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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

 

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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 a previous article, I discussed how product-based businesses can sell on Instagram. For service-based businesses, the rules and opportunities to sell on Instagram are a little different. 

 

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Regardless of what you are trying to sell on Instragram, here’s what you need to know and some key steps you can take.

 

Add your contact details on your Business Profile

 

When you switch to a business profile, you not only access profile analytics, you are also able to add your contact information. When you add contact information, a Contact button appears near the top of your profile. When people click that button, they'll see options like Get Directions, Call and Email, depending on the contact information you provide. If you add your location, you’ll have a clickable business address, which is ideal if you have a physical office or store.

 

Your interactive contact information provides the community with a way to reach you and take the next step, whether that is to ask a question, find out more information or book an appointment. You can also promote a call to action at the end of your Instagram post captions.

 

Make strategic use of the link in your bio

 

You get one clickable link in your Instagram bio, so it’s important to make the most of it. You can either use it to lead visitors to a specific call to action, such as a lead magnet or sales page.  Alternatively, you can use a third-party app to include multiple calls to action.

 

Examples include:

 

Later provides one link you add to your Instagram bio that opens a new page with your posts. Your audience can then click on each post to go directly to a specific landing page. This feature is only offered on paid business plans for Later.com.

 

Linktree is a free alternative that allows you to add multiple CTA links from one link shared in your Instagram bio. The paid plan has additional features, too. I personally use this one and really like it.

 

An alternative idea for small businesses looking to market services is to set up a dedicated page on your website just for Instagram visitors, e.g. domain.com/Instagram. Here you could share your main offers or exclusive bonuses for those visiting via Instagram. This is a great way to let your Instagram community know how much you value them. Platform-exclusive content and bonuses also incentivize your community to stay engaged.

 

It’s a good idea to reiterate your call to action in your bio description too. This will prompt new visitors, in particular, to take action especially if it’s in exchange for value, e.g. a lead magnet.

 

Showcase your services in action

 

The best way to let your community know why they should buy your services isn’t to tell them. It’s to show them. Create a content strategy that inspires and educates your audience on the services you provide.

 

Use your post captions to tell stories and connect with your audience. Relate to how they feel and use your services as the bridge that guides them from where they are now to where they want to be.

 

Ask for reviews from your past clients. Showcase these in your Instagram posts and Stories. Share before/after photos, results, testimonials and case studies throughout your profile and in your Instagram stories.

 

This generates social proof and creates excitement around the solution you provide. When you see someone else just like you experiencing great benefits, you want those same benefits for yourself.

 

While service providers can’t create shoppable posts, they can add a small pricing overlay graphic using a tool like Picmonkey or Canva. Used in conjunction with a well-crafted call to action at the end of your caption and the link in your bio provides a very effective way to promote your services.

 

Publish Stories regularly

 

As Mark Zuckerberg has said, ‘Stories are the future!’

 

Think of Instagram Stories as an on-the-go vlogging (video blogging) platform. Stories are your opportunity to connect with your audience via video and images to help them really get to know you. This is important because we all know that people do business with other people they know, like and trust.

 

There are so many ways you can use the Stories format to sell your services:

 

    • Share insight into what goes on behind the scenes, so people can see all the work that goes into creating and providing your services.
    • Host a Q&A through the Stories questions sticker feature and answer any objections that might be standing between your audience buying and not buying your services.
    • Conduct market research through the Polls sticker feature to understand how to best serve your audience.
    • Share tips and how to’s that leverage your credibility as an expert in your field.
    • Provide exclusive offers and discounts that create buzz and a sense of urgency to buy now so your audience doesn’t lose out.
    • Go Live on Instagram and start a conversation. You can even invite members of your community to join you live on camera via their smartphone, too. Going live and including your audience helps create a deep, meaningful and transparent relationship with your audience members. Live broadcasts build loyalty that will not only create customers, but it will create brand advocates. When you invest in others, they will invest in you and they’ll tell their friends to do the same.

 

          Related: 5 Ideas to Use Instagram Stories to Drive Small Business Growth

 

If you have over 10,000 followers on Instagram, you’ll have the option to add links to your Stories via the ‘swipe up’ feature, as indicated by the little link icon on your Stories. Being able to include links with a call to action helps to lead your viewers outside Instagram to an offer/sales page.

 

If you have less than 10,000 followers, you can still include the swipe up feature that goes to a video on IGTV. IGTV is Instagram’s dedicated vertical video app where you can publish longer video content.

 

Unlike the main Instagram app, any links in your caption or comments on IGTV are active. So, using your Stories, you can drive people from there to consume slightly longer video content and from there to an offer page on your website.

 

Use hashtags and locations

 

Make sure you incorporate hashtags, locations, and the tagging feature into your posts to make it easier for people to find you when searching for your area of expertise. Instagram posts with at least one hashtag have 12.6 percent more engagement than those without, while posts with a location get 79 percent more engagement.

 

You can include as many as 30 hashtags in each post. Instead of just describing your post with hashtags, think of the specific hashtags your customer might type into the search bar.

 

For example, if you are a carpenter, you wouldn’t just add #carpentry to your post. You’re more likely to benefit from adding hashtags such as #interiordesign, #decoratingtips, #movinghouse, and #newhome with a particular location tag. Why? Because women looking for inspiration on how to decorate their new home are more likely to find your post with these types of hashtags.

 

Along with searching in the Instagram mobile app, also try a tool such as Hashtagify.me to discover more relevant hashtags for your posts. Remember to also include a few hashtags in your Stories!

 

Place Instagram ads

 

Instagram allows you to create 4 main ad types:

 

    • Photo ads
    • Video ads
    • Carousel ads
    • Story ads

 

Once you’ve chosen the type of ad that will give you the result you’re looking for there are a variety of calls to action from which to choose. With the right content and the right targeting, Instagram ads are a fantastic way to drive traffic to your website, a lead page or a sales page at a relatively low cost. 

 

Access Instagram ads via Facebook Ads Manager, or just tap the ‘Promote’ button on an existing post on your Instagram profile.

 

To promote a Story directly from the Instagram app, tap the 3 dots in the lower right of the Story, then tap Promote.

 

Related:

The Best Performing Facebook Ad Formats for Small Business

Instagram and Facebook Story Ads: How to Make Stories Work for your Small Business

 

While Instagram primarily started out as a photo sharing app focused on community, it’s safe to say that social commerce is now at the forefront of Instagram’s product development. We will continue to see the platform grow and change to support event better methods of helping businesses find and sell to their customers, and small businesses should prepare for that future now.”

 

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.

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

 

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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.

As a small business owner, you want to make sure your business is as profitable as possible. But higher profit margins don’t just happen. Instead of hoping for good fortune to bring you more profit, make these smart moves to keep more of the money your business makes.

 

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1. Know your profit margins. “What gets measured, gets managed” is a business truism. Knowing what your margins are is essential to improving them and will allow you to accurately calculate how taking actions such as raising prices will affect your margins.

 

2. Look for places to cut costs. Focus on costs that don’t add value for your customers. Start by looking for wasted money, such as memberships to groups you no longer attend or excessive spending on office supplies. Cutting even small unnecessary costs over time can make a big difference.

 

3. Raise prices. It’s the easiest and fastest way to boost profits. You’d be surprised at the difference a price increase of 10 percent, 5 percent or even 3 percent can make to your margins—and most customers won’t even notice.

 

4. Streamline your payment processing and invoicing. Invoicing customers as soon as possible avoids payment delays so you get your money faster and it can work harder for you.

 

5. Negotiate with your vendors. Can you get lower prices from your vendors—perhaps by paying early or paying in cash? Finding a win-win arrangement with vendors can mean more dollars in your pocket.

 

6. Reassess insurance costs. Shop around for health insurance, business insurance and vehicle insurance. See if increasing your deductible or adjusting your coverage will reduce your premiums.

 

7. Consider relocating your business. Can you move to a more affordable location? Could you run your business from home and have your employees work remotely?

 

8. Reduce excess inventory. The cost of carrying inventory that’s past its prime can eat up your profits. Consider selling it to liquidators or posting it on sites like eBay.

 

9. Track the cost of customer acquisition and work to reduce it. Monitor the results of your marketing and advertising activities so you can focus on those that deliver the most bang for your buck.

 

10. Identify high-value customers and focus on them. Use customer relationship management (CRM) or customer loyalty software to pinpoint which customers spend the most with your business. Give them the VIP treatment and see if you can get them to spend even more.

 

11. Get existing customers to buy more and more often. Acquiring new customers is more costly and time-consuming than convincing existing customers to buy from you again. Develop a marketing campaign to turn first-time buyers into loyal customers.

 

12. Narrow your target customer focus. If you try to be everything to everyone, your business will lack an identity. Instead, laser-focus on your ideal target customer and how to deliver value to them. You may have fewer customers, but you’ll sell more to those you have.

 

13. Upsell and cross-sell. Don’t stop with closing the sale. Offer related products or services, warranties, service contracts and other value-adds that increase your profits.

 

14. Set up automatic re-ordering or subscription options for customers. If you can make buying more convenient for consumers, they are more likely to become loyal customers.

 

15. Spend your time where it matters. As a small business owner, your time is valuable. Focus your efforts on profit-generating activities, not on managing minutiae.

 

16. Look for places to automate your business. For example, using marketing automation software to respond to leads or a virtual assistant to schedule meetings can free up time for you and your team have more time to focus on profit-generating work.

 

17. When an employee quits, don’t fill the position right away. See if you can automate the work or distribute it among remaining staff members.

 

Increasing your profitability is a never-ending battle. Stay on top of your business’s cash flowand watch your profit margins closely. Then you’ll be able to spot new opportunities to bring home even more profit.

 

 

About Rieva Lesonsky

 

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Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and Co-founder of GrowBiz Media, a custom content and media company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship, and the blog SmallBizDaily.com. A nationally known speaker and authority on entrepreneurship, Rieva has been covering America’s entrepreneurs for more than 30 years. Before co-founding GrowBiz Media, Lesonsky was the long-time Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine. Lesonsky has appeared on hundreds of radio shows and numerous local and national television programs, including the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN, The Martha Stewart Show and Oprah.

 

Lesonsky regularly writes about small business for numerous websites and for corporations targeting entrepreneurs. Many organizations have recognized Lesonsky for her tireless devotion to helping entrepreneurs. She served on the Small Business Administration’s National Advisory Council for six years, was honored by the SBA as a Small Business Media Advocate and a Woman in Business Advocate, and received the prestigious Lou Campanelli award from SCORE. She is a long-time member of the Business Journalists Hall of Fame.

 

Web: www.growbizmedia.com or Twitter: @Rieva

You can read more articles from Rieva Lesonsky by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Rieva Lesonsky to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Rieva Lesonsky is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Rieva Lesonsky. 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. ©2018 Bank of America Corporation

Did you know that food is the No. 1 most engaging topic when it comes to video content on Facebook? There are quite a few things we can all learn from these drool-worthy posts about how to drive engagement, whether you run a restaurant, sell food, or, frankly, other goods.

 

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Our friends at BuzzSumo conducted a study of over 100 million Facebook video posts and discovered that videos related to food generated 250 percent more engagement than other content types.

 

In another study of over 777 million Facebook posts, BuzzSumo found video posts get at least 59 percent more engagement than all other post types. Although photos are widely accepted by marketers to be one of the most successful post types, video outperformed photos by 73 percent.

 

Create short, compelling videos

 

I cannot stress this enough: Facebook is determined to become a destination ‘digital streaming television platform,’ competing with YouTube, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and the likes. This means Facebook is placing extreme emphasis on video content throughout the platform.

 

The good news for marketers: we can really take advantage of this growing trend.

 

Facebook users, in particular, have short attention spans. The ideal length Facebook recommends for a teaser video is 15 seconds if it’s being used for ads or organic content that you intend to boost. Otherwise, longer videos of between 3 and 5 minutes work well, per research by BuzzSumo.

 

Here’s a great example by the Eiffel Tower Restaurant in Las Vegas -- showcasing their signature Chocolate Praline Cake with a call-to-action to make a reservation. A video like this can be shot with a dSLR camera and inexpensive lighting. Or, you can just use your smartphone and make sure you place the dish under good lighting. Tips from food videos, like optimizing video length and taking clear, beautiful footage, can be applied to other types of content to improve engagement.

 

Related:

 

Promote your message to the right audience at the right time

 

With Facebook organic reach at an average of 1 to 6 percent,  you’ll definitely want to allocate an advertising budget to ensure your message reaches your target demographic. Ideally, you should utilize Facebook Ads Manager (or Business Manager). Otherwise, the Boost button is the simplest way to get started.

 

I’ve often said that local businesses can reach their audiences much easier using Facebook because you’re not trying to reach the whole world. You’re drilling deep into very specific geo-targeted locations using zip codes and other parameters. Facebook makes it really easy to do so.

 

In addition, I suggest trying a feature in Ads Manager called ‘Dayparting’ where your ads will show up across the Facebook family of apps and services (which includes Messenger and Instagram), during specific times of the day and days of the week. This is super handy for when your business offers a timely discount such as a restaurant’s special on brunch, lunch, or dinner.

 

Related:

 

Market to the third visit

 

I had the great pleasure of keynoting a special event for my client, Lettuce Entertain You Restaurants. In researching my talk, I listened to this fascinating interview on the Entreleadership Podcast of Jon Taffer, host of Bar Rescue.

 

In the interview, Taffer describes what he calls, “marketing to the third visit.” Check out these stats:

 

      • If somebody comes to a restaurant for the first time and has a great experience, the statistical likelihood of them returning for a second visit is less than 40 percent.
      • Say that person comes back a second time and has another flawless experience, the statistical likelihood of them returning for a third visit is about 42-43 percent.
      • But the third time a customer returns to your restaurant, the statistical likelihood of them returning for a fourth time increases to over 70 percent.

 

So, Taffer says the secret of smart restaurateurs is to market to three visits, not one. Three visits get the customer into a lifecycle. Make sure your restaurant staff is trained to greet and identify first-time customers differently. They get a special invitation to come back again. Listen to the podcast interview for Taffer’s full strategy. It’s brilliant!

(I’ve been a big fan of Dave Ramsey’s Entreleadership Podcast for many years and highly recommend small business owners subscribe! Listen to my own interview on Supercharging Your Facebook Marketing.)

 

And, if your target audience includes a younger demographic, then check out this great nugget from the print version of this Modern Trader magazine article about the restaurant industry and technology:

 

“The 100 million people who make up Generation Y, Millennials and Z need to eat and want something different than their parents… …the battlefield is constantly changing, and there is a lot at stake. The outlook for the restaurant industry is positive for those who are prepared to strategically fight with the right tools. Technology will be the driver of success.”

 

These 100 million young folks spend an inordinate amount of time on their phones. Now is the time to ensure your messaging gets in front of them with thumb-stopping content that inspires them to come in (and maybe even bring a friend!)

 

Related:

 

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.

Every day, more than 2 billion people are active on at least one of the Facebook family of apps and services, which includes Facebook, Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp.

 

These 2 billion people are scrolling through their feeds, inboxes and Stories. Your job as a small business owner is to get your content in front of the exact right audience and stop them in their tracks. You want your ads to be absolutely ‘thumb-stopping!’

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My three secrets to creating irresistible ads:

 

  1. Refine your audience targeting.
  2. Use compelling messages and creative.
  3. Choose the right placement.

 

Let’s break them down.

 

1. Refine your audience targeting

 

Let’s face it, you can have the most amazing ad with gorgeous creative and a super-compelling offer, but, if it’s placed in front of the wrong target audience, your ad will fall on deaf ears and you won’t get the results you want. In fact, you could even yield negative results with the wrong audience reporting your ad as spam.

 

I see this time and again as I study the ads across the Facebook app ecosystem. I see ads shown to me for something that is totally irrelevant.

 

Refining your target audience before launching your ads can make all the difference between a very successful ad campaign or a total dud.

 

Tap into the power of Facebook Audience Insights to define your target demographic. Here’s a helpful article by AdEspresso: How To Find The Best Audiences On Facebook.

 

RELATED CONTENT The Power of Facebook – with Mari Smith (Video)

 

2. Use compelling messages and creative

 

So, here’s where we get to the ‘irresistible’ part. With so much noise across all social networks, it’s important that you find a way to cut through the noise to capture potential clients’ attention. We must also recognize that the nature of social media content has shortened attention spans, so your imagery needs to be vibrant and your text brief.

 

Use vibrant images

 

It’s true that a picture says a thousand words. Instagram, in particular, is an entirely visual platform. Keep text overlay to a minimum and say what you need to say in the description/caption of your ad.

 

Embrace short-form video ads

 

Facebook recommends 5-15 seconds for the ideal video ad. Facebook’s studies have shown that retention rates start to taper off even with a 15-second video. But that’s the ideal max length for both ads and organic videos. I call these ‘teaser’ videos, which are ideal for driving traffic to your blog posts, for example.

 

I recommend creating 15-second videos in square format with a short description and publishing to your Facebook Business Page as an organic post. Then turn the post into an ad (using the Boost button or Ads Manager). Once you’re in the process of boosting the post you’ll have the option to add a call to action. Put the URL of your blog post or squeeze page in there and start driving traffic to your site.

 

I recently hosted an educational Facebook Live with my friends at Wave.video to teach this process and you can find that here. (Wave.video just released a free forever plan with no watermark for 15-second videos. Plus they have several very affordable plans with more features for small business owners). See this helpful article - Facebook Video Ads: 10 Examples to Help You Beat Your Competition

 

You’ll also want to have the Facebook Pixel installed on your website in order to retarget visitors with other ads.

 

It’s always worth giving Lead Ads a try for conversion-level results. This is a great tutorial: How to Create Jaw-Dropping Facebook Lead Ads That Convert

 

3. Choose the right placement.

 

Small businesses can create ads using Facebook’s Ads Manager (or Business Manager). When you leave the default setting for automatic placements, Facebook’s algorithms choose the most optimized platforms for your ads.

 

“Use automatic placements to maximize your budget and help show your ads to more people. Facebook's delivery system will allocate your ad set's budget across multiple placements based on where they're likely to perform best.”

 

Learn more about automatic vs. manual placement here.

 

Yes, we’re talking predominantly about Facebook ads in this article. However, most advertisers tend to leave the automatic placements enabled by default. You may think you’re just advertising on Facebook, but if the placement option is selected your ads may be showing up on/in the following places:

 

  • The Facebook feed
  • Facebook videos (as pre-roll ads)
  • Facebook Marketplace
  • The Instagram feed
  • Stories on Instagram, Facebook, and Messenger
  • Messenger home screen
  • Throughout Facebook’s Audience Network

 

To clarify on that last placement, Audience Network allows advertisers to extend Facebook and Instagram campaigns across the internet - onto thousands of high-quality websites and apps. People spend a lot of their time on Facebook and Instagram. But they are also spending time on other apps and sites. Audience Network helps advertisers reach more of the people they care about in the other places where they're spending their time.

Place Stories ads on both Instagram & Facebook

 

There are currently 500M daily active users on Instagram Stories and 300M on Facebook, and you can tap into this highly engaged audience.

 

RELATED CONTENT: Instagram and Facebook Story Ads: How to Make Stories Work for your Small Business

 

Many advertisers may not even realize they are already placing ads into the Stories feed on both Facebook and Instagram because of the automatic placement feature mentioned above.

 

Although Facebook’s delivery system does do the hard work for you, it’s worth it to spend a little extra time and create individual ads for placement in the Instagram Stories format, for example.

 

To really optimize your Stories ads, it’s best to create for the native environment. And that is 9:16 vertical video – it is full screen and immersive. Strive for big bold creative, thumb-stopping images and creative stickers and GIFs.

 

Utilizing all of the steps above can help make sure the dollars you’re putting toward promoting your small business on social media are working as hard for you as possible.

 

You can read more articles from Mari Smith by clicking here

 

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.

Management expert Peter Drucker is often quoted as saying, “You can’t manage what you can’t measure.” In order to grow and improve your business, you have to be able to measure and monitor the right metrics.

 

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This applies to everything in your business.

 

Yet determining the right metrics to measure, and understand, is not so simple.

 

 

Proxy metrics (or Vanity metrics) vs. sales metrics

 

On Facebook’s Q4 2016 earnings call held on February 1, 2017, COO Sheryl Sandberg stated that all ads should drive business. She made the distinction between sales metrics and ‘proxy metrics,’ which includes fanbase size, reach, engagement and video views.

 

“We really believe that at the end of the day what matters the most is all the way through to sales. What matters the most is the A/B test that these people saw ads on Facebook and Instagram, these people didn’t, and here’s the sales lift. And all of the other metrics,” Sandberg said, “are proxy metrics.”

 

Of course, this is not what most businesses want to hear. We’ve all been trained to believe more is better. That we ought to strive for more fans, more reach and more engagement.

 

But, generally speaking, those numbers are all vanity metrics.

 

Marketers need to see the metrics all the way through to the final goal and focus on the right metrics – those that generate revenue.

 

It’s important to separate out your KPIs (key performance indicators) into the right categories and report the relevant data to the right person within your business.

 

For example, brand awareness, social media and engagement metrics should be reporting to the CMO/marketing manager/community manager. Whereas, lead generation and sales metrics are what the CEO and CFO mostly want to know. If you report the number of retweets or video views in a week to your CEO and CFO, they may wonder how that translates to actual bottom line dollars.

 

Following are some suggested metric categories:

 

    • Brand awareness metrics include social media reach, brand mentions, brand searches, media mentions and website traffic.

 

    • Social media metrics include number of likes/fans/followers, post reach and impressions.

 

    • Engagement metrics include people who have clicked, liked, commented on or shared your social media posts; people who have viewed your videos; number of retweets and more. This stat could also include the number of subscribers opening your emails and clicking on links.

 

    • Lead-generation metrics include landing page visits, click-through rate, completed registrations and conversion rates. In other words, any activity that moves the prospect from being an engaged member of your social media channels to becoming a contactable prospect. This can include the prospect submitting their phone number, email address, mailing address or contacting you via Facebook Messenger, Instagram Direct or WhatsApp.

 

    • Sales metrics include appointments scheduled, applications submitted, add-to-cart, initiate checkout, add payment details, and, of course, completed purchases.

 

“In God we trust, all others must bring data.” – W. Edwards Deming

 

Tools for measuring your online activity

 

You may already have a reliable set of tools you use to track an array of metrics in your business. Here are a few of my own favorites:

 

Facebook Insights: You’ll find these metrics on the “Insights” tab of your Facebook business page. For mobile, use the Facebook Pages Manager app (iOS) (Android) and also check out the Facebook Analytics app. Metrics include Likes, Followers, Page Views, Actions on Page, Video views, Audience retention, Engagement and more.

 

For video content, I recommend clicking in to each video to study the breakdown of metrics. Otherwise, you can keep an eye on the Overview > Page Summary insights for the past 7 or 28 days and export the data to a spreadsheet for further analysis.

 

Twitter Analytics: These are at the top right of your Twitter profile or at analytics.twiter.com. View your tweet impressions, engagement, and engagement rate. Pay particular attention to your top tweets and do more of what’s working.

 

AgoraPulse: This is a terrific all-in-one tool for scheduling and managing all your social media channels. The Reports section has colorful charts that are easy to read and may be a great addition to your analysis.

 

BuzzSumo: One of my favorite tools, this platform allows you to study how well your own social posts are doing along with any competitor’s posts. Plus, you can use the tool to discover what headlines and topics are doing well, identify key influencers, see what’s trending and more.

 

One stop data dashboard

 

If looking at an array of metrics from a wide variety of sources is challenging for you, you might enjoy a great solution called Klipfolio.

 

Klipfolio is a tool to create an all-in-one dashboard with visual analytics for all of your metrics at your fingertips. You’ll be able to instantly spot trends and see how your business is performing. Compare this month to last month or the same period last year with a single click. Use filters, segments, and automatic trend lines.

 

Cash flow dashboard

 

Just as you need to closely track and measure sales and marketing metrics, you definitely need to do the same with your business finances. Bank of America Business Advantage 360 offers an innovative new cash flow dashboard where you can easily see a 360° view of your business’ financial position or picture in a compelling, visual layout.

 

Business Advantage 360 is a one-stop ‘digital control center.’ Accessible online and on mobile, this new seamless and integrated digital platform is designed to help you get more time back in your day by helping you manage all financial aspects of your business.

 

BA360 empowers you as a busy business owner to optimize your time and resources and gain deeper perspective on your business so you can get back to doing what you truly love – focusing on the mission and success of your enterprise!

 

 

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.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.  Equal Housing Lender.

 

© 2019 Bank of America Corporation.

 

Bank of America, N.A. is providing these third-party websites and/or other sources only as a convenience, and does not monitor or maintain the information available on the external websites mentioned, nor represent or guarantee that such websites are accurate or complete, and they should not be relied upon as such.  Bank of America provides informational reading materials for your discussion or review purposes only.  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

 

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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.

As Instagram solidifies its place as a powerhouse social media platform more small businesses should take advantage of this growing new channel to drive awareness, but also for driving sales. Instagram is one of the easiest platforms to showcase your small business’ products for sale and attract new paying customers. The Instagram app is entirely visual and almost exclusively accessed via the mobile app, although there is a desktop version.

 

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With shopping on Instagram, you can create eye-catching, visual storefront posts for your small business that allow people to explore your best products with a single phone tap.

 

In this article, I’ll cover product-based businesses. If your small business is service-based, there are plenty of ways you can sell on Instagram and we’ll go into that in a future article.

 

Discovery has always been a key aspect of Instagram. With 80 percent of people already following a business account, and a global community of over 1 billion users, Instagrammers want to explore and find new things from companies they love. Similarly, businesses are always looking for opportunities to connect with valuable prospects and customers.

 

When Instagram added the shopping feature in March 2017, the company wanted to create something that was less transactional and more of an immersive experience. A way to give shoppers time and space to browse and evaluate products.

 

 

How shopping works on Instagram

 

Your Instagram business profile must be associated with an e-commerce catalog on Facebook. Once your Instagram business profile is connected to your Facebook catalog, you can tag products from your catalog in your Instagram posts and stories. People can tap on product tags to see prices and descriptions, or shop straight from your feed. Once you have a Facebook product catalog connected to your Instagram business account, tagging a product is as simple as tagging a person in a post.

 

What to sell on Instagram

 

To sell on Instagram, your business must primarily sell physical goods. You also need to comply with Instagram’s commerce policies. Instagram shopping posts may not promote services. Note that this just means using the shop tag or sticker feature. You can certainly still offer services (and products) using links in your bio and the swipe up feature in Stories.

Instagrammers can find your products via your feed posts, your stories, the Explore tab and from hashtag searches.

 

The ability to add shopping tags is available for both your main Instagram feed posts and for your Stories. I’ll go into that more below.

 

When you create an Instagram post with tagged products, the post is not only shared with your followers but is also shared in the Explore section. Over 200 million users visit the Explore tab on Instagram every day.


Including relevant hashtags on your Instagram posts and stories is a must, too. This helps increase your chances of discovery both on the Explore tab and in hashtag searches.

 

How to set up your shopping posts on Instagram

 

Step 1

 

Make sure your Instagram account is a business profile, and not a personal profile. If you currently have a personal profile that you use for business purposes, you’ll need to convert your account. Or, create a new business profile.

 

Step 2

 

Connect your Instagram business profile to a Facebook catalog. You can connect to an existing Facebook catalog or set up a new catalog using Business Manager.

 

If you work with a Facebook partner such as Shopify or BigCommerce, you can also set up a catalog through your account with them.

 

Next, your account must be reviewed before you can start selling. You can imagine that Facebook-owned Instagram needs to ensure bona fide products are offered for sale on their platforms. The review process usually takes a few days.

 

Step 3

 

Once your account is approved for shopping, you then need to enable product tags. From your Instagram business profile on the mobile app, tap the button in the upper right-hand corner > tap Shoppingunder Business Settings > tap Continue> select the product catalog you want > tap Done.

 

Step 4

 

Now you can add product tags on your Instagram posts and product stickers on your stories.

 

You can tag up to 5 products per single image/video post or up to 20 products per carousel (multi-image post). Tap Tag Productsfrom the Share screen. Select the product you want to tag from your catalog and place your product tag on or near the product in your image or video.

 

The good news is you can use the shopping tag feature on both new and existing posts.

 

For Instagram stories, you can create one product sticker per story and you can edit the sticker color and text. To access the product sticker, tap the sticker icon at the top right and then select the product sticker option. Unlike feed posts, once stories have been published, you cannot edit them.

 

Once you’ve tagged products in 9 posts, a shop tab will show up on your profile that lets shoppers browse your shoppable posts—all in one place.

 

Weave products into your visual story-telling in Instagram posts and stories.

 

Promoting your product posts

 

At the moment, the ability to tag products in feed posts and add product stickers to stories is only available in organic posts. Instagram does not allow paid ads with shopping tags. However, last year Instagram partnered with e-commerce platform Shopify to offer product tagging and these posts can be promoted using paid ads.

 

For organic promotion, remember to include hashtags in all your feed posts. You can add as many as 30 hashtags. Make good use of the stories feature - ideally posting 2-3 or more stories per day. And include a few hashtags on your stories.

 

Reviewing your shopping insights

 

Businesses can get insights like seeing how many people tapped to see more product details or clicked on “shop now.”To see key metrics on your shopping posts and stories, simply tap View Insightson a shopping post or swipe up on shopping stories. You can also sort top shopping posts on various metrics through Insights on your business profile.

 

Utilizing these tools within Instagram can help take your use of the platform from fun and building awareness to achieving real sales. Consider setting aside a few hours in the next month to experiment with selling on Instagram and see what it can do for your small business.

 

Want to learn more about using Instagram for your small business? Check out these other posts.

 

You can read more articles from Mari Smith by clicking here

 

 

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.

Have you embraced the growing trend of micro content yet? Are you publishing Instagram and Facebook Stories regularly for your business?

 

Savvy small business owners are easily reaching and engaging their audiences using fun, relevant and creative content in the Stories format.

 

As explained in my article, 5 Ideas to Use Instagram Stories to Drive Small Business Growth, a Story is a piece of micro-content that disappears after 24 hours. Stories are mobile optimized with full screen, short vertical videos, images, stickers and other fun, interactive features. The Stories format is available on both Instagram and Facebook.

 

Instagram Stories

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If you have a personal or business Instagram account, you have Stories!

 

Instagram ad spending is growing at a rapid rate thanks to the rise of Instagram Stories. Story ads increase ad recall, purchase intent, message association and click-through rate (CTR).

 

With over 400 million daily active users on Instagram Stories, this micro content feature is prime real estate to easily reach your target audience. According to Instagram, one in three of the most viewed Stories are from businesses. So, all the more reason to get going with Stories in 2019.

 

Instagram Stories and Stories ads are available to businesses worldwide. If you are currently using your Instagram personal profile for business, I would strongly recommend converting to an Instagram Business Profile as you’ll get access to helpful analytics, a CTA button for your profile, integration to third party tools for scheduling and other benefits.

 

Facebook Stories

 

The Facebook Stories format is a bit slower to catch on, with 300 million daily active users. But, Facebook is determined to ensure this format is just as popular (if not more, eventually) with new features for businesses rolling out regularly.

 

Placing ads in the Stories format provides small business owners a refreshing alternative to news feed ads.

 

“Stories are the future.” Mark Zuckerberg, CEO Facebook, Q3 2018  earnings call

 

Stories creation and consumption is growing at 15X the rate of feed content. The Stories format will eventually usurp the feed format as we know it. Or Facebook and Instagram may create a hybrid of both formats later this year. 

 

Why Stories ads?

 

Both Instagram and Facebook Stories ads appear at the top of people’s feed in between organic Stories. Videos display for up to 15 seconds and images for up to 6 seconds. Users tap or swipe to navigate back or forward. Stories are always full screen and vertical, which provides a fully immersive, distraction-free experience for users.

 

Advertisers can include calls to action and links. Links open up inside the native Facebook and Instagram mobile app, allowing the user to browse, take action and return to exactly where they were all without leaving the app. This last part is vital to the user experience. It allows the user to maintain control. To tap and swipe, engaging with your content, and then return to where they left off.

 

How to create Stories ads

 

Take a look at Facebook’s Creative Hub to optimize your creative process and save valuable time. Mock up, preview and test Facebook and Instagram ads here.

 

My favorite tool for creating video Stories ads is Wave.video. Choose from hundreds of millions of royalty free assets, or upload your own. Add text overlay, stickers, GIFs, logos, music and more. You can easily create a video in landscape or square formats, and at the click of a button convert to the 9:16 vertical video Story format. [Editor’s note: Mari Smith is an ambassador for Wave.video.]

 

You could also create still image Stories ads using a tool such as Canva. They have some gorgeous premade templates you can use. 

 

A great mobile app for creating Stories is Unfold.

 

Where to set up Stories ads

 

To place ads in Stories on either Facebook and/or Instagram, use Ads Manager.

 

If you are already placing ads, you might already be using the Stories ads format without even realizing it. Any qualifying ads that you create in Facebook Ads Manager already show up in the Instagram and/or Facebook Stories placement by default.

 

Instagram Stories ads are available as a standalone placement using Ads Manager.

 

Facebook Stories ads is included when you leave the default Automatic Placements. Currently, you can't select Facebook Stories as a standalone placement when you create an ad.

 

Stories ad formats

 

    • Instagram: Single image, single video, canvas, and carousel (where you can place up to 10 ‘cards’ in a single ad).
    • Facebook: Single image, single video.

 

Stories ad design specs

 

    • Image aspect ratios:  9:16 and 4:5 to 1.91:1
    • Video: 15 seconds
    • Full Instagram and Facebook Story ad specs.

 

Stories ad calls-to-action

 

Just as you can add any of the available CTA buttons to regular ads, you can include one of these on your Story ads: Apply Now, Book Now, Contact Us, Download, Learn More, Get Showtimes, Request Time, See Menu, Shop Now, Sign Up, Watch More, Listen Now, Subscribe

 

Stories ad objectives

 

Only certain ad objectives can be used with Stories ads. These are: Reach, Traffic, App installs, Video views, Brand Awareness, Lead Generation or Conversions.

 

Get inspiration for your Stories Ads

 

    • Check out Instagram’s own library of Stories Ads case studies.
    • Facebook also has a vast array of Stories in Ads examples on its Success Stories site.
    • See this fabulous infographic by 99firms - How Businesses Use Instagram Stories: 30 Case Studies.
    • Facebook Stories ad case study of Bux app by MakeMeReach.com.

 

 

You can read more articles from Mari Smith by clicking here

 

 

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.

Organic marketing on Facebook means it’s free to reach your target audience. In other words, no advertising costs.

 

Back in the ‘good old days’ of 2008 to 2013, we could reach as much as 300 percent of our audience. How was that even possible?

 

With the viral nature of the Facebook news feed, you could publish a piece of content on your business page and your audience would immediately start engaging with it and sharing. This would often result in your content taking flight and reaching a much wider audience than just those who liked your page.

 

Once Facebook became a public company in 2012, the organic reach started to plummet. In fact, this chart by Social@Ogilivy shows a 50 percent decline in organic reach in the five months between October 2013 to February 2014.

 

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Even though that sharp decline happened five years ago, many small business owners are stuck marketing like it’s 2012. They see their business posts not getting as much reach and engagement, so they try publishing more content. Instead of posting once a day, they’ll post four times a day.

 

This strategy is terribly counterproductive.

 

Over-publishing content on Facebook can hurt your reach and even your reputation. Why? Because the algorithms are trained to seek out popular content and give it more reach. I’m sure you’ll agree, this is rather unfair.

 

How can you get more reach if you can’t get engagement?

 

The good news is there are proven methodologies. It is absolutely still possible to create very successful organic marketing on Facebook!

 

3 simple steps to successful organic marketing on Facebook

 

1. Focus on the ROI of each post.

 

Rather than increasing the volume of your Facebook posts, publish fewer pieces and focus on the ROI of each. Everything starts with exceptional content. Without compelling content, there is nothing with which your audience can engage. Without regular content on your Facebook page, it’s like you’re sending the message that you’re not really open for business and don’t care about your audience. And, of course you do. So, it is best to publish quality content 3 to 5 times per week. If you can manage it, go for once per day.

 

    • TIP: Review your Facebook Page Insights and look back over the past year or so of posts. Which posts got the best reach? What format – video, pictures, links –  resonates most with your audience? Is there a day and time to which your audience responds best?

 

2. Create and publish more video content.

 

The Facebook algorithms favor video content more than other posts. And, Facebook Live video broadcasts get six times the engagement of recorded video. You should publish a mix of both recorded and live videos. My recommended content ratio for 2019 is 70 percent video posts, 20 percent image posts and 10 percent link posts. Video and image posts can still include links and CTAs (calls-to-action). BuzzSumo recently analyzed over 777 million Facebook page posts and concluded that video is indeed the most engaging content type.

 

    • TIP: Create a variety of videos in these categories:
      • 15-second square videos for use on Facebook and Instagram. These are ideal to publish as a ‘teaser’ with a link to your blog posts and articles. They are also ideal for boosting and using as paid placement when you do allocate a budget. See examples on my Facebook page here and here.
      • 15-second vertical videos for Facebook and Instagram Stories. Make sure you’re including Stories in your marketing mix for 2019. This is a rapidly growing area that small businesses need to understand.
      • 3-minute videos in landscape or square for all social channels. Facebook considers videos over 3 minutes as ‘long form,’ which the platform needs in order to eventually place 15-second ad breaks.
      • 18- to 25-minute episodic videos. These can be recorded or broadcast live and ideally published on the same day each week as part of a show format. Your show-style videos could be featured in the Facebook Watch platform as a result.

 

 

3. Encourage meaningful engagement.

 

This can include adding polls to your video content, asking your audience questions and incentivizing user-generated content. Invite your audience to submit suggestions, examples, case studies, etc. You could also periodically host a contest on your Facebook business page to generate an increase in engagement. The Facebook algorithms give significant priority to posts that generate engagement - reactions, comments and shares. The sweet spot is being able to spark conversation among your audience members. In other words, having your followers chat with one another.

 

    • TIP: Link your Facebook business page to a group. Some of the most successful Facebook pages also offer a free group where members can connect more deeply. I offer several groups on my Facebook Page, two of which are public and free and another two are for paying course members. Another great example is the wildly popular Facebook Watch show, Red Table Talk with over 4.5 million followers of the show and a linked group with over 458k members. Granted this is a celebrity show and companion group. However, there’s a great deal here from which small businesses can learn.

 

One more exciting component to add to the mix for your 2019 Facebook organic marketing plans: Watch Parties!

 

I am most excited about this feature. It first came out in July 2018 just to groups, but it is now available on personal profiles and business pages. The idea is you can host any public video, or a playlist of multiple videos, for your audience. It’s very different than sharing a video, because everyone watches the video at the same time, essentially as if it were live.

 

You can use the Watch Party feature to showcase your own content, or related content. Find out more with an actual demo on my Facebook page along with this Facebook help section.

 

Want to read more of my tips about marketing your small business on Facebook?  Check out my other content on this site.

 

 

You can read more articles from Mari Smith by clicking 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.

Is there any element of business ownership changing faster than marketing? Keeping up with marketing trends can feel overwhelming but it doesn’t have to be if you focus on the basics.

 

Here are seven brand and marketing resolutions every small business owner should make – no matter the time of year.

 

Resolution 1: “I will develop a marketing plan.”

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A shotgun approach to marketing—a couple of Facebook ads here, some blog posts there—won’t get you far. With so many options for how to market your business, making the most of your precious marketing budget requires a strategic approach and a well-thought-out marketing plan.

 

 

Download themarketing plan guidefrom SCORE.

 

Resolution 2: “I will maximize my online presence.”

 

Your business website is just one element of your business’s overall online presence. That presence also includes local search directories, social media accounts, ratings and review sites, and online advertising. Make sure your website looks modern, loads fast and is optimized for SEO and mobile use. (You can test your mobile site’s speed here.) Keep your listings on directories up to date. Monitor ratings and reviews to respond quickly to any negative feedback.

 

  • Tip: A strong social media presence on one site is better than a half-hearted presence on all of them.

 

Check out our Small Business Owner’s Guide to Social Media.

 

Resolution 3: “I will listen to my customers.”

 

There’s no excuse for not knowing what your customers are thinking. Use “social listening” tools such as Reputology, Mention, ReviewTrackers or Hootsuite to pay attention to what people are saying online about your business. Review your website analytics and social media analytics to see where your customers are coming from and how they engage with you. Conduct surveys by email or online—tools such as SurveyMonkey make this simple to do.

 

  • Tip: Don’t forget the power of actually talking to your customers face-to-face to see what’s on their minds.

 

Read more from Rieva on why listening to social media can grow your business.

 

Resolution 4: “I will nurture my email list.”

 

Ignore email at your peril: It remains the single most effective marketing method for small businesses, generating higher ROI than any other marketing channel for 10 years running. More than three-fourths (77 percent) of consumers prefer to get promotional messages via email.

 

  • Tip: Use every opportunity to expand your email list—ask customers to sign up at the point of purchase, on your website home page, on social media or in person. Then use email segmentation and automation tools to deliver personalized messages tailored for each customer’s interests.

 

Learn more about cleaning up your e-mail marketing list.

 

Resolution 5: “I will cultivate customer loyalty.”

 

Are you so focused on getting new customers that you’re ignoring the potential of those you already have? Getting existing customers to buy more is easier (and more cost-effective) than convincing prospective customers to give you a try. Use customer data to pinpoint your most valuable customers based on customer lifetime value.

 

  • Tip: Implement loyalty programs to target your most valuable customers with personalized offers and sell more to them.

 

Learn my 7 best email marketing ideas to build customer loyalty.

 

Resolution 6: “I will explore online video.”

 

Shoppers are “64 percent more likely to buy a product online after watching a video ad and 80 percent more likely to purchase when a landing page includes a video,” according to AdRoll president Scott Gifis. Explainer videos, how-to videos, product demonstrations and testimonials are the four most popular types of videos used by businesses—one or more of these should work for yours.

 

  • Tip: Ask your employees to help. One or more may be handy with video and have some great ideas to creatively showcase your offerings.

 

How to use Compelling Video On Social Media for your Small Business

 

Resolution 7: “I will protect my customers’ personal data.”

 

A data breach costs you more than money—it can also cost you customers. More than one-fifth of consumers in Bank of America Merchant Services; 2018 Small Business Payments Spotlight say they would never again shop at a small business that experienced a breach. When usingcustomers’ personal information for marketing, protect it using cybersecurity best practices such as firewalls, complex passwords and compliance with industry standards.

 

  • Tip: Reassure your customers their personal information is safe when they shop with you. They will appreciate your approach to data security.

 

Visit our Fraud and Privacy Resource Center.

 

Making and keeping these resolutions will help you grow in 2019 but be sure to check back here in the Small Business Community for new marketing trends. Nothing in business is changing as quickly as marketing these days.

 

Did I miss any resolutions? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

 

 

About Rieva Lesonsky

 

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Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and Co-founder of GrowBiz Media, a custom content and media company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship, and the blog SmallBizDaily.com. A nationally known speaker and authority on entrepreneurship, Rieva has been covering America’s entrepreneurs for more than 30 years. Before co-founding GrowBiz Media, Lesonsky was the long-time Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine. Lesonsky has appeared on hundreds of radio shows and numerous local and national television programs, including the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN, The Martha Stewart Show and Oprah.

 

Lesonsky regularly writes about small business for numerous websites and for corporations targeting entrepreneurs. Many organizations have recognized Lesonsky for her tireless devotion to helping entrepreneurs. She served on the Small Business Administration’s National Advisory Council for six years, was honored by the SBA as a Small Business Media Advocate and a Woman in Business Advocate, and received the prestigious Lou Campanelli award from SCORE. She is a long-time member of the Business Journalists Hall of Fame.

 

Web: www.growbizmedia.com or Twitter: @Rieva

You can read more articles from Rieva Lesonsky by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Rieva Lesonsky to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Rieva Lesonsky is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Rieva Lesonsky. 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. ©2018 Bank of America Corporation

Remember when big box stores like Walmart were seen as the threat to small businesses? Those almost seem like the good old days.

 

Today, the big bogeyman as we all know is Amazon.

 

Amazon has all the benefits of a one-stop shop like Walmart, but even lower prices on many things, and a larger selection, and one big bonus: it’s all just a click away. Amazon

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makes up approximately 50 percent of the e-commerce market– astounding, until you remember that there are about 95 million Amazon Prime users in the U.S. alone. Amazon

 

is a formidable competitor for any small business.

 

I get this question from small business owners all the time:“What can I do to compete with Amazon?” My answer always is the same: “You can’t.”

 

This does not need to be bad news, however.

No, you can’t compete with Amazon and its size and prices and selection, but the good news, the important news, is that Amazon can’t compete with you either, with your personal touch and attention to detail. There are lots of things your business can do that Amazon cannot.

 

That is the secret.

 

Here are a few tips for competing withAmazon – not against – in  a way that is to your best advantage.

 

Do what Amazon cannot.

 

This step is our secret weapon. There are so many things Amazon cannot provide – a comfortable in-store experience, personal service, individual attention, the ability to look a customer in the eye and crack a joke, to name a few. The way to compete with Amazon is to play to these strengths – your strengths – and not theirs.

 

Another way to do what Amazon cannot is to sell things not easily found on Amazon, like local or handmade goods.

 

Something else to consider: Amazon sells everything, right? This might make it seem like they have a monopoly on every possible market. However, what it also means is that they do not have a specialized niche. Amazon is not the leading expert in fabrics, for example. This could be an opportunity. If you dig in and work to make your business a leader in all-things-fabric, then, when someone needs a particular type of fabric, Amazon just may not be the first place they turn to.

 

 

Market your business as local.

 

Back in the day, this was one of the best ways to combat the big boxes. And it is still effective perhaps more so. Especially today, people tend to be very responsive to the idea of supporting locally operated businesses. Marketing your business as “locally owned and operated” or a “family business” can make a huge difference, and one that Amazon cannot compete with.

 

Also, make sure your business is listed in directories of local businesses.

 

Read how local businesses succeed on Facebook and how you can, too.

Learn why local SEO matters more than ever and 4 steps to success.

 

Learn from Amazon.

 

If your business can afford free shipping, do it. Or, what about 2-day shipping? A new service called Ware2Gomakes this option much more feasible for small businesses.

 

Here’s another trick to take from the Amazon playbook: Think about what people love about Amazon. What usually first comes to mind are low prices and convenience. Those are two things (almost) all small businesses should already excel at. Convenience for your business could mean many things – an easily navigable website or online store, friendly and knowledgeable in-house staff ready to help, good signage, a central location with parking, responsive social media, great selection, etc. Amazon can’t compete with those things.

 

Find out 6 ways to add “experiences” in your retail store.

 

Like Google, Amazon has even become a part of our colloquial vernacular: “Just buy it on Amazon” and “I’m sure you can find that on Amazon.” Yes, that is scary, but take a look around and notice all the small businesses still thriving today. “Shop local” is also a thing now too.

 

Last thought: Humans are social creatures. We love, nay crave, personal interaction. Small businesses help fill that need. Can Amazon?

 

No.

 

Tell us how you compete with Amazon in the comments section below.

 

 

About Steve Strauss

 

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Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest, The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can also listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business SuccessSteven D. Strauss.

 

Web: www.theselfemployed.com or Twitter: @SteveStrauss

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Steve Strauss to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Steve Strauss is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Steve Strauss. 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.  ©2018 Bank of America Corporation

The demise of retail has been greatly exaggerated, as the 2018 holiday shopping season proves: 2018 holiday sales soar to 6-year high.

 

Overall, in 2018 physical retail stores enjoyed a net gain of over 10,000 locationscompared to 2017. Over half (51 percent) of small business owners now have e-commerce sites, up 7 percentage points from 2017, according to Bank of America’s 2018 Small Business Payments Spotlight.

 

Whether you sell online, in a store, or both, here are six hot retail trends you should know about for 2019.

 

1. Experiential retail

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Why do consumers still go to brick-and-mortar stores when there are so many convenient online options? According to Oracle, shoppers in all demographics cite the same

top two reasons:

 

1) they don’t want to wait for products to be shipped.

 

2) they want to see, touch and try products before they make a purchase. Retail stores have the

potential to offer an experience that makes browsing and shopping fun.

 

Think of ways to make your store a sensory experience with sight, sound, smell and touch. Hold events like fashion shows or pop-up shops.   

 

2. Buy online, pick up in store

 

During the 2018 holiday season, more than 89 million Americans shopped both online and in-store—an increase of almost 40 percent from the previous year, according to the National Retail Federation. “Buy online, pick up in store” (BOPIS) orders on Thanksgiving and Black Friday were up 73 percent compared to last year.  Shoppers choose BOPIS to get their products faster and/or to save on shipping costs—but the good news for retailers is that 64percent of people who use BOPIS make an additional purchase once they’re in the store.

 

3. Storefront as a service

 

New retail options are springing up to help e-commerce companies stake their claim in the brick-and-mortar world. Storesreports a project called Re: Storeis expected to launch in San Francisco this spring, offering combined work/retail space for e-commerce companies. Popular co-working space provider WeWork launched its first WeMrkt shop in mid-2018 to sell products to people who work in WeWork’s spaces.

 

4. Artificial Intelligence (AI) /Chatbots

 

According to a survey from BRP Consulting, just 7 percent of retailers currently use AI capabilities such as digital assistance and chatbots. However, 40 percent plan to implement this technology within the next three years. Chatbots can help retail customers overcome obstacles that might delay or prevent purchases, such as problems with product availability or glitches during the checkout process. Consumers are rapidly accepting chatbots for shopping assistance: 20 percent say they would use chatbots to compare products, 18 percent would like bots to help them discover new products, and 10 percent want bots to help them complete their transaction, according to SUMO Heavy.

 

Read Mari Smith’s article, “Facebook Messenger Chatbots Give Small Business Owners an Edge”

 

5.  Augmented reality

 

Big retailers like IKEA and Gap are using AI technology to create augmented reality (AR) apps shoppers can use to “virtually” try on clothing or see how furniture will look in their homes. (Learn more here: how 10 retailers are using augmented reality.) By 2025, some experts predict augmented realitywill drive $1.6 billion in retail sales annually. Will 2019 be the year augmented reality trickles down to small retailers? With DIY tools like Blippbuilderand Appy Pieto help you create an AR app, the answer is likely “Yes.”

 

6. Transparency/Social responsibility

 

In 2019 consumers will pay attention to retailers’ environmental and socially-responsible activities when deciding where to shop. According to a recent GlobalData survey, 71 percent of consumers consider the environmental impact of products they buy at grocery stores, and 64 percent do the same when shopping for clothing and footwear. How does your retail business demonstrate its commitment to making the world a better place? From environmental sustainability practices to how you treat suppliers, contractors and employees, being transparent about your retail business’s mission, vision and policies will help you attract and keep customers.

 

All told, 2019 looks to be an exciting time for retailers.

 

What trends are you planning to incorporate into your business this year?

Tell us in the comments below.

 

 

About Rieva Lesonsky

 

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Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and Co-founder of GrowBiz Media, a custom content and media company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship, and the blog SmallBizDaily.com. A nationally known speaker and authority on entrepreneurship, Rieva has been covering America’s entrepreneurs for more than 30 years. Before co-founding GrowBiz Media, Lesonsky was the long-time Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine. Lesonsky has appeared on hundreds of radio shows and numerous local and national television programs, including the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN, The Martha Stewart Show and Oprah.

 

Lesonsky regularly writes about small business for numerous websites and for corporations targeting entrepreneurs. Many organizations have recognized Lesonsky for her tireless devotion to helping entrepreneurs. She served on the Small Business Administration’s National Advisory Council for six years, was honored by the SBA as a Small Business Media Advocate and a Woman in Business Advocate, and received the prestigious Lou Campanelli award from SCORE. She is a long-time member of the Business Journalists Hall of Fame.

 

Web: www.growbizmedia.com or Twitter: @Rieva

You can read more articles from Rieva Lesonsky by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Rieva Lesonsky to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Rieva Lesonsky is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Rieva Lesonsky. 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. ©2018 Bank of America Corporation

Businesses of all sizes are quickly finding that influencer marketing is an effective way to reach customers. By sponsoring content creators that have their own audiences, marketers can leverage user-generated content, expertise and trust combined with built-in social distribution to meet a variety of marketing goals. When implemented properly, influencer marketing can drive brand awareness, audience development, sales growth and more.97280163_s.jpg

 

Despite its efficacy, how to run an influencer marketing campaign is still unclear for many small (and large!) businesses. Below are six best practices to generate a strong return on investment from your influencer marketing activities.

 

1. Choose the Right Platform for Your Goals.

 

All platforms are not created equal and not all are relevant to your audience. “The first step in any influencer marketing campaign is finding the most appropriate platform. One platform does not fit all, as each has different characteristics, formats, engagement mechanisms and features. Depending on your specific goals, some platforms may be better than others” said Mike Prasad, the CEO of Tinysponsor, an inventory-based sponsorship marketplace that helps companies purchase the right sponsorships for their marketing goals (disclosure, I am also an investor in the platform).

 

For example, Prasad notes that “a permanent and visually engaging Instagram post will outperform on awareness and narrative goals, while an Instagram Story with a 24-hour lifespan will typically outperform on click-through and sales conversions with its swipe-up links and immediate call-to-action features. A blog sponsorship is fantastic for SEO and content creation, plus it can be effectively repurposed as ‘testimonial’-type creatives. You need to start with your goals.”

 

2. Know What Metrics Matter and Why.

 

After choosing a platform, you need to be measuring success. Operating on vanity measurements will not drive ROI. “Platforms such as Twitter and Facebook offer granular demographic insights, while others such as Instagram and Snapchat are more limited in their data offerings,” Prasad said. “Knowing what to measure is critical for driving bottom-line results.

 

“A post’s performance data may include a variety of measures,” he added. “Your key metrics will vary depending on your specific goals and platform. A campaign with conversion goals would use trackable links to correctly attribute credit and measure across overall reach, whereas a brand awareness campaign should compare true reach and distribution against light engagement (such as likes) and deep engagement (such as comments) to determine actual effectiveness.”

 

3. Find the Right Creators for Your Brand.

 

Every content creator has their own unique voice, focus, audience and style. Finding the right influencer to work with is essential to a campaign’s success.

 

“A common but flawed practice is to choose an influencer based on general category and overall reach,” Prasad warned. “This incorrect approach often results in negative ROI. To deliver meaningful outcomes, context and alignment is everything.”

 

For example, Prasad continued, “All metrics being the same, contextual alignment between your brand, the influencer and their audience will determine the outcome of a campaign. The best aligned influencer should look like an ideal customer or brand ambassador, but with their own individuality that is complementary to your business. Their content should also be specifically aligned, as well. Depending on the brand and goals, a creator that posts makeup tutorials will perform differently than one who posts product unboxings, even though both are in the same beauty category.”

 

Metrics show that the more aligned an influencer is with a sponsoring business, the higher the engagement rate and ROI will be. Tinysponsor reports seeing engagement rates range from a modest 1.2 percent to a staggering 12 percent, largely based on specific alignment. It also helps to test out a variety of influencers over time – say six to 12 months – to really be able to evaluate long-term results.

 

4. Pay the Right Price.

 

Celebrities have historically charged marketers exorbitant prices for sponsorships with no regard to performance. Smaller influencers have built solid followings of their own, but charge a wildly varying range of prices, furthering price confusion. Because small businesses need to ensure they pay the right price for their relative goals, they should consider several factors related to rates.

 

“First take into consideration reach and engagement when evaluating creators,” Prasad advised. “Creators who interact frequently with their followers drive more results than those who only broadcast. Many social media platforms will algorithmically rank engaged posts higher, amplifying their organic media reach.

 

“Second, you should verify your alignment with creators’ followers. A highly engaged audience is only valuable to you if they match your business objectives. Ultimately when measuring ROI, a targeted and engaged follower count provides a more meaningful cost basis than general reach.

 

“Third, consider paying higher or lower rates depending on industry categorizations. Creators posting about video games or luxury travel are generally more valuable to marketers than music or fashion. Similar pricing dynamics seen in search engine marketing also apply to influencer industry pricing.”

 

To help assess pricing, Tinysponsor has a free calculator here.

 

5. Stay Focused on Brand Safety.

 

Brand safety, the concept of using creators that won’t get your brand in trouble because of other content they have used, has been largely overlooked by many platforms, but is incredibly important for businesses.

 

“It is paramount for marketers to be fully aware of how aligned the creator is with the brands they work with,” Prasad said. “Fortunately, creators are generally consistent in their content. Businesses should be aware of both the nature and degree of their brand safety requirements, when sifting through the creators’ content for any problematic associations. For example, a food and beverage creator known for nightlife settings may be brand safe for an alcohol brand, but not be appropriate for a breakfast food product. Clothing companies should be aware of creators who may post risqué photos.”

 

Keeping an eye on this will keep your brand out of trouble and avoid “guilt by association.”

 

6. Ensure Your Campaign is Compliant with Regulations.

 

Governments and regulatory agencies consistently change guidance related to marketing, including influencers and other sponsored endorsements. Generally, creators must disclose clearly and explicitly any sponsorship relationships. As a business, you must ensure compliance, especially as the FTC will often penalize you as a sponsor first.

 

Make sure to stay abreast of guidelines and check to make sure your influencers have used appropriate disclosures.

 

Influencer marketing can provide a lot of bang for your buck and let you test campaigns on a small scale. Follow the advice above and get help from a relevant influencer marketplace or platform to see how influencers can help drive more awareness and sales for your small business.

 

Read next:

 

About Carol Roth

 

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Carol Roth is the creator of the Future File ® legacy planning system, “recovering” investment banker, billion-dollar dealmaker, investor, entrepreneur, national media personality and author of the New York Times bestselling book, The Entrepreneur Equation. She is a judge on the Mark Burnett-produced technology competition show, America’s Greatest Makers and TV host and contributor, including host of Microsoft’s Office Small Business Academy. She is also an advisor to companies ranging from startups to major multi-national corporations and has an action figure made in her own likeness.

 

Web: www.CarolRoth.com or Twitter: @CarolJSRoth.

You can read more articles from Carol Roth by clicking here

 

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