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General Business

19 Posts authored by: marismith

The world is ‘on edge’ these days.  Emotions are running high. Small businesses in particular are impacted, since happy customers are the backbone of any business.

 

Now more than ever, it’s time for you and your employees to practice emotional intelligence. This skill set of understanding and managing your emotions, as well as those of the people around you, is essential for those in public-facing roles, both online and offline. Mari emotional intelligence pic.jpg

 

Small tweaks in the way you handle customer support will make a huge difference in your business’ success, during coronavirus recovery and beyond.

 

Emotional Intelligence & How it Impacts You

 

When emotions go up, intelligence goes down. It’s that simple.

 

Ever notice how when a person smiles, laughs, or is kind, it can have a positive impact on your mood? The opposite is also true.

 

When an agitated person enters your realm, it’s human nature to get triggered and have a strong emotional reaction. This damages your health - your body gets into fight or flight mode; you release stress hormones. This can wear on your body over time, so you must be cognizant of it. Keep your immune system strong, manage your stress, and prioritize your emotional health so you can be the one having a positive effect on others.

 

A little bit of compassion, empathy, and genuine care goes a long way, regardless of your client or prospect’s emotional state. In fact, according to a report by the consulting firm Deloitte, customer-centric companies are 60% more profitable than companies not focused on the customer.

 

You can improve someone’s day by tuning in to their needs and providing them with an outstanding experience at your small business. You can even turn a wary prospect into a long-term customer simply by using solid soft skills to make them feel genuinely important.

 

Soft Skills that Improve Your Emotional Intelligence

 

Whether your interaction is in person, on the phone, or online, similar rules apply. When you are interacting with a client - whether they are in a regular or amped-up state, stay positive, helpful, and genuine.

 

Here are 5 key tactics that you and your team can use every day to improve your emotional intelligence.

 

1. Listen

 

When a customer is upset, don’t make assumptions or jump to conclusions. Listen deeply … listen between the lines…try to hear what’s not being said.

 

Within reason, allow the customer to ‘empty out’ and explain what’s happening and why they are upset. The more you can simply ‘hold space’ for this fellow human being, even for a few short moments, diffuses intense emotions.

 

This will make a vital difference.

 

2. Build Empathy

 

Many business communications are fragmented, fleeting and hasty. This is especially true online, but even in person people tend to be in a rush. Expressing empathy enables you to draw others out, show that you care, serve your marketplace, and enhance your small business’ reputation as a quality company.

 

Simple and effective ways to build empathy include:

 

  • Ask someone their name. Sometimes individuals don’t immediately reveal their first name - or else they’ll use an alias on social media. If they don’t offer their name, just ask.

  • Use the person’s name. A person’s name is the sweetest sounding word in their entire vocabulary, and it’s a huge part of their identity. When you use a person’s first name in a natural way while communicating with them, you’ll instantly build more rapport and empathy. This is one of my personal favorites.
  • Find out one fact about the person. If you are on the phone or in person, build rapport through conversation. If you are interacting solely online, check their bio on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn (depending on where you’re communicating), or try a quick Google search to gather a bit more information about them. Once you know something about them, mention it in a natural way. It could have something to do with their profession, education, “likes,” hobbies, or some other facet of their personality or preferences. The idea is to make a genuine emotional connection.

 

Building empathy should be easy, since businesses are more human than ever. When you pay attention to your prospects and clients, you’ll discover that most everyone has very similar wants and needs. They want to be heard and understood, to belong, to know that they matter, and that they make a difference.

 

3. Take A Breath

 

Strive to never respond to anything when you’re emotional yourself. Remember, if you’re reactive, you’re not thinking clearly and may say something or act out in a way that you’ll later regret. Best to take a long, slow deep breath and have a method like an internal mantra, telling yourself to not take this person or situation personally.

 

This can often be easier to do online vs. in person, but one of my favorite mantras before hitting the send/post/update/publish button is, “What is my deepest intent?” Let me tell you, that question has kept me out of a few knee-jerk reactions over the years! For example, if my intent is to make the other person wrong, well I’m probably still triggered and need to go calm down.

 

If you ever face a negative situation in which you feel attacked, you have an opportunity to lead by example with grace, dignity, and compassion, best you can.

 

4. Prioritize Your Health

 

You can’t help your team, coworkers, or clients, if you’re not taking care of yourself. This includes good sleep, eating well, regular exercise, social support, and having at least one pursuit that brings you joy. Maintain your health and sense of balance with a daily self-care routine that works for you. This might include deep breathing, meditation, Quigong, yoga, or similar practices.

 

Keep an eye out for your coworkers and team. If someone starts to exhibit signs of ill-health and stress, find an appropriate moment to speak with them gently or let a manager know who can address the situation. The sooner you diffuse negative situations, and help someone on the road to recovery, the better.

 

5. Actively Check Your Social Media

 

Exhibiting emotional intelligence does not only apply to one-on-one customer service in your store or online. Interaction on social media also counts. Be cognizant of what your business posts, as well as how you engage with your audience online.

 

Much like children who throw tantrums, most individuals who feel the need to attack others online are simply seeking attention. If you respond at their level, you’re essentially giving them what they want. And, by engaging with that person publicly, you’re potentially introducing the attacker to your fans and followers. As a result, you may alienate a cross section of your own online community and target audience.

 

If something looks fishy, don’t let it escalate. Shut it down right away.

 

If you take only one thing from this article, in any and all customer situations, let this phrase be your guide: “Handle with care.”

 

About Mari Smith

 

Often referred to as “the Queen of Facebook,” Mari Smith is considered one of the world’s foremost experts on Facebook marketing and social media. She is a Forbes’ Top Social Media Power Influencer, author of The New Relationship Marketing and coauthor of Facebook Marketing: An Hour A Day. Forbes recently described Mari as, “… the preeminent Facebook expert. Even Facebook asks for her help.” She is a recognized Facebook Partner; Facebook headhunted and hired Mari to lead the Boost Your Business series of live events across the US. Mari is an in-demand speaker, and travels the world to keynote and train at major events. mari headshot.png

 

Her digital marketing agency provides professional speaking, training and consulting services on Facebook and Instagram marketing best practices for Fortune 500 companies, brands, SMBs and direct sales organizations. Mari is also an expert webinar and live video broadcast host, and she serves as Brand Ambassador for numerous leading global companies.

 

Web: Mari Smith or Twitter: @MariSmith

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Mari Smith to provide materials for informational purposes only, and is not responsible for, and does not guarantee or endorse any of the third-party products or services mentioned.  All third-party logos and company names mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners and are used under license from Mari Smith. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2020 Bank of America Corporation

The world is ‘on edge’ these days.  Emotions are running high. Small businesses in particular are impacted, since happy customers are the backbone of any business.mari emotional intelligence.jpg

 

Now more than ever, it’s time for you and your employees to practice emotional intelligence. This skill set of understanding and managing your emotions, as well as those of the people around you, is essential for those in public-facing roles, both online and offline.

 

Small tweaks in the way you handle customer support will make a huge difference in your business’ success, during coronavirus recovery and beyond.

 

Emotional Intelligence & How it Impacts You

 

When emotions go up, intelligence goes down. It’s that simple.

 

Ever notice how when a person smiles, laughs, or is kind, it can have a positive impact on your mood? The opposite is also true.

 

When an agitated person enters your realm, it’s human nature to get triggered and have a strong emotional reaction. This damages your health - your body gets into fight or flight mode; you release stress hormones. This can wear on your body over time, so you must be cognizant of it. Keep your immune system strong, manage your stress, and prioritize your emotional health so you can be the one having a positive effect on others.

 

A little bit of compassion, empathy, and genuine care goes a long way, regardless of your client or prospect’s emotional state. In fact, according to a report by the consulting firm Deloitte, customer-centric companies are 60% more profitable than companies not focused on the customer.

 

You can improve someone’s day by tuning in to their needs and providing them with an outstanding experience at your small business. You can even turn a wary prospect into a long-term customer simply by using solid soft skills to make them feel genuinely important.

 

Soft Skills that Improve Your Emotional Intelligence

 

Whether your interaction is in person, on the phone, or online, similar rules apply. When you are interacting with a client - whether they are in a regular or amped-up state, stay positive, helpful, and genuine.

 

Here are 5 key tactics that you and your team can use every day to improve your emotional intelligence.

 

1. Listen

 

When a customer is upset, don’t make assumptions or jump to conclusions. Listen deeply … listen between the lines…try to hear what’s not being said.

 

Within reason, allow the customer to ‘empty out’ and explain what’s happening and why they are upset. The more you can simply ‘hold space’ for this fellow human being, even for a few short moments, diffuses intense emotions.

 

This will make a vital difference.

 

2. Build Empathy

 

Many business communications are fragmented, fleeting and hasty. This is especially true online, but even in person people tend to be in a rush. Expressing empathy enables you to draw others out, show that you care, serve your marketplace, and enhance your small business’ reputation as a quality company.

 

Simple and effective ways to build empathy include:

  • Ask someone their name. Sometimes individuals don’t immediately reveal their first name - or else they’ll use an alias on social media. If they don’t offer their name, just ask.
  • Use the person’s name. A person’s name is the sweetest sounding word in their entire vocabulary, and it’s a huge part of their identity. When you use a person’s first name in a natural way while communicating with them, you’ll instantly build more rapport and empathy. This is one of my personal favorites.

  • Find out one fact about the person. If you are on the phone or in person, build rapport through conversation. If you are interacting solely online, check their bio on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn (depending on where you’re communicating), or try a quick Google search to gather a bit more information about them. Once you know something about them, mention it in a natural way. It could have something to do with their profession, education, “likes,” hobbies, or some other facet of their personality or preferences. The idea is to make a genuine emotional connection.

 

Building empathy should be easy, since businesses are more human than ever. When you pay attention to your prospects and clients, you’ll discover that most everyone has very similar wants and needs. They want to be heard and understood, to belong, to know that they matter, and that they make a difference.

 

3. Take A Breath

 

Strive to never respond to anything when you’re emotional yourself. Remember, if you’re reactive, you’re not thinking clearly and may say something or act out in a way that you’ll later regret. Best to take a long, slow deep breath and have a method like an internal mantra, telling yourself to not take this person or situation personally.

 

This can often be easier to do online vs. in person, but one of my favorite mantras before hitting the send/post/update/publish button is, “What is my deepest intent?” Let me tell you, that question has kept me out of a few knee-jerk reactions over the years! For example, if my intent is to make the other person wrong, well I’m probably still triggered and need to go calm down.

 

If you ever face a negative situation in which you feel attacked, you have an opportunity to lead by example with grace, dignity, and compassion, best you can.

 

4. Prioritize Your Health

 

You can’t help your team, coworkers, or clients, if you’re not taking care of yourself. This includes good sleep, eating well, regular exercise, social support, and having at least one pursuit that brings you joy. Maintain your health and sense of balance with a daily self-care routine that works for you. This might include deep breathing, meditation, Quigong, yoga, or similar practices.

 

Keep an eye out for your coworkers and team. If someone starts to exhibit signs of ill-health and stress, find an appropriate moment to speak with them gently or let a manager know who can address the situation. The sooner you diffuse negative situations, and help someone on the road to recovery, the better.

 

5. Actively Check Your Social Media

 

Exhibiting emotional intelligence does not only apply to one-on-one customer service in your store or online. Interaction on social media also counts. Be cognizant of what your business posts, as well as how you engage with your audience online.

 

Much like children who throw tantrums, most individuals who feel the need to attack others online are simply seeking attention. If you respond at their level, you’re essentially giving them what they want. And, by engaging with that person publicly, you’re potentially introducing the attacker to your fans and followers. As a result, you may alienate a cross section of your own online community and target audience.

 

If something looks fishy, don’t let it escalate. Shut it down right away.

 

If you take only one thing from this article, in any and all customer situations, let this phrase be your guide: “Handle with care.”

 

About Mari Smith

 

Often referred to as “the Queen of Facebook,” Mari Smith is considered one of the world’s foremost experts on Facebook marketing and social media. She is a Forbes’ Top Social Media Power Influencer, author of The New Relationship Marketing and coauthor of Facebook Marketing: An Hour A Day. Forbes recently described Mari as, “… the preeminent Facebook expert. Even Facebook asks for her help.” She is a recognized Facebook Partner; Facebook headhunted and hired Mari to lead the Boost Your Business series of live events across the US. Mari is an in-demand speaker, and travels the world to keynote and train at major events.mari headshot.png

 

Her digital marketing agency provides professional speaking, training and consulting services on Facebook and Instagram marketing best practices for Fortune 500 companies, brands, SMBs and direct sales organizations. Mari is also an expert webinar and live video broadcast host, and she serves as Brand Ambassador for numerous leading global companies.

 

Web: Mari Smith or Twitter: @MariSmith

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Mari Smith to provide materials for informational purposes only, and is not responsible for, and does not guarantee or endorse any of the third-party products or services mentioned.  All third-party logos and company names mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners and are used under license from Mari Smith. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2020 Bank of America Corporation

In May, Facebook started rolling out Facebook Shops. This latest foray into e-commerce from the social network is designed to help businesses stay afloat as they face a challenging market. Mari Facebook stores pic.jpg

 

Small businesses can set up an online store their customers can access on Facebook and Instagram. Sure, you have your website, which will always be a valuable asset. However, your Shop, which shows up on the business’ Facebook page or Instagram profile, enables you to take your selling social. You can interact with your customers in real time and ultimately improve your bottom line.

 

Since Facebook prides itself on being a user-friendly platform, these Shops are designed to mimic live shopping experiences as much as possible. Businesses can choose the products they want to feature from their catalog, customize the look and feel of their shop, and communicate with customers through Instagram Direct, Messenger or WhatsApp.

 

Facebook wants online retailers to have a unified presence across the Facebook family of apps. Your customers can choose to check out on Facebook or Instagram and, soon, they’ll also be able to check out on WhatsApp or Messenger.

 

Facebook’s image recognition

 

For years, companies have been using images, as well as live and pre-recorded video, on social media to highlight their products and services.

 

Facebook’s new shopping technology takes things up several notches.

 

Facebook built a universal computer vision system, designed for shopping, called GrokNet. This product recognition model can identify fine-grained product attributes across billions of photos in a variety of categories.

 

By using artificial intelligence to automatically identify and tag products, photos become shoppable. Businesses can upload their offerings. And customers can easily find and purchase the products they seek.

 

AI, AR, Digital Assistants and more

 

Facebook will be combining artificial intelligence, augmented reality, and even digital assistants, as they build out “social first” shopping.

 

For instance, Facebook is creating a state of the art technique to predict layered objects, such as clothes, in photos. Additionally Facebook will be introducing Rotating View. This state-of-the-art 3D-like photo capability will allow anyone to use the camera on their phone to capture multi-dimensional panoramic views of products and then upload them.

 

Also coming soon is the ability to sell products during live videos. Small businesses will be able to tag products from their Facebook Shop or catalog. Then, those products will be shown at the bottom of the video so people can easily tap, learn more, and purchase.

 

As businesses work to find their footing, Shops is a nice addition to the small business toolkit to explore needed new revenue streams. And we all could use extra help these days.

 

About Mari Smith

 

Often referred to as “the Queen of Facebook,” Mari Smith is considered one of the world’s foremost experts on Facebook marketing and social media. She is a Forbes’ Top Social Media Power Influencer, author of The New Relationship Marketing and coauthor of Facebook Marketing: An Hour A Day. Forbes recently described Mari as, “… the preeminent Facebook expert. Even Facebook asks for her help.” She is a recognized Facebook Partner; Facebook headhunted and hired Mari to lead the Boost Your Business series of live events across the US. Mari is an in-demand speaker, and travels the world to keynote and train at major events. mari headshot.png

 

Her digital marketing agency provides professional speaking, training and consulting services on Facebook and Instagram marketing best practices for Fortune 500 companies, brands, SMBs and direct sales organizations. Mari is also an expert webinar and live video broadcast host, and she serves as Brand Ambassador for numerous leading global companies.

 

Web: Mari Smith or Twitter: @MariSmith

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Mari Smith to provide materials for informational purposes only, and is not responsible for, and does not guarantee or endorse any of the third-party products or services mentioned.  All third-party logos and company names mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners and are used under license from Mari Smith. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2020 Bank of America Corporation

marismith

The Facebook Sales Funnel

Posted by marismith Sep 3, 2020

Funnel on Facebook.jpgby Mari Smith

 

In today’s noisy digital world, prospects and customers need between 13 and 20 touchpoints before committing to a purchase. You can’t just publish a piece of content on Facebook and hope for the sales to come.

 

Sure, these touches include social media posts, but also email communication, watching videos, and browsing your website or store, as well as live interaction, such as speaking by phone and engaging via direct message.

 

Call it TLC or your customer service journey, the act of giving your prospect the care and information they deserve is a process called a ‘funnel.’ And, when you have the right one in place, incorporating organic and paid touches, you have set your small business up for success.

 

The Facebook Mix: Organic vs Paid Reach

 

Facebook’s platform can be frustrating for many small business owners. They may experience difficulty in properly identifying and finding their perfect audience, and more often than not, get very low organic reach on their Facebook business page. Then, when they try to understand how to optimize paid campaigns, they don’t quite know where to focus for maximum results.

 

Here’s the thing: since 2014, organic reach has been at an average of 1% to 6%. Since many small business owners do not realize this, they continue to post organic content with no paid campaigns, and their content gets very little reach, engagement, and results.

 

The secret is to find the right mix between organic and paid. Investing even in a small Facebook ad budget can make all the difference. It’s counterintuitive but it does work. You could get at least a 2, 5 or even 10 times return on your investment. 

 

I always recommend crafting organic content that is “boost worthy.” That is, create posts that you’d happily convert into a paid placement once you see your audience is responding.

 

Your good content gets noticed and then more people will notice your good content. Win-win!

 

Facebook Audiences

 

Before you jump into the funnel, be clear on who your audience is. Customers? Prospects? Is it everyone who likes or follows your Facebook page? Or not?

 

Map out your customer avatar, often called a persona. This includes likes, interests, demographics, etc. It’s anything and everything that will help you hone in on everyone you want to reach.

 

Think of the funnel with three distinct stages:

 

  1. Top of funnel – TOFU
  2. Middle of funnel – MOFU
  3. Bottom of Funnel – BOFU

 

Whether you do your Facebook marketing completely organically (no ad spend) or you invest in paid campaigns, you’ll want to lead your audience through all three phases.

 

To make things super-easy, inside Facebook Ads Manager, there are three clear categories of ad objectives. And each of them maps perfectly to the top, middle and bottom of the sales funnel.

 

  1. Awareness (TOFU)
  2. Consideration (MOFU)
  3. Conversion (BOFU)

 

Think of the sales funnel in these 3 buckets. People go from Cold to Warm to Hot Prospects … and then onto Paying Customers.

 

Cold Audience:

There are people who have never heard of you. They are complete strangers, so you need to make them aware of your business, brand, products, services, offers, and so on.

 

Warm Audience:

 

These people are already familiar with your business and what you do. They have not yet made a purchase, but are considering it.

 

Hot Audience:

 

These are your hottest prospects. They are now very familiar with you and are about to make a purchase. They’re on their way to convert from prospect to buyer.

 

Facebook enables you to target all three audiences, so you can very easily walk people through each stage of your funnel.

 

A Custom Audience

 

Facebook also gives you the ability to create what are called Custom Audiences. You can upload your own opt-in email subscriber list to match with Facebook users and retarget these people. Facebook hashes the data and it’s a perfectly normal practice, used for years by small and large businesses alike.

 

Alternatively, when you have the Facebook pixel installed on your website, you have the ability to retarget specific landing page visitors. For instance, if someone lands on your product page but does not make a purchase, you would retarget them to nudge them back to the product page.

 

Another way to retarget is by building an audience of people who have engaged with your content on Facebook and/or Instagram. People who have watched three seconds or more of your videos can be “reminded” about your business or service.

 

Expand Custom Targets

 

Facebook also lets you create what are called Lookalike Audiences. This is an extremely powerful tool. You start with a core Custom Audience and the magic Facebook algorithms go out and build you a fresh new audience, often in the millions, of potential leads and customers.

 

Here are some examples of Custom audience type:

 

  • Cold: Saved audiences from demographics and interests you’ve selected. These could also be from website visitors, e-mail lists and video views audiences.
  • Warm: People who have engaged with your Facebook or Instagram Page in the past 7 to 30 days, and viewed your videos.
  • Hot: Those who visited your website landing page, messaged your page, interacted with a Lead Form ad, or opted-in to your lead magnet.

 

Once you have your custom audience created you can use Facebook’s Lookalike Audiences to expand to similar users and capture more potential customers in your sales funnel.

 

The Funnel Strategy

 

Here’s my recommended Facebook ad strategy for leading your target audience through your sales funnel with paid campaigns.

 

Top of Funnel:

 

  • Content: Create a 30- to 60-second video that captures attention instantly. Be sure to place your brand, logo, and message within the first 3 seconds. First, publish it as an organic post on your Facebook page, and allow up to 24 hours of organic reach. Then make it into an ad using Ads Manager. (By the way, even a small budget on promoting a post can increase your organic reach as well!)
  • Purpose: You want to build awareness. This content - focusing on storytelling - should educate, inform, inspire or entertain.
  • Ad Objective: Video views, reach, or engagement. Your main goal is to expand your audience and build awareness so you can retarget in the next two phases.
  • Cold Target Audience: Saved (what you created using all your specific customer demographics) and/or a Lookalike Audience
  • Budget: Allocate approximately 25%

 

Middle of Funnel:

 

  • Content: Create a 15- to 30-second video that includes much of the same visuals and narrative of your TOFU video.
  • Purpose: The idea is to continue the same storytelling narrative, and entice the audience to want to know more … now! With this piece, you may want to include customer examples, highlight benefits, and/or show solutions.
  • Ad Objective: Video views, lead generation, messages (get people to DM you on Facebook), or traffic (send to a unique landing page for this campaign).
  • Warm Target Audience: These should be people who watched your first video. You may also want to include people who have engaged with your Facebook page and/or Instagram profile.
  • Budget: Allocate approximately 50%

 

Bottom of Funnel:

 

  • Content: Create a 5- to 15-second video continuing on the same narrative. You want to use a subset of visuals from your TOFU/MOFU videos - familiar content that gets right to the point!
  • Purpose: Here you want to promote a special offer with a strong CTA (call-to-action).
  • Ad objective: Conversions, Traffic, Catalog Sales or Store Traffic.
  • Hot Target Audience: Use Custom Audiences, based on your e-mail list of interested prospects, or from your Lead Form ads, Messenger ads, or visitors to a specific landing page. Your focus is on converting people into customers or clients who are now familiar with you, your company, campaign and offer.
  • Budget: Allocate approximately 25%

 

You’ll notice the suggested video lengths get shorter as you move prospects through the funnel. This is similar to television advertising where you might see a longer commercial then the same ad keeps repeating but it gets shorter and shorter.

 

That’s because advertisers know you don’t need to keep seeing the entire long ad. Repetition and retargeting really does work.

 

A Final Thought

 

One big mistake I see Facebook advertisers making time and again is they want to go straight to the bottom of the funnel. They think they can get that sale right away.

When they use all their budget on a cold audience, it’s typically a waste. Facebook ads rarely work well that way.

When building your funnel, remember:  You want to turn prospects into loyal customers by creating a bond between your strangers and your brand. Introduce audiences to your business, your products, and/or services. Allow them to get to know, like, and trust you.

 

Build that interest and engagement, and loyal customers with higher lifetime value is sure to follow.

 

 

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Mari Smith to provide materials for informational purposes only, and is not responsible for, and does not guarantee or endorse any of the third-party products or services mentioned.  All third-party logos and company names mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners and are used under license from Mari Smith. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2020 Bank of America Corporation

Influencer Authenticity.jpgby Mari Smith

 

The right social media influencer can bring much-needed attention to your small business. By introducing your business, product, or service to an influencer’s audience of raving fans, it can boost your visibility while helping generate engagement, leads and sales.

 

The key, however, is finding the right social media influencer. You want someone who is authentic, who has an engaged audience that aligns with your demographic, and whose values align with your product or service.

 

Let me break the considerations down for you.

 

Getting Started

 

The first step is finding social media influencers. There are several influencer research tools, where you can search for people by niche, area, or industry. More on tools below. You may also look to competing and complementary brands to see who they use, and how they use them, to give you an idea of what’s possible.

 

For instance, if you work in the wellness industry and see that your top competitor has a known fitness instructor representing their brand, search for someone comparable or even better to give you a leg up.

 

Once you have a list of a half-dozen ideal influencers, the research starts.

 

More than the Numbers

 

Start by reviewing their fans and followers on the major social media platforms: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and possibly YouTube, Pinterest and LinkedIn. While public-facing metrics are an excellent starting point, beware. Someone could very well have bought their fans or followers. They might even be a bot or use bots for engagement.

 

To check authenticity of the influencers, look at several things:

 

Audience:

 

Don’t just look at the numbers, see who is actually following the influencer. Is it other influencers? Brands? People with large followings? If you answered ‘yes’ to all of the above, the influencer is likely legit.

 

However, there are plenty of red flags where influencers are concerned. Beware of any supposed influencer whose followers:

- Have little to no followers themselves

- Have no profile pictures

- Have spammy sounding usernames

 

One more thing: If an influencer’s social platform has a sudden spike in engagement, it may be a legitimate campaign, or it could mean something happening that is ‘gaming’ the algorithms/systems. Do a deeper dive into this influencer… or just move on!

 

Engagers and Engagement Rate:

 

Review who engages with the influencer regularly. Look into who shares their content, retweets, likes and comments. These could be micro-influencers with their own niche community or just regular people who enjoy the influencers’ content. You will also want to read the comments and tweets. Intelligent, thoughtful replies say a lot about the influencers’ community. Users who say things like, “Hey, nice post!’ could be a bot or bought follower.

 

Often more important than the number of followers an influencer has is the engagement rate. To calculate an influencer’s engagement rate, look back over the past 20 to 30 posts, divide the total engagement per post by the number of followers, and multiply that to by 100 to get their engagement rate. You can compare that against these average engagement rate benchmarks by industry to see if they’re doing well.

 

Tone, Style and Communication

 

When considering using an influencer, you want to make sure they will be representative of your small business. That means looking into what they share on their social profiles and how they engage with their community.

 

Content:

 

Read the influencer’s posts and/or watch their videos. Are they transparent in what they share? Do they share some personal elements in their messaging? Is the tone and style of their content messaging consistently on brand for them? Is their brand aligned with your company’s style, tone, and mission?

 

Sponsored Content:

 

Are they crystal clear about paid relationships? Your business plays by the rules, and you want your influencers to do the same. Typically, this means including the tags #ad, #spon, and/or #ambassador, as well as using Facebook and Instagram’s Branded Content tagging tool.

 

Engagement:

 

The best influencers are the ones who not only share your message, but also engage with their community. Review their posts to see how involved they are with their people. Does the influencer reply to at least some of their audience’s comments? Do they appear to have genuine conversations? Do they seem natural, honest, and friendly? Is the tone and style of their communication consistent?

 

While these are public personas, you want influencers with strong interpersonal skills and genuine interest in their community, since those elements count for so much.

 

Tools

 

Once you’ve vetted your potential influencers’ social channels, their content, and their engagement, you can do a deeper dive into their reach and relationships using a variety of online resources.

 

Google Search:

 

Sometimes the most basic ways of research are the best. Look for the influencer’s name/brand, along with potential key phrases associated with their expertise/authority, to see what more you can find out online. This information will help you assess their level of authenticity.

 

Followerwonk:

 

Followerwonk enables you to identify influencers by keyword; you can also search by name. In addition, the free version of FollowerWonk allows you to compare the followers of up to three Twitter accounts, analyze an influencer’s followers, or analyze who the influencer follows.

 

BuzzSumo:

 

Use Buzzsumo to search for influencers by type and see their number of followers, domain authority, and more. There’s also a BuzzSumo browser extension, which enables you to quickly check social engagement data for the page you're viewing, or for any other website.

 

Facebook’s CrowdTangle Link Checker:

 

This browser extension provides a one-click way to see how often a link has been shared, who shared it, and what they said. This works for articles and blog posts, as well as links to social media content.

 

HypeAuditor:

 

If you want to invest in using a complete Influencer platform, check out HypeAuditor. Purpose-built for fraud detection, HypeAuditor measures overall audience quality.

 

When choosing an influencer to represent your business, it’s essential to gauge their authenticity. Start with the legwork on basic metrics, filter out the frauds, and then do extensive research on your top tier possibilities.

 

The goal: Discover the best mutually beneficial arrangement for both you and the influencer. When it’s win-win, you’ll find a long-term match and endless possibilities!

 

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Mari Smith to provide materials for informational purposes only, and is not responsible for, and does not guarantee or endorse any of the third-party products or services mentioned.  All third-party logos and company names mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners and are used under license from Mari Smith. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2020 Bank of America Corporation

How to Create a Digital Course.jpgby Mari Smith

 

Have you taken an online course over the last few months? How about over the last several years?

 

There are numerous digital courses available, covering every imaginable subject and skill, from cooking and crafts to continuing education. Online learning is incredibly convenient. And now, due to the coronavirus, digital learning has become a necessity.

 

Creating a course is an excellent way to leverage your knowledge, skills, talents, and thought leadership while bringing attention to your business. In fact, online courses can generate a nice source of additional income.

 

According to the latest market research report by Technavio, the academic e-learning market is expected to grow by $72.41 billion from 2020 to 2024.

 

If you have ever considered leaping into this massively growing market, now is the time. Here’s how.

 

Your Course Content

 

To get the most out of creating online courses, think big picture. What end result do you want your students to achieve as a result of taking your course? And what does that journey look like for you…and for them?

 

I’ve been creating courses online since the early 2000’s. It’s one of my favorite aspects of my business. Rather than a digital class that is “‘one and done,” conceptualize a series of courses that progress your students through a curriculum.

 

To get to the heart of what to create, ask yourself:

 

  • What is the problem you’re solving? For what audience?
  • What transformation do you wish to create? How will you educate your participants and guide them from their current state to the desired outcome?
  • What is the value? How will your teachings enable your students to improve their life, health, business/career, finances, relationships, etc.

 

The clearer you are on the problem you’re helping to solve and how your audience will benefit, the easier it will be to craft your course outline and materials.

 

If you’re not clear on what to teach, do a little research. Start by assessing the most frequently asked questions you get from your customers. You can also think about what things your colleagues say you innately do. Also consider this: What is a real passion of yours that you’ve always wanted to share with others? For example:

 

 

  • · A tech expert for boomers, Steve Dotto has a series of courses. He covers productivity topics, such as how to optimize tools like Evernote and Slack, and also touches on subjects, such as how to manage your online legacy.

 

By taking the time to hone in on what will best help your potential students - and your business - you will be more likely to set yourself up for success.

 

Your Course Platform

 

Although you can self-host your e-learning classes on your own website, it’s easier to use a ready-made learning management system (LMS). You upload your materials -- videos, audios, PDFs, checklists, cheat sheets, etc. -- and that is where you offer your content, interact with your students, etc.

 

Some of the more popular platforms include:

 

Thinkific. I’ve been using this one for years. Check out one of their many helpful articles here: Create and Sell Online Courses: A Step-By-Step Guide (Updated for 2020)

Teachable

Coursera

Kajabi

Udemy

LinkedIn Learning (formerly Lynda.com, acquired by LinkedIn). LinkedIn Expert Viveka von Rosen, Cofounder and Chief Visibility Officer at Vengreso, creates LinkedIn courses on topics, such as B2B Marketing and Branding, and hosts them on LinkedIn Learning.

 

The Details

 

How to Record:

 

Record your course using your favorite tools. I use Screenflow for Mac, which records my screen and camera. Also worth checking out are Loom (a free solution) and Camtasia (free trial, then different levels of premium pricing); both of these are for PC and Mac. Make sure to have a good microphone, complementary lighting, and a simple background. You want your course videos to look as professional as possible. I put together this list of video gear.

 

How Much to Charge:

 

E-learning has a vast range. Classes can go from $10 up to $1,000 or even more. When figuring out what to charge, consider all the factors. How long is your course? Is it a prerequisite for other training? Is it a one-off course, or a series? Are you offering a discount for packages? Are you creating classes as a side hustle, or do you have dreams of being a full-time course creator and leader?

 

How to Promote:

 

Market your course - as you would any other promotion - using a variety of social channels, content types, and strategies. Test Facebook ads, use your email list, and create media (podcast and video interviews). Ultimately you want to drive traffic to your course sign-up page.

 

Note: if you use a platform like Udemy, they will help you market. Do your research to find the solutions that work best for your technical skill, budget, and needs.

 

“Whether your SMB is a storefront, online business, or consultancy, if you have something important to share that can help to change people’s businesses or lives, to have the most impact, you must share it at scale,” adds Viveka von Rosen. “Creating a course is one of the best ways to share your thought leadership - and showcase your business - at scale!”

 

Whatever your business, you are an expert in your niche. And if you have ever thought about putting your own knowledge into a course, now is the time.

 

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Mari Smith to provide materials for informational purposes only, and is not responsible for, and does not guarantee or endorse any of the third-party products or services mentioned.  All third-party logos and company names mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners and are used under license from Mari Smith. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2020 Bank of America Corporation

Networking is an essential part of work and life – and it has never been more important. When you meet new people, it widens your circle. That in turn brings you closer to the Social media networking.jpgresources, opportunities, prospects, and clients you need to enhance your career and/or build your business.

 

The purpose of networking is typically for professional versus personal reasons. Fortunately, even when in-person networking is not an option, there are plenty of opportunities to network online. After all, it is social networking.

 

The Smart Approach

 

It’s easy to get carried away, spending several hours a day chit-chatting with people in a Facebook group or via Twitter – particularly during the coronavirus quarantine we are living through. But does that really benefit you or your business?

 

To make the most of your networking time, you need to understand your why. What is your purpose for networking? What do you hope to gain from it? Who do you hope to meet?

 

  • Perhaps you’re looking to add a few new top-notch consulting clients to your book of business.
  • Or, you want to identify key referral partners for your real estate business.
  • Or, you’re putting together an online summit and want to connect with the best experts.

 

When you connect your digital networking activities to why you want to expand your network, you can better research and identify the most ideal networking platforms and communities to help you reach those goals.

 

Best Places to Network

 

Start with LinkedIn: LinkedIn has 675 million monthly users. Since it’s one of the most renowned professional communities online, you know you will be networking with other similar professionals.

 

  • To start, look for groups to join and engage in. These can be related to your industry, location, or niche. There are alumni groups, groups for professional organizations, marketing groups, and more.

 

  • Next, identify key contacts to follow. Watch who posts what. Reply, answer questions, and contribute to their conversations in a natural way.

 

  • After you have established some rapport in the group, send a contact request and/or private message when appropriate.

 

People who do ‘bulk adding’ of contacts with the same copy and paste message can usually be spotted a mile off. That approach isn’t effective and could be considered spam. Instead, take a moment to personalize your note and make the intent of your outreach clear.

 

Explore Facebook Groups. Over the last couple years, Facebook has been giving priority to groups.

 

  • Facebook’s focus on groups is good news; there’s a group for every imaginable interest. The tricky part is finding the right groups.

 

  • Don’t go crazy joining tons of groups. Instead, take time to properly seek out and vet. Ask your friends and peers which groups they love and why. What works for one person may not work for another, but getting recommendations is an excellent start.

 

Join groups that help you with your professional and client development, as well as those designed for interaction. For example, Debra Eckerling’s Write On Online Group, which focuses on goal-setting and productivity for writers, creatives, and entrepreneurs, has a different conversation-starter thread each day. She starts  Monday with a “share your networking goals” post and rounds out the week with “Toot Your Horn” Thursday and “Foto” Friday.

 

  • Consider starting your own Facebook group. You can establish your leadership while highlighting your business. Come up with a catchy title that explains what the group is, as well as who it’s for. What is the value? How does it help others?

 

Be sure to connect the group to your Facebook page. For example, my Social Scoop Group is run through my Mari Smith Facebook Business Page. It’s aimed toward leaders of all types. I regularly share social media trends, news, tips, special offers, and more. It’s also a forum to encourage questions and peer support.

 

Find Other Niche Communities. When looking for online networking opportunities, look beyond the traditional social networks. Here is a list of virtual communities with more than a million users.

 

There are online networks that serve as a hub or platform for mini networks. A few standouts:

 

  • Slack
  • Ning is an online platform for people and organizations who want to create custom social networks. There’s a directory and featured groups on the home page, making it easy to find groups that match your interests.
  • If you are looking to host a group, independent of Facebook and LinkedIn, check out Mighty Networks, which offers free and premium plans.

 

 

The No. 1 Rule of Networking

 

Approach your online networking in a similar way to how you network in real life. Basically, mind your manners.

 

It’s amazing how many people online bulldoze into a conversation or new relationship without regard to building rapport. If you were at an in-person networking function, you’d meet someone, make eye contact, smile, shake hands, and ask the other person a little about themselves. You behave with genuine actions and interest. And if you have an agenda - such as to promote or sell something - people can see it and often back away.

 

If you have an agenda, when networking online, it shows immediately. While some “power networkers” might think their intent isn’t that obvious, it’s usually very apparent they’re trying to get something from you. Don’t be that person! It just does not work.

 

Networking Etiquette

 

When networking online, focus on building genuine relationships. Find ways to add value to the conversations you have online.

 

See how you can help others. That genuine intent comes back to you ten-fold. One of my favorite quotes comes from Zig Zigler: “You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want.”

 

The basic concept: Givers Gain. This is illustrated beautifully in my friend Bob Burg’s parable The Go-Giver. Bob is a leader who shares how a subtle shift in focus is not only a more uplifting and fulfilling way of conducting business, but the most financially profitable way, as well.

 

Show empathy when appropriate. In my own book, The New Relationship Marketing (Wiley, 2011), I dedicated a chapter on the new business skills everyone needs. These are predominantly soft skills. Empathy and deep listening are at the top of my list.

 

The ‘new’ part in my title refers to the digital aspect. It’s more important than ever to hone these soft skills when connecting - and communicating - online.

 

Another aspect very much in alignment with empathy and other soft skills is habit No. 5 of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey: “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” In online network terms, this translates to being curious and asking about the other person as you begin to build a dialog. Don’t be all about you, and don’t be pushing your own agenda.

 

Go the extra mile. if you’ve found a really strong contact you want to reach out to - and connect with - first find out more about them. Search a bit on Google and other social channels. Then just ‘tuck’ away some of the tidbits you discover. Don’t use that as a means to show off how much you know to the other person, as they could easily get creeped out that you’ve been basically stalking them online! However, finding points of connection to subtly add to the conversation (perhaps you have a friend in common or have similar hobbies) will help to develop rapport. This will serve you well in the future.

 

Keep your ego in check. Before ever hitting that publish/share/send button, I say to myself, “What is my deepest intent?”. Checking my underlying motivation helps to ensure that any communication comes from a place of generosity and humility.

 

A Final Thought

 

The secret to networking is community. Whether you facilitate your own online hub, take part in someone else’s, or both, approach networking from the standpoint of being genuine and helping others.

 

When you do that, you meet new people, make connections, and develop lasting relationships. And then everybody wins. Your network is truly directly connected to your net worth.

 

 

About Mari Smith

 

Often referred to as “the Queen of Facebook,” Mari Smith is considered one of the world’s foremost experts on Facebook marketing and social media. She is a Forbes’ Top Social Media Power Influencer, author of The New Relationship Marketing and coauthor of Facebook Marketing: An Hour A Day. Forbes recently described Mari as, “… the preeminent Facebook expert. Even Facebook asks for her help.” She is a recognized Facebook Partner; Facebook headhunted and hired Mari to lead the Boost Your Business series of live events across the US. Mari is an in-demand speaker, and travels the world to keynote and train at major events. mari headshot.png

 

Her digital marketing agency provides professional speaking, training and consulting services on Facebook and Instagram marketing best practices for Fortune 500 companies, brands, SMBs and direct sales organizations. Mari is also an expert webinar and live video broadcast host, and she serves as Brand Ambassador for numerous leading global companies.

 

Web: Mari Smith or Twitter: @MariSmith

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Mari Smith to provide materials for informational purposes only, and is not responsible for, and does not guarantee or endorse any of the third-party products or services mentioned.  All third-party logos and company names mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners and are used under license from Mari Smith. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2020 Bank of America Corporation

With most of the world on stay-at-home orders, it’s no surprise time on social channels has dramatically increased over the last few months. mari smith social ad.jpg

 

Social media engagement has increased 61% over normal usage rates and overall Facebook usage has increased 37%, according to Kantar. Increased usage across all messaging platforms has been biggest in the 18-34 age group. WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram have all experienced a 40%+ increase in usage from under-35-year-olds.

 

At the same, ad costs have tumbled. Socialbakers’ latest report states that ad costs in North America are down by as much as 50%. Plus, according to Statista.com, Facebook costs per click decreased from 11 cents a click in January to 9 cents a click in March 2020.

 

As a small business owner, now is the time to double down on your social ad campaigns. Yet it’s essential to be smart about how you present your brand and your offerings in any ad initiatives.

 

Here’s what you need to know to get the most out of your social advertising dollars in the time of Coronavirus.

 

Who Should Advertise?

 

There are two primary categories of businesses that are ideal to take full advantage of advertising right now:

 

- Any product or service that directly enhances people’s wellbeing on all levels, from physical fitness and spiritual offerings to solutions for improving physical and emotional health. This includes fitness instructors giving mini-lessons, chefs and food-delivery services doing demos, as well as businesses offering products and services related to meditation, healthy lifestyle, and organization, for example.

 

- Any product or service that directly enhances people’s finances on all levels. With so many businesses in flux, people are focused on ways to make money, save money, strategically lower costs, generate revenue, invest money, and/or hire the right people to grow.

 

For example, my long-time friend and colleague Jeanine Blackwell teaches people how to turn their expertise into online courses. Jeanine and her team are masterful at optimizing ads across social media channels. They start with a video, an image, or gallery of photos. The ad then drives users to register for a free webinar with high-value content. Within the webinar, Jeanine makes an offer and monetizes.

 

Jeanine’s ads offer her audience of primarily entrepreneurs and experts a solution: a way to turn their expertise into income, which will both help them with their emotional and financial health.

 

The Hyer App, which connects contract workers with businesses that need to hire help, is another relevant business in current times. (Disclosure: Hyer App is a client of the author.)

 

It’s ideal for small business owners who need extra staff, but do not want to commit to adding employees and great for workers who need to earn extra money. Their current ads are on point and targeted to the geographic areas with job openings. For instance, their posts lead with:

 

- “Help Your Community & Earn Money on Your Terms.     Download the Hyer App to access Local Jobs.”

 

-  “Your local Meijer stores need help keeping shelves stocked. Download the Hyer App to access immediate, flexible job opportunities. Make Money & Make a Difference.   ❤️  ”

 

A good use of emojis can help catch attention, too, especially for a younger demographic that are so used to communicating in emojis.

 

Best Practices

 

Want to get the most bang for your advertising buck? Map out a simple customer journey - or funnel - for the audience you want to reach.

 

Start with the End in Mind. What do you want to accomplish with your ad? For most businesses the goal is to generate leads that turn into sales. However, one of the biggest mistakes that advertisers make with social media ads is going straight for a sale to a cold audience. People who have never heard of you are much less likely to sign up or make a purchase (unless it’s a low-cost, impulse buy). You need to build up that all-important “know, like, and trust” factor.

 

You’re likely striving to get new customers to make purchases. But, realize the process may require some extra steps. First:

 

Build Awareness. Use video content to build awareness with your cold and warm audiences. This initial content can be informative, educational, inspirational and perhaps entertaining. Use storytelling to engage new users and get them excited to learn more about your business.

 

Video is the most affordable and effective ‘top of funnel’ format. It’s very inexpensive to promote video content to build an audience of video views. Note: a video view is just 3 seconds on Facebook and Instagram.

 

Use the Video Views objective to grow your reach and views. Next:

 

Retarget with New Objectives. Once you have introduced video viewers to your company, retarget them with different ads. Use objectives such as i) Traffic to your lead generation/offer page, ii) Lead Generation (a very effective ad unit for getting qualified leads), or iii) Click-to-Messenger to entice and engage people to begin a dialog with you. Then:

 

Retarget Again. Now that you have a “hot” audience - people who’ve filled out the Lead Ad or landed on your offer page but not yet signed up - you can retarget again with different content.

 

The sales process will be similar for everyone you want going through your funnel. The speed with which prospects go through your process is really up to them. What you can do is continue to showcase your knowledge, provide value, and show humanity along the way.

 

Videos & Ads

 

Video, particularly right now, is an excellent way to introduce your small business to new people. Not only does video on Facebook get the highest reach and engagement, video is the best format for connecting deeper with your audience.

 

Make good use of Facebook Live video broadcasts as well, to connect more intimately with your audience. By the way, Live streaming video on Instagram is experiencing a massive uptick as well: a 70% growth rate. (And, good news: soon you’ll be able to save your Instagram Live videos to IGTV instead of them disappearing after 24 hours).

 

You can then amplify the reach of your videos and Facebook Live replays using Facebook Ads Manager.

 

If your business offers solutions and resources, now is the time for social advertising. Just remember to use compassionate and empathetic messaging. Plus, keep your offers relevant, timely and on brand.

 

About Mari Smith

 

Often referred to as “the Queen of Facebook,” Mari Smith is considered one of the world’s foremost experts on Facebook marketing and social media. She is a Forbes’ Top Social Medimari headshot.pnga Power Influencer, author of The New Relationship Marketing and coauthor of Facebook Marketing: An Hour A Day. Forbes recently described Mari as, “… the preeminent Facebook expert. Even Facebook asks for her help.” She is a recognized Facebook Partner; Facebook headhunted and hired Mari to lead the Boost Your Business series of live events across the US. Mari is an in-demand speaker, and travels the world to keynote and train at major events.

 

Her digital marketing agency provides professional speaking, training and consulting services on Facebook and Instagram marketing best practices for Fortune 500 companies, brands, SMBs and direct sales organizations. Mari is also an expert webinar and live video broadcast host, and she serves as Brand Ambassador for numerous leading global companies.

 

Web: Mari Smith or Twitter: @MariSmith

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Mari Smith to provide materials for informational purposes only, and is not responsible for, and does not guarantee or endorse any of the third-party products or services mentioned.  All third-party logos and company names mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners and are used under license from Mari Smith. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2020 Bank of America Corporation

Virtual Meeting Tips.jpgby Mari Smith

 

If you were already hosting live events, given the global pandemic and resulting lockdowns, you’re now faced with the new reality that you cannot gather your audience together in person. At least for the foreseeable future.

 

So, how can you recreate a very similar experience in the online world? With the incredible breadth and depth of technology available today, it’s perfectly feasible to simulate an experience almost as good as in person.

 

There is no amount of sophisticated technology that will ever take the place of live, in-person meetings. We can look into someone’s eyes, read their body language, get a sense of their ‘vibe.’ The next best thing is video. And, especially live video.

 

If the idea of doing more videos is scary to you, you’re not alone! Most people really don’t care to be on camera. But it really does just take practice, practice, practice. Now is the time to push through those modest fears and go for it. We’re all in this together.

 

I’ve been doing video trainings and live streaming for 15 years and I absolutely love it. I feel very connected to my audience. But it wasn’t always that way. I was super shy as a child.

 

How to Plan

 

Consider creating a series of online streaming events/webinars. Take the body of work you would’ve been sharing at the live event and chunk down into lessons. If you were having guest speakers at your live event, you can still invite them to be a part of the virtual event.

 

Start with the end in mind. What do you want to accomplish? Is this a one-off webinar for the public? Or, a private training for your top clients? Will you be on camera? Is it a free or paid session? Answers to these questions and more will determine your set up.

 

The Tech you Need

 

Decide on the tech you’ll use. (See my list of resources below.)

 

If this is new territory for you, aim to keep things super simple at first -- maybe simply doing a Facebook Live with your phone into a private Facebook Group. Or, perhaps you’re familiar with Zoom, which is a great choice.

 

To go more high tech, use your webcam or a DSLR camera hooked up to your computer and stream via a third party app (details below). I have a whole list of recommended video gear available here.

 

The Approach for Promotion

 

Create a registration page on your website. And/or a Facebook Event on your Page.

Or, just drive people to register on a Zoom Webinar. Or, you could use Eventbrite for registrations.

 

Send out emails to your list to join the webinar/live stream. Publish invitations to register on your social media posts. And, paid media is totally fine now, too. The key element is if your webinar/live stream is relevant and helpful to your audience right now. Depending on the content, it may make sense to wait a month or so if it’s not vital right now.

 

Be very organized and clearly communicate with your audience -- emotions are running high around the world just now, and the more you can present a nice, clear path forward for your audience to learn from you, the more successful your online event will be.

 

How to Reach your Community

 

This will be one of the most important aspects of your webinar or live streaming video. People will be craving connection more than ever during this time of isolation.

 

Perhaps this is a good time to start a Facebook Group, if you don’t have one already connected to your Page. I particularly enjoy using groups on Facebook to build connection and add extra value. I run separate, private Facebook groups for all participants of my online courses. And, I run a larger group open to the public to provide value and make periodic offers.

 

Don’t Forget: Follow up

 

Again, keep that nice flow of communication going. Send out the replay by email. Connect with your audience in the Facebook Group. Encourage peer support. Be sure to answer all questions. Consider doing a follow up to address FAQs. Conduct a post-webinar survey and invite candid feedback. Run a poll in your group and find out what else your audience would like to learn from you.

 

Resources for Conducting an Online Event

 

Virtual Meeting Tools

 

 

Live Streaming Tools for Facebook (and other Social Platforms)

 

 

Video Tools

 

 

Helpful Articles

 

 

 

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Mari Smith to provide materials for informational purposes only, and is not responsible for, and does not guarantee or endorse any of the third-party products or services mentioned.  All third-party logos and company names mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners and are used under license from Mari Smith. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2020 Bank of America Corporation

Facebook Privacy Era.jpgby Mari Smith

 

As Facebook continues to prioritize privacy, small- and medium-sized businesses can look at it as an opportunity to deepen relationships with prospects and customers.

 

In January, Mark Zuckerberg solidified his vow to create safe, digital experiences for Facebook users in his annual vision post.

 

“Being part of such a large community… makes us crave intimacy,” Zuckerberg wrote on Facebook. “When I grew up in a small town, it was easy to have a niche and sense of purpose. But with billions of people, it’s harder to find your unique role.

 

“For the next decade, some of the most important social infrastructure will help us reconstruct all kinds of smaller communities to give us that sense of intimacy again.”

 

Over the next few years, Facebook plans to rebuild more of their services around the following principles: private interactions, encryption, reducing permanence, safety, interoperability, and secure data storage.

 

The 3 Keys to Small Business Success on Privacy-Focused Facebook

 

There are three specific areas of the Facebook family of apps that already thrive on privacy … and are at the focal point of this initiative. As small business owner, these are where you want to double-down.

 

1. Private Messaging

 

Privacy on Facebook’s three messaging platforms - Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram Direct - is high priority. Facebook Messenger is the No. 1 messaging app inside the U.S., and WhatsApp is the #1 messaging app outside the U.S.

 

Small Business Strategy: Integrate Messenger Automation with Chatbot Marketing

 

Since people in the U.S. are using Facebook Messenger as their primary point of individual and small group conversations, this is the first area SMB’s should dive into.

 

The recipe is simple: Use Messaging and Messenger automation via chatbots and integrate email and SMS! Chatbots can be used for lead generation, pre- and post-sales communication, improved customer service, and so much more.

 

Messages from Messenger can get open rates as high as 80 to 90 percent. Plus, their click-through rates are significantly higher than email. To get an even better return on your investment, combine chatbots with email and potentially text messaging, too.

 

Currently, chatbot platforms such as ManyChat and MobileMonkey, integrate with Facebook Messenger, email, and  texting.

 

Watch for both Instagram Direct and WhatsApp opening their respective APIs for chatbot integration at some point. Facebook is bound to roll this out for all its messaging apps sooner or later.

 

If the future is private, messaging apps are an extremely powerful and effective channel for B2C or B2B communication.

 

2. Stories

 

Zuckerberg has stated on numerous occasions that, “Stories are the future.”

 

Stories engagement has never been public, and that in part likely inspired the hidden like-counts and engagement on Instagram and Facebook. Since engagement on Stories are private, and they disappear after 24 hours, people are more likely to engage with them. In fact, there are currently over 500 million daily active users on Instagram Stories, and the same number using Facebook and Messenger Stories combined.

 

Small Business Strategy: Create More Stories

 

If you’re not already doing so, publish Stories on Instagram and Facebook regularly. If you’re not sharing organic Stories daily, at least consider making use of the Stories product via ads. If you use automatic placements in Facebook Ads Manager, you’re likely already doing Stories ads. Now take it a step further and create native Stories ads with the full, immersive 9:16 videos.

 

To increase engagement on your Stories, make good use of the poll, quiz, questions or group chat feature. People love to touch their phones!

 

Another strategy is to encourage DM replies. This helps develop and sustain relationships with your audience. And with Instagram DMs accessible inside your FB Page Inbox - and Instagram DMs coming to desktop - it’s easier than ever to start and continue those private conversations.

 

If your clients and prospects feel more comfortable communicating in private ways, such as engagement and replies in Stories, give them ample opportunity to do so.

Recommended reading: Bringing Your Small Businesses to Life with Facebook and Instagram Stories

 

3. Facebook Groups

 

Facebook has placed major emphasis on the groups product for the past couple of years. Perhaps Facebook’s biggest display of commitment is its Super Bowl ad featuring groups. Groups are instrumental in developing community among devoted fans, prospects and customers. While you can create public groups, private groups provide your community with a safer, more inclusive level.

 

Small Business Strategy: Create Private Groups

 

Develop one or more groups, linked to your Facebook page, and be sure to have a strategic purpose. For instance, you can create groups for niches within your specialty, groups for training, etc.

 

Use groups to go deeper with topics you present on your business page. For example, do a Facebook Live on your business page. Then, at a later date, host a Watch Party in your group for an active Q&A. This will also allow you to reach parts of your audience that may have missed the original stream.

 

Use your group to add value, supplement your page’s information, and create deeper connections. Other things you can do in your group include:

 

  • Do Live video broadcasts just for group members every week or even once a month
  • Conduct polls
  • Make offers periodically for building leads
  • Crowdsource user-generated content
  • Do an ask me anything
  • Create a think tank or focus group to provide feedback on new products/services

 

Recommended reading: How to Use Facebook Groups to Grow your Small Business

 

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Mari Smith to provide materials for informational purposes only, and is not responsible for, and does not guarantee or endorse any of the third-party products or services mentioned.  All third-party logos and company names mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners and are used under license from Mari Smith. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2020 Bank of America Corporation

Compelling Facebook Ads.jpgby Mari Smith

 

The secret to creating engaging offers for your Facebook ads is not really a secret. It’s knowledge.

 

Know your prospects and customers, know your business, and know the value of experimentation. When you do your research, as well as your due diligence, you are more likely to come up with successful Facebook ad campaigns for your business.

 

Here’s how to create irresistible offers for your Facebook Ads.

 

1. Know Your Audience Well

 

In order to craft the right offer that meets the needs of your prospects, clients, and customers, you first need to know who they are.

 

Facebook’s Audience Insights, accessible inside Ads Manager, is an excellent first step. As you fill out various parameters you already know about your audience, the tool will start showing you a variety of other data points that you may not have known. Of particular interest:, note the other businesses, brands and more that your audience is interested in. You can also garner demographic information from your Facebook Business Page Insights, too. But don’t stop there.

 

To really get to know your audience, do your homework.

 

Create Surveys.

 

One of the best ways to find out how to help your fans is to ask them. Use a tool, such as SurveyMonkey, or create a Facebook poll, to hone in on what your fans want and how your company can provide that. You can also ask more open-ended questions through Facebook posts.

 

Research Topics.

 

Every industry has people who share common challenges. Rather than ask your community, “ask the public.” Answer the Public is a search insight tool that shows you real Google and Bing searches. The tool helps you find common questions surrounding a keyword or phrase as it pertains to your product or service. For instance, say your business offers healthy cooking classes, Answer the Public will show you questions, which range from “which appliances cook healthy food,” to “which is the best oil for healthy cooking.” When you know your customer’s concerns, you can answer their questions in your ads before they have a chance to ask them.

 

Review your FAQs.

 

If you do not already have a file documenting all your frequently asked questions and regular requests from customers, start one today! Keep all emails and inquiries together and then, when you are looking to create new offers and ads, review your file for ideas.

 

Remember, there’s no such thing as having too much information about your community. The more you know about your audience, the more creatively you can craft offers just for them.

 

2. Decide on Your Offer

 

Once you have an idea of what your audience wants, use that information to create an offer. But what would your prospects consider irresistible?

 

Is your community budget-conscious?

 

Are they seeking tremendous savings? A one-time, limited offer? Only a certain number available? A one-day only promotion?

 

Is exclusivity a factor? What about trends?

 

Whether your audience likes things that are one-of-a-kind or they can’t stand missing out, offer them something that appeals to their basic human nature.

 

Are they seeking solutions?

 

Sometimes the best thing you can offer your community is a fix for their greatest challenge. When you can use your resources to create a much-desired solution, your product or service itself may be the only offer your customers need.

 

When considering any offer, ask yourself, “Would this make my audience stop scrolling through their feeds long enough to check it out?” If you answer “yes,” then you know you have a winner.

 

3. Craft your Compelling Facebook Ad

 

Once you have your actual offer ready, you’ll need to create your ad. Write an engaging headline and description, then choose a photo or video for the paid campaign. Using an eye-catching and relevant visual asset can make all the difference, whether an image or a video.

 

Keep in mind, any ad you create should be in the tone and style of your business, whether it’s formal, abstract, fun, educational, quirky or a mix. It needs to be in line with your branding for that all-important recognition factor.

 

No matter what your budget, you can still be creative. Embrace your scrappiness - or high production value - and come up with something that will blow people away. You want your ad to be so compelling, it makes people want to share your offer. Getting organic reach on your paid content (ads) is the Holy Grail!

 

One of my favorite examples is the video commercial from Chatbooks. It’s a fun, funny, and realistic slice-of-a-mom’s-life with a simple problem: no time to edit, organize and print photos. And, an even more simple solution: Chatbooks. The Facebook video alone has over 72 million views.

 

The company hired creative agency Harmon Brothers to come up with this hilarious storytelling video. The offer itself is compelling. But the video ad is so brilliantly done that it made for a very irresistible campaign that went viral.

 

Granted, getting millions of views on organic or paid content might be a tall order for most small businesses, but we can learn a lot about what really worked with Chatbooks’ campaign. And humor was a huge part of that! People love to laugh.

 

4. Include Dynamic Targeting

 

Facebook Dynamic Ads automatically show your products to people who have already expressed interest in it on your website, in your app, or on the internet.

 

To run Dynamic Ads you will need to install the Facebook Pixel on your website, sign up for a Business Manager account, and either create and upload your product catalog or automatically set it up through your Shopify, Magento, or BigCommerce account.

 

Dynamic Targeting is magic, because it seeks out certain customer segments and shows them an irresistible offer that seems tailor-made for them.

 

For instance, a Facebook ad for TushBaby, an ergonomic strapless baby carrier (with built-in storage) that makes it easy to tote around young children, ended up in my friend Ginny’s feed. While the packaging for TushBaby has a young mother on it, the ad Ginny was served had a photo of a grandmother using the product. Ginny is in her 60’s and posts about her grandchildren. The ad showcasing a more mature person with a grandchild was much more relevant to her.

 

A compelling and creative ad can only do its job if it is seen. Dynamic Ads give you the edge by showing your ads to the right audience.

 

5. Test, Test, Test!

 

Just as research will help you hone in on your prospects’ demographics, interests, and needs, experimenting with ads will tell you what content actually speaks to them.

 

Sampling.

 

Before pulling the trigger on your Facebook ads, send your prospective offer via email to a sampling of your database. This experiment can give you valuable insights into your ad’s effectiveness prior to monetary investment.

 

Split Test.

 

Before going too crazy with big ad budgets, take advantage of Facebook’s split test feature. Try variations on your headline, description, and graphics (photo or video). It’s helpful to do multiple tests, and see which ads get the most shares and engagement, before committing to a long-term ad campaign. The good news here is that Facebook automates the split testing for you and chooses the winning ad in your split test campaigns.

 

Create a Focus Group.

 

This option harks back to more traditional marketing days. Reach out to some of your most loyal customers and ask for their feedback. Chose three to five ads that you want to test out. Then, invite a small group to your office or shop for lunch, a presentation, and an incentive offer for their participation. Their feedback will be invaluable.

 

A Final Thought

 

Before pulling the trigger on any Facebook Ads, take the time to really create something special that shines a light on what your business has to offer. When you hit upon the right thing and have the perfect balance of organic and paid reach, you’ll know that your effort and energy was well worth it.

 

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Mari Smith to provide materials for informational purposes only, and is not responsible for, and does not guarantee or endorse any of the third-party products or services mentioned.  All third-party logos and company names mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners and are used under license from Mari Smith. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2020 Bank of America Corporation

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No amount of sophisticated technology will ever take the place of live, in-person connecting. However, the next best thing is video. Especially live video, when possible. I’ve said this for over a decade and it’s never been more true than now, given the incredible access businesses have to video and streaming technologies.

 

As a small business owner, you can really stand out with creative use of video – both recorded and live. The benefits of showcasing your business with more video include:

 

  • Better tell the stories
  • Draw your audience in with emotionally connecting videos.
  • Stand out in Facebook and Instagram news feeds. With so much competition for attention, it’s the autoplay feature that catches people’s eye.
  • Facebook has been increasingly favoring video in the news feed and especially recently with the global release of the Watch platform.

 

Facebook is determined to become a destination digital streaming video platform, right up there with YouTube, Netflix and Amazon. Facebook’s video mission is:

 

“Create shared experiences and a sense of belonging through video.”

 

It’s not just about creating and publishing more video content. It’s about building more community and sparking meaningful social interaction with your videos. Now is the perfect time to take advantage of publishing more video content across all your social media channels.

 

Last year I asked my audience to share their No. 1 challenge with getting measurable results using video on Facebook. We received over 300 responses, and these were the top five challenges people shared:

 

 

#5. Gear: Which professional yet affordable lighting, microphone, camera and accessories to use

#4. Confidence: How to overcome fears of looking silly, making mistakes, feeling too old and more

#3. Differentiation: How to stand out when it seems everyone is doing a lot of the same things with video

#2. Content: Knowing what to say; how to map out an effective content plan

#1. Time: How to find the time to create and shoot quality, professional videos for business

 

Speaking of contests, Bank of America recently teamed up with Mastercard for a fabulous contest where one lucky grand prize small business owner will receive $25,000.* To enter, you simply submit a one minute video to www.growyourbizcontest.com, explaining how $25,000 would help your business grow. All submissions will be judged on the strength and opportunity of the business plan, creativity in the use of $25,000, and overall appeal, personality and enthusiasm of entry.  Four finalists will be selected and flown to New York City to present their pitches in front of a panel of judges and live audience on 11/14/2019.

 

Entering this contest is a terrific opportunity to practice your video skills. I suggest sketching out a storyboard of your one minute video first. Less is more. Don’t cram too much in. It’s better to make one clear point, versus packing five points into one minute. Ideally, talk into the camera, looking into the lens. Here are three simple tips for how to frame a talking head.

 

If you’re already clear on your business growth plans, it might be really easy for you to shoot a one minute video. However, remember it can take more time to craft a short, concise message.

 

Easy-to-use video tools abound

 

Time consistently comes up as a challenge when it comes to creating quality video and all social media content, for that matter. However, the good news is there are simple solutions to dramatically speed up the time it takes to create terrific videos.

 

First, compile existing photo and short video clip footage you may already have on your mobile device. Check with your team members, too, for useable footage they may have as well.

 

Then, using a free tool like Adobe Spark (available on both desktop and iOS), you can easily and quickly create eye-catching video montages with text overlay and music. Animoto is another great video tool to create compelling video montages from scratch or using their array of creative templates.

 

You can also take advantage of terrific stock photos, video clips and music. Wave.video includes access to over 200 million premium assets – that’s a vast library! You’ll never be stuck for just the right photo, graphic, illustration, video clip or soundtrack to clearly communicate your brand’s message.

 

Another aspect I especially appreciate about Wave.video is you can simultaneously create multiple video formats. For example, let’s say you create a landscape version of your video for sharing on Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn. And then export the square version for Instagram and Twitter. And the 9:16 vertical version for an Instagram or Facebook Story – organic Story and/or Story ad. Plus, there’s even a Facebook Page covering video aspect ratio.

 

So, by taking one video concept, you can quickly create multiple variations and repurpose that same video for a successful cohesive campaign and save a huge amount of time. Then, when you launch a promotional campaign using your video content, your videos literally start popping up everywhere and your audiences across your various social channels will pay more attention.

 

To address some of the other challenges with creating video content mentioned earlier, do take a look at my new 3-part Video Success Kit with super helpful free resources!

 

Are You a Small Business Owner Interested in Winning $25,000?*

 

Entrepreneurs will receive the chance to win $25,000 when they enter Mastercard’s Grow Your Biz Contest, in association with Bank of America. To enter the Grow Your Biz Contest, small business owners must answer the simple question, “How would $25,000 help your business grow?” by submitting a video up to 1-minute long online . Four finalists will pitch their business to the Grow Your Biz Panel in New York City on 11/14/2019 for the opportunity to win $25,000 and small business-expert consultation. Learn more at www.growyourbizcontest.com.

 

*NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. Void where prohibited. Open only to small business owners who are legal U.S. residents, and 18 and older. Ends 10/6/19. For Official Rules and complete details, click here.

 

About Mari Smith

 

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Often referred to as “the Queen of Facebook,” Mari Smith is considered one of the world’s foremost experts on Facebook marketing and social media. She is a Forbes’ Top Social Media Power Influencer, author of The New Relationship Marketing and coauthor of Facebook Marketing: An Hour A Day. Forbes recently described Mari as, “… the preeminent Facebook expert. Even Facebook asks for her help.” She is a recognized Facebook Partner; Facebook headhunted and hired Mari to lead the Boost Your Business series of live events across the US. Mari is an in-demand speaker, and travels the world to keynote and train at major events.

 

Her digital marketing agency provides professional speaking, training and consulting services on Facebook and Instagram marketing best practices for Fortune 500 companies, brands, SMBs and direct sales organizations. Mari is also an expert webinar and live video broadcast host, and she serves as Brand Ambassador for numerous leading global companies.

 

Web: Mari Smith  or Twitter: @MariSmith

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Mari Smith to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Mari Smith is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Mari Smith. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

In a previous story, we discussed how to find your target audience on social media. Now, you need to entice your audience to visit your store and become paying customers.

 

Here are five key strategies for getting online shoppers to your brick-and-mortar store:

 

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1. Offer exclusive store discounts

 

Create discounts that can only be redeemed in store. This shows that you value your online community and wish to reward them for their loyalty. At the same time, it encourages your community to visit your store offline. To add a sense of urgency, consider adding a time limit or create a mini-event offline to add to the experience.

 

2. Utilize Instagram shopping pins

 

If you qualify, use Instagram shopping pins. This will allow you to sell your offline items online. To learn more about this, you can read my post on How To Sell Your Products On Instagram.

 

3. Answer Q&As in your Facebook and Instagram Stories

 

When you answer every objection your customer has, you help them to reach a positive buying decision. By encouraging your online community to ask you questions and being transparent in your response, you help build trust, provide value and show people why you are a company in which they would want to invest their money.

 

4. Include clear calls to actions

 

When people are scrolling on social media, they aren’t in a ‘buyer’s mode’. Your audience isn’t going to take the desired action unless you ask them to. Be clear in inviting your online audience to come and check out your store with clear calls to actions on a consistent basis. Back this up with reasons to visit each time for the greatest impact.

 

For example, ‘Come and check out our Fall collection,’ or ‘Enjoy a warm cup of hot chocolate this rainy Sunday.’ It goes without saying that by setting aside a small budget for Facebook and Instagram ads, will enhance the results you can achieve with your direct promotions.

 

5. Promote offline

 

Just as you are trying to attract your online shoppers to your offline store, you are also trying to encourage your offline shoppers to interact with you online. If you can build an online audience out of your current customers, you can attract new people through social proof and the engagement they provide.

 

Your social media accounts should become an extension of your customer service. They should be part of your customer’s experience. If you can build a like-minded community of people and a culture around your brand, your customers become even more invested. Not only will they visit your store; they’ll bring their friends with them!

 

 

About Mari Smith

 

mari_0362xFACE_preview.jpg

Often referred to as “the Queen of Facebook,” Mari Smith is considered one of the world’s foremost experts on Facebook marketing and social media. She is a Forbes’ Top Social Media Power Influencer, author of The New Relationship Marketing and coauthor of Facebook Marketing: An Hour A Day. Forbes recently described Mari as, “… the preeminent Facebook expert. Even Facebook asks for her help.” She is a recognized Facebook Partner; Facebook headhunted and hired Mari to lead the Boost Your Business series of live events across the US. Mari is an in-demand speaker, and travels the world to keynote and train at major events.

 

Her digital marketing agency provides professional speaking, training and consulting services on Facebook and Instagram marketing best practices for Fortune 500 companies, brands, SMBs and direct sales organizations. Mari is also an expert webinar and live video broadcast host, and she serves as Brand Ambassador for numerous leading global companies.

 

Web: Mari Smith  or Twitter: @MariSmith

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Mari Smith to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Mari Smith is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Mari Smith. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

As a small business store owner with a brick-and-mortar presence, you have three main digital priorities:

 

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    1. Reach your target audience online.
    2. Engage with your target audience.
    3. Entice your target audience to visit your store and become paying customers.

 

It’s a good bet much of your target audience spends a lot of time on social networking sites. There are currently 4.39 billion internet users, and 3.49 billion of those are active on social media, spending an average of 2.5 hours per day on the platforms of their choice.

 

Regardless of whether you are an online business or a brick and mortar store, social media is a fantastic way to accomplish your top business priorities in a time- and cost-efficient manner.

 

Reaching your target audience online comes down to answering the following three questions.

 

1. Who exactly is your target audience?

 

Social media is massive. It’s important that you hone in on who exactly you want to attract.

Here’s a tip: it’s not everyone. When you attempt to talk to everyone, your message becomes diluted and, as a result, it doesn’t resonate with your audience.

 

Instead, you want to focus on building a community around the type of people who buy from you. This way you can communicate in a way that captures your community’s attention and piques their interest to learn more. As a brick and mortar store, location will play a big factor here.

 

Consider demographics such as age, gender, occupation, income level and household set up. Think about the personality of your customers. What are their pain points? What do they value? What interests them? These can all be used to define your niche and the people you want to attract online.

 

2. On which platforms do your audience members spend most of their time?

 

On average, people have 5.54 social media accounts. It’s your job to choose the one or two platforms where the largest portion of your audience is engaged and focus your efforts there. For most brick and mortar stores, I recommend Facebook and Instagram. They are perfect for the visual aspects of retail.

 

If you try to be on every platform, you’ll likely run into resource issues related to the amount of time, staff and budget required to manage your social media accounts. It’s better to focus your efforts, stay consistent and make one or two platforms a success before adding more.

 

The easiest way to find out where your target audience is most active is to simply ask them. You can bring it up with current customers while in-store or ask them to fill out a survey. If your current customers are spending a significant amount of time on a certain platform, chances are, the rest of your potential audience is too.

 

3. Which similar accounts might they be following?

 

Most likely, your competitors are active on social media. They may have already built a community of your ideal audience, making it easy for you to find them. Similarly, there are likely to be a number of non-direct competitors who share a similar audience to you. They also have communities you can tap into.

 

You can easily search accounts on both Facebook and Instagram if you know your competitors’ names. On Instagram, you can search hashtags that your customers or competitors might be using. You can also search for your location on both platforms, which is a big advantage as a physical store.

 

Once you understand the locations, hashtags, and accounts that are performing well, take time to reach out and engage with your audience members.

 

Like posts, add thoughtful and relevant comments on posts, reply to Stories and show you are invested.

 

Connect with local business owners and learn from them. With the right ‘collaboration over competition’ mindset, you’ll discover opportunities to serve your customers by tapping into the community of others.

 

Now you’re ready to engage with your target audience

 

Once you’ve found your target audience, you need to earn their attention and their engagement with your brand. This is not always easy. It takes time and consistent effort but there are some best practices for you to follow.

 

1. Be consistent

 

Consistency will always have the greatest impact on your success. It’s important to post consistently and ensure you optimize your post for each platform. When it comes to Facebook and Instagram, a combination of photos and videos works well.

 

Aim to post on a daily basis if you possibly can. To help with consistency, come up with a content plan and consider using a tool like AgoraPulse, Hootsuite or Buffer to plan and schedule your content in advance.

 

2. Create thumb-stopping content

 

Your content has to be thumb-stopping to capture the attention of your audience. Use high-quality photos and videos that are visually compelling.

 

Definitely allocate a budget for content creation, particularly if you have a visual brand. Consider hiring a photographer and setting up your store aesthetic so that you encourage customers to take photos in your store and publish them online, too.

 

Share your products online and in a setting in which your audience can relate. Showcase your store. Give your prospects a reason to visit you!

 

3. Be sure to include well-written captions

 

Your captions should speak to your audience rather than at them. Including a question and some fun emojis can be a great way to spark a conversation and boost engagement. In fact, emojis increase Instagram engagement by 48 percent.

 

For video posts, always add captions, as 85 percent of videois watched with the sound off. If you’re unfamiliar with how to do this, you can use a tool like Rev, Zubtitleor Temito create these captions for you. Or, Facebook has the caption tool built-in for most video lengths.

 

4. Use location tags and hashtags

 

When posting on Instagram, always add your location to each post and include hashtags relevant to your audience. You can use up to 30 hashtags in each Instagram post. Discover which hashtags are popular and relevant simply be searching within the Instagram app and filtering through ‘Tags.’

 

5. Use Stories daily

 

Use Stories on a daily basis to give your audience an insight into the offline experience they can expect when visiting your store. Share behind the scenes of what goes on in your business. Not only does this build trust through transparency, it helps to build real relationships with people online and generate excitement around visiting your store.

 

Stories have a number of fun, interactive features. Use quizzes, questions, polls, GIFs, and stickers to showcase your brand personality and encourage engagement. Invite your audience to be part of store decisions such as which items to put in your storefront, your next offline promotion, etc. It shows you genuinely care about providing the best experience possible and helps your audience to feel invested in your brand, again, giving them even more reason to visit.

 

You can also use Stories to share experiences posted from other customers who have visited your store. This will create a buzz and provide social proof to those who are yet to visit.

 

For more tips on Stories, check out How to Make Stories Work for your Small Business.

 

Bonus Tip: If you really want to generate excitement, create a small ‘Instagram Booth’ in your store to encourage current customers to take photos/videos and post online tagging your company. This way you are also growing your online word of mouth through your current customer base.

 

 

About Mari Smith

 

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Often referred to as “the Queen of Facebook,” Mari Smith is considered one of the world’s foremost experts on Facebook marketing and social media. She is a Forbes’ Top Social Media Power Influencer, author of The New Relationship Marketing and coauthor of Facebook Marketing: An Hour A Day. Forbes recently described Mari as, “… the preeminent Facebook expert. Even Facebook asks for her help.” She is a recognized Facebook Partner; Facebook headhunted and hired Mari to lead the Boost Your Business series of live events across the US. Mari is an in-demand speaker, and travels the world to keynote and train at major events.

 

Her digital marketing agency provides professional speaking, training and consulting services on Facebook and Instagram marketing best practices for Fortune 500 companies, brands, SMBs and direct sales organizations. Mari is also an expert webinar and live video broadcast host, and she serves as Brand Ambassador for numerous leading global companies.

 

Web: Mari Smith  or Twitter: @MariSmith

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Mari Smith to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Mari Smith is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Mari Smith. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

Imagine if you could add a small but mighty group of marketing partners to your team.

 

These marketing partners are all experts in their niches, and have followers on social media that closely match your own target demographic. These potential partners would

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happily endorse and promote your offers. They get to bring additional value to their audiences, the audience members get exposure to your products or services, and you get more sales. Everybody wins.

 

This is the essence of a brand ambassador program. Creating such a program for your small business can make a dramatic difference to your marketing results. The good news is it does not have to take much time or effort to launch, yet can yield tremendous growth and profits for your business.

 

Forward-thinking businesses understand that consumers want honesty and transparency. Working with brand ambassadors can be extremely effective and affordable as there is pre-existing trust and affinity between the influencer and their followers.

 

People definitely trust recommendations from peers more than they trust brand ads. In fact, studies show that 84 percent of consumers trust word-of-mouth recommendations the most.

 

Brand ambassador program formats

 

Brand ambassador programs can have a variety of formats; you get to choose what might work best for your business model.

 

For example, your program could be similar to an affiliate program or referral program, where anyone can sign up on your website to get a unique tracking link. Ambassadors then use their tracking link to promote your offer to their audience. And, you only pay ambassadors a commission on sales they make.

 

Many SaaS (software as a service) companies offer more open type of ambassador programs like this. Examples include marketing automation company HubSpot, social media management platform AgoraPulse, and online video creation tool Wave.video.

 

You could make your ambassador program by application only to make it more selective and ensure you get quality matches. For example, Podium is a customer feedback software company for local businesses and they have a compelling invitation to explore becoming a Podium partner on their website. I particularly appreciate the verbiage on their inquiry form, “Podium partners with some of the most respected marketing consultants, business service providers, and marketing agencies across the globe.”

 

Alternatively, what may be most effective for you is to identify and proactively reach out to potential ambassadors. They may be known as micro- or macro- influencers in their industry.

 

The popularity of influencer marketing has quickly given rise to what are referred to as “micro-influencers.” These are Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest users, for example, with small but very loyal audiences. Conversely, “macro-influencers” are power users and widely recognized trendsetters, many of which have followings in the hundreds of thousands or millions.

 

Now, we even have “nano-influencers” on the rise. These folks are normal everyday social media users with follower counts between 1,000 to 5,000.

 

How to compensate brand ambassadors

 

Brand ambassador terms could range from a one-time project where you pay a flat fee and/or a performance based bonus. Or, it could be you work with select ambassadors with an ongoing monthly retainer for services provided. Nano-influencers are most likely to be happy with some free product or modest compensation.

 

Ambassador packages could include a mix of the following:

 

  • Monthly retainer for specific brand awareness campaigns and lead generation deliverables
  • Flat fee for a specific marketing project
  • Performance based compensation with commissions payable for leads and/or sales
  • Free supplies of your product
  • Free access to your software, app, or other services
  • Any other creative ways you come up with that are win-win for your business and the ambassador

 

How to find prospective brand ambassadors

 

Search social networks such as Instagram, Twitter and Facebook for specific keywords and hashtags to see if you can identify good matches.

 

Nano-influencers may be the easiest to reach and team up with, versus a major celebrity or certain macro-influencers.

 

Instead of doing your own organic searches, you might enlist the help of a service that specializes in finding you ideal influencers/brand ambassadors with which to work. For example, take a look at Influencer Marketing Hub.

 

Also, Facebook recently launched a tool to help brands and potential ambassadors partner up. The feature is called Brand Collabs Manager. You can visit my own portfolio by way of example.

 

Plus, your top customers could even become some of your first brand ambassadors! Review your list of best customers and reach out to them with an invitation.

 

What deliverables do brand ambassadors create?

 

Tap into what comes naturally to the ambassador and also what their audience most resonates with. For example, I love to do educational webinars and Facebook Live video broadcasts with educational content, and my audiences love this, too. The list of companies I’ve done this for include Hootsuite, BeLive.tv, Podium, Telestream Wirecast, IMPACT Branding & Design and more. For Adobe, I hosted a Facebook live from their annual MAX Creativity Conference, with live demos of new products.

 

Deliverables endorsing your product or service can include any of the following on the ambassador’s channels:

 

  • Publishing content on any of the major social networks – in link, image or video format
  • Hosting live video broadcasts on Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, etc.
  • Using your product or service and doing how-to videos
  • Leading educational webinars
  • Writing and publishing a blog post
  • Sending out a dedicated email broadcast to subscribers, or a mention in an email newsletter
  • Showcasing a case study of yours in a keynote speech if the ambassador is a speaker, for example
  • Hosting a live event

 

There’s no limit to what creative arrangements you might come up with for your brand ambassadors. For instance, I recently hosted a 30-day video-a-day challenge for Wave.video. I ran the challenge inside a special pop-up Facebook group where I gathered over 1,700 participants, 90 percent of which were new leads for Wave.video.

 

How to track your brand ambassadors’ results

 

There are myriad ways to structure agreements when it comes to results. It all depends on your business objectives.

 

Perhaps you’re simply looking for brand awareness and more visits to your website and/or foot traffic to your store.

 

Or, your focus may be on qualified leads that sign up on your website with their email address and phone number.

 

Ultimately, you do want to tie all brand ambassador results to the bottom line and quantify with actual sales so you can measure a solid ROI.

 

Finding brand ambassadors that match your brand promise and that have an audience of your ideal demographic are the keys to success.

 

 

Are you interested in hosting a Facebook Live event like I do? 

 

Learn from Carol Roth

 

 

About Mari Smith

 

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Often referred to as “the Queen of Facebook,” Mari Smith is considered one of the world’s foremost experts on Facebook marketing and social media. She is a Forbes’ Top Social Media Power Influencer, author of The New Relationship Marketing and coauthor of Facebook Marketing: An Hour A Day. Forbes recently described Mari as, “… the preeminent Facebook expert. Even Facebook asks for her help.” She is a recognized Facebook Partner; Facebook headhunted and hired Mari to lead the Boost Your Business series of live events across the US. Mari is an in-demand speaker, and travels the world to keynote and train at major events.

 

Her digital marketing agency provides professional speaking, training and consulting services on Facebook and Instagram marketing best practices for Fortune 500 companies, brands, SMBs and direct sales organizations. Mari is also an expert webinar and live video broadcast host, and she serves as Brand Ambassador for numerous leading global companies.

Web: Mari Smith  or Twitter: @MariSmith

You can read more articles from Mari Smith by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Mari Smith to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Mari Smith is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Mari Smith. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

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