We live in a digital age. Everything, from socializing, to office work, to shopping is shifting to the online space. The advent of inexpensive (and fast) internet and smartphones has meant that now no matter where you go, you are always connected to the cloud. And, that invariably, you end up turning to this messianic network to satiate your every need.
Smart companies are busy embracing this very change. The workplace of the future is not one of a unified brick-and-mortar structure. Employees can now sit thousands of miles away and still collaborate successfully on a project. This is not just something I’m pulling out of thin air. Dave Coplin, Chief Envisioning Officer at Microsoft, postulates that if only more organizations embrace the immense power of the internet, they would be able to streamline their operations and ensure a happier and more productive workplace. You can listen to his amazing, thought-provoking and insightful talk in the video given below.
Personally, I have always been an advocate of the work from anywhere culture. Partly because of the time it saves me (which I can then spend on any one of my myriad other hobbies), and partly because it frees me up to travel the world.
What does one have to do with the other? Well frankly, the kind of location independence afforded by the advent of Skype has made it possible for anyone to interact with their colleagues no matter where they are. Like I pointed out earlier, not being restricted by a physical office means you can be just about anywhere in the world, and still get work done.
However, there is another facet of this digital revolution which has fascinated me even more. Honestly, it is something which seems to be staring you right in the face, but it is surprising how many people still fail to (or is it a refusal to?) connect the dots and use technology to their advantage. What is this facet I talk about? Well, it is the ability for just about anyone (yes, I mean anyone) to become an entrepreneur.
“But,” you contend, “entrepreneurship isn’t really for me. It takes time and money, and really, where’s the job security in entrepreneurship?”
I would have agreed with you if I myself didn’t know better. For the past many years, I have bet big on online entrepreneurship and reaped great rewards. Frustrated and sensing the endless possibilities afforded by the internet, I quit my regular 9-to-5 job and decided to start my own online business. As an added challenge, I left just about enough money in my savings account to last me one year. The very fact that I’m happier than ever right now bears testament to the fact that, when done well, online entrepreneurship can give you the freedom you deserve.
When you come to think of it, the market hasn’t ever been better for an online business. It is now possible to get your own website started for less than $50/year. And even if you don’t know a single word of coding, you can have your very own, professional-looking front-end, thanks to the power of content management systems like Drupal, WordPress and Joomla. Don’t like the plain vanilla look they offer? One Google search, and hey bingo! Thousands of themes and skins to choose from! Are you into e-commerce? No worries, mate! Payment gateways like PayPal and its ilk have you covered. Don’t have money to invest? That’s alright. Start a free website on Wix.com. Or, just start hawking your wares on Facebook.
My point is that in this day and age, there really is no excuse to not have your own business. You don’t even have to have the next big Facebook killer to be successful as an e-entrepreneur. I know of enough people selling junk jewelry (sourced from their local flea market) on Facebook/eBay/Etsy. And guess what? All of them seem to be doing really well for themselves. How well? Well enough to not have to work for anyone else to earn their living.
All that you really need to succeed online, in essence, is the will to actually take the plunge and just start something. It really is as easy as that. I’m sure even you have a killer interest you’ve always wanted to exploit. A love for movies perhaps? Or expertise in minting long-form articles your current job has no use for. Or, even an insane desire to turn every song you listen to into a minimalistic poster. Yep, I just gave you three solid ideas for online businesses. Yep, you don’t necessarily have to sell something to be an online entrepreneur. Even Google AdSense revenue from your movie blog counts. Or, commissioned works your Facebook and Behance design pages fetch you.
If you still aren’t really sold on the entire concept and ease of online entrepreneurship, maybe you should actually ask yourself whether you’re actually happy with your day job; whether it fulfils you. If you, like me, happen to be like the majority of the working population, chances are you aren’t really satisfied with what you’re doing.
Maybe, ok, it manages to pay your bills, but it’s either the rigidity of the corporate world, or a bad boss, or the endless commute to-and-fro, or even the nature of the work itself, which gets to you. And, I also know that much like the majority of the workforce today, you too have a secret desire to be your own boss and just do something for yourself. It’s all about the right day.
The right day, frankly, is on us. We are firmly in the middle of the small and medium enterprise revolution. The parity of opportunity between the big fish and the startup has never been greater. In the coming weeks, I will guide you through the various kinds of online businesses you can start and how to actually go about setting them up. Like me, you too can earn a good living running your own business.
Welcome to the age of the e-entrepreneur. Welcome to the best time in human history to start your own business and be your own boss in the true sense – the good and the bad.
How to Use User-Generated Content
For a business to remain relevant on the internet, especially if you are a small business, it must constantly create content. And, just any content won’t do. The content you create must resonate with the followers and engage them thoroughly.
This can be pretty tough to pull off consistently all by yourself. I speak from experience. No matter how good you are with content, no matter how much knowledge you possess about your niche, and no matter how driven you are – constantly coming up with ideas can be draining. Being consistent requires discipline along with creativity, and sometimes, creativity just wants to stay stagnant.
However, you can solve this problem by using social media followers to create content for you. Social media is full of precious information for businesses. It has become easy to directly connect with the customers and use data to make data-driven decisions. Let’s use what is available and look at eight simple ways how we can use the help of users to generate relevant content.
An easy way to make users create content for you is by using hashtags. For this, you need to first create a branded hashtag that gives off a strong vibe about your business.
So, for a gaming company, hashtags like #LetsPlay, #PickUpTheGamepad, or something similar will make sense. Plus, if you can ensure that the hashtag is related to some kind of cause, then all the better.
For example, a new government regulation might result in restricting the gaming industry. So, creating hashtags revolving around this topic will give you a better chance at attracting users and ensuring that lots of quality content is created.
Text content alone will not help you widen your reach on social media. You will need images, as well. And these, too, can be sourced from your followers. Ask them to send in photos of them using your product or service.
You can then select a few that look good and have a chance of being shared the most on social media to feature on your profile page. Ideally, photos should depict them enjoying or benefiting from the product.
So, if you provide online gaming service, then photos showing people smiling while gaming is far more preferable than people just holding a gamepad in their hands and taking a selfie.
When you post content on your social media profile, you will most likely generate a massive amount of comments from followers. And while most of these comments will often be one-liners with no substantial content, there will be a few comments that can be deeply impactful or thought-provoking.
So, when you see such comments, take a screenshot and post it on your social media page. You can also contact the user and ask them whether they wish to be tagged.
For example, you may post an article on how best to use your brand of nail polish. And among the many comments, the post will attract, you might come across one user who has narrated a story about how using the nail polish has helped her feel more attractive. These are the type of comments that you should screenshot and share.
You can also conduct a poll and use it to create excellent content. The best way to implement this is to conduct a poll wherein the participants are asked about your product or brand, and the results of which can be turned into an infographic.
For example, if you sell internet security software, then the poll can focus on questions like how many people feel that their computer has become safer after installing the software; how many think that your security software is better than the rivals; how many feel that the pricing is okay, and so on.
Once the poll ends, you can tabulate the results and get a good graphic designer to convert the statistics into an attractive infographic that has the potential to go viral.
Asking your followers some questions about the product or service is also a good way to create user-generated content. The question must focus on evoking a response that highlights how good your offering is.
So, a question like ‘How much weight have you lost by using our product’ should be used as compared to ‘Do you think diet is essential for weight-loss?’
The former will mostly evoke an answer that will reflect the quality of your product while the latter will only lead to a more generalized answer. You can then select the best answers and post them on your profile.
If your business is conducting an event that has the potential to attract the attention of the general public, then that, too, is an opportunity to generate user-created content. You can spread the news that a special event is being conducted, and invite people to attend.
When they do come to the place, encourage them to share their experience of it online. They may publish a text post about how the event was or may even live stream their experience on Facebook. Whatever way they choose, it will benefit you by getting your business more exposure.
Another excellent way to generate top-notch content is by inviting testimonials from users. Just ask customers to provide their experience with your product or service detailing how using it has changed their life for the better.
So, if your business manufactures shampoo, you can ask followers to send in their experience of how the shampoo helped them get rid of dandruff and made their hair lustrous and healthy.
The best thing about this is that you will easily get so many responses since many people will jump at the opportunity to see their story featured by a business.
Maybe you don’t have sufficient social media clout to create user-generated content successfully. So, what do you do? The best alternative for you is to use influencer marketing
Contact an influencer in your niche and use them as a tool to create content from the public. As a starting point, you can ask the influencer to use the hashtags discussed above so that your brand name gets sufficient exposure. You can then move on to using the influencer for collecting testimonials, conducting polls, asking questions, and so on.
However, do make sure that the influencer you associate with has a good reputation so that your business will be seen in a more positive light by the people.
Building a brand presence on social media can be a great deal because it has the potential to make more sales than direct marketing. Social media helps you make customers feel a connection and trust your business. They are more likely to convert into actual customers when they see how others have benefited and how well you understand your customers and care for them.
Use a combination of all the ways that I have talked about. Reaching people and then showing them how helpful your product or service can be to them has never been this easy. If you play your cards right, you might not even have to spend much on elaborate marketing.
Tools to Find and Work With Influencers to Market Your Business
For any business to grow, marketing its products and services to the right audience is necessary. One marketing channel that many businesses seem to avoid due to ignorance is influencer marketing.
“Influencer marketing is the modern word of mouth & is eating the lunch of traditional digital media in many ways.”
In simple words, with influencer marketing, you will be using popular people with a large following on social media and blogosphere to promote your product. The outcome can be tremendously positive. Today I will help you explore how you can find influencers in your business niche and how to negotiate with them.
“Influence marketing is an art and science. The art is the crafting and creating of content that adds value to people’s lives, personally or for their business. The science is the tactics and tools of building tribes and followers on the big social networks”
The first step for using influencer marketing is finding the top influencers in your business niche. For this, you can use any of the following tools –
This is a freemium application in that you can use certain features for free but will have to pay to use its full set of features. Even with its free mode, Buzzsumo is extremely useful for marketers to identify and categorize influencers into various types, like bloggers, reviewers, trainers, beauty experts, and so on.
This will later allow you to use them appropriately for business promotion activities. In addition, Buzzzsumo is also a great tool to know what types of content is trending for a particular day or week.
If you wish to focus largely on twitter influencers, then Tweetdeck is the perfect tool for the job. While you can certainly use this tool to identify influencers that have a large number of followers, its true usefulness lies in the fact that you can also see how many Twitter lists these influencers are on.
This will allow you to accurately gauge the popularity and impact of the influencer enabling you to avoid those who have the least impact and hire influencers with the biggest reach.
This is another great tool that will help you judge the quality of an influencer. The tool will use various metrics like replies, follows, mentions, etc. of the influencer to see how impactful they are. Finally, Kred will provide a rating based on the criteria that will make it much easier for you to find top quality influencers. If you are just starting out with influencer marketing, then Kred is the tool for you.
If you do not wish to waste time on research and finding influencers, then you should try the influencer marketing software – Group High. They maintain a centralized data of some of the biggest influencers on the internet. Plus, the influencers are categorized based on different niches like sports, travel, beauty, tech, and so on. This will make influencer marketing an extremely simple process.
Working With Influencers
Once you have found the important influencers in your niche, you can start approaching and negotiating with them. For this, the following tips will be useful:
The first option is to ask the influencer to review your offering. You can allow them to use the product or service for a few days and ask them to post their honest reviews about it on their social media page. Customers always conduct in-depth research about a product they are interested in.
“95% of people trust recommendations from others over branded content, even if they don’t know them personally.”
As such, if they come across a review from an influencer they are following, then an extremely positive review may push them to choose your product. Now, it is also possible that the reviewer may not like your product. As such, you can ask them not to post a bad review but do not ask them to post a false review. It is unethical and will eventually turn against you.
If you don’t want influencers to review your product, you can negotiate with them to publish a sponsored post. Though a sponsored post might seem like a review, there is a big difference. In a review, the influencer is free to say negative things about your product. But, in a sponsored post, you will be paying them to publish a post about your brand.
“People influence people. Nothing influences people more than a recommendation from a trusted friend. A trusted referral influences people more than the best broadcast message. A trusted referral is the Holy Grail of advertising.”
This will ensure that there is nothing excessively negative published about your product or service. However, you have to understand that some bloggers will likely state in the post that it is a ‘sponsored post’ if they are a strict follower of the FTC guidelines. But, do not let it stop you because the exposure gained through a post by an influencer marketer is well worth the money spent.
Another way to use an influencer is through giveaways. This can be a great strategy since a giveaway allows the influencer to hold a contest for their followers with your product or service as the prize. As a result, they are very likely to agree to such arrangements.
Plus, they will also be neutral when talking about the giveaway and only mention its benefits. So, as far as you are concerned, a giveaway is the perfect tactic to get a positive mention of your product from an influencer to their numerous followers. This is essentially a win-win for both parties.
Make sure to work with the influencer to come up with a great contest for the giveaway. It should be exciting for all participants. And remember, the objective of the giveaway is to ensure that many people participate in it. So, don’t complicate the contest. Keep it simple and you are guaranteed to see a fantastic response and exposure.
Many influencers will be contributors to big media outlets that will have a reach to millions of readers. And this is an opportunity you must fully explore. In addition to posting favorable posts on social media and personal blogs, you can ask the influencers whether they are willing to publish a post about your product or service on the website in which they are a contributor. Or you can ask them to let you write a guest post on their blog.
Now, do not have any expectations of how much exposure you will receive in such posts. After all, they are publishing to a third party website and will usually have to contribute a useful piece of content. The best they can possibly do is mention your product or service briefly. But, considering the exposure the article will provide your brand, this is a good marketing strategy that you must definitely try out.
In today’s times, social media is a life-changing tool for small businesses. The plethora of platforms available at our disposal to use – to benefit us and our businesses in ways that didn’t seem possible before – offers a huge opportunity to engage with a community of prospects at a fraction of the cost.
“Influencer marketing is something to pay attention to. We’re used to influencers being people like the Kardashians, but we all have our Kardashians at our events. These people are called micro-influencers and they can have a large impact when used strategically.”
Influencer marketing lets you tap in on a community of people who can be potential customers. The right influencer can allow you to gain many prospects. It is important to learn what works for the current times, and influencer marketing doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon so you might as well use the opportunity to the fullest.
Ways to Improve Marketing Results Using Data from Social Channels
Marketing is aimed at making a product or service look as desirable as possible so that people feel a need to buy and use it. While there are many tactics that can be used to boost marketing and increase sales, ‘social proof’ is one of the most underused tactics by many marketers.
And honestly, this is quite unfortunate since social proof can be used to create a huge positive impact on how the public perceives your product and service. Here are some simple methods of using social proof to improve the results of your marketing campaign.
One of the easiest ways to use social proof in marketing is to use statistics that display the standing of your business, product, or service.
For example, if you manufacture baby talcum powder, find out how many people buy them, its market share, how many people prefer it over other brands, and so on. You can then publish such statistics which will act as social proof that the product or service you offer is indeed of high-quality and in good demand.
When people see statistics like “2 in 3 mothers use our talcum powder for their kids” or “60% of first-time buyers prefer to buy our brand for the next time,” they tend to have a positive impression about the business. This makes the customers feel more comfortable because it sways them to think that they are making an informed decision.
Another simple tactic you can use to boost sales through social proof is by publishing testimonials. A testimonial is simply a statement from the users of your product or service on how they benefited from it, how the product or service produced much better results compared to those of other similar brands, and so on.
The effect such testimonials have on people is tremendous. People generally end up developing a favorable view of something that is viewed positively by numerous other people. And this will make them try out that specific product or service. This is also why influencers are becoming far more valuable to marketing.
Visual proof is one of the most potent tactics out there. Visuals can be such a strong social proof that the audience may even go out and buy the product being promoted solely on the basis of these pictures and videos.
For example, imagine that you conduct a weight loss workshop that guarantees a person will lose almost 20 kilos in just about 3 months. Now, you can publish a detailed text on how the regimen works, what results to expect, etc., but they will have far less impact than a few pictures that show the participants of the program before and after joining it. When the audience sees the visuals of people having lost belly fat, it will act as a strong reconfirmation in their minds that the program is worthy of their investment.
Visual cues are easier for people to remember and act upon. It makes sense to make the launch or advert of your product as visually appealing as possible so that people actually take time out to look at it.
There are also companies that use expert opinions in order to boost sales. This is also the use of social proof, which in this case are the opinions of a few respectable intellectuals from a particular field.
A business that sells anti-virus software can use the expert opinion of tech experts and professionals from the field of safety and security. Positive reviews about your software will let the audience know that what you offer is a completely secure anti-virus software that has been approved for purchase by some of the best people in the industry. This will obviously boost the sales figures for your product.
While expert opinions are good social proof, a much stronger source of social proof is consumer reviews. Expert opinions are about people who just test your product for a few days and state their observations. In contrast, consumer reviews are created by people who have already bought your product because of their interest it, used it and then stating their observations about it.
People generally tend to trust consumer reviews a lot more than expert opinions. This is mostly because of the understanding that such reviews are written by people who are just like them.
So, ensure that you get as many positive reviews about your product or service and publish them on websites and social media to show potential customers that you have a strong existing consumer base.
Yet another form of social proof is a survey. You can conduct surveys on subjects relating to your product or service and publish the positive results online.
For example, if you manufacture shampoo that guarantees to reduce hair fall and strengthening the strands of hair, you can set up an online poll on social media asking your followers as to how many of them experienced an improvement in their hair quality after using the product for three weeks.
Once the survey is finished and the results come out positive, you can publish it and let them know that a good majority of users have benefitted immensely from the hair shampoo.
The positive results from the live survey will surely influence the people who have not used your product to at least consider buying and trying it out.
In the social media space, there are people who are known as ‘influencers.’ These are basically people who have a large following and are therefore in a position to influence how their followers feel about something.
You can use such influencer marketing tactics to create a positive image of your business by enticing the influencers to post a few lines that say good things about you and your products. Using multiple influencers in multiple time periods is the best way to ensure that a constant stream of social proof about your product keeps appearing in social media.
Keep in mind, the influencers you choose to represent your product must have a strong base of followers that come within your ideal target consumer group.
This is one of the most expensive social proof tactics on the list. But this can also be the most impactful.
Big businesses always use celebrities to promote products and services. The status and positive image of the celebrity makes the product look trustworthy in the eyes of the audience. Your business can try out the simple tactic by hiring a popular celebrity if you can afford one.
Although, the influencer market is getting so big in the current space that you won’t be missing out on much if you can’t afford celebrity endorsement.
Social media has given businesses a valuable tool to understand their customer base and to tap into their target audience market. Approaching potential customers was never easier. To quote myself from when I wrote an article about making the most of social channels –
We have so many amazing channels available to us to reach out to the customers and making the best use of these channels to cultivate a loyal customer base directly correlates to the success of the business moving forward.
Understanding your customer base and attracting the right customer base is important to start a business and keep it running. Social media provides valuable feedback from real users and also helps you lead your target audience back to your products. It helps your business make a one-on-one connection that has a huge impact on the overall standing a brand has in the market.
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