How Social Media can Help You Provide Better Customer Service

Aug 07th, 2014

Never thought that being on social media is all that important for your business? Or are you on Twitter and Facebook, but use it mainly to tell customers about new products, or new blog posts and other content on your website? If any of these things are true for you and your business, it could be one of the biggest business mistakes you’re making. In fact, social media can be your biggest boost when it comes to customer service.

First, set up the Twitter account with the username yourcompany_complaints, or other name that clearly indicates that if customers have a problem, this is where they should be telling you about them.
Sometimes it can be very difficult to sort through hundreds of tweets, just to find the one that involves a complaint from a customer. To keep this from happening, make sure you set up a Twitter account that is dedicated to issues.

Customers love social media because if they find a problem with your product or service, they can tell you about it right away. They know that instead of waiting on hold over the phone, or writing a letter, they can simply hop onto Facebook or Twitter, leave a message for you, and their concerns will be addressed. However, because they are able to leave a message instantly, you need to do them the same courtesy and make sure you respond immediately. It will only take a minute, and it gives you the chance to keep a customer for life. If you don’t want to be tied to your phone, or you don’t want to be checking your accounts all the time, hire a staff person dedicated to this job.

When it comes time to respond to the customer, make sure that you do several things. First, acknowledge that what they’re complaining about is an actual problem and apologize for it. Then, offer a solution that does not involve something that’s already on your website or social media account. The customer will feel offended that you’ve assumed they haven’t looked into it, or that they have simply overlooked something that’s clearly written out. Doing so will not only show that you’re sympathetic to their situation, but that you actually care and are doing everything you can to right the wrong they have experienced.

No matter how organized you are with keeping your complaints separate, no matter how timely you are in responding, and no matter how much advice and information you give, sometimes there just isn’t a solution. But if you give your customer nothing at this point, they’re going to be even angrier. When this happens, make sure that you offer your empathy and that you also give them something for their trouble. Whether it’s a gift certificate or a discount on their next purchase, they’ll appreciate the fact that you really have done all they could to make their experience a bit better.

Customer service used to be one of the most difficult aspects of owning a business. With the advent of social media today however, it’s actually one of the easiest if you know how to harness it and use it to your advantage.

10 Marketing Strategies that will Help Your Small Business

Jul 10th, 2014

There are fewer things in life harder than starting a business. And for even the most ambitious business owner, one of the most stressful aspects of starting that business can be the marketing of it. Luckily, it doesn’t have to be! Here are ten marketing strategies that are not only effective, but also pretty easy for even the business owner with next to no marketing experience whatsoever.

1.) Be yourself
This one is very important because no matter what type of marketing you embark on, you always want to make sure your voice and your own personal style comes through. There is something that makes you uniquely you and therefore, makes your business unique from any other. Be sure to include that with any type of marketing you use and you’ll be halfway to one of marketing’s biggest stumbling blocks – distinguishing yourself from the competition.

2.) Content marketing
This one is also really easy and applies to your website. Simply make sure that any content that goes on your website, blog, or social media is dynamic, interesting, and helpful to visitors, and they’ll be back to check it out again at a later point in time. It’s that easy.

3.) Use social media
Social media has done many great things for our world, and it’s done many great things for businesses too. While businesses once had to go to great time and expense to tell their customers about something new, today it’s super easy to tell them – simply hop onto Twitter or Facebook!

4.) Utilize SEO
The best way to tell people about your website is to simply utilize great SEO tactics. Simply know how to use keywords and backlinks on your website and it will be the search engines that actually do the marketing for you and bring customers to your website.

5.) Pay-per-click
Pay-per-click is perhaps one of the most common forms of advertising on the web. Simply purchase ads that will be displayed on other web pages, such as Google or Facebook, and you’ll get paid every time someone clicks on them and is taken to your site. Be warned that PPC alone won’t get you the results you’re looking for. Customers will need dynamic content greeting them on the other end if you want them to stick around.

6.) Reputation marketing
This is something that is lesser known than using SEO and PPC advertising. With reputation marketing, a business simply asks customers to review their product or service and collects these reviews over time. They can be posted on the site, or on third-party review sites.

7.) Go outside of banner ads
There are sites such as BuzzFeed that allow businesses to market their products or services. Typically these advertisements do look different than other content on the site, but users prefer them over other types of advertising such as banner ads (which users find really annoying.)

8.) Be creative
With even more businesses popping up today and surrounding customers everywhere they go from their daily lives to online, they’re getting tired of seeing and hearing the same old thing. Be creative, think outside of the box, and inject that passion and ingenuity that had you start up the business in the first place.

9.) Make sure customers are really happy
This sounds like common sense, but ensuring customers’ happiness is about more than just delivering the promised product at the guaranteed time. Go out of your way to make your customers really happy; go above and beyond. That will ensure that they come back next time they need your product or service.

10.) Be diverse
Online marketing is great, but make sure you’re involved in many kinds of it (SEO, PPC, content marketing, etc.) so that you diversify as much as possible. Also in terms of diversification, don’t forget about including traditional forms of marketing such as TV and radio if your business needs it.

4 Mistakes Small Businesses Make on Their Blogs

Jun 05th, 2014

So you’re a small business, and you’ve recently created a website for it. That’s great news, but unfortunately it’s not enough. In order to keep your customers updated regularly, and to promote your business even further, you’ll need to set up a blog too. When it comes time to do that, you’ll want to make sure that you avoid these most common mistakes that many small business owners make.

Creating unfocused blog posts
The focus and purpose of your overall blog is likely to draw in more customers, reach them often, and keep them updated with what’s going on with your business. But in addition to having an overall focus, you also need to have a focus for each and every blog post. Maybe it’s to direct customers to your product page, maybe it’s to inform them about a sale you’re having, or maybe it’s just to simply promote your business. If you embark on creating a blog post without a specific focus, it will seem disjointed and unorganized, and probably won’t make a lot of sense to customers. Have a focus, keep a focus, and create your content with only that focus in mind. It will be clearer to your customers, and your blog posts will do exactly what you want them to.

Promoting your business too much
You might not think that it’s possible to promote your business too much, but to your customers, you can. That’s especially true when they visit a page expecting to be educated or informed about something, and they find they’re just trying to be sold something. Customers don’t want to be sold something all the time, especially when the Internet is supposed to be about information. Promotional copy doesn’t help them, doesn’t inform them or anything, and can actually be quite annoying. Promotional posts are okay once in a while, such as when you’re having a sale or have a new product in stock. But try to keep them to a minimum and spend the rest of the time actually informing and helping your customers.

Having the same type of content all the time
If every time you create a blog post you’re simply writing out a bunch of text and publishing it, people are going to lose interest quickly. This is a new day and age from the time when the Internet was first invented. Users now expect more than just a few paragraphs that have been thrown together. They want to see pictures and videos along with that text, and often all in the same blog post.

Not breaking up content
Using audio and video is a great way to break up the content of your blog posts – and this is something else that users want to see. Again, clogging up a blog post with tons of text and little else will only make users tired – and they’re not going to want to sit for hours and read through the entire thing. Make sure you break up that content with audio, video, headings, subheadings, bulleted and numbered lists, and visual graphics.

When you want to make sure that you have the most dynamic content on your blog, make sure that you do not make any of these four most common mistakes.

What are HTML Tags, and how do you Use Them?

May 13th, 2014

If you’ve written any kind of content at all, you know how important it is to use formatting tools such as italics, underlining, and bold fonts to really get your message across. After all these small additions can help you emphasize important points, change your tone, draw the reader’s attention to different areas, and separate your content into different, more readable sections. But in order to use them you’ll need to know some basic HTML code – or face having to contact your webmaster every time you want to change something. And if the thought of any kind of coding sends you wanting to run for the hills, don’t fear. Here are a few of the most basic HTML codes you’ll need, that will at least keep those emails to the webmaster at a minimum.

Bold text
If there’s text that you want bolded on your page, the beginning of the text should have the HTML tag of and an end tag of . It may help to remember this because you’re really making those words stronger, or helping them to stand out among the other text on the page.

Example: Don’t miss this step!

Italic text
Italics are really used for emphasizing text, so it makes sense that the HTML code for italics stands for ‘emphasis.’ In fact, the tag is at the beginning, and just like when you’re bolding text, the end tag simply has a slash before the letters so it looks like this: .

Example: Subscribe to our newsletter here!

Adding a link
Links are a bit more complex than just changing the format of texts because you have to include the address you want to link to in quotation marks, as well as the name of the website. Links also use HREF tags, which need to appear only at the beginning of the tag. Link tags also need to begin with an ‘a,’ which stands for “anchor,” because you’ll be using text to anchor, or hold, that link. And just like the other tags, you need to use an end tag for that anchor, telling the site that the link ends there.

Example for linking to YouTube:
”YouTube

Linking to another page, in a new blank page (or window) can become even more complicated. However, it’s a good idea to use it so that when users are done with that link they can easily get back to where they were headed on your site, which is where you want them to stay! Here all you have to do is indicate that the “target” page for the link is a “blank” page, while separating them using quotation marks.

Example for linking to YouTube in another window:
YouTube

Adding a picture
You know that just about all of your content needs a picture to go along with it. And while this might sound intimidating at first, adding tags to an image is very easy. There are no end tags to worry about, because the image itself will tell the site where it ends. All you really have to do is save your picture online somewhere first (your own CMS or a service such as PhotoBucket is great for this!) and then tell the site where the “image source” is.

Example:


When it comes to formatting your text and the pages on your website or blog, there are many different things you can do. However, when you only want to perform the most basic tasks, and allow your webmaster to work on things like installing plugins and updates for a few more minutes a day, these are enough to know to let you get the most basic tasks done.

Arguments for Net Neutrality

Apr 22nd, 2014

As we’ve discussed previously, net neutrality is the concept of an open Internet in which all individual users have the same access to online content and are not charged fees for viewing certain types of data. There are many different arguments for net neutrality including the control of data, rights and freedoms to digital content, the need for fair competition, and the need for the same speed applied to all websites across the online board.

The first argument for net neutrality goes back to the cable companies. Proponents of net neutrality claim that these cable companies want to be able to discriminate against certain websites, while allowing others to run at faster speeds and download/upload faster than others. By doing so, cable companies would then be able to charge the companies that own these websites in order to ensure fast speeds, or the ability for their websites to load at all. Vinton Cerf, co-inventor of the Internet Protocol and vice-president of Google argues that allowing cable companies to have this kind of control would “undermine the principles that have made the Internet such a success.” This control of data, and disabling the cable companies that kind of control, is one of the biggest arguments for net neutrality – and a very good one at that!

Another very logical argument for net neutrality is that users are entitled to certain digital rights and freedoms. By allowing only certain types of content, or only certain websites to run at optimal speeds, or by charging users for access to certain information, it essentially eliminates certain freedoms. In fact, making the Internet a closed source that only a few of the privileged have access to would in effect, eliminate any independent news sources and would also stifle any future innovative, creative, and diverse web content. While today you can find just about any content in any style and any format online, should net neutrality cease to exist, only certain styles and formats would be allowed online, and the Internet would essentially look very different than it does today.

While the cessation of net neutrality would be bad for the individual user, it would also be unfair towards certain companies and owners of websites. Smaller companies and websites for instance, would likely be unable to pay the high fees and taxes that cable companies would be allowed to charge and so, they would essentially disappear and only the richer websites and companies with far more resources would be allowed to have their websites downloaded at reasonable speeds, and be accessed by all users. This would create an online monopoly by these wealthier companies and would eliminate any competition or innovation.

There are many arguments for net neutrality, and for the Internet to remain the open source that it currently is. All of these arguments ultimately point to the same goal, however. That is, preserving the fairness and rights of both Internet users, as well as the companies and website owners that are currently allowing access to that information – any information, in any format, and at optimal speeds.
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