Amazon’s New Feature: Prime Reload

Amazon's New Feature: Prime Reload

Amazon has added yet another feature to its services, Prime Reload.  Available to Amazon Prime members, it is encouraging you to pay through your checking accounts by offering an incentive. If members fund their Amazon balances with their debit card they are eligible to get back 2% of their purchases.

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Three Steps to Make Your Social Media Content Strategy Amazing!

In a previous blog I talked about Jay Baer’s unique content strategy approach in his book YOUtility. Jay’s main theme in YOUtility is that content can be amazing or it can be useful. Having amazing content is difficult, while having useful content is more obtainable and engaging. I won’t argue that part of your social media strategy should be having useful tips and tricks for your audience. I will say that having amazing content is not only possible, but also quite valuable. I believe that graphics, promotions and special events can be amazing if a content producer is willing to try.

content strategy, social media strategy

Is your content strategy strong or a little soupy?

Graphics can be the bane of your existence when you’re coming up with an amazing content strategy. After all, graphics are time consuming and expensive. If you’re getting them out-sourced, that money is coming out of someone’s pocket. If you’re trying to do them in-house or on your own, a lot of time and energy will be spent on trying to find or create the right visual—perhaps without the skills needed for the task in the first place.

  • TIP: Make graphics amazing by hiring someone with the right skills and experience. If this is in-house, invest the time and money to hire a stellar graphic designer. If you’re outsourcing, go with the best agency or freelancer you can find and afford. You will save yourself so much time and agony by just spending the money on a professional. It’s also important to make sure you have a clear vision between your graphics person and yourself or your client. Amazing content will not come from miscommunication.

Promotions can be quiet troubling for content strategy. Jaded content producers will roll their eyes and try to repeat the same tired tweet or email newsletter about a new product. Uninspired social media strategies will involve repetitive contests because they tend to work, despite creating diminishing returns as followers get sick of the same old Facebook app.

  • TIP: Make promotions amazing by focusing on your intended outcome or asking more questions of yourself or your client. What do you/they want to gain from this particular promotion? Are you/they trying to sell a particular product, or just get people in the door? Those two desires require an entirely different content strategy. For example, if you’re trying to sell a particular brand of bourbon, you don’t want to do a Facebook contest where people name their favorite cocktail. People can post about any kind of alcohol they like. Focus is important for promotions.

Special events can be incredibly fun in social media strategy. They’re easy to talk about, fun to plan for and most followers are going to be interested by default. This built-in interest can be a curse for content producers, though. Easiness breeds stagnation, and even the best special events can lose attendance without diligence.

  • TIP: Make special events amazing by trying new things. I hate the phrase think outside the box. Forget the box. Throw the box away. If you have never tried to reach out to local news organizations for your special events, try it now. Perhaps you haven’t bothered with Facebook ads before. Now is the time to try. If you execute social media on behalf of a client, you also want to make sure you have all available information from them, because they can often help you find new and interesting ways to approach the subject.

In case you didn’t notice, communication is the central theme here. Know your brand inside and out, and if you work with clients, then mine as much data as possible from them or your content strategy won’t be amazing.

Do you have any special tips for creating amazing content? Let us know in the comments below!

Startups: Critical for Our Economic Growth

When you hear the words “tech startup” or “startup” in general, what comes to mind?

Most people think of money, cool office spaces or the next revolutionary app. Startup companies are an essential part of our economic growth and with millions of Americans out of the workforce we need these startups to keep thriving. If they hit it big, these companies can add hundreds to thousands of new jobs around the country. Another important aspect of tech startups is that they can drastically improve our lives or the way we look at things. Take for instance, Leap Motion, which developed a controller that senses how you move your hands and lets you use the computer in an innovative way.

What’s wrong with this is that for every one successful startup there are three that fail. 75% of all startups fail while 90% of all products fail. Startups don’t happen overnight; they take a lot of money, sweat and employees who sometimes have to work for future compensation. The problem right now is that people are more hesitant to leave a secure job, even if that job is not satisfying, to go to something new. People who start a company have to rely on family, credit cards, investors and savings to fuel their initial costs, which compounds the stress they already are enduring.

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After the financial crisis, venture capitalists and investment banks have been wary of investing with an unproven person or new product or service. That is slowly changing, but it is nowhere near the point we were at before 2007-2008 after being burned by poor performing investments. Currently, the average funding per company is $1.5 million, and not investments are failures. Just take the success stories of companies such as Dropbox, AirBnB and Infogami. Brian Chesky, CEO and founder of AirBnB, knows the story of hard work, rejection and eventual success in forming a startup. But those success stories are few and far between.

Health insurance is another big concern right now. It’s hard for anyone to leave one company that has health insurance for another company that doesn’t. I can guarantee you that most startups do not have health insurance, let alone any other benefits. One thing is for sure: if you are starting your own company, you are going to try to keep your costs low by not providing benefits. This is a problem for business owners now, and also future entrepreneurs, who will start to second guess turning their idea into a business.

Being a founder or employee of a startup is both nerve-wracking and thrilling at the same time. There are many restless all-nighters that come with extreme highs and lows, but these companies are vital for our country on many fronts.

Have you been a part of a startup in any aspect? I would love to hear some of your stories! You can leave a comment below or catch me on Twitter.

Selfie: Branding on Instagram

I’ll be honest. There are plenty of articles on Instagram out there. If you’re curious about how many times you can take a picture of your dog before someone wants to throttle you, you’re set. Google it and you’ll have the basics of Instagram etiquette. The problem is that no one explains how a business should behave on Instagram. And trust me, your business needs to be on Instagram.

What is Instagram?

Let’s back up a minute. Instagram is a social media tool. It’s a free app you can use on Android and iPhone platforms at the moment. Unlike other social media, it’s less about words and more about pictures. People typically post snapshots of their lives and share them with friends and followers. Others can like those pictures and leave comments on them. If you’re familiar with Twitter (using hashtags and following interesting people), you’ll be comfortable with Instagram.

How is it good for business?

So what does this have to do with your business? Well, you should already have a general understanding of the benefits of Instagram, but let’s review. Instagram has more than 15 million active users on it right now. Those users aren’t just looking at each other’s cat pictures; they’re researching. Does a trip to Paris actually look fun? How does that water filter look in a real house? Is the food at the local Greek restaurant appetizing? With the world at their fingertips, consumers are doing a lot more research at this point. So, you need to wow them before they even get near your store. And more importantly, you need to let them see your branding quickly and easily.

Step One: Have a theme

Before you start converting those followers into customers, you need to know the basic protocol here. When you start an Instagram account, try your best to tie it into your other social media. If you’re Bob’s Jerky Shack on Facebook, then you are BobsJerkyShack on Instagram. Don’t make people hunt for you. Since you’re Bob’s Jerky Shop, you should probably focus your Instagram theme on jerky. Get a picture of your shop and use it for your profile picture. Follow people who are also in the jerky business. When someone visits your Instagram profile, they shouldn’t be confused by a lot of dog pictures.

Step Two: Picture do’s and don’ts

Speaking of dog pictures, don’t do that. Unless you have dog as a store mascot, keep your greyhound out of your pictures. This is about your business—you can get a personal account. Also, avoid using stock photos or screen caps. People don’t want to see a picture off of the website, they can get that on any other social media. Even worse, do not “borrow” (i.e. steal) other people’s pictures. It is the height of bad taste.

What should you be taking pictures of? Your business, but not just shots of what you’re selling and prices for them. People are on Instagram to see interesting, striking shots. They can get a marketing picture of beef jerky anywhere. Show them pictures of your store, your staff and interesting things around your shop. Do you have a big moose statue in the middle of your sales floor? Take a picture of it and explain why it’s there. And then tag it, so people know where they can see this crazy moose. If the businesses around yours have interesting qualities, that’s more photos you can capture. Then you can find out if those businesses have Instagram accounts and you can tag them, hopefully leading to some cross-promotion between you and your neighbors.

And this should go without saying, but I will say it: keep it professional. Also, do not spam people. This can take many forms—from liking every picture you see to begging for likes and follows. It will have the opposite effect you want, I promise you. People will like you if you’re interesting, so just be yourself! See, mom was right.

Step Three: Be social

While you’re being yourself, also be social. This is social media, after all. Follow leaders in your brand and engage with them. If they have a really sweet picture of a beef jerky waterfall, like the picture and comment on it. Find people that might be interested in your brand, start following them and engage with them as much as possible, but keep it honest. If people or brand leaders don’t follow you back, don’t sweat it. After you gain some momentum on Instagram, they’ll come back. If someone is starting to spam you—or connect your brand with uncomfortable topics—then you have my permission to unfollow.

In closing, follow the competition and learn. Take some risks. Maybe every picture won’t be directly about your store, and that’s okay. People that see you as a satisfying and original source of content will reward you with follows and comments. And that is worth a thousand marketing words. Next week, I’ll be talking about hashtags, and how to use trending topics to help your brand.

Twitter Optimization

Twitter Optimization

Twitter is a great tool for brands’ to use to engage potential customers, but are you using this social media platform to its fullest? Twitter optimization is critical to ensure your tweets are relevant for your audience. Get the word out to a wider audience and make sure that you’re tweets are being seen using some of these quick tips to improve your social media marketing. It’s one thing to use social media, but it’s another thing to do it the right way. What other tips do you have for using Twitter for business?