In years past, the way to reach someone in the media was to send out a press release. Ideally, you’d have your local contacts and send the press release as far and wide as you could. Then, services such as PR Web stepped in and promised being able to reach media contacts all across the globe with one push of a button.

Nowadays, the standard press release gets you nowhere. There are so many of them being sent out all the time that it’s just not effective unless you can pay a lot of money for a very targeted list.

If you’re a local business, it pays to develop a relationship with your local media. For newspapers, start by contacting the editor of the business page. Don’t go in person unexpected! They’re busy, and it is viewed as intrusive to just show up without an appointment.

Send a polite email introducing yourself and your business. Avoid being demanding. Ask if there’s room in her schedule for an in-person meeting. Ask if she’s in need of any sources for business-related local articles.

Remember…you’re a real estate agent, perhaps, or a lawyer or a contractor, but you can still speak to trends in that industry. So even though she might not be planning an article about your business per se, you can still be a source for a big picture article.
When you plan an event at your business, invite your media contact. When you have a news item to promote, send your media contact a short to-the-point update. Be patient. It might take several emails before you get a response. But eventually you will get a response and you can be sure that when your media contact needs someone in your field to be a source, she’ll think of you.

If a product launches and no one hears about it, does anyone care? We know that not every product can drop with the hype of a new Apple iPhone. But a key to building successful sales and repeat customers is for as many people as possible to hear about a product launch. Not just when the launch happens, but before and after as well. How can you do that? How can you maximize your product launch? The best launches have some momentum you can build on.

1. Make sure people know your backstory. We touched on this in the post, “Introduce Yourself, Get Personal, Share Your Motivations.” If people know your story, then the conversation changes. It can go from, “Oh, did you hear there’s another product that does this?” to, “Oh, did you hear that the people who did this made a new product?” The second example makes the launch of the product not just about the product, but about the people behind it, and that’s ideal.

2. Get people talking before the launch. Leave some room in your budget for some pre-launch excitement. If you’re boosting on Facebook, you might boost some posts that give a little excitement or teaser of the product without revealing exactly what it is. If you know your product will launch in summer, when spring comes put something on your website to tease it. When you send out newsletters prior to your launch, put in a little house ad or photo teasing what’s to come. Check this link on Pinterest which has some clever examples of ways that images can be used in your newsletter, on your website and in your social media posts to generate interest on a product or service that is yet to come:

3. Get people talking, part two. Reach out to leaders in your industry and tell them that you have an exciting product launch planned. Get them on board to write reviews or articles about it when it’s ready.

4. Set the scene. When Apple launches a new product, they have closed their online store, so that people who visit their website know something exciting is taking place. Their customers almost have no choice but to listen. Can you instigate that level of excitement in your launch? If you, with your non-Apple-sized budget and your busy life, were going to really get people to pay attention to your launch, how would you do it?

5. Take pre-orders. There are many ways that this can work. You could invite people to pay $10 ahead of time for $10 off their order when your new flavor of smoothie bowl launches. You could sign people up ahead of time for an appointment as soon as your new service launches. Get some buy-in and harness some of that enthusiasm you’re hoping to create ahead of time.

6. Be different. Perhaps the main reason that Apple can sell 1.7 million units of an iPhone within the first three days of a launch is because the product that they offered was not only revolutionary. It also was marketed in a way that spoke to people. Steve Jobs didn’t just talk about how great the phone was. He talked about how it could make life easier for people. He talked about how it made common every day tasks easier and more convenient. That made people want it. And the phone delivered on its promise.

What room do you have to be different? Can you offer something above and beyond what anyone else in your niche is doing? If so, that’s what people will resonate with and that’s what they’ll buy. Something different. Something that helps them.

Our blog post last week looked at social media research from 2016 showing the most popular social networks around the world. Not surprisingly, Facebook was number 1. Now that we got our question answered about WHAT social media people are using, we started to think about HOW people are using it so we would know when is the best time to post on social media.

You hear advice all the time about how important it is to post. If you have created a Facebook, Pinterest or Instagram or Twitter account, use it. It doesn’t do you any good to have an account that is dead when people go to look at it.

The flipside of that is that you don’t want to be posting when no one is looking. It is important to post, yes, and if you’re already doing all you can and you’re posting at midnight on a Saturday, pat yourself on the back and let it go. When you’re ready to take the next step, you’ll want to try and optimize when the most people will see your post.

We went to an authority on social media, the posting scheduling and management platform Hootsuite, who compiled the results of a bunch of studies talking about exactly when is the best time to post on social media. Here’s what we found out.

Timing is everything.

Think about your target audience. If your demographic is working professionals, think about the fact that they are at meetings and at their desk during typical office hours. Yes, they scroll through Facebook during their lunch breaks, but a good time to reach them is in the evenings, when they’re home sitting on the couch. That’s true for a lot of the working professions. We are at our desks pretty typically Monday through Friday, but that’s not when a lot of people are on social media. If they’re just logging on at 8pm, they’re less likely to see the post you made at 8am. And if it’s for a free smoothie if they bring a friend by your juice cart, it won’t matter to them. Post that free smoothie deal in the evening, AND in the morning the next day.

You have 5 hours minutes for your Facebook post to take effect.

A Facebook post achieves 75 percent of its reach within five hours of being posted.

You have 3 hours for your tweet to have the same effect.

This research shows that a tweet achieves 75 percent of its reach in less than three hours. According to Hootsuite’s own data, the best time to post on Twitter is at 3pm Monday through Friday. This is when the highest amount of clicks and retweets occur on Twitter.

The best time, says Hootsuite, to post on Facebook is between noon and 3pm Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. On the weekends, the best time is Saturday and Sunday between noon and 1pm. This is a natural downtime when a lot of people are taking breaks and eating lunch, so that makes sense.

It may take a little bit of trial and error to figure out what your audience’s best time to be on social media is, but really put some thought into your target demographic and how they spend their day. This means you should have a really clear idea of what, and who, your target demographic is. (Hmmm…this sounds like a good idea for a future blog post!)

For instance, if you’re targeting stay-at-home moms, your best time is probably 11am to 1pm, during prime baby and toddler nap time. If you’re targeting hungry people searching for dinner deals, perhaps you want to post between 5 and 7pm.

Test some different posting schedules and see if you get a higher level of response. It also doesn’t hurt to ask your customers what the best time is to reach them. In general, Hootsuite says they see lower engagement on the weekends. But even then, noon and 1pm seems to be a magic time for spikes in clicks.

What about Instagram?

Instagram no longer posts pictures in chronological order. The posts with the most likes and comments will always appear higher up in a user’s feed. To optimize your use of Instagram, again, really get to know your target demographic and how they spend their day. Many people scroll through their feeds during their lunch hour. But, if you want to get the most likes before your lunch hour crew starts scrolling, you might want to post earlier in the morning.

Are you trying to reach an audience that spans several time zones?

Or a global audience? Rethink your strategy. There’s a huge difference between posting at 11am to reach someone on the East Coast when you’re in the Pacific time zone. At 11am in Oregon, it’s already 2pm in New York, and you’ve missed a good window for your morning and lunch audience. Hootsuite suggests creating a Twitter handle for each region you’re trying to reach. You can set the time zone for each region and still manage them all from the same platform. If you’re trying to announce a flash sale, and you want people to search on your site during their lunch break, timing it for their time zones is crucial.

I recently checked out the Facebook page of a new niche small business. Aside from the content being a little slim, which is understandable because it’s brand new, I noticed that every single post had 15 hashtags. Each post used the same hashtags in the same order. It got me to thinking: Are hashtags still cool? I think they are. But there definitely seems to a good, better and best ways to use hashtags.

Understanding hashtags

Hashtags are the pound symbol — # — that came to be used as a sorting device online in posts and comments. Hashtags were created for Twitter but expanded to Google Plus, Facebook, Tumblr and Instagram.

On Twitter, hashtags have become less useful than they were when they were first developed. For instance, “Enjoying this delicious cocktail!” will show up in searches for “cocktail” the same way that “Enjoying this delicious #cocktail!” will.  A hashtag is clickable and can help users sort out other posts with that same hashtag. But it doesn’t affect who sees your tweets or posts. One drawback with using hashtags is that they can seem like a grab for attention. Too commercial, in other words. Even though as a business you are trying to be commercial. The trick is to use them effectively in a way that serves your purpose but does not alienate people. Here are our recommendations for the good, better and best ways to use hashtags.

Good ways to use hashtags

  • Come up with a hashtag you use for your brand. If your juice cart is named “Island Juices” it makes perfect sense that a hashtag you would want to start using would be #islandjuices. First though, check to see if that hashtag is already widely in use by another brand.
  • Come up with 10 hashtags you think best represent your brand. Use them in your posts but not all at once. Three hashtags that are appropriate for the post seems cool. 15 hashtags that cover every single possible angle is overkill. Alternate these hashtags so each post has some coverage but is not too much.
  • Be specific in your hashtags. The more specific it is the more targeted your audience will be. For instance, if you’re crafting natural lotions and skincare products, #skincare will be a more targeted hashtag than #DIY.

Better ways to use hashtags

  • Use your #islandjuices hashtag in contests, such as asking your Facebook or Instagram friends to post photos of themselves with that hashtag so you can find it, and you’ll choose a winner each week to receive a free juice. Contests or promotions like this are an easy and free way to interact with your brand and costs you nothing other than the juice you give away each week. That goodwill, however, is priceless.
  • Keep them short. If you know your salon offers the best prices on manicures in the whole town, don’t choose the “#bestpricesonmanicuresever” hashtag because no one will type that many characters in. Instead, go for something like “#manitoday”.
  • Don’t have more hashtags than words in your post. There is room for using a LOT of hashtags as a joke, once in a while. But in daily practice this is not a good idea. For one reason, you might end up with followers who are spammers, because the overload of hashtags is seen as nothing but marketing promotion and the people who follow you are only interested in being followed back. These aren’t the quality followers you’re looking for.

Best ways to use hashtags

  • Not every post or comments needs a hashtag. If it’s not meant for a wide audience, leave them off.
  • Monitor them and respond. If people are using your hashtag, that’s great! Acknowledge them somehow so they get some kind of feel good reward to keep using it.
  • People search for common brand and product hashtags. When you’re posting your content, think like a customer and think about what they would search for. For example, if you’re a hair salon, post images of your hair cuts (with your customer’s permission) using the already-popular #hairstyles hashtag. If you only use certain styling products, use that brand’s hashtags.

For many writers the worst part of writing is at the very beginning. They have to sit down to a blank piece of paper or a blank computer screen and make something happen. However, people who write frequently have tools and techniques to get unstuck, because it happens to everyone. All writers will have trouble with writer’s block at some point in their lives. It doesn’t matter whether they are trying to write a blog post, a white paper or an essay. Here are a few strategies that can help you never get writer’s block again.

There are many possible reasons for writer’s block. When you know you have to get something done, that debilitating feeling of fear and frustration just seems to make things worse. Fortunately there are as many ways to deal with writer’s block as there are causes.  Let us know in the comments if you have a strategy that works for you.

1. Don’t write.

As a person who writes for a living, there are definitely times when I don’t feel like writing an article even though I have to. If I have the luxury of time, I will simply not work on it until some idea occurs to me to get started. I know my mental wheels are always turning in the background. If I can wait until I have a little seed of inspiration, it flows from there. So generally, if you’re feeling stressed about writing something, take a break from it or ask someone else to take it off your plate for a while.

2. Keep a pocket size notebook or phone app with you at all times.

Whether you’re a pen-and-paper person (like I am) or an app person, find a way to make it convenient to jot down the slightest idea that occurs to you. Sometimes just a single word in a notebook or text message to yourself can help you recall the thought you had. Without documenting our sometimes fleeting ideas they can be gone forever.

3. If you can’t think of a good beginning or end, start writing in the middle.

Maybe you have a great point you want to make but aren’t sure how to start. Write down your main statement that you want to be the “take-away” from your blog post or article and work backwards. Or show it to someone and ask them what information you would need to give them to have them reach the same conclusion you did.

4. Take a walk.

This is tried and true advice because it works. Clear your mind and change your location. Get some fresh air and resolve not to think about your problem for a few minute. Don’t think about it at all.

5. Write often

More tried and true advice. Writing is like any skill that you may be struggling to learn, like playing an instrument or learning how to be a better baker. It gets easier and better with practice.

6. When you’re inspired, write more than one thing.

Try to keep a back-up idea in your pocket so when those days do come along, you’re not stressed about it. Ask an employee to come up with some ideas to write out so you have a couple to pick from if things really get tough.

7. Keep yourself informed.

The best way to make someone think that you are informed is to be informed. Read up on industry news and cultivate your opinions about the developments.  Engage others who are interested in the industry and you can have some very enlightening discussions that can lead to ideas for your own content.

8. Get inspiration from everyday life.

You’re out to dinner and your friend wants to leave a smaller tip than you. Why? This could inspire a blog post about perceived value. You’re at a baseball game and someone is critical of the other team’s player. Why? This could inspire a post about marketing and loyalty. You’re brushing your teeth and you start thinking about that song on the radio or that commercial you saw. Why? This could inspire a post about how to be memorable, understanding your target audience, or making your point in only 30 seconds.

9. Repurpose old content.

If you’ve been in business for a while, or blogging for more than a few months, there’s a good chance that the industry has undergone some dramatic changes since you first got started. Look back at some of your older articles, blog posts, paid online advertisements, or whatever you’ve done, and see what you can find that may have changed.

If your selling point from 2 years ago is no longer relevant, don’t just delete that blog post. Acknowledge it, own it, and describe what has changed in the world. If you’re a florist, for instance, you might have a post about the top 10 flowers to give for birthdays. You might then take each of those 10 flowers and turn them into 10 separate blog posts talking about why you sell them, what colors they are available in, how they are used in bouquets or corsages, and what flowers they work well with. Remember, your content does not have to be long.

10. Hire someone.

Hiring a content producer does not have to be a last resort. The decision to hire a content producer, such as Limelight Department, could be the best decision you make. If you really don’t enjoy writing and aren’t interested in doing it, hire someone! Some people love to write. Hard to believe, I know!

If you have ideas for content you want and no time to do it, let a professional take it off your plate. You spend your time thinking about how you can get more customers, and content producers spend their time thinking about what else they can write about. There’s no reason or rule that every business owner has to create their own content. Professional services exist to be problem solvers just for people like you who need them. You’ll never get writer’s block again because you won’t have to worry about whether you have an idea ready in time to publish or not!

Whether you’re just getting started with a new business or you have an established business that is underperforming, the following are key 10 online marketing checklist items for optimizing your customer experience. The things in this online marketing checklist aren’t the only things that are important, but addressing these 10 things will give any business a boost.

1. Hire Professional Editors and Designers

Nothing reduces trust and confidence like mistakes and typos on a website, or images and colors that are just not quite right. You’re an expert in your field . . . editors and designers are experts in their field. Just as you completely understand your business, they will deeply understand how to create written and visual content that communicates your message with the utmost credibility. Professional designers and editors are trained to look at each detail and they will pick up on things that you won’t.

2. Integrate Keywords

When you’re writing your product descriptions or service packages, include keywords that people will search for. Search engine optimization starts with page titles and moves down the page to image titles and alternative descriptions. Not sure how to go about this? Let us help.

3. Use Share and Follow Buttons

Add social sharing buttons to your website, blog and email newsletters. Make it easy and instantaneous to share your great content, and people will do it. Add buttons linking to your social profiles that are easily found on all pages of your website, in a global footer, header or sidebar.

4. Keep Your Information Up To Date

Evaluate your About pages for terms such as “we started 5 years ago” when 2 years have gone by since you wrote it. Unless you’re going to remember to update these date-related terms each year, change them to “we started in 2009.”

5. Be Easy to Find

Links to your contact page should be easy to find. If your business relies on phone calls, make your phone number a hyperlink that people can tap and dial. Have you claimed your Local Business page? Your location should appear in Google Maps and other local search options if that is appropriate. Include multiple contact options. Give customers the option of chatting, phone calling, fax, in-person visits or email. The easier it is for people to find you and get in touch, the more likely you are to get the customers you want.

We published a post about what sites to go to online and claim your business listings.

6. Have Multiple Calls to Action

As visitors move through your site, they should encounter enough information along the way to increase the likelihood that they will complete the transaction or take the action you want. Have there be CTA buttons or links at each step so when they’re ready, it’s right in front of them. For instance, if your site visitors must scroll down to see all product categories, have a second “add to cart” button at the bottom of the page.

7. Have An Easy Checkout Process

If your goal is to get as many sales as possible, ensure that your customers have an easy shopping experience. This involves a few things, but key elements are an easy to find cart, clear shipping costs and instructions and clear contact information and return policy. Allow customers to easily add and remove items from their cart, continue shopping from their cart and link back to the product descriptions from their cart.

8. Have a Social Media Presence

Having a “social” company means more than just creating a Facebook page and never using it. Establish and interact with your audience in the platforms you’ve committed to. Give customers a reason to follow you by providing interesting and usable information. Social media channels are not the place to simply push sales.

9. Develop Comprehensive FAQ Pages

Site visitors who navigate to your FAQ page demonstrate a deliberate interest in knowing more about your products and services. Give them detailed information in the form of articles, videos and photos along with the ability to reach you if they want to learn more.

10. Say Thank You

Confirm the purchase or transaction with a confirmation email thanking the customer for their business and providing some basic information. You may wish to offer a newsletter sign-up on this email, or your full contact information or a coupon code for their next purchase. Engage with the customer and welcome them back again.

Pick one of the things in this online marketing checklist and check out how your site handles it. If you can improve it, you’re one step closer to greatness If you’re already doing, good for you!