Focusing Your Social Media Marketing Part II – Facebook

6.1.5_Focus-Your-Social-Medi---Facebook-_1In this continuing series on focusing your social media marketing efforts (see our previous post on LinkedIn here), we’re taking a look at the demographics driving each of the major social media and offering tips for making the most of them. Today we’re examining Facebook.

Facebook is essentially the parent of all social media and it remains the boss, with 71 percent of online American adults and 58 percent of the entire adult population sharing content on its pages. In March 2015, the platform claimed 936 million daily active users and 1.44 billion monthly active users worldwide, the vast majority of whom shared content via mobile devices. The site also boasts 40 million active small business pages.

Who’s Sharing on Facebook?

Facebook use is growing rapidly among users over 65, with more than half using the network today, according to a survey conducted by Pew Research Center. Facebook is also popular among women, with 77 percent of women using the site compared to 66 percent of men.

Facebook remains most popular with users aged 18-29, 87 percent of whom are on the network. Users aged 30-49 are the second biggest users at 73 percent, followed by users over 65 at 56 percent. Users aged 50-64 are the least active on Facebook, but even among that group, the network has a very respectable usage rate of 63 percent.

These demographics reveal Facebook’s popularity among users in the prime parenting and grandparenting years, and Facebook is arguably the most familial of all of the social media. It is the network where users are most likely to be connected with family members, distant and close, in addition to other contacts.

Users are spread almost evenly across income and education levels, making Facebook one of the more democratic social media. It is also relatively evenly split among urban, suburban and rural users. Users average 155 “friends” on Facebook, Pew reports, of whom they count approximately 50 as real friends. Friends encompass a very broad range of contacts, from neighbors and parents to colleagues, former schoolmates, special interest communities and businesses.

Facebook is also universal geographically: more than 82 percent of users are outside the U.S. and Canada.

What Facebook Does Best

Clearly, Facebook remains a social media powerhouse. If you can only afford the time and resources to manage one social media, Facebook is the place to start. It continues to have an unparalleled reach among users of all ages, and this is likely to continue for some time because of the position it enjoys and the features it offers. It serves as a sort of home base for many people, the page where you can curate your life in a way that isn’t possible with platforms like Instagram and Snapchat.

How to Take Advantage of Facebook

Because of its demographics, Facebook is an excellent medium for sharing family-friendly content, including messages about saving money and finding affordable travel and entertainment. But Facebook has such a broad reach that it is hardly limited by those strengths. It remains a valuable place to build an online presence or community of any sort, whether it’s a political group, a business or a consumer brand. Facebook is an excellent place to:

• Share links to company blogs and other news.
• Announce job openings, job fairs and other recruiting efforts.
• Engage customers in contests.
• Share product information, coupons and special offers.
• Solicit feedback and provide customers with an open forum for comments.
• Share videos, interviews and other rich media content.

Facebook: It’s Everywhere

Facebook is social media’s melting pot. Just about any content can get useful traction there so long as it is appropriate, upbeat and inclusive. As such, Facebook should be the foundation of any social media campaign.

Next time, we’ll take a look at the social media butterfly, Twitter.

If you could use some help focusing your social media planning, talk to us today. We’ll help you create an online presence that gets the response you’re looking for.

Learn More >

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Email Marketing And CAN-SPAM Compliance

CAN-SPAMThis December will mark the twelfth anniversary of the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act of 2003.  Better known to most as the CAN-SPAM act and signed into law by President George W. Bush on December 16 of 2003, it is one of the more misunderstood regulations under which we marketers conduct our business.  Let’s take a look at some of those misunderstandings about who and what are affected by CAN-SPAM, and show you how to be sure your email marketing campaign is in compliance.

Clearing Up Some Misunderstandings

Misunderstanding:  CAN-SPAM is after those big bulk-email sending marketing houses. I’m one person sending out emails manually, so it doesn’t pertain to me.

Clarification: The CAN-SPAM act was originally created in response to public outrage over the amount of junk mail clogging their inboxes.  In an effort to stem the tide of these annoying intrusions, the act leveled its aim at commercial email, defined in the bill as “any electronic mail message the primary purpose of which is the commercial advertisement or promotion of a commercial product or service (including content on an Internet website operated for a commercial purpose).”  That casts a pretty wide net that not only includes bulk-email blasts sent out by large marketing houses, but technically also includes the email you send to your co-workers promoting your child’s charity sub sale.  No differentiation is made based on size of the entity sending the emails or amount of emails sent.

Misunderstanding: CAN-SPAM makes unsolicited emails illegal.

Clarification: There is no language anywhere in the CAN-SPAM act that explicitly forbids sending unsolicited emails.  What CAN-SPAM does do it make it much easier to identify marketing emails for what they are.  You can, in theory, be completely in compliance with CAN-SPAM and still be sending thousands of unwanted emails to people who never asked for them.  A side-effect of CAN-SPAM has been a shift in email marketing “etiquette,” whereby most marketers take great pains to ensure they are sending their emails to a list of folks who have “opted in” or made it clear they are willing to accept such emails, but surprisingly that is not something that is dictated by CAN-SPAM.

Misunderstanding:  Being CAN-SPAM compliant guarantees my emails will be delivered to the people I send them to, and not stopped by spam filters.

Clarification:  Being CAN-SPAM compliant only guarantees that you will not be penalized for violation of the CAN-SPAM act.  Nowadays, nearly all email clients employ some sort of spam filter; some are fairly lax while others are so strict they will only allow email through if the sender’s address is on the recipient’s trusted contact list.  Beyond that, many email systems also allow the user to choose to report a specific email as spam with the click of a button.  If you want your emails to be delivered, you need to deliver a message that people want to hear in a way they want to receive it.

Misunderstanding: If I hire a third-party company to send my email blast, they are responsible for seeing to all of the compliance.

Clarification: Whether you send the emails yourself or hire a vendor to do it, you as the originator of the email are the responsible party.  It is wise to be sure you are dealing with a reputable company, or you could find yourself in hot water without realizing it.

What If I’m Not CAN-SPAM Compliant?

While there are many critics who complain that CAN-SPAM is a relatively toothless beast, it does clearly lay out some regulations as to what information a commercial email piece must contain and the mechanics by which it is sent.  Failing to comply with those regulations can result in fines of up to $300 per email, which can add up pretty fast: the largest settlement to date occurred in 2006 and totaled $900,000! Jail time is also possible under the act, and sentences of five years or more have been handed out since the act became law.

What Must I Do to Comply?

To be in compliance with the CAN-SPAM act, a commercial email piece must contain the following pieces of information:

  • A clearly indicated method of unsubscribing from future emails (such requests must be met within ten business days).
  • An accurate “From” field.
  • A non-deceptive subject line.
  • The proper physical address or PO Box for the business whose products or services are being marketed.
  • Clear labelling if the content of the email is adult in nature.

Further, these standards describe the mechanics of sending a compliant email:

  • Email may not be sent through an open relay which allows anyone with Internet access the ability to send mail.
  • Email may not contain false information in the header in an attempt to obscure or hide the sender.
  • Content must contain a minimum of one sentence.

Again, you’ll notice that none of these standards address permission from the recipient beyond an unsubscribe option.  Still, it is strongly recommended to only use lists where the recipients have given permission to be sent marketing emails, or you limit your email marketing to existing customers or prospects who have inquired about your products or services within the past 90 days (this is often referred to as an “existing business relationship,” and is an exemption from CAN-SPAM).

If you’re planning an email marketing campaign and want to be sure you’re in compliance with CAN-SPAM, start a conversation with the experts here at Synapse.  We’ll help you craft a vibrant, attention-grabbing campaign that falls well within CAN-SPAM standards.

See a few of our successful email campaigns >

Get a quote on an new email campaign >

 

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17 Website Design Features Users Hate Most

17 Website Design Features Users HateSome websites treat visitors badly, either by neglecting their needs or throwing unnecessary obstacles in their way. Considering how hard it is to attract a qualified lead to your virtual doorstep, inviting them in only to give them a bad user experience is a mistake no business can afford to make.

The following are the top 17 website features that most frustrate users today along with solutions for eliminating them.

1. Popups that scurry around like cockroaches

Popups that block, flash, crawl, or otherwise dog your user until they give up in frustration are mean-spirited. Popups that don’t readily go away with a single click are abusive.

Solution: All popups disrupt the user’s flow, and if you’re going to do that, you need to do it right and for the right reasons. A single popup that drops in on your visitor at a key moment can be effective so long as it (a.) offers something useful to the user and (b.) requests a quick, easy response. This can be especially effective when users click to leave the site, since they’re on their way out anyway.

2. Captchas

Oh, captchas. Boy, do users hate them. And the most heinous of all are ones that wipe out an entire 22-field form or a paragraph of user comments every time the user enters the wrong characters. You’d better be offering something really, really great if you’re going to do that to someone.

Solution: Use only when necessary, and there’s no need to nuke the user’s work every time you deliver a new captcha, is there?

3. Forms that don’t autopopulate

Sometimes there’s a good reason to disable autofill. But if there’s no reason, why not let the browser do the work? Any hurdle you throw in the user’s way is an invitation to abandon ship.

Solution: Let the machines do their work. They exist to serve.

4. Treasure hunt web design

Website designs that don’t make it clear what elements are “live” and clickable and which are static, forcing the user to go around poking things to see what they do, are bad form.

Solution: Use design clues like hover states to clearly show the user when an element is clickable.

5. Lack of feedback

When forms just disappear when submitted, the user has no way of knowing whether the submission went through. Sometimes users will even resubmit. That’s a shame, because you’ve just answered a conversion by giving the user extra work and uncertainty.

Solution: Thoughtful web design offers a quick thank you to users for every submission.

6. Bad navigation

If your site visitors are using the browser bar to back out of pages, your navigation is failing them.

Solution: Good website design provides easy navigation through well-structured menus, bread crumbs and other user-friendly features that allow users to move through the site like an expert on the first try.

7. UFOs

Flyaway menus, dropdown menus and hover states that look cool but elude clicking, forcing the user into agility games with the mouse, are effective at deterring clicks. And you don’t want that.

Solution: Moving parts can be very effective and enhance user experience when properly designed. Elements should be easy to identify, hover and click through.

8. Enough about me . . .

Sites that don’t feature an About page with basic identifying information are frustrating to readers who are just trying to determine who you are and what you do.

Solution: Every website should feature a basic 1-3 line description of what you do in layman’s terms, even if everyone you know already knows that.

9. Don’t call us . . .

No, really, don’t call us. It’s hard to believe, but some websites don’t offer basic contact information, or bury it so deeply that the user has to work to find it.

Solution: Every site should have some means of making contact, preferably including an email address and telephone number with hours of availability. If you have an office or store, your days and hours of operation should be prominently featured on your site.

10. Sliders built for speed

Sliders that blow past before the user can read their content are just confusing. It’s even worse when there’s no user control to allow stopping or browsing through the sliders.

Solution: Slide shows should be paced to allow users to comfortably read the entire slide. Sliders should also feature user-friendly navigation devices to let the user control the show.

11. Illegible content

Content that is too light or too small for reading without enlarging the screen tells the reader “Don’t bother.”

Solution: All content on your pages should be easy to read at a normal viewing scale.

12. No Calls to Action (CTAs)

It’s amazing, but some websites don’t offer the user a means of converting. It’s nice to be subtle, but users should never have to go hunting for their next step.

Solution: Every page on your site should have a CTA encouraging a next step, and your most important CTA should be ever-present throughout your design. CTAs should be prominent and clearly identified to encourage conversion whenever the user is ready to click.

13. Autoplay videos

Videos the user wasn’t expecting that begin playing automatically can disrupt rather than enhance the user experience.

Solution: Background videos without sound that merely provide a setting for the main attraction are awesome. But videos with audio require the user’s full attention. Consider the user’s flow and decide whether autoplay is appropriate for the situation. Don’t just autoplay because you can.

14. 404s

Nobody likes to see an error message or land on a page under construction. Sometimes they’re necessary, but a user-friendly website redirects users seamlessly as needed and minimizes these dead ends.

Solution: Audit your site and make sure all expired pages are properly redirected.

15. Dead links

Links that go nowhere or lead to an error page are a waste of the user’s time and an invitation to leave.

Solution: Site links are highly valuable as long as they work. Be sure to test them periodically, especially if they lead to external content, and eliminate or update bad links.

16. Design that is not mobile-ready

If your site isn’t working well on mobile devices, it’s not working well more than half of the time. That’s the percentage of traffic on mobile right now.

Solution: As we recently wrote in this article on Mobilegeddon, your site needs to be optimized for all browsers and devices.

17. Bait and switch

The number one complaint from consumers about website content is being confronted with content they aren’t looking for and don’t want. This includes marginal advertising.

Solution: Make sure your page content, from metadata and hyperlinks to imagery and headlines, clearly and accurately reflects what the user can expect with every click. If your site features advertisements, be vigilant about the types of ads you admit. If they’re on your page, they’re part of your users’ experience.

Treat visitors right . . . and get results

Need to tune-up your website to give your visitors a good experience? Want them to dwell long enough to leave an email address or sign up for your newsletter or follow you on Facebook? Let the expert web designers at Synapse engineer a great user experience for your visitors, and see what a state-of-the-art website can do for your business.

See what our websites have done for clients > 

Get a quote on a new site >

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Beyond Google: Performing on Bing and Yahoo

SEO_SearchEnginesA major event happened this past December that should have caught the attention of those tasked with handling SEO, whether for themselves or for clients, because it signals a potential shift in overall search share. Firefox, one of the most popular web browsers, signed a five-year deal with Yahoo to be the browser’s default search engine in the United States, replacing Google.

Google is far and away the most often used search engine online, with nearly 70% of all searches performed using Google. Second and third on the list are Bing, in the neighborhood of 20% of all searches, and Yahoo at about 7.5%.   Yahoo search, it is worth noting, is powered by Bing.

It’s going to be interesting to see how strongly this change in Firefox’s default search affects these numbers. The determining factor may be how many Firefox users go through the trouble of resetting their default search to Google versus those willing to just use the default.

What Does This Mean for SEO?

Google has traditionally been the standard search engine most folks use, so much so that its name has become the term used for searching for something online. “Let me Google that” has become a common phrase, and did I actually overhear a conversation recently where someone said they Googled something on Bing? Because of that overpowering presence, the vast majority of SEO work is done with the goal of having a site rank highly on Google and performance on other search engines is either expected to see lift as a side-effect or, honestly, ignored.

In truth, while there are many factors in Google’s search algorithms that are also factors for its competition, Bing (and Yahoo, by virtue of its association with Bing) has some search factors which differentiate it from Google. If you don’t already dedicate some of your SEO efforts to optimizing for Bing, you are potentially missing out on a growing segment of search traffic who may not find you as easily as the Google crowd does.

What’s Different?

A major point of difference between Google and Bing is apparent when it comes to local search. Bing is much more likely to favor results for smaller, independently-owned businesses, as its search is based on true proximity. Google, on the other hand, tends to favor bigger companies as online credibility is a factor – and mom-and-pop businesses often don’t have the resources available to devote to website copy updates and other important SEO tactics.

On the overall search front, surprisingly, Bing is the more conservative of the two, tending to deliver results based on factual relevance and source reliability, whereas Google puts more emphasis on content age. Sites with regularly updated content, engaged visits and active social media presence are more likely to appear in Google search.

How Do I Optimize for Bing?

Since Bing favors reliability and factual relevance, factors such as age of the website, copy that is direct and easy to find and referral links from other sites will result in higher positioning. Bing also trusts your friends: sites that have been rated or reviewed by those you are connected with on social media will be shown to you first, so maintaining an active “social life” is very important to Bing’s search algorithms. Make sure your title tags are simple, straightforward and directly relevant. Title tags are more important to Bing, so use your page’s main keyword in that tag.

Pay attention to your analytics, specifically which search engines are delivering traffic to your doorstep. If you notice that Bing and/or Yahoo is delivering a significant amount of traffic, you’ll definitely want to begin optimizing for them.

Where to Find Help

While it’s clear that smart marketers should seriously consider Bing and Yahoo in their overall search strategy, managing SEO tactics for multiple search engines require a serious commitment of time – both in ongoing education, implementation and analysis.

If you want more website traffic, mastering Google, Bing and Yahoo is necessary. For a FREE SEO Audit and recommendations that will help you improve your brand’s visibility in search results, start a conversation with Synapse today.

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Facebook Engagement: Why is Page/Post Engagement Rate More Important than Quantity of Fans?

FacebookA successful brand is the kind of brand you think of when you’re off the clock. The kind of brand whose content strategy gets in your head and changes your perspective. Businesses want fans – of course they do – but what they really need is an active audience.

Yep – I’m Talking About “People Talking About This”

This isn’t new territory. Measuring the impact of Social Metrics – specifically in the realm of Facebook Engagement – has been the norm in Social Media Marketing since its inception.

Even so, you’d be hard pressed not to find a group, business, proprietor, or amateur marketer sending company-wide thank-you emails over a relatively moderate number of likes.

I’m not saying a Fan base isn’t important – of course it is, it’s something to strive for. But alone, Likes and Fans don’t really reflect much in terms of brand success.

They’re too static. Too lifeless.

Let’s Do The Math

Engagement Rate describes the level of Page and Post engagement you’re getting through your Facebook marketing strategy. It reflects real value – it reflects how often your brand comes up in conversation, how often it’s shared, clicked, liked and remembered.

Essentially – it’s the meter of your Social Success.

If you don’t know exactly what I’m talking about, take a look at your page’s number of Likes. Just beside it you’ll see another number indicating how many people are “Talking About This.”

Both of these metrics are important when calculating the Rate of Engagement on your page. In order to evaluate how well your business is doing – how many of your fans “care” to involve themselves in the evolution of your brand – take the number of “People Talking About This” and divide it by your total number of Likes.

The number you get reflects the percentage of your fan base that rises up out of hibernation to become a voice for your brand.

It’s The Only Reliable Metric

Focus your attention on Engagement – especially as so many of your competitors will be zeroed-in on their number of Likes.

People Like posts and pages for all kinds of reasons. Sometimes they do it because a friend asked them to do it, or because everyone’s doing it, or because they were Fans of a brand or an article at a certain point in time.

Eventually they forget about the posts they’ve liked and never return. Other things take precedence, or their attitude changes, or their own affairs demand their attention.

At the end of the day – you can’t count on Likes or Fans to determine whether or not your brand is doing well. They change as often as people’s interests change – and that’s no foundation for a long-term business strategy.

It Means They Care About What You Care About

A high Engagement Rate indicates the potential reach of your brand. It reflects the relationship your fans have with you and your products or services.

Even with high numbers of likes, a lot of businesses’ pages see relatively few instances of real interaction. Their content often goes entirely ignored.

Conversely, when your engagement rates are high – even with a lower number of Likes – it means that more people are referencing your brand online, liking and sharing your page’s content, and generally attending to your business as a feature of their daily lives.

It Means Connection

Engagement Rates demonstrate how many Fans you’re really connecting with, and how often you’re bringing them back as loyal patrons.

You care about your business. You want it to have life – to grow and change and evolve. You want your Fans to take your brand out into the world with them. It’s far more valuable to have an established, engaged, integrated audience – than to boast a slew of Likes with no real reflective dimension.

Rate of Engagement is an essential metric in determining that kind – the real kind – of Social Media Success.

The team at Synapse is skilled in creating vibrant, engaging content for Social Media, Website Copy, Email Content and more. Start a conversation with us to learn how we can help you invigorate your content.

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Is Your Ecomm Site Making a Clear Offer?

Would you like to see your online sales numbers increase, but you’re not quite certain what hurdles are holding you back?  Believe it or not, your website itself may be creating unnecessary resistance.  There are a few features that have been proven to be part of the most successful Ecommerce sites out there; falling short on any of them can create hurdles to reaching your Ecomm sales goals.

Clear Purpose

Put yourself for a moment in the place of a consumer who has landed on your Ecomm site for the first time.  Look at your home page.  Is it immediately apparent what you sell?  Fancy animation and interactive widgets are all well and good, but if someone can’t figure out what you’re selling, how can they purchase from you?  To be successful, a first time visitor should be able to know what your company does within three to five seconds of landing on your homepage.

If it is pretty obvious what your product line consists of, there’s another question to ask: Why should someone buy from you? What do you offer that sets you apart from a thousand other websites selling the same thing?  Why does it benefit the customer to purchase from you rather than from one of the giant sites like Amazon or Overstock.com?  Clearly stating your UVP (unique value proposition) is critical to successfully differentiating your company on the web.

Clear Product Descriptions

An online store has one great disadvantage: your customer cannot physically see or touch the item before purchasing.  The job of your product description is to put that item in your customer’s hands, virtually.  The tools at your disposal are words, videos and images.  In almost every case, a combination of the three is needed, but the ratio may change depending on the product.

When someone is looking to purchase a microwave oven, for example, the image is valuable but may not be what’s going to sell that microwave.  Everyone pretty much knows what a microwave looks like.  What a purchaser is looking for are the specs: How big is it? How powerful? What are the presets, if any? On the other hand, someone shopping for a new shirt certainly needs to know the specs for size, material, etc., but the image does the bulk of the selling work.  What that shirt looks like is the important thing.  And, if your product is complex or offers benefits that are difficult to explain fully in words, a short video overview may do the job better than images and text alone.

Consider what your site sells and what is important to your typical customer, and then make sure your product descriptions, images and videos fit the bill.  Your product page is your salesman, so make sure you create content that supports your product.

Clear Navigation

Nothing will cause more frustration for a prospective Ecomm customer than a website with navigation so involved or confusing that it feels as if you have to conquer an intricate maze to find what you are looking for.  It should take no more than two or three clicks to arrive on a product page.  The best navigations are the simplest:  intuitively designed “category > product” structures work best.  A well-designed onsite search function should be used to allow a customer to jump immediately to the item they want.

Still, you’re going to have folks who want to browse your site’s wares, and you need to make it simple for them to maneuver from page to page, category to category and product to product. Drop down menus, left navigation sidebars, filtered menus, recommended products and other Ecomm navigation approaches should all be considered during your site’s design phase.

Clear Layout

This ties in with the previous point about navigation.  Keep your product pages easy to digest.  Not everyone enjoys trying to make sense of a grid of 150 products that requires scrolling, clicking and two sets of eyeballs to take in.

Paginate your product galleries.  Give your customer the option of looking at just a few, several or an entire product run all at once, but default to no more than about half a dozen items per page.  Remember always: the easier you make it for you customer to find what they are looking for, the more likely they are to buy.

Clear Trust

People buy from companies they trust. In today’s world with news reports about companies’ databases being hacked and personally-identifying the information being stolen, that’s even more in the Ecomm world.  You might have the best products at the best prices with free shipping and a lifetime money-back guarantee, but if folks do not feel comfortable entering their personal credit card information on your website, they are not going to buy from you.

Make sure your site is secure, and then proudly display that fact with digital certification, called trust seals, from one or more SSL certification sites. Just like seeking certified contractors or auto repairmen, if a customer sees your website has the right certifications, they will feel much more at ease.

An even stronger level of trust can be attained by simply allowing customer comments and reviews.  Let those who have already made use of your service tell others of their experiences.

These steps will go a long way toward helping keep your Ecomm sales numbers where you want them.  If you are looking at revamping your Ecomm site or building your first, start a conversation with the experts here at Synapse.  Let us start you on the road to Ecomm success!

 

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Grab Their Attention! 6 Tips for Great Email Subject Lines

I am ruthless when it comes to my email inbox.  For one thing, I try only to look at it three times during the day: when I get into the office in the morning, over lunch, and just before I close up shop at the end of the day.  When I do look at my inbox, it has collected a surfeit of deliveries.  I am usually running on a very tight schedule, so I want to do everything I can to make sure my “inbox time” is spent reading and responding to email that is important or valuable to me. If I am not personally familiar with the sender, each email has only one chance to earn my time – by sporting a subject line that makes me want to read further. The subject line doesn’t have long to win me over, either.  Within the first few words, I’ve already made the “delete or read” decision in my head and am on to the next subject line.

The person self-described in that opening paragraph is the person you are trying to reach with your company’s email marketing campaign.  And you’ll find that the qualifying process to become a “read” email described above is employed by many, many more people than you might think.  In fact, you might do exactly that yourself.  And, yes, the only chance of surviving the “junk email purge” is to boast a subject line that makes you stand out.

While the mythical 100% Open Rate remains relegated to the same dreamland as unicorns and perpetual motion machines, there’s no reason you can’t create the kinds of subject lines that catch the eye of enough recipients to see your open rates grow from where they may be today.  Bottom line, if your email doesn’t get opened, it cannot do its job.  With these six best practices in place, you’ll be giving your emails their best chances to be opened:

Be sure your subject line promises what your email actually delivers.

This one may seem like an obvious point, but it’s worth stating.  Nothing will turn a recipient off faster than an apparent bait-and-switch where the subject line promises one thing, but the email itself delivers another.  If the expectation set is not met, you not only create distrust for the next time you email, but you run a much higher risk of being submitted as a SPAM complaint.

Convey a sense of excitement, intrigue or urgency.

You don’t want to go too far overboard, but you want a bit of ballyhoo to raise the recipients’ interest. Use action-oriented words that appeal to emotions, announce impending deadlines, create a sense of mystery.  Which email would you rather open: one with a subject line of “Widgets For Sale,” or a subject line like “Find Out How to Save up to $35 on Widgets! Sale Ends Tomorrow!”

Avoid using all caps or symbols.

It’s still true that using all caps is considered poor email etiquette – subject lines included.  All caps comes across to most people as a gimmick, and an obvious sales tactic.  For awhile there, the rage was to use symbols in subject lines to stand out from the crowd: “$ave Big Buck$” or something along those lines.  I’ve seen subject lines surrounded by asterisks to make it seem like a marquee.  If your message is valid and your wording is solid, your subject line will do its job, no gimmicks needed.

Personalize the subject line.

There is no more pleasant sound to any of us than the sound of our name.  Seeing our name in print is often just as pleasing.  When you use your recipients’ names in the subject line of your email, it is almost 20% more likely to be opened.  Whether your audience prefers to be addressed by first name or with a more formal “Mr. Smith” approach will vary depending on the type of industry you’re in and, in some cases, area of the country.  It’s worth running a few tests to determine how your audience responds.

Keep the length to about 40-50 characters at most.

Remember, your subject line should reflect what’s in your email – not recite it completely before it’s even opened! People are skimming, and brief, to the point wording, will catch their attention.  Also, remember that most email clients are going to be truncating that subject line at about that 50-character point anyway.  With more and more people accessing their email on mobile devices, space is even more at a premium.  Brevity is the soul of wit – and of great subject lines!

Test, test, test!

If you take no other tip from this post, this is the one to hold onto!  Remember that dream world of 100% Open Rates? None of these tips are going to work 100% of the time, nor will any strategy.  Your job is to keep a finger on the pulse of your audience as far as how they want to be addressed and persuaded to open emails, and this is accomplished through continually testing.  Try different wordings, different personalizations and different lengths.  Try different times of the day or different days of the week.  Don’t just wonder if this word or that phrase might have been better – go ahead and try it, and see what results you get.

If you’re scratching your head over email subject lines and want to talk about how to build your best campaign, start a conversation with Synapse today!

 

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Shopping Cart Abandonment – Why it Happens and How You Can Stop It (Part 2)

In part one of this discussion, we looked at some of the most common reasons visitors to your eCommerce site are likely to abandon their shopping cart midway through the purchasing process:

  • Shipping and handling too costly
  • Preferred payment method not offered
  • Not wanting to register account/provide personal information
  • Checkout process too complicated

For each, there are steps you can take in the design of your online store that can mitigate cart abandonment before it even happens.  But even the most perfectly designed eCommerce site is going to experience cart abandonment.    Remember that online shopping provides one of the most accessible venues for window shopping there is.  In a virtual world, you can fill your electronic cart with all kinds of goodies without a care, knowing that neither you nor any overworked stock boy will ever have to put physically all those items back on shelves.

Think back to the real-life abandoned cart I talked about in the first part of the post.  Wouldn’t it be interesting to reach out to whomever that shopper was and learn the reasons behind the aborted shopping mission?  One advantage that can be had in the eCommerce world, given the proper tracking setup, is that there are some situations where you can reach out to a shopper after they have abandoned their cart, and in many cases recover the sale!

Email Tracking

If you run an eCommerce site, one of the marketing tactics you should be using to drive traffic to your store is a dedicated email campaign.  It’s a great way to build up a loyal customer base and drive return visits.  In an email campaign, you already know who you’ve sent your email blast to.  By setting up UTM codes on your links, using unique landing pages for email, and setting up proper tracking, you can be aware of who is visiting your site from your email campaign, when they are there and what pages they are visiting.  You can track your online shoppers in real time!

Triggering the Save

Many email platforms allow you to set up “triggered emails,” which are emails that will only be sent when the recipient has performed some action that sets the email in motion.  That action might be simply signing up for email alerts from your company, which could trigger a “Welcome” email to be sent to them thanking them for doing so.  Triggered emails can also be set up for when someone abandons a shopping cart on your site.

This should be a simple, gently worded email indicating that you noticed the abandonment, and asking if there were any problems with the process that you can help with.  This email should contain a link that puts the recipient right back into the checkout page with their cart restored – or better yet, show the cart items in the email.

Timing is Everything

There are several schools of thought on when to send that email.  Some say catch them right away with an email asking if there was a technical issue that caused them to abandon their cart; others will tell you the sweet spot is about 6-8 hours later.  Still others say send the email the next day, so as not to make your customers feel as though they are being watched like guinea pigs in an experiment.  You may have to do some testing to determine the right timing for your particular audience, but know that the eCommerce industry overall sees these post-abandonment emails opened at a rate of nearly 50% and have nearly 30% conversion – remarkable numbers!  Think what a third of abandoned sales would translate to in dollars and cents for your store.  Worth the time to set up, isn’t it?

If you have an eCommerce site, are planning your next email campaign, and would like to be prepared to handle the cart abandonment issue as adeptly as possible, start a conversation with us at Synapse today!

 

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Focusing Your Social Media Marketing – LinkedIn

Clients often ask us which social media network they need to be on and how often they need to post to succeed. Providing a steady stream of fresh content for all of the major social networks is a daunting prospect. The good news is that on social media (as in all aspect of marketing), you don’t have to be all things to all people. Choose the social media that make the most sense for your business and focus your attention there.

To help you evaluate the options, we’re running a series looking at each of the major social media platforms. We’ll tell you who’s using that media, what they’re posting and how to capitalize on it. In our first installment, we’ll look at LinkedIn, the world’s largest professional network.

Who’s Linking?

Roughly 28 percent of adult Internet users, or 23 percent of the population at large, use LinkedIn.  The network boasts more than 347 million users worldwide and more than 111 million in the U.S. alone.

Usage is highest among people aged 30 to 49, 31 percent of whom are active on LinkedIn, and second highest among 50- to 64-year-olds at 30 percent, according to statistics from Pew Research. LinkedIn is the only network to attract more users from that age group than in the 18 to 29 age bracket that dominates every other major social media. That may be changing, however: LinkedIn reports that students and recent college graduates are its fastest-growing demographic, comprising roughly 11 percent of users.

LinkedIn has skewed slightly male in the past, but that gap has nearly closed. Roughly half of users have a college education, and 44 percent have household incomes of more than $75,000, giving LinkedIn one of the wealthier social media demographics. Urban users dominate the site at 32 percent, with 29 percent hailing from suburbia and only 14 percent from rural areas.

What LinkedIn Does Best

As a professional network, LinkedIn is by far the best site for recruiting and sharing company news. It is a relatively formal space. LinkedIn encourages users to contact only people with whom they have some connection, and the network punishes users who abuse that policy. LinkedIn offers many unique professional networking forums that make excellent resources.

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How to Take Advantage of LinkedIn

LinkedIn is the place to go with corporate news such as new product releases and job openings. It is great for B2B content. It is also ideal for sharing industry insights and expert advice. Posting purely for marketing purposes and posting too frequently are faux pas. LinkedIn is for networking, recruiting and sharing knowledge, not selling.

Companies that encourage employees to repost corporate content or to publish their own posts on LinkedIn get the dual benefit of building their corporate platforms and helping their employees grow and network professionally. And that’s good for business!

LinkedIn: Polished, Professional, Fabulous

LinkedIn is a powerful recruiting and networking tool for brands and individuals. It’s fun and sociable, but in a buttoned-down, low-key way. Companies need to be there, but only with the right content. LinkedIn is great for reposting blog content and encouraging employees to post about their work. The forums are powerful personal and corporate networking tools.

Next time, we’ll take a look at the social media boss, Facebook.

Need help with your social media planning? Talk to us today about a free social media audit.

 

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Shopping Cart Abandonment – Why it Happens and How You Can Stop It (Part 1)

Not too long ago I had made a stop at the grocery store up the street from my house to pick up a few things. There, in the middle of the pet food aisle, sat a shopping cart carrying a handful of assorted items, with no one in the vicinity to claim it.  I went on about my shopping, but before I hit the checkout lanes I made my way back to the pet aisle, and sure enough there sat the cart, still untouched and unclaimed in the otherwise empty store aisle.  No one was coming back for it.  It had simply been abandoned.

In real life you don’t see shopping carts abandoned in the middle of a store aisle too often.  As many online retailers will be quick to tell you though, the world of eCommerce is quite the opposite.  Email marketing platform providers Listrak maintain a real-time calculator of overall online shopping cart abandonment; at the moment it’s measuring an abandonment rate of almost 75% as a six-month average.  Three of every four visitors to your online store are dropping out of the purchase funnel after they have begun the process!

Whether in the real world or the virtual, one can only guess wildly at why a particular cart gets abandoned.  It could be one of the reasons I’ll list for you in a moment, or it could be something as unexpected as a power failure disconnecting the shopper or an emergency pulling the shopper away.  Overall, though, there are a few standard reasons folks give for online shopping cart abandonment.  Knowing what they are and planning to address them before they happen can help you reduce your abandonment rate considerably.

Shipping & handling prices too costly

One of the hard facts of life in eCommerce is that items almost always need to be shipped somewhere, and there is a cost for that service.  It’s also well known that many folks greatly dislike having to pay those shipping costs, especially when they can at times exceed the cost of the item purchased!  It’s great to offer free or discounted shipping as an enticement to purchase now and again, but unless you are one of the giants like Amazon or Overstock, you can’t afford to give shipping and handling away all the time.  Often, online sellers try to downplay the shipping costs and bury them several steps deep in the purchasing process with the hope that you’ll just click through.  You can guess the more likely result: an abandoned cart.  Be up front about your shipping and handling costs.  Offer discounts when and if you can, but always make it clear from the start what the full costs will be.

Preferred payment method not offered

I will admit that I am guilty of abandoning a cart or two in my time over this one.  I like PayPal, and use it whenever I can.  Most online retailers will accept it these days, but not all do.  Credit cards in general are a fairly ubiquitous method of payment, but not all sites accept all cards.   As with the shipping charges above, it’s not uncommon to only discover that your Discover card won’t fly or PayPal is verboten when you’re knee-deep into the checkout flow.  Some folks are rather loyal to their preferred payment vehicle, and this can be reason for cart abandonment more often than you might think as your shopper goes looking for a website that will let him pay the way he pleases.  The more payment methods you can offer your customers, the better; and again, be transparent about which methods are and are not accepted.

Does not want to register account/provide personal information

Even in today’s overly-connected world, people are leery about giving out too much information, especially when that information is perceived to likely to result in an email inbox stuffed with spam, a phone ringing off the hook with over-eager telemarketers or unwelcomed junk mail arriving at the door.  Beyond that, folks who are coming to web store just want to buy something; demanding that they become a registered member of your shoppers’ club or what have you is more than they were prepared to bring to the interaction.  As a result, more and more eCommerce sites now provide the option to register if you wish to, but if not they will allow to complete your transaction simply as a “guest.”

Checkout process too complicated

Regardless of whether your checkout process requires a registration step, if your visitors find the process too involved or complicated, they will bail out before completing the purchase.  Some online stores have seemingly endless screens asking for coupon codes, offering add-on deals, offering gift-wrapping services, asking if you’d like to donate to a charity as part of your purchase and so forth.  Again, most people just want to place their order, make their payment and be on their way.  One or two screens should be able to accomplish that; if your checkout process involves more than three screens, you’re running a very high risk of losing customers.  One of the oldest sales adages truly applies in this case: the simpler you make it for people to buy, the more likely people will buy!

Armed with this knowledge, you have the ability to design your eCommerce website to be customer-friendly enough to help you reduce cart abandonment rates before the abandonment happens.  You can create an in-all-ways ideal site, however, and you will still deal with abandoned carts.  In Part II of this discussion, we’ll look at what you can do to greatly help in recovering some of those lost sales and turning abandoners into returning and potentially regular customers.

If you’d like to discuss how we can help design and build an award-winning eCommerce site for your company, start a conversation with Synapse today!

Read Part Two: What To Do After the Cart Has Been Abandoned >

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