From the department of rhetorical questions: Who’s busier than today’s small-business owner? With all that’s on your plate, it’s easy to put email and social media marketing efforts on the back burner, even if you’ve experienced firsthand how these channels drive word-of-mouth and boost your bottom line. What you may not realize, though, is that you can actually find more time in your day if you prioritize these marketing channels.
Here’s why: Email and social media marketing can enable you to connect with your customers one-on-one while amplifying your messages to your network as well as theirs. This can save time previously spent on more expensive marketing activities such as advertising and direct mail.
You should be strategic in your approach, so you're making the best use of your time (and your customers’ time). Since successful customer engagement is permission-based, you should ask them if you can continue the conversation online and be specific about which social networks they use and what kind of email content they would most like to see.
Maximizing Customer Engagement Via Emails
Ever wonder how people are interacting with your emails? Email click-through rates can be one of the most valuable pieces of data when it comes to measuring the effectiveness of your email campaign. They go beyond open rates, which can tell you how many people are seeing your email in their inbox and deciding to open it. Click-through rates can tell you how many of those people are actually acting on the content you send out, like linking to your website or your event registration landing page.
Constant Contact recently conducted analysis of more than 2.1 million customer emails and found that (with some industry-specific exception) emails with three or fewer images and approximately 20 lines of text result in the highest click-through rates from email subscribers.
In today’s world of mobile-driven content consumption, this data supports the idea that, in general, shorter, more concise content performs better than longer, more complex email campaigns. By keeping your emails on point, you may be able to better ensure that your audience can easily read them anywhere, anytime on any device.
Kicking Your Social Media Marketing Up a Notch
There’s no shortage of social networks that can quickly consume your day, so it may be best to immerse yourself in the one or two places where the majority of your customers are most active. In addition to asking your customers where they spend time, you can also take advantage of the free analytics tools that many social networks offer. For example, Facebook Insights and Twitter Analytics can give you insight into the demographics behind your fans and followers.
Armed with this insight, you can update and complete your online profiles on the most active networks and then watch and learn. The more complete your profile is, the more likely customers are to engage with you. Added bonus: It can also boost your search rankings. Even if you’ve been active on social networks for years, it can be important to step back and listen to the conversations before diving in with comments, links and offers.
In fact, you can engage and attract more followers when you genuinely participate in the online dialogue without having any expectations for sales. The biggest upside to the rise of social media marketing may be that the more authentic the conversation is, the more likely customers will want to stay in touch. When those customers are in the market to buy what you sell, you’ll be top of mind. Conversely, one-sided conversations and overt promotions may have the opposite effect.
What to Say on Social
A good rule of thumb is that one in every seven posts should be about your business. What else should you be talking about? Five of the most effective ways to engage your audience include:
- Asking provocative, open-ended questions and inviting people to respond.
- Answering questions and directing people to additional resources.
- Reposting content you find interesting and giving credit to the originator.
- Sharing industry news.
- Offering insight and advice to show your expertise in a helpful way.
How to Say It
Two of the biggest challenges that small-business owners face when it comes to engaging audiences on social media may be misunderstood posts and customer backlash. Let’s tackle these one at a time.
We’ve all seen tone and humor quickly go awry on social media. While you can’t control how your audience will respond to every post, you can limit negative reactions by erring on the side of professional, courteous and helpful as opposed to trying too hard to win them over through humor. One guideline to keep in mind is, “When in doubt, leave it out.”
When it comes to customers posting negative comments about your business, there are a few actions you can take. Chief among them is to publicly respond and request an offline conversation to address the issue. Once the issue is resolved, you can ask the customer to update their post with the outcome. Additionally, you can share your insight on the situation and how you handled it. That said, you shouldn't feel compelled to respond to every gripe. Customers today are savvy enough to realize when social media is being exploited in an attempt to get (perceived) better service or discounts.
Where to Say It and When
Now that you have a handle on which social networks are effective for your business and how to engage customers, there are a couple more pieces of the puzzle to complete: the ideal length of your posts and when to post for maximum customer engagement.
Based on an analysis of more than 2.1 million small businesses, below are the optimal length for posts on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter.
Facebook: Posts should be between 100 and 250 characters, and you can boost engagement by more than 100 percent if you include photos or videos.
Google+: Keep your headline under 60 characters, and images should be 250x250.
Twitter: Keep your posts under 120 characters to leave room for followers to re-tweet without editing your message.
The best times to post will vary by your audience, but it can be a good idea to tap into those analytics tools to see when they’re most active. Additionally, you should be consistent in your delivery. When customers know they’ll be hearing from you on a specific day and time, they’re more likely to respond. They may even look forward to your “Freebie Friday” or “Two-for-Tuesday” offers.
If you follow these guidelines, you may see an uptick in your email and social media engagement as you attract the type of customers that are most aligned with your business. This can cut down the sales cycle and eliminate the expensive and time-consuming process of trying to blindly appeal to the masses using old-school marketing tactics.
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