Monthly Archives: November 2011

Living in the Social World

It seems not a day goes by where you aren’t touched by social media, whether you’re logging onto your Facebook page, reading about Google+ in the news, or voting on Twitter for Simon Cowell’s “The X Factor” show. In fact, just this morning I had a request to join Netlog, a Belgian social media site similar to Facebook. With more social sites popping up each month, how do you know where to spend your online time?

Defining Your Social Strategy
You could easily get lost in the world of social media if you don’t map out a path for yourself. Rather than join every social site known to humankind, it’s best to figure out a strategy that doesn’t overextend your resources; namely, your time.

The first thing you’ll want to do is determine where your customers are hanging out. A recent Nielsen report noted that Facebook currently reaches 70% of active internet users, so chances are … you’ll find a good percentage of your target market on Facebook. But are there other social sites where you should take an active presence?

Aquascape’s Top Social Picks
To help you navigate the sea of social sites, I’ve put together a list of Aquascape’s top social media picks. You’ll need to determine your own list based on your strategy and constraints, but this list can help point you in the right direction.

Facebook – If you’re going to dabble in social media, Facebook is the place to be. It continues to be the fastest growing social site and has an average monthly audience of 140 million; almost triple the average monthly audience of its nearest competitor (Blogger). The majority of Aquascape’s Facebook conversations occur with consumers, educating them on the benefits and features of water features, while referring them to installers and retailers.

YouTube – YouTube is the second most popular search engine, following on the heels of Google. Aquascape uploads a new video almost weekly. You can make your own videos using a digital camera. And if you need to edit them before posting, try using Windows Movie Maker, a free program you’ll find on your computer. In order for your videos to rank high in YouTube search results, you want to make sure you add descriptions and keywords to each video that you upload.

Twitter – Twitter is an easy-to-use micro blogging site that now processes 230 million tweets per day (a tweet is similar to a status update on Facebook). Although you can use Twitter however you like; sharing links, photos, news, etc., Aquascape uses Twitter primarily for B2B (business to business) conversations. Keep in mind that Twitter is a great source for research. You can type in a search term such as “water gardening” to see what others are tweeting about this or any other topic. About a year ago I performed a search for “rain barrel” and found an editor looking for examples of rain barrels to include in their publication. I immediately sent info on the RainXchange® Rain Barrel and it was featured in the magazine as a result.

LinkedInLinkedIn is a social networking site geared toward professionals. It’s like your online resume of credentials and recommendations. You can write status updates, connect with other professionals in your industry, join specific networking groups, and more. LinkedIn has some terrific gadgets that allow you to tie your account with other media such as your blog, published articles, videos, and more. LinkedIn is a great spot for connecting with like-minded business people in your community who can refer customers to you, and vice versa.

Blogger and WordPress – Aquascape uses both these sites for blogging. Aquascape Your Landscape resides on Blogger while Social Splash lives at WordPress. If you’re not yet blogging, be sure to read, “To Blog or Not to Blog: It Shouldn’t Be a Question.” Blogging is a great way for optimizing your website with search engines.

Houzz, Flickr, and Pinterest – Photo sharing sites are great for showcasing your landscape projects. Each of these sites has its own unique value proposition and I like to use all three. Consumers can search for professionals on Houzz, view their photos, and then make contact to hire you. Pinterest allows users to “pin” photos from websites they like, adding them to a style board. Others can re-pin the photos, thereby spreading the reach of the photo on Pinterest. It’s a popular site with bloggers and designers and is rapidly gaining traction.

SlideshareSlideshare was primarily set up for sharing PowerPoint presentations. Over time, Slideshare increased its file sharing capability to include PDF files, videos, and more. Users can comment on your presentations and share them on other social media sites, as well.

Watergardening.com – Although this community site is specific to water gardening, it’s still one of our favorites and continues to grow. For those of you who were around when Aquascape launched watergardening.com, you’ll remember that the majority of users were installers and retailers. Today, that’s all changed. With membership nearing 1000 users, you’ll find that the community is primarily made of pond-owning consumers. What’s not to like?

The Social Melting Pot
While the aforementioned sites are where Aquascape devotes most of its social media efforts, this isn’t an entirely inclusive list. There are a few lesser known sites where Aquascape has dabbled, such as www.garden-share.com.  And of course, this social list will grow and change as time goes on.

Social media is fast-moving and I don’t see it slowing down any time in the near future. So what do you do if you’re perplexed over where to begin? Focus on just one or two social sites … you don’t want to become overwhelmed and quit before you even start. Once you get comfortable with one or two, you can branch out and broaden your social reach as time allows. But by all means, do get started! Even if you just use Facebook. Social media is great for sharing your message and hearing what customers are saying about you. You can’t afford to miss the conversation.

Quick Links to Aquascape’s Social Media Pages:                                   

 

To Blog or Not to Blog? It Shouldn’t Be a Question

Too busy to blog? If you answered yes, you might want to rethink your answer.

Like most small business owners, you scramble and strategize to get your website returned favorably in search engine results. Sure, you’re conscientious of using the right keywords for your website, and you might even utilize tools like Google ads to boost your rankings. But if you’re not updating your web content on a regular basis, you could be missing out.

Google has announced a new update to its algorithm that will return the most up-to-date results, meaning fresh content will rank more favorably than stale pages. Google claims this update to their Caffeine web indexing system will affect approximately 35% of searches.

A great way to add fresh content to your website is to incorporate a blog. Adding a blog post once, twice, or three times weekly will help your site rank favorably with Google. And remember, not every blog post has to be lengthy, but it does need to provide value to the reader. Remember to include keywords when writing your blog, but don’t overuse the keywords. You want the content to captivate the reader, not bore them with redundant words.

Every time you publish a blog entry you’re adding a new page to your website, which means your website keeps growing in its number of indexed pages. The more pages a search engine indexes for a particular site, the likelier the chance of showing up in search results.

Blogging is still regarded as one of the best ways to increase traffic to your website. In fact, companies that blog get 55% more web traffic and 57% of these businesses have acquired a customer through their company blog (according to a recent HubSpot survey).

Once you commit to blogging, you can submit your blog to a few directories. Many directories are free and provide exposure to readers who might not otherwise find you. For example, I’ve listed my other blog, Aquascape Your Landscape, at www.blotanical.com. Blotanical is a directory of garden blogs so it’s a great network of like-minded garden and pond enthusiasts. Within days, I found that Aquascape Your Landscape received traffic from Blotanical.

Blogging can be fun. If you’re passionate about your business, writing about it will be enjoyable. Be yourself, and craft content that provides value to your readers and customers. You’ll soon reap the rewards of being a consistent blogger.

Do You YouTube?

YouTube is hot! It’s the 3rd highest ranking website, following Google and Facebook. About 35 hours of video footage is uploaded to YouTube every minute. In fact, more YouTube videos are uploaded every 60 days than the 3 major US television networks produced over the course of 60 years! More importantly, over 2 billion videos are viewed every day.

So with all this video activity, you’re probably wondering whether your company should have a YouTube presence. Well, why not? In addition to the 2 billion videos viewed daily, mobile users (smart phones) provide over 100 million views per day on YouTube. More and more, people are using YouTube as their search engine of choice.

Think about that for a minute. Let’s say you want to learn how to brine your turkey for your family’s upcoming Thanksgiving dinner. Would you rather read an article about it … or would you prefer to watch a video of a professional chef explaining how to brine a turkey while you get to watch him do it? If the latter, all you’d need to do is log onto www.youtube.com, and type “how to brine a turkey” in the search box. You’d get a whole host of how-to videos on brining a turkey for the holiday. (Confession: I did this last year and my family informed me that it was the moistest, best-tasting turkey I’d ever made … thank you, YouTube!)

Now, let’s translate this over to your pond business. Suppose you get a lot of customer questions on how to plant a waterlily in the pond. You could write an article to post on your blog or website, but many of you confess that you hate writing (you know who you are). Or, you could invest in an inexpensive camera with video capability (around $125) and shoot footage of you or an employee planting a waterlily in a pond, explaining the step-by-step process.

If needed, you then spend a little time editing the waterlily-planting video with Windows Movie Maker, which was generously uploaded to your PC before you bought it, courtesy of Microsoft, and voila! You have yourself a video to post on YouTube.

Now your customers can watch a segment of your waterlily-planting video, pause it while they perform the first step, play it some more, and then pause again for the next step … and so on until they’ve completed the task. How easy for your customers to learn this simple task to beautify their water garden … and it didn’t take much on your end to satisfy their needs.

Once you decide to set up your YouTube channel (which is free, by the way), you’ll be able to start posting and sharing your videos. Be sure to write titles, descriptions, and keywords to make your videos easy to find. That way, when someone searches for “how to plant a waterlily” while they’re on YouTube, your waterlily-planting video will pop up in YouTube’s search results.

Another great feature of YouTube is attracting friends and subscribers to your channel. Whenever you post a new video, these subscribers will be notified via email. Be sure to include links from your website, marketing materials, and other social networks such as Facebook, to your YouTube channel so your customers know where to find you.

Oh … and don’t forget. Once you install a new water feature for a customer, be sure to let them know they can watch your helpful pond care and maintenance videos on YouTube. It’s just one more value-add that you can provide for your customers. And if you really don’t want to create your own videos but think it’s a great idea, you can always embed Aquascape’s videos onto your website. I’ve created handy instructions on how to embed our YouTube videos onto your site.

Having a YouTube presence allows you to reach potential customers on a highly popular social network. The more videos you create and upload, the easier it will become. You’ll be more comfortable in front of the camera, and your customers will appreciate all the tips and tricks you provide them for maintaining a beautiful water feature.

For more information on incorporating YouTube into social media marketing, log onto this YouTube blog entry over at Fast Company. To view Aquascape’s YouTube channel, visit www.youtube.com/aquascape4.