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    Please Retweet This Post! Simple Ways to Boost Social Media Engagement

    Last updated 2 years ago

    Generating engagement from your fans and followers is an important part of any social media program. Not only does this build the community of your fans and identify which customers and prospects are regularly participating with your brand, it also helps spread your message to new audiences and boost awareness of your brand. For example, on Facebook, an algorithm called “EdgeRank” factors in how much and how frequently fans are engaging with your content there to determine how often your messages show up in their News Feed. There are many benefits to building engagement, so here are a few quick and easy tips to keep in mind.

    1) Request One Simple Action
    There are a number ways someone can interact with your content, depending on where they see it. So many, in fact, that often, people will simply read the content and move on to what’s next on their screen. But, if you ask the reader to perform one simple action with your content, you’re more likely to see a boost in that type of engagement because you’re helping the reader narrow down their engagement options and letting them know exactly what you’d like to do. Here are a few examples:

    Facebook: “Like this post if…!”
    Asking readers to “like” a post on Facebook is a great way to generate engagements. You can also consider asking them to leave a comment or share a post. Try sticking to one action request per post; in other words, ask the reader to like, comment, or share, rather than all three. And vary what you ask for so you don’t appear redundant or spammy.

    Twitter: “Please retweet!”
    Some reports have indicated that including the word “retweet” or the abbreviation “RT” in a Twitter message can improve click-throughs, indicating that making a specific request can spur followers to take action. Also, using the word “Please” can boost click-throughs to your content, plus it’s nice etiquette.  

    Blog: “Leave us a comment!”
    If you want to generate more comments on your blog posts, don’t forget to ask for them! If you do receive comments, make sure to respond to any questions and thank readers for positive comments.

    2) Ask Questions
    Questions are a great way to generate engagement via social media. You can use questions in a variety of ways and ask various types of questions. Here are a few examples:

    Facebook: “What’s your take on…?”
    When sharing an article or link on Facebook, write a compelling question related to the article rather than just sharing a summary. This encourages people to join a conversation around the topic. Try asking different types of questions, just like you would if having a face-to-face conversation and switching them up to keep your page fresh.

    Twitter: “Did you know that…?”
    Instead of always posting the headline or a summary of an article you post on Twitter, try rephrasing your content into a question that may entice the reader to click to read more.

    Blog Headline: “Are You Making These Most Common Mistakes…?”
    Writing compelling blog post headlines is a critical part of making your social media and content marketing engaging. To mix things up, phrase your title in the form of a question every once in a while.

    Blog Closing: “What Do You Think? Share with us in a comment!”
    You can also use questions to help generate comments and engagements at the end of your blog post. Specifically ask the reader questions related to the content to spark their thought process.

    Learn more about asking questions that get people talking online.

    3) Keep it Short & Simple
    Make your blog post headlines succinct. Ideally, these should be under 160 characters for optimal SEO performance. When posting content to your social outposts like Facebook and Twitter, keep your messages short, simple, and to-the-point. Focus on one message and one activity in each post. Opt for shorter messages rather than long ones, even on Facebook. Keep in mind that your content is part of a larger ecosystem of content that your reader is seeing and that attention spans in this environment are typically very short!

    4) Include Images 
    Images are becoming a cornerstone in creating engaging content. Not only does including great images boost the chances of your content being seen by your fans and followers, but they are also a very popular type of content for engagement.

    Facebook
    Sharing images with your Facebook fans is a simple way to boost brand visibility because it showcases the life of your brand. Images are great content to pin to the top of your timeline. Plus, you can upload images directly to your timeline or add them to an album – both types of shares will show up on the Facebook timeline for fans to engage with.

    Twitter
    You can directly upload images to your Tweets, a relatively new feature that affiliates an image directly with a message and displays it to viewers and associates it to your account.

    Blog
    Images are a critical part of your blog posting strategy. Not only will the image be associated with the content via social shares on sites like Facebook and Pinterest, but they also help your content look more interesting to the reader, helping boost engagement.

    5) Make it Relevant  
    Another important factor in generating engaging content is to make sure it’s relevant to your brand. In fact, in an analysis of major brands, Facebook found that content relevance was one of the most important factors in content engagement. While it’s important to share a variety of content rather than only posting about your business and its products or services, it’s also important to make sure what you’re sharing is on-message for your brand.

    Keep your personality intact, but make sure what you’re sharing makes sense for your audience. Remember, your business Facebook page is not your personal Facebook page, so post accordingly. For example, a local auto shop could share related information like auto care tips, automotive trends, and auto enthusiast info, but should probably avoid sharing health and beauty tips because fans would not expect that type of content from an automotive business.

    Have you tried any of these tricks for boosting engagement? What kinds of social media and blog posts do you engage with the most? Let us know in a comment!

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    About the Author

    Tiffany Monhollon shares practical tips and insights about reaching consumers across the web as a blogger for ReachLocal. Follow her on Twitter and Google+

    Google Places Address Tips for Businesses With No Service Location

    Last updated 2 years ago

    Google Place Pages are a fantastic way to help local consumers find your local business. But what if you don’t have a brick-and-mortar store for customers to visit? For businesses that provide a service to a geographic area or are home-based, here are some things to know about Google Place Pages and your business address.

    Not All Businesses are Eligible to Claim a Google Place Page
    Who can have a Google Place Page? Not all businesses are eligible. One of the most important things to keep in mind is that Google states: “Only businesses that make in-person contact with customers qualify for a Google Places listing.” Other business models that aren’t eligible include: those not yet open to the public; rental or sale properties; stores you don’t own but supply products to; and meetings, classes, or services at a location you don’t own or have the authority to represent. Make sure to check Google’s guidelines for Place Pages for more details.

    All Place Pages Must Cite a Mailing Address
    All Google Place Pages must cite a mailing address associated with the account. Even businesses that operate out of a home or mobile businesses that service customers on their site rather than at the business’s location – like home cleaning, air conditioning, or landscaping businesses – must comply with this requirement.

    P.O Boxes Don’t Count as an Address
    Google’s guidelines say that P.O. boxes aren’t considered “accurate physical locations.” You cannot create a listing for a location where a business doesn’t physically exist. So, home-based businesses need to list their actual address of operation. But, according to Google’s guidelines for Place Pages: “If you work from home or you are a mobile business you can specify a ‘service area’ in the sign up process and choose to hide your physical address.” This will allow you to avoid displaying your home address publicly on your Google Place Page.

    Some Business Types Should Hide the Address on Their Listings
    Google recently made an update to their policy on businesses that operate by going to a client’s location to provide services, such as plumbers, carpet cleaners, handymen, and the like. In the past, these types of businesses could list their location of operation on their Place Page. But now, even if these businesses have a physical location where they operate, if they don’t actually interact with customers at the business location, they should hide their business address on their listing and define a service area – the area the business is willing to serve. According to Google: “If you don't conduct face-to-face business at your location, you must select the ‘Do not show my business address on my Maps listing’ option within your dashboard.” In fact, Google has begun to remove businesses of this type that don’t comply with this change. Keep in mind if you have a business model where customers do business with you in person at your location and you have a service area you send people out to, you can list your physical address of operation as well as a service location. 

    If you’ve already claimed a Google Place Page for your business, check to make sure you’re complying with these guidelines. Since Google frequently conducts spot checks of Place Pages, it’s important to make sure you’re following their guidelines to preserve all the time and effort you’ve invested in creating and optimizing your Places Page.

    Do you have a home-based business or one that operates under a service area? Have you claimed and optimized your Google Place Page? Share your thoughts or questions in a comment!

    About the Author
    Tiffany Monhollon shares practical tips and insights about reaching consumers across the web as a blogger for ReachLocal. Follow her on Twitter and Google+

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    How To: Take Better Pictures for Your Business Website

    Last updated 2 years ago

    You’ve heard it before – a picture is worth a thousand words. So when it comes to taking pictures for your small business website, it’s essential to use the images that best represent your brand and convey the right message.

     Website images have many benefits for your small business. One survey reported that 60% of consumers were more likely to contact or consider buying from a business whose website had images. And with the growing availability of smartphones with high quality cameras, you have more options for taking your own pictures for your website. If you do, you should consider these ideas on how to get the most out of your images.

    Showcasing Your Business Facilities

    When taking photos of your business facilities, you should predominantly feature your business, with the building centered in the middle of the frame and your business name clearly visible. Since you will use these photos on your website and across the Web, they should represent your business, your logo, and your location well. So, try taking pictures without cars, people, or anything else obstructing the view of your business.

    Also, setting up a Google Places page is a great way to reach local customers, and images are a valuable addition to improve your Google Place page rank in organic search. And because images may appear next to your business’ listing on the search engine page, displaying your business in its best light is beneficial.

     

    Showing Before and After Images

    If you are in the business of improvement, from lawn care to interior design to orthodontics, you should demonstrate the value your business provides. Taking before and after images is a great way to illustrate the results-driven service you provide and gives your potential consumers a visual understanding of what it is you do. When taking before and after images, the finished product should be the only major difference between the images. Try to keep the framing, cropping, location, and lighting the same in both. Also, take care to make sure the images displays an honest representation of your work and avoid doctoring your “after” images. Your consumers may raise an eyebrow if your “after” image is conspicuously different from the “before” photo, defeating the purpose of showcasing the results of your work. You may also want to take snapshots throughout the process to show your progress over time. 

     

    Photographing Authentic People

    When using images of people on your website, you should keep in mind that they are a reflection of your business. So, if you want to include pictures of people on your website, it’s a great idea to select individuals who look like your target audience rather than using generic stock photos. If you can’t afford to hire models, consider taking photos of friends, family, or actual customers – just make sure they sign a release form allowing you to publish their photos online. Before the photo shoot, direct them on appropriate attire and actions that will convey the right message to your website visitors. Take a variety of photos, including posed and candid shots, so you have a good selection to choose from throughout your site. Also, select several different locations to shoot in, and get participants to interact in authentic ways, such as talking with your staff or looking at your products. 

    Taking a Professional Headshot

    Professional headshots are useful for your website as well as business networking profiles and online directories, so they should demonstrate professionalism and expertise. One thing you should try to avoid is cropping people out of a candid or group photo. Instead, take a simple shot against a clean background, in good lighting, without distracting elements in the background. If you include multiple headshots on your website, including staff or other business partners, try to take everyone’s images at the same time, so that they all look similar. You should also consider taking photos of your employees in their workspace. If you do, pay careful attention to the framing of the photo to make sure there aren’t plants, furniture, or any other items awkwardly placed in the background.    

     

    Choosing the Right Setting

    Choosing the right background can highlight the focal point of your image, but it can also distract the viewer’s attention. When taking an image, you should always look at what else is in the frame of the picture. It’s in your advantage to have control of what is in your image, so avoid photo shoots in busy areas with crowds of people, especially if you don’t have permission to distribute their image. Simple fixes, like cleaning off a counter, accenting a shelf with a nice arrangement, and removing other companies’ branded products are small but significant details to consider.

    Your lighting can also dramatically enhance your photo. If it’s possible, shoot your photos in natural light. If you are inside, experiment with the flash settings on your camera, the lights in the room, or by adding light with lamps or candles. There are also many sites with advanced tips on composition, equipment and lighting.   

     

    Being Selective with Your Images

    While images can appeal to consumers, having too many or using files that are larger than necessary on your website can affect its overall performance by slowing down loading time. Plus, too many photos on your home or landing page can clutter it and distract from other relevant content on the page. So, to make sure that you get the most out of your website images, focus on value-added images that tie directly to your business and optimize images as you would your website. You can also consider creating an image gallery designed specifically for displaying images without increasing loading time, which has been shown to increase page abandonment

     

    Images are a great way to add uniqueness and personality to your website. They are also a powerful tool in building your Web presence.  Plus, if you have extra photos that don’t make the cut for your website, you can still publish these images in online photo albums like Picasa or Flickr and add a link to the albums. FacebookInstagram, and Pinterest are also great places to upload your photos to share with your fans and followers.   

    What do the images on your website say about your small business? Can you apply these tips to improve your website images? Let us know it the comments!

    About the Author

    Tara Banda writes for the ReachLocal and ReachCast blogs about how small business owners can reach local customers through online marketing. You can connect with her on Twitter.

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    Content Curation: 5 Best Practices for Sharing Content from Other Sources

    Last updated 2 years ago

    With social media and content marketing growing as a powerful way to engage with consumers, there has been a growing demand to feed the content cycle to ensure that businesses are constantly providing valuable, informative content to their fans and followers. Creating original content is an important part of this process, and another popular tactic is to curate content from around the Web. Content curation is the process of identifying content created by other sources and sharing it with your fans and followers. But there are some important things to keep in mind when curating content, so use these five tips to make sure you’re properly and effectively using this tactic as a part of your content marketing mix.

    1) Identify Meaningful Topics & Sources

    To get started with a content curation strategy, it’s important to start with your audience in mind. What topics and content formats that relate to your business will they find meaningful? You can find content related to your business, such as industry trends and statistics, tips and how-tos, informational or entertaining videos, or community-related sources to curate.

    For example, a local bakery could curate content from a variety of related sources on a range of topics that their audience might find meaningful, such as party ideas, wedding planning tips, baking best practices, serving ideas, and local events. Or, an automotive business could curate content from top auto blogs, do-it-yourself sources, coverage on industry trends and events, and enthusiast sites. Once you find blogs and websites that produce relevant content, consider bookmarking these sites on your browser or adding them to an RSS reader such as Google Reader. Then, each day you can easily look through various posts identify ideal ideas to share.

    2) Curate Strategically Across Sites

    With most social media and content marketing strategies, a variety of sites play a part. So make sure you’re curating content strategically across all your sites. For example, you can schedule tweets and Facebook posts that link to interesting content, but try not to inundate your audience with the same content posted on all your sites at the same time. You may also want to include content curation into your blogging strategy by quoting and linking to interesting content you want to comment on. For example, a local plumber might quote a statistic about the average reduced household costs of installing a new water heater in an article about the benefits of updating your home water heating system. Think strategically about all your content marketing efforts and what content you can share from other sources.

    3) Always Link to the Source

    When sharing content from other sources, it’s critical to always link to the source you are citing, whether you are quoting a source on your blog or sharing information on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Google Plus. Links are an important currency on the web, and content creators appreciate their content being linked to on blogs, websites, and social media sites. Plus, consumers expect to be able to follow a link to read more information when they see something interesting shared on a social site. So make sure when you’re curating content online that you’re always linking to the original source.

    4) Quote & Cite Carefully

    When quoting or citing someone else’s content, it’s important to only quote a small portion of the work, typically only about 10-15% of the whole article. Always identify the source of what you’re quoting and link directly to the original source when citing another work. Offer your own commentary or thoughts about the subject or content you’re quoting to make sure you’re adding to the conversation.

    It’s not ok to copy and paste someone else’s content in its entirety onto your blog or website (unless you have their explicit, written permission to do so). Not only is this copyright infringement, it’s also a poor SEO practice, as your site could be penalized by Google for having duplicate content.

    5) Share Infographics Wisely

    With the popularity of sites like Pinterest and Tumblr for sharing images online, infographics have become a hot commodity in content curation. Most of the time, the creators of infographics expect them to be shared on other blogs, websites, and sources that will link back to the original source. This strategy can help a website build inbound links, boosting its relevance in search. So, if you discover an infographic you want to re-post on your site, check to see if it has a copyright notice on the bottom that restricts the resharing of the unique image first. If there aren’t any restrictions, find out who created the infogrpahic so you can cite and link directly to them, rather than the site you discovered the infographic on. Typically, the creator of the infographic will have their logo at the bottom of the infographic and there will be a link back to the creator from the website that has shared the article. For example, if you find an infographic on a site like Daily Infographic, don’t link back to that site; instead, link to the site of the image’s creator or better yet, to the image cited on their website.

    Using content curation can be a great way to fuel your content marketing efforts, but it’s important to make sure you’re balancing this approach with creating fresh, original content as well. It’s also critical to make sure you’re curating purposefully and respectfully to help you avoid copyright infringement.

    Are you curating content in your social media marketing efforts? What’s your favorite source of interesting content to share? Have any questions about content curation? Tell us in a comment!

    About the Author
    Tiffany Monhollon shares practical tips and insights about reaching consumers across the web as a blogger for ReachLocal. Follow her on Twitter and Google+

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    New Social Media, Mobile Trends & What they Mean for Your Local Business

    Last updated 2 years ago

    The social media landscape continues to evolve, with niche social networks like Pinterest and Instagram growing in popularity and attracting interest from marketers. A variety of reports demonstrate the growth of mobile, along with its potential to be an extremely powerful marketing opportunity for businesses.

    To keep you up to speed, we put together this quick roundup of top noteworthy facts and stats in the social media space, along with what they mean for local online marketing.

    Pinterest Now Third-Most Popular Social Media Site
    Social media site Pinterest continues its rapid growth, recently surpassing LinkedIn as the third most popular social media site in terms of traffic. Both big brands and local businesses alike have begun looking to Pinterest to connect with consumers through content marketing.

    Instagram Launches on Android; Facebook Acquires Instagram
    Popular mobile photo sharing app Instagram recently launched on Android. With over 30 million users, it’s now one of the most popular and highest-rated smartphone apps. A week after the Android launch, Instagram was purchased by Facebook for $1 billion in cash and stock, with some experts noting the move may signal that Facebook intends to boost its mobile offerings. The popularity of Instagram and other photo sharing apps, as well as sites like Pinterest, has caused many marketers to put a renewed focus on integrating compelling, interesting photos and images into their marketing.

    Use of Smartphones & Mobile Social Media Grows
    According to a recent report, half of mobile phone owners in the U.S. now own a smartphone, and experts predict that by 2013, nearly 60% of the entire U.S. population will own one. This growth has made mobile marketing and a mobile-optimized Web presence even more important for local marketing, especially since a majority of searches on smartphones are for local content. 

    The use of social media on mobile devices has also grown. Nearly 25% of the entire U.S. population (32% of U.S. mobile phone users) use social media on their mobile devices. Experts predict that this will grow to one-third of the U.S. population (42.6% of mobile phone users) by just 2016. This rapid growth is just one more reason to incorporate a mobile social media strategy into your online marketing. It also means that social networks will continue to add more mobile features and advertising offerings that brands can take advantage of to connect with mobile consumers.

    The world of social media continues to evolve, creating an even more complex online landscape. But through strategically building an optimized Web presence for your business, you can integrate social and mobile into your overall online marketing strategy in order to reach more local consumers.

    How is your business applying these social media and mobile trends into your marketing approach? What social media trend surprises you the most? Share your thoughts in a comment! 

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