The Importance of Hashtags on Instagram

Though they started on Twitter, there might not be a place where hashtags are utilized more right now than Instagram. The hashtag, a number sign followed by a #word, #phrase, or #abbreviation, connects similar posts from different users all over the world and collects them in a single place. And it has really taken off on Instagram.

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As a business, the Instagram hashtag can serve a variety of functions, from connecting with a local customer base to becoming a part of the Instagram community without seeming like just another business pushing advertisements. It’s an important tool, one that can really help you build your brand.

Place-specific hashtags, for instance, are incredibly useful. If you’re a business in, say, metro Detroit, adding a #Detroit tag to a post will connect your photo to all things Detroit. So users who browse through the Detroit hashtag will come across your photo, your business, and perhaps, eventually, a product. It can also let you see what else everyone in your community is posting about and allows you to follow desirable users in that community.

There are a lot of Instagram hashtags that are day-specific. Throwback Thursday posts, or #TBT, is a very popular hashtag where users post photos from years previous, often of themselves when they were children. It’s a great opportunity for a fun post with little to no risk of seeming spammy. There’s also #ootd, or outfit of the day, used by people to post photos of whatever it is they’re wearing, an especially useful hashtag for clothing and accessory stores.

Hashtags are also great for industry events. If you are at a conference or trade show, chances are that the event has created a hashtag for itself. While you’re out networking, take photos and use that hashtag. People will browse those hashtagged photos during and after the event, re-connecting with the people and businesses they met.

When the hashtag first took off on Twitter, few realized the power and influence it would one day wield. Today, that is especially true on Instagram. Hashtags can be fun, inclusive, and a great way to connect with your community, customers, and industry.

Is Snapchat Right For Your Business?

If social media was fishing, then sites like Facebook and Twitter are the humongous nets thrown in the ocean, catching as many fish as possible. And while you may be looking for a certain fish—that target audience—you’ll also likely pick up all sorts of others, too. Which isn’t such a bad thing.

Today's latte, Snapchat.

There are other social media sites, however, that are much more specific. They’re fishing with a spear, targeting very specific audiences in a very deliberate way. You may not catch as much, but maybe you’ll get just what you’re looking for.

The popular Snapchat mobile app is one of those fishing spears. It’s a photo and video sharing app popular among teens and 20-somethings and not many people more than that. But that millennial demographic? Millennials love Snapchat. So if the target demographic of your customer base is on the older side, Snapchat is probably not worth spending your valuable time on. But, if high school and college kids are an important part of your sales strategy, then you’re going to want to at least consider utilizing the Snapchat app.

Unlike Facebook or Instagram, the content you create for Snapchat disappears after users view it. Think of an old spy movie and the self-destructing message. Because of this, users don’t expect the pretty, well-staged, filtered pictures seen on Instagram. There’s a raw quality to Snapchat that allows you to take off-the-cuff photos and videos and share them directly with your audience. Because of this, make sure your intended message is easily discernible.

That directness is a big draw, too. When posting something on Twitter, you’re posting for the whole world to see. People can then favorite, reply to, and re-tweet your message. In Snapchat, the experience is only shared between you and each user. There is no commenting, there is no ‘like’ feature. It’s notable for its intimacy.

Snapchat isn’t for everyone, but it’s definitely for younger people. Even if it’s not for your business, keep on eye on it. After all, Facebook was once only for college kids, too.

Why iPhone Works Better for Your Social Media Management

Visible Technology’s Social Intelligence Report found 60 percent of social media time is spent on smartphones and tablets instead of desktop computers. This growing trend simplifies social media management for entrepreneurs on the go. But, with a projected 4.55 billion people around the world using smartphones, which one works best for social media? Take a look at how the iPhone 6’s bigger screen and easy interface makes it a contender in the social media market.

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Great Photos

Taking great photos and sharing visual updates is the cornerstone of social media whether you’re using Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest or Twitter. The iPhone 6 features new sensors that help focus pixels and balance the color and overall scene of your photos. Users who want to get more adventurous with their images can take panoramic shots with accurate detail in comparison to its Android counterparts, claims iMore.

The ability to take professional-looking photos by just pointing and clicking makes the iPhone a winner in smartphone photography. While its Android counterparts also take reasonable and even impressive photos, they tend to lack the ability to take motion or panoramic shots as crisply.

Bigger Screens

A smartphone with a small screen can be convenient for users on the go, but a bigger screen makes social media management, texting and analyzing your business data easy. The iPhone’s sleek, aluminum frame makes it comfortable to hold. The big screen size puts this smartphone into the “phablet” category with enough space for recreational or business use. This helps business owners enlarge their data or zoom in on key figures. They also can open up social media management tools like HootSuite or Edgar and easily see the full report.

Productivity Apps

Eliminate the amount of time wasted from switching back and forth between your laptop, tablet and smartphone to balance your books and manage your projects. Get set up with apps like FreshBooks to check on your invoices and account balances. Use Asana to help manage your social media projects. Or, download Evernote to keep an organized list of everything from which social media accounts need to be updated to client meeting notes and brainstorms. Again, the bigger iPhone 6 screen lets you type emails to your team members and check on status updates without leaving your project management apps.

Variety of Apps

Although Android provides plenty of apps to choose from in its Play Store, the iPhone App Store offers more choices for your social media needs. Laptop explains that this disparity results from the different specs and versions of Android. While Apple’s products have similar specs and sizes, Android devices have a much wider range, which can be difficult for developers.

One exclusive iPhone app includes Postling, which allows you to track your mentions, access your analytics, receive email summaries and get instant alerts on comments. The platform makes managing everything from Tumblr to Flickr to Facebook easy. Some other iPhone-only examples include Tweetbot and Facebook Paper, which help you organize and streamline your social media channels.

How SEO Can Increase Search Engine Traffic To Your Website

There are nearly as many websites as there are stars in the sky. That’s the way it feels, at least. When you think on all the different websites from all over the world, the idea of a search engine like Google, Bing, or Yahoo! is that much more amazing. How on Earth can you type a query into a search engine and then, over the course of a second or two, that engine can parse through every single website ever made and deliver a page of results that will, more than likely, satisfy your mission.

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Search engines accomplish this through uniquely designed algorithms, complex mathematical methodologies that determine the order in which websites are presented after a search. Having a website that performs in step with these algorithms will boost your search engine result performance which, in turn, exposes more people to your website and, eventually, your business.

The science of improving search engine traffic to a website is called Search Engine Optimization, or SEO. While each of the major search engines have their own uniquely designed algorithms to search the web, there are rules to web design and content that boost search engine result performance across the board. The importance of SEO is obvious. Without it, a website will not place well in search engine results, thereby losing potential customers to better-designed websites that place higher on the list.

One way SEO improves search engine traffic is by designing websites that are compliant with the various algorithms. This ensures that information is relevant to a query and easily accessible. SEO is like the properly placed signage along the highway, letting everyone know that they are on the right track to your business and that your business is exactly what they’re looking for. It may not guarantee that someone is going to pull off at the next exit but it will guarantee maximum exposure for your business to passersby.

Getting Started with Twitter for Business

Like most entrepreneurs, chances are you didn’t start your own business so you could run a Twitter page. But this deep into the 21st century and the impact of a social media campaign is undeniable. Unless you’ve completely written off technology, it’s likely that you’re either already on the Twitter train or you keep thinking, “You know, I should really look into this Twitter thing. I’ll do it tomorrow.” The problem with tomorrow is that it isn’t today. In Twitter, as with most things, there’s no time like the present.

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Here are some quick and easy tips to get you started with running a Twitter page for your business.

Set up your Twitter profile.

A complete and consistent profile is essential to making an immediate impact on Twitter. The branding—profile picture, graphics, Twitter handle, bio—should be consistent with the rest of your branding, be it on your website, other social media accounts, or physical products. Choose a profile picture that is bold and easily identifiable. Your Twitter name should be your company’s name, ideally.

Build your Twitter community.

When you start out with Twitter, you start out at zero. It’s up to you to build your community of influencers and followers. Twitter will always suggest people to follow—who, in turn, may very well follow back. But take the initiative to identify who are the key influencers in your industry, follow them, and begin to interact with them. Also important is to spread the word among your customers that you are now on Twitter. Cross post to other social media accounts, include information in advertisements, and always include links to your social media accounts on your main website. Make it easy for people to find your page.

Establish your Twitter voice.

Now that you’ve set up your profile and begun to build your followers, it’s time to begin posting and making connections. Be consistent in your posting. Make it so that people can come to expect and look forward to seeing your Tweets. Post regularly and often, but not so much that you’re a pest. If you’re unsure of your posting technique, check other accounts that are in the same industry as you. What are they doing right? Levity and visuals are two major ways to catch people’s attention. Staying current and local can also quickly build a sense of community.

Though it may seem daunting at first, Twitter can be a gamechanger for your business. It’s free and—though this may be hard for some people to accept—easy to use. A complete and consistent profile, relevant community, and a strong voice are the building blocks of an effective Twitter account for business.

Three Actionable Insights from Google Analytics

Analytics are amazing tools that allow you to gather valuable insights about nearly every aspect of your business’s website. For example, you can look up the language, country, and city of every visitor to your homepage. This can be a very influential bit of data, one that may determine where you spend your advertising dollars.

What’s even more amazing is that Google offers web analytics for free. While there are other analytics services—some that even offer more data—there might not be a better bang for your buck than Google. Because, you know, it’s free. But also really useful. Here are three actionable insights found with Google Analytics.

Bounce rates: These are especially handy bits of data. Bounce rates allow you to observe how many visitors view your website without ever interacting with it. This may mean that the information they were looking for was found immediately on the homepage but it could also mean that there are design and usability issues with your site. Design and usability issues are fast ways to lose a customer. By analyzing what doesn’t work about your website, you can then take the steps necessary for fixing it, hopefully increasing visitor interaction—and, eventually, sales.

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Conversions by device: Another analytic that we like ’round these parts is the ability to see conversion rates by device, i.e., desktops and tablets. Curious how your website holds up on someone’s smart phone? In observing this data, you’ll be able to glean valuable insights from data points like number of visits and conversion rates made by people visiting your website through their mobile device. Is one device not making numbers like other devices are? Maybe you need to go and re-design that mobile site.

404 alerts: Of today’s three actionable insights, this is the easiest to fix. A 404 Not Found error is when a webpage cannot be found. Google Analytics allows users to set up a 404 alert, sending a message to you if your website crashes. It’s a proactive approach to your site, eliminating the need for you to rely on good samaritan visitors who email you when a page is down.

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The Do’s and Don’ts of Using Facebook for Business

The benefits of using Facebook for business are now well trod ground. But just signing up and posting a profile picture won’t get you the results you’re hoping for. There are a lot of ins and outs when it comes to running a Facebook page for business. Here are some critical DOs and DON’Ts that will provide a basic guideline for running a wicked good page.

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DO: Keep it light. Facebook is inherently fun and you don’t want to come across as stiff. If you’re looking to engage with your Facebook community and generate good will among potential customers, make them smile a bit. Have fun with it.

DON’T: Be unprofessional. There’s a line between having fun with your customers and coming across as unprofessional. You don’t want to cross it. Avoid sophomoric and crass humor.

DO: Provide customer service. Facebook is a great opportunity to answer any customer service queries that come up. By being prompt and personable, you can add a human touch that customers are so often looking for.

DON’T: Be formulaic in responses. If someone has a question or complaint, be sure to address it but don’t do so in “customer service speak.” People will be turned off by cookie cutter responses.

DO: Space out your posts. News feed burn out is a real thing on Facebook and you don’t want to be the page that is posting something every five minutes, bombarding your followers. It’s quality over quantity on Facebook, which is not necessarily the case on Twitter. Plan your post ahead of time and publish it when your followers are most likely to see it. This is much more effective than posting constantly.

DON’T: Leave your page unattended. Facebook is a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately type of business and if you let your page go dormant for a couple of days, people are going to forget about you and move on. It’s about finding that balance between posting too much and not posting enough.

DO: Keep people informed. If you’re using Facebook for your business, you’re going to want to let people know about what’s going on. Do it in a way that’s Facebook-appropriate: Use photos, be friendly and warm, and keep it informal.

DON’T: Post like a commercial. Of course you’re going to want to let people know about your products or services but don’t do it in a way that comes across like an advertisement. People will tune out the businesses that they feel like is only on Facebook to sell them things. Facebook is a community, not a place for formal advertisements.

Leveraging LinkedIn for Business

Linkedin ChocolatesWith each social media site comes its own set of advantages, characteristics, and user base. While some sites, like Instagram and Vine, may share similar demographics and video sharing capabilities, other sites are more unique to themselves. This is certainly the case with LinkedIn, a social media site designed with business in mind.

At its core, LinkedIn was created as a place for business professionals to network. It’s a place where businesses can form new partnerships, where employers can look for new employees and vice versa. LinkedIn users are, on average, better educated with higher paying jobs. All of these factors make for an excellent marketing opportunity for a business.

Creating a LinkedIn page for your business allows you to tap into that population, allowing you to target engagement with people who may be better connected within your community and also may have a little more to spend on your service or product. There are the obvious businesses that stand to profit from networking with the professionals on LinkedIn—a suit tailor, office supply store, or anything in the technology industry, for example—but just about any business can take advantage of the free marketing opportunity LinkedIn presents.

Find ways to advertise your business to the LinkedIn crowd. If you own a bar and grill, maybe push your happy hour. You can even offer special LinkedIn-only deals to your followers. Boutiques can push business professional-friendly attire. Salons can show off styles that would stand out in the workplace. The point is that though you may not view yourself or your business as something that would fit on the professional networking site, the people already using LinkedIn make for excellent potential customers.

When to Use Twitter Ads for Business

Twitter Bird SketchFor all the great things social media has to offer small businesses, perhaps the greatest might be the simple fact that it’s free. All of these services allow you to reach thousands and thousands of potential customers without spending a dime.

Well, sort of.

While it’s true that sites like Instagram and Vine don’t charge users to start an account and begin posting to their ever-growing list of followers—i.e., potential customers—that doesn’t necessarily mean that a post is going to be seen, read, or clicked on. How do they offer their service for free? Advertisements.

So while you may be posting for free, this doesn’t necessarily mean that a post is as effective as it can be. In fact, this is sometimes by design. A site like Facebook actively makes it more difficult for posts to be seen these days, gently prodding its users to pay to “boost” their posts so that they experience a wider reach.

While Twitter doesn’t actively limit a tweet’s reach, its wide-open, anything-goes Twitter feed means that a tweet can be quickly buried and quietly forgotten. If a follower of yours only follows 50 users, than your tweet is more likely to be seen. But if they follow hundreds of users, than their twitter feed is more likely to be full of so many tweets that they’re bound to miss some—including yours.

To combat this, Twitter offers its own paid model for tweeting. Users can pay to have tweets appear at the top of their followers’ Twitter feed, which is the ideal location for being seen. Obviously you’re not going to want to pay for every single tweet but if you have a special offer, sale, or event coming up and you want to ensure that it’ll be seen by more of your followers, than paying for a boosted tweet is the right option for you.