The Importance of User Experience

As people spend more time on the internet, they expect the websites they visit to work in a certain way. Companies like Paypal and Duolingo set the bar high with simple search and navigation and great functionality. This puts pressure on all web developers to think about user experience (UX).

But wait, what even is UX?

User Experience 101

UX is a user’s experience of using a product. That sounds simple, doesn’t it? It’s the process by which designers understand what users want and need. They incorporate that information into product design to deliver greater user experiences—and that’s the complex part. UX is how a person feels when interfacing with a system. These systems can include websites, web applications, and any other form of human/device interaction.

This concept is not new. The term has been credited to Donald Norman, a cognitive scientist, who joined Apple as their User Experience Architect in the early 90s. His desire was to explore all aspects of a user’s experience. This included industrial design, graphics, and the physical interaction. He came up with the term “user-experience design” as a way of encompassing all that UX is. As he explained, “I invented the term because I thought human interface and usability were too narrow: I wanted to cover all aspects of the person’s experience with a system, including industrial design, graphics, the interface, the physical interaction, and the manual.”

The term has evolved since then and with the development of mobile and wearable technologies, UX designers are in increasing demand.

Why is UX Important?

So, is UX that important? Short answer: yes. Long answer: it’s important because it tries to fulfill the user’s needs. It aims to provide positive experiences that keep users loyal to a product or brand. More and more people conduct their daily business interactions online. Because of this, it’s never been more important to offer users an effortless digital experience that aligns with their daily lives. Users have come to expect an optimized user experience as a basic requirement. It’s now an essential practice strategy across all platforms and devices.

Being able to understand why customers come to a site and what they need works in favor of both the audience and the business, providing brands with the justification and avenues for optimized user experience. Designs built by focusing the user experience, allows companies to implement more targeted approaches throughout their market and digital environment.

Investing in UX optimization is necessary to quickly gain trust, brand recognition, and ensure user retention since many websites have just seconds to influence visitors. Understanding what methods to engage revolves around one thing: goals. Google’s HEART Framework is a valuable tool for any company in this quest. There are five metrics used in the framework: happiness, engagement, adoption, retention, and task success. The HEART Framework prompts users to choose the right UX metrics for a product – think of it as a cheat sheet.

Marketing and UX

UX determines the success of marketing.

Today’s consumers are smart, savvy, and want their needs delivered in an instant. Whether at a desk, on a bus, or at home, people like to access the internet for a variety of reasons; be that to check social media, to shop, or to find answers.

Marketers and UX designers each have a vested interest in understanding an organization’s target audience. Both are focused on developing a highly-granular concept of what’s irritating to buyers and users. Research is done to paint a clear picture. Marketers use that understanding to sell to the customer, while UX designers use it to serve the customer.

Marketing and UX designers are similar in the fact that they’re both interested in making a product as desirable to the customer/user as possible. While many marketers shrug off UX as an industry buzzword, they shouldn’t. The most successful marketers in the industry say that UX is the key to facilitating conversions. Besides facilitating conversions, UX also helps to earn customers’ trust.

As a whole, UX determines how a brand speaks to its customers and effectively delivers the message it’s trying to convey.

The goals of marketing and UX don’t need to be at odds. A company should always aim to serve the customer with what they’re selling. But at the end of the day, both teams will make greater strides toward those goals by working on them together.

UX Design Payoff

A meaningful user experience allows companies to define customer journeys through their website, anticipating customers requirements at every step along the process from prospect to customer. Plus, they can focus on how they interact with a website via any device or application. Isn’t that cool? Whether a website, app, or B2B tool, nearly every business with a digital presence can benefit from the process of UX design.

For more information on UX, check out this Roundpeg blog post.

How to hashtag on Instagram and Twitter

#boostengagement

Using hashtags on social media, especially on Instagram and Twitter, can be an effective way to enter new conversations and get your content in front of new eyes. But when used incorrectly, they can distract your audience and disrupt your messaging.

Users click on hashtags to discover more content. They want the hashtags associated with the posts they’re browsing to be relevant, interesting and worth their time when they click on them. That’s why you want to be careful not to overdo it by adding too many hashtags. And, you don’t want to throw off your followers by adding the wrong hashtags. 

“From a user standpoint, hashtags are used to categorize content, making the discovery of new or related articles and insights easy to do,” says Sprout Social, but, “when hashtags are used incorrectly, people looking for new content have to dig through irrelevant, miscategorized content in order to get to what they’re actually looking for.”

Use the right amount of relevant hashtags in your social media content, and you’ll be sure to boost your engagement and increase your reach to get your brand in front of new eyes.

Here are tips for how to hashtag on Instagram and Twitter to attract new followers and engage your loyal fans:

Instagram

Using relevant hashtags

It’s a good idea to use hashtags in your Instagram captions that are trending and popular. And, you should also incorporate hashtags that are relevant to your brand, local area and industry. Incorporating both kinds of hashtags into your content will help you get new eyes on your business’ Instagram content and boost your engagement.

What’s considered relevant? Anything your followers would find interesting or anything you think might help your post reach more people on the platform.

Related: 5 ways to upgrade your business’s Instagram strategy

Trending hashtags

You can see what hashtags are trending (a.k.a the hashtags people are using most) by typing a hashtag into Instagram’s search bar. Here, you can see not only related hashtags, but also how many times each hashtag has been used.

It’s a good tip to integrate these trending or high-volume hashtags into the body of your caption and up to 30 at the very end or as the first comment on your post.

Note: You can add up to 30 hashtags per post, but when you go over 10, engagement starts to drop.

Brand hashtags

You can create a hashtag that’s unique to your brand that your loyal fans can use to talk about your business. It can just be #thenameofyourbusiness, or you can get a little creative. For example, cycling studio RIDE Cycling in Austin uses the hashtag #RIDEtribe to invoke the idea that everyone that rides with them is a part of their team or tribe.

Industry hashtags

Using industry hashtags is a good way to capitalize on users who are looking for the next place where they want to get their next meal, drink or haircut. For example, if you own a bar, use hashtags like #happyhour or #thirstythursday. Think about what your community is searching for and add that into your captions to capture their attention.

Local hashtags

Another good tip is to incorporate local hashtags that are popular in your community. You can grab the attention of people searching specifically for businesses like yours in your area by harnessing the power of the Instagram community in your city or town. For example, foodies in Austin, TX love using #ATXeats. Washington, D.C. residents find restaurants by searching for #dcdining.

If you want to add several hashtags to your caption, make sure to add a period, then hit enter, then a period, then enter at least three times, or add blank characters, then add your hashtags, so users don’t see those hashtags unless they click, “More.”

Twitter

Tweets with hashtags are 33% more likely to get retweeted than tweets without hashtags.

So, what hashtags should you use? The same rules that apply on Instagram also apply on Twitter. Use tweets that are relevant and interesting to your business, local area, and industry. If your business’ account is public, any users who search for a hashtag you’re using, just might find your tweet in their search results.

Trending hashtags

Twitter makes it easy for you to see what’s trending. If you are on your Home page on Twitter, you can see on the left side that Twitter has gathered “Trends for you.” This is based on who you follow and how you interact with other uses on Twitter. If you click the word “change” in that menu, you can further customize the trending hashtags you see to make sure you’re interacting with the people who would be likely to walk in your door.

Brand hashtags

You can use the same brand hashtags you’ve created on Instagram as well as Twitter. You can also create a hashtag that gives your followers something to look forward to every week. For example, #MondayEats, #LiveMusicWednesday or #TriviaTuesday.

Industry hashtags

On Twitter, it’s best to choose 1 or 2 industry-related hashtags to your tweet to attract users to your page. However, it’s important to note that using keywords that you want users to find in your tweet without hashtagging them is just as effective on Twitter.

Local hashtags

Using localized hashtags is very important on Twitter to attract users in your local area. Many users use the Twitter search bar like they use Google’s search bar — for example, they might type in “manicure in Denver.” You want your salon’s page to show up in those search results, so make sure your tweets include your product the name of your city: i.e. #manicureDenver, or #manicure #Denver.

Remember, you’re using hashtags to get the attention of social media users who are looking for small businesses and independent ventures just like yours. Before you post on Insta or tweet anything, take a second and think about how you want your audience to react to your post and what hashtags you can use to get new eyes on your brand. That way, more new users and loyal fans will interact with your posts and boost your engagement.

Sound like a lot? We understand. GoDaddy Social can help you master the art of hashtags.

Engage your customers like never before with GoDaddy Social. We help businesses elevate their online presence on the platforms that matter most. Get started with us here.

4 Simple Tips That Will Get Big Results for Your Business on Google Search

Maximize your brand’s exposure with these easy-to-implement tactics.

5 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

It’s no secret that Google is one of the most important tools in your marketing arsenal. With an average of over 3.5 billion searches conducted each day (according to Internet Live Stats), there are a lot of eyeballs glued to Google’s search results.

Whether you’re trying to sell a product on Amazon or grow your personal brand, Google can serve as a powerful resource — but only if you use it right. With that in mind, here are a few simple tips you can use to maximize your exposure so you can achieve your marketing and growth goals:

1. Utilize Google Ads extensions.

Keywords are crucial to success with Google Ads, but this is far from the only way you can improve the reach and effectiveness of these PPC campaigns.

In an email conversation with Callum Davies, my co-author for the book The Must Have Guide to Google AdWords, he explained, “Extensions are a great way to add key descriptive text without taking up space in your actual ad. For example, a location extension can help you gain another coveted spot in Maps, or you can use price extensions to showcase specific services to increase sales.”

With such a wide range of extensions available, it’s easy for marketers to find options that will help them meet their campaign goals. On average, Google reports that ads using extensions improve their clickthrough rate by 10 to 15 percent. Relevant extensions can also improve your quality score for even better results.

2. Leverage the power of Google Maps.

For small businesses, few tools can be more helpful than Google Maps.

By setting up a My Business account and incorporating map extensions to Google Ads campaigns, you can ensure that local Web users will be more likely to discover your business. According to SEO expert Bradley Shaw, 46 percent of Google searches are looking for local businesses — and 72 percent of that group will visit a relevant store that is within five miles of their location.

During a phone call with Jet Saini, CEO of Drip Digital, he explained that ranking in Google Maps requires much more than just listing your business. “There are three keys to your maps ranking: distance, relevance, and prominence,” he says.

“First, Google will factor in your distance from the person conducting the search, as well as how closely your listing matches what they’re looking for. Your prominence then comes into play, based on things like SEO rankings and reviews for your business. To show up on Maps results, you need to provide detailed business information and use strategic location keywords so you can be better optimized for local searches.”

3. Double down on content production.

SEO is vital for moving up in Google rankings.

Though you should start by conducting a thorough keyword analysis and incorporating top keywords in page titles, meta tags and more, consistently delivering relevant content will make all the difference for your long-term SEO strategy.

Focus on your sales funnel and the content that will be most beneficial to your customers. This content isn’t necessarily designed to make a sale — instead, you are informing and/or entertaining prospective customers so they learn to view you as a source of reliable information. This makes them much more likely to have a favorable impression of your brand, while continually updating your website will build your authority with Google.

A Digital Viday case study on computer hardware manufacturer Lenovo is just one example of content marketing’s potential. To build trust and awareness, their content marketing team created a central hub focused on industry news and information. With 250 high-quality articles, the team gained 1.7 million visits and $300 million in sales — all by providing relevant, helpful content.

4. Start (ethically) building quality backlinks.

Your on-site efforts aren’t the only way to improve your site’s SEO rankings. With quality backlinks, you can further increase your brand authority. Writing great content for your own site can be a great starting point, as others will likely link to your articles for informational purposes.

[Editor’s note: Steer clear if you encounter a content creator who is selling links in stories that they “guarantee” will appear on leading web sites. Most reputable publishers, Entrepreneur included, strictly forbid paid links in editorial articles and will delete them immediately. Your efforts and your money will be wasted.]

Creating profiles on high-ranking business directories like MapQuest and Yellow Pages will also generate quality backlinks and give potential customers a new way to find your brand.

Ultimately, though, a lot of backlink building will largely come from public relations-style efforts. In a blog post, marketing expert Neil Patel gives this example: “You link to another website’s content and then reach out to let them know that you enjoyed their article so much you shared it on your own website. Interactions like this are valuable touch points. You’re not just building brand awareness. You’re building a relationship. And since you gave them a backlink, it’s not unlikely that they’ll give you a backlink in the future.

Other simple outreach efforts, like commenting on others’ posts or submitting guest articles for industry websites will help you gradually improve your Google ranking.

For many of your potential customers, Google will be their most likely avenue for discovering your brand. While smart keyword research for Google Ads campaigns will undoubtedly be crucial for your growth, you should never overlook these basic ingredients for success. As you use these tips to improve your website and build a stronger presence on Google, you will increase brand awareness and sales.

3 key Instagram content ideas to use this summer


Summertime is the perfect time for your business to capture the attention of new customers on Instagram with compelling, creative content. But, it can be difficult to come up with engaging content ideas while you’re busy running your business. Don’t worry, we have you covered. 

Use these content ideas to get your Instagram summer ready to engage with consumers as they head out with family and friends to explore new cities and try new things.

1.Tap into user-generated content

Consumers are sharing their favorite meals, road trips, sunny days and long summer nights on Instagram and Instagram Stories. Monitor your Instagram account by watching your tags, comments and likes to see who’s talking about you online.

(Note: Red notifications on the arrow in the top right of your feed and on the heart in the bottom of your feed indicate tags, comments and likes.)

When you find great content from someone posting about your business — go ahead and repost or add to your story! You can use a reposting app, or you can simply tag the user who originally posted the photo and thank them for sharing.

Here are some examples of local businesses utilizing user-generated content in their Instagram content strategies:

 As you can see in the above examples, the businesses used the camera emoji, then the user’s handle to give them credit for the image. Tagging the user who posted the content is also a great way to thank fans of your business for coming by and sharing content about your business. 

Related: 5 ways to upgrade your business’s Instagram strategy

2. Run an Instagram contest

Running a contest on Instagram is an engaging way to nudge your followers into action and offer them something special this summer. You can offer free products, discounts or coupons and ask your followers to participate.

One example is a giveaway contest where you ask users to tag a friend. Post a photo using the word “GIVEAWAY” in the caption and let your audience know that they can tag a friend to enter the contest. (For example: “Tag your favorite lunch buddy to enter.”) Then, let them know when a winner will be chosen.

3. Use Instagram Stories

Get consistent with your Instagram Stories this summer. It can be fun using Instagram Stories because you can use them to share less-polished, in-the-moment content. Post photos and videos from events, share new menu items or products and keep your followers engaged with everything that’s happening at your business.

Here’s an example of a local restaurant showing off a new product via Instagram Stories — rather than in an Instagram post. They used more than one photo to keep their followers tapping through to learn more:

When you’re using Instagram Stories, remember to geotag your neighborhood, tag the name of your business and use mentions and hashtags — but, not necessarily all at the same time!

These kinds of tags will help boost your engagement. That’s because you’re involving your neighborhood, trending topics and other users in your content which encourages interaction and starts conversations.

You can also use user-generated content in your Instagram Stories. Go into your Instagram app and click on the arrow in the top right corner. This arrow will have a red notification if someone tagged you in their story.

Instagram gives you the option to hit “Add this to your story.” Once you do that, you can edit as needed and show off all the fun your customers are having at your business. Here’s an example:

Implement these content ideas into your business’s Instagram strategy and get ready to bring in new customers this summer!

Engage your customers like never before with GoDaddy Social. We help businesses elevate their online presence on the platforms that matter most. Get started with us here.

7 Offline Marketing Tactics That Still Work

offline marketing tactics
Image source: iStock.com

Offline marketing is a term that sounds like an oxymoron today. Whether someone’s looking for a new place to eat, a new supplier for their business, or a place to board their cat while they’re on vacation, they’re likely to turn to the Internet.

Yet, as strange as it may seem to digital natives, there was a time when search engines, social media, and mobile devices didn’t exist.  Back then, new and existing small businesses had to utilize what we now refer to as offline methods to advertise and market their businesses. And guess what! There are plenty of small businesses that still successfully use offline channels to win customers.

How do they do it?  What kind of offline marketing works for small business? Consider these suggestions:

Offline Marketing Tactics 

1. Direct Mail

You thought email marketing killed direct mail but you’re wrong. Take a look in your mailbox on any given day and you still see a ton of advertising. You might not respond to such strategies but many customers do.

There are several “secrets” to direct mail success for a small business.  One is to build your own mailing list by getting contact information from customers and shoppers. Another is to be clear about who your target customer is and what you want to achieve with your mailing. Before choosing a mailing list or method, consider the age, income, gender and other characteristics your ideal customers have in common. It would be pointless, for instance, to send a postcard promoting your lawn care service to everyone in your county if there are a lot of residents in your county who live in apartment complexes or condos.

If you have a restaurant, auto repair service, or other business that would benefit by reaching everyone in neighborhoods near your location, you can choose areas you want to reach and keep costs down by using the US Postal Service’s Every Door Direct Mailing.

2. Networking

Networking has been the mainstay of small business marketing for as long as small businesses have existed. That’s because people and businesses like to do business with people they know, or at least feel like they know. Networking is also a popular offline marketing tool because it’s relatively inexpensive. There are free and low-cost networking opportunities available in just about every community. You can use networking to build professional practices, or for any type of business. These networking tips will help if you’re new to networking, or if you haven’t been successful at doing it.

3. Relationship Building

Relationship building goes hand in hand with networking. People do business with people they trust and like. You become a trusted source if you’re seen often at local meetings and events and encourage contacts to talk about themselves, their interests and needs.  By making yourself and your business familiar, you’ll build trust, business and referrals.

4. The Sign Spinner

You’re driving down the road and see somebody standing on the street corner wearing a Superman costume doing crazy acrobatic moves with a sign that says, “HUGE SALE TODAY!!” “Live advertising” works and it’s not expensive. Never thought you would try it? Sometimes moving out of your comfort zone results in big profit.

5. Cold Calling

The thought of cold calling may send a chill down your spine. After all, no one likes to have a door shut in their face or listen to a phone being slammed down. But here’s the reality: Cold calling works and successful businesses still do it. To make it work for your business you can’t treat rejection as a personal afront. You have to be able to cross that name off the list and move on to the next.  Also, just like mailings, you want to choose prospects who are likely to want your service. For instance, If you’re doing repairs on a home, ask the homeowner for referrals and call those people. Knock on the doors of neighbors’ homes and ask if they need work done. Have a flier or business card to leave with them so they can call you in the future. (They’ll probably want to know how the neighbor liked you before contacting you.) 

If you’re cold-calling businesses, ask for the person you want to reach by name. If you don’t know who the right person is, ask.

6. Sales Calls

Many companies that sell higher-ticket goods use sales calls to present their products and services in person to prospects.  The sales call is not only a chance to talk about the benefits of your offerings and why they are valuable to prospects, but it’s also a chance to answer questions and objections right away, and to get feedback about what you sell and the buyer’s needs. To make sales calls productive, focus on making sales appointments with decision makers. Then, do your homework and prepare for the call.

7. The commercial

Local TV and radio advertising works for some types of local businesses. Watch and listen to see what kinds of commercial run repeatedly and when they run. Do they seem to be targeting an audience you want to reach?  Are their products or services similar in nature and pricing to yours? Have the companies been in business for a long time?  If there are enough similarities to your type of business and market, spend some time researching production costs, broadcast costs and expected ROI to determine if running commercials could work for you, too. 

Bottom Line

Have you come to rely so much on online efforts that you’ve abandoned what has worked in the past? Incorporating online efforts is vitally important but diversify your marketing strategy to utilize multiple channels.

© 2019 Attard Communications, Inc. All Rights Reserved. May not be reproduced, reprinted or redistributed without written permission from Attard Communications, Inc.

Branding Made Easier with Instagram

Branding is an essential part of establishing and maintaining the identity of your company. Choosing a business name, creating a logo, manipulating a color palette, and fine-tuning your mission statement will all go a long way in making your company easily identifiable by your consumers. But there is more to branding than simple and singular decisions.

Preparing Instagram post

An effective and well-designed social media strategy can make the branding process easier by getting you noticed quickly, and helping you target the demographic who will be interested in what you have to say. Instagram, in particular, is an excellent social media platform to start with, as research indicates that the more than one billion users who visit the site today are very interested in learning about their favorite brands on the site. If you’re new to the channel, we have some ideas that will help you maximize Instagram’s value in your company’s branding effort, and to breathe life into any marketing campaign.

Prioritize your story

Unlike other social media platforms, Instagram is a “visual inspiration platform.”  This provides a unique opportunity for you to tell your brand story through graphics, images and videos that are creative, thoughtful, and engaging. The pictures and videos you create can become a series of “micro-stories” through which you can help potential followers “see” and “hear” you. Choose a voice that is consistent with how you want your company to be perceived. For instance, you may want to be viewed as friendly or professional, informative or authoritative, service-oriented or technical. Regardless, choose to be heard — leverage that voice to give your consumers a sense of the real you behind the logo and catchphrase, and create a brand that will resonate with your followers.

Use the top 10 best free video editing software and other tools that will create a polished look on your photos, and help you develop intriguing images and captions that will lure viewers into your world. Creating a community means avoiding being too preachy or self-promotional. Instead, focus on creating content that will encourage your viewers to check in on your account daily, then stay to engage or purchase your product or service. Videos and graphics can capture behind the scenes moments with your product, share interesting people who are enjoying your service, or feature information regarding innovations within the entire industry.

Stay active and consistent in posting

A consistent one or two posts per day is a safe bet for Instagram posting. It’s important to remember that user-generated content is another excellent way to communicate your values, so be sure that the content you share on your Instagram account is share-worthy. When your audience sees that your followers on your social media channels re-share what other people send or say about you, they will take notice. Likewise, when you re-share content that other people send to you, you validate your followers and provide them with an incentive to remain loyal and return regularly to your site.

What matters most is not only knowing your audience and growing your following, but making a positive and lasting impression. First and foremost, your posting strategy should be designed to connect with customers for the long haul. More than focusing your efforts on simple tactics or opt for one-time-only social media schemes, think of your social media channels as an opportunity to reach and relate to consumers. Finding your voice, sharing your back-story, and communicating your overarching goals, vision, and mission through your posts is more important than paying particular attention to the frequency and timing of those posts.

Choose the right hashtags on Instagram

Understand  hashtags on Instagram

Choosing the most relevant hashtags for your Instagram posts can be the key to creating top posts that will drive your brand, instead of sinking to the bottom of users’ feeds. The more specific you’re able to be with your hashtags, the more niche-specific your audience will be. Developing a hashtag that is unique to your industry, business or brand is one way to get started. Note that the hashtag you create for your brand on Instagram is not your private property and you don’t own it. Other members of Instagram are free to use your branded hashtag without obtaining your permission.

While Instagram lets you use up to 30, a lot of tags under your caption can seem unprofessional. It is for this reason that many of the major brands use seven or fewer tags to get themselves noticed. Remember that the content in your Instagram profile biography isn’t searchable, and hashtags in your bio have zero impact on your search rankings. Focus your energy on using hashtags in your posts instead. It’s important to learn everything you can about using hashtags on your Instagram account. Remember that your goal is to find something that markets itself to your users so that it filters their posts about your store, product, or service and anything that directly relates to it.

How have you used Instagram for your branding effort? Feel free to share in the comments.

How the Best Small Business Instagram Accounts Keep Growing

By Patrick Foster

Instagram is easily one of the most popular social networks out there today. Between dynamic Story ads, stunning feeds, and the recent rollout of IGTV, Instagram is a social platform to be reckoned with.

And the social network is great for small businesses, too. Instagram marketing drives sales, generates engagement, and boosts leads, helping you grow your business. But to grow your small business, you first need to grow your Instagram account. Here’s how.

Why Should You Care About Instagram Growth?

Does Instagram growth really matter? You’ve got multiple social presences already, plus a strong email marketing channel and a paid ad strategy that’s ticking along nicely. So why should you bother with Instagram in 2019?

For a start, Instagram is one of the most beneficial marketing channels out there. At last count, the platform boasted 1 billion monthly active users. With that many people behind it, you can be sure that there’s a healthy variety of consumers on there, too.

Instagram also promises the highest level of engagement out of all the social platforms. And with the introduction of its Stories feature last year, businesses can enjoy higher click-through rates, increased purchase intent, and better ad recall in one fell swoop — not bad for growing small businesses.

In a nutshell: you should absolutely care about Instagram growth.

Top tip: Do not buy Instagram followers! These are artificial followers that do not deliver real growth, and it’s ultimately unsustainable. Instead, read on for some handy tips that will help you keep growing well into 2019.

What the Best Small Business Users Do for Instagram Growth

Now you know why Instagram growth matters, let’s look at how you can nail yours. Read on for some of the best tactics used by small businesses to grow their Instagram accounts.

Give your followers exactly what they want

The key driver of Instagram growth in 2019 is great content. When your content is good, your followers will have a real reason to follow you and visit your Insta profile.

But great content doesn’t come out of thin air. It requires a deep understanding of what your followers actually want to see. It is this that will generate likes and comments, encouraging your customers to engage with your Instagram content.

To create strong content that resonates with your followers, do some research. This doesn’t need to be exhaustive — a quick fix is simply looking at your competitor’s Instagram profiles and seeing what kind of content they post elicits the most engagement.

Combine this with some cursory hashtag research, identifying those that your competitors use and leveraging them for your own content. Hashtags are crucial for growing your Instagram account by making you part of a conversation, and research is an important part of that. Constantly experiment with different ones, split-testing your hashtags to determine the best ones.

When used right, you can trend in the top posts for that hashtag, helping new followers find you with ease. Scope out the relationship between what hashtags are used and the type of content they are used with — this will guide your Instagram editorial calendar.

Embrace user-generated content for an Instagram quick fix

For time-poor small businesses, creating content can feel like a luxury rather than a necessity. Thankfully, you’ve got plenty of content creators at your fingertips: your customers.

User-generated content is a quick and easy way to foster Instagram growth. By encouraging your followers to submit their own photos, you can grow your account while developing a strong, engaged customer community.

Competitions are the best way for small businesses to source user-generated content. Create a UGC contest for applicants to submit images based around a theme (e.g. best use of your product), with a prize being awarded to the winner.

Ask your followers to tag you in their post to get yourself seen, and use a branded hashtag to easily collate their submissions. Remember to always get their consent before using their content, though.

Regularity and frequency will drive Instagram growth

As a small business owner, you know that your social strategy is time-consuming. Between generating 100% original content and posting it on a regular basis, it can be tough to find the time to maintain your Instagram strategy.

But it pays off. Instagram’s algorithm looks favorably upon accounts with a regular posting schedule, so it’s worth getting right. Use an Instagram scheduling tool such as Tailwind to plan your posts ahead of time, and research the best time of day to post for your target market.

And while your Insta feed requires regular updates, so too does your Story. You should ideally have no more than three Stories on your account at any one time.

As well as using your Instagram Story for product ads, you can also give your followers a behind-the-scenes look at office life, limited time discount codes, or even snapshots of live events.

Instagram might not be the only channel in your marketing strategy, but it’s certainly one of the most important. When you nail Instagram, you nail your business growth. Follow these tips and create an Instagram strategy that will continue to grow well into 2019 and beyond.

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Patrick Foster on Twitter
Patrick Foster
As a business owner and digital marketer, I understand the power and importance of online branding. I write about branding and UX for a range of online publications worldwide, and also for my website: EcommerceTips.org.

How to Set Up a Successful Affiliate Marketing Partnership: An Expert View

Geno Prussakov is an award-winning affiliate marketing professional, CEO & Founder of AM Navigator, and a guest of our recent #SEMrushchat. We asked him to give us expanded answers on how to find a valuable affiliate partner. Here are the main criteria of successful collaboration and the biggest mistakes to avoid.

What are the three parameters one should look at first when searching for an affiliate partner?

Quality and Targetedness of Referred Traffic

One would assume that, by its very definition, affiliate marketing is about these two elements as affiliates get compensated on a performance basis and should have no interest in sending low quality or untargeted traffic. The reality, however, is such that we do see low-quality affiliates out there. So, advertisers should look for those affiliate partners whose audiences they really want to touch through them – in a targeted and value-added way.

Marketing Complementarity

Ask yourself if the affiliate’s marketing efforts will complement your own, helping you amplify your marketing message, lubricating the path to conversion. Be it a unique mobile app that they have, or a consumer advice website, or skills to market you in ways that you yourself cannot look for the element of complementarity. If missing altogether, move on. If elements of potential marketing cannibalization are found, stay away. Look for valuable affiliate partners!

Incrementality of Referred Business

Whether it is an affiliate who can refer new-to-file customers or one who can effectively re-engage those customers who are no longer actively spending their money with you, look for affiliates who have the capability of driving incremental business. You do want to compensate affiliates on return customers, but it’s important to also reward them for incremental business.

Preview: How to Evaluate a Prospective Partner

Looking for a reliable way to evaluate a potential affiliate, co-marketing or business partner? Fill in the ultimate SEMrush cheat sheet to choose the most promising candidate! Evaluate the main metrics to figure out your future partner’s potential and make the optimal decision.

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What are the best ways for a startup to find their first valuable affiliate partner?

Startups are typically bootstrapped. Therefore, they should first consider the lower-cost ways of recruiting affiliates. Here are a few ideas:

  • Contact your happy clients. Who could be a better advocate than a satisfied customer?

  • Identify potential prospects within an affiliate network if your affiliate program is run on one. Search for them by type, niche, keywords, etc.

  • Look into giving your affiliate program additional visibility through paid search. You’ll be surprised how affordable it can be.

  • Submit your program’s information to affiliate program directories. We know that one in five affiliates uses them when searching for new affiliate programs to join.

  • Target attendees of affiliate conferences as well as your niche-specific conventions and meetups.

  • Identify your competitors’ affiliates or those who make your direct competition successful through affiliate marketing relationships. This method will require website traffic analytics tools, which means additional investment, but it has high chances of paying off.

What are the biggest mistakes people make when choosing affiliate partners? How can they overcome them?

  1. Auto-approving affiliates. An open door is never a good idea. To ensure that you’re partnering with those you do want to partner with, I recommend that you vet every affiliate application manually.

  2. Being misled by affiliate network size. What is more important is the number of strong affiliates in your niche that are active in the network.

  3. Focusing on quantity of onboarded affiliates. The number of recruited affiliates is irrelevant. It is the activated affiliates that are important.

  4. Failing to police compliance. Having rules and policies in place is important, but it doesn’t guarantee compliance with them. Having these gives you a solid foundation to police and enforce affiliate compliance, but it is important to devote the effort to doing it.

  5. Failing to diversify. Putting all your eggs in one basket has never been a good strategy. Do not rely on any one type of affiliate (be it coupon aggregators, ranking sites, incentive affiliates, or anyone else). Make sure to build a diversified affiliate base to effectively influence your customer throughout their journey through the sales funnel.

What are the best ways to estimate the number of leads/ROI that you can get from an affiliate?

This is a really tough question. The reason for this being that there are always too many contingencies and variables to make feasible predictions. And not only on the affiliate side but also on the brand side (price competitiveness, user-friendliness, CRO aspects, etc.).

Of course, you could estimate the number of conversions based on the affiliate’s traffic volume, assuming a click-through rate, and then tying in a suitable conversion rate assumption (basing the latter on what’s realistic for this particular type of affiliate). I would advise any affiliate manager not to share the results of such arithmetic with the affiliate, though. You do not want to set their expectations at a level they will never be able to reach.

6 Steps to Remarkable Customer Service

by Kevin Stirtz

Last Updated: Apr 16, 2019
Customer service training is great – if you can remember to consistently apply what you’ve learned. One way to make sure you and your staff don’t forget the basics of great customer service is to follow a series of steps like these each and every time.

We get a lot of advice about how to deliver great customer service. Many of the suggestions are reminders of what we already know (but we occasionally forget). And these are useful. But sometimes, we need more than a reminder. Sometimes it’s helpful to have a system or, at least, some steps to follow.

Here is an easy yet valuable roadmap I’ve taught in many of my customer service seminars. It’s easy to understand but it can be effective in keeping us on track so we consistently deliver what our customers want from us.

1. Connect with your customer

This is critical. This is where you establish rapport and begin a relationship with your customer. Connecting means you’re building trust that runs both ways. Do this by engaging your customer. Start by giving them your name and asking theirs. Be interested in them and what they want. Ask questions. Listen. Respond appropriately. Have a conversation with them. Be genuine.

People know when you are genuinely interested in helping them or not. If you are, they are more likely to respond positively to you and to develop trust with you. If you are really not interested, they’ll sense it and you’ll have a much harder time developing the trust you need to help them.

2. Discover what they want

If you have a genuine conversation with your customer, you will discover what they want. They don’t always know what they want. Or they might have trouble expressing it. Often people know what they want but they’re unsure how to get it. That’s where you come in.

By asking pertinent questions and paying attention to the answers, you can discover a lot about your customer. You can help guide them to getting what they want. That’s the role you fill and that’s how you keep customers coming back.

3. Know what you can do

We can’t always give the customer everything they want. Sometimes they want what we can’t do. Other times, it’s something we choose not to do.

Every business has a niche to fill. That means doing what the business is best at doing for the customers it can serve best. This step is about “picking your battles”. It’s about choosing the customers who best fit what you can do well by knowing what you do best.

4. Do it

This sounds easy and maybe it should be. But it’s where many businesses fail. They fail because they don’t manage the process of planning, doing, measuring and monitoring well.

To execute well you need to be able to measure what’s important. What gets measured gets done. So, convert your customer’s wants into actions you can measure. Then set up a system to measure the outcomes and the actions that produce them.

For customers, this is the icing on their cake. It’s true for you too because it’s easy to do yet it pays huge dividends in customer loyalty.

As you plan your execution phase, make sure you plan a follow-up contact. Follow-up by phone, email, letter, visit, whatever works. The more direct and personal the better but make it work for your customer and your company. This thrills customers because very few companies do it consistently.

Related: 15 Customer Service Tips That Make Loyal Customers

6. Thank them

This often gets forgotten. Or it gets treated lightly. Too often when I hear a “thanks for doing business with us” it sounds phony, forced or robotic. People often say it out of habit but they put no feeling or authenticity into it.

So, when you thank your customers, be real about it. Make it genuine. Thank them in multiple ways, not just once. make sure they know you are grateful for their business.

Follow these six steps with every customer and you’ll find your level of customer service will increase dramatically. Coach your employees to understand and work through these steps (every time) and you’ll see your customer loyalty and customer retention go through the roof.

Kevin Stirtz has developed a unique concept called “Blow Up Your Business.” He speaks to groups of professionals and business owners who want to attract more customers and put more money in their pocket. Kevin can be reached at https://www.linkedin.com/in/kevinstirtz  or 952-212-4681.

The secret to effective follow up: What NOT to say

About Becky McCray

Becky started Small Biz Survival in 2006 to share rural business and community building stories and ideas with other small town business people. She and her husband own a retail liquor store in Alva, Oklahoma, and a small cattle ranch nearby. Becky is an international speaker on small business.