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Sales & Marketing

11 Posts authored by: Joel Comm

It’s the dream of every social media marketer. Create a video ad that strikes a nerve, then watch it spread across the Internet. Followers share it with their friends. Friends share it with their relatives. Influencers pick up on it and share it with their followers. In no time at all, a piece of marketing that would normally be seen by a few thousand people is seen by millions around the world.

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Those millions don’t just see the video. They also see the company’s name, its logo, its offer, and its marketing message. The company lands the kind of exposure that would have cost millions had it tried to buy that reach through advertising. It’s like winning the lottery with a single ticket.

 

But while viral marketing can bring benefits, even a viral hit doesn’t beat a solid social marketing strategy.

 

First, virality is unpredictable. Although marketing companies might sell the promise of a viral hit, no one really knows what makes one piece of content go viral while another is ignored. Hollywood still churns out more duds than classics and it’s been making movies for a century. If studios can’t figure out the hit formula, businesses can’t be expected to do any better, even dedicated marketing firms.

 

But even if you could guarantee an ad will go viral and spread around the world, it still wouldn’t beat a social media marketing strategy because virality is also untargeted. You don’t know who’s going to see a viral ad. Most of the people who watch it will be interested in the content but they might never have been interested in the product. You might have giant viewing figures and enormous general awareness, but you could still only have reached a small part of your potential market.

 

At a time when advertising platforms let you target ads by demographic as tight as “single people aged 21 to 40 living within thirty miles of Duluth who like strawberry ice cream,” viral advertising’s shotgun approach can look very old fashioned. Billboard ads can be seen by thousands of people too, but they rarely result in direct, trackable sales.

Because you don’t know who saw that ad, you can’t turn to that audience again to follow up. Social media marketing’s big advantage might be its fine targeting, but today’s advertising also allows for re-targeting. No business can expect to make a large number of sales on their first contact with a lead. They need to repeat that contact and continue pushing their message. They need to build a relationship with leads that create trust.

 

Once a lead trusts a brand, they’ll come to like the brand. And once they like the brand, they start to buy from the brand.

From there, as long as the product has done its job, they also tell their friends about the brand, starting a new kind of virality but one powered by personal recommendation rather than funny cats

 

Social media marketing enables continued contact. It lets you reach an audience with a targeted ad. It then lets you continue the conversation with that audience, turning curiosity into interest and interest into intent.

 

Viral hits burn bright, but they burn fast and leave few traces behind.

 

Target your content by demographic and interest on social media. Build a following. Plan your content so that you maintain the curiosity of that first contact. Track the results of your content so that you know what interests your followers. Build trust and loyalty. Guide your followers through a funnel that leads to an attractive offer.

And don’t feel envious when a rival goes viral. They might have a hit video but you’re making a long-term impact on your market.

 

About Joel Comm

 

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As an Internet pioneer, Joel has been creating profitable websites, software, products, and helping entrepreneurs succeed since 1995. He has been at the frontlines of live video online since 2008 and has a deep expertise in using tools such as Facebook Live, Periscope, Instagram or Snapchat to broadcast a clearly defined message to a receptive audience or leveraging the power of webinar and meeting technologies.

 

Joel is a New York Times best-selling author of 15 books, including “The AdSense Code,” “Click Here to Order: Stories from the World’s Most Successful Entrepreneurs,” “KaChing: How to Run an Online Business that Pays and Pays and Twitter Power 3.0.” He is Co-Host of The Bad Crypto Podcast one of the top crypto-related shows in the world and has spoken before thousands of people around the world and seeks to inspire, equip and entertain.

 

Web: https://joelcomm.com/ or Twitter: @JoelComm

Read more from Joel Comm

 

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

Call a major company, and you’d be surprised if a real person answered the phone. It’s more likely that you’ll first be told which button to press based on your question. Pressing that button opens a new menu of options, which leads to another branch, and so on.

 

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For customers, the process can be frustrating but as you’re pushing your keypad, the company’s computer system is collecting information about you. By the time you finally get to speak to a customer service rep, you’ve already answered most of the questions that she would have needed to ask. She can read your selections then focus on the task that the computer can’t accomplish: identifying the details of the issue and solving your problem.

 

This process describes customer service automation in one of its most common and simple forms, and the benefit to the company is clear: the less time staff spend asking routine questions, the more time they’ll have for the more difficult problems. The company will become more efficient.

 

Call automation is just one part of a growing trend in both sales and customer service. That trend includes asking customers to select answers from a website FAQ instead of sending an email. It includes autoresponders whose content and sales recommendations are based on contact lists segmented by purchase, demographics or registration. It includes algorithms that make special offers based on previous choices. It even includes chatbots that turn up in the corners of websites and use text and natural language processing to create the illusion that the customer is talking to a real customer service rep.

 

All this artificial intelligence can be very effective.

 

When Smyths Toys, a toy company in the U.K. and Ireland, increased its online marketing, it found that it also generated significant volumes of abandoned shopping carts and customer service tickets. The company turned to an automation software firm to solve these problems. According to the software firm’s case study, the toy company focused first on tracking the customer journey on the website, and in particular on the checkout form. When customers contacted a customer care representative, that rep could see where the customer had been and precisely where they had got stuck. That quickly improved the response rate. When a customer used a promo code that expired before the transaction was complete, for example, the rep was able to quickly identify the problem and honor the discount.

 

The software was then able to use the data it collected to reach out to customers using chat, SMS, or voice based on their on-site experience. Because it was able to predict customer needs, a simple form of artificial intelligence, nearly two-thirds of the customers offered live chat messaging responded positively, reducing the number of support tickets.

 

It’s no wonder that a 2018 survey by The Economist Intelligence Unit found that 90 percent of respondents expected AI to improve growth, and 27 percent had already incorporated AI into key processes and services. Nearly half had at least one AI pilot project already under way.

 

Many of the automation systems made by firms like HubSpot, Salesforce and Genesys (which powered Smyth’s Toys’ software) are aimed at medium to large businesses. Service organizations generally use them to gather information, to automate routine customer issues such as resetting passwords and tracking orders, to route cases to the right agents, and to pre-fill fields for both agents and customers.

 

But complete systems aren’t cheap and their implementation requires re-training staff and making new technical demands.

 

Even small firms though can begin automating their processes themselves:

 

  • A FAQ page that predicts and answers common questions can be bought off the shelf.
  • Phone call branching software might irritate customers but its automated data collection improves efficiency and is easily available.
  • Customer tracking through website cookies can reveal bottlenecks, allowing the business to deliver better options and build a smoother path from recommendation through selection to checkout.
  • Contact list segmentation is a staple of email marketing and doesn’t require powerful, state-of-the-art technology to use. It just demands an understanding of customer demographics and a marketing team that can produce targeted content and track the results.

 

Even small firms have plenty of options to implement simple automation and AI-powered sales and customer service processes. But small firms also have an advantage: they can talk to customers directly. Automation works best when it improves a personal connection, not when it replaces it.

 

There still needs to be a friendly voice at the end of the phone.

 

About Joel Comm

 

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As an Internet pioneer, Joel has been creating profitable websites, software, products and helping entrepreneurs succeed since 1995. He has been at the frontlines of live video online since 2008 and has a deep expertise in using tools such as Facebook Live, Periscope, Instagram or Snapchat to broadcast a clearly defined message to a receptive audience or leveraging the power of webinar and meeting technologies.

 

Joel is a New York Times best-selling author of 15 books, including “The AdSense Code,” “Click Here to Order: Stories from the World’s Most Successful Entrepreneurs,” “KaChing: How to Run an Online Business that Pays and Pays and Twitter Power 3.0.” He is Co-Host of The Bad Crypto Podcast one of the top crypto-related shows in the world and has spoken before thousands of people around the world and seeks to inspire, equip and entertain.

 

Web: https://joelcomm.com/ or Twitter: @JoelComm

Read more from Joel Comm

 

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

Some business owners live for the sale. They spend months designing sales funnels, testing offers, and reviewing conversion rates to maximize their efforts and ensure that every dollar they pour into advertising comes back with friends.

 

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For other business owners, time spent marketing is time they would rather spend developing their product line or handcrafting their goods. They know marketing is a vital part of building a business but they see it as a chore. They would rather do anything—even clean the office—than chase those conversions.

 

But there is a solution. Marketing doesn’t have to be about spreadsheets and copywriting and sales software. It can be about customer engagement.

 

Or to put it another way, sales can happen when you talk to people with the same interests and tastes as you. That doesn’t feel like work. It certainly doesn’t feel like marketing. It feels like fun!

 

There are three ways to engage with leads and customers.

 

1. Let Your Fingers Do the Talking

 

The simplest way is to join online groups and forums where people discuss products like yours. Every interest is represented online from beauty tips to garden gnomes so whatever you’re selling, you can find your community. Look for them in forums and discussion threads. Follow people discussing your topics on Twitter, and collecting images on Pinterest. Search for Facebook groups that are filled with people who might love your goods.

 

Join those groups but don’t sell in those groups. Instead of marketing, just take part in the conversations. Talk about a subject you love, and do it regularly. Mention that your expertise comes from making or selling related products but don’t push for the sales. Trust the sales to come to you as people get to know you, and see your expertise and passion for an interest that they share. As they recognize your knowledge, they’ll come to trust you. Once they trust you, they’ll want to buy from you. You won’t have to persuade them. The sales will come naturally.

 

2. Create Your Own Shopping Channel

 

You can also broadcast live videos.

 

While forum and Facebook group discussions will let you take part in discussions about your industry, a live video will let you show people how to use your products. Sellers of beauty products, for example, have used live videos on Facebook to demonstrate make-up techniques—and offered ways for viewers to buy the products they’re demonstrating.

 

Promote the broadcast details before it takes place so that people know when to watch, and make use of the ability to see comments as they come in. Live video is interactive. You’ll be able to answer your viewers’ questions on the fly and you’ll be able to talk with audience members while you’re demonstrating.

 

The aim should be to make sales, but it should also be to enjoy yourself. When you’re demonstrating the benefits of a product you love, you should be having fun. That pleasure will be infectious. Your audience will feel it and they’ll want more of it. They’ll sense that by buying the products you’re demonstrating in your live video, they’ll have access to that fun whenever they want.

 

 

3. Set up Your Booth

 

A live video will put you in front of lots of people at the same time but there will still be a distance. There will always be a screen between you and them.

 

That’s why another great way to market (without feeling like you’re marketing) is to take part in your industry’s fairs and conferences. These are opportunities to meet your most dedicated customers and leads in person. Again, you won’t be pitching here. Your booth might be decorated with all sorts of marketing material but the aim will be to talk to people like you, to listen to their preferences, and hear their needs. Those conversations will bring sales too. The discussions will open new networks. The knowledge you share and receive will deepen customer loyalty and make you the first choice when those people want the products you sell.

 

None of this feels like marketing. Why?

 

    • Joining discussions on Facebook groups will feel like procrastination. It’s the sort of thing you do when you don’t feel like working.
    • A live video will feel like showing friends something really cool—and being appreciated when you do.
    • A fair or a conference is a chance to meet old friends and have a coffee with the people you’ve met online.

 

It’s fun—and that’s when the marketing magic really happens.

 

About Joel Comm

 

Screen Shot 2019-02-08 at 9.16.44 AM.png

As an Internet pioneer, Joel has been creating profitable websites, software, products and helping entrepreneurs succeed since 1995. He has been at the frontlines of live video online since 2008 and has a deep expertise in using tools such as Facebook Live, Periscope, Instagram or Snapchat to broadcast a clearly defined message to a receptive audience or leveraging the power of webinar and meeting technologies.

 

Joel is a New York Times best-selling author of 15 books, including “The AdSense Code,” “Click Here to Order: Stories from the World’s Most Successful Entrepreneurs,” “KaChing: How to Run an Online Business that Pays and Pays and Twitter Power 3.0.” He is Co-Host of The Bad Crypto Podcast one of the top crypto-related shows in the world and has spoken before thousands of people around the world and seeks to inspire, equip and entertain.

 

Web: https://joelcomm.com/ or Twitter: @JoelComm

Read more from Joel Comm

 

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

Josiah Wedgwood started the ball rolling. Back in the 1760s he added royal endorsements to his pottery to show customers they could trust his tea sets. In the early 1900s, Mark Twain put his name to pens. Later, Ty Cobb would beat Michael Jordan to athletic endorsements by marketing tobacco.

 

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From Doris Day pitching Harvester road rollers to George Clooney selling coffee pods, we’re accustomed to seeing celebrities offering products they think their audiences will enjoy—and earning money from it.

 

What’s changed in the last few years is the nature of celebrity. People no longer need to write classic books, hit home runs, star in movies or wear a crown to build an audience whose buying decisions they can influence. They can publish their content on platforms like Instagram and YouTube, and build those audiences themselves.

 

For businesses, the result has been a huge expansion in both the range of possible endorsements and depth of those endorsements. Companies don’t need to approach movie stars with requests to use their names. They can just contact someone with a big Instagram account, and ask them to influence their followers to buy the products they make. This year the value of the influencer marketing industry is expected to reach $6.5 billion.

 

Much of that money has flowed from consumer-facing businesses, and in particular cosmetics firms, food companies, and the hospitality industry. These are businesses with photogenic products whose images are easily shared on Instagram or shown on YouTube. They also have the kind of young markets found on those social media platforms. It’s a good match.

 

But other industries are also looking to benefit from influencer marketing, and at the same time businesses that have used influencer marketing are showing concern. They’re worried that they might be paying for fake followers and inflated figures. In one recent study, nearly two-thirds of respondents who had used influencers said that they had direct experience of influencer marketing fraud.

 

Together, those pressures have created a new opportunity for non-traditional influencers. These are people who may have small followings or who have built an audience in a particular niche market. Instead of aiming to attract millions of young people who love pranks or new lipstick ideas, they may have audiences of just a few thousand who like making cushions or who need carpentry advice. Those audiences might not be a direct match for a product but they do overlap.

 

Chief Marketer, a marketing publication, recently described how drinks company Sparkling Ice turned to Margaret Scrinkl, a papercraft artist, to market their new product.

“Having seen her work we knew she would be a good brand fit given the fun and color,” Sarah Gustat, vice president of  marketing at the brand’s parent company, told the website. “It felt like a reflection of the Sparkling Ice brand and really brought the campaign to life.”

 

The content didn’t match on its face. Scrinkl creates videos about art; Sparkling Ice makes cocktails. But Scrinkl did bring a number of features to the brand that made buying her influence worthwhile: the demographics overlapped; the style of the brands were in sync; and Scrinkl’s engagement levels were high, a sign that her audience is genuine and that she has the ability to move them. Sparkling Ice was very happy with the result, and didn’t have to turn to an expensive drinks influencer to achieve them.

 

Finding non-traditional influencers who can help your business takes a little time—but it can also be fun.

 

Skip Google and head straight to a social media platform, especially Instagram. Search for the keywords or hashtags related to your product then do a deep dive. Instead of stopping at the biggest influencers, look through their followers and see who else they follow. Those additional accounts represent a new entryway into your market. Identify a handful of influencers with interesting content and high levels of engagement, then approach them with an offer.

 

Because they’re still small, that offer won’t need to be huge. Some influencers have been known to take free samples as payment for promoting a product. (If you’re trying to create a long-term relationship, you might want to go bigger than that though!)

 

And make sure that you know what your call to action will be, whether it’s clicking a link, following your own account, or taking up a special offer. You want to be able to measure the effectiveness of the influencers you use.

 

You might not be able to land a royal endorsement, but you should find that you’re able to move an audience and influence sales.

 

READ NEXT:

 

 

About Joel Comm

 

Screen Shot 2019-02-08 at 9.16.44 AM.png

As an Internet pioneer, Joel has been creating profitable websites, software, products and helping entrepreneurs succeed since 1995. He has been at the frontlines of live video online since 2008 and has a deep expertise in using tools such as Facebook Live, Periscope, Instagram or Snapchat to broadcast a clearly defined message to a receptive audience or leveraging the power of webinar and meeting technologies.

 

Joel is a New York Times best-selling author of 15 books, including “The AdSense Code,” “Click Here to Order: Stories from the World’s Most Successful Entrepreneurs,” “KaChing: How to Run an Online Business that Pays and Pays and Twitter Power 3.0.” He is Co-Host of The Bad Crypto Podcast one of the top crypto-related shows in the world and has spoken before thousands of people around the world and seeks to inspire, equip and entertain.

 

Web: https://joelcomm.com/ or Twitter: @JoelComm

Read more from Joel Comm

 

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

You probably associate YouTube with music videos, children’s programming and strange influencers, yet the Alphabet property is as much a marketing channel as it is an entertainment channel.

 

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Alphabet, the parent of Google and YouTube, doesn’t break out YouTube’s advertising revenues but in 2017 it  was believed to have earned about $12.4 billion from advertisers. In the first quarter of 2019 alone, a combination of YouTube and mobile search were responsible for much of Alphabet’s 17 percent growth. That was money spent by businesses looking to turn YouTube’s video views into revenue. Some of those companies would have been local—and not all local businesses on YouTube even spend money on placement.

 

Here are four ways to use YouTube for local advertising.

 

1.    Create Local Content

 

The easiest option is to create video content that appeals to your local market. This video from Del Sol Furniturelooks like the kind of commercial you might find on local cable. It picked up nearly 250 views on YouTube. That’s not much but even a 1 percent conversion rate would have been enough to give it an extra sale or two with little expense beyond the commercial itself.

 

You can be a smarter though. B&H Photo in New York City invited Austin Evans,a YouTube influencer with nearly 4 million subscribers, to tour the store after closing. Viewers got to see some cool gadgets. Evans got to shoot some good content. And the store won some free advertising. That video has clocked more than 1.25 million views. If you can turn a tour of your business into interesting content, either by shooting the video yourself or by working with an influencer, you can land some big views and plenty of new customers.

 

2.    Go Live!

 

In a recent trend report, Google noted that more and more people are watching “global cultural moments in real time.” The examples that Google gave included Felix Baumgartner’s leap from space and the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle but you don’t have to jump out of a balloon or marry into royalty to benefit from live video.

Whenever an event takes place at your business, or whenever your business takes part in an event, bring everyone with you. If you’re planning to take a stall at a fair, for example, tell your social media followers that you’ll be broadcasting from the event. Grab a camera and walk the stands. Talk to other stall holders and ask them about their products. If you’re holding a sale, broadcast from the store. Tell people what’s selling and why they should get down to your outlet fast.

 

A live video might land a small audience during the broadcast but it does bring a number of additional useful benefits. It’s interactive: viewers can use the comments to ask questions in real time. It’s urgent; anything can happen during live television. And it’s also permanent. Even live video becomes recorded video after the broadcast is over. The video just keeps on working.

 

3.    Go International

 

Over a third of the clicks on Google ads posted by U.S. businesses are generated outside the country. On average, more than 60 percent of the viewers of U.S.-made YouTube videos are outside America. Those fascinating figures are also from Google, and they show the size of the opportunity available to local companies that are willing to ship abroad.

 

Google cites a South Dakota bicycle-maker and a Maryland bow tie-maker as two examples of local businesses that use YouTube to reach customers overseas.

Clearly, this isn’t going to be a solution for everyone. A wedding photographer will only have a small market but even local manufacturers can export if they’re willing to figure out the logistics. YouTube’s borderless reach gives those companies access to new international markets.

 

4.    It Pays to Advertise

 

Finally, there’s always advertising. The advantage is that you don’t have to build an audience for your YouTube videos. You can just benefit from someone else’s audience. The disadvantage is that you pay for the placement and you have to be careful with your targeting to make sure that you’re only showing your ads to people who genuinely want to see them.

 

You also need to choose which kinds of ads to buy. Skippable ads are user-friendly. They let viewers scroll past after a few seconds. You need to give viewers a reason to keep watching as early as possible. Non-skippable ads force viewers to watch to the end. They deliver the message and tend to have high engagement levels but also a high abandonment rate.

 

“These ads also tend to get a bad rap because they seem forceful,” says marketing expert Neil Patel. “But, if your ads are good and targeted effectively, they don’t need to represent trouble. In fact, good ads will be shared on social media for entertainment purposes in their own right.” Get Started.

 

Start by creating your own content and building your audience on YouTube. Broadcast a live video to deepen engagement. Look for opportunities to make international sales. And once you’ve got the hang of video making and winning audiences, look for places to advertise and deliver the messages that turn YouTube viewers into your new customers.

 

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About Joel Comm

 

Screen Shot 2019-02-08 at 9.16.44 AM.png

As an Internet pioneer, Joel has been creating profitable websites, software, products and helping entrepreneurs succeed since 1995. He has been at the frontlines of live video online since 2008 and has a deep expertise in using tools such as Facebook Live, Periscope, Instagram or Snapchat to broadcast a clearly defined message to a receptive audience or leveraging the power of webinar and meeting technologies.

 

Joel is a New York Times best-selling author of 15 books, including “The AdSense Code,” “Click Here to Order: Stories from the World’s Most Successful Entrepreneurs,” “KaChing: How to Run an Online Business that Pays and Pays and Twitter Power 3.0.” He is Co-Host of The Bad Crypto Podcast one of the top crypto-related shows in the world and has spoken before thousands of people around the world and seeks to inspire, equip and entertain.

 

Web: https://joelcomm.com/ or Twitter: @JoelComm

Read more from Joel Comm

 

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

With over 1 billion users, Instagram is just too big for businesses (even small ones) to ignore. The image-sharing platform, owned by Facebook, is a vital channel for connecting with customers, building engagement, and showing people who you are and what you offer.

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Here are five strategies to turn your Instagram account into a winning marketing channel.

 

1.    Make Every Image Count

 

Every image your small business puts on Instagram should matter. All your pictures should be well-lit, carefully composed, and match the branding and style of your business. Think of your feed as a kind of informal, ever-growing catalog, filled with product pictures and mood-setting scenes. Most important, the contents of that catalog should always cater to the interests of the people who follow your account and see its content.

 

“The difference between a business account that just posts for the sake of sharing, and an account that makes an impact is that they know what clients want to see,” says Sue B. Zimmerman, an Instagram business coach.

 

Sue points to The Dry Bar, a salon chain, as one company that’s getting it right. The company’s feed contains just a hint of snark, plenty of fresh flowers and touches of the brand’s signature yellow.

 

“They use their Instagram feed to reflect their brand values and what makes them unique in their niche,” she says.

 

Related Reading: How To Sell Your Products On Instagram: A Step-by-Step Guide for Businesses

 

2.    Build Conversations in the Comments Threads

 

It’s images that will attract attention and build engagement, but Instagram isn’t all about pictures. The comment threads on your posts also allow businesses to interact with customers in the same way that a store assistant builds a relationship with a brick-and-mortar visitor.

 

“Your comments should advance the conversation or add a new perspective that keeps the comment thread active,” says Sue.

 

That means doing more than picking an emoji. It means going into detail and really thinking about what you want to say as you add new information.

 

3.    Take Your Time and Watch Your Stats

 

There are no overnight successes on Instagram, at least not for businesses that focus on real followers and engagement. A following in the thousands takes time to generate, and much of that time should be spent figuring out what kind of content your followers respond to most.

 

“Be patient and analyze your Instagram insights,” says Sue. “Then you’ll never have to guess the kind of content that your followers will want to see.”

 

Create a content calendar, track the results of each post that you create, and make more of the images that generate the most shares, likes, and comments.

 

4.    Hit the Hashtags Hard

 

Building a following on Instagram means first being found on Instagram. It means helping people who are interested in the kinds of images that you’re sharing to find them easily. Instagram can’t search the pictures themselves, but it can search the text around the image, especially the hashtags.

 

“I think a lot of businesses, especially when they’re starting out, underestimate how valuable hashtags are for discovery and growth,” says Sue.

 

Know which hashtags are always relevant for your industry and your field. Keep track of the hashtags that are currently popular. And make sure that you include a number of tags with your posts so that people looking for those hashtags can find you.

 

5.    Treat Stories as Your Own Personal TV Channel

 

Much of Instagram marketing is built on individual images that give followers snapshots of your business—carefully curated and photographed snapshots, but snapshots nonetheless. Instagram’s Stories knit those snapchats together to create a single narrative. You could link a series of images to show the creation of a product, the delivery of a service from door-to-door, or the stages in a make-over, for example.

 

Sue compares Stories to having your own TV channel, a place where you can broadcast whatever you want that’s relevant to your audience. She also recommends using IGTV, Instagram’s newer video-sharing application.

 

“Since Instagram decided to integrate IGTV into the feed, brands and businesses are seeing a huge surge in the number of people watching their IGTV content,” she says.

 

So as you’re building your business with Instagram, choose your images carefully; talk to your followers; take your time; use the hashtags; and don’t be afraid to use Stories and IGTV to stay ahead of the game.

 

About Joel Comm

 

Screen Shot 2019-02-08 at 9.16.44 AM.png

As an Internet pioneer, Joel has been creating profitable websites, software, products and helping entrepreneurs succeed since 1995. He has been at the frontlines of live video online since 2008 and has a deep expertise in using tools such as Facebook Live, Periscope, Instagram or Snapchat to broadcast a clearly defined message to a receptive audience or leveraging the power of webinar and meeting technologies.

 

Joel is a New York Times best-selling author of 15 books, including “The AdSense Code,” “Click Here to Order: Stories from the World’s Most Successful Entrepreneurs,” “KaChing: How to Run an Online Business that Pays and Pays and Twitter Power 3.0.” He is Co-Host of The Bad Crypto Podcast one of the top crypto-related shows in the world and has spoken before thousands of people around the world and seeks to inspire, equip and entertain.

 

Web: https://joelcomm.com/ or Twitter: @JoelComm

Read more from Joel Comm

 

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

This year CBS set their prices at more than $5 million for a 30-second slot during the Super Bowl. That works out at about $175,000 per second—and that’s only the broadcast price. The production cost of those short creative movies can run from $1 million to another $5 million. It’s no wonder only giant brands get to put their products in front of the giant sports-loving audience.

 

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But you don’t need a budget the size of Budweiser’s to generate returns from video marketing. One of the reasons broadcasters charge so much is that the Super Bowl is a throwback. It’s the one time of the year when everyone sits in front of the television to watch the same show at the same time. The rest of the year, audiences are scattered across different channels. We watch different shows at different hours while struggling to avoid spoilers on social media.

 

That change has been good for small businesses.

 

They can find exactly the audience they want without having to pay vast sums to television networks. And advances in film-making technology means business owners don’t have to spend enormous amounts on production.

 

Although anything is possible now with video marketing, three formats stand out.

 

Commercials

 

The first is traditional. Script a commercial, rustle up people—actors if you can afford them, friends or colleagues if you can’t—and spend a bit of time shooting then editing. Upload the video to YouTube, Facebook or Instagram, and ask people to share it. The audiences you’ve already built on the Internet will see it. They’ll get the message and feel a deeper connection. If you’ve included a call to action, some of them may even act.

 

And if the commercial is funny, witty or extraordinary, it could even go viral, bringing you massive new audiences.

 

7 Tricks to Make Your Content Go Viral

 

Infomercials

 

You could also create infomercials, explaining the products you sell, or showing your customers how they’re made. Cosmetics firms have led the way, paying influencers to demonstrate their products.

 

Those approaches all look like traditional television. But online video has features television can’t match.

 

Live Video

 

Both Facebook and LinkedIn now offer live video. That means  you can talk to your audiences in real time – and they can talk back. As you’re broadcasting, they can write comments and ask questions. Instead of looking like the Shopping Channel, you can give the audience an experience closer to an in-store demonstration.

 

Videos for small businesses don’t have to be complex. Live video can also be spontaneous. Feel like talking to your customers? Pull out your phone, fire up your camera and shoot a selfie. Come across a great use of your product? Show it off. Meet someone who loves what you do? Pull out your phone and record them explaining what they like. Remember that live videos stay on websites and become recorded videos that continue to win engagement.

 

Those simple, short interviews are so simple. Whenever you find yourself having a chat with another expert in your industry, record them giving their top tip for whatever it is they do. The video won’t take more than a couple of minutes. It gives your audience useful content. It helps your colleague, who will now want to help you back. And it builds a deeper relationship with your customer who sees that you’re genuinely interested in your industry and in them.

 

And that’s really all you need to create effective video marketing for small businesses: a camera, a message and authenticity.

 

Read next:

 

 

About Joel Comm

 

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As an Internet pioneer, Joel has been creating profitable websites, software, products and helping entrepreneurs succeed since 1995. He has been at the frontlines of live video online since 2008 and has a deep expertise in using tools such as Facebook Live, Periscope, Instagram or Snapchat to broadcast a clearly defined message to a receptive audience or leveraging the power of webinar and meeting technologies.

 

Joel is a New York Times best-selling author of 15 books, including “The AdSense Code,” “Click Here to Order: Stories from the World’s Most Successful Entrepreneurs,” “KaChing: How to Run an Online Business that Pays and Pays and Twitter Power 3.0.” He is Co-Host of The Bad Crypto Podcast one of the top crypto-related shows in the world and has spoken before thousands of people around the world and seeks to inspire, equip and entertain.

 

Web: https://joelcomm.com/ or Twitter: @JoelComm

Read more from Joel Comm

 

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

In my last post focused on e-commerce, I talked about how local businesses are feeling the squeeze from giant online sellers. I explained that by offering personalized, in-store, local services, small businesses can make themselves a neighborhood institution in the same way Apple Stores do through informational events and services.

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It’s a huge advantage. Online businesses “know” their customers through the data they leave behind. Local businesses actually knowtheir customers.

 

The challenge that remains is marketing. Online businesses dominate search engine results, know exactly how to find people interested in their products on the Web, and have tactics in place to bring them to an effective landing page.

 

Offline, things are a bit more complicated. Local newspapers aren’t what they used to be. Local cable advertising lacks impact (and viewers) in the days of YouTube and Netflix. And as for direct marketing… well, spam folders weren’t the first places to store unsolicited pitches. There were trash cans long before email filters.

 

But there are some good solutions… and ironically, they’re online. Craigslistmight have killed off the classified pages in newspapers but it’s delivered an effective replacement. Amazon’s web traffic reporting platform ranks the site the 19th most popular in the U.S., with tens of millions of people each month browsing for used furniture, apartments and jobs, but also for wedding photographers, cars and computer repairs.

 

The site is highly competitive. Users expect prices to be low, and in busy areas in particular, ads are quickly pushed down the site. That means local businesses should use Craigslist to promote select items, tell people that they can find more in the store, and keep pushing new product or service listings onto the site on a regular basis to stay visible.

 

It takes effort but there’s a reason that classified advertising stayed so popular for so long. It works.

 

Next up: Facebook

 

The other effective online solution for local businesses is Facebook.

 

The social media platform might be better known for promoting online businesses, but it can also be highly effective for local offline businesses too. It happens in two ways.

The first is simply to advertise. Because Facebook lets businesses select the geographic location of potential customers, a local store can choose to only show its ads to people within a short drive of the shop. Wedding photographers, for example, have been known to advertise to engaged women in a radius of up to 50 miles. They reach exactly their target market.

 

That’s simple—and expensive—enough. Another route though is to join local Facebook groups. Local neighborhood committees often set up private members’ groups to keep people informed of events and news that affect everyone. People might talk about parking problems or lost pets, as well as garage sales and local services.

You do have to be careful here. These groups are set up for locals to talk to each other, not for businesses to pitch to customers but the organizers will often set aside one day a week on which businesses are allowed to advertise for free.

 

Obey the rules and make sure you’re only offering services that will benefit locals. If you’re a Realtor, for example, only promote properties in the neighborhood that serves that group. And be a good citizen of the group. Join in the discussions and give professional advice when you can.

 

The Internet has been difficult for local commerce. It’s pulled business away from bricks and mortar stores to sites like Amazon. But it can also be a route for local businesses to find local customers.

 

Learn more about connecting with local customers and watch stories of Atlanta and Nashville small businesses.

 

 

About Joel Comm

 

Screen Shot 2019-02-08 at 9.16.44 AM.png

As an Internet pioneer, Joel has been creating profitable websites, software, products and helping entrepreneurs succeed since 1995. He has been at the frontlines of live video online since 2008 and has a deep expertise in using tools such as Facebook Live, Periscope, Instagram or Snapchat to broadcast a clearly defined message to a receptive audience or leveraging the power of webinar and meeting technologies.

 

Joel is a New York Times best-selling author of 15 books, including “The AdSense Code,” “Click Here to Order: Stories from the World’s Most Successful Entrepreneurs,” “KaChing: How to Run an Online Business that Pays and Pays and Twitter Power 3.0.” He is Co-Host of The Bad Crypto Podcast one of the top crypto-related shows in the world and has spoken before thousands of people around the world and seeks to inspire, equip and entertain.

 

Web: https://joelcomm.com/ or Twitter: @JoelComm

Read more from Joel Comm

 

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

Online shopping just keeps growing. Last year, U.S. consumers spent over $513 billion on the Internet, an increase of more than 14 percent compared to 2017, according to figures released in March from the U.S. Department of Commerce. Almost one retail sale in ten now takes place online.

 

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Those changing consumer habits are a challenge for small businesses and not just because every seller has to build an ecommerce store. Do-it-yourself website building kits now make designing a retail site the work of no more than a few hours.

 

The challenge for small businesses is that, while more than half a trillion dollars may be changing hands online every year, some 40 percent of those sales take place on just one site.

 

Amazon dominates online retail. The $867 billion company is more than a store. It’s a complete retail center serving over 150 million unique visitors each month. Its own sales make up much of that retail space but through its Amazon Marketplace feature, Amazon also hosts the online outlets of around six million other sellers. They’re said to make up more than double the value of Amazon’s own sales.

 

Essentially, Amazon is the world’s biggest shopping mall.

 

The good news is that any retailer can take space in that mall. For professional sellers, there’s a monthly subscription fee of $39.99, as well as referral fees that are typically between 8 and 15 percent of the sales price (although they can reach as high as 45 percent.) Retailers can fulfill orders themselves or they can ship stock to one of Amazon’s warehouses and let the company do the fulfillment work for them. (I use Amazon to fulfil orders of my Kaching buttons.)

 

The challenge of online retail isn’t building the website. It’s finding customers and building enough trust to make them comfortable entering their credit card details.

That’s what Amazon’s fees buy. When someone searches for your goods at Amazon.com, your products will appear in their search results. They’ll appear at a place where customers are used to shopping. It’s likely that the customer won’t even notice that they’re buying from a third-party retailer instead of from Amazon itself.

 

For online sellers, Amazon doesn’t have to be a competitor. It can also be a partner, helping you to sell your products to the massive audience that it’s already created.

But it’s not quite that simple. Amazon’s benefits come at a cost, and those costs are more than financial.

 

First, the competition is tight. You won’t be the only seller in your space pitching your goods through Amazon Marketplace. To stand out, you’ll need to keep adjusting your prices to keep them competitive. You’ll also need to pick up positive reviews, and, while you can pay for a higher spot in the search results, that expenditure comes on top of your referral fees.

 

Second, you’ll be at the whim of Amazon’s bureaucracy, including a judicial system that has been described as “Kafkaesque.” Amazon is quick to suspend sellers while its appeal process can be difficult and unresponsive. That’s made the marketplace a battleground for dirty dealers whose tricks have included buying fake reviews for competitors, setting competitors’ products alight then telling Amazon they exploded, and reclassifying rivals’ products in the wrong categories. There’s an entire industry of experts and consultants helping businesses with their appeals. Amazon Marketplace can feel more like a Wild West town ruled by a despotic sheriff than the Mall of America.

 

But above all, selling on Amazon Marketplace gives your customers fewer reasons to come to your own website where you have complete control. There are no competitors on your own site. The customer loyalty you win is entirely your own, and you don’t have to deal with Amazon’s strange appeals process.

 

Amazon Marketplace is too big to ignore. But its size and power make it unlikely to be a reliable environment for small sellers. Use it if you believe it will bring you extra sales but make sure that it’s not the only way you reach customers.

 

Read next: The Secret to Competing with Amazon by Steve Strauss

 

 

About Joel Comm

 

Screen Shot 2019-02-08 at 9.16.44 AM.png

As an Internet pioneer, Joel has been creating profitable websites, software, products and helping entrepreneurs succeed since 1995. He has been at the frontlines of live video online since 2008 and has a deep expertise in using tools such as Facebook Live, Periscope, Instagram or Snapchat to broadcast a clearly defined message to a receptive audience or leveraging the power of webinar and meeting technologies.

 

Joel is a New York Times best-selling author of 15 books, including “The AdSense Code,” “Click Here to Order: Stories from the World’s Most Successful Entrepreneurs,” “KaChing: How to Run an Online Business that Pays and Pays and Twitter Power 3.0.” He is Co-Host of The Bad Crypto Podcast one of the top crypto-related shows in the world and has spoken before thousands of people around the world and seeks to inspire, equip and entertain.

 

Web: https://joelcomm.com/ or Twitter: @JoelComm

Read more from Joel Comm

 

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

When small businesses add content to their social media campaigns, they’re looking to do two things:

 

1. They want to talk to the audiences they already have. They want to remind customers that they’re still there, that they still speak their language, and that those customers should buy from them again soon

 

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2. They also want to reach new audiences. They want that content to spread from their core audience to new potential customers.

 

One of the most effective ways to achieve both goals simultaneously has sprung up recently in the form of memes. Memes are easily recognizable visual gags that are customized and shared online. If you remember the Distracted Boyfriend or Grumpy Cat or the Success Kid baby pumping his fist, you’ll know exactly what I mean. The images are funny and anyone can crack their own joke by adding to the text.

 

The meme becomes the center of an international conversation, like people sitting on a giant, global sofa, getting laughs by riffing off each other’s jokes.

 

How can memes be used in marketing?

 

The power of those memes to reach millions, to stick in people’s minds, and to engage them actively is a huge opportunity for brands. A business that can put its brand at the center of the conversation around a trending meme can generate millions of dollars’ worth of free reach.

 

It’s no surprise that big brands have hired savvy social media experts to generate applicable memes. Netflix, for example, has it easy. The company has access to massive amounts of visual content that it can use to create shareable memes of its own, and it does so. But those memes are often less effective than the images created by the company’s customers which it then shares.

 

In principle, anyone who creates those memes breaches Netflix’s copyright. But Netflix certainly doesn’t care. It’s getting free publicity and an army of smart, witty people creating marketing content for nothing.

 

Few companies have a library of visual content as rich as Netflix’s but it’s also possible to create your own focus for memes. When the Philadelphia Flyers rolled out Grittyas their new mascot, they might not have intended to create a meme theme but that was the result. The orange, dumpy monster quickly appeared in a host of memes created and shared by fans, and even by people who couldn’t tell one end of a hockey stick from the other. Each time Gritty appeared in a meme, the brand image spread further across the Internet.

 

It’s not an easy model to copy. But it’s not impossible. There’s no reason that other businesses can’t have mascots, cute logos, or any other image that people might want to share.

 

The problem, of course, is that memes are never entirely in the control of the brand. Once you hand over an image to audiences, there’s no knowing how it will end up or how people will use it. Taco Bell has worked hard at using memes as part of its advertising campaign, even putting meme-style ads on billboards. But those fake memes always came across as a bit cheesy while the audience-generated memes about the “explosive” power of a Taco Bell meal were much wittier. They might have put the brand’s name in front of far more people, but sometimes it’s just not true that all publicity is good publicity.

 

How can I leverage memes for my own small business?

 

If you’re looking to create your own meme, pick a visual gag that your audience can relate to. Tie that gag to some element of your brand: its sassy attitude, for example, or its laid-back coolness. Seed your social media platforms with your content and hope that it takes off.

 

And bear in mind that if it does, whatever happens next is out of your hands.

 

 

About Joel Comm

 

Screen Shot 2019-02-08 at 9.16.44 AM.png

As an Internet pioneer, Joel has been creating profitable websites, software, products and helping entrepreneurs succeed since 1995. He has been at the frontlines of live video online since 2008 and has a deep expertise in using tools such as Facebook Live, Periscope, Instagram or Snapchat to broadcast a clearly defined message to a receptive audience or leveraging the power of webinar and meeting technologies.

 

Joel is a New York Times best-selling author of 15 books, including “The AdSense Code,” “Click Here to Order: Stories from the World’s Most Successful Entrepreneurs,” “KaChing: How to Run an Online Business that Pays and Pays and Twitter Power 3.0.” He is Co-Host of The Bad Crypto Podcast one of the top crypto-related shows in the world and has spoken before thousands of people around the world and seeks to inspire, equip and entertain.

 

Web: https://joelcomm.com/ or Twitter: @JoelComm

Read more from Joel Comm

 

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

In the early days of advertising as we know it, if a business wanted to reach the largest possible audience, there was a number it could call. That number connected the business to the advertising sales department of a television studio. At a time when families sat together every evening in front of a twelve-inch, black-and-white television screen, running a commercial during the peak time shows could give brands an audience in the tens of millions.

 

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The rise of the Internet has changed that—and not just because families no longer watch one screen together. Companies now have access to a wide variety of digital options like banner ads, social media posts and ad units, email newsletters, content marketing, and targeted search results to promote their messages directly to their key target audiences. They’ve noticed. In 2017, digital ad spending exceeded the value of television advertising for the first time.

 

As technology and behavior have changed, marketing has changed with it. What hasn’t changed is the type of marketing that’s still most likely to convert potential customers. Businesses that hoped they could fire their scriptwriters and box up their video cameras to focus on text ads and copywriting have been disappointed.

 

Video remains the most effective advertising format.

 

Companies that place video on online landing pages have found their conversion rates increasing by more than 80 percent. Seventy-six percent of marketers say that video has helped them increase sales. Eighty-one percentof people have bought a product or service after watching a brand’s video online.

 

Those conversions have been driven by a steep rise in online video watching. Marketers expect that by 2020, the average person will spend about 84 minutes every day watching videos online.

 

We’ll be watching those videos on YouTube, of course, but also on Facebook and Twitter, and even LinkedIn. Although relatively few marketers currently place video on the professional networking platform, about 75 percent of those that do said that showing ads to the platform’s business users achieves results. Video is popping up everywhere.

But online video is very different than the kind of ads shown on television.

 

Most of the video marketing seen online is short, cheaper than fully produced television spots, and is developed to resonate specifically on the platform where it’s being placed.

After the Superbowl, viewers might pull up YouTube to re-watch long, funny, big budget commercials. But on social media, they want to watch short, digestible videos, to comment, like or share, and keep scrolling. According to Hubspot, videos that generate the most comments on Instagram average just 26 seconds. Marketers on Twitter can stretch their time to 45 seconds, while Facebook’s users have an attention span that lasts as long as a minute.

 

Viewers also tend to watch their videos with the sound off so that they don’t disturb others during activities like a morning commute—or alert their teachers that they’re not paying attention in class. That means telling a story visually and using prominent subtitles to explain what the viewer is seeing.

 

None of that is simple. It takes more effort and expense to create an effective video ad than it does to make a website banner. But video marketing doesn’t have to involve a lot of effort and expense. Some of the most effective commercial video content consists of live broadcasts in which the owner of a business sits in front of a camera, talks directly to customers, and answers questions about the product. The audience might be small—a live video might reach only a few hundred people during the broadcast itself—but it can be hugely effective at building brand loyalty. And even when you’re making a YouTube video that’s less than a minute long, you should be able to do it without breaking the bank.

 

The world has changed since the days when soap companies sponsored daytime shows. Audiences have split and screens have shrunk, but video marketing remains just as effective. It can now be highly targeted and, at a time when we all have a video camera in our pockets, it’s readily available to every business.

 

Learn how to use compelling video for your small business. Check out these other articles:

 

 

About Joel Comm

 

Screen Shot 2019-02-08 at 9.16.44 AM.png

As an Internet pioneer, Joel has been creating profitable websites, software, products and helping entrepreneurs succeed since 1995. He has been at the frontlines of live video online since 2008 and has a deep expertise in using tools such as Facebook Live, Periscope, Instagram or Snapchat to broadcast a clearly defined message to a receptive audience or leveraging the power of webinar and meeting technologies.

 

Joel is a New York Times best-selling author of 15 books, including “The AdSense Code,” “Click Here to Order: Stories from the World’s Most Successful Entrepreneurs,” “KaChing: How to Run an Online Business that Pays and Pays and Twitter Power 3.0.” He is Co-Host of The Bad Crypto Podcast one of the top crypto-related shows in the world and has spoken before thousands of people around the world and seeks to inspire, equip and entertain.

 

Web: https://joelcomm.com/ or Twitter: @JoelComm

Read more from Joel Comm

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Joel Comm to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Joel Comm is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Joel Comm. 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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