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September 2013

How to Keep Your Online Store Interactive

 by sinan on 30 Sep 2013 |
No Comment
If you spend any significant amount of time in the world of ecommerce, you’ll get to know the buzzword: “interactivity.” That’s because having a successful website means having customers who consistently peruse, browse, shop, and in all other ways interact with your products and content. If you don’t have a contingent of regular visitors doing this, then your site is already failing at its primary purpose. So to address the point directly, how to keep visitors engaged? Well, it helps to ask yourself a few questions: Are you regularly updating your landing pages? What about your blog? Are you keeping up with comments from your engaged readers and prospects? How helpful is your support staff? Do you have a live chat option? If you answer "No" to any of these questions, it's time to jump on the ball and get it rolling! Keeping Customers Engaged One of the most essential elements of any successful online store is that interactivity, in other words giving customers the opportunity to connect with real people. In this case: You. If your customers aren’t receiving this basic service, you can be sure that they will take their traffic, (and all the accompanying conversions) elsewhere. They will quickly become a part of the "45 Second" category of people. The ones who only briefly visit your ecommerce site. Usually, they’ll stay for less than a minute and then leave, never to return again. And since we know that you wish to draw your viewers in to become loyal and regular customers, it's important to keep your store interactive and engaging, which is easier to do than you might expect. Interaction is based on the simple principal of creating action between two or more people. You can easily do this by: Becoming an expert in your niche Creating authentic and insightful Content Staying active within your targeted Social Networks Writing engaging Product Descriptions and Reviews Producing and managing captivating Sales Campaigns Sending Coupons and Discount Codes to encourage repeat visits Requesting Testimonials and Referrals from Satisfied Customers Creating "Best Seller", "Now Trending" and "Most Popular" categories Providing a Live Online Chat service so that your customers can get help instantly Producing detailed feedback and post-sales surveys that encourage customer participation Most of these are part of the "little" details that are looked at as unnecessary extras, when in fact despite their simplicity, they’re quite necessary for any digital store front that truly wants to sustain a meaningful income from its online business. Customer interaction can also been seen as an external marketing practice. These kinds of things are achieved through third party blogs and forums. Think of them as opportunities to flex your "helper" muscle and gain fresh new customers directly, while simultaneously feeding them into the lifecycle of loyalty and referrals. Getting Customer Feedback Most of the essential tasks listed above can easily be taken care of with new applications and technologies that help you leverage your time and budget. Qualaroo is one of our favorite feedback apps. It’s a simple program that you can copy and paste right into your website, where it will become an interactive pop-up menu that encourages viewers to leave you feedback about their experience on your website. Such information can be vital in the process of understanding how to be everything you customers need you to be. ServiceKick is another amazing resource for online shop owners like us, who need some assistance getting testimonials without feeling like we have to squeeze the water out of rocks in order to get them from our current customers. Similarly, Ashop's built in newsletter system is a great way to deliver this testimonial request. Just set an Autoresponder to 20 days after an order so it gets to every customer at the exact right time. This can be an especially powerful strategy, because consumers often trust the feedback of other consumers far more than any sales or advertising pitch you can provide them with. So it works on two levels. First, you get to determine which of your customers are the most interested in you and your brand, because if they weren’t they’d have never responded to your request for a review. And second, you get positive feedback that you can post as a testimonial promoting your site. Another even quicker trick you can use to enable your customers to provide you with feedback is allowing them to review your products with a click. Much like you would rate a movie on Netflix with 4 out of 5 stars, you can implement similar functionality for your product pages. This will allow your customers to review public opinion about your products at a glance. And the easier you make things on your customers, the more they’ll appreciate your efforts. Putting all of these disparate factors together will aid you in your most important endeavor, creating an interactive space that keeps customers committed to taking actions and eventually leading to conversions. Anything that keeps a customer’s attention and puts you in a position to capitalize on their interest is a worthy addition to your site. So keep your eyes and mind open for any blossoming trends that can be used to your advantage, and always work to make the desired customer actions easy to find on your web page.   

The Importance of Visual Content in Marketing

 by zack on 20 Sep 2013 |
No Comment
So here’s the deal. Text is boring to most people. It’s necessary, but ultimately very boring for the billions of visually inclined consumers spread throughout the globe. Whitepapers were once the top method of gaining mass conversions. However, sales letters and the like are quickly being marginalized in favor of videos, infographics, pictures, cinemagraphs, and so forth.  Using the more diverse and attractive visual medium to market your online business is an obvious next step for most ecommerce entrepreneurs. And I’m not just talking about embedding a welcome message on your web page; oh no. there is a wide variety of visual content, and an even more diverse amount of ways to utilize it in your marketing strategy. First, it’s necessary to further illustrate the fervor around the visual phenomenon. Nearly 9/10 of internet browsers aged 18 to 34 watch some sort of video based content on a weekly basis, and most of us in the younger “Generation Y” category try to get our video fix on a daily basis. Can you say: “exploitable and advantageous data”? I’ll bet you can. So the question becomes: how do I grab some of that precious attention and turn it into engagement with my product? Glad you asked. The secret is to understand what your audience wants, more specifically what they want from you. In many cases, it’s to be left alone. So you’ve got some branding work to do. This of course boils down to what you normally do when delivering quality content. Provide interesting, entertaining, and educational information through an effective visual medium. So again, it substrates down to who are my customers, and how can I provide solutions to their needs? To find the answers to these questions you should take some time to understand the different learning types that are out there. Mainly, there are auditory, kinesthetic, and visual learners. Or to put it another way: Let them hear about something, let them do something, and show them something. Of these three learning types, visual is by far the most prominent. People learn best by example. Monkey see monkey do, right? Visual Media Marketing Methodology So what do you do with your visually inclined learners? Deliver the type of media that best reaches visual learners in a specific way. Basically you’ll be presenting information to your audience in an engaging, entertaining, and educational manner. You want to empower your customers to make informed decisions. The more educated a consumer is about your products, the more they will appreciate the work you put into your business. There are several ways you can go about this: Tell a story- Use your visual content to draw a narrative around your product. A clever or intriguing storyline can help your customers connect with your company and see it as an organic structure with a personality, rather than a cold and uncaring corporate monstrosity. Show examples- Illustrate your words with examples of what you’re talking about. Graphs, charts, and visual expressions of relevant data are invaluable tools for informing consumers. Explain how to do something-How to information is some of the most sought after online material. People crave autonomy, and there are entire communities springing up around DIY projects. Become a valuable resource for this kind of info and your site’s content will quickly become a widely traded commodity. Explain how something works-Ever read an infographic? ‘Nuff said. Types of Visual Media Content So now that you know about the different ways of using your visual content, it might be a good time to go over which kinds of content you could use to further your marketing efforts. Video This is the granddaddy of all visual content. In case you hadn’t heard, there’s this neat site called YouTube, and it’s probably going to replace your television soon. YouTube advertising pays big dividends, but uploading your own content which entertains your customers, and promotes your products is doubly effective. How-to information and tutorials are highly recommended for this medium. Infographics Who doesn’t love a good infographic? I love infographics so much, I decided to include an infographic about the effectiveness of infographics. And this kind of reminds me of that Xzibit meme… Memes Memes are these funny little visual posters that have a recognizable character along with some accompanying text that follows a theme. You’ve got things like Insanity Wolf, Bad Luck Bryan, Overly Attached Girlfriend, and so on. These are virally popular pictures that are shared across a large variety of online communities. Proper placement of a correctly used meme can be both humorous and effective in getting your message across. Comics/cartoons Just because Bill Waterson won’t let you use Calvin and Hobbes to sell anything doesn’t mean you should give up on comic strips altogether. Funny cartoons are more prevalent now than they’ve ever been, and they can be an extremely effective way of creating buzz around your brand. Cinemagraphs These are like an artsy amalgamation of motion picture and still life photography. This often hypnotic genre of visual content usually consists of a stagnant picture, perhaps of a landscape, with a subtle bit of animation involved, like a flowing river for example. Check it out. These are easy enough to do yourself, and there are tons of online tutorials on how to make them, as well as many online communities dedicated to helping you hone the craft. They can give a moody and aesthetically pleasing appeal to any visual content marketing campaign. Gif Properly pronounced like the peanut butter brand rather than another word for present, these tiny animated files are good for a repetitious bit of humorous fun. Including these short, repeating, animated clips adds a dynamic element to your content that’s definitely worth exploring. Instagram You know you can advertise here now? This gigantic photo sharing social network is beloved by foodies, hipsters, and fake photographers of all colors and creeds. But to keep it cool and not so corporate, you can only directly advertise in the search and browse options. However, if you have a company account, you can share all sorts of relevant photos that explain, or show something interesting about your business.  With over 150 million users, it’s probably  a good idea to at least experiment with this interesting social network.   So now that you have a good idea of what to do, and how to do it, it’s time to quit reading and start creating. Remember to use visual content to its greatest effect by using the best medium specific to your brand. Inform, educate, and above all engage with your customers through their favorite form of visual content, and you’re sure to snag some more conversions.   

Tracking Social Media ROI Part 3

 by zack on 13 Sep 2013 |
No Comment
Hello and welcome to the final installment of the Ashop blog’s post series on tracking the Return on Investment on your social media efforts. In our first two posts we discussed the kinds of metrics that best reflect social ROI, as well as the best methods and tools for finding it. Today, we’re going to switch gears a bit, and talk about some of the best ways to improve you social returns. Improving Social ROI is all about effective content marketing which has three main pillars of success. Relevant and effective content Consumer Engagement Cohesive and cooperative strategy. Content Marketing The content that you provide for your various social media outlets should first work to align your brand with the goals and expectations of your audience. Second, it should explain the beneficial nature of something that your business does. Finally, if at all possible your content should always intrigue and incite your audience into traveling further down the sales funnel. Even if it’s only a step or two. This final point is the most important, yet somewhat less tangible than the first two. Drawing people into your sales funnel, doesn’t mean you need to convert a blog reader into a lead, or a lead into a subscriber. It means advancing your brand in any way possible to any degree possible. This can be something as simple as educating your audience as to your services and your online presence. As long as you’re staying active and positive within their spheres of attention, your content is doing its job, and will eventually show up in your social ROI metrics. This is partly why many companies and marketers have such difficulty in seeing social media as a measurable activity. Because often the results of the relationships you build through content marketing on social media platforms won’t become visible or measurable for quite some time. This being the case, it’s very difficult to say what kind of impact social media efforts will have long term. Because social media marketing is going on concurrently with all of your other more immediate marketing efforts, it can be quite difficult to nail down a specific boost in sales or profit margin as a direct result of a single social campaign. While these results can occasionally be obvious, (in such cases as promoting a specific coupon code through a single social network) they are often more subtle. This is because your shared content is always working to expand your brand, even when you’re not necessarily looking. Once a good piece of content is posted, it gets passed around and shared by your followers. Many may look at the content, and simply keep the information contained therein in mind for use at a later date. Then, after seeing multiple pieces of content that all grab their attention, they begin to warm to the idea of purchasing from your online store. Think of effective content marketing like an avalanche. It doesn’t start as anything but a single snowflake that’s trying to gather momentum. Slow at first, the flake eventually becomes a ball, and then it gets rolling. Eventually, there comes a tipping point, and the whole snow drift is in motion. In the same way, you may grab a visitor’s attention with a single post. He or she might think of the post haphazardly, or bring it up in a conversation with a friend. Once they’ve been reminded, they’ll revisit your page, and begin to take your brand more seriously. At a certain point, the visitor becomes a follower, and the momentum gets going. The follower becomes a buyer, and then spreads positive word about your brand. They share your content, and become return business, drawing other visitors into your sales funnel with their enthusiasm. Eventually a single piece of content that an individual visitor made a connection to can be responsible for a large contingent of conversions for your site. And unfortunately, you’ll never truly be able to measure that effect, or track it back to its original source except in aggregate. But that is why we spent the last two posts talking about the right metrics to measure and how best to measure them. Because social media marketing is so elusive, it’s important to find the most comprehensive ways possible to measure online activity that results directly from content shared across social networks. Consumer Engagement The second aspect of social media marketing is consumer engagement. We touched on this a bit in the last section already. This objective is the true key to social media success. By building relationships with consumers, you can ensure their engagement with your brand. Asking and answering questions, promoting interactivity, and simply participating in conversations with your customers will undoubtedly increase your social media ROI. This point can’t be overemphasized.  People crave interaction. Social media suits humanity because we are social creatures. Even the most devout introvert can’t truly thrive in isolation. We all innately long for attention, adoration, and the interest of our fellow man. As a seller and an online presence, you have the ability to provide all of that coveted social value to anyone who walks into your corner of the internet. By doing so, you not only earn yourself conversions, but your make a difference in individual lives. By engaging customers, in a small way you provide for them a sort of purpose. They have something to do because you’ve asked them a direct question. For a brief moment, their attention is entirely focused on the conversation that you’re having, and they’re usually enjoying the distraction. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be involved in the first place. I don’t mean to romanticize this largely impersonal business relationship that you’ll form with your online followers. Rather, I’m trying to paint you a picture of what the perfect buyer/seller arrangement can be. People are bored, they browse online to be educated, entertained, and engaged. If you can provide any or all of those objectives for them, gratitude is sure to follow. Gratitude is a powerful emotion that can be translated to profits in very short order. Online commerce isn’t just you convincing people to part with their money. It’s building a measure of trust between yourself and other individuals, allowing the natural human instinct of barter and trade to take place in a mutually beneficial fashion. Cohesive and Cooperative Strategy The final caveat to improving your social media ROI is effective strategy. Many marketers treat social media marketing like a different animal altogether. They isolate their online presences and fail to recognize the benefit of cohesion across platforms. Because social media ROI is difficult to nail down, it becomes an exercise in isolated strategy. “Let’s tweak this facet of our Facebook marketing to see if it’s more effective than such and such strategy that we’ve employed elsewhere. “ This kind of experimentation can be very helpful. However, it’s important to note that when all of your marketing efforts are working toward the same goal, you’re more apt to get the best results. The ideas of social relationships and consumer engagement we just discussed translate nicely to the business end of things as well. You want your social marketing efforts to be working together as a united force in order to achieve the best results. Just like people, marketing efforts work best when used in conjunction with one another. If you write a blog with good SEO, you’ll get more attention by promoting it on Twitter. Special advance notice offers included in your newsletters can and should be promoted after the fact across your social media accounts. But most importantly, the people working on campaigns that are specific to certain social media platforms need to be in constant communication with one another. You want to be the many parts of the same body, all performing individual jobs that work toward one purpose.  The key to doing this is simple organizational cohesion. So establish effective modes of communication within your organization and listen to the input that you get from your coworkers. Together, you’ll achieve far more than you ever could separately. Actionable Practices to Increase Social ROI   By following the outline presented in the above ideas, you’ll create a powerful and effective online presence, a large contingent of social media followers, and an efficient strategy for reaching them. However, when it comes down to specifics you might still need a few easily duplicable practices to help you get started. So take a look at the following list and try to decide on the best courses of action for your online store’s specific strategy. No spam- Be careful how often you schedule your posts. You don’t want to oversaturate your follower’s feeds with constant updates. Try to keep a steady flow at predictable intervals Coupons-Always promote coupons with your social media accounts. We’ve mentioned this one a lot in this series, and that’s because it’s a seriously effective tactic. Geo-Targeting with Twitter- Twitter allows you to target followers specifically by region. Mine this data, and use it to your advantage with region specific promotions. Join/Start Groups on LinkedIn- Groups allow you to intermingle with other LinkedIn users, despite the fact that you aren’t directly connected to them. If you join groups that are relevant to your niche, you can promote deals to their members. Know the Differences Between Pages and Profiles-Facebook and LinkedIn have Profiles for individual users and Pages for businesses. Make sure you start a Page not a Profile. Be Patient-Rome wasn’t built in a day. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t see immediate results from your social marketing campaigns. Remember the avalanche metaphor. Use Embedded Buttons to Easily Share Your Content-All of your content should have a “Tweet” or “Share” button so that viewers can quickly repost/retweet/re-blog/re-pin / etc. your content. No Hard Selling-There’s a time and a place for everything. Don’t send a sales letter over your social networks. People don’t appreciate the hard sells when they are trying to browse for helpful or informative content. Share other people’s content- Share and share alike, right? Spreading other people’s content helps establish you as a helpful resource, and engenders gratitude on the part of the original poster. You remember how effective a motivator gratitude can be, don’t you? Don’t be afraid to repost-You’re allowed to repost your own content. It doesn’t matter if it’s old, so long as it’s still relevant. Not everybody saw it the first time, so put it up again. Just be careful not to overuse the same piece. That will border on the edge of spamming. That’s it for our post series on Social media ROI. Hopefully, you’ve learned some useful practices to take with along with you. As always if you have any questions about this or any other ecommerce practice, keep it glued to the Ashop blog, where we take pride in providing you with helpful information to advance your online store’s goals. 

Tracking Social Media ROI Part 3

 by zack on 13 Sep 2013 |
No Comment
Hello and welcome to the final installment of the Ashop blog’s post series on tracking the Return on Investment on your social media efforts. In our first two posts we discussed the kinds of metrics that best reflect social ROI, as well as the best methods and tools for finding it. Today, we’re going to switch gears a bit, and talk about some of the best ways to improve you social returns. Improving Social ROI is all about effective content marketing which has three main pillars of success. Relevant and effective content Consumer Engagement Cohesive and cooperative strategy. Content Marketing The content that you provide for your various social media outlets should first work to align your brand with the goals and expectations of your audience. Second, it should explain the beneficial nature of something that your business does. Finally, if at all possible your content should always intrigue and incite your audience into traveling further down the sales funnel. Even if it’s only a step or two. This final point is the most important, yet somewhat less tangible than the first two. Drawing people into your sales funnel, doesn’t mean you need to convert a blog reader into a lead, or a lead into a subscriber. It means advancing your brand in any way possible to any degree possible. This can be something as simple as educating your audience as to your services and your online presence. As long as you’re staying active and positive within their spheres of attention, your content is doing its job, and will eventually show up in your social ROI metrics. This is partly why many companies and marketers have such difficulty in seeing social media as a measurable activity. Because often the results of the relationships you build through content marketing on social media platforms won’t become visible or measurable for quite some time. This being the case, it’s very difficult to say what kind of impact social media efforts will have long term. Because social media marketing is going on concurrently with all of your other more immediate marketing efforts, it can be quite difficult to nail down a specific boost in sales or profit margin as a direct result of a single social campaign. While these results can occasionally be obvious, (in such cases as promoting a specific coupon code through a single social network) they are often more subtle. This is because your shared content is always working to expand your brand, even when you’re not necessarily looking. Once a good piece of content is posted, it gets passed around and shared by your followers. Many may look at the content, and simply keep the information contained therein in mind for use at a later date. Then, after seeing multiple pieces of content that all grab their attention, they begin to warm to the idea of purchasing from your online store. Think of effective content marketing like an avalanche. It doesn’t start as anything but a single snowflake that’s trying to gather momentum. Slow at first, the flake eventually becomes a ball, and then it gets rolling. Eventually, there comes a tipping point, and the whole snow drift is in motion. In the same way, you may grab a visitor’s attention with a single post. He or she might think of the post haphazardly, or bring it up in a conversation with a friend. Once they’ve been reminded, they’ll revisit your page, and begin to take your brand more seriously. At a certain point, the visitor becomes a follower, and the momentum gets going. The follower becomes a buyer, and then spreads positive word about your brand. They share your content, and become return business, drawing other visitors into your sales funnel with their enthusiasm. Eventually a single piece of content that an individual visitor made a connection to can be responsible for a large contingent of conversions for your site. And unfortunately, you’ll never truly be able to measure that effect, or track it back to its original source except in aggregate. But that is why we spent the last two posts talking about the right metrics to measure and how best to measure them. Because social media marketing is so elusive, it’s important to find the most comprehensive ways possible to measure online activity that results directly from content shared across social networks. Consumer Engagement The second aspect of social media marketing is consumer engagement. We touched on this a bit in the last section already. This objective is the true key to social media success. By building relationships with consumers, you can ensure their engagement with your brand. Asking and answering questions, promoting interactivity, and simply participating in conversations with your customers will undoubtedly increase your social media ROI. This point can’t be overemphasized.  People crave interaction. Social media suits humanity because we are social creatures. Even the most devout introvert can’t truly thrive in isolation. We all innately long for attention, adoration, and the interest of our fellow man. As a seller and an online presence, you have the ability to provide all of that coveted social value to anyone who walks into your corner of the internet. By doing so, you not only earn yourself conversions, but your make a difference in individual lives. By engaging customers, in a small way you provide for them a sort of purpose. They have something to do because you’ve asked them a direct question. For a brief moment, their attention is entirely focused on the conversation that you’re having, and they’re usually enjoying the distraction. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be involved in the first place. I don’t mean to romanticize this largely impersonal business relationship that you’ll form with your online followers. Rather, I’m trying to paint you a picture of what the perfect buyer/seller arrangement can be. People are bored, they browse online to be educated, entertained, and engaged. If you can provide any or all of those objectives for them, gratitude is sure to follow. Gratitude is a powerful emotion that can be translated to profits in very short order. Online commerce isn’t just you convincing people to part with their money. It’s building a measure of trust between yourself and other individuals, allowing the natural human instinct of barter and trade to take place in a mutually beneficial fashion. Cohesive and Cooperative Strategy The final caveat to improving your social media ROI is effective strategy. Many marketers treat social media marketing like a different animal altogether. They isolate their online presences and fail to recognize the benefit of cohesion across platforms. Because social media ROI is difficult to nail down, it becomes an exercise in isolated strategy. “Let’s tweak this facet of our Facebook marketing to see if it’s more effective than such and such strategy that we’ve employed elsewhere. “ This kind of experimentation can be very helpful. However, it’s important to note that when all of your marketing efforts are working toward the same goal, you’re more apt to get the best results. The ideas of social relationships and consumer engagement we just discussed translate nicely to the business end of things as well. You want your social marketing efforts to be working together as a united force in order to achieve the best results. Just like people, marketing efforts work best when used in conjunction with one another. If you write a blog with good SEO, you’ll get more attention by promoting it on Twitter. Special advance notice offers included in your newsletters can and should be promoted after the fact across your social media accounts. But most importantly, the people working on campaigns that are specific to certain social media platforms need to be in constant communication with one another. You want to be the many parts of the same body, all performing individual jobs that work toward one purpose.  The key to doing this is simple organizational cohesion. So establish effective modes of communication within your organization and listen to the input that you get from your coworkers. Together, you’ll achieve far more than you ever could separately. Actionable Practices to Increase Social ROI   By following the outline presented in the above ideas, you’ll create a powerful and effective online presence, a large contingent of social media followers, and an efficient strategy for reaching them. However, when it comes down to specifics you might still need a few easily duplicable practices to help you get started. So take a look at the following list and try to decide on the best courses of action for your online store’s specific strategy. No spam- Be careful how often you schedule your posts. You don’t want to oversaturate your follower’s feeds with constant updates. Try to keep a steady flow at predictable intervals Coupons-Always promote coupons with your social media accounts. We’ve mentioned this one a lot in this series, and that’s because it’s a seriously effective tactic. Geo-Targeting with Twitter- Twitter allows you to target followers specifically by region. Mine this data, and use it to your advantage with region specific promotions. Join/Start Groups on LinkedIn- Groups allow you to intermingle with other LinkedIn users, despite the fact that you aren’t directly connected to them. If you join groups that are relevant to your niche, you can promote deals to their members. Know the Differences Between Pages and Profiles-Facebook and LinkedIn have Profiles for individual users and Pages for businesses. Make sure you start a Page not a Profile. Be Patient-Rome wasn’t built in a day. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t see immediate results from your social marketing campaigns. Remember the avalanche metaphor. Use Embedded Buttons to Easily Share Your Content-All of your content should have a “Tweet” or “Share” button so that viewers can quickly repost/retweet/re-blog/re-pin / etc. your content. No Hard Selling-There’s a time and a place for everything. Don’t send a sales letter over your social networks. People don’t appreciate the hard sells when they are trying to browse for helpful or informative content. Share other people’s content- Share and share alike, right? Spreading other people’s content helps establish you as a helpful resource, and engenders gratitude on the part of the original poster. You remember how effective a motivator gratitude can be, don’t you? Don’t be afraid to repost-You’re allowed to repost your own content. It doesn’t matter if it’s old, so long as it’s still relevant. Not everybody saw it the first time, so put it up again. Just be careful not to overuse the same piece. That will border on the edge of spamming. That’s it for our post series on Social media ROI. Hopefully, you’ve learned some useful practices to take with along with you. As always if you have any questions about this or any other ecommerce practice, keep it glued to the Ashop blog, where we take pride in providing you with helpful information to advance your online store’s goals. 

Tracking Social Media ROI Part 2

 by zack on 12 Sep 2013 |
No Comment
Welcome back to the Ashop blog’s post series on the investigation and application of social media metrics in reference to determining Return of Investment. Much like that first sentence, like this subject, is more than a mouthful. So to keep from biting off more than we can chew, the subject matter has been separated into 3 nicely digestible posts for your palatal pleasure. But enough of the appetitious metaphors and made-up words. It’s time to get back to business. Part one of this post series covered the different types of metrics that can help you track your Social Media ROI, but today we’ll begin a new conversation about how to go about tracking these elusive data bytes. How to Track Social ROI There are a lot of different ways to measure the most relevant metrics to your social ROI. Many popular software suites are available to keep track specifically of social media conversions, as well as all of the different metrics we went over in our last post. Google Analytics has many distinctive functions geared toward social tracking. Then there are the social marketing platforms that are specific to the network itself. This can be something like Facebook Insights or Twitter’s advanced interface for marketers, available at: ads.twitter.com. Finally, there are the sneaky backdoor methods available to everyone through simple and effective tactics like coupon codes. These broadly diverse methods each have their own merits, and bear a bit of close scrutiny to properly determine which will be most effective for a specific campaign. So let’s dive in with the different categories and see what insights we can gather. Software for social ROI tracking Hootsuite might be a silly name, but it more than makes up for that with its functionality. Hootsuite is a software package that allows you to manage all of your social media marketing efforts. It has over 6 million users, and for good reason. Using Hootsuite, you can schedule and track all of your social media mentions, engagement actions, and conversions across multiple platforms. This Handy bit of software can be integrated into Google Analytics, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Which I’d like to point out is a type of lettuce, since I feel like keeping the food metaphors going. Hootsuite schedules your tweets, charts your follower’s interactions with your content, and provides you with in-depth metrics for a variety of different subjects. It’s a very useful tool for social media marketers, and it’s extremely affordable. It has a free introductory option, as well as an $8.99 per month expanded package. There is a more comprehensive and versatile “Enterprise” package meant for large corporations that you can purchase for significantly more than that as well.   This kind of application can be very helpful to your burgeoning social media efforts. Having all of your feeds documented in one space can simplify your workload, and having all of the statistics for your various posts displayed is useful for your overall social tracking efforts. There are many other software suites with similar applications to Hootsuite, but it is probably the most prevalent. Google Analytics has embedded tracking codes that you can add to your pages in order to integrate social media metrics into your GA dashboard. There are in-depth tutorials on how to setup social tracking available through this hyperlink. You’ll want to explore all of the different options available, because tagging your different social campaigns properly to get them appearing correctly in your Google Analytics dashboard can be quite complicated. You can use the metrics you acquire through this process to better understand your brand’s position across multiple networks, and GA social tracking is actually easily integrated with other software suites such as the Hootsuite packages we discussed above. Perhaps best of all, Google Analytics can track monetary value acquired from each social network with its Conversions Reports. Though this again requires you to set up specific goals for which conversions you want to track. The setup tutorials are also available through the following hyperlink. Facebook Insights is designed to help you understand how your followers are interacting with your pages and posts. With Facebook Insights you can discover the total number of likes your page receives, the number of friends that your fans have, as well as the number of fans. You can also measure a lot of engagement actions such as: comments or shares, event responses, page mentions, tags, or Place check-ins and recommendations. Additionally, Facebook Insights will clue you in to the Total Reach your page possesses. This is the number of people that any of your pieces of content might have appeared in front of on their feeds. Total Reach also includes any sponsored ads or stories that you’ve promoted through your Facebook page. This can be helpful in measuring such intangible aspects to your social ROI like buzz and brand recognition. Twitter has a few options for monitoring your metrics on their social platform. You can watch your Promoted Tweet’s performance via their Timeline Activity Dashboard.  This will allow you to track mentions, follows, reach, and a few more relevant metrics. There is also a follower’s dashboard where you can learn about your audience’s interests and their engagement with your content. You can also use this second dashboard to gather geographic information about them, which can come in handy when promoting special offers. Finally, Twitter has a list of certified partners that serve a variety of functions. Twitter actively promotes a long list of companies that offer products or services which mesh well with Twitter data about customer behavior and engagement, as well as general information gathered from public tweets. Take a look at this list here.   Social Tracking Best Practices The advice in this section is mostly common sense. However, it can also be easily overlooked without the benefit of experience. Promote offers-This is a simple one, but if you want to take a sample measure of your social ROI, you can run some experiments with special offers. For example, you could promote a special offer with your Newsletter. Then promote the same offer with your social networking accounts. Switch up the offers with different platforms over time, and chart the results. That way you can get an idea of how your offers perform with newsletters vs. social media promotions.  This is obviously a very malleable template for experimentation, so be creative and record the results. Coupon codes- Again, a very simple method, but you can use different coupon codes for different social media sources. That way each outlet will have a specific code, and according to which code is used you’ll know exactly where each conversion originates from. Conduct surveys- If you want to know, you can always just ask. At the end of your opt-in form, attach a survey asking your customers where they heard about your company. This can help you find out additional information about your most effective sources of revenue, that you might not have gotten with source segmented traffic reports alone. Determining Social ROI Let’s not forget an important point about determining social ROI. It’s about measuring money made versus money spent. Put into a simple formula, it looks like this: Value of Social Media Marketing Efforts/Cost of Social Media Marketing Efforts= Social Media ROI So to properly determine your Social ROI, it’s very important to know how much capital you’re drawing in as a direct result of your social media marketing. Naturally, it’s in your best interest to know how much money you were making before and after developing a social media presence. This should certainly be feasible if you’ve been keeping good records, or if you haven’t yet started your social media efforts. Either way, find out where your bottom line is before taking social media into account. By doing so, you will save you a lot of time and stress by avoiding extra calculations to try to account for social media’s piece of the profit pie. To calculate your social ROI, you have to take the information you gathered from the metrics and plug them into the above formula. Let’s draw a hypothetical to get a solidified idea of how this process might work. Imagine that your site is bringing in $50,000 a month. By segmenting your traffic by source, you determine that your social media efforts are responsible for 15,000 visitors to your site in the same time period. Of those 15,000, only 1,000 made purchases. The value of those 1,000 purchases was $5,000. So one tenth of your total revenue is brought in by social media marketing. Compare that to your social media spend which for simplicity sake, we’ll say is $2,500. Thus you’ve doubled your investment. Your social media efforts are valued at 5 thousand, can be divided by the cost=$2,500. So the simple formula we’ll use is: 5,000/2,500=2. Multiply that by 100 to represent it as a percentage and your Social ROI is at 200%. Not too shabby. Of course the real challenge is finding all of the numbers that we arbitrarily made up for the purposes of the example. But again, with the proper tools of the trade, and the intelligent methods laid out for tracking the purchases from start to finish, you should be perfectly fine throughout the entire process. However, one question remains. What should you do if your numbers aren’t quite as ideal as the ones show in the example above? What if your SMMROI is hovering slightly lower? Say around .09%. At that point your social media efforts are operating at a loss. This is obviously no good. So what should you do? Abandon social media marketing as a bad investment? Well, that certainly seems like regression rather than progression. We’ll take a look at some of the best ways to improve your Social ROI in the final installment of our post series. See you next time!

Tracking Social Media ROI

 by zack on 10 Sep 2013 |
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  Every serious marketer is interested in social media. This data and networking giant is a largely unexplored new frontier in the world of sales. There have been a few powerfully successful marketing efforts undertaken on a large scale, but many more unsuccessful attempts at leveraging personal connections and consumer behavior in order to drive ecommerce sales. This has led to a lot of mixed reactions and opinions of varying degrees on how best to approach social media marketing efforts. However, the beta testing phase of social marketing has been going on for more than a decade now, and some best practices are beginning to emerge. Even more encouraging is the ability to track social media ROI metrics to glean potent insights as to the ways that social media users are interacting with companies and their sales funnels through gigantic networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or Tubmlir. These online communities are powerful resources for marketers looking to improve reach and attract traffic to their landing pages.   Up until recently, social networks were seen as interesting and potentially valuable avenues of advertising, but it wasn’t clear to what degree social media marketing was affecting an online store’s bottom line. But as with any other frontier, the longer interested parties were allowed to explore the possibilities, the more enlightening their insights became. Now there are in place, powerful and proven effective tactics to track social media ROI. Today’s post is about finding out exactly how big the dividends your social marketing efforts are paying. What to Track When Determining Social Media ROI Tracking Social ROI has traditionally been a very difficult prospect for many marketers across myriad fields of sale. In general, there are a few important ROI metrics to track, and a few different useful tools that can help you in these efforts. Firstly, you need to find out what are some solid numbers that you can take a look through to determine your social marketing efficacy. Social Media Marketing Metrics: Ideally, you want to find out how your brand is perceived in a given community, obviously the applicable social metrics will differ across different platforms, but there are normally some numbers that are universal to a certain degree. Page Likes on Facebook for example, are roughly equivalent to Twitter Followers. Both of which are included in the first category of social media ROI metrics that you want to track. These numbers describe the amount of participation that your brand receives in a given online community. These can be things like: Google+ likes YouTube Subscribers Pinterest Followers LinkedIn Followers And the aforementioned Facebook Likes/ Twitter Followers These are important social metrics to measure your brand’s popularity and visibility. Keeping track of these metrics gives you an idea of your brand’s overall reach. The users who like, subscribe to, or follow your company’s social media presence aren't just paying attention to your actions and advertisements. They’ve also made the conscious decision to actively engage with your brand. In other words, they want to keep you on their radar, and as a direct result have appeared on yours. Now this type of engagement is a hopeful sign, but it isn’t the end of your ambitions. Now that you understand how far your reach can go, you need to take a look at how many people you can draw in. The next set of social metrics is designed to measure exactly that: the people that are paying attention to you and spreading the word as well. This is the online equivalent of word of mouth advertising. Things like: FB post likes and/or shares Pinterest Re-pins LinkedIn post likes and shares Tweets directly from your posted content Retweets YouTube video likes, shares, and number of embedded videos These are the sorts of things that dreams are made of. People are talking, and that’s the first step. High numbers in this category of social media marketing metrics mean that you’re doing a great job providing the kind of rich, inviting, and engaging content that your customers are happy to interact with. These metrics are indicative of how many people who’ve kept you on their radar, as noted above, have gone a step farther and actively engaged with your content in their various social networking feeds. The next set of metrics you’ll want to track will help you segment the attention you’re getting between positive and negative lines. They say that there’s no such thing as bad publicity, but crazy celebrity recordings by the likes of Alec Baldwin, Christian Bale, and Mel Gibson disprove that theory fast, quick, and in a hurry. It’s not quite so good for business if you have a serious piece of marketing content that’s getting negatively lampooned and then proceeds to virality. So to keep on top of any such shenanigans, you’ll need to start tracking all of the following: Positive vs. negative Social Media Mentions. Number of hidden FB posts or negatively mentioned posts, which can easily be tracked on FB Insights. Further the efficacy of tracking mentions by grouping them on a monthly timeline in three categories: neutral, negative, and positive. Social conversions- these are the conversions your website receives as a direct result of social network traffic. The last metric touches on the next category of metrics, which is really a single metric from multiple sources. You want to track the amount of clickthroughs to your site via social media. And you need to be tracking these clickthroughs from every network where you have an active presence. You also need to be on as many of these social networks as you can manage, in order to expand your reach to as many disparate corners of the virtual space as possible. You, of course, need to maintain a presence on all of the major social networks: LinkedIn YouTube Facebook Twitter Pinterest Of those 5, I would encourage people to take the longest look at LinkedIn, which is traditionally the social network of business professionals, and can often have the most valuable of contacts. Though that is not to say that each isn’t important in its own right. Being able to quickly create and upload quality video content on YouTube is obviously very useful for the fact that you can easily distribute said content to all of your other social networks. Facebook has the largest potential for reaching new fans, and Twitter is arguably the fastest acting of the marketing vehicles. Pinterest is odd and I don’t understand it. But hey, with 12 million monthly visitors and a reputation for large initial bursts of traffic generated from marketing efforts, I’m probably the odd man out.   It’s all good to know what you should track, but it’s a bit more difficult to know how to go about all of the tracking. There are a lot of different tools available that specifically track and target these and other notable social media metrics, as well as some sneaky methods you can use to circumvent the usual channels of tracking. However, this is all the space we have for today, so join us later this week for part two of this post series on the different ways of tracking social media ROI.    

Mobile Optimization for Your Online Store

 by zack on 05 Sep 2013 |
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Mobile shopping is making a big splash in the world of online commerce. It’s an unavoidable fact, and an important undertaking for today’s ecommerce retailers. If your online store is inaccessible from any major mobile device, you’ve literally got a gaping hole in your sales funnel. If you want to plug up that hole and stop bleeding money, there are a few things you really must do. The first of these would be to take a look at your budget and see if it makes more sense for you to optimize your landing pages for mobile browsing, or go ahead and develop a mobile application for your online store. Each approach has its merits, and you’re the only one who can decide which is right for you. On the one hand optimizing a site for mobile use is very time consuming, and it will need regular maintenance to this effect. On the other, it is much less expensive than building a mobile application from scratch. Mobile aps make for more user-friendly shopping experiences in general, and they also add a certain element of elevated status to your business. However, these too will require regular maintenance, and the impetus will be on your visitors to keep their applications up to date, which may mean some long term retention problems. Still, it’s worth going over the pros and cons of these two approaches in greater depth to determine which is best for your site. Reasoning behind Developing Your Site for Mobile Use   Putting together a mobile strategy for your website might not seem like it should be a big priority, at least not at first. However, when you look at recent mobile ecommerce numbers, you find that the rate at which online consumers are shopping from their smart phones is significantly increasing every year.  Apply the same rate of growth to a 5 year timeline, and you begin to see the necessity. Having an online store that isn’t accessible by tablet, Android, or iPhone is simply courting financial disaster. If you won’t cater to the needs of shoppers on the go, then your competition surely will. Recognizing this fact is the first step to cultivating a gigantic stream of revenue that will keep you from falling behind in your mission to reach the top of the online retailer heap.   The thing to remember when getting your site ready for mobile perusal, is that you have a very abbreviated amount of real estate on a smartphone screen. You can’t count on everyone shopping from a Galaxy Note, or Ipad after all. You have to assume that some very small screens are going to have to contain each and every scrap of content you are intent on displaying. That means prioritizing, simplifying, and segmenting. Prioritizing what content on your full site carries the most weight. Simplifying the way your site looks and the ways that your content is delivered. Segmenting, not in the normal sense in which you specifically target consumers based on their behavior, location, or some other mitigating factor, but instead separating the parts of your website into clearly defined segments that can easily be browsed and recognized for their relevance to the consumer. If you can keep these three caveats in mind while designing your mobile site or application, you’ll have a much better product by the time you’ve finished.  So without further ado, let’s dive right in with the pros and cons of mobile optimization. Optimizing Your Website for Mobile Use Mobile optimization has a few distinct advantages as opposed to developing your own mobile application. Foremost among these is cost. Optimizing your site for mobile is almost always much cheaper than building your own app from scratch. Of course, that doesn’t mean it’s cheap. In aggregate, mobile optimization is going to be cheaper than developing an application, but it will still require regular maintenance, and updates every time new mobile software is unveiled. However, these updates are usually superficial and a relatively small expense for the utility of a website that works well across all devices and platforms. They are faster to implement, less expensive, and universal across different devices including: Tablets Smartphones Gaming consoles Desktops Laptops On the flip side, mobile optimized sites have reduced functionality as compared to native applications. They don’t accommodate graphics, video, and the like. There’s also no added revenue coming in from selling an application, which can notably offset the added costs of developing the app. Now what precisely makes for a successful mobile site? Consider a mobile optimized implementation of your site as a stripped down version. I’m talking bare bones here. You want as few pages as possible, and not too many bells and whistles. Because while it may take less time to develop and launch, your mobile site will load slower than normal. So that means you need to make everything as simple as possible. You’ll also be dealing, for the most part, with a vertical stack style of viewing. In other words, a skinny rectangular screen that will have room for one or two text columns, or a single text column with a picture included here and there.  If you’re planning to include sexy video content, it might be best to have your site linking to a YouTube account, so that your visitors can decide how to best view the video with their individual device. This is because certain smartphones have difficulty playing video embedded on websites. This is especially notable in Apple products, which have repeatedly stated that they do not, and will not be supporting Flash any time in the foreseeable future. While you should do your best to cram information about your products or services into the limited space you’ll have available, you also don’t want to overcrowd the small space. Having an overly busy mobile site is just as bad, if not worse, than having a sparsely populated mobile site. You want to keep a happy balance that will inform your customers of the most important information, without overwhelming them with too much text. Building a proper mobile optimized site is a chore for sure, but it’s still much easier than putting together an application. However, this hasn’t stopped many big players in the ecommerce world from slapping their brand name onto a highly functional mobile application, and for good reason. Next we’ll take a look at the good and the bad points of mobile apps, as well as a few of the best practices for their launch. Developing a Mobile Application for Your Online Store If you have the space in your budget, putting together a mobile app for your online store is a smart move. Building your own application for mobile use is an effective method of driving engagement from your users. To interact with your store on the go, it’s necessary for your customers to take the time to download. This alone means that they care enough about your store to take up that valuable space on their SD cards, hard drives, or what have you. Not to mention that if you’re selling the application in the iTunes store, people are actually paying for it. That’s commitment no matter how you spin it. Speaking of paid apps, there are two distinct advantages to selling these. One, you have an additional source of revenue coming in, and two: you have a much higher rate of conversion from a mobile app than from an optimized site. When people look to buy something direct from your mobile app, they are far more likely to convert than if they were web browsing and just happened upon your page by coincidence. Additionally, there is an issue of added functionality in which mobile applications tend to excel. When designing an application specifically for individual devices, there is a lot of creative freedom involved, this will allow you to take advantage of all of the bells and whistles included on mobile devices.  For example making your phone number link directly to a user’s smartphone’s dialing function. Or social network integration is always a popular item. People love to show off their stuff, and what better way to do that than to post about it on their Facebook or Twitter accounts? Camera functionality is also extremely popular among users, and depending on the services/products your online store offers, you should perhaps look into adding it into your application. It’s also worth mentioning that people use mobile applications for browsing specific websites at a much higher rate than they look at mobile optimized sites. They appreciate the added functionality, and are often more than willing to pay the additional $1.99 or so for the added convenience. One of the biggest cons to putting together a mobile app, is that many users who don’t want to download, will not be getting the ideal experience from your store when mobile shopping. In other words, there isn’t enough incentive for all of your site’s users to add your mobile application to their mobile device’s repertoire. This is highly unfortunate, because to truly service everyone to the best of your abilities you’ll need to invest in both mobile optimization and mobile applications. To avoid this conundrum, it’s highly recommended that you incentivize the app purchase/download as much as possible. Try using advance notice of sales and/or exclusive special offers through the application. Give it away for free if you have to. Consider it an investment in improving conversion rates, because only loyal of customers will consider getting your application in the first place. You should also take into account the fact that mobile applications are expensive to maintain. As mobile technology evolves so must your application. If the iPhone 14-S comes out, and it has a crazy futuristic psychic interface option, you’d best make a virtual reality for you online store to match it. Hyperbole is a fun way of illustrating things, isn’t it? Jokes aside, you will have to keep up with the technology market, which means consistent, if not constant, updates to your application that will be pricey. The Best Approach It’s up to you to decide how to best approach your mobile optimization strategy. However, in general the thing to do would seem to be optimizing your site first, and eventually expanding into a native application when it makes financial sense for your company to do so. It’s important to have something that caters to mobile shoppers in place, even if it’s not the ideal situation at first. As you begin to wet your beak with the waters of the mobile revenue stream, you may find that you feel more comfortable, and wish to start developing a more responsive and functional user interface through a native application. Or you might decide that your mobile optimized site is perfect the way it is, and you don’t need to waste the money building an expensive and high maintenance application. The decision will of course be situational, and unique to your business. Whatever you decide to do, you can rest assured that more ecommerce advice will be forthcoming from the Ashop blog to guide you along the way.   
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