Livin’ in E-Harmony with the Infamous Social Media Algorithm

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Linley+Lauren // Image provided by LP2 Boutique Agency

 

Today’s guest bloggers Linley+Lauren are biz besties and co-founders of WORK//SHOP, marketing, social media and store planning resources for independent retailers. Follow their fun @linleylaurenlp2 and flamingle with them during their four social media seminars on Friday, April 8, 2016 at Atlanta Apparel. Visit www.AmericasMart.com/events or www.retailerworkshop.com/upcomingevents for more details.

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We’ve got a special guy we’d like you to meet. You may not be looking for anyone new, but he’s actually already in your life. In fact, he’s been all up in your business lately.

Al_Gorithm

Al Gorithm // Image provided by LP2 Boutique Agency

You’ve probably heard his name before. He’s quite the social butterfly, after all! Meet Al Gorithm (as in the infamous Facebook algorithm).

Waiiiiit… Don’t stop reading now! Sure, you (and almost every other business owner in the world) have a love/hate relationship with him, but hear us out. We think he’s gotten a bad rap, and he’s worth getting to know.

In fact, we suggest you get serious with him pretty quick… like maybe consider getting engaged?? That’s right! Social engagement is the best way to have Al Gorithm start working for your business and increase your social media success. Here’s why:

  1. He’s a real go-getter… and a bit of a workaholic too! He’s been organizing your customers’ Facebook news feeds since 2010, and he’s recently gotten a second job at Instagram. Whether you like it or not, he’s becoming increasingly important to delivering your social media content to your customers. If you don’t have a good relationship with him, he could be a bit of fatal attraction for your business.
  2. He’s quite the VIP. Sometimes it feels like ’ol Al is just using you for your money. After all, social media algorithms can force you to pay for ads or boosted content to increase your reach… especially if your engagement is low. But face the facts. Facebook users have liked more pages than their capacity to consume the information that comes from them — around 1,500 posts at any given time, and Instagrammers miss on average 70 percent of their feeds. If a feed is too overwhelming, users won’t see a thing. That’s why Al has become a Very Important Poster (and so well paid too!).
  3. He’s a good guy. Deep down, he really cares about what is important to you and your customers. The goal of the social media algorithm is to deliver the right content to the right people at the right time. On Facebook, he narrows those 1,500 posts down to the 300 or so that users are most likely to find interesting. Nice guy, right? No word on his start date at Instagram and how exactly he’ll work, but since Insta is owned by Facebook, he’s bound to operate similarly.

So do you heart him now? Then it’s time to say, “YES!” and get engaged on social media. We’ll be back with a second love letter soon to give you specifics on how to increase your placement in the algorithm by engaging your followers on Facebook and Instagram.

Take Care,
Linley+Lauren

Part 1 of 2

Tweeting in Real-Time: How to Stand Out in the World’s Busiest Town Square

tweeting in real time

Since the first tweet on March 21, 2006, Twitter has not only changed the way the world communicates — frequently in concise bursts — it has also changed the way customers interact with businesses — individually and transparently. With a billion active accounts in sight, businesses in general, and the retail industry specifically, cannot afford to not have a presence on Twitter.

Social Media is about sociology and psychology more than technology. Ultimately, brands need to have a role in society. The best way to have a role in society is to understand how people are talking about things in real time and connect with them on a more personal level.

So what is real-time marketing? Real-time marketing is not just an Oreo dunking in the dark. Marketers are starting to develop a definition for “real-time marketing” as “creating dynamic personalized content across channels.” In a Shoutlet webinar with @melissahjohnson and @kksparks, they define it is as reacting in real-time, or in a timely manner with messaging that’s relevant to the needs and interests of your customer. #Realtimetwitter success starts with planned solid content and a listening strategy.

6 WAYS TO CREATING A WINNING REAL-TIME PLAN:
1. Act From A Solid Content Strategy

realtime

2. Create Your Listening Program
Use keywords, live events and influencers, and learn to listen. Kit Kat does a great job of this.
3. Determine Mix Of Real-time And Planned Content
The content recipe is planned content, curated content and real-time content.
4. Put Structure In Place To Respond
Have a full-time community manager that understands the audience. This can help streamline the approval process and keep a newsroom mentality for breaking tweets.
5. Think Beyond The Tweet
Use real-time campaigns. Honda has done a great job of this by sending vine videos to people who use their hashtag.
6. Choose The Right Tools
Choosing the right social media tools is just as important as your strategy. Hootsuite has become a standard and is not enough to truly see a return on investment for your company’s social media activities. You must research keywords, route comments, respond quickly and track success.

“Be respectful and honest. Own your mistakes. Think before you tweet. Be positive.”
kksparks
Once you have developed your real-time plan, the next stage is to move onto a customer service program. When it comes to service, meet your customers where they are. According to Nielson’s 2012 State of the Media Report, 1 in 3 users now prefer to contact brands using social media rather than the phone, so embracing a social customer service strategy ensures your company keeps happy customers. Users want service where they are and the younger generation generally prefers social service.

social customer service

71% of people who experience social customer service are more likely to recommend that brand. For example, clearwire used their social customer service strategy to shift sentiment by having a standalone customer service account for negative comments. They also adhered to a 30 minute response time. This lead to:
• A dedicated social account for customer service
• Reduced negative comments on brand account
• Creation of multimedia resources to share around common problems
• People directed to the right places (online, email, phone number, etc.)
• Increased customer engagement which provided new insights.

Highlight successes and track volume, type of tweet, and response times. What type of posts are you seeing – product feedback, customer complaints, testimonials, etc.? Rank them by severity level and set the response time duration based on level of severity. Your daily tweets should vary on your content strategy. Create an internal social customer care guidebook. Be transparent and own your mistakes. People will appreciate your authenticity and have a higher respect for your brand.

The opportunity for brands to develop and implement a social customer service strategy could mean a big business impact: 71% of people who experience positive social care are likely to recommend that brand to others, compared to just 19% of customers that do not receive any response. Social media is an opportunity for companies to make a one-on-one connection with a customer in a unique way, and transparency is key to developing trust and future business.

Each customer interaction with your company is a reflection of your entire business – and social media is no different. #realtalk

HOW TO ACHIEVE INSTANT SALES WITH INSTAGRAM

Instagram

“If Twitter and Flickr could have had a baby it would have been Instagram,” says Christi Tasker, CEO, author, and speaker of PuTTin’ Out. Tasker established her credibiltiy in the social media space in the early days of Myspace and Webkinz. However, as today’s social space turns visual, Instagram is at the forefront of great pictures and now 15 second videos.

Twitter and Flickr Baby  Instagram Collage

So what is Instagram and why does it matter to retailers? Instagram combines the photo experience of Flickr with the real-time conversation element of Twitter. Instagram has become the fastest growing mobile application to “capture and share the world’s moment.” It’s a photo sharing application that lets users take photos, apply filters to their images, and share the photos instantly on the Instagram network and other social networks such as Facebook, Flickr, Twitter and Foursquare, or even email. The app is targeted toward mobile social sharing, and in just over one year, it’s gained 15 million users. Growing at a rate of 2 million users per month, users have uploaded 400 million photos in less than two years (60 photos per second). Ten percent of all photos taken by humankind were taken in the past 12 months. The strengths of Instagram are the filter, social community and tag-driven search functions with geo-tag capabilities that group pictures of that particular site.

Nordstrom is considered a retail industry leader for Instagram. The company incorporates a behind-the-scenes look from their employees. Employees of Nordstrom who send in the best photo are rewarded with prizes. Talk about a great incentive and great way for the company to collaborate/compete for having the most creative pictures on Instagram! Other successful retail brands on Instagram include Starbucks, Nike, Gucci, Burberry, December Diamonds, Victoria Secret and Michael Kors. All have been effective in spreading awareness and cultivating relationships with their biggest fans.

Nike Instagram  Nordstrom Instagram

How do you correlate sales to Instagram photos? Answer: Chirpify. Chirpify is the only in-stream social selling commerce platform that allows fans to comment on photo and leads them to directly buy. Users can hook it up to a Paypal account and never leave Instagram. Talk about revolutionary for retailers! So start thinking of your second hobby as a photographer. Make sure you are decorating a table with candy and other home-made sweets if you are trying to sell your new candy dish. You need to dress up your photos and use relevant hashtags such as #candy #sweets #antique. Check out how Sore Footwear and Adidas use this social selling commerce platform to get ideas. Instagram also recently added the embed code so you can embed your pictures on your website.

The Social Commerce and Payments Platform from Chirpify on Vimeo.

Instagram is quickly outpacing Foursquare as the largest mobile social network: 91 percent of U.S. citizens have mobile phones within reach 24/7; 25 percent of people in the U.S. have totally abandoned their laptops for exclusive use of their mobile devices; and opting to download mobile apps 10.9 billion times is expected to peak in 2013. Why is Instagram so cool? Users process more information more quickly from images than from text thus images drive more audience engagement than text content.

The popularity of Instagram derives from the ability to tell a story through visual images. Seventy percent of Facebook user activity centers on uploading, liking and sharing photos. No wonder they purchased Instagram in 2012 for better picture sharing and increased engagement. Users are posting lifestyle photos that are visually appealing. People love visual content, and photos tell stories. Storytelling is crucial to the social success of your content, and the emotions associated with photos carry a lot of weight.

Your brand should maintain consistent posting frequency by posting at least two Instagram photos every week to inspire follower growth. Focus on posting interesting images with good production value and quality photography rules such as light, composition, contrast, geometry, emotion and processing.
Your Instagram Cheat Sheet:

  • Images: Filters, frames, caption, @tagging, #hashtags, geotag location, Tilt-shift teardrop for creating an illusion of depth, eye button to rotating picture.
  • Hashtags: Each hashtag has its own page, and its own RSS feed where the photos with that tag are displayed. Research what people in your industry are posting by searching relevant #hashtags. This is also a good way to find new people to follow. Check out Tag for likes too.
  • Leave constructive comments, start conversations and be nice.
  • Geotagging: Tag your location to make it easier for people to find your account.
  • Photo Competitions: Submit photos to competitions such as instadaily.com.
  • Measurement: Take a look at Statigram, Inkstagram\ or Gramfeed.
  • Use this list of Instagram apps:
  1. Instagoodies.com-Stickerbooks
  2. Postagramapp.com-Send actual Integra postcards
  3. Printstagr.am-Mini books, teeny books and posters
  4. Teenytile.com-Make teeny tile from your photos
  5. Stickygram.com-Fridge magnets from your Instaphotos

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What Instagram pictures are you sharing? Let us know!

It’s More Important to Be Kind than Clever

One of the more heart-warming stories to zoom around the Internet lately involves a young man, his dying grandmother, and a bowl of clam chowder from Panera Bread. It’s a little story that offers big lessons about service, brands, and the human side of business — a story that underscores why efficiency should never come at the expense of humanity.

The story, as told in AdWeek, goes like this: Brandon Cook, from Wilton, New Hampshire, was visiting his grandmother in the hospital. Terribly ill with cancer, she complained to her grandson that she desperately wanted a bowl of soup, and that the hospital’s soup was inedible (she used saltier language). If only she could get a bowl of her favorite clam chowder from Panera Bread! Trouble was, Panera only sells clam chowder on Friday. So Brandon called the nearby Panera and talked to store manager Suzanne Fortier. Not only did Sue make clam chowder specially for Brandon’s grandmother, she included a box of cookies as a gift from the staff.

It was a small act of kindness that would not normally make headlines. Except that Brandon told the story on his Facebook page, and Brandon’s mother, Gail Cook, retold the story on Panera’s fan page. The rest, as they say, is social-media history. Gail’s post generated 500,000 (and counting) “likes” and more than 22,000 comments on Panera’s Facebook page. Panera, meanwhile, got something that no amount of traditional advertising can buy — a genuine sense of affiliation and appreciation from customers around the world.

Marketing types have latched on to this story as an example of the power of social media and “virtual word-of-mouth” to boost a company’s reputation. But I see the reaction to Sue Fortier’s gesture as an example of something else — the hunger among customers, employees, and all of us to engage with companies on more than just dollars-and-cents terms. In a world that is being reshaped by the relentless advance of technology, what stands out are acts of compassion and connection that remind us what it means to be human.

As I read the story of Brandon and his grandmother, I thought back to a lecture delivered two years ago by Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon.com, to the graduating seniors of my alma mater, Princeton University. Bezos is nothing if not a master of technology — he has built his company, and his fortune, on the rise of the Internet and his own intellect. But he spoke that day not about computing power or brainpower, but about his grandmother — and what he learned when he made her cry.

Even as a 10-year-old boy, it turns out, Bezos had a steel-trap mind and a passion for crunching numbers. During a summer road trip with his grandparents, young Jeff got fed up with his grandmother’s smoking in the car — and decided to do something about it. From the backseat, he calculated how many cigarettes per day his grandmother smoked, how many puffs she took per cigarette, the health risk of each puff, and announced to her with great fanfare, “You’ve taken nine years off your life!”

Bezos’s calculations may have been accurate — but the reaction was not what he expected. His grandmother burst into tears. His grandfather pulled the car off to the side of the road and asked young Jeff to step out. And then his grandfather taught a lesson that this now-billionaire decided to share the with the Class of 2010: “My grandfather looked at me, and after a bit of silence, he gently and calmly said, ‘Jeff, one day you’ll understand that it’s harder to be kind than clever.'”

That’s a lesson I wish more businesspeople understood — a lesson that is reinforced by the reaction to this simple act of kindness at Panera Bread. Indeed, I experienced something similar not so long ago, and found it striking enough to devote an HBR blog post to the experience. In my post, I told the story of my father, his search for a new car, a health emergency that took place in the middle of that search — and a couple of extraordinary (and truly human) gestures by an auto dealer that put him at ease and won his loyalty.

“What is it about business that makes it so hard to be kind?” I asked at the time. “And what kind of businesspeople have we become when small acts of kindness feel so rare?”

That’s what’s really striking about the Panera Bread story — not that Suzanne Fortier went out of her way to do something nice for a sick grandmother, but that her simple gesture attracted such global attention and acclaim.

So by all means, encourage your people to embrace technology, get great at business analytics, and otherwise ramp up the efficiency of everything they do. But just make sure all their efficiency doesn’t come at the expense of their humanity. Small gestures can send big signals about who we are, what we care about, and why people should want to affiliate with us. It’s harder (and more important) to be kind than clever.

Source: BILL TAYLOR, William C. Taylor is cofounder of Fast Company magazine and author of Practically Radical: Not-So-Crazy Ways to Transform Your Company, Shake Up Your Industry, and Challenge Yourself, published January 4, 2011.

Guest Blogger Crystal Vilkaitis on How to Get Your Emails Opened

AmericasMart is excited to have Crystal Vilkaitis, director of social media for SnapRetail, as our guest blogger today. Crystal helps independent retailers market their stores using email, Facebook, Twitter, daily offers and other social media tools to bring traffic into their stores and strengthen the relationship with their customers. She’s conducted over 200 seminars and webinars speaking about how to effectively use social media and will be our guest speaker next Wednesday, September 5 at Market Wednesday.

*10-11 a.m. – A Perfect Match: Integrating Social Media & Email Marketing to Increase Foot Traffic
*Noon-1 p.m. – Lunch and Learn: What the bleep do I say on Facebook?
*2-3 p.m. – How Independent Retailers Can Make Money Using Daily Deals 

Please email Morgan at mdyches@americasmart.com to R.S.V.P.

Open sesame! Get Your Emails Opened and Acted On

By Crystal Vilkaitis

Email marketing is one of the best ways to reach your customers and most likely, you’re already using it today to promote your store, products, events and sales. During the winter I surveyed 150 retailers asking how long it took them to create an email campaign. I was floored by the response. Of those surveyed, 31% said it took them half a day or more to create one email campaign for their store with another 33% taking about an hour. I know how incredibly busy retailers are since you’re basically running the entire store yourself. You don’t have time to spend hours on one email campaign!

Now if you are spending hours, or even just five minutes, it’s important that your customers are actually opening and reading your email. If you’re going to spend time collecting email addresses and creating a campaign, you want your email to be read. To measure this, you’ll need to track the open rates in order to know if your current campaigns are successful. Here are a few standard open rate metrics for a promotional email sent:

  • Average – Between 16-18%
  • Good- Between 20-28%
  • Great- Anything above 30%

Where does your open rate fit – average, good or great? Do you even know? If you don’t, I encourage you to start tracking and measuring what works and what doesn’t.

Below are a few tips to ensure a higher open and click through rate which will hopefully lead to more foot traffic and sales. If you are one of those dedicated retailers spending hours to create one email campaign, make sure you read through this entire article, as I have a time saving tip for you.

MarketingSherpa stated the top 3 things that got customers to open email campaigns were:

  • Discount Offers
  • Free Product Offers
  • Familiar Brand Name – if you carry consumer known brands, put them in the subject line to help increase open rates.

Try to make your customers feel like they are part of the lucky few to receive your offer by using words like “Exclusive,” “Limited,” “Private” or “Selected.” Example: “You’ve Been Selected to Attend Our Private Open house – One Day Savings!” You may also try to entice your customers to open the email by using a subject line like this: “Mystery offer: open now to see.…”

Urgent, urgent, urgent. Urgency can ensure your email gets opened, resulting in immediate action rather than leaving it to look at later and then never getting to it. One way businesses try to accomplish urgency is by using lots of exclamation points (!!!!!!) but we advise against doing this since it could put your email into your customer’s spam box. Instead, use phrases like “Hurry,” “Limited Time” or “X Days Only.”

It’s important to include the most important part of your email in the beginning of your sublect line. Depending on how your email is being seen and on what (laptop screen, big monitor or mobile phone) will depend on what your customer sees for the subject line. Example: If you’re having a Mud Pie sale, use something like “Exclusive Mud Pie Sale this Saturday!” versus “You Won’t Want to Miss Our Mud Pie Sale this Saturday.” If you save your hook for the end it might not be visible and customers may delete your email.

For more information about SnapRetail visit www.SnapRetail.com.

So, Where’s My Profit?

by William Smith

These days, if you have a retail store that stocks inventory and sells directly to customers, making a profit and putting cash in your pocket can be a frustrating effort. The U.S. economy is still struggling, unemployment continues to be high, and Europe is a mess. These things affect your business.

Unfortunately, as a retailer, you have no control over those issues.

Fortunately, you do have control over how you run your business.

There are all kinds of things you can do to improve your operation: change your store layout, improve your displays, get involved in social networking on Facebook and Twitter, offer more services to your customers, the list goes on and on, and they all help.

However, there are two major areas of your business over which you have control that directly impact your profit and your income.

Come join me and your fellow retailers, Saturday, July 14 at 10 a.m. as we discuss these two areas in depth. We’ll talk about how these areas affect your business and what you can do to take control of them. I’ll tell you how to do it and where to find the resources you need to succeed.

It’s your money. Time to start making more of it.

Saturday, July 14, 10-11 a.m.
Building 1, Floor 10, Room 1002

Click here for more information on seminars and events during July Market at AmericasMart Atlanta.

Click here for more information on Bill and his company, William Smith Counseling.

Blogging For Business

image001_SmallIn preparation for speaking to fellow retailers at the upcoming AmericasMart Gift Market in Atlanta next month, I’ve been thinking about what I feel are the most important aspects of blogging for business. I started a blog for my invitation, stationery and gift boutique in October of 2008. I wasn’t exactly sure what a blog would do for my small business when I started it, however, I now know how valuable it is for keeping current customers engaged and obtaining new customers. I hope to be able to share some of what I’ve learned about “blogging for business” with my colleagues in Atlanta in January.

Here is a sneak preview of what I’ll be sharing.

Keep It Simple

It really couldn’t be easier to create a blog for your business. It is much easier than creating and maintaining a website and can even be your business’ website if you don’t have a reason to keep a separate web presence. Using free blog hosting services such as WordPress and Blogger, it’s as simple as creating a free account, selecting from one of their excellent blog templates and filling in the blanks to customize the blog for your business. Then you do have to actually come up with what you want to blog about.

More about that at my upcoming seminar. Hint: It’s simple.

Keep Communicating

One of the original reasons I started a blog was because I didn’t want to send emails to customers too often at the risk of ending up in their SPAM folders or them just not reading emails because they were to frequent. I have always sent a monthly email newsletter to customer who subscribe and found that as business grew, there were times I wanted to communicate with customers more than monthly. Blogging was my answer. I post information on the blog that is worthy of sharing between newsletters and then direct customers to the blog for special updates, event info, sale and new product notifications. In this case, if customers want the information, they are free to review it, however, we are keeping our promise of only emailing them once per month.

Keep It Going

Blogging does take time. You may be lucky enough to have someone to delegate

blogging to, which would mean it won’t take as much of your time. I actually really enjoy blogging and using it as a platform to tell others about my business, therefore, I maintain our blog entirely on my own. Anything worth doing takes time and one of the biggest blogging mistakes you can make is to stop blogging once you’ve started. Make a commitment to your blog, just like you commit to your business. Make it something reasonable for you, not something an expert told you. If you can commit to blog once a week that’s great. If you can commit to once a month, that’s better than not at all.

Keep It Connected

Because I’m also an avid user of social media for my business, I use other social media tools such as Facebook and Twitter to promote our blog to existing and prospective customers. After I post on our blog, I always put a link to the new post on Facebook and Twitter. These avenues expose our blog to many more people than just those who choose to follow it. I also reference the blog in our monthly email newsletter. I’ve found that this makes creating the newsletter faster and easier. I typically cover some of the same information in the monthly email newsletter that’s recently been posted on the blog. I link directly from the newsletter articles to the blog to share more detailed information, making the newsletter more concise.

These are just a few of my “blogging for business” tips. I’ll be sharing much more at the upcoming panel discussion “The Power of Blogging” AmericasMart University: Building

Your Brand Course on Thursday, January 13, 2011 from 1- 2 p.m. in Building 1, Floor 10, Room 1001. I hope to have the opportunity to meet many of you there!