Your Business Instagram Checklist

Have you ever gone to a business’s Instagram page and thought that it looked a lot like a personal one? That’s something business owners should avoid at all costs.

What’s the difference?

A personal Instagram page has a completely different goal from a business one. Personal pages are usually used to share photos of family, hobbies, pets, or lifestyle with an audience mostly comprised of people you know. Most users post whatever they want, whenever they feel like it.

Business pages, on the other hand, are a Marketing tool. They help you understand your audience, attract potential customers to your website, and spread brand awareness. You should be just as strategic about what you post on Instagram as you are about arranging your storefront or designing your website.

What happens if I am my brand?

There’s nothing wrong with showing the face behind the business. In fact, I strongly encourage it! All you are doing is sharing your WHY: the story behind your work that makes you different from your competition. But there is a difference between sharing your WHY (which is business-focused) and sharing your every day life with your customers.

Not every post has to be “salesy” or a beautiful product shot, but each one does have to add value to your followers. Industry or company updates, tips, relevant articles, and behind-the-scenes photos are all great examples.

“People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.” – Simon Sinek

The Checklist

Your Profile

  1. Make sure you’re using an Instagram business page. It’ll give you access to valuable analytics and the ability to advertise and promote posts.
  2. Write a concise bio that explains what you do and how you can help your customers.
  3. Ensure your website is pointing visitors to the first page you want them to see. This might not be your general homepage, but a landing page made specifically for your Instagram visitors. For example, the website listed on my profile is www.valeriechong.ca/sme, which is an at-a-glance page designed for small and medium business owners. That way, I can tell them everything I want them to know with less of a risk that they’ll click away from my homepage.
  4. Ensure that your profile photo is a high-resolution version of your logo or representative photo.
  5. Make use of Instagram profile highlights! Here’s a great article to get you started.

Before You Post

  1. Is your photo high-resolution and high quality?
  2. Is your photo and caption relevant to your business and desired customers?
  3. Are you using great hashtags? (Keep an eye out for an upcoming blog on this topic!)
  4. Have you tagged a location and relevant accounts?
  5. Are you posting at a time of day when your audience is likely to be online?
  6. Does this post align with your digital communications strategy? (Don’t have one? I can help you with that…)

Social Listening: The Most Important Thing You Should be Doing Right Now

Reading time: 5 minutes

If you’re not an essential service, chances are that you’ve had to close or decrease your business for the last two months. To ensure you’ll hit the ground running once quarantine is lifted, you should be social listening.

“Social listening is the monitoring of your brand’s social media channels for any customer feedback and direct mentions of your brand or discussions regarding specific keywords, topics, competitors, or industries, followed by an analysis to gain insights and act on those opportunities.”

Hubspot

I would expand Hubspot’s definition of social listening to include scanning the wider social media landscape outside of your own channels.

Your Customers are Changing.

According to a 2009 study in the European Journal of Social Psychology, it takes an average of 66 days for a group of people to form a new habit in their life. As of this blog, it has been 57 days since the Ontario state of emergency was declared on March 17, and it will be in effect until at least June 2.

This means you need to completely re-examine your understanding of your customers’ product preferences, spending patterns, and moods.

People make purchases based on their values, priorities, and sense of identity. A big change in society like a pandemic is certainly going to change how we feel about our own sense of security. For example, I believe there will be a shift toward more long-lasting, higher-end products, now that we’ve had to do without repair or replacement services. I also believe there may be a desire for beauty over cost-saving, thanks to days and weeks spent staring at our interior decorating choices.

“The CDC and World Health Organizations are stressing the importance of proper handwashing and doing it often. This is bound to influence people to live healthier lives, which is a win for retailers selling healthier foods and sustainable products. It will move consumers to evaluate things from a different perspective.”

Michael Barbera, Chief Behaviour Officer at Clicksuation Labs via Forbes

Following social media will help inform your future product offerings. Image-based platforms like Instagram and Pinterest will show you what consumers are looking to buy once the pandemic is over. Tracking relevant hashtags will let you peek into consumer conversations – are they experiencing frustrations with certain types of products or services? What are they turning to right now?

Following online conversations will keep your content relevant. Customers are being bombarded with COVID-19 announcements from every business they’ve ever subscribed to. Don’t be yet another generic email in their inbox. Take those frustrations that you’re seeing on Twitter or Reddit and provide solutions.

My optometrist recently emailed me with methods to reduce eye strain from increased screen exposure. They have examined their audience's new daily routines and recognized an issue that needed to be solved. This is exactly the kind of content I want to see - topical, useful, and relevant to their core service. 

Listening to your customers can provide opportunities. By following your followers, you may come across a non-profit that is supporting people in your industry, or influencers who might be open to a collaboration. It’s a great time to build partnerships and genuine relationships.

Your Competitors are Adapting.

While you’re doing your daily social listening, don’t forget to check out what your competition is saying and selling. If they have caught wind of a new trend or are planning a new product line, you’ll probably see hints of it in their social media.

The most obvious change that many businesses are taking advantage of is an increase in online spending. According to a survey of over 1,500 people on March 20, 24% of Canadians planned to increase their online spending during the coronavirus. After this is all over, many of those people will likely continue their newly formed habit of online spending, thanks to simple convenience. They’ll be expecting easy-to-navigate e-commerce sites, free shipping, and smart tools such as recommendation algorithms. Now might be the perfect time to start building your online shop.

I’ve seen many local businesses partner with each other and local charities during COVID-19. For example, Pressed For Time Panini has used Instagram to participate in collaborative giveaways and the Guelph Box subscription service. You never know where ideas will come from.

Some great tools for social listening are Hubspot, Hootsuite, or Tweetdeck.

Communication: Your Ticket to Recruiting Great Volunteers

Volunteers are extraordinarily valuable to organizations, especially non-profits and charities. They extend capacity, often allowing an organization to offer more programs and services to the community it serves. Great volunteers also bring perspective, skills, and diversity. If you’re looking for new volunteers, how do you attract great ones to your network? It comes down to the way you communicate during and after the recruitment process.

The first thing a prospective volunteer will do is Google you. Your website is likely geared toward your customers and patrons, so you’ll want to create a specific page for volunteer information. Gear the tone and messaging to the volunteers you are hoping to attract; for example, can the role be filled by someone who has a full-time job and family commitments, or are you hoping for a retired person who may have some more time on their hands? Clearly lay out your needs and requirements, but understand that you may have to make adjustments based on the skills, interests, and availability of your candidates. For example, many organizations I’ve worked with hold volunteer meetings in the evenings so that the work day is unaffected.

Avoid an overly “salesy” tone, and opt for a more conversational or personal one. Remember, time is more valuable than money, and you’ll need to make a meaningful connection if you’re going to convince them to share their finite number of daily hours with you.

Volunteer candidates have different motivations than employees; they can’t be tempted by a competitive salary or a good benefits package. While they may sincerely want to contribute to your cause, they may also be looking for an opportunity to develop skills, make friends and connections, or build their portfolio. Don’t focus solely on what you want your volunteers to do for you; instead, explain how it can be a mutually beneficial relationship. This diagram from Volunteer Canada demonstrates the many values of volunteering:

Once you have chosen a candidate, ensure that they have a positive onboarding experience. Keep up the momentum of that initial connection by giving them the attention you’d give any new employee: information, expectations, and a project they can start on right away. More than once, I’ve heard of volunteers leaving after only a few months with an organization because there was a lack of direction about what they should be doing. This can be avoided by designating a volunteer coordinator or point of contact who will be able to address any questions or concerns. It can be hard to allocate this kind of time with limited resources, but it’s worth developing a welcome package and other communications for the long-term engagement of your volunteers.

Your volunteers can become your biggest champions. Be sure to collect feedback through regular meetings and an annual survey. Testimonials and stories can be used for blog content, marketing tools, and recruitment, so don’t be afraid to ask your volunteers to share their experiences. It also won’t hurt to hold Volunteer Appreciation events every so often. Let’s celebrate our volunteers, the heart and soul of our community!

Written in celebration of National Volunteer Week. To learn more, and for volunteer management resources, visit the Volunteer Canada website.

The Two Ways to Give Your Website a Boost

This article was originally posted on October 29, 2019 on The Letter M Marketing’s website.

Ever wonder why your website doesn’t get that many hits, despite all your hard work? Why aren’t you at the top of Google searches? It’s probably because of SEO – a strategy that is becoming increasingly crucial for every business to have. The world of digital marketing is always changing, and we have to keep up. To get you started, here’s a quick introduction to what SEO is, and why it’s so important.

What is search engine optimization (SEO)?

SEO is a strategy to help your website rank higher in organic search results in order to increase website traffic and leads. It’s a valuable way to build brand awareness. It is an active practice that involves various techniques to optimize internal and external aspects of the website. SEO influences the content on your website, as well its design and functionality. There are also off-site ways to boost SEO and build trust.

Why is SEO important?

When your customers search for your services or products, you want your website to be at the top of the search engine results page. This is because people generally click on the first few links that they see. The higher rank your site has, the more web traffic you will receive.

Google ranks search engine results based on how trustworthy, high quality, and relevant those websites are. It has created a vast index of all sites, which an automated bot “crawls” through to look for keywords indicating which websites are relevant to what was searched. If you haven’t taken SEO into consideration when building your website, Google will not be able to find your site or won’t believe it to be relevant.

What are paid online search advertisements?

Paid online advertisements are a way to ensure that your website can get to the top spot immediately. These can be targeted to very specific demographics and geography. There are display and text-only ads available through Google, as well as promoted posts and ads through social media networks.

Why might I need paid search ads?

It may take a long time (several months or even a few years) for your website to climb to the first page of Google search results as it builds credibility online. Paid ads are a great way to give your site an initial boost while you build your organic presence. They can also be effective for short-term promotions, seasonal products, and more.

 Search Engine Optimization (SEO)Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
Benefits-Lasts a long time
-Perceived as much more trustworthy than paid ads by Google AND by customers
-No continued ad costs
-Takes time to build – patience is key
-May require significant updates to existing website
-Requires strategic planning for all future content creation
Drawbacks-Quick to implement and see results
-ROI is easily obtained
-Customizable and targeted
-Continual cost and ad maintenance/refreshing
-Less trustworthy to customers and to Google

The best approach is often a mixture of both paid and organic tactics. Even if your organization has limited financial resources, a little time and care can go a long way to building your website traffic.