Are you a small business owner without a budget for a graphic designer? These helpful tools will help you bring your visual A game into your digital and print branding, even if you don’t have Photoshop!
They say a picture is worth a thousand words; it may also be worth a thousand retweets. For small and mid-size businesses, a graphic designer isn’t always in the budget, which is why we’re in love with Canva – a free service where anyone can make branded cover photos, infographics, flyers, invitations, email marketing and images for posts.
Once you check out these statistics on how visual content drives social media engagement, you’ll be quick to put aside some time to master your own graphic design.
After you quickly create a free account, Canva offers you dimensions for most of your marketing needs – from email headers and Etsy banners to Facebook ads and menus. You can even design your wedding invitations using this free graphic design tool! If you don’t see the dimension you’re looking for (LinkedIn Company Page Banners are noticeably missing), you can click ‘use custom dimensions’ and start creating at any width or height.You’ll see an array of eye-catching templates on the left hand side, some of which are marked free, that you can choose from before you build up to creating your own designs from scratch. Along with paid templates that you have 24 hours to edit, you can also use Canva’s search bar to find affordable stock photography to use in your design. You can also upload your own images, branding and logos.
While the search function is very basic, try tacking the word ‘free’ onto your searches and see if you can find what you need. The library of images and graphics includes
- Grids – to pop photos into a collage quickly and efficiently
- Frames – these are growing everyday, and are like templates themselves
- Shapes – perfect for anything from infographs to valentine cards
- Lines – tons of different designs, though a little frustrating to resize
- Illustrations – graphics to add to any image
- Icons – from social media logos to lightening bolts
- Photos – a huge range of stock photography, mostly paid
- Charts – beautiful ways to turn your data visual
You’ll soon master transparency, line spacing, custom html color codes and more – especially if you go to Canva’s online Design School and make your way through their free graphic design tool tutorials!
So go forth and start designing, soon you’ll be volunteering to create flyers for tag sales, cover photos for Facebook events and baby shower invitations for friends and family, as well as rocking your business branding.
If you have questions about how your business can use visuals and infographics in your digital marketing and social media, contact us today!
By now you may have heard of Ello, the hottest new site trending in social media. Their slogan, “simple, beautiful & ad-free,” is both a sales pitch and a promise. What started as a private social network between friends and colleagues now has the online world scrutinizing its every move. While Ello will never be an advertising platform, there are many other social networks, which embrace advertising and grow larger everyday.
What makes it different: Path, in order to create a higher quality social network, limits the number of friends each user can have to 150. Users can update their stream by posting photos and tagging (or adding tags to) people, places and things. When they introduced a messaging service, they decided to maintain their dedication to privacy, and as such messages are deleted from their servers after 24 hours. You can also set an ‘ambient status’ to let friends know when you are in the area, in transit, low on battery, and more.
Business Savvy: It will be. Path is working on a Place Messaging service that ‘will enable Talk messaging between you and any local business. Make dinner reservations, book hair appointments, get prices, hours, and check in-store availability all without ever placing a phone call.’ There are other potential ways to use Path as a business. Any user can decide to make it a professional network with industry contacts and gossip. There is also an exclusivity aura to the whole platform – if a high-end brand can only have 150 top clients, surely they could use it for rare items or exclusive content.
WeChat, an app based social network, is the fastest growing social network in the world – with its primary markets in Asia Pacific. The network includes text messaging, broadcast messaging, walkie talkie messaging, moments photo sharing, friend radar, voice calling and video calling.
What makes it different: WeChat is often compared to WhatsApp, but what makes it different is its ability to do just about everything (in participating markets). It is a platform for gaming, banking and shopping on top of it’s messaging features – and boasts the ability to pay for vending machines or even book a dentist appointment. WeChat also targets a demographic that is happy to use multiple social media platforms for different groups of friends or purposes, and it does not aim to be the be all end all of social media platforms.
Business Savvy: While this app isn’t used to its full capabilities in North America yet, it has a promising future. It is definitely a network to keep an eye on. Their newly launched advertising platform in 2014 does not distribute ads through messaging, but rather at the bottom of business pages.
Whisper is an anonymous app where users confess their secrets via text over images. Users can respond to these whispers and receive messages either publicly or privately. Secrets can be found randomly or through geolocation.
What makes it different: Users love the anonymity and perceived scandal. Its most popular user base is college students, with micro-communities forming on different campuses.
Business Savvy: Initially, the app cost users $5.99 per month for users to upgrade to being able to send direct messages. Once Whisper opened this feature up to all users, they looked for other ways to monetize the network. The app now uses a keyword based advertising approach, targeting users through their search terms and keywords. Users enter the text of their confession, and then are offered images to use as a background. Advertisers can have their images suggested for secrets associated with specific search terms.
Think one of these platforms might be right for you business, but are unsure how to get it started? Contact Gibbons Digital Consultants today for an in-depth analysis of the future of your business.
This week is one that our Westchester NY social media team considers quite special, and we know many of you do as well. Every year since 1963, the President of the United States has issued a proclamation declaring National Small Business Week, which recognizes the millions of small businesses and entrepreneurs in our country.
Did you know that small businesses provide 55% of all new jobs in the U.S.? What about the fact that since 1990, as big business eliminated 4 million jobs, small businesses added 8 million? (The SBA). We’re proud to be a part of the driving force behind the enormous impact small businesses have on not only our country but our community as well.
In honor of National Small Business Week, the U.S. Small Business Administration is hosting a series of Google+ live hangouts featuring panels of industry experts sharing their best practices for small businesses in many areas. The live hangouts can also be found on YouTube, and as an added bonus viewers can live tweet to the expert panelists using #SBW2013 with questions and comments!
Our Westchester NY social media team “hung out” at Monday’s discussion of “Tips to Getting Started with Social Media as a Small Business Owner” had a great time picking the brains of social media experts from Constant Contact, Twitter, Google and more. In fact, we found this information so valuable that we wanted to share it!
Here are our top takeaways from the hangout:
• On e-mail marketing:
– Contrary to the beliefs of some people, email marketing is all about making connections, driving business and building relationships. Sound familiar? This is why email marketing and social media go hand-in-hand.
– Spread the word! If you’re on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, share this in your email blasts.
• On creating connections:
– People want to get to know you first and what you’re about or they won’t be interested. Before building your community, make sure your social media pages have all your information such as location, website, and products/services. Creating a few updates also helps potential followers know what type of content you’ll be giving them.
– Keep your content creative. Give your followers interesting content that they can’t find anywhere else and let your personality shine through!
– Hashtags are a wonderful way to make connections! Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest all use hashtags to categorize their content. Taking a few minutes each day to search for key words can open up the door to an unlimited number of untapped, potential customers!
• On measurement:
– Google Analytics will give you a thorough breakdown of where your traffic is coming from
– Using a simple “trial and error” method with different types of content to see which content receives the most engagement can help you zero in on what your audience wants to see from you.
Of course, these handy tips only skim the surface of the seemingly never-ending ways small businesses can use social media, which is why our Westchester social media team gives that “helping hand” to turn small businesses into social media superstars! We look forward to participating in the rest of this week’s hangouts and learning valuable tools for bettering small businesses. Happy #SBW2013!
It’s well known in the world of social media that the use of video is steadily growing and won’t be slowing down anytime soon. In fact, our Westchester NY social media team predicts that using video is going to be the “next big thing” for businesses and organizations to integrate into their social strategies. Think of this way: Rather than paying to create and air a TV commercial for a certain amount of time, you can instead create your own content to share information, give an inside look of your company and even show off products without sounding too “sales-y.”
If done correctly, YouTube can be a fantastic outlet for building brand awareness by connecting and conversing with customers (and potential customers) using interactive and compelling content. Here are a few of our favorite ways to grow your online presence using YouTube:
1. Keep it connected. You might have fantastic videos on your YouTube channel, but this won’t take you very far if no one knows about them. Spread the word! Adding a YouTube page app to your Facebook page allows your Facebook fans to watch your videos without even having to leave Facebook. Share your videos on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and blog with a call to action. Add the link to your channel to your email signature and website. The more you share your content, the higher the number of people to discover it will be. In addition, drive traffic to your website by adding the link to your video description and channel profile.
2. Engage. Spreading the word about your videos will certainly spark interest, but engaging with your audience will keep them interested. Monitor your channel and always respond to comments on your videos. In return, visit the channels of your audience members and comment on their videos. Building and maintaining relationships on social channels is one of the driving forces behind successfully growing your online presence.
3. Avoid Ads. A common misconception with YouTube is that it’s just one more way for companies to advertise themselves. While this is partially true, it’s important to understand that videos that simply highlight your business and its products are not popular on YouTube. Of course you can show off your products once in a while in an engaging way, but keep in mind the videos with the most popularity are those that are entertaining, informative and educational. Let’s say you own a bakery. Rather than telling your audience to buy your cookies, why not create a step-by-step tutorial on how to make the perfect chocolate chip cookie? How about giving your audience an inside look at how you decorate the perfect wedding cake? Put yourself in the shoes of your audience and think about what you would want to see from your favorite business.
YouTube is one social platform that’s here to say, and with video becoming more popular than ever, taking the time to add YouTube to your social strategy is one of the best steps you can take to “socializing” your business and growing your presence online. Is your business a rockstar on YouTube? Share your success stories with us!
With millions of businesses using social media to engage and interact with their customers, it’s no surprise that customer service is being conducted “socially” too. In fact, social media has transformed customer service strategies in businesses great and small with no signs of slowing down.
While the days of long waits on the phone are not quite over, they are slowing down. After some serious brainstorming, our Westchester social media team decided these are the key indicators that social media has given customer service a makeover:
1. It’s quicker. Let’s say one of your company’s products has just been recalled. What’s the quickest way for you to get this message out? Social media. Of course alerting the media will help get the message out, but your message won’t get out RIGHT NOW! The beauty of social media is that all the information you share on it comes out in real time.
2. It’s a two-way path. Let’s say you announce your product recall on your social media channels like Facebook and Twitter and you’re now on the receiving end of customer questions, concerns and complaints. You can respond to each of these in a timely manner and your customers will be thrilled that you’re taking the time to do so. It’s likely that many customers will have the same issues, so these responses will also help more than one customer at a time.
3. You can listen in. Finding out what your customers want is the key to the success of any business, and using social media to do this can make this even easier. Applications like SocialMention, Facebook Analytics and even conducting a simple Twitter search with your keywords can help you discover what your customers want and how to present it to them.
Using social media for customer service has literally transformed the way companies across the globe conduct business. Social media has opened doors that did not even exist a decade ago and has not only helped businesses unlock their growth potential but has given customers a way to see businesses as people, not just a nameless organization. This communication has built long-lasting relationships between businesses and their customers, and we predict that we will only see more of this form of customer service in the future.
Exciting news in the social media world! Social Media Examiner, a popular blog helping people navigate the “how-to’s” of all things social media, has announced the winners of their annual Social Media Blogger Awards, given to the best of the best in social media blogging. Whether you’re looking to learn more about social media or just looking for a great read, here are a few of the top blogs worth checking out:
1. Heidi Cohen. Known as the “Actionable Marketing Expert,” Heidi’s blog offers practical tips, expert insight, and easy-to-understand advice for readers to apply to their marketing.
2. Stanford is Pushing Social. As a seasoned social media marketing professional, Stan Smith offers his best practices for all things blogging.
3. Jeff Bullas. Social Media Consultant Jeff Bullas knows the who’s, what’s, when’s, and where’s of all things social media. His blog features tips and tricks for businesses using social media to “getting found” online.
4. Social Fresh. Social Fresh, a social media training agency for businesses, provides readers with everyday hints for bettering their business’ social media presence. Created by Jason Keath, the Social Fresh blog is contributed to by a community of authors.
Social media is one area that isn’t slowing down, which is why it’s a great idea for businesses to keep up with the happenings of the social media world and the tried-and-true advice from renowned social media experts like these bloggers. Do you have a favorite social media blog? Let us know!
The New Year is quickly approaching, and social media continues to grow and change at a pace that is full steam ahead with no slowing down. Trends in social media come and go, but staying on top of hot topics in the social media world is a great way for your business to stay “socialized” and in the know. Here are our top 3 picks for social media trends in 2013:
1. Social Shopping. Shopping at online retail stores doesn’t seem to be enough anymore. Using social media to do online shopping is on the rise, thanks to sites like Pinterest. Not only are shoppers able to click on items and be sent directly to their purchase page, but browsing through images of products makes them more inclined to making purchases they may not have ever thought of. Social media is transforming online shopping into a hobby rather than a necessity.
2. Facebook Gifts. Facebook’s latest “Gift” app allows users to send real gifts in a matter of minutes. Did you forget your friend’s birthday until seeing it on Facebook? No problem. Simply go to their wall, click “Gift,” and you will be prompted with choices of gifts to send to them. If you don’t like what you see, you can search for your own, and your friend will be notified and asked for their address for shipping. Sending gifts has never been easier.
3. Social Advertising. Advertising is being smoothly integrated into social media so much so that we often don’t even realize we are looking at an advertisement, thanks to social media features such as Facebook’s Sponsored Stories and Twitter’s Promoted Tweets. This allows advertisers to reach a larger audience in a shorter period of time. Rather than being bombarded with advertisements, social media users are presented with them in a more “gentle” and indirect way.
This is our forecast for booming social media trends in the next year, and what we recommend you (and your business) keep in mind when planning your social media strategies for the upcoming New Year. Do you see any other trends in the social media world? We want to know!
With the holiday season in full swing and gift giving on the brain, there’s no question that any ways to save money on holiday shopping would be welcomed with open arms. Once again, social media comes to the rescue during this hectic time of year to help you find the perfect holiday gifts that won’t break your bank. If you’re a business owner, take notes. These tips might just inspire you to help your own customers save money at your store.
- All it Takes is a “Like.” Take a few minutes to “Like” your favorite retailers’ Facebook pages and follow their Twitter handles. Many retailers will provide exclusive coupons to new customers who simply “Like” their Facebook page. Keep your eyes peeled, too. The holiday season is prime time for retailers to release coupons only to customers who follow their social media accounts.
- Check-Ins. There are plenty of retailers who offer discounts to customers who check-in to their stores using the FourSquare app. For example, some businesses will offer a 20% discount for “newbies” (new customers) for their first check-in.
- Interact. Retailers want to drive interactions on their social media sites, and shoppers want discounts. It’s a win-win situation. Be on the lookout for special offers from companies for sharing their content. For example, a company might post a picture of one of their products on Facebook and ask you to “Like” it to receive a free in-store gift or discount by showing the “Like” at the register.
Simply taking a few minutes out of each day to browse your favorite retailers’ social media accounts for deals and discounts is all it takes. With just the click of a button, social media allows retailers to bring in more customers and build brand awareness, while shoppers can enjoy what could be a newly-found favorite store- and, of course, some discounts on their holiday gift-giving along the way.
If your business is active on social media, congratulations! You have taken the first steps to “socializing” yourself in the ever-expanding communities that exist online. However, the journey doesn’t end at simply having a few profiles on sites like Facebook and Twitter. The most successful businesses and organizations on social media are determined not just by their social media presence, but by the communities that have developed and grown (and continue to grow)! around them. Here are some tips to developing and managing your own social media community:
- Be a Brand Storyteller. Did your happy customer mention you on Twitter or post a photo with your product on Instagram? Share it with the world! Your customers are the backbone of your business. Show them you appreciate their loyalty by sharing their “story” with your brand.
- Keep Your Content Fresh. While there is no “magic number” for how many times you should create new content on your social media pages, it’s all about what works best for your business. Didn’t have time to post 10 Tweets a day? Try 5. Did you find one Facebook update a week simply wasn’t enough? Try 3. Find that “happy medium” and stick with the schedule. New content for consumers to interact with means more brand awareness for your business.
- Communication is Key. Did a customer ask a question under your latest blog post? Did someone post a less-than-stellar review of your product on your company’s Facebook page? The quicker you respond, the more you are demonstrating that customer service is your number one priority. In addition, this helps build the trust of not only this customer, but everyone else who sees the interaction.
- Make it Memorable. Creating a unique experience for your customers will keep them coming back for more. Be creative! Some ideas you might want to consider are offering exclusive coupons, showcasing a “Fan of the Week” on Facebook, and posting a funny photo on Instagram and offering a prize for the most creative caption. Make it fun!
- Keep it Original. While it’s perfectly OK to look to other brands for inspiration (in fact, we highly recommend it)! Keep in mind that you want to set yourself apart from everyone else by creating your own original content. Don’t know where to start? Post your own review of a product or website. Interview the founder of your company and post it on YouTube. Comment on other bloggers’ posts in your industry with meaningful and thought-provoking input. Keeping it original and interesting keeps your audience wondering what’s next.
The beauty of managing a social community is that there is no set of rules to follow. Determine what works for you and your business and make changes accordingly. Successful social communities are not created overnight, but patience, persistence, and interaction will all eventually contribute to creating a tight-knit social “family” surrounding your business.
Last week, we discussed the big breakup of Twitter and LinkedIn and the fact that LinkedIn is ahead of Twitter in terms of interaction with content being posted. Being the curious social media junkies we are, we decided to look further into the matter and concluded that Twitter got themselves into a sticky situation by parting ways with LinkedIn.
Since more people are posting, sharing, and discussing content on LinkedIn, that means Twitter is actually losing out on these interactions. Their decision to remove the convenience of posting directly from Twitter to LinkedIn meant they also decided to give audiences the choice of whether to share their content onto either one site or the other.
Since your LinkedIn network consists of working professionals you have likely communicated and perhaps done business with, it only makes sense that content posted to this site is much more valuable than content posted to Twitter, which hosts a speedy newsfeed that easily allows content to be lost in the shuffle.
Although we doubt Twitter thought they would suffer from the breakup, we bet they’re wishing they could reconcile with LinkedIn. There is no going back now, and LinkedIn is certainly reaping the rewards. The moral of this story is if you’re looking for the best of the best content in your industry, LinkedIn is the place to go.