Around 2003, many businesses were built by buying pay-per-click (PPC) ads on the cheap. A similar opportunity exists today, but this time around, social media influencer marketing is the trendy strategy. It’s a strategy to which advertisers — including small businesses — are paying close attention. If the history of PPC is any indication, influencer marketing ad budgets — and prices — will continue to rise as more businesses pile on to what works. So it makes sense to get onto this trend early for your own advertising needs. In an introduction to the 2014 Influencer Marketing Benchmarks Report from Burst Media, the company explains : “On average marketers who implemented an Influencer Marketing program last year received $6.85 in earned media value for every $1 of paid media.” Facebook is an obvious channel for some of this influencer marketing. Facebook advertising has been considered a game-changer. But concern exists that Facebook ad prices have risen to levels which might limit the potential for large returns. And so the hand-wringing continues over which mix of channels and content-type can deliver the best ROI for influencer marketing. Sponsored Selfie Added to Influence Marketing Mix Influencer marketplace Tomoson is adding a new option to that mix in the form of so-called sponsored selfies. As the name implies, influencers creating sponsored selfies just post a photo of themselves using, wearing, or posing with an advertiser’s products. There’s an attempt to avoid the inconsistency in disclosure problematic in some influencer marketing campaigns too. Tomoson sponsored selfies are always marked with the #ad hashtag, along with #TomosonSelfie. Businesses have paid Tomoson members to create sponsored tweets, blog posts and videos. So selfies are merely the latest option being offered to the company’s advertisers. Why selfies? Selfies are arguably the fastest to create and they’re a normal part of life for millennials and Generation Z. In an email interview with Small Business Trends, Tomoson CEO Jeff Foster says simple product pics fall flat on Instagram. And when that happens, there’s abysmal social engagement — or none at all. Selfies, on the other hand, have a record of promoting engagement on the photo sharing platform. “We have influencers of all sizes, which is perfect for small businesses. Selfies drive real engagement and provide an excellent ROI.  If you have a budget of $500 to $1,000, that can go very far,” says Foster. His company expects to roll out sponsored selfies to other platforms, including Facebook and Twitter too. Not a Guarantee of Success A few caveats must be mentioned, of course. The success of an influencer marketing campaign will depend on the creativity of the influencers with whom you choose to work. For example, their ability to create engaging content is important. Images, ideally, should be strong enough to convey a message with one glance, in contrast to a blog post which has the advantage of many paragraphs to make a point. And even Tomoson admits the selfie method will work better for some products than for others. (It’s probably easier to promote a pair of sunglasses or a line of handbags than a new social network or CRM software.) Instagram selfies are also not a magic bullet for boosting sales. Like any other marketing effort, you’ll need to use analytics to determine effectiveness. But it is also a marketing strategy that must be committed to over time in order to see results. “Influencer marketing is not something you can just buy, like at the grocery store,” says Dennis Yu, CTO of BlitzMetrics . “It’s something you embrace fully,” Yu says in an email interview with Small Business Trends. Yu adds that marketing messages will still depend upon proper optimization and upon being targeted for an audience likely to convert. Selfie Image via Shutterstock This article, ” Is Influencer Marketing a Trendy or Smart Strategy? ” was first published on Small Business Trends

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Can business versatility be a bad thing? Well, if you’re talking about having an adaptable business that can evolve quickly to meet a changing market, the answer is probably no. But if your products or services are too general or poorly defined, your company’s business versatility could become a liability. As digital marketer Neil Patel explains : Let’s assume that you’re a graphic designer. If you want to become an authority in your industry, being a jack-of-all-graphics-designs won’t help you, and it might make potential clients less inclined to hire you.” Instead, Patel suggests working to “narrow your niche.” Target a specific part of a larger market. Be more specific about the products or services you specialize in. Patel adds: For example, you could upgrade your skills to become a WordPress theme designer, logo/website header designer, ebook cover designer, or corporate branding expert. Don’t try to target every potential client out there.” It’s easy to understand why picking more specific products or services can improve your odds of getting hired. It might even increase the amount of money customers or clients are willing to pay for your services. Think about what would happen if you were seeking out the services of a good attorney. You want advice on how to protect a trademark for your business. Wouldn’t you seek out an attorney with trademark experience instead of seeking out a general practice firm? Similarly, if you’re looking for a cover design for your latest ebook, you’ll want a graphic designer who may have designed hundreds of ebook covers before. You’ll pick that designer over someone who may have designed one or two in between other completely unrelated projects, won’t you? To narrow your niche, Patel suggests, among other things, that you first define your ideal client. For example, you may not want to market yourself to clients in need of, say, graphic design for album covers. This is especially the case if you have no experience or interest doing this kind of design. On the other hand, you may not want to define your niche too narrowly either. If there aren’t enough paying clients in need of ebook covers out there, consider adding WordPress design to your specialties, for example. Having the flexibility to adapt to change when necessary is great. But being all things to all people may leave clients wondering if you have the experience and expertise for the specific service they need. Versatility photo via Shutterstock This article, ” Can Business Versatility Hurt Profitability? ” was first published on Small Business Trends

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The coffee business is a fairly saturated market. You have your major chains like Starbucks as well as local shops and retailers in nearly every town in America. So there’s not a whole lot of room for newcomers in the industry. That means that those who are just now trying to break into the coffee business have to come up with something a bit different. That is what drove Eric Golman to start experimenting with some non-traditional ingredients. During his sophomore year of college, while also working as an intern in Washington D.C., he started mixing his coffee with different teas and superfoods, hoping that he could find a tastier and potentially healthier alternative to traditional coffee. It was a blend of coffee, matcha green tea, and raw chocolate cacao that became his favorite. He loved it so much that he introduced some friends to his creation. And together, they created Javazen . Aaron Wallach, chief executive and co-founder at Javazen,  told the Washington Post: “There aren’t many other companies blending coffee and tea. We differentiate ourselves with the addition of the superfoods. Our blends truly taste like a new combination. Consumers really enjoy it – it’s a different take on what a coffee can be.” Even though Golman’s idea of mixing coffee with teas and superfoods started out just for personal use, it was essential to forming a viable business. In some industries, choosing a niche is simply helpful for setting a business apart. But in more saturated industries, it is paramount. That’s not to say that creating a whole new product category is without its challenges. When customers aren’t familiar with a product, they can’t truly know if they want or need it. That means that Javazen is challenged with getting its products into the hands of consumers in a cost-effective way. Golman told the Washington Post: “Our challenge now is really getting our brand out there. We’ve created a new category within coffees and teas, and people don’t understand our product until they actually try it.” For now, the company is working on getting its products in front of influential people within the food and health industries. It is also working with stores, farmers’ markets and events coordinators to get its blends in front of the right consumers. And if those methods are successful, the unique product could just be the start of a whole new industry. Image: Javazen This article, ” Javazen — a Healthy Twist on the Saturated Coffee Market ” was first published on Small Business Trends

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There is no British Apple, Google or IBM. In fact, only one company on the FTSE 100 is a computer firm. The story of how that happened is more than a mere historical curiosity, but offers important lessons for how to foster technology and innovation. Continue reading →

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Perhaps I am just a cynic, but whenever I see a word such as “Fundamentals” in the title of a book, I immediate start to wonder if I am about to review a simplistic rehash of all that has been written before. Happily, “ Taking Your Brand from the Bench to the Playing Field: Social Media Fundamentals for Business ,” by Tracy Sestili ( @tracysestili ), is no such book. Rather, it is a well structured book containing invaluable information that anyone wanting to use social media for promotional purposes will be glad to have at hand, and to continue to use as a reference. Prior to running through the various social media platforms, Sestili explains the importance of determining your social media strategy and the difference between a social media strategy and a social media campaign. She writes: “Before you decide to jump into social media and create a profile on every hot social network of the moment, consider setting goals. Ask yourself, ‘What do I want to get out of using social media?’ or ‘What do I want to get out of this particular social network?’” As Sestili suggests, simply having a presence on each of the main platforms does not guarantee success. It is critical to understand who is your target audience and which of the platforms they usually frequent. For example the author tells how young African American women tend to like using Twitter and Pinterest, whereas mothers in the 25 to 45 age bracket are more often to be found on Facebook, Pinterest, and blogging. Again, she writes: “Jumping on every popular social network is not a strategy. Understanding where your audience hangs out, how they consume content, and how they share content will allow your message to be amplified by the right people: potential customers.” The author of “Taking Your Brand From the Bench to the Playing Field” talks about the setting of goals which are measurable, the selection of the correct keywords to enable your audience to find you, and the need to connect and build relationships with influencers in your specific industry. The following chapters go through each of the main social media platforms including LinkedIn, Facebook Pages, Twitter, Google+ pages, Pinterest, and YouTube. Sestili describes how to get the most out of the various platforms, and gives a detailed account on the lesser used functionality available on each of the platforms, providing hints and tips from her own personal use and experience. The information supplied in “Taking Your Brand From the Bench to the Playing Field” is high quality and has been written in a way that is easy to follow and apply to your own business circumstances. The topic of blogging is covered in quite some detail, and it is evident from what the author writes that she has a great understanding of what it takes to create an effective and engaging blog. From my own experience I have found that many businesses make the mistake of using their blog to promote themselves or their products. As the author correctly states: “Your blog should serve as a valuable resource for your readers, solving a problem or adding valuable insight to a topic that they can put into practice.” To complete the book, social analytics, managing social media, and the creation of media campaigns are also each given a chapter of their own. The need for analytics is well explained, as are the various tools which can be used to obtain the key metrics that anyone using social media should want to review. As Sestili points out, you need to find out if all your time and effort is paying off, and if there are any modifications needed to increase your ROI. I was particularly happy to note that the author, unlike many, did not gloss over the fact that: “Managing all of the different channels can be overwhelming. One thing many businesses struggle with is time, money, and resources, all of which are required to manage your social media presence well.” Conclusion I thoroughly enjoyed “Taking Your Brand From the Bench to the Playing Field,” and the inclusion of exercises at the end of each chapter should help the reader to create a viable social media campaign for his or her own business. The book has also been written in such a way that is can serve as a reference book to be used whenever you are in need of further ideas to freshen-up or plan a new marketing campaign. About the Author Tracy Sestili is the CEO of Social Strand Media which she launched in 2010 after having been the Director of Operations, Project Management and Business Intelligence at TiVo, Inc. for nearly 10 years. As a social media author, speaker and strategist, she has taught social media and branding courses at San Francisco State University, AcademyX, and HULT International Business School. This article, ” “Taking Your Brand From the Bench to the Playing Field” on Social Media ” was first published on Small Business Trends

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Based on our experience, we know that three key things must be in place for innovation to flourish. If innovation is to become the No. 1 strategy priority to drive growth and wealth creation, these three ingredients must be in place. Continue reading →

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Hop onto Twitter with Small Business Trends founder and CEO Anita Campbell and Smart Hustle publisher Ramon Ray for the Microsoft “How to Grow a Dynamic Business” Chat. This event will be taking place Thursday, May 28 from 12 noon to 1 p.m. PDT (3 p.m. to 4 p.m. EDT). Microsoft representatives and members of the Microsoft community will also be available. So join in for useful information and get answers to your questions on how to save money in your business through cloud and other technologies. And don’t forget, you can still enter for a chance to win one of two Samsung Digital Signage TVs being given away by Small Business Trends. Each Tuesday, from now until July 6, we will be posting questions on Twitter. Just tweet your answer each week to gain entries, be sure to include the hashtag #SSTVGiveaway. The more you tweet the more chances you have to win! To see a full list or to submit your own event, contest or award listing, visit the Small Business Events Calendar . Featured Events, Contests and Awards Twitter Chat: #MSFTBizTips “Grow a Dynamic Business” May 28, 2015, Online, Twitter Join us for the Microsoft “How to Grow a Dynamic Business” Chat from 12 noon to 1 p.m. PST (3 p.m. to 4 p.m. EDT) Thursday, May 28, 2015 on Twitter. Small Business Trends CEO Anita Campbell (@SmallBizTrends) and Smart Hustle publisher Ramon Ray @RamonRay serve as moderators of the event. You can participate in the conversation by using the hashtag #MSFTBizTips in your tweets. Microsoft representatives and members of the Microsoft community will be on hand to answer questions about the best ways to save money in your business through the cloud. VERISIGN’s #InternetOfficial Contest June 23, 2015, Online Five monthly finalists, 15 finalists in three months, will each receive $5,000 and an opportunity for a grand prize of $30,000. To enter, register a new descriptive, memorable, original .COM domain name – and that’s it, you’re entered for a chance to win. Want a Samsung Digital Signage TV for Your Business? We’re Giving 2 Away! July 6, 2015, Twitter, Online Is your business’s signage outdated? Is it only capable of telling part of the story about what you have to offer customers? Or maybe a bright eye-catching sign would better convey the products and services you have to offer, and increase sales. If so, your chance to change all that is NOW. Small Business Trends is giving away not one but TWO brand new Samsung SMART Signage TVs. Two lucky winners will soon be transforming their business signage! Moz Con July 13, 2015, Seattle, Washington Not your average stuffy networking event, MozCon features three days of forward-thinking, actionable sessions in SEO, social media, community building, content marketing, brand development, CRO, the mobile landscape, analytics, and more. MozCon speakers share advanced advice on everything from building a loyal community to making data-driven decisions in your marketing. BlogHer July 16, 2015, New York, New York A conference celebrating women who blog. The mission is to create opportunities for women in social media to gain community, education, exposure and economic empowerment. The event will be co-hosted along with SheKnows Media in New York City at the New York Hilton. Adobe Max Oct. 3, 2015, Los Angeles, California MAX provides strictly unplugged, old-school inspiration with a mix of people from creative leaders, designers, broadcast and video pros, tech and business strategists, photographers, and more. This shared energy and passion sparks new ideas, drives new partnerships, and breaks new ground every year. MAX attracts inspirational and iconic speakers that share their personal stories. GRAMMY-award winning band Kings of Leon will be there and you can connect with 5,000 other creatives at daily social events. Dreamforce Oct. 13, 2015, San Francisco, California Whether you’re a company of five or a Fortune 500, you’ll learn a lot of innovative ways to improve your business at Dreamforce. With over 1,400 sessions and thousands of live solutions from the world’s largest cloud ecosystem, Dreamforce has tailored content specific to your business size and type, for any role in your company. Global Small Business Forum Oct. 23, 2015, Chicago, Illinois The Global Small Business Forum 2015 held in Chicago will help entrepreneurs and small business owners export successfully and network with their peers. It will answer such questions as: What’s the best way to ship goods? How will I get paid? Do I need a license? Should I sell direct or indirect? Does my business have what it takes to sell in China? World Business Forum New York 2015 Nov. 12, 2015, New York, New York In 2015, the World Business Forum will present two days of powerful stories; of individuals who face shocks – both personal and organizational – and who use those shocks to achieve the extraordinary. Speakers include Sir Richard Branson, Jim Collins, a former faculty member at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, Walter Isaacson, once the 14th editor of TIME magazine in 1996 and named Chairman and CEO of CNN in 2001, Adam Grant, author of the New York Times bestseller Give and Take and Herminia Ibarra, Professor of Leadership and Learning and Professor of Organizational Behavior at INSEAD. More Events Code Conference May 26, 2015, Rancho Palos, California YOUR OWN BUSINESS ROUNDTABLE – 2015 May 26, 2015, Oak Brook, Illinois SMX Sydney May 27, 2015, Sydney, Australia The Federal False Claims Act: Becoming a Whistleblower May 27, 2015, Online Ultimate Networking Live at Sullivans Steakhouse May 27, 2015, Wilmington, Delaware The Future of Digital Health May 27, 2015, Online Bridal Business Blender – Agoura Hills May 27, 2015, Agoura Hills, California BlogPaws National Pet Blogger Educational Conference May 28, 2015, Nashville, Tennessee Business Plan Critique Clinic May 28, 2015, Chicago, Illinois CWE’s Kauffman FastTrac “Listening to Your Business” Workshop May 28, 2015, Worcester, Massachusetts FL Business Boost Conference May 28, 2015, Coral Springs, Florida 18th Annual International Business Luncheon May 28, 2015, Sacramento, California Bridal Business Blender – Anaheim May 28, 2015, Online Personality 101: Recognizing and Responding to Personality Disorders in College Students May 29, 2015, Online SunDown RunDown New Albany Business Pitch Event Series – May May 29, 2015, New Albany, Ohio ICG Real Estate 1-Day Expo May 2015 May 30, 2015, South San Francisco, California MM&C 2015 June 1, 2015, Washington, D.C. SMX Paris June 1, 2015, Paris, France PR News Digital PR Conference June 1, 2015, Miami Beach, Florida Founder Therapy @ The Living Room June 1, 2015, Online More Contests The Next Big SMB Marketing Makeover. June 1, 2015, Online Samuel Adams Brewing the American Dream Pitch Room Competition June 15, 2015, San Diego, California NASE Growth Grant Awards Dec. 10, 2015, Online This weekly listing of small business events, contests and awards is provided as a community service by Small Business Trends and SmallBizTechnology . Twitter events photo via Shutterstock This article, ” Check Out These Upcoming Opportunities on Twitter ” was first published on Small Business Trends

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The way businesses market to their customers is constantly changing, from use of new tools like Twitter and Foursquare to the need to cope with shorter customer attention spans. So, businesses need to constantly update their tactics in order to stay relevant. This week, members of the small business community shared some tips for continuing to adapt to changes in your industry. Read the full list of tips in this week’s community news and information roundup below. Skyrocket Your Twitter Marketing (TechWyse) If you use Twitter as part of your online marketing strategy, you might not be doing all that you can to leverage the platform. Sherman Standberry shares a few steps in this post aimed at helping businesses make the most of their Twitter marketing strategies. Market to Customers’ Short Attention Spans (DIY Marketers) Consumers these days don’t spend a lot of time learning about different businesses and their offerings. If you can’t catch their attention in the first few seconds, they’re likely to just move on. Here, Ivana Taylor talks about how to get and keep customers’ attention in the short amount of time you have. BizSugar members then discuss the post further. Take Geo Local Marketing Seriously (SmallBizDaily) Twitter and Foursquare recently announced a partnership that could impact the way local businesses market to nearby customers. Though many have already dismissed platforms like Foursquare in terms of marketing value, it might be time for small businesses to take another look. Nicole Laurrari discusses the potential of geo local marketing . Write the Ultimate Blog Post (Blogging Wizard) There’s so much that goes into creating a great blog post, from catchy headlines to SEO, and of course great content. Your goal should be to make every single post you write as great as it can be. And this blogging cheat sheet from Elna Cain might be able to help. You can see more input on the post in the BizSugar community. Focus on Solving Problems with Business Apps (Buzinga) Wanting your app to make a lot of money won’t magically make it so. In fact, creating an app just to bring in some extra cash is unlikely to lead to success. As Jason Coutsodimitropoulos points out here, successful apps are those that actually solve a problem or provide a useful service for people. Make the Most of Your Social Media Schedule (Social Media Slant) Running a successful social media campaign doesn’t have to be time consuming. In this post, Cendrine Marrouat explains how you can effectively run your social media campaigns in just an hour a day. The BizSugar community also shares some thoughts on the post. Get Your Customer Service in Gear (Yodle Insights) Providing good customer service can make a huge difference in your company’s bottom line. Those who have been in business for a long time can provide some valuable tips for newer businesses looking to improve service. This post by Angelica Diamond provides some of those tips. Consider Including a “Start Here” Page on Your Site (The SITS Girls) When a new reader gets to your blog for the first time, there’s a possibility that they could be confused or overwhelmed enough to simply click away. But if you have a “start here” page specifically designed for new readers , you could at least partially eliminate that problem. Laura Gelnett discusses the power of these pages along with some things you might include on them. Target Your Ideal Buyer (Riverbed Marketing) If your marketing efforts aren’t specifically tailored to your ideal customers, they’re not reaching their full potential. In order to tailor your marketing, you need to first determine who your ideal buyers are and how to reach them. Todd Mumford shares some tips for doing so. Make the Most of Your Business Travel (The Marketing Eggspert Blog) Traveling for business is often necessary if not always convenient. But you can use that travel as an opportunity to grow your business, as April Lisonbee discusses here. You can read more input about business travel in the BizSugar community. You can help make future community roundups even more effective in the future. Send content suggestions to sbtips@gmail.com or just submit your posts to the BizSugar community. Market your business   photo via Shutterstock This article, ” 10 Ways to Market Your Business in a Changing World ” was first published on Small Business Trends

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About eight years ago, I had a profound professional awakening. In a moment of clarity, I realized that the world was changing far more rapidly than I had ever imagined. I recognized that the traditionally staid world of market research would be turned upside down by a series of cultural and technological currents that would permanently change the landscape and future of an industry. Continue reading →

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Imagine being able to make a living combining your greatest passions and a great business opportunity. Thanks to sites like welovefine , artists are able to create fan-made, original pieces based on well known franchises, like Star Wars and start their own licensed merchandise business. Founded in 2009, the online community allows artists to create and share officially licensed merchandise “for fans, by fans.” While big names like Star Wars are typically off limits when it comes to selling for profit, this third-party site takes a small cut in exchange for the ability to share ‘licensed’ products with other fans around the world. One example is the ‘ I Am Chewie ’ hoodie, an homage to the beloved character, Chewbacca from the Star Wars films. The hoodie is now on pre-order on the site. Visitors can buy it now for $60 and it will be shipped out on June 1, 2015. Like everything on the site, the product is made by fans with the idea that this obsessive approach will result in a high quality, well made item. You can even order matching leggings , an ‘ I Am Hann ‘ T-shirt, and a Boba Fett hooded tank top to finish your look. Of course, Star Wars is not the only available franchise to choose from. Welovefine is filled with a virtual galaxy of different products created for and by fans. These include Marvel superheroes, Web-comic sweethearts, and items from Star Trek and other fan . Fans and artists, alike, can find and share some of the most unique and creative pieces and even make a living doing so. Hoodies and T-shirts are not the only things you can find on the site. Hardcore fans can find cosplay (a portmanteau for “costume play”) items like headbands and stuffed creatures of all shapes and sizes. Vinyl art prints, backpacks, lanyards and jewelry are also available, offering everything a fan could possibly desire. The site also holds design contests , encouraging members within its community to create new custom pieces in exchange for features on the front page. With popular franchises like My Little Pony, God of War, and even Bill and Ted availble, welovefine certainly keeps its selection fresh and, presumably, its members pleased. Even non-artists can take part by voting for their favorite designs in contests, rating them, and helping their favorite artists to continue creating officially licensed merch, right from home. Users can follow artists, create wish lists, view contests that others are participating in, and even showcase their own designs. This opens the doors for some of the most talented artists and creators out there. No longer do they need to worry about lawsuits from big companies if they want to sell a shirt or bag with a licensed character.  They can create fan art that is legal. Creators can use these third-party sites to actually make money creating fan art and clothing based on some of the most popular and memorable franchises. Images: welovefine This article, ” “I am Chewie” Hoodie: Fan Art, Created Legally ” was first published on Small Business Trends

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