03 Dec 2018

Social Media for Small Businesses

Social media has become an integral part of our day-to-day lives. Businesses of all size and shapes have started making the most of available mediums.

San Diego Social MediaToday we will try to anatomize tips on social media for small businesses. There are a plethora of small businesses eyeing social medium to promote their business/services. However, majorly these small businesses are failing or not being able to make optimum use of social media for their business growth. There are many theories and strategies on how to effectively use social media for established brands, but the topic social media for small businesses is seldom addressed. According to Digital state of eMarketing India 2017 Octane Research:

  • 60% small businesses promote their business on social media. 50% focus on SEO and 35% use multichannel marketing funnel.
  • 70% small businesses consider content strategy as their primary marketing activity.
  • 52% business owners are using social media as to efficiently address customer engagement.
  • More than 20% of business owners said that they are making 50% plus profit using social media.

The primary reasons for the low turnout are uncertainty on an application of social media, calculating return on investment and persuade employees/stakeholders to clinch social media. Hence it is important to address the elephant in the room and analyze how beneficial is Social media for small businesses.

Social media for small businesses is a great way for emerging businesses to generate lead and build a reputation. If regularly updated, social media can deliver more results as compared to traditional mediums. Social media for small businesses gives brands an edge of control over the content that they want to post. Also, since social media is a two-way dialogue process, it helps businesses to instantly identify what is benefiting them. Social media for small businesses also helps generate Word of Mouth, which is one of the best tools for emerging businesses.

10 Tips to effectively use Social Media for Small Businesses

Define your Target Audience

The first and foremost important part that small businesses should focus on is to define their target audience. This helps small businesses to device their social media strategy accordingly. The target audience should be defined basis age group, sex, location, users’ online behaviors, their likes, interests, and preferences. For niche products, business owners can even target users based on their birthdays, anniversaries and important milestone. Audience targeting plays a very crucial role in the outcome of the results. For e.g.: a local shop selling footwear should not target users with interest in entertainment. The shop definitely won’t get the desired results.

Set achievable goals

Overnight success is a myth. Small businesses must understand this basic fact. Generally, when a new business starts selling on social media, there is palpable excitement is achieving more than set targeted sales. Businesses need to set goals which are upwards and forward. To achieve enormous goals, small businesses start updating social feed with multiple updates in shorter duration. This leads to user’s disinterest in the product/service. The set goals should be in sync with brand’s core capabilities and expertise. For e.g.: if a business is into selling shoes, they shouldn’t set a goal to repair maximum shoes in their area.

Choose the right medium

By now everyone knows, social media is for free. Even paid campaigns can be conducted at a relatively low cost as compared to traditional mediums. It is in this scenario, that we often see small businesses jumping the bandwagon and creating profiles on all the available platforms. Creating social profile doesn’t hamper brand image, but aggressively promoting a brand on wrong platforms can lead to brand losing its potential customers. Hence it is advisable for SME’s to first identify the right platform through which they can maximize their business. For e.g.: If a shoe selling brand tries to aggressively sell on LinkedIn, they won’t get a plausible response as compared to promotions on Facebook/Instagram.

Promote your core product/services

Since each and every business is riding in the social media wave, it is important for a them to promote their core product/services. Nowadays, we see a lot of businesses promoting their services as well as promoting peripheral products/services, which revolves around their core product/services. Majority of the times, this SME’s doesn’t have capabilities to fulfill a requirement, which can lead to a bad word of mouth for their business on social media platforms. Let us go back to our example; if a shoe seller is trying to aggressively promote socks instead of shoes, it is not going to benefit the business in the long run.

Create quality content

Now that we have covered the topics of identifying the target audience, setting achievable goals, choosing the right medium and promoting the right product/services let us now take a look at the type of content a business should promote on their social pages. A business should always focus on creating good quality content rather than not-good quantity content. Even if the business updates their page once in a day as long as it is relevant to their business, advocates about its core products send across a clear message it is considered as a good quality content. Antagonistically, if a business posts multiple updates which aren’t even relevant to the business’s products and services leads to users considering the business as fake/spam. Also, new businesses should try and refrain from promoting other businesses on their social platforms initially.

Create a content calendar

Making a small business successful on social platforms is no small task. It takes a lot of efforts for the businesses to keep up their conversion ratio. One such effort is to create a content calendar. Small businesses must anticipate important events and create a content calendar accordingly. Ideally, a content calendar must be planned a month in advance but an even weekly content calendar is highly recommended. This helps businesses to avoid any last minute hassles, strategize much more effectively and it also helps in creating curiosity amongst its loyal fans/customers.

Test and re-test

Social media is highly unpredictable. The content a business posts today, might not work for tomorrow. Hence, small businesses must always test their content before publishing it on their pages. Testing content also applies to the platform a small business chooses to promote. Small business owners must always don the consumer’s hat before posting about any product feature, updates, schemes or offers. A consumer’s perspective is the key when testing the content that has to be uploaded.

Look for inspiration

Small businesses must always look for inspiration from a competitor who is successful in the same category. Copy pasting competitors idea or content is not the answer. Small businesses must look for the kind of content its competitors are putting up and derive their own strategies subsequently. Inspiring content/stories always make a business to strive to create their own content that is appreciated by one and all. It helps in increasing brand consideration, brand visibility thereby increasing conversions for the business.

Calculate ROI

Even a small promotional budget is not justifiable if there is no mechanism to calculate its return on investment. It is more important in case of small businesses. It is very important for a small business to keep a tab on the budgets allocated to any promotions and the subsequent ROI related to it. If a certain promotion is not doing well or the business is not getting desired results, the brand custodian can always look for other platforms to generate quality conversions.

Analyze and Re-strategize

There can be umpteen instances where a particular campaign/promotion might not work for a business. That doesn’t mean that the promotion is wrong or the product/service is not good. Doing an analysis of the campaign is as important as setting the objective. This helps the business to formulate their upcoming strategies in more effective ways. At the end of every campaign, brands must note down the learning’s from that campaign and identify if the content/idea was appreciated by their fans or not. This helps businesses to skip the non-performing updates from future communications.

Final Thoughts

Social Media Marketing San Diego

Social media for small businesses is definitely beneficial and fruitful. If followed correctly, small businesses can benefit tremendously from the power of social media promotions. To get started, call us today at (866) 945-4678.

This article is written by Shashank_Dhadiwal, For More details you can visit: http://www.infunotion.com/blog

Article Source: EzineArticles.com

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20 Nov 2018

Creating an Ecommerce Website

Selling products on-line requires a very different setup from your run-of-the-mill blogging site. Let’s look at the things you’ll need to think about when setting up an eCommerce website and help to explain why they cost more to design.

Ecommerce San Diego

First let me tell you what we’re not going to cover in this article.

We’re not assuming that an eCommerce website is a single web page with some PayPal button codes inserted onto it.

The PayPal buttons are great and work very well for those selling a handful of items, but we’re taking eCommerce to the next level and giving the customer a better on-line shopping experience.

Most modern eCommerce website are applications. They have a user interface, administration settings, store data in a database and follow a work-flow of processes. We’re going to touch on some of these areas.

The Basics

An eCommerce website can be thought of as a play with actors performing it’s scenes.

The main actors in an eCommerce website are:

  • The Customer – buys products
  • The Website Owner – ships bought products & gets paid
  • The eCommerce Application – interface between all the actors
  • The Payment Gateway – handles payment transactions (more on this later)
  • The Merchant/Business Bank Account – Website owner’s business bank account (more on this later)

The main buying process of an eCommerce website (‘the play’) happens as follows:

  1. Customer browses product catalogue
  2. Customer adds product to basket
  3. Customer buys product and enters check-out process
  4. eCommerce Application contacts a Payment Gateway
  5. Payment Gateway provides secure customer shipping and payment details entry form
  6. Customer securely enters shipping and payment information
  7. Payment Gateway contacts Website Owners’ Merchant Bank Account
  8. Merchant Bank Account processes payment transaction and returns control to Payment Gateway
  9. Payment Gateway returns Customer to eCommerce Application
  10. eCommerce Application notifies Customer of successful (or failed) payment
  11. eCommerce Application notifies Website Owner of purchase
  12. Website Owner ships product to Customer

Of course there’s a lot more detail going on in each step, but hopefully you get the general idea that setting up an eCommerce application is a tad more complicated than your regular blog-style website.

Where Do You Start?

Sounds silly right, but the first step you need to do is think about the types of things you’ll be selling on-line.
Are these products?, i.e. physical items that require packaging and posting or services provided by yourself or another provider e.g. Professional Yak Grooming.

How may products or types of services are you going to offer? Local or International? Are some seasonal? Do you have a finite stock level for particular items? Do you plan to use special offers & discounts? Do you even like yaks?

This leads to customer and payment questions.

Who are your customers? Where are they? How are they going to pay; credit card, cheque, PayPal? Which bank account will I need to set up?

And then there are the support questions.

How do you handle returned goods? How do you refund payments? How do you handle complaints?

Having a think about the products and services you’re going to offer is vital because the first thing a web designer is going to ask you when you’re requesting a quote is “How many things are you selling and to whom?”

The reason is of course time and costs.

Selling 50 products to a UK only customer base using PayPal requires a very different setup and hence costs, to one selling 1000+ products internationally and taking credit card payments.

Lets look closer at some of the important eCommerce application areas.

The eCommerce Application

Essentially, an eCommerce application is a bespoke Content Management System (CMS). So as well as updating posts and blogs it specialises in updating products and services and supporting commerce functions.

Like any CMS, the application splits the eCommerce website into two major parts; the front-end or shop-front where the customer can browse and buy goods and the back-end where you login to an administration dashboard and manage the website options, including the product catalogue.

The Product Catalogue

eCommerce San DiegoThis will likely be your most important concern and is central to any eCommerce website design.

The product catalogue is where all your goods-for-sale data lives. The product name, description, cost, stock level, pictures etc. are all stored in here.

We sometimes get people asking which files their products are stored in and they get in bit of a tizzy when they can’t find them on the server.

Usually, product catalogues are stored in a database, but don’t worry – you don’t have to know how to use a database. The eCommerce application does that for you through the product catalogue interface in the Administration Dashboard.

Being able to manage this yourself is vital, otherwise you’ll be going back and forward to the web developer and the costs will rack up.

Thankfully, the eCommerce applications that we use, Magento and WordPress e-Commerce, once installed, allow you to manage your own product catalogue from within the web browser.

The Magento product catalogue has advanced options and allows for things like adding discount codes, customer reviews, product videos etc., whereas the WordPress e-Commerce catalogue offers a simpler solution while still covering the essential requirements you’ll need to sell stuff on-line.

So how do you go about entering and updating all this product information?

The Admin Dashboard

Accessing a special web page on your site and entering a username and password will take you to the options part of your eCommerce website. This is commonly known as the Admin Dashboard.

Here, you will be able to update almost every aspect of the website including accessing the product catalogue, shipping costs, currency exchange rates, payment gateways, sales reports etc.

Whichever eCommerce solution you choose from us, we’ll setup some or all of your product catalogue and make sure that customers can purchase items and that you get paid through a payment gateway (more on that late

The Shop Design

Of course your shop will need a look and feel to fit in with your business brand.

Again, just like other CMS’s a web designer will be needed to develop a theme or template which will transform the default shop-front into whatever design you have in mind for your customers.

Themes can be bought off-the-shelf for both WordPress e-Commere and Magento and you can apply these yourself, however, you may prefer to have a design exactly the way you imagined it and different from any of your competitors.

Themes are applied from the Administration Dashboard. You may be able to change a few aspects of the theme, such as your logo, background colour, text colour, however, you’re not going to be able to move parts of the theme around to different areas of the screen. A web designer will need to do this by updating the theme’s code.

Domain Name and Website Hosting

You will of course need a domain name to trade with and a hosting plan to store the website files and databases.

It’s usually best not to purchase a hosting plan until you’ve spoken to a web designer and they have given you an idea of the best solution to implement.

Many of the cheaper hosting plans that are offered to you when purchasing a domain name, do not support databases or database applications. They may charge an extra setup and yearly fee for setting this up.

So try to avoid buying a hosting plan until you talk to a web designer and have an idea of the type of eCommerce solution you’ll need to implement your ideas.

Merchant Bank Accounts vs Business Bank Accounts

Certainly in the UK, you must have a business bank account to legally trade as a business.

Business bank accounts can be used just fine with an eCommerce application but you will need to setup a Payment Gateway service to handle the payment transactions and get the customers money into your bank account.

If you’re opening up a business bank account and your account manager knows you’re going to be running an eCommerce website you may be offered a merchant bank account which is a specialised version of the business account.

The merchant account gives you a Merchant ID number and access to a Payment Gateway service that the bank uses or owns.

It’s likely you’ll need to pay for the setup of a merchant account and it will incur fees, usually on a per-transaction basis.

If you have already setup a merchant account then you will need to make sure your eCommerce application can support the particular payment gateway your bank has given you access to, otherwise you won’t get your money.

e.g. Lloyds TSB uses the Cardnet merchant payment gateway. Royal Bank of Scotland uses the WorldPay merchant payment gateway.

If you were a Royal Bank of Scotland business customer with a merchant account, you would need to make sure your eCommerce application supported the WorldPay gateway.

You don’t need to use the particular merchant account that your business bank offers to trade on-line, but you do need a payment gateway of some sort to handle payments.

That leads us nicely onto payment gateways.

Payment Gateways

We’ve touched on this in the previous section. Essentially, a merchant bank account will give you a payment gateway to use, but you’re limited to just the one that your business bank is affiliated with.

A payment gateway is a service offered by a company.

It handles the payment part of the eCommerce application when a customer proceeds to the checkout to purchase an item.

The payment gateway collects the customers details and payment information securely and contacts your business bank account to complete the money transaction.

This is great for security too as your customers banking details aren’t kept on your eCommerce website, so that’s one less thing to worry about securing.

There are many different payment gateway services with different features and options. As a supplied service they all charge a fee for their use. The fees can include a setup charge and a % commission of the total price of a transaction.

Some payment gateways allow you to pay a monthly or annual fee if your number of transactions are high. This can work out more cost effective for you if your single transactions are high volume but low individual cost.

You’ve probably heard of some of the more well known gateway service providers and not known what they. You’ve also likely used them without even realising they are there. Some of the popular payment gateways are: PayPal, Google Checkout, SagePay, WorldPay and ChronoPay.

It’s great that you have a choice and the services are very competitively priced so take some time to check out which is best for your business model. If you need some help, we’d be happy to meet up and walk you through the options.

Some payment gateways offer two types of general services; hosted and inclusive.

Hosted Payment Gateways

These options usually don’t require a set-up or monthly fee, however, transaction costs can be higher than an inclusive service.

The PayPal Website Payments Standard service is a good example of this.

Essentially, it limits your customers to having a PayPal account (they must register with the PayPal site) and when it comes to check-out, the customers are transferred from your eCommerce website to the PayPal website for the information gathering and payment transaction, then upon completion redirected back to your eCommerce website.

The downside of this method is really from a branding point of view. You have very limited control of how the payment gateway service, PayPal in this case, looks and operates before it redirects back to your website.

Some customers can be put off by redirecting to another site as confidence in security can be questioned (although PayPal in this instance has a very good reputation).

You’re also limiting the payment method to just those customers who are willing to use the payment gateway’s choice of payment. In this case, the customer must have a registered PayPal account.

A similar process happens if you use the Google Checkout payment gateway.

So what’s the other option?

Inclusive Payment Gateways

Inclusive payment gateways will allow your customers to go through the whole checkout process without (the appearance of) leaving your branded eCommerce website.

I added in “the appearance of” because in some cases your customers will actually leave your website and use the payment gateway service, however, the way it is implemented and embedded makes it looks as if it’s all part of your website and business brand.

So what’s the catch?

There’s usually a setup fee, a minimum subscription period (say 12 months), a monthly fee and of course a whole heap of conditions that apply.

Some particular conditions to look out for are thresholds on the number of transactions per month, or total monthly funds transferred. Payment gateway services can charge extra or insist you upgrade your service if these thresholds are exceeded in a similar way that mobile phone companies will charge you extra if you use up all your inclusive talk or SMS time.

The best benefit of using an inclusive payment gateway is that the whole customer experience from browsing to payment is hosted on your own website. This gives the customer a greater sense of confidence that their data will be kept safe and makes your whole business look and feel more professional.

A good example of this type of service is the PayPal Web Payments Pro.

Securing The Data

If you’re using a payment gateway then the good news is it’s unlikely you’ll be storing sensitive customer payment details on your eCommerce website.

Those types of data will be kept securely in your payment gateway account.

Of course you will be collecting a whole lot of other important and confidential customer information such as name, email, perhaps address, likes, dislikes, a username and password for your site.

All this information needs to be kept secure and your eCommerce application will help with that. The Administration Dashboard will have lots of sections that control who and what can see parts of the collected data.

But that’s not the only security you’ll have to think about. Do you know what happens when you fill out a form on a website and click on submit?

If you have a look at the top of the web browser in the address bar you’ll see the website’s URL address. Most sites will start with http://

(For those that want to know, URL stands for Uniform Resource Location and HTTP stands for Hyper Text Transfer Protocol)

Any web page starting with http:// is transferring data to and from a web server in Plain Text.

This means, that the web page contents, code, images, text, form data are all sent in a format that’s readable to humans. OK, it may not be that readable, but in essence all the information is there in English characters (or whatever language character set your website uses).

Now for some more techie stuff.

When your web page is sent to or received from a web server, there isn’t a 1-to-1 direct connection between your website and the server. The web page data is transferred through hundreds of networks across different countries and through thousands of routing computers and other network devices before arriving at your computer.

This means that at any point during it’s travel, your web page data has the potential to be intercepted and read by whomever.

There isn’t much you can do about the interception part but there is something you can do to make it a darn lot harder for somebody to read and use your eCommerce web page data.

SSL Certificates

Now we’re talking.

Let’s skip the techie bit and quickly tell you what these are and what they do.

You buy an SSL certificate from a web hosting company (annual renewal most likely), install it into your eCommerce website and it encrypts your web page data. Hooorah!

You’ll now notice that parts of your website, likely those that require personal form data to be collected and sent, now start with https://

The addition of that little “s” letter, standing for “Secure”, means that the web page data is encrypted when sent and decoded only at the two end-points; your computer and a web server.

Anyone reading the page in between will see garbled non-readable characters.

You may also see additional signs of a secured web page such as a closed padlock icon.

We would strongly advise you buy an SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate and get this installed and configured for use with your hosting account and eCommerce website.

In Summary

Creating an eCommerce website requires a fair amount of planning.

You’ll need a good web design and web development team to implement your business venture.

It will cost you more and take longer to create than a regular blog or brochure-ware website because of all the design and setup.

You’ll make money – and that’s what’s it’s all about after all…

We hope this helps you start your eCommerce website journey. Of course there’s a heap of things we just didn’t have the time to cover.

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Disclaimer:

This article is written by Wil Brown the founder of Gravitational FX, a web design and development company based in Edinburgh, Scotland. For more of his articles on web design, development, SEO and internet marketing, visit our blog at www.gravitationalfx.com/blog.

Article Source: EzineArticles.com.

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