Small Business Website Design and Hosting Essentials

Everybody knows their small business needs a web presence today. But what are the essentials? What style site do you need? What about SEO and SMM and CMS and other acronyms? Here is a simple Top Ten list of website requirements for success today:

  1. A clear, concise description of your business: You need to grab your visitor in the first 2 or 3 seconds. Be Clear, Concise and Compelling.
  2. A simple, easy-to-remember and easy-to-type web domain: ideally, a .com URL omitting hyphens and unusual spellings if possible as these are stumbling blocks to potential visitors.
  3. Easy to follow navigation: an navigation scheme with top level sections and sub-sections as needed, typically a navigation bar at the top with your main sections and dropdowns for your sub-sections.
  4. Contact Info! Make it easy for folks to contact you with contact info in the footer and a contact us page with phone, email, physical address, and any other pertinent information. Set your email to your domain so potential customers can easily remember it and associate it with you (example: me@mydomain.com rather than me@gmail.com).
  5. Fresh, high quality content: keep your site updated regularly so it’s always fresh; a blog can help immensely in keeping fresh content on the homepage.
  6. Attention-grabbing design fitting your subject area: a tourism site, for instance, should feature photo galleries of key destinations, a photographer’s site a rich gallery of sample work, and a manufacturer’s site aiming at online sales product info, photos, and easy way to purchase
  7. Reliable, secure hosting: it’s easy to get web hosting for $10 or less per month these days, but how reliable is the host? how readily available to service your needs? how flexible in their offerings? I offer my clients a hosting plus support package tailored to their needs, so that they have guaranteed time each month for their special requirements at a reduced rate.
  8. SEO (Search Engine Optimization): website elements that help drive search engines to find your site, including keywords, alt and title tags, inbound links, and social media.
  9. SMM (Social Media Marketing) or just “Social”: your social media connections, from Facebook to Twitter and LinkedIn to Tumblr.
  10. CMS (Content Management System): you need a CMS that facilitates easy and flexible site maintenance, whether you edit the site yourself, have a webmaster or even team to manage the site, or a combination. There are many platforms available today, but the most versatile and simple to use for a small business is a WordPress site.

I will address these issues in more detail future posts.

7 Tips for Creating Your Company’s Social Media Policy

Social Media can be a Blessing

For small business owners, social media can be both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, having a social media presence can expand a business’s reach for relatively little cost. One or two well-crafted (and well-timed) posts on your company’s Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest feeds each day, along with some genuine engagement with your fans or followers, could be the difference between staying relevant with your customer or client base and losing ground to your more tech-savvy competitors.

Social Media can be a Curse

On the other hand, without a proper strategy and some clearly defined guidelines for posting and interacting on social media sites, a business runs the risk of harming its reputation and exposing itself to a host of legal issues and embarrassment. As anyone familiar with the now-infamous Facebook meltdown by the owners of Amy’s Baking Company after a less-than-successful filming of Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares can attest, that is a very real possibility.

Social Media Policy is Essential

So for the small business that maintains a blog or allows its employees to post social media updates on behalf of the company, a good social media policy is an essential tool for protecting the company’s employees and its interests.

socialmediapolicyThe policy doesn’t have to be full of a bunch of legal jargon. It doesn’t even have to be called a “policy.” Call it “social media best practices” or “guidelines for social media activity,” if you prefer. Whatever you call it, certain items should be addressed so that your employees have a clear understanding about the expectations and potential pitfalls of representing the company online.

Here are some things to think about when drafting your company’s social media policy:

1. CONSISTENCY

Be consistent about your expectations, regardless of the social tools that are available. What I mean by that is this: whether your employees are writing blog posts, interacting with followers on Twitter, posting updates on the company’s Facebook and Google+ pages, or posting promos on Pinterest, be sure to set clear rules about the kinds of content they can share and how to respond to customer inquiries and complaints. The last thing you want is an off-color, unprofessional or disrespectful post going viral and bringing your company’s reputation down with it.

2. CONFIDENTIALITY

Emphasize the need to protect confidential information. It should go without saying that employees should not disclose the company’s trade secrets or proprietary information, or reveal any of the company’s internal strategies or other types of confidential matters.

3. INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY

Respect the intellectual property rights of others. If your employees are using images, videos or other third party content in their social media posts and blogs, unless permission has been previously granted by the intellectual property owner or an exception applies, written approval should be obtained from the third party.

4. DISCLOSURES

Include disclosures consistent with Federal Trade Commission rules. If your company offers freebies, cash, or other compensation in exchange for positive reviews, endorsements or mentions, the existence of that relationship must be disclosed in the post. This also applies if you encourage your employees to promote the company on their own blogs and personal social network accounts.

5. CAUTION

Take care when utilizing social media to screen potential job applicants. Employers can lawfully use certain information obtained from social media searches when making hiring decisions, such as illegal drug use, a poor work ethic, or misrepresentations about a person’s background and qualifications. However, information related to state and federal civil rights laws must be treated very carefully and should not enter into any hiring decisions. Among these “protected characteristics” are race, gender, religion, national origin, age, disability and sexual orientation.

6. PROVIDE TRAINING

Provide training to your employees on the acceptable use of social media. The more your employees know about the do’s and don’ts of social media engagement, the better equipped they’ll be to promote the company online in a responsible and valuable way.

7. DESIGNATE GATEKEEPERS

Designate key individuals as social media gatekeepers. In this way, a trusted team will be in place to answer any questions and address any concerns presented by employees, customers or clients. The team should also keep up with social media trends and other developments so that the company’s policy can be reviewed and updated as needed.

EMBRACE

Far from being an afterthought in a company’s marketing strategy, social media is becoming the great equalizer for small businesses looking to maintain visibility and compete in the Internet age.

So rather than forbid your employees from accessing and posting on social media on behalf of your company, why not embrace their participation by giving them guidance and a clear set of rules so that everyone, from the employees to the company, are better protected in the process.

Creating a social media policy is a good place to start. Here is a database of 246 social media policies to give you an idea what other companies are using.

Brian M Mekdsy Law On-Line

Facebook Advertising Options that will Amaze You!

Facebook Advertising can work, if you consider it part of your marketing strategy. For a product or service launch, for example, Facebook advertising should be a part of your promotion, but not the whole shebang. Word of Mouth is probably still the biggest promoter 😉

However, Facebook advertising should be in every businesses toolbox!

Here are a few of Facebook’s advanced options that will give you the best bang for your advertising dollar.

Power Editor

There is an area in Facebook called the Power Editor. Once logged into Facebook, just go to facebook.com/powereditor. If you have never run an ad of any kind, you might not see the Power Editor until you create an ad. It’s a little clumsy getting around in that area at first but the possibilities are powerful.

I’ll be covering Power Editor in the BVCC 2 hour advertising seminar coming up September 18th. It’s at the BVCC office or virtual, so well worth the $49 for chamber members, or $69 for non-members. And it will be recorded for you.

Custom Audience

You can upload your own customer email list to Facebook and your list will be compared to their database. A custom audience is created, unique to your account, to reach out to those same people on Facebook. So you can target them both in your email and on Facebook. It’s said to take 12-16 touchpoints for a person to take action.

When I uploaded my FBSmarty email list, Facebook was able to get an 80% match. That’s more than I anticipated!

Similar or Lookalike Audience

Taking that custom audience you just created, you can now have Facebook create a Similar audience so you can reach a whole new batch of people with the same personality, activities, locations, etc. as your list!

similaraudience500

Partner Categories

This is where we can target databases of partners outside of Facebook and combine that with our Custom or Lookalike audiences. As an example, what if you wanted to target farmers, or management, or homemakers? That’s one of hundreds of options.

partner-1

How about targeting Purchase Propensity. Here’s their data on people likely to buy a new vehicle!

purchasepropensity

These are features that used to be available only for big money advertisers. Facebook has made this available to all of us.

What Kind of Budget do I Need?

There really is no minimum or maximum. You can set it for a day or a lifetime campaign budget.

As an example of a campaign I am running right now, we are spending $10 a day until October 20th for our CommunicateFullCircle course being offered. And here is a picture of the demographics we have chosen for this targeted campaign. These will change frequently during the campaign but we are starting with this.

demoforonead

Boosting

You can also choose to simply click on the Boost button on your Facebook page under a post. That option allows you to increase the reach of that post significantly but it is not as powerful as choosing your criteria in the ‘back-end’.

For more information on Social Media Techniques, sign up for our newsletter. We send out tips every week. Easy to absorb tips for your small business.

Michelle Fontaine
FBSmarty and Social Media by Michelle

Enhancing Your Online Presence with Chambermaster Member Features

Have you taken the time to log into your member account with the Blackstone Valley Chamber of Commerce to update your member info and take advantage of the new marketing features that are now available thanks to our new Chambermaster integration? If you are a Chamber member, you should have received an email with your login username and password. This is your key to unlocking a host of new marketing features to empower you to enhance your online presence with Chambermaster Member Features.

First Step: Login to Your Member Account

To access your member account, go to www.blackstonevalley.org and click Manage Membership in the left column under Membership Info. This takes you to the login page. Enter your username (your registered email address) and password and hit Submit. If you know your username but forgot your password, click the Forgot Password link; if you don’t know your membership login, please send us an email requesting your login. This opens the Member Dashboard.

Dashboard

Here you will see a number of broad options: your Profile, upcoming Events, Share (where you can view or create Events, Hot Deals and other items), and What’s New. We will focus on your Profile.

At the top of the page you’ll see a navigation bar with multiple options: Account (drop down menu: your company’s listed members or “reps”; your personal info; your login and password which you can edit; and payment options for any outstanding invoices you have with the Chamber); Profile (summary, company info, web info, photos and logos, etc.); Search (quick links to current events, hot deals, member to member deals, news releases and more); Share (where you can create your own hot deals, member to member deals, events, etc., subject to Chamber approval before appearing on the website); and Reports.

Profile

Chambermaster has enabled the Chamber to offer several new ways to promote your business online. When you click open the Profile bar on the Dashboard (member account homepage), you will see a snapshot of your profile status: percentage completed, your logo if uploaded, and your summary description. You can update your profile by clicking the Update Profile button or by selecting a drop down menu item from the Profile link in the navigation bar.

Your Profile is divided into four sections: Organization Info, Webpage Info, Map Pin Info, and Photos & Logos, plus Membership Badge (a bit of code you can place on your website to proclaim your membership in the Chamber).

Organization Info

The main section here is all your Contact Info: company name, phone numbers, website, and address, plus the date of establishment, number of employees, etc. This way you can make needed changes as needed without waiting for the Chamber staff to make them for you, and you have the opportunity to include more info than before.

Web Page Content

Here you can include additional info about your company and site, such as URL text, your website URL, complete site description, a brief description called “Results Summary” which displays in search results, bulleted list of key points, keywords, driving directions, and more.

Social Media Marketing Especially important is the added benefit of listing your LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter accounts for Social Media Marketing. And you can connect your Chamber membership to your Facebook

Map Pin Info

Here you specify your physical location on Google maps with a map pin, address, uploaded image, logo, and/or other items. Put your business on the map!

Photos & Logos

This may be the most exciting feature of all! You can now add your company logo (max size 150×100), a smaller logo as a search results icon (75×75), and a Member Page Header (max size 550×150: Note, the default max size is 800 wide, but that will break the Chamber page layout, so it’s far better to limit your page header to 550 wide).

But that’s not all! You can also create a Member Photo Gallery and/or a YouTube Video embedding to further enhance your brand on the Chamber site.

Well, that the thumbnail guide to your Member Profile. As you can see, there’s a wealth of new features you can use to promote your brand. Next time I will discuss setting up Hot Deals and Member to Member Deals.

Marketing in the Blackstone Valley – What’s Working?

How can you get in front of your customers today now that traditional marketing has been turned upside-down and inside-out?

Jay Baer has just published a book called Youtility. Jay is a thought leader in the social media world and he’s a real no-bull kind of guy. I like his down-to-earth, easy to absorb style. And every business needs to know what is working in marketing today.

Three Marketing Awareness Categories

Top of Mind – This is very traditional and pretty ineffective unless you’ve got a huge budget and can come up with an amazing campaign.

Please Hear Me!

In this category falls television, radio and media purchased with the hope that the client’s desired audience is listening or watching the commercial when it appears on their screen or blasts through the speakers.

Just how effective do you think this is for a small business? Unless you’ve got a budget like Geico (think Gecco) or Progressive (think Flo) or even Dish (think Hopper) and combine this tactic with many others including social media and mobile applications, I wouldn’t do it.

Frame of Mind – This has been around for a long-time. It means when your desired target wants to find you, they can. The Yellow Pages is a great traditional example of this. Google searches also fall into this category. Printed directories? Does anyone use them?

phonebook

As marketers, of course we want to place strongly on Google. For a consumer, what could possibly replace the #1 way we search?

Well, if you’ve got an iphone you should know Siri, right? Siri (and voice technology) could well be the “trojan-horse” that knocks Google off that pedestal as #1 in search! When you are on your mobile device, it’s a whole lot easier to press that button and talk to Siri then open your browser and do a search on that tiny screen.

Before we discuss the third category, think about your personal buying habits. If you are starting to research a upcoming purchase, what steps will you take?

  • Start asking your friends, off and on-line. On Facebook you’d put it out as a question. “Looking for a new television. There are so many kinds out there. any recommendations?”
  • Once you have some recommendation, perhaps including Smart TVs, you would Google for more information.
  • Consumers are very educated which effectively changes the job description of a salesperson from one who can make cold calls and close sales to one who needs to answer critical questions from educated consumers quickly, efficiently and in a friendly manner as soon as they appear on the radar. That moment now often happens when they are ready to purchase or have such specific questions they need to talk to a person. So sales has become awesome customer service!
  • According to Social Habit, among Americans who use social media, more than 30% say social media has driven the actual purchase.

Next, open your Facebook personal profile. Look down the newsfeed. These are choices that you have made. Likely you’ll see friends you know, virtual friends you don’t physically know and brands you have chosen to follow. And if you don’t engage with those brand pages (meaning you don’t Like, Comment or Share), then Facebook stops showing them to you.

That is the utopia goal for a brand. To be selectively chosen to be in a person’s social media newsfeed and have them interact with you. So, with that thought in mind, HERE is the third type of marketing.

Friends of Mine! – Jay Baer coins this third, real-time, type perfectly. He summarizes the three Awareness categories:

Top-of-mind awareness is an overripe banana, tenuously clinging to relevancy. Frame-of-mind awareness is an apple, worthy of eating, but not enough to sustain you.

Luckily, colossal shifts in how, where, and why consumers access information have made a new, third marketing method possible.

I call this friend-of-mine awareness, and it’s predicated on the reality that companies are competing against real people for the attention of other real people!”

socialSo, my small business friends here in the Blackstone Valley and beyond, if you want to be in front of your customers, incorporate Friend-of-Mine strategies. This means becoming friends with your target audience. Of course, physically networking as our friends here are doing at a Chamber event works well but how many people can we physically do that with? Be sure to include Social Media in your marketing strategies!

My business, Social Media by Michelle, aka FBSmarty, focuses on teaching strategies to do just that.Sign up for my free weekly blog here for easy-to-absorb tactics.

Hope to see you at the next Blackstone Valley Chamber of Commerce event or in virtual land!

Michelle Fontaine