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3 Tips to Make Facebook Work for You

In June, Facebook announced a change to how content makes its way to the top of your news feed. This new algorithm measures the amount of time users spend looking at posts. 

In other words, even without liking, commenting, or sharing a post, Facebook will detect which posts capture your attention longer than others and will incorporate that preference as a factor in determining which posts become “Top Posts” for your feed. With these changes, business owners should consider how to capture someone’s attention – and how to hold someone’s attention – in such a way as to maximize their exposure through Facebook. 

With this in mind, helping you increase your Facebook effectiveness is the focus of this week’s #TuesdayTip. Here are 3 ways your business can capture attention on Facebook:

1 – Videos Work

Facebook auto-plays videos which encourage your followers to spend more time engaging with your content, and in turn, directly registers with the network’s new algorithm. Since Facebook natively enables video on their site, content of that type has yielded amazing engagement results. Posting Facebook videos and monitoring their performance can also help your business determine content for future video posts. Instead of reposting from YouTube, or other video hosting websites, utilize the built in Facebook video function to 1) collect video view count analytics and 2) enable videos to automatically play. To maximize the effectiveness of the videos, use text or subtitles so that you can capture viewers attention without enabling the audio. 

2 – Content is Key

If Instagram is a platform to feature images, and images increase engagement on Facebook, should businesses repost all of their Instagram photos automatically on their Facebook page?

Yes! But there is a caveat. Even if it may seem like a time-saving technique to automatically post the same update to multiple networks, it might cost your business reach on both networks. If you want to reuse a photo, make sure to provide content making it a meaningful and valuable Facebook post. Your photo post may draw them in, but the commentary included will keep them engaged longer. Include captions. An anecdote will make your post that much more personable, encouraging more likes, comments, and shares. Content will compliment your image. Use both to better engage your audience. Facebook encourages content creators on the network to provide stories that add value or provide more history for a business’s products and services. These kinds of posts have a higher likelihood to be seen by bigger audiences.

3 – Titles Say It All

Effective headlines work. There’s a formula for headline success, and it is one content creators can easily implement when posting on Facebook. When creating and posting content on Facebook, deliberately invoke a reaction in the reader which will subsequently tempt them to click on the article to read and/or share your post. This cycle can quickly escalate (going “viral”) increasing the reach of your post exponentially. If your content is key, then your title has to be the Barnum-like key holder ushering Facebook users towards your business’s post.

Here are a few examples from blogging.org on formulas for creating an effective headline:

  • Numbered Lists (10 social media mistakes everyone makes)
  • How-To (How to write a blog post that drives 10x more traffic)
  • Case Study (How we grew our Pinterest followers 10 times in one week)
  • Lessons Learned (Top lessons learned about marketing from watching Hell’s Kitchen)
  • Reasons Why (Why you can’t afford to ignore blogging)
  • Provocative Questions (Are you making the 10 biggest mistakes in digital marketing?)
  • News Headline (Announcing new Blogging for Business training this September)
  • Direct and Specific (Free Google+ Report)
  • Command (Get better results tomorrow by reading this post)
  • Irresistible (How Google changes may be destroying your email strategy)

Maximizing the effectiveness of your Facebook posts and understanding how the network uses its algorithms to increase your post’s reach is important for all business owners to understand.  Stay up to date with how social media and digital marketing is evolving. At Sproutling Marketing & Consulting we would love to meet with you over coffee and discuss a strategy on how to keep your business up to date with this evolving digital world. Contact us today!

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The Four Cornerstones of Growth

1. Intentionality

Everyone has heard it, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”

Being intentional with your desire to grow and creating goals on how to do so is absolutely essential to your business’s sustainability. “Accidental” growth doesn’t happen. Or if it does happen, it doesn’t last. Sit. Think about the current trajectory of your company. Think about where you want your company to be in 5, 10, 20 years. Is the path you are currently on going to get you there or do you need to turn around or branch off to create a new path? Put it on your to do list. Make a plan and don’t wait. Just start.

When you become intentional about achieving your company goals, be sure to keep going. Communicate with your employees (and not just your managers!) about expectations and milestones you want to reach. Put them in writing and set hard and fast deadlines.

Be sure not to forget about your personal goals along the way. Why did you start the business? Wealth creation? Social justice? Saving the environment? Succession planning and exit strategies are important to keep in mind as you plan for your company’s future.

TIPS:

  • Count your beans. No matter what metrics are used in your industry, identify the top 5 company stats for your business and measure and monitor them regularly.
  • Set at least one extremely ambitious pie-in-the-sky goal.
  • Work on the business, not in it!
  • Read, read, read and then read some more. Know your industry, your competitors and what is important to success in today’s marketplace.
  • Don’t be afraid of change.

 

2. Organization

Growth necessitates change. As your company grows, your organizational structure may have to evolve as well. The way you recruit, manage and incentivize employees should be closely reviewed and adapted as needed. Control systems that ensure efficiency, but don’t stifle productivity, may need to be set in place. Technology upgrades are sure to be an essential part of scalability and reducing hidden costs and problems that are associated with old technology.

Additionally, you should consider the evolution of the legal organization of your business. Changing from a sole proprietorship to a partnership, LLC or even an S-Corp can make sense over time.

TIPS:

  • Communicate with your accountant and lawyers to ensure your business structure is most appropriate for your company and that it allows your business to receive the best tax benefits available.
  • Give Gen Y the latest technology. Use tech to connect with your employees and ensure they have what they need to perform their duties.
  • Educate yourself on the systems used by your business and how to run them. Don’t allow technology or processes to outpace you and make you irrelevant.
  • When developing systems, keep future growth in mind. Build in scalability so they will work with your business instead of becoming a hindrance.
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate. Stay in touch and keep your staff focused. Hire people smarter than you and empower employees you feel are experts and great managers. Trust them to see the vision and grow the business. Invest in their professional development.

 

3. Marketing

While working on my MBA at Samford University, I heard marketing defined in a myriad of ways. However, the compilation of those lead to my current definition: Get the right message to the right people at the right time and in the right way. Every aspect from the message to timing and audience is essential to your marketing. Evaluate each one with future growth in mind.

Right Message: Research how your audience is perceiving your message/product/service. Is this how you want to be viewed? Growth can occur by changing your message or simply by changing the presentation of your message. What problem are you solving for your customers? Are you speaking directly to the needs of the marketplace or promoting gimmicks to get people in the door? In today’s market, perceptions can easily change (for better or worse) through online reviews, testimonials, and media attention.

Right People: Who are you reaching? Depending on your industry, growth can occur by limiting your customer base or by expanding your customer base. (I know- helpful right?!) Explore your current clientele. You may discover that only 20% of them are bringing in 80% of your revenue. If this is the case, find ways to market to that 20%. Fire the customers that are wasting your resources and holding you back. Expansion of your market can occur geographically or demographically. Consider expansion of your territory or market to a different audience that may also have a need for your service or product. Find what works and work it.

Right Time: Timing is essential to great marketing. Social media has not only changed the level of interaction customers expect, but expected response times as well. Responsiveness to opportunities and threats can make or break your business. Know your competitors, develop multiple strategies, and put processes in place to respond to possible scenarios whether good or bad.

Right Way: You’ve settled on your message, identified your audience, and are awaiting the prime time to market your business. So, how will you do it? Use all of the above (message, audience and time) to identify the how. This may mean a website, blog, TV or radio spot, social media blitz, direct sales, or big sales event. Sponsorships or networking may work for your industry or maybe you want a skywriter to leave a message in the clouds during rush hour. Think outside the box, try something different as long as it makes sense for your industry and growth strategy. Maximize your ROI by focusing on the right audience and putting your marketing dollars where they are most effective. Just remember—if you are willing to invest in marketing for growth, be double damn sure your business processes are ready to keep up with the demand!

TIPS:

  • Develop, believe in, and understand your elevator speech!
  • Understand your target market. How do they communicate? How do they consume goods or services? Meet them where they are.
  • Do everything with excellence. Don’t half-ass it and be disappointed when it didn’t work.
  • Never assume the relevance of your products or services. Evaluate and evolve your product or service if necessary.
  • Keep asking your customers what they want and or need. Never stop getting feedback and using that to determine your path.

 

4. Finance

Cash flow. It’s important. Especially when you want to grow your business. Ensuring your business has the financial strength to grow means that you should know exactly how much cash flow you have, how much you need and when you need it. Taking a hard look at your cash flow may mean that you need to revisit business processes or establish new control mechanisms in order to maximize the amount of cash you are able to reinvest in the business. Explore external funding for major equipment or property purchases. Don’t forget the non-traditional funding sources such as crowdfunding. (Check out Kickstarter, Indiegogo, RocketHub, gofundme, Peerbackers.) There are also numerous organizations that assist you in finding investors for startups such as Grow Venture Community, MicroVentures, Angel List, CircleUp, and so many more.

Not only should you have a handle on your own financial strength, but you should also be aware of your competitors. Evaluate and compare pricing models, suppliers, as well as asset and inventory management. Take the time to develop your relationship with the bank – it’s worth it! Also, consult experts if this area is not your strength (for entrepreneurs this is most often the case!). Ask about tax efficiencies and ensure the proper controls and regulations are in place for future growth.

TIPS:

  • Make sure your metrics are relevant to your decision making. (For example- don’t stop selling a product just because your margins are slim. Examine your cost of goods sold including suppliers, delivery systems, and production costs. Any one of these could make the difference between a best-seller and profit-sucker.)
  • Manage your collections and creditors.
  • Everything is negotiable. Well, almost everything. Consider negotiating vendor/supplier payment terms based on performance criteria.
  • Be aware of fraud risks. Implement segregation of duties and put controls in place for accountability.
  • Always look for ways to boost cash flow, but be mindful not to inhibit production, quality, or customer experience by pinching pennies.

 

 

 

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Four Essential Steps to Grow Like a Weed

Here at Sproutling, we get it. Small business is hard. Sometimes it’s seasonal, sometimes start-up costs are more than expected, and sometimes growth requires sacrifice that is painful to the pocketbook. But trust us, it’s totally worth it. With steady and healthy growth of your business comes the achievement of your long term goals and dreams. Whether that’s financial security, traveling the world, or creating a legacy—growth is how you get there.

A solid marketing strategy for small businesses is absolutely an essential part to stable growth. Here are four simple steps to begin building your strategy:

Evaluate.

Take a step back. Revisit your business plan. (You have one, right?!)

– Think about your current target market. Are they bringing in enough revenue? Don’t forget the 80/20 rule: about 80% of your revenue probably comes from 20% of your customers.

– How can you focus on this high value market? Fire existing clients? Move locations? Expand your marketing efforts?

Prioritize.

Examine potential marketing efforts and prioritize by effectiveness and achievability.

Can you expand your digital presence? Revamp your printed materials? Begin advertising in a new channel? Each area of marketing comes with it’s own expenses. Take time to prioritize what works best for your current budget and determine which efforts will give you the greatest return on your investment.

Measure.

Set specific goals. Don’t just think about them—write them down! Make hard deadlines and determine how you will measure the effectiveness of each marketing effort. If you don’t measure you won’t know what works.

Just start.

Pull the trigger. Meet those deadlines. Reach for the stars…and all those other cheesy motivational poster quotes. Don’t put it off. Another dollar earned today may lead to ten more tomorrow. Build. Go. Do. Now.

Seriously, why are you still here?!