Elayne Whitfield, BA, MVA ~ VA Industry ExpertSubscribe Now

The Four Biggest Social Network Marketing Blunders

Biggest Social Network Marketing BlundersUnlike other forms of online marketing, standards for social media marketing are not black and white. There are no clearly laid out right and wrong behaviors, and there certainly are no statistics on cost-per-user. There is also, by no means, a universal code of conduct that is adhered to by marketers. While pay-per-click advertisers and SEO experts are overwhelmed with information on what is and what is not effective, social media marketers are, for the most part, left without reliable information to serve their craft. Instead, they are forced to work via trial and error, and rely on relatively soft data.

That being said, social media is not completely ungoverned by assumptions and expectations. It is social, after all, and like any other type of social interaction it is influenced by collective opinion and user discussions. These four social media faux pas are unlikely to get you thrown off social media websites or banned from public interactions on the internet, but they should best be avoided if you are in pursuance of social media marketing success.

Using 'thin' Affiliate Tactics

Back in 2004, MySpace ruled the social media world and spam was out of control. Hidden comments, fake friend requests, and endless repetitive blog posts all led to one direction: questionable affiliate offers and nefarious advertising banners.

Since then, there has been a transformation within social media, one that has attempted to counter against thin affiliate tactics and desperate promotion. The social media environment of today accepts promotion and commercial influence, but pushes back against aggressive marketing. As long as you keep your social media marketing tactics soft, value-filled, and genuine, you will be rewarded with success. If you end up using an outdated and selfish strategy of spam or dishonesty, you will likely be rejected by any community you try and target.

Pay-Per-Post Marketing

Blogs are part of the social media arena and they are held to the same high standards of any other social media platform. They are accepted as commercial entities, but at the same time resented for their success. They are treated as an outlet, yet neglected by users that could contribute. More than anything, blogs are abandoned when they become commercialized above all else. Remember, while your blog may earn you money, it could likely mean significantly more to your audience than it does yourself.

Thin, Fake, and Generic Conversation

Internet marketing expert Seth Godin has often asked his readers whether it's truly worth engaging in social media if your message is dry and generic. Realizing that this suggestion is not to give up social media entirely, Seth’s followers consciously chose to change their approach and become more unique and influential when engaging with the world.

Social media communities can and will ignore you when you have nothing interesting to say. Join the conversation, but do not treat it as something you cannot be changed. Offer information and value beyond what is currently available and you will be welcomed, appreciated, and compensated; parrot the same old information and you will be brushed aside.

The "friend everyone" Approach

The "friend everyone" approach is normally seen alongside the thin affiliate strategy used by thousands of marketers in an attempt to appeal to a large group of people in little time. It is a classic spam tactic, and it is one that is rarely successful for social media marketers in today’s highly competitive and scrupulous internet world.

The top Twitter users are not necessarily those with the most followers, just like the most popular Facebook pages are not those with the most fans. Build real relationships and you will be rewarded with loyalty; friend everyone that comes your way and you will end up with a large list of thin and utterly worthless online connections to bot accounts and trolls.

Avoiding Pushy Promotions on Social Networking Sites

Avoiding Pushy PromotionsGoogle's new instant search feature has brought about much criticism due to a belief that it's far too geared towards sales-friendly search terms. While there's certainly no shortage of differences between how Google directs its users and the intended actions of the websites they list, similar complaints are also growing significantly more common on the social media scene.

The feelings of most who oppose the new changes to the search engine giant appear to be in reaction to 'pushiness' – the obvious attempts of websites and online marketers to direct their users down a specific sales path. Facebook's sidebar advertisements are another frequent target for most complainers. Sidebar boxes appear regardless of a user's actions, making it difficult to visit any pages without being prompted to take a certain action, often one that's geared towards a company trying to make a sale.

The prompts have appeared on Facebook for some time now but due to recent privacy concerns they've developed into a much larger issue. The goal of these promotions is to increase user interaction – a task that social networking websites are particularly efficient at. But when these actions aren't user-prompted, it becomes difficult to know which interactions are truly called for by friends, and which are automated purely in an attempt to make a sale.

For social media marketers, the revolt against pushy advertising practices could be a blessing in disguise. Users appear to be growing increasingly distrustful of internet giants such as Facebook and Google, and the amount of trust remaining among the general population appears to be fairly consistent. As privacy concern reports continue to put Facebook in the public eye, internet marketers seem to even be benefiting.

There's a lesson to learn from this 'pushiness revolt'. Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking websites benefit from a lack of hard sales. Users very rarely enjoy being told what to do, and they're particularly reluctant to comply with predefined actions at the request of a computer. While that could sound like a strike against marketers, it's really something that can be used to in their favor.

Avoid hard sales and you'll win the trust of social media audiences, particularly on a platform that sometimes overwhelms with advertisements. If your goal is to build a natural audience on a mainstream social media platform, it could even be worth limiting your commercial output until you have sufficient subscribers for voluntary, action-based social media marketing.

What Many Businesses Miss: A Multi-Billion Dollar Market

Marketing to MomsThe focus of every business is to be sustainable for the long term and it is their job to always keep an eye out for the ways of the future. Even today however, with business all over the world competing for their own market share, there is a multi-billion dollar market this is not being fully tapped in to: moms.

Why are moms so important?

Moms are enterprising. According to BSM Media Inc., mom spending is already over the trillion dollar mark. That’s more than the GDP of most countries in the world today.

Also according to BSM Media Inc., almost 90% of moms consider themselves the financial head of the home. Their husbands may bring home most of the bacon but it is the moms who decide how it is spent. Everything related to the home: kids clothing, appliances, electronics, outdoor furniture, accessories, and home improvement items are all usually purchased by the female head-of-household.

Any husband that shops for these things is surely going to consult their wife before buying them. Why? Wives generally do the research into these products to find the best available options. Moms influence as much as 85% of the purchases for the home. That’s over 70 million women in the U.S alone we are talking about here. It doesn't get much bigger than that.

Consider all of the tasks that moms are generally responsible for on a daily basis. They work, take care of the housework, shuffle kids around to various activities, prepare most meals, and manage the finances. In order to keep everything organized they employ a wide variety of the technology and gadgets found in the home which means they will certainly have a hand in the purchasing of it all.

Moms are also savvy on the Internet. A trend for many years has been moms coming out of traditional careers and starting their own businesses at home in order to free up their time to spend with the kids. To that end, communities of mothers have brought about blogs, websites, and forums designed to teach other moms just about everything. Their buying power has been increasing exponentially alongside their knowledge.

Manly Mistake?

Traditionally, the only products marketed towards women were household products and cooking items. This goes back to the archaic patriarchal thought that a woman’s place was in the home which has held many countries back economically.

Women and moms have made an imprint in many areas that were thought to be solely for men in the past. Positions such as CEO, CFO, and company president are now often held by women. They don’t just surf the Web, they are becoming entrepreneurs with widening influence over Internet marketing. Having moms shun your product because you are not marketing to them means they are also spreading the word to other moms across the world (via the Internet) and within their own communities. This would be a massive setback for any company to experience.

The Future

Moms are influenced by other moms. Several generations of moms are coming together to influence the spending habits of major corporations. In the future this trend will only continue to grow. As moms become more “connected” in the world, their spending will increase along with their influence. No product is off limits to be marketed towards moms.

Moms do rule the world. Gain the support of savvy moms with your products and your business will reap the benefits.

Five Ways to Monetize a Mailing List

5 ways to monetize your mailing listSuccessful marketing plans require creativity. The most creative marketers, entrepreneurs, and businesspeople are almost always the most successful as creativity is what separates you from the pack. Email marketing may offer security and long-term income, but it is nothing without an effective and creative platform for monetizing it.

These five options take different approaches to monetizing email traffic and all offer the potential for outstanding results. No matter how your business operates, these five strategies can help you boost income and increase orders.

 1) Sell affiliate products.

A popular method in the online marketing world since the late 1990s, affiliate marketing brings the potential for profit more than any other strategy. In exchange for potential clients, affiliates are paid for every sale that is generated.

The business of email marketers puts them in a unique position to be wildly successful with online affiliate programs. With a trusting and value-added email marketing list, even a slight mention of an affiliate product can generate sales for the advertiser; sales that mean valuable commission income for yourself.

 2) Drive leads directly to clients.

There are countless businesses out there that, while lacking an official affiliate program, would happily pay you for incoming business leads. If your email marketing efforts are focused in specific markets, you could contact businesses in these markets directly and offer leads to them.

From real estate agents to simple product-based businesses, almost all local, national, and international businesses are interested in generating more sales, and with the valuable leads that you bring them, you could collect a substantial commission. Refine your business-to-business sales pitches, get on the phone, and get to work earning directly from local businesses.

 3) Market your own products and services.

It is one thing to take a commission from another business, but it’s an entirely different game when you’re making 100% of the profits from your own product sales. With a minor time commitment, you could have your own eBook to sell, your own utility to market, or your own coaching program to advertise for. Rather than taking just a portion of the returns from someone else's product sales, apply your creativity to your own business and create a way to market to your email subscribers directly.

4) Ask for client or customer referrals.

The success of referral-based businesses is evident all over the internet. Zappos, a leading online shoe store, generates business almost entirely through word of mouth marketing efforts and customer referrals. By offer focusing primarily on their incredible customer service, their email subscribers spread the word to their friends which expands Zappos' marketing power and their audience size.

It’s simple, ask your email list for client or customer referrals. If you market to people who are seen as authorities in your target market, you could very well end up with an endless stream of referral sales and contracts.

5) Send subscribers to Adsense-powered websites.

Although sending subscribers to an Adsense-powered website is unlikely to earn you more than a few dollars per email, it can be a good way to test websites before they are officially launched. With a few quick split-testing scripts, a small list of hundreds of prospective customers and visitors can be the perfect testing resource for a pre-launch website or commercial online property.

What You Need To Get Started As A VA

How to Get Started as a VAOne of the great things about being a VA is that it’s easy to get started. You really don’t need much to be able to launch a successful business. That being said, there are some things you’ll want to take inventory of to make sure you’re completely ready to open for business

Office Equipment

You’re a virtual assistant which means you’ll need the necessary equipment for working online.

This means a:

  • Computer
  • Backup storage or system – you can backup files online so an external drive isn’t necessary.
  • Copier/scanner/fax
  • Reliable Internet connection
  • Desk and chair
  • File cabinet/file system
  • Telephone and related equipment like a headset so you can talk hands free

You likely already have much of this equipment but if not, you won’t need to spend a fortune to get it. Take a look at flea markets and online resale sites for furniture. If you don’t have a computer, most experts recommend buying the best you can afford. Your business will be based almost entirely on your computer so you don’t want to cut any corners when getting one.

Business Equipment

You’re going to want a few basics to help you market and manage your business. These include but are not limited to:

  • Business Plan – This is essential. It should include:
    • Budget
    • Goals
    • Marketing strategy
    • Operations
    • Policies and procedures
    • And anything else you can think of
  • Website and/or blog
  • Social networking profiles
  • Email account for business
  • Telephone number for business
  • Invoicing system
  • Bookkeeping software
  • Content management system or delivery system. How will you deliver client work to them?
  • Services agreement/Work for hire agreement
  • Personal insurance: health, dental, life etc. When you’re self-employed, insurance is your responsibility.
  • Bank account for business
  • Organization tools:
    • Calendar
    • Notebooks
    • Whatever helps you get and stay organized
  • Business services software such as transcription software if you plan on offering that

Again, you may have much of this already and most won’t cost very much if you don’t. You can however spend a lot on software, so be careful. Only buy what you really need to get started.

Personal Equipment

Now that your home office is set and you have a solid business plan, what else do you need to get started?

  • Enthusiasm
  • Motivation
  • Positive Mindset
  • Administrative skills
  • Marketing knowledge (Information is easy to find online or in marketing books)

Not bad, right? If you already have a computer you can likely start your VA business for just a few hundred dollars. Many have started with nothing at all and gone on to be hugely successful VAs. Make a checklist. Create a plan. Realize the success you desire.

How to Create Impact with Short Blog Posts

How to create impact with short blog postsLonger blog posts may seem like the best way to convey your thoughts and attract attention because you have more space to make your point with. In reality however, it is the content that matters most, not the length. People are also impatient these days and they want to get the information they need fast. Long posts are valuable too but once you become proficient with 300-500 words you may never want to go back to spending time on extensive pieces.

Start with a Compelling Headline

As trivial as it may seem, headlines are what attract readers and there’s no denying this. Your headline needs to tell the reader what’s in the content without being absurd or misleading. Tell them what you’re going to tell them in a way that will maximize impact.

Be Concise

If your post is going to be short you are going to want to make sure the small amount of text that you do provide is full of valuable stuff. Cutting back on text doesn’t mean you get to cut back on content. You still want to deliver information, just without all the fluff. Good editing will help make your short blog posts impactful without having them filled with unnecessary things.

Make It Scan-able

People read differently online than they do on paper. Instead of reading the standard way from left to right, an online format allows people to scan something from top to bottom first while looking at the left side of the page. Using bullets, headlines, and attention-grabbing headlines will help guide the reader through your entire post without requiring them to read every word.

Laser Focus the Topic

A short blog post needs one primary focused point to consider with one main topic. For example, instead of “Five Reasons to XYZ” you might want to write about “The Most Important Reason to XYZ”. The difference here is that many people will not really care about the 5th best reason to XYZ so focusing on “the most important reason” will be focusing on exactly what they want.

Engage Your Readers

Always ask for comments. You can make a huge impact with engagement after your one-topic blog post. This makes the short blog post worth more than a larger post in terms of shareability and activity.

Include Relevant Graphics

Using effective images will make it more likely that your blog post will be opened to being with and more likely that it will be shared by those who read it. A well-composed blog along with the right graphics will make a huge impact.

Practice Good Copywriting Technique

The best thing you can do is to remember that verbs are more important than nouns. Actionable content gets better results. Most people don’t consider copywriting when composing a blog post, but with a short blog post it’s essential if you want your post to be impactful.

Know Your Audience

What demographics comprise your primary audience? Which platforms does your audience use to access your content? How can you customize your content to match audience needs, wants, and preferences? What does your audience want and need to know? The more inside information you have on your audience, the greater the impact you can provide in your short blog posts.

Short blog posts take less time to write, they don’t have to keep the reader’s attention as long, and they focus on only one topic at a time. Focus each short blog post on a minute topic that is important to your audience for the most impact.