Effective Social Media Advertising

Social media is perhaps the most vibrant facet of online advertising and promotion.  To professional marketers it is an opportunity to move messages and influence targeted market segments with extreme efficiency.  Here’s a few guidelines that seem to work for our clients at “R.”

Socialmedia

Hawaiian Accessories is a retailer of authentic Island gifts and jewelry.  They have a fledgling online operation that was doing alright, but nowhere near its potential.  We suggested that we build them an online community based on popular social media like Facebook.  Our strategy was two-fold: first, to build up our followers through page “likes,” allowing us to grow a fan base that we could communicate with regularly. Almost how you would use a proprietary email list.  The second was to push specific advertising messages onto our followers timelines (Facebook home pages) that then produced click-throughs to our transactional site.

We looked at Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest, but focused our efforts on Facebook for two reasons.  The Hawaiian Accessories product line appealed to an older demographic that had not yet bolted to Instagram, and continues to grow on Facebook.  Secondly, we were in a hurry to establish as large a base as possible by the retail Christmas season, and the advertising options with Facebook allowed us to get those results more rapidly.

Building an online community

Hawaiian Accessories was easy to get people to notice because their products are so visual, and don’t require much of an explanation.  We were able to attract a very high rate of “likes” by simply making an ad “button” featuring one of their signature items, a koa fishhook necklace.  This single item told people a lot about the nature of the entire line and they were either interested or they were not…right away.  Perfect bait for a spontaneous “like.” Our Facebook page had enough content to fill out the picture once they landed on it, and their strong retention rate seemed to indicate the more Hawaiian Accessories they saw the more they liked.  We also got considerable interaction with comments and questions flying around and robust viral sharing of our posts. Another aspect of Internet advertising is that your potential customer can be anywhere in the world.  Realistically, people knowledgable about Hawaiian culture were our best prospects, and there are also now large Polynesian enclaves in Las Vegas, San Diego and West Coast, not just Hawaii.  Facebook allows very precise targeting over all geographic and demographic profiles, so we could be very effective when testing new markets. With steady, albeit humble, monthly advertising budget we grew the base to over 3,000 in time for our Holiday blitz.

Subtle advertising strategies

Specific product advertising and promotions were part of our effort from the beginning, and became progressively more effective as our fan base grew. We ran some Mother’s Day specials and did promotions for other traditional retail gift-giving periods.  The ads were designed to be simple and bold (Facebook only allows 20% of the image on advertised posts to contain copy), and we usually featured only one product.  The image was linked directly to the transactional page on our e-commerce site, so that our customer was always one click away from our shopping cart while they were on Facebook.

Facebook2ecom

All online activities, including social media, are designed to move the customer ever closer to the transaction.

Talk about stimulating impulse buying.  This worked pretty well, and was easily tracked in terms of click-throughs and actual transactions.  The new Facebook ad option called “boosting” also proved effective.  The Facebook administrator is presented with a pull down menu directly on the post, that allows “boosting,” which is a mini ad buy were a set budget and targeting are selected right from within the pull-down menu.  Now it is Facebook that is shopping the impulse buy, but it works fine.  The performance of the ad is easily tracked and the decision to “boost again” after your initial budget has run out is usually pretty easy to make.

FacebookPostAd

One key to success with social media advertising is balance.  You don’t want to be overbearing or intrusive to the point that people consider you an unwelcome spammer.  They like your merchandise, but don’t want to be beat over the head everyday.  The pacing that seems to work was one post every other day, with an emphasis on a low-key editorial approach to the layout as opposed to a “hair-on-fire” screamer. You want to be welcome in their online social world, not an annoying distraction.

Like all social media the expense of the paid advertising component is minimal compared to the time expended by the social media administrator.  The effectiveness of these campaigns can be very impressive, if the social media manager is building the right visuals and messages and maintaining the “human” component within their cyber community.  By that I mean employing the basics of interaction so that the fans are responded to, their compliments acknowledged, their questions answered and their experience as personalized as possible. If you think in terms of rewarding them for being there…they will generally stay and be receptive.

Building successful relationship with your online customers can be very similar to bricks and mortar customer experience when it’s done right.  Social media can be one of the integral communication tools, and one of the most cost efficient,  in the customer acquisition and customer relationship phase of marketing.

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Instant E-Commerce Solutions

I remember getting a quote from an established Web developer back in 1998 for a no-frills e-commerce site that could hold my client’s 2,000 or so SKU’s.  They wanted $150,000, not an unreasonable amount at the time.

That was then and this is now.

Among the many cloud-based Web operations that offer great software, low-cost hosting, snap-in applications and interfaces that set the standard for usability is a turn-key e-commerce offering called Shopify.  They follow the general formula set by WordPress and sector leaders of providing low cost or free entry level access and a host of a la carte upgrades.  You can be up and running a fully functional online store with 100 SKU’s, for $29 a month, 2,500 for $59, and an unbelievable “unlimited” for a mere $179 a month. Shopify offers a host of well-designed templates, an easy user experience and payment gateway options that are easy to set up.  They even incorporate SEO prompts for your listings and a clever blog format baked into the format. The quality of the Shopify product has led to meteoric growth for its user base.  I’ve added Shopify to my palette of cloud solutions that provide cost-efficient solutions for my clients.

Even quick executions on Web assets require decent corporate identity.  Kailua Camera specializes in the new high-end compact digital products so SLR's and shutter iris symbols wouldn't work.

Even quick executions on Web assets require appropriate and professional corporate identity work. Kailua Camera specializes in the new high-end compact digital products so old SLR and shutter iris symbols wouldn’t work.

A recent project that R Strategic put together is KailuaCamera.com  They needed a transactional environment for specific Ricoh and Pentax products and needed it quickly.  No, doubt they would have fainted if given the 1998 price.  We built a Shopify solution within a couple of days, registered and  linked their URL and started an SEO program to get them on the map.

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R Strategic is currently developing a conventional advertising campaign for the visitor industry that has attracted attention from the Pentax/Ricoh factory and distributors.  The basics of good advertising don’t change regardless of the whether the delivery is via a printed tourist publication or a pop-up on your iPhone. You still need a strong headline, a viable concept, good product photography and a call to action. Our premise is that the average visitor arrives with outdated photographic equipment, or just realized their smart phone is not up to the task.  Kailua Camera can turn that potential regret into happy memories with the latest compact digital technology.

R Strategic designed a strong message to reach new visitors and even negotiated with a local courier service for same-day product delivery.

R Strategic designed a strong message to reach new visitors and even negotiated with a local courier service for same-day product delivery.

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Technology company re-brands with heart

Corporate identity depends heavily on people’s built-in perceptions of established cultural symbols.  These symbols communicate without words, often without even conscious contemplation.  They can communicate instantly and evoke a certain predictable response.  This was the approach used to create a new identity for TLC, a company that humanizes and simplifies technology installations for its clients.  Many people are overwhelmed by by the complexity of operating new technology and are frustrated trying to get, often mismatched, components to work together (how many remote controls do you have?)  TLC, the Technology Lifestyle Company, needed an identity that could communicate solving this puzzle with a positive outcome.  Wouldn’t you like to love your technological environment instead of fight it? That means integrating all of your high-tech electronics into one easy to manage system.  That includes creating a user-friendly interface for your pad or smart phone that integrates your entertainment, security, lighting and environmental controls.

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TLC logo designed by R Strategic in 2012

We started with established symbols for love and affection (an easy one…the heart), and married it to the de facto symbol for the contemporary power button.  This little symbol now adorns almost every modern electronic device and portrays: power, technology, command and contemporary.  We opted for green for several reasons, first, as recognition of the LEED recognized energy management aspects of the product, and secondly to lose the “medical” connotations of the red heart. Our finished solution now combines those attributes with the promise that you will love living with the technology solutions of TLC.  We suggested the slogan, “Technology you’ll love to live with.”

The goal of good brand graphics is to establish credibility and recognition for your company’s identity.  A symbol that is unique and easy to recall, but also one that intrinsically MEANS something to the viewer and communicates on many levels.  It must also have a simplicity that rejects faddish styles that will serve to date it and make it anachronistic before its time.  A visual truth striped down to its bare essence.

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Kenner marketing utilizes social media and cloud solutions

Mass emails announce new website and social media "stickiness."

R Strategic created a new corporate site with mobile apps and a targeted email campaign.

Kenner recently re-launched its venerable www.kenner-cable.com website as a new, blog-oriented corporate site. The new strategy calls for offsetting conventional advertising and marketing costs with contemporary social media activities and SEO strategies.  More professionals spend time online and interact with networks like linkedin and groupsite for project collaboration.  Even popular online networks like Facebook and Twitter have found a place to move real-time technology news and product information.

“By the time a printed trade publication touches on a new project or product, it’s already old news.” says Larry Kenner, CEO of Kenner Wire & Cable, Inc.  “We are dealing with a whole new generation of engineers who grew up on the Internet, and get all their news and information online.”

“We like to use cloud-based software solutions that are market-sector killers.” says Kenner marketing consultant, Keith Rollman, of R Strategic. “Companies like Constant Contact, Groupsite, WordPress, Shopify, Google and Facebook own their categories; and they aren’t going anywhere.”

By building social media marketing programs, e-commerce functionality and SEO strategies based on dominant operations, you can count on longevity in addition to innovative features, 100% up time, security, and most importantly, low introductory costs.  The capabilities that are being given away as lost-leaders, used to cost tens of thousands or more only a few years ago.

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How to get found on search engines

A good place to start with when evaluating search engine marketing (Yes, it’s SEM) is Google. Why? Because it owns 65% of the Internet audience, and 85% of all Internet users search the web before they buy something.

Sitting at the SEO pole position and nicely placed in PPC, Hilton is getting millions of dollars in business from the Google search engine.

Google offers two basic ways to get your site noticed: organic search results and paid listings. For example when you search Google for “waikiki hotels” you get a listing of sites that Google’s secret algorythm has deemed the most relevant suggestions. You also get, on the right column of the search engine results page (SERP), and also at the top and bottom,  a list of paid advertisers in the order of their willingness to bid highest for your click. The organic process can be influenced by a host of website tweaks collectively called search engine optimization (SEO); while bidding your way up the paid listing side is called pay-per-click (PPC).

The relative values of the organic lising vs the paid listing are pretty much established as about 5 to 1. In other words the ideal spot to find yourself is the number one listing on the organic search. Over 75% of people conducting a search will click on the number one organic listing. Most people trust the Google search process’s validity, and consequently discount the paid listings accordingly. That doesn’t make PPC a bad investment, but it certainly puts an emphasis on working your way up the natural listing. Being number one is ideal, being in the top five (top-of-the-fold) excellent, first page very good, and so it goes.

How the search engine pie was carved up in 2010

Getting a top organic listing requires substantial commitment and professional techniques and won’t happen overnight. Experts like ThinkBigSites.com in New York are worth the money, if you want big league results. Paid listings, while less efficient in terms of cost per click, can happen fast. You spend the money and you get immediate traffic. A combination of the two works well together especially at the beginning of a concerted SEM effort, where the paid listing can work while the SEO effort builds. Both are ongoing commitments that must be maintained, evaluated and adjusted over time…they’re not one-time efforts.

It goes without saying that building web traffic is only worth paying for if your site produces convertions, leads or sales that translate to new business. If your site is broken, or business operations faulty, adding more visitors will simply make the problem worse, waste your money and even damage your brand. R Strategic can help you evaluate your overall Internet marketing program and help identify weak links.

There is no question, however, that getting your site found can make the difference between a successful online business strategy or banishment to Internet limbo.

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What’s a QR code?

QR codes are optical reader codes, like an improved bar code.

QR codes were started in Japan, by a subsidiary of Toyota to track auto parts. Simply put, they are an improved version of optical reader bar codes, hence the Quick Response or QR designation.

No longer limited to the more prosaic business of inventory control QR codes are becoming a fad among digital communicators.

They are now commonly used for conveying vCard, or electronic business card, information.  In Japan and South Korea they are used extensively for mobile taging; which allows smart phones to suck up your vital information and send it to your contact files after scanning it with it’s built-in camera.

QR codes are found on the back of business cards, in ads and on posters…pretty much anywhere a potential contact would be tempted to “swipe it” with their phone.

QR’s come in a variety of densities of design that carry progressively more information.  For instance a version 1 QR code can convey about 10 to 25 characters, but can be scanned from a speeding car.  Version 40 can hold over 4,000 characters, but requires a more precise hand off, and possibly a dedicated QR scanner.

The creative applications for this optical to digital technology are boundless. They have already been used by artists to implant coded messages in everything from tile mosaics to waffles.  Micro versions convey manufacuring information more efficiently than mere serial numbers (this is important when your product is the size of a grain of rice.)

You can join the fun with a free QR code generator and download a reader for you phone here: http://qrcode.kaywa.com/

You can bet that I’ll have my QR code t-shirt ready for the next trade show.

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Good Design Is Timeless


A good example of an investment in design excellence that has paid off over the years is the iconic logo for Kapalua, the resort on Maui. It represented the metamorphosis of Maui Land and Pineapple Company’s agricultural enterprise into a new resort development venture. The most amazing thing about it is that it looks like it was designed yesterday.  But, it is over 30 years old.

This a very good example of how design fundamentals, exacting process, client rapport and intrinsic talent can create something special, and by all accounts…timeless.

Looking at this bug (literally) brings back a lot of personal memories for me.  I was on the design team at Bruce Hopper Design back in the early 70’s when this was originally conceived. I remember the impassioned arguments over letter spacing, wing shapes and color options. Try matching a specific vintage of Cabernet to a PMS color spec…it’s not easy.  Mostly I remember the professionalism of that shop and its creative driver, Bruce Hopper.  I consider that time in my life to be my apprenticeship and where I formed by core values on design that I have applied to every project since then.

When Web graphics first started they were the realm of code writers and developers; and had a very pedestrian look.  Graphics were along for the ride and corny animated giff’s were the pinnacle of “wow” factor.  Now, design is a driving force and the Website can be a truly visual and auditory experience.  The basic skills of well-trained professional designers, who were always in the visual communication business, are once again a critical component for connecting with your market on the Internet.  Here’s some of what a graphic design foundation brings to Web development:

Credibility

Most site visitors can decide within a few seconds if your company is professional, knowledgeable and competent by how it looks.  This has been the selling point of corporate identity for a hundred years and it applies to the Internet just as in any other visual presentation.

Colors Set the Mood

Designers know how colors and more precisely color-combinations affect the subconscious.  In Hawaii, they also know how color choices affect your target market and cultural demographics. Let the professionals pick your theme.

It’s Called a GRAPHIC User Interface for a Reason

Getting people to understand how to interact with a computer screen is a science.  But, it is an old science that graphic designers have been wrestling with for years.  The visual and non-verbal cues that tell people what they should do, and how they should navigate are not new to Internet development, but simply a modern application of international symbols, sign systems and non-verbal instructions that graphics professionals have been solving for years.

Pictures Are Worth a Thousand Words

And, although your Web crawler and search engines like words, people like images.  A beautiful photograph or a compelling infographic can hold the attention of the human brain faster and longer that all but the most profound words.

Make sure your Web designer has a thorough background in graphic design theory and target marketing, or he may have no idea what he is trying to accomplish for you.


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