Category Archives: Natalie Henley

The 7 Key Steps for Leveraging Social Media Marketing to Drive Real Results

By Natalie HenleyNatalie Henley

Investing in marketing campaigns can be a nerve-wracking decision for many small and medium sized businesses. CEOs and Marketing Directors know that when you have limited resources, you must be strategic with your budget, and every marketing investment has to pay off. This is why social media campaigns tend to be the first thing cut. Although free to setup, they take valuable staff resources to manage, and the ROI is not as apparent. While launching a social media campaign likely won’t bring leads and sales pouring in your door tomorrow, when you implement a few social media success strategies, you’ll find it much easier to drive a positive ROI with social that benefits your organization for years to come.

1. Reframe your outlook. Many businesses fail at social media because they think it means Facebook or Twitter. Social media is actually much more than that. Rather than putting labels on social media, think of it as a concept. Social media is actually about engaging with your audience in a broader way. Traditional media has always been one directional—you place an ad, the customer calls, and you have an offline private conversation. Social media is the first time where businesses can interact with their community in a public online forum. That openness and transparency is scary to many business owners, but it’s exactly what customers crave.

2. Start small. As you delve into social media, begin with the platforms that can make the biggest difference for you. Usually, this means starting with the three main platforms that can drive results and interaction: Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube. Depending on your business model, there may be others; however, if you are just getting started, this is a great set to begin with.

  • Facebook: Facebook has a high adoption rate and people of all ages spend time on this social media platform, thus giving you great exposure.
  • LinkedIn: While LinkedIn is not consumer-focused like Facebook, it can help with B2B sales, vendor connections, recruiting, and other business needs.
  • YouTube: Although a bigger investment than the others, consumers resonate with different types of content, and YouTube videos tend to pay off in the long term.

3. Don’t be boring. Guess what … your brand, services, mission statement, and corporate values are boring. Although they may represent you as a company, they don’t represent the human element and personality of your team. Social media is about not only building a community, but also engaging your customers. Doing that requires that you show some serious personality.

For example, if you’re located in a city that has an NFL football team, you can support the local team as part of your company’s personality. Or, if you’re a family-oriented company, you can post updates about your “Take Your Kids to Work Day” and include photos of the event. In essence, it’s about strategically deciding what your company’s culture or persona will be and then posting interesting content that relates to that. This means getting outside your comfort zone and talking about things that interest you as a company, not about your industry, products, and services.

4. Don’t over-invest. As you delve into social media, don’t rush out and hire a full-time person to manage it. Instead, start by looking around your company and finding someone (or a team of people) interested in the additional responsibility. Chances are you have someone personally involved in social media who would love to have this as part of their job description. As your social media presence grows and becomes successful, you can see the business case for growing the department.

5. Look beyond the “likes.” Judging a social media campaign solely by the size of your Facebook likes is a bit backwards. Although “likes” can be a good indicator of success, a new Facebook like won’t feed your sales team’s families. In order to measure a successful social campaign, here are a few of the major metrics that social media can influence, and that you can measure:

  • Reach, Likes, and Shares – This soft metrics of social lets you know you are keeping your audience engaged.
  • Social Referral Traffic and Goal Completions (Measured through Google Analytics) – You can figure out who is coming from social media and either buying something or filling in a lead form on your website (cha-ching!).
  • Social Media Leads – Yes, you can drive business leads from prospects straight on social media.
  • Increased Search Engine Rankings & New Inbound links – Having a presence on social media can have a huge effect on any other organic or SEO programs you are running. Social media can be a key component of driving search engine traffic to your website.
  • Increases in Branded Traffic (Measured by Google Analytics) – If you are keeping your audience engaged and getting prospects “warmed up” on social, you should see an increase of consumers searching for your brand in search engines.

6. Measure your results based on goals. Now that you know that results are more than just “likes,” decide how you are going to measure results before you start any social media activity, as well as the specific metrics you’ll use to determine success. Social media is just like any other marketing initiative, which means you have to answer some key questions, such as “Why are we doing this?” and “What are we hoping to get from it?”

Each business will have its own definition of social media success. For one business, a metric like sales or leads is vital. Other businesses focus more on market share. Decide before you start what’s important to you. For a free measurement tool, use Google Analytics. For standardized reports, consider using an out-of-the box report suite, such as Sprout Social or Raven Tools.

7. Commit to it. Too often, a small- or medium-sized business sets up a Facebook page, goes gung-ho with it for a few weeks, and then gets busy and forgets about it. That sends a negative message about the business. To avoid this scenario, start small with activity you can handle and stick with it. Post something daily, or at the very least weekly so your company can stay relevant.

Additionally, make sure what you’re doing looks professional by getting custom banners to match your website. If you are pinching pennies and don’t have a designer in-house for custom designs, you can get something that looks reasonable on sites like Fiverr, or something that looks very professional on sites like 99 Designs. Both are better than just “winging it”.

Go Social! Social media can be one of the best investments your company makes. The key is to be smart about it and to treat it like any other business activity. So if you’ve attempted social media in the past but let it go by the wayside, or if you haven’t embarked on this journey yet, now is the time to take the plunge and get on the social media platforms. By following these strategies, you’ll find social media to be a rewarding, enjoyable and profitable endeavor.

Natalie Henley is the Vice President of Client Services at Volume 9 Inc. Volume 9 creates custom search marketing campaigns for clients, including a mix of SEO, paid search management, social media, local search marketing and website development for over 100 clients and 200 managed websites. Natalie and Volume 9’s enterprising team leverage search marketing into real bottom line results for their clients’ businesses. They were recently honored by both the Inc. 5,000 and the Denver Business Journal as one of the fastest growing companies in Denver, and in the US.

Will Your New Website Design Pay Off?

By Natalie HenleyNatalie Henley

To a lot of CEOs, a website is bit like owning an older car: It’s given you a pretty good run for your money and it does what you need it to do. Sure, the mileage isn’t great – but is upgrading really a top priority?

As you are looking at your marketing strategy for the coming quarters and trying to decide whether it’s time to get a new site, or whether you can get another year or two out of your existing design, here is a website design formula to help you make your decision:

Standard numbers: For many businesses, it’s strongly recommend to consider having a website built on an open source Content Management System (CMS) – for example WordPress, Drupal, Joomla!, Dot Net Nuke, etc. These sites work well, are easy to scale and typically cost a lot less.

An average cost of this type of design is around $5,000-$15,000. You can use $10,000 as an “anticipated cost” of a website design project.

A word of caution: many companies “know a guy” that does website design out of his basement, or, have a cousin in college taking web design classes who is willing to design your website for a steal. Many of these projects go south quickly, so follow the golden rule– you get what you pay for.

Formula # 1 – Got Content Management? Is it easy to login and make changes and add pages to your website? If the answer is no, try to analyze the last years’ web changes. Most companies that want to actively gain Search Engine ranking should be making updates to their websites at least 2-4 times/month. Assuming 3 website changes happen in one month, taking 1 hour per change, and the typical website developer hourly cost is around $125:

  • 3 hours/month = $375
  • 1 year of web edits= $4,500
  • 3 years of web edits = $13,500

Looking at the numbers, it’s possible that not having your website on a Content Management System can cost you up to $13,500 over a 3 year period.

Formula # 2 – A Conversion Rate Your Mother Would Be Proud Of: This really comes down to a fundamental question – what actions do you want people to take on your website?

Your conversion rate is a simple calculation based on how many “hits” you are getting, and how many of those “hits” take action on your website. Simply put, a conversion is when someone takes the next step on your site – whether that’s filling in a form, signing up for your email program, buying something, etc.  Industry standard conversion rate for companies generating leads is usually right around 1% – for ecommerce websites, this is closer to 2-3%.

If you have no idea how many hits you are getting, or how many of those hits are taking action, call your web developer and make sure you have Google Analytics installed on your website, and that Google Analytics is tracking “goals” (which is also conversions). This program is free and will give you all of this information.

Out of every 100 people coming to your website, if you are driving leads, you should be getting at least 1 lead, and if you are selling products, you should be getting 2 sales. If you are quite a bit lower than these numbers, consider a good website design will easily take you to your 1% conversion. So, if you have a .5% conversion rate (which is where many older website designs are at), a new website design can easily double your leads (or sales).

What’s the value of that? Only your company can assign that value. You will need to sit down and determine whether doubling leads is enough to overcome a $10,000 investment.

Formula # 3 – Planning on Getting to the Top: The last big indicator of whether it’s time to overhaul your website would be whether you want your website to rank in Search Engines like Google or Bing, when your prospects are searching for your products and services. This is called Search Engine Optimization (SEO). If you want to get that great traffic to your website, you must have a good technical website.

As you start to think about the potential of SEO you should keep in mind that an average website with Search Engine Optimization should see traffic increases by 40% in one year. So, if you are getting 1,000 “hits” to your website each month, a 40% increase means an additional 4,800 hits/year. For lead generation companies, 1% is a good estimate of a conversion rate on a new site design, which is  48 leads off of your increase. Over 3 years, this will be 144 leads. Again, your company will have to make its own calculations of whether this makes financial sense.

Most importantly, for these kinds of results, just a website design won’t cut it. These results are more likely for companies who do an SEO and Content Marketing program after a new website is built. That being said, if your company wants to take on an SEO campaign, your website must meet technical best practices.

Set Goals: A website design project can be a huge undertaking for your organization, so it makes financial sense to really think through the ROI and potential before putting your team through this kind of project. Also, to ensure you maintain those ROI goals throughout the project, it’s important to be very clear with your web development firm regarding the results you are expecting from your website.

Natalie Henley has been in the Internet marketing industry for over 4 years and specializes in the Search Engine Optimization, Paid Search & Social Media Marketing fields. She is the Marketing Manager at Volume 9 Inc. Volume 9 creates custom search marketing campaigns for clients, including a mix of SEO, paid search management, social media, local search marketing and website development for over 100 clients and 200 managed websites. Natalie and Volume 9’s enterprising team leverage search marketing into real bottom line results for their clients’ businesses.  They were recently honored by both the Inc. 5,000 and the Denver Business Journal as one of the fastest growing companies in Denver, and in the US.