and high quality content cannot be ignored any longer. If you need help with your SEO and social media strategy, contact us today!

Grammar: There, Their or They’re?

grammar

It seems like such a simple thing, but there are a plethora of people in the world that just plain hate grammar. The rules are ridiculous, they say—outdated, contradictory and confusing. I’m not going to argue. English is a language based on stealing words from other languages and sort of shoving them into the vocabulary like stacking one more chair onto a crowded moving truck.

I studied English in college. I went as high as you can possibly go in terms of diagramming sentences. I helped other people with their papers. I was the editor of the paper. Let me tell you, some people will think you’re a wizard if you’re good with grammar.

But why do we care? This is a whole new world (cue Aladdin song)—full of Twittering and internet short-hand. Who would worry about proper grammar? Well, your clients, for starters. Even if they are super high-tech masters of the internet (and they’re probably not), they’re going to want their copy (read: content) to look good. That involves proper word use, punctuation and sentence structure. Webpage design and blogging should be where you really try to shine. Make sure you know the difference between “its” and “it’s” (Just in case you were curious: “its” is possessive, while “it’s” is short for “it is”). “Then” and “than” should be monitored closely. “Further” and “farther” are also important, although used less frequently.  And of course, there’s the deadly “there,” “their” and “they’re” (location, possession and contraction, respectively).

None of this is magic, by the way. Doing a Google search will solve most problems. The site Grammar Book is great for your basic needs. For those in a hurry, start following @quickdirtytips or @GrammarMonkeys on Twitter.  Subscribe to a blog like Grammar Gang. So instead of just fixing problems as they come, you can start learning something every day. That is probably the most useful advice I can give you, by the way: learn, don’t fix. If you learn the rules, you don’t have to worry so much about fixing anything.

Speaking of fixing things, if people hate anything more than grammar, it’s proofreading. I cannot tell you the amount of things I’ve proofread before (legally, I shouldn’t even mention some of them). People think that only full-on grammar wizards can proofread anything.  That’s completely untrue. The key to proofreading is a fresh perspective. After you complete your first draft of anything, take a walk. Get a drink. Go to the bathroom. Come back with new eyes. Another trick—if you’re handcuffed to a desk or something—is to read your draft BACKWARDS. What you’re trying to do is trick your brain into thinking it is reading something completely new. Why? Because if you don’t, that lazy, traitorous brain of yours will fill in all the gaps for you, making you skip the mistakes that are actually there.

So, you’ve fixed your mistakes. You Googled how to spell “conscience” correctly (that one is for how you feel morally, not whether you’re still awake while trying to read this). You’ve walked away from the draft, and come back to it to find even more mistakes. You’ve cursed my name a few times. Now you’re ready to post or print it, right? Wrong. Now it’s time to hand it over to someone else. Someone else can be as easy as the guy in your office that is actually a full-on grammar wizard (thank you, thank you), your superior, a friendly English teacher on Facebook, or an actual, honest to goodness proofreader that might want money for their services. Always think about your content before paying anyone. How important is the piece you’re writing? How many people are going to see it, and for how long? Who are they—people on Twitter or your boss’s boss? These are important considerations when handing out money to someone.

Conclusions? Grammar is very important when you are creating copy for websites and blogs—things people are going to be staring at a lot. It’s better to learn about grammar than to just try to fix mistakes on the spot. Remember to always proofread your own drafts—after a break, of course. And after you’ve looked at it once (or twice, or three times…), give your work to someone else to look at. If you follow these steps, I promise other people will start thinking you have magical powers. In my next blog, I’ll be talking about etiquette and yes, grammar, when using social media like Twitter and Instagram.

Getting Personal Through Social Media

social media

Social media is an extremely powerful tool for any business. Is this news to anyone? It shouldn’t be!

Any business can take advantage of these effective platforms, but it has to be done correctly to reap the benefits. Many businesses look at social media as another sales avenue, but that strategy is all wrong. Yes, it is a sales tool, but not for direct sales. Instead, think of it as the first step towards a sale by marketing great content across multiple online channels to potential customers! You don’t want to estrange current and potential customers by using social media improperly. By always keeping your voice and message authentic throughout your social media marketing plan, you can draw in fans and slowly guide them towards a sale.

The most important word in Social Media Marketing is social! Social doesn’t mean logging into Facebook and promoting your business or daily lunch specials every day. Being social means engaging with your fans on the social media platforms you choose to be on for your business. So how can you engage?

  • Listen. Whether the comments you’re receiving are positive or negative, listen to what your customers are telling you and take it as free market research and feedback on your products/services. Let them know that you hear what they’re saying and you’re going to take it into consideration. This lets your customers know that they do have a voice and opinion that matters to you.
  • Poll your audience. Ask them questions and use them as a test group for new products, services or launches.
  • Tell stories. Storytelling has been around for thousands of years and can quickly captivate your audience. Share stories that are touching, that people can connect with or that have a humorous ending.
  • Hold a contest. Contests are great ways to bring in new fans, engage your current customers and create excitement! Pick a relevant prize, make the contest easy to enter and then spread it throughout your social media platforms to expand your reach. Don’t forget that after a contest, you need to keep your fans engaged.
  • Customer Service. Social media is a great tool to give excellent, real-time customer service. Answer questions from potential customers about your business, solve problems as soon as they happen to flip an angry customer to a raving fan, announce events and thank people for choosing your brand.

When you connect with individuals on a personal level, they feel like less of a customer and more of a friend. I’m not saying don’t ever talk about your business or specials, but spread these posts out between other engaging content such as community events or industry news. Creating a sense of community will go a long way with your online audience.

Building trust and personal relationships with your audience is what social media is all about. By steering away from being a direct sales channel and towards humanizing your brand, you’ll see the rewards. Authenticity and engagement will take you a long way!

Customer Reviews Prove to be Critical for Business

You’ve advertised. You’ve wooed. You’ve closed. You’ve onboarded. You’ve launched. But your work with your client has only begun.

The statistics vary from study to study, but retaining a client is far less expensive than gaining a new client. Your business needs to work as hard to keep your existing clients as it does at earning new business. And when you keep your existing clients – the right way – you’ll earn new business.

A client relationship manager or account manager should be as empowered as your sales staff to make deals and retain business. And your CRM should be able to tell you which clients are happy and which clients need some finessing. One way to do this is to ask your clients – honestly and sincerely – in what areas you can improve and what things you do well.

Get customer reviews.

This sounds silly and simple, but it’s essential. 82% of new business is earned by word of mouth, but 66% do online research. Your web presence needs to include customer feedback and reviews. When customers provide feedback, you can identify areas of opportunity to strengthen your relationship, and identify strategies that are working well for your brand.

You need customer reviews.

Only 15% of consumers don’t use the internet to find a new local business. 76% of consumers read reviews when deciding to use a new local business. 58% of consumers report that online reviews affect their decision.

Customer reviews will grow your business.

When you ask your clients for feedback, you let them know that they’re important. When you address their concerns, you let them know you’re listening. When you share your reviews, you let potential clients know that you’re great.

Ask your clients how you’re doing, and don’t be afraid of the feedback. It’s a terrific opportunity.

Casting for a Bigger Reach

So your business has a Facebook page, a Twitter account and even a Google+ page…but do you podcast?

Have you ever thought about adding a podcast to your marketing strategy? This is a fantastic way to reach a number of people that might not have been aware of you and your business. Starting up a podcast is easier than you might think. Other than a recording device, the most important aspect of starting up a podcast is coming up with pre-determined topics you want to talk about. Without at least an outline of material to talk about, you might start rambling off the topic or the dreaded “ahhhs” and “uhhhs” start coming out, which will quickly turn off listeners.

After you have come up with the topics, the next thing you will need is a recording device, obviously! But there is no need to go out and buy an expensive audio set up, you can simply use your phone to record your podcast. Make sure you are in an area that won’t have distractions and turn your phone to Airplane mode for the recording so that phone calls and texts will not be recorded.

Having someone co-host with you helps alleviate the nervousness you might get by being able to banter with them. Another great thing about a co-host is that they also can help keep you on track if you start rambling off topic. While there is also no minimum time limit for each podcast, try and stick with a general time length. If you usually record thirty minute podcasts, then going over or under by a few minutes won’t be too big of a deal. But if you happen to record one that is ninety minutes when your listeners are used to thirty minutes, it might turn them off. If you do have a ton of information on a topic, try breaking it up into a mini-series of podcasts or at least let your listeners know that this one will be longer than usual.

When you are all finished recording and are happy with it, all you have to do is publish it through to the web. Using iTunes is the most popular platform, but there are other options available. WordPress is another popular platform that also happens to be free. Do some research and find out which platform suits your needs and skill level.

So what are the benefits of adding a podcast into your marketing campaign? I’m glad you asked

  • It is easy to download so your customers can listen to it at their convenience.
  • It is one more way to personalize your brand to your customers.
  • If you are doing a “How-to” session and giving instructions, a podcast allows them to work while listening instead of referencing a sheet of paper or computer.
  • It’s a great way to reinforce topics discussed on your website, Facebook page or blog.
  • It allows you to talk about subjects that would be too lengthy to post online.

Have you ever hosted a podcast? Do you listen to podcasts?

Association: Changing a Client’s Product into a Topic

We have all played the association game at some point in our lives. How is a dog like a bear? How is a desk not like a table? Finding similarities and differences in various objects is a standard test for children in many schools. However, I have found that being particularly crafty (or experienced) with this skill can be quite useful when it comes to Social Media engineering and basic SEO.

Anyone who’s worked in this field has been through this:  Sometimes a particular client’s business or product line isn’t very internet-friendly. As the joke goes, the internet is full of cats and memes. There aren’t too many sites devoted to HVAC maintenance or water heater parts. Still, that client is paying your bills—not the cats. That’s where association comes in. At first, this is an easy game. You do a little research. Some people (including myself) don’t even know what HVAC is off the top of their heads. A five second trip to the Google machine will tell you that HVAC stands for Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning. Good to know.

Now, we do the simple steps that anyone can do. Who cares about this, and where are they? Well, HVAC professionals are going to care, and they’re on HVAC sites. Or they’re tweeting as @HVACguy. Or they’re on Facebook as JoeHVAC. So, that’s about 17 people you could reach. After you reach them, where do you go? A lot of people I’ve worked with have problems after this step. The key is still association. You simply have to get a bit creative. Keep in mind: Who cares about this, and where are they? 

First of all, the HVAC technician is going to be paying you to create content and find new customers for him. For the most part, he’s wanting you to find people that NEED him—not his peers. So, you need to decide who needs an HVAC guy, and that’s where the creativity comes in. How about slaughterhouses? It’s a strange thing to jump to, but slaughterhouses are definitely going to need serious refrigeration units, and probably HVAC servicing. So you go hunt down some slaughterhouses on Facebook/Twitter/the internet. Perhaps you even find slaughterhouses that are currently looking for such services…all the better! Or maybe you just find some guy in Iowa that dreams of owning his own slaughterhouse one day. Sure, a bit weird, but that’s a great connection to make.

So, how did I jump to slaughterhouses? I didn’t; I started with a list. You take something like HVAC or industrial ice cream machine makers and you begin to associate words with them. Who cares about this? For HVAC, anyone that needs industrial or domestic heating and cooling. So, home owners, industrial parks, slaughterhouses, apartment complexes, schools, etc. You can go on from there. You then focus the lens farther down—home owners might randomly need an HVAC technician, but more likely the greatest need is going to come from do-it-yourselfers and new home owners. Let me tell you—those people are easy to find on the net.

So you’ve found all these people and you’re excited. Now, what do you say to them? Well, the key here is to be relevant, friendly and personable. The last thing anyone on Facebook or a forum wants is some more spam. Only target people with a need. “Man, I really need a need AC unit in my apartment complex. Anyone have any suggestions?” Yes, I do! That’s a great chance for a targeted post. “My AC unit sucks!  I hate this house!” That’s probably not going to bear any fruit. The only thing you could do with that is offer sympathy. Which is fine—if you have the time; we’re doing a job here.

“Who cares about this, and where are they?” Just keep this in your head and your searches should improve.

The Rise and Fall of QR Codes

As technology continues to evolve, it’s no surprise that the e-fads of today may be deemed completely irrelevant next week. So what happened to all of the Quick Response (QR) codes I was seeing a few years ago? These QR codes were ubiquitous, and more often than not, I would scan the code and…nothing.

So what exactly is a QR code? Essentially, it is a glorified barcode, just like what you would find on a can of soup or package of socks. What sets them apart is the fact that they can hold roughly 350 times the amount of information that could be stored on a one-dimensional barcode. The QR code was invented in 1994 by the Denso Wave company in order to track the vehicle manufacturing process. It wasn’t until 2010 that the first QR code scanner and reader applications were released for smartphone platforms in the United States. Since then, different companies have been experimenting with this form of digital advertising, using QR codes in their marketing strategies.

I blame a lot of the failure (or soon to be) of QR codes on a lack of education. Creating a QR code is free, which happens to be both a good and bad thing. The good part is that it is a free marketing service to any business owner. The bad side is that most business owners do not know how to set one up in order for it to be an effective marketing tool. This alone might be the downfall of this marketing feature never truly catching on with the general public.

Simply scanning your code is not going to make me ‘Like’ your Facebook page or instantly become a consumer. As a consumer, if you scan enough codes that do not take you to a mobile-friendly site or codes that simply fail, sooner or later, you will stop scanning them. Another downside is when the destination is a virus or malware, corrupting the person’s phone and possibly stealing their personal information.

One of the worst things a business can do is spend part of their marketing budget to put up an ad on a billboard right off the interstate and place a QR code on it. Talk about a waste of money and time! They could be giving away one million dollars through that QR code and no one would be able to scan it. Even putting one a vehicle doesn’t make much sense; you’re basically asking a person to scan the code while they are driving down the road, which is as bad as texting and driving.

When you are selling a product or service, educating your customers is the key to success. Sure, over time a person might get it after trial and error, but only if you’re lucky. A person’s attention span is less than nine seconds, so how confident are you in your product? The QR code lacked education for both the consumer and business owner alike.

My rule of thumb is this: once my dad understands it, it is ready for the general population. And my dad has no clue what a QR code is or what it does.

Do you use QR codes for your business? What results have you found from using a QR code?

Increase Your Work Productivity With Social Media

Some people might say that social media is a distraction from your work, but here at Dream System Solutions, we think that social media can be used to increase your productivity! Whether you’re looking for ways to efficiently collaborate with your employees, how to measure your online success or better marketing methods, there are so many different niches in social media that there seems to be a platform for anything you want to achieve. Here are a few suggestions of some of my favorite tools to use to help improve your productivity.

  • Yammer: Software that is used by more than 200,000 companies worldwide, including 85% of the Fortune 500, can’t be wrong. Think of Yammer as your own in-house social media network, which is available for your desktop and smartphone. No one likes sitting through meetings, so you can use Yammer to have conversations, group discussions, share files, give deadlines, ask for feedback and more. The chat feature is reminiscent of AOL chat, and Yammer even incorporates the use of hashtags. I once worked for a company in which you would “clock in” and “clock out” with the use of a hashtag in Yammer. All in all, it’s simple software to keep your office connected.
  • HipChat: If you’re looking for a different kind of in-house chatroom, HipChat is gaining traction as a contender to Yammer, being used by brands such as Pinterest, TED and Wired. In HipChat, you have all the features of group and individual messages, but you can also bring in guests. If you have a vendor your work with, simply add them to one of your message strings to keep them in the know. And everyone likes to have a little fun at work, so incorporate some of the 150 emoticons and memes available into your messages! The fact that the chat history is searchable is a big plus, too.
  • Nimble: Nimble pulls your contacts into one place so you can engage them across any channel, whether it be LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, email or more. Through Nimble, you can connect not only your contacts, but also your calendars, emails and social communications, in addition to being able to listen and engage. What I like about Nimble is that all of your social media can be viewed through one screen. Instead of hopping from Facebook to Twitter to LinkedIn, you can view all three in one place, which saves you time.
  • Glyder: Glyder was created with the small business owner in mind, allowing owners to communicate with their customers easily and quickly. Glyder can format your marketing message for Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, email, text message, MailChimp and more, all from a free iPhone app. You simply choose a template, apply a style, add your message or offer and distribute it, which is great if you want to send something out spontaneously from an event or trade show. Ask for engagement, send out today’s special or simply say thank you with this easy app.
  • PitchEngine: If you want to get the word out about something, sometimes an email attachment just won’t do. PitchEngine makes it easy to create quick, engaging content for a sales flyer, press release or announcement that’s attractive and modern. You can share your “Pitch” with friends, customers and online influencers via social media and manage your account with multiple logins and an easy-to-use dashboard. If you want to gain traction with an announcement, it’s always good to create something eye-catching, new and different, which is what PitchEngine aims to do.

What social media tools do you like to use to help increase your productivity?

 

Why Should Your Company Care About Video?

There are well over one billion smartphones around the world.  Translation: there are well over one billion “photographers” and “videographers” around the world.  Thanks to the popularity of Vine and the video setting on Instagram, video is quickly becoming the norm in the social media world.  Facebook is even toying with the idea of adding video ads to your timeline.  Nothing is launching in the near future, but don’t be surprised if you see video ads on your timeline in the next year or so.

One of the benefits a company gains by using social media is being able to connect more personally with current and future customers.  Think of how much easier it would be to demonstrate your product or service’s features and advantages rather than writing up an article that might not translate well to everyone reading it. One statistic shows that 17% of people spend less than four seconds on a website, but they are willing to spend 2.7 minutes watching a video on the internet!

Even the job search process is being impacted by the use of video resumes and interviews.  A video resume allows an employer to get a better feel for a candidate that a paper resume cannot show. Some companies are conducting  initial interviews with out-of-state candidates over Skype or similar services rather than flying them out for an interview.  Using this service allows a company to get an initial feel for a candidate before they fly them out and interview them in person, saving both time and money.

Video has been proven to more likely be shared online and has a greater chance of going viral. In Google’s index, video is much more searchable and it is over 50 times more likely to appear in front page search results. Did you know that the average person has a better ability to retain information when both auditory and visual senses are being used?

In April 2013, over 60 million people in the US watched video on Facebook.  Do you remember Kony 2012?  Of course you do, because it only took six days for it to reach 100 million views and I bet you were one of them.  You don’t need to shell out thousands of dollars to hire a film crew to come in and make your video, but be careful you aren’t recreating “The Blair Witch Project” with your in-house videos.  YouTube is the second largest search engine only behind Google with the most searched phrase being “How to.”

Your clients are already engaged in video…are you?

LinkedIn Gets a Virtual Makeover

You’ve heard it before: visual content rules in social media. Following suit, LinkedIn has received a virtual makeover!

If you’re in a visual profession, such as photography or design, this new feature might spark your interest. Users can now add visual content such as photos, videos or presentations to their profiles, turning bland resumes into eye-catching displays of accomplishments and merit. No two people are alike, so why not show that no two employees are the same? Make our LinkedIn profile unique with these simple steps.

Want to add visual content? Here’s how. First, click “edit” on your profile.

In the Summary, Experience and Education sections of your profile, you will see a new icon that allows you to add media. You can choose to upload a file or link to your work and add a title/description to these. If you’re using a link instead of an upload, make sure that it is a link to a public URL because LinkedIn doesn’t support blogs. You can learn more about approved providers and content types for work samples here from LinkedIn.

Don’t worry if you don’t see this icon yet, don’t worry. This new feature started rolling out on May 1 and is making its way to your account. When adding visuals to your LinkedIn account, keep in mind that this isn’t Facebook or Instagram, these pictures and videos should be professional and used for job-recruiting purposes.

Do you think that LinkedIn’s new tool is useful? Will you use it to give yourself a competitive edge?