How to turn a hobby into a profitable online business

How to turn a hobby into a profitable online business

What do you love to do? Do you enjoy making candles, jewellery, or home décor items? Now, imagine if you could turn that joy and passion into a lucrative business venture.

If you find that your family and friends are constantly praising your skills, telling you that “you should turn that hobby into a business” and that “so many people would buy these”, it might be time to take action.

While you may assume it’s only suitable as a hobby, if it provides value to others there’s a real chance you can monetise it or even turn it into a successful business.

So in this article you’ll find all the key information and resources you need to turn your talent into a money-making business venture.

But first…

Should you turn your hobby into a business?

The reason why many people are afraid to take action, even if they know their talent is marketable, is the fear of failure. They fear that if they attempt to monetise a hobby, they’ll no longer feel joy or satisfaction from the activity at all. The pressure of working to a schedule, meeting financial goals and customer expectations can take away the fun, relaxation, and feeling of pleasure that they now feel.

If this scenario sounds familiar, then listen up. Sure, failure can happen and it can be scary, but not taking a chance can also prevent you from pursuing your dream, and what you’re meant to do.

Take Alice Barrow and Tom Green’s example, they were making candles at home in their spare time and are now the proud owners of Wick & Tallow, a successful luxury candle business. You can read more about their story in this BBC article.

So, with a little preparation and strategic execution, you too can enjoy a positive result.

Here’s how to get started…

The basics of getting a business started

Your business needs a name, and it may be the most important decision you make. While the right name can make your business the talk of the town, the wrong one can doom it to failure and obscurity.

Ideally, you want to choose a unique and memorable name that appeals not only to you but also to the kind of customers you are trying to attract.

Here are a few examples of good small business names:

  • Doggles, a business that sells protective goggles for dog
  • Real Meals, a meal delivery service that used natural ingredients to cook meals
  • Loquet, a handmade jewellery shop

Apart from communicating what your business is about and being brandable, you should also ensure the name you choose isn’t being used by another business and isn’t infringing anyone else’s intellectual property.

To help you get off to a good start, read our guide on choosing a business name and a domain name.

Another important thing to figure out at the beginning of your journey is the type of business you’re going to register. The taxes you pay as a business will depend on it, so make sure you get educated or discuss this with a good accountant so there are no nasty surprises.

Here are some resources to help you as you decide on the type of business you want to create, the specialised licenses you might need, how to apply for a patent or register a trade mark:

Getting online

If you make jewellery, clothing or anything related to arts and crafts, you’ll probably consider using third-party marketplaces like Etsy or eBay as an easy way to get started online. That makes sense as you probably want to get your products in front of as many prospects as you can, and as quickly as possible.

There are benefits of using a third-party marketplace such as Etsy, including:

  • Free account. However, you will have to pay a monthly fee to list your products on the platform, and there are also commission fees per sale as well as payment processing fees. So, if you’re just testing the water to see whether your product will sell, it might make sense to use a platform like Etsy. But if you’re serious about building a profitable business, then building your own site might be a better overall investment. Plus, in the long run setting up your own site could prove to be cheaper compared to selling on a third-party site.
  • More initial exposure. One of the biggest benefits of being on a site like Etsy is that people already use it to buy products like yours, which means as soon as your products are listed, people can start finding you. However, you’ll still need to promote your Etsy page to reach more potential customers. The downside with this is that you’re investing into promoting a page on a third-party site, instead of investing in your own site and building your own brand.

So, although sites like Etsy are a good way to get started online, especially if you don’t have a budget to invest in building and promoting your site, ask yourself:

  • What will you do if that third-party shuts down?
  • Do you want to be the one in control of your business site and how you present yourself to potential customers, or are you comfortable with a third-party site deciding that for you?
  • Do you want to sell a few products a month, and keep the investment to a minimum, or do you want to build a business and sell products from your own site, a site that you have complete control over?

We’ve written an in-depth article about the benefits of using third-party marketplaces such as Etsy versus creating your own e-commerce store, so make sure you read it as you decide on the best option for you.

If you decide that you’d like to build a website and sell your products directly from it, the following free courses in our Online Business Training will explain all you need to know about getting your site up and running:

Promoting your business/ product

It doesn’t matter if you have an amazing product if people don’t know it exists. Which is why it’s so important to know how to market your business so it gets in front of the right people – your potential customers.

A good way to get started is social media. You need to have a presence on the social platforms where your prospects are spending time online. If you’re not sure which ones to use to promote your business, this course walks you through all the major platforms so you can understand how each one works, which best matches the needs of your business and how to use a network so it’s worthwhile for you.

While it’s up to you to decide which social media channel you want to build a presence on, make sure you give Pinterest a try as it has a strong arts and crafts focus. There are 100 million active users on this platform, and 93% of Pinners have used Pinterest to plan for or make purchases. So, having a presence on Pinterest may be a great marketing decision for you.

Here is an example:

To learn more about it, how it works and how to use to market your business and products, read our beginner’s guide to Pinterest for small businesses.

If you plan to sell your products from a physical location, such as a market, or if you sell in pop-up stores, make sure to take advantage of Facebook’s events feature. Facebook events are a great way to keep your audience in the know about where you’ll be selling next, about special events you’ll be attending, or whenever you’re running a sale. Most people have their Facebook events connected to their smartphones, which means you won’t need to do much leg work to promote your events. This article includes some great advice on how to take advantage of Facebook events to market your business.

Now, while you take the time to organically build a community around your brand on social media, you might find that advertising there can help you to reach and sell to your audience faster. With so much competition on networks like Twitter and Facebook, running a social media campaign can get your products in front of prospects quickly, and with immediate results, instead of just waiting for them to discover you (which can happen in a day, a month, or never).

If you’re willing to invest a bit of money to advertise on social media, we’ve got you covered with a detailed course that explains how social media advertising works, and how to get started. You can take this free course whenever you like, and at your own pace, to learn everything on how to create and manage a paid campaign on Twitter and Facebook, as well as how to track and measure the results.

Once you’ve started attracting customers to your site, and making your first sales, don’t stop there. Remember that happy customers not only recommend you to their friends and family, but they’re also likely to buy from you again. They usually just need an incentive. So ask for their permission to update them via email whenever you add a new product or run a sale.

When used right, email marketing can be extremely profitable. That’s why we recommend taking our email marketing course to learn how to use email to engage your customers and push repeat purchases.

All these online marketing techniques are much easier to do when you have your own site. It also makes it easier to learn more about your site’s visitors, who they are, where they live, which products they’re interested in, how they found your site, and more. That’s because when you have your own site, you can sign up for Google Analytics and get access to lots of information about your visitors that can later on help you to improve your site and better sell your products.

If you’re not familiar with Google Analytics, this beginner’s guide explains everything from how to set it up to what valuable information you can find about your site and visitors, and how to use it to improve.

Decide if you want to expand

The above steps should help you create a small, profitable business that you can run in your spare time. But if you decide you want to take things to the next level, and become a full-time business owner, here’s what you need to do:

  • Create a large ecommerce site. Your site needs to accommodate the growth of your business. Now that you’re adding more products, and selling more, you’ll need to upgrade to a proper ecommerce site that comes with the extra features that customers are looking for.
  • Understand how you’ll meet potential demand in terms of obtaining raw materials and creating your final product.
  • Team up. If you want to be successful – that kind of successful that leaves people wondering if it’s even possible – you need to hire people who are great at things you’re not, at the things your success goal require. So if you think an expert might do a better job at optimising your site for search engines, or at (re)designing your site, hire one, while you focus on things you’re good at.

Wrapping up

There are lots of pros and cons regarding transitioning a hobby into a business. But it’s been done before, and successfully, even with hobbies far less marketable than yours. So whether you love making candles, lamps or T-shirts, you now have all the information you need to turn your hobby into a business.

So, go all in and don’t look back. Work hard, make mistakes, learn from them, and you’ll see positive results.

Your turn now: have you turned your own hobby into a business? What’s your best piece of advice to those considering taking this route? We’d love to read your comments @123reg.

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Microbiz Matters Day 2018 – #IGave12

Microbiz Matters Day 2018 - #IGave12

Microbusinesses are the unsung heroes of the economy. They bring innumerable benefits to communities, regions and nations, but often go unrecogonised.

That’s  why Microbiz Matters Day exists –  it’s a day of recognition, action and learning which highlights the important work that microbusinesses do. This year, Microbiz Matters Day is 12.1.18.

To help support the day, 123 Reg is contributing to the #IGave12 campaign by providing 12 pieces of advice for microbusiness owners. You can see our advice in the video below, and of course we’ll be tweeting our advice from @123reg throughout the day using the #IGave12 hashtag, along with many others.

Why not provide your own tips and advice using the #IGave12 hashtag. And don’t forget to keep an eye on the @MicroBizMatters Twitter account, where you’ll find a live stream of the Microbiz Matters event from Manchester. The stream runs from 7am to 3pm on 12.1.18 and features eight hours of live online learning sessions.



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5 handy tools you need to create irresistible marketing visuals

5 handy tools you need to create irresistible marketing visuals

Let’s face it – visuals have a huge part to play in a successful marketing strategy. The images and video clips that users see have to represent your brand perfectly – after all, this is what will grab their attention and hopefully convert them into customers.

With so many tools available, it can be a bit daunting to try and test them all in search of the best ones.

That’s why we’ve rounded up five of the best tools and apps you can use to create standout marketing visuals.

The best part? Most of these are free and super easy to use!


When it comes to free web-based image editing tools, PicMonkey is one of the best you’ll find. Don’t be fooled by the simple, user-friendly interface – this tool packs a good punch with features that are very similar to Photoshop, but way easier to use.

You may not be able to access all of them using the free plan – but you’ll certainly have everything you need to create a professional-looking graphic in minutes.

With a huge variety of fonts, overlays, customisable templates and photo editing tools and filters, PicMonkey is perfect for the blogger who wants to create Pinterest-friendly graphics, or the small business owner who wants to spruce up their social media pages.

Upgrade options:

The paid packages are still pretty affordable and they give you access to the more advanced editing tools, stunning filters and effects, and templates. They also give you the ability to store your projects and come back to edit them later, which is very helpful if you spot an error in your graphic or decide you’d like to update it with new branding.

Having said that, the best thing about PicMonkey is that the free version gives you more than enough to work with.


Finding an app that enables you to create professional-looking media on-the-go is a dream come true for any busy business owner or blogger. Introducing: the Magisto app – available to download on both iOS and Android smartphones and here to skyrocket your social media campaigns!

There’s also a great web version if you’d prefer to use that.

The user-friendly interface of the app means that you can get to grips with Magisto and start creating in a matter of minutes. There’s also a very cool Surprise Me feature. If you enable it, Magisto will create random videos for you using the media in your camera roll.

Creating your video is easy – simply upload or import your clip (or even capture your material straight from the app) select the Editing Style or theme and then choose some music to accompany your video. Then add some title text and set the video length.

Upgrade Options: The cheapest package allows you to add more media to your videos, create longer clips and gives you access to more editing styles and filters. You’ll also be able to download your creations, so it might be worth upgrading if video is a big part of your marketing strategy.


Infographics are popular marketing graphics that can drive a huge amount of traffic to your website. They allow you to fit a lot of useful information in one image and offer value to your viewers at-a-glance.

Perfect for posting on social media and attracting the attention of potential customers, what better way to convince customers that you know your stuff than solving a problem for them in one image.

If only you could make one in 5 minutes or less… Enter – Piktochart!

With a simple interface and guided tutorials, this tool is incredibly easy to use. Simply pick a template and customise it until it’s perfect!

Upgrade options:

The paid packages give you access to more templates and you can also upload your own images to the infographics you create, which is handy if you want to add your own branding to them. You can also download your new infographics as printables and PDFs amongst many other features that come with the upgrades.

Whether this is worth it though, depends on how central infographics are to your marketing strategy and how often you’ll be creating them.


Canva is an absolute goldmine for anyone looking to create enticing graphics to drive traffic back to their website. You can design and create pretty much anything using Canva, but social media graphics are a popular choice.

Canva has a range of very well-designed templates, patterns and professional stock photography – some of these are paid, most of them are free. You can customise a template, or you can start from scratch and create a great graphic in minutes.

Similar to PicMonkey, it’s feature-rich and much easier to use than a program like Photoshop. But what sets Canva apart from the rest is how easy it is to create, thanks to drag-and-drop functionality. I made this graphic in less than 5 minutes, from scratch:

If you’re looking for a programme that will allow you to create a high number of quality visuals as quickly as possible, Canva would be your best bet.

Upgrade Options: The paid package, Canva For Work, has a strong focus on team editing and collaboration. It also gives you unlimited storage for your creations, the ability to upload custom fonts, save templates, resize your images and more.  Having said this, the free version of Canva is brilliant and gives you everything you need to get by.


Last but certainly not least is another incredibly easy to use photo and video editing app, available to download on iOS and Android.

With a similar structure to Magistio, you can get up-and-running straight away with Animoto. Simply add your photos and videos from your camera roll, select an editing style to add filters and themes, choose your music, add your title screens, text and captions, review the preview and make any minor changes you might want to make, then save and share!

The results are impressive, professional looking clips that take hardly any time to make.

Upgrade Options: Animoto is free to try, so it’s great if you want to use it as a one-off and don’t plan on regular video marketing. However, paid plans allow you to download your creations, save them to the cloud, add more media to your clips and process in HD quality.

So there you have 5 tools you can use to create images and videos to speak for your brand in your marketing campaigns and drive traffic back to your website. What are your favourite tools for creating marketing visuals?


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Six ways your small business can do content marketing

Six ways your small business can do content marketing

In this day and age, small businesses can compete on almost every level with big brands. That includes content marketing. Regardless of the size of a business, the goal remains the same: to use great content to attract qualified customers.

But while the basic concept behind content marketing is quite easy to grasp, achieving the best results through content creation and promotion… well, that’s the difficult part.

Sometimes the best way to understand how to grow your business through content marketing is to learn from others. So in this post we’ll look at six creative examples of how small businesses on a small advertising budget use content marketing to promote their businesses.

But first…

What is content marketing

“Traditional marketing and advertising is telling the world you’re a rock star.  Content Marketing is showing the world that you are one.” – Robert Rose, Chief Strategy Officer, Content Marketing Institute

The phrase “content is King” has generated quite a buzz for the past few years. Why? Because content is at the heart of everything you do as a business owner. Even when you reply to a Facebook comment or to a tweet, that’s still content.

So what is content marketing anyway? It’s simple. Content marketing is the creation and sharing of content – regardless of what form it takes, whether it’s a tweet, a blog post, an infographic, a video, or an FAQ page – to attract and convert prospects into customers, and customers into repeat buyers. In other words, it’s content that you use to educate, help, engage and entertain people so they know, like and trust you enough to buy from you.

Why does it matter to your small businesses?

But what does content marketing actually mean for your business? What’s so different from what you’re already doing to promote your products and services? Why should you put time and resources into it?

Here is how content marketing can benefit your small business:

  • Increased brand awareness. Content gives your audience something to talk about. And when people talk about you, they share, like, comment on your content. You know you’re doing a good job at content marketing when people keep mentioning and praising your name, and when you’re at the centre of your prospects’ conversations online.
  • Trust and admiration. Building trust takes time but great content can help make that happen more easily. When you share your knowledge and advice time and time again, your audience will come to regard you as the guiding light and the top source of information in your industry. Quality content helps you to gain authority, authority that is then transferred to your products and services, making customers much more likely to choose you over your competitors.
  • Increased sales. When you’re creating quality content that targets potential customers, you’re shortening the distance between them and your products. Imagine a prospect stumbles upon one of your blog posts. They read it and find it so insightful that they have to visit your site to learn more about your business and your offering. They is your chance to turn them into customers.
  • More site traffic. This one’s obvious but very important. Great content will send people to your site where they can find out more about your business and products or services. It will also entice readers to share it with others and to subscribe to your content, which can result in a loyal audience for your business.
  • Better SEO. Think about it: without content, what is there to optimise for search engines? Your content tells Google what your business is about and, if optimised correctly, it will allow it to return your site for relevant user queries. High quality content also attracts links, which tell Google that you’re an authority in your industry.

Now, while content marketing isn’t a short-term strategy and you have to be at it all the time, over time it can help you reach more qualified prospects and customers.

Can I get results with content marketing if I don’t have a big budget?

Oh, yes! A lack of resources means you don’t have the time or the money to dive into every content-related project you can think of. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Instead of focusing on quantity, always choose quality. Get creative with content marketing as it’s the only way to truly compete with the big brands.

Next we’ll look at six examples of small businesses doing content marketing well so you get some inspiration and see what similar approach your can take while on a small advertising budget.

Examples of content marketing done well and how you can replicate them

Riedel wine glass

A few weeks ago I stumbled upon this article on wine glasses, which talked about whether the glass has any impact on the taste of the wine. While reading it, I thought to myself: this is just crazy! How can a glass improve the wine?


So of course I  started looking into the name Riedel and soon discovered the story behind it. The business, now owned by Maximilian Riedel, was founded by his grandfather, Claus, who revolutionised wine stemware in the 1950s by developing different glass designs for different types of wine. Today the name Riedel is synonymous with fine crystal.

Why does it work? Claus’ concept was that the choice of glass can improve the wine, or at least our experience of it. Wine-lovers were gripped with the fear that drinking from the wrong glass would diminish their vino-cred. See what he did here? This is storytelling at its best.

How to apply it to your small business

Storytelling is an integral part of content marketing. Why? Because our brains are hungry for a good story. So if you want to make the sale, forget the data and make a personal connection. Stories will not only help create an emotional connection between the reader and your business, but it will also make your brand stand out.

So, what’s your story? What are people missing out on by not using your products or services?

These articles share some great tips and advice on using storytelling in marketing:

Dollar Shave Club

When you hear “content marketing”, your mind probably thinks of written content first, but video has become a major player in the way online users consume media.

Every year, the value of online video content grows, and Dollar Shave Club has been taking advantage of this trend. Dollar Shave Club sells no-name razors for less than the cost of brand razors, but with high-end customer service and packaging.

With no employees and a small budget, they created a video that got them 9.5 million views, 23,000 followers on Twitter and 76,000 Facebook fans. Oh, and 12,000 new customers in the first 48 hours alone.

The company’s chief executive officer used his fun personality and sense of humour to convey product messaging in a way that supported the brand.

How to apply it to your small business

You don’t need to be a comedian to replicate and create a fun video. It can be as simple as facing the camera and saying, “Hi, I’m John and I want to tell you about our plumbing business”. Just make sure to focus on how your business stands out.

Worried video creation can be too expensive for your small budget? Don’t. Today, if you have a smartphone you can make a great marketing video. A one-minute video highlighting the things that make your business great could become your best customer acquisition tool.

Check out our guide to effective low-cost online video marketing to learn how to create quality video content on a small budget.


Movoto is a real estate company that become well know through content marketing done well. Their strategy to stand out revolved around taking fictional building and calculating how much it would cost to purchase if it was real. One of their earliest posts in the series established the cost of Barbie’s Malibu Dream House.


But they took the idea even further and created other creative topics including a quiz to figure out which Breaking Bad characters’ house would suit you best, an infographic detailing how to wrap your house in bacon, and a tool to find out how many bricks of LEGO it would take to build your house.

How to apply it to your small business

While Movoto’s content is more design-led, that doesn’t mean yours has to be too in order to be successful. It’s safe to say that the topic is key in their approach. So, to replicate try to find a unique, interesting angle that would appeal to your audience, and create content that is short, sweet, simple and, most importantly, fun!

Origin Code Academy

Origin Code Academy is a coding education provider that guarantees its students a job after graduation. But who’s going to take their word for it?

With this question in mind, Jeff Winkler, the founder and CEO of the company, used a news story about one of the Origin Code Academy graduates who secured a $110,000 programming job. He shared the TV segment on his Facebook page and paid to promote the post.

Origin Code Academy _3

Within a week, Winkler sold enough course applications that he needed to start a wait-listing people for future courses.

How to apply it to your small business

Know when to take advantage of media and user-generated content that tells your brand’s story for you. Keep on eye on what’s being said about your business online and see whether you can use a story, a review or a customer testimonial to build trust. Sometimes the best way promote your business is to encourage your customers do it for you.


Hipmunk is an online travel company that has been using guides to answer common traveller questions and conundrums. They’ve published lots of resources and guides with places to eat, to stay in, to visit in countries around the world. But while they also cover basic topics like things to do in Asia, they also create creative pieces of content such as the Traveller’s guide to tipping. This details the tipping practices in countries around the world for restaurant, taxis and more.

How to apply it to your small business

While their content isn’t flashy, it’s useful and it answers their audience’s questions, which is very important. So make sure your content marketing strategy focuses on creating content that is both purposeful and unique.

Tortuga Backpacks

This business sells carry-on-sized travel backpacks. Fred Perrotta, the co-founder of Tortuga Backpacks and a travelling entrepreneur, came up with the idea to create these backpacks after not being able to find the perfect backpack for his European trip.

But there’s something else they excel at: content marketing. While they sell backpacks, their content covers most everything that has to with travelling. And all this content is nicely organised into separate blogs. They write about everything from the best travel shoes to tips to dealing with airport customers. They even have a blog where they cover topics specific to the digital nomadic lifestyle.

A cool thing that they’ve done to grow their mailing list was to offer a free packing list. This is a like of checklist of things you needn’t forget to include in your backpack before you travel.

Tortuga Backpacks_4

How to apply it to your small business

You don’t have to create several blogs to make your content strategy work. Just make sure you think outside the box and figure out which broader topics you can cover, that are still related to your business and relevant to your audience. Do your homework and see what type of information your prospects are looking into and create content around it.

For example, if you’re a makeup artist, don’t just create makeup tutorials. You can go even further and share tips on how to care for skin in the summer, or how to look fresh after a long flight. If you’re an event planner, you can share tips and advice on how to deal with inviting divorced parents who have a conflictual relationship.

Wrapping up

As a small business owner, we understand that content marketing can initially seem intimidating and time-consuming. But you shouldn’t be afraid to try, or to fail.

The best content marketing campaigns are almost always a mix of proven methods and a bit of creativity. So use these examples to get inspired, figure out how you can resonate uniquely with your specific audience and then innovate and deliver. And please: have fun with it!

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Best uses of social media in 2017

Best uses of social media in 2017

Social media is a fantastic marketing tool that can help you to inspire, entertain, motivate, or sell your stuff to people. While it can be challenging to keep up with all the tools and trends, sometimes though, all you need is a great idea. A great idea that gets people talking about your brand.

If you don’t have yours yet, we’ve got a handful of ideas from which to draw inspiration. Some are fun, some promote worthy causes, and some just do an awesome job of helping the company’s bottom line.

So, without further ado, here are six excellent examples of social media campaigns from 2017.

Denny’s zoom meme

Restaurant chain Denny’s took advantage of the trending “zoom” memes and managed to create one of the most popular brand tweets of all time. Their meme asked users to go on scavenger hunt and zoom into different parts of a photo of a syrup-drizzled stack of pancakes before ending on a punchline.

The results? Close to 122K retweets, 2.4K comments and more than 170K likes.

Danny’s won because people were already making zoom memes popular. So they jumped on the craze and came up with a simple yet fun idea to engage their audience.

The lesson is this: pay attention to what’s trending and to what your audience in doing on social media, and try to use that in your own social media campaigns.

Know your lemons

The Worldwide Breast Cancer charity launched a social media campaign called #KnowYourLemons. The aim was to raise awareness of the various signs of breast cancer and to remind women that lumps aren’t the only symptom to watch out for.

To get people’s attention, they took a striking visual approach and used lemons to show the different warning signs of breast cancer. Here’s one of them:

Help increase breast cancer awareness. Share this image.

Posted by Know Your Lemons on Thursday, 2 March 2017

The charity also set up a dedicated Facebook page where people could read news updates, donate to the cause, and also join the conversation and share their personal experiences with a thriving community.

One of the reasons this social media campaign worked so well is because it managed to strike a delicate balance between serious and playful. The fact that they also gave people a platform on which to share their stories resonated with the audience and made it even more successful.

Mum’s Day Off

Mother’s Day is a huge opportunity for businesses to attract new followers and increase revenue.

Red Letter Days, a gift experience provider, took advantage and launched a clever social media campaign titled Mum’s Day Off (or #MumsDayOff). The brand asked people to share why they think their mum deserves a day off, with an award for the winner at the end of the campaign – a lunch at “A View From The Shard”.

The campaign caught people’s attention and the company began trending fast, while also gaining hundreds of new followers in the process.

But they didn’t stop there. During the leadup to announce the winner, Red Letter Days asked mums what they would want for Mother’s Day. Then they published a last-minute gift guide for shoppers to use. A fantastic idea to make some sales while they were trending.

Keeping up with the Bakers

Well-known fashion brand Ted Baker are known for thinking outside the box as far as social media goes. Their campaign – “Keeping up with the Bakers” – was no exception.

The campaign made its debut on Instagram in a sitcom-like video series featuring a fictional family. Aside from Instagram stories, they also used Snapchat as well as a shoppable 360 video.

In the interactive video, users were able to explore the Bakers household, the surrounding area, and the Baker’s fashion choice (which were, of course, shoppable from within the video).

Apart from the innovative and exciting idea and implementation, it’s storytelling that made this interactive campaign a smash success. Storytelling is always an effective marketing strategy to use, and this campaign is a classic example of how it can be successful on social media.

Airbnb’s #WeAccept

Capitalising on a trending topic, Airbnb took to Instagram to show their support and acceptance for people of all races and backgrounds. The caption said: “Acceptance starts with all of us. #WeAccept”.

While campaigns like this are sensitive and can often be hit-or-miss, Airbnb managed to strengthen consumer perceptions about their brand and cement their position as a world-renowned company with a focus on acceptance.

While this was a successful social media campaign, you should be extra careful about tying yours to sensitive topics. If you want to stay on the safe side, you can always run campaigns that are related to holidays like Mother’s Day or Christmas or big events like the Academy Awards as content related to these is more engaging.

Amazon’s Big Thanks

Another big brand that has had great success with Instagram is Amazon. They ran a simple social media campaign to thank their fanbase for rating them #1 in corporate reputation. To say thanks, they posted a visual showing their ranking with a caption telling customers about a discount they’re offering to celebrate their big win.

What made this campaign great weren’t just the simple idea and the presence of a discount (although it almost always helps) but the fact that Amazon knew they had their customers to thank for their win. And by saying “thank you” and also offering a discount, they managed to make their fans and followers feel appreciated, thus strengthening their connection to the brand.

When was the last time you thanked your customers for their loyalty, for their feedback, for their support?

Wrapping up

These are our choices for 2017’s best social media campaigns. As you can see, the key is to think outside the box and to come up with an idea that engages your audience and makes them feel like they’re part of something.

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What to expect from SEO in 2018

What to expect from SEO in 2018

When it comes to Google, change is the only constant. All the design and algorithm changes over the years have had a significant impact on organic rankings, and the reactions aren’t always positive.

Now paid ads are becoming increasingly subtle and taking up organic real estate while organic results are being pushed further down the search engine results pages (SERPs). It’s unfortunate, yes, especially if you’ve already invested lots of time and resources into properly optimising your website for search engines.

So now the question is: can you still get organic traffic in 2018?

The short answer is yes.

For the long answer you’ll need to read this article that’ll explain why and how organic results are being pushed down in the SERPs, and what the workarounds are that can be applied to stay ahead of the game and still get organic traffic in 2018.

What’s pushing organic results down in the SERPs?

Paid ads

Over the last two years, Google’s paid ads have gone through lots of changes:


  • It also introduced ad extensions, allowing businesses to highlight more useful information such as links, ratings and contact information.

  • The ad headlines increased in size
  • It brought more ad type diversity by introducing dynamic ads
  • Google also added local search ads
  • Plus, it introduced promoted pins on its Map to help businesses drive more offline foot traffic and conversions


As you can see, the changes are significant.

So, what’s the problem? It’s not just that ads now take up more screen real estate, but they’re also becoming increasingly subtle. So subtle that the differences between paid and organic is almost unnoticeable to the regular user.

Just take a look at how Google’s search results page changed from 2010 to 2014:


And here’s how it looks now:


So what happens when it’s less obvious that an ad is an ad? Paid ads get more clicks, and organic results fewer.

In fact, in an article for Moz, an SEO agency owner reported a 25% drop in clicks on organic search results on desktop, and 55% on mobile compared to two years ago. He also added that “paid ads are likely now earning nearly the same percentage of clicks as organic results – a staggering change from most of the history of Google.”

Google Shopping

Google Shopping also went through a variety of changes. Here is how it used to look and how it looks now so you get an idea of the changes:


Some of the most significant changes include:

  • Product listing ads on top of regular ads
  • Product listing ads on the right-side bar
  • Dedicated shopping pages
  • Special offers in shopping ads
  • Local inventory ads


  • Shopping ads become scrollable. The original format for shopping ads included 12 product listing ads (PLA) displayed in a box on the right side or at the top of the main Google SERP.

Now there are as many as 18 PLA that users can scroll through:


  • Purchases on Google, a feature that allows users to buy products directly from the SERPs.


If you’d like to learn more about these changes, make sure to check out this slideshow on the evolution of paid media from SearchLove’s 2017 conference in London.


Google’s changes to the SERPs are meant to improve user experience (UX) and help to provide the most relevant results and information to its users. That’s probably also why Google teamed up with Twitter to display real-time content in the search engine results.

This way, anyone who wants to find relevant tweets on a particular topic can just Google them. So, for example, if you do a quick search for #goldenglobes2018, this is what shows up:

The downside though is that in some cases the organic results get pushed down below the ads, like in this example:

Google’s new card-based layout

Yet another change that is pushing organic results down is the card-based layout that Google is experimenting with in the SERPs. With this layout, each result is placed in its own separate box.

This isn’t something new as Google has also experimented with it back in 2013 but it didn’t last long. Search Engine Watch also published an article in 2016 where it showed how all the search results appeared to be in a card format.

Now this seems to be popping back in the SERPs.

While the idea is probably to show off a cleaner SERP with all the results neat and organised, the downside is that this is adding more space between the cards, thus pushing organic results further down the page.

Expanding the Google carousel layout

If you’re not familiar with the Google carousel layout, here’s how it looks now:

While this layout has mainly been reserved for non-commercial queries like books, music, movies, and so on, that may be changing to include commercial queries as well.

Here’s what shows up when searching for “best accounting software”:

As you can see, the competition is fierce and the organic results are nowhere to be found above the fold.

Related questions box

You may have noticed an expanding grid box that appears in the search results for some queries. This box is also known as “People also ask” and it includes a series of questions related to the query.

When you click one of the questions, it expands to show a brief answer and also a link for continued reading.

This is a great opportunity for website owners to increase their visibility in the search results by answering users’ questions.


Here is an overview of what’s been happening in mobile search:

New mobile extensions. Google has released two new ad extensions that are only available on mobile devices: promotion and message.

With promotion extensions, you can add a price tag icon below the ad and highlight a special offer or a sale on your website. You can also specify other details about your promotion, like whether it’s a holiday or a clearance offer, when it ends, minimum purchase value, and more.


With message extensions, you can allow users to send you a text message right from the mobile search results.

Accelerated mobile pages (AMP). If this is the first time you’ve heard of AMP, their aim is to improve the performance of the mobile web with stripped-down versions of web pages. In fact, Google claimed that display ads on AMP load up five times faster.

Vertical-focused ads. Last year, Google introduced new mobile ad types available for specific industry verticals. For example, salons and spas can allow users to book an appointment using the “Reserve with” Google feature as well as via search and maps.

AdMob revamp. In 2017 Google also announced a complete revamp of AdMob, its in-app ad platform. The platform was rebuilt entirely to make it easier to use, and to also provide more data and insights into its users’ behaviour.

Google tests fewer organic results on mobile. It seems that Google is testing the mobile search interface and showing fewer organic results than ever. According to Search Engine Roundtable, mobile search results include “mostly two organic listings, sometimes up to five but never more”.

Why is this all happening?

The search engine giant has a plan: to switch to a mobile-first index. So they’ve been taking steps in that direction by shifting towards a very mobile-centric SERP.

It makes sense. With the increasing number of mobile users, Google no longer wants to provide two different experiences on desktop and mobile. Instead, they’re looking to unify the way users experience results across all devices.

What Google is aiming for is to become a hub of instant answers, and to also remove the need for users to ever leave the results page.

Another motivator for unifying the SERP is the fact that an increasing number of people now own and use multiple devices at the same time, as opposed to exclusively using mobile or desktop. So it makes sense for Google to want to offer the same experience across all devices.

This way, when you’re looking up a conference or a travel destination on your computer at work, on your tablet at home or on your phone in the tube, you’ll have the same experience.

What is the impact of all of this?

There are lots of changes and each has an impact on the SERPs and your business’ visibility in the search results.

Here is what we know so far:

  • More space for ads means less space and visibility for organic listings, which are being pushed down in the SERPs.
  • Better ad extensions and features mean that users can find what they’re looking quicker, without having to scroll down.
  • With scrollable ads, Google can now offer more results in the same screen space.
  • The shopping options make users’ choices less time consuming as they’ll no longer need to browse through organic listings.
  • The presence of the local map provides quick options without having to visit individual websites.
  • The knowledge graph can provide answers directly into the SERPs so users no longer need to go to various sites to get answers.
  • In some cases, position 0 provides a complete answer so there’s no need for users to click-through to a website to get more information.
  • AMP provides a faster experience but from Google’s servers.
  • Google has already dropped one organic listing in the local 3-pack and replaced it with a local ad. Will all the listings in the local pack be replaced with ads? We wouldn’t be surprised if that were to happen.
  • The SERP’s layout change also presents a problem. With the shift from the traditional “ten blue links” SERP of the old days to the dynamic and visually appealing SERP of today, it makes the task of optimising content challenging. Site owners must now consider all the different types of content and how each will rank in different sections of the SERPs on different devices and for users in different locations.

Yes, Google is constantly changing. And that’s also changing users’ behaviour online.

In 2005 and again in 2014 Mediative performed eye tracking studies to see how users view Google search results. These were their results:


Last year, ConversionXL also did an eye tracking experiment of their own to see how users’ behaviour has changed in 2017. Here is what they saw:

They discovered that users look at ads right away, especially now that they’re so cleverly designed to look like any other search result. However, when they realise the result is actually an ad, they leave it behind and move on to organic search results.

How can you still get SEO traffic in 2018 with the ever-shrinking organic listings?

Even with all these changes, there are still things you can do to continue getting organic traffic from Google’s SERPs.

Here are the top three we recommend focusing on:

1. Improve your local SEO

When prospects are looking to buy a product or service and they run a search online, Google usually returns a map with local business listings that is displayed below paid ads.

These listings include information like address, opening hours, website links, customer ratings, links to reviews and more.

If you want your website to be eligible for these rankings, you’ll need to create your own Google My Business page and fill it with up-to-date information about your local business. It’s your best chance to use local SEO and put your business on the map so potential customers find you. For more information, check out our step-by-step guide on how to get your business to appear on Google Maps.

In addition to setting up your Google My Business page, you should also create business profiles on relevant and authority directory sites like Yelp or Angie’s list. Just make sure that your business information is accurate and consistent across the web. That includes your website and any social media sites and local directories you’re on.

If this sounds like too much work, you can always use a service like Local Listing from 123 Reg, which makes it quick and easy to submit your details to relevant directories and keep them up-to-date with the click of a button. In addition, you can use it to monitor any reviews you receive on these sites so you also have a hassle-free way to keep track of your reputation online.

2. Create more long-tail content

Imagine it’s the middle of the night and you find yourself with a leaky toilet tank. If you don’t know much about leaky toilets, you probably grab your phone and run a search on Google for “emergency plumber”. Google then returns four ads at the top, then a map with nearby businesses. You’ve got to do some scrolling to find your first organic listing.

On the other hand, people who are handy around the house will probably run a search like “how to fix a leaky toilet tank”. So instead of trying to find a plumber, they’re looking for answers on how to do it themselves. In this case, Google returns an ad-free page filled with organic search results: articles, guides, videos, Q&As.

So what does this all mean?

It means that if you want to increase your visibility in the organic search results you’ll need to create useful content that answers your prospects’ questions. So, create blog posts, guides, videos where you share tips and information that are helpful to your audience. And do it often as producing a steady stream of fresh, in-depth material is crucial for remaining relevant and helping you to reach new customers.

When creating your content, make sure to optimise it using relevant long-tail keywords. Why? Because it’s how people search the internet to ensure they find exactly what they’re looking for. In fact, long-tail keywords account for 70% of all web searches.

Long-tail keywords are descriptive and specific, which means you’ll have a better chance at generating more organic traffic and attracting the right users who are interested in your content.

In addition to optimising content using long-tail keywords, you should also make use of structured data. Structured data allows you to enhance your search listings and make them stand out in the SERPs.

Here’s a simple example:

With so much competition and the increasing challenge to attract organic traffic, you can’t ignore this opportunity to stand out.

The following articles offer lots of great tips and information about structured data and how to put it into practice to catch users’ attention in the SERPs:

3. Technical SEO and UX

In addition to local SEO and long-form content, you should also take care of the technical aspects of your website to increase visibility in the search results.

The following are critical to your site’s success in the SERPs:

Speed. Since speed is a ranking signal, you know it’s important. And not just to rank higher but also to keep visitors from abandoning your site and moving on to your competitors. How fast does a site need to load? Google expects pages to load in under three seconds so make sure yours do too. In this article you’ll find out more about why speed is important and ways to speed up your website.

Mobile-friendliness. With over half of google search coming from mobile devices, the impeding mobile-first index, and mobile-friendliness being a ranking factor, you need to ensure your website is mobile-friendly. Read this article for advice on how to develop a mobile-friendly website.

Usability. This is super-important for SEO and it also helps keep your visitors happy. Great user experience refers to a site that is organised and simple to navigate so visitors can move between pages with ease and quickly find the information they’re looking for.

Wrapping up

If you’re concerned about losing visibility in Google’s organic search results, you’re not alone. But here’s the thing: while the recent changes may cause a drop in organic traffic, if you focus on what’s important and continue to work on optimising your site for organic SEO, you can be sure your efforts will pay off in the long run.

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20 links every online business owner should click before 2017 ends

20 links every online business owner should click before 2017 ends

2017 has been an eventful year, with lots of changes in most aspects of digital marketing. But since we know how challenging it can be to keep up with all this information while trying to run a successful business, we’re happy to help you catch up.

Here are 20 of the best resources from 2017 that you can use to get started online with your new business and ways to use tools like social media, search engine optimisation (SEO) and email marketing to promote your business, engage customers and increase your revenue.

Getting started with a new business

Whether you want to sell handmade jewellery, plumbing services or an app, the following resources are filled with great tips and advice on how to get started, from how to get your business up and running to ways to promote it online.

Naming your business – In this video you’ll find crucial advice on things to avoid when naming your business or buying a domain to help you avoid some potential costly mistakes.

Getting your business online – This article details the essential products you’ll need to get your business online, including the costs you can expect to pay for each. This way you get a better idea of the kind of budget you need to start your business and get it online.

Promoting your new website – This guide walks you through the six steps to get you started with digital marketing for a new website so you get to grips with important concepts. You’ll learn everything from how to identify your target audience and set goals to deciding which marketing channels to use to reach your ideal customers.

Mistakes to avoid – No matter how (in)experienced you are, you’ll make mistakes, and you’ll learn from them. Just make sure to avoid these 13 common mistakes when launching your small business, and you’ll be one step ahead of your competitors.

Social media

In this day and age, your business can’t exist without a social media presence. Are you using the right social channels to connect with your audience? And are you making the most of each to educate, entertain and engage your followers? The following resources will teach you how.

Developing a social media strategy – It’s no longer about being present on Twitter or Facebook, sharing a few updates and answering a few comments. If you want to be successful on social media, you need a plan. This guide will teach you all about proper social media strategy for a small business – what it is, why it’s important, and how to develop one that’s right for your business.

If you want to dig deeper, the 123 Reg free digital course on social media includes lots more information about setting strategy and goals but also what type of content to post and when, plus how to analyse the results of your efforts.

Getting started with Instagram for business – If you’ve decided you’d like to use the popular photo and video sharing social network for business but don’t know how to get started, this is the guide for you. In it you’ll find out everything about using Instagram for marketing, from how to set up your business profile to the type of visual content that is most successful on this platform.

Using hashtags to reach more people – If you’re on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn but aren’t using hashtags to tag your content, you’re missing out. When used right, hashtags are powerful and can help users discover your content more easily. If you’re ready to take advantage and learn how to use them for your business, check this beginner’s guide to hashtags.

Automating social media – Tools like Hootsuite, Buffer and CoSchedule are fantastic at helping you to create, curate and distribute content on the social channels you’re active on. This article shares six other such tools that can simply and automate your social media tasks.

Finding new content ideas – One of the hardest parts about social media for business is having to constantly come up with new, useful, entertaining content to share with your audience. If you need some inspiration, in this article you’ll find 20 social media ideas to keep your brand’s feed fresh and engaging.

Building relationships with influencers – We’ve written many times about influencers on the blog and the significant impact they can have on people’s purchasing decisions. In this guide on building relationships with influencers you’ll learn why influencers matter and how you can team up with them so they promote your business to their fans and followers.

Offer customer service around the clock on Facebook – Messaging apps are becoming popular tools for businesses to provide support and answer users’ questions and concerns. So, if you’re using Facebook for business but aren’t using Facebook Messenger for business, it’s time you get started. In this article you’ll learn how to create a Facebook Messenger chatbot for your business so you can not only save time but also enhance your customer service and marketing for your small business.

SEO and content marketing

Search engine optimisation

Whether you’re just getting started with optimising your website or looking into additional ways to make it more visible in the search results, these resources might come in handy.

Showing up on Google Maps – More than a quarter of mobile searches are related to location. So if you’re not on Google Maps when prospects are searching for your business, you’re missing out. Don’t know the steps? Read this guide to learn the steps to getting your business to appear on Google Maps.

Optimising for local search – If you’re a local business, you need to make sure you’re visible to local customers. But how do you go about optimising your website when you don’t have a brick-and-mortar location? This guide explains the local SEO tactics you should use to optimise your site when you don’t have a physical address.

Getting your YouTube videos found – For years, YouTube has been a popular marketing tool for lots of businesses, and with 55% of users watching videos online every day, you need to take advantage. But that doesn’t mean just creating videos and uploading them to YouTube. If you really want results, you need to optimise them to ensure your videos get noticed more often. This article shows you exactly how to optimise a YouTube video so it gets found by potential customers.

SEO ranking factors in 2017: Find out more about the most crucial search engine ranking factors and get practical expert advice on how to use these factors to increase your site’s visibility in the search engines.

Email marketing

Email marketing is still one of the most popular and effective tools to keep in touch with prospects, to update and entertain them with fresh, useful content and information and, of course, to market your products and services. Check out these resources for the latest tips on how to make the most of email marketing.

Creating your first mailing list – As a new business, you need to find ways to entice prospects to sign up to your mailing list so you can then send them useful content and stay in touch with them. But how do go about it? How do you entice people with a full inbox to sign up for yet another mailing list? Find out how in this beginner’s guide to building your first email list.

Personalising emails – Personalisation is key to successful marketing now and in the years to come. That means that to get results you’ll need to make email all about the customer by serving up relevant, valuable offers and content intended for each group of customers. Read this article to learn how to use personalisation in your emails to get better results.

Measuring results – Want to find out how your emails are performing, what’s working and what you should improve to get better results? In this beginner’s guide to email analytics you’ll learn how to use Google Analytics to track your campaigns and which metrics to focus on when evaluating email performance.

If you’re looking to learn more about email marketing and how to use it to engage your prospects and grow your business, make sure to take our free digital course on email marketing. In it you’ll find out not only how to get started with email marketing but also how to design your email, how to use marketing automation and how to analyse your results.

There you have it – 20 useful links with lots of advice and information on how to improve your business and better market it to your target audience using social media, SEO and email marketing.


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5 tips to boost your ecommerce sales in 2018

5 tips to boost your ecommerce sales in 2018

If you’re running an ecommerce website, you should always be searching for ways to improve your sales.

In this guide, we’ll look through some methods to entice more people to make a purchase from your website.

To make the most of some of these tips, you’ll either need to polish up your technical skills, or considering hiring an agency to help you out. That may seem like a big step, but doing so can really help take your business to the next level.

Run A/B tests

Could changing the colour of your “buy now” button boost sales? It may seem like a strange question, but the fact is you can never tell how a change to your website will impact sales until you try it.

Of course, it’s not a good idea to go round making site changes just for the sake of it. You need to identify potential changes and then test them against your existing website one at a time so you can tell whether they have a positive or negative impact on your sales.

That’s where A/B testing comes in. The concept behind the test is simple – you make one small change to a page on your website and see whether it makes a difference to your conversion rate compared to your existing page.

In practice, A/B testing is a little bit more complicated than this, as you have to worry about things like statistical significance, and the technical side of setting up your tests.

That said, the effort required to run A/B tests is more than worth it as you’ll almost certainly discover changes that boost your sales and hence your revenue.

Check out this guide to learn more about getting started with A/B testing.

Make better use of your email marketing list

You do have an email marketing list, right? If not, then make creating one your top priority. If you already have a list, then a great way to boost sales is by making sure you’re using it in the right way.

If you’re just sending out the same email to all your customers, then you’re not using the channel to its full potential.

Targeted, segmented marketing emails can boost your conversion rates. You can even make use of clever techniques like abandoned cart emails, which contact people after they leave your site with items in their shopping cart that they haven’t checked out.

This is the webinar for you if you want to learn more about how to make the most of your email marketing list.

Optimise your PPC ads

Pay per click (PPC) ads are the lifeblood of many an ecommerce business. Done right, they can drive plenty of sales and increase your profits. Done badly, PPC ads can be a time consuming, expensive failure.

So how can you make PPC ads? Well, if you haven’t tried them in the past, or have tried them and struggled to get them working for you, then why not check out this free course on getting started with PPC ads.

This is the place to go if you’re looking for some more advanced PPC tips and tricks.

If on the other hand, you don’t want to worry about running PPC ads yourself but still want to reap all the benefits, why not let 123 Reg take care of things for you? Get in touch with our PPC management team to see what we can do for you.

Streamline your website

How many clicks does it take for someone to buy a product from your website? How many fields do they have to fill in when signing up?

If people have to jump through hoops to become your customer, then they’re far less likely to actually become a customer.

The worst thing is, you can sometimes put obstacles in people’s way without realising. What may seem like a perfectly logical website setup to you could be very confusing to first-time visitors.

Testing is the answer here. A/B testing can help you with basic questions such as “what happens if I reduce the number of fields in my sign up form?”.

However, to discover things like how your potential customers expect your site’s navigation to be structured, you need to run in depth user tests.

User testing is a great way to improve your site, because it allows you to get an insight into the minds of the people who matter – existing and potential customers.

As you might imagine, it’s a complex task. We have a guide to getting started with user testing here. But if you’re serious about it, you may want to seek out the help of a specialist agency.

Focus on customer service

If you’ve been running your ecommerce business for a while, you’ll have undoubtedly heard the old adage that it’s cheaper to keep a customer than it is to attract a new one. And it’s true.

So ask yourself are you really doing enough to keep customers happy? If you aren’t able to answer this question with a resounding yes, backed up by data that proves it, then it’s an area you need to focus on in 2018.

The key to improving customer service is understanding exactly what your customers think of your business.

By implementing the Net Promoter Score (NPS) system, you’ll be able to understand what customers do and don’t like about your business. From there, you can’t start making improvements to keep customers happy.

This guide will help you get started with NPS.

Summing up

Hopefully you’ve been inspired to try out at least one method of growing your ecommerce sales, and no matter how you’re planning to grow your business in 2018, 123 Reg will be with you every step of the way.

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Our favourite small business resources and tools of 2017

Our favourite small business resources and tools of 2017

Whether you’re fine-tuning your social presence, optimising your website or digging through data, relying on the right tools means saving time and maintaining your sanity at the same time. The problem is there are always new online marketing tools, trends and resources that pop up so how do you know which ones to use?

In this post we’ll share with you some of our favourite small business tools and resources. Some are new and some are established, but they’re all very useful. We divided the list into three sections – social media, search engine optimisation (SEO) and general online marketing – so you can get a better sense of which tools and resources you can use for different tasks.

Let’s get started!

Social media marketing

Social media continues to be a powerful tool for reaching and connecting with your audience, whether by providing great content, by offering advice and support or by simply engaging with them in conversation. Here are some great resources and tools that can help you do just that.

Display Purposes

If you’re using Instagram to reach your audience, you probably know just how important it is to use the right hashtags and how much of a difference they can make in how many users find your posts. If you’re struggling to come up with the best, most relevant hashtags for your Instagram photos, make sure you try Display Purposes.

This tool was created by photographer and developer Fay Montage, and it’s extremely simple to use. All you need to do is enter one or two hashtags that are relevant to your photo and the site will return a list of 30 similar hashtags that are often used on Instagram alongside the ones you entered.

Here are some results we got when we entered #london and #burger:

If you’re not using hashtags already, this guide explains all you need to know about hashtags and how to use them for your business on popular social networks like Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest.


Curating content that’s relevant to your audience is probably amongst the most time-consuming social media tasks. Quuu makes this job easier by suggesting content that’s hand-picked specifically for your social audience.

The tool gathers selections from hundreds of categories specifically geared toward your audience.

To get started, you’ll need to select the categories that matter to you and based on them, the tool will return with content suggestions your audience might enjoy. You can approve and schedule the ones you like on your preferred social channels using Buffer or Hubspot, or you can let the team at Quuu handle everything for you.


If you want to try it out, with the free forever plan you can choose up to five interest categories and get two content suggestions per day.


If you have an active presence on social platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or others, you know how time-consuming it can be to deal with everything from posting content to engaging with your audience and tracking results.

That’s what makes Hootsuite one of our favourite time-saving tools of 2017. You probably already know that it’s one of the most popular platforms for scheduling social media content in advance, but did you also know that with Hootsuite’s improved Bulk Composer feature you can schedule up to 350 posts at once?

If that seems like a lot and don’t know how you could go about creating so much content, this super-useful guide explains how to create a social media calendar and organise a year of posts the easy way.

And if you’re looking to save even more hours of work, here are seven social media templates you can use for everything from planning and message scheduling, to publishing and tracking results. Here’s an example of a social media content calendar template you can use:


Facebook Creator

Facebook Live is huge, drawing engagement and comments over ten times the rate of non-live videos. So, if you’ve been wanting to give live video a try, with the new Facebook Creator app you have no excuse not to.

Facebook launched the Facebook Creator app in November 2017 and we think it’s worth checking out. The app includes lots of great tools for streaming video, updating Stories and message people across Facebook’s platforms.

The main draw are the features for Facebook Live that allow you to create custom intros and outros for live broadcasts, as well as add interactive stickers and a custom video frame.


So if your business has an active presence on Facebook and want to give live video a try, install the Facebook Creator app and see how you like it. On the Facebook for Creators website you’ll find some useful resources and tips on how to create videos using the app.


Search engine optimisation

Local Listing 

You can’t really blame us for talking up 123 Reg, can you?

We’ve launched the Local Listing tool this year and in case you haven’t had the chance to use it yet, know that we’ve created it to make the process of local SEO as quick and as painless as possible.

So instead of spending time submitting your site to directories and then more time keeping those directories updated, our tool does the work for you. It makes it quick and hassle-free to submit your details to relevant directories, and updating your details takes just a few seconds.

In addition, you can use Local Listing to monitor the reviews you may receive on these sites, which helps to manage your reputation and respond quickly to any negative comments or issues that may arise.

We believe the 123 Reg Local Listing’s features and functionalities can speak for themselves so why not start with a free report on the current state of your local SEO? 

New search engines

While Google is the most popular search engine that almost every business focuses on, there are lots of other noteworthy search engines out there. Some focus on more niche areas, like academia, while others distinguish themselves in other ways that’s attracting users.

For example, Semantic Scholar is an academic research search engine where you can find lots of reliable resources:

So, just like you experiment with different SEO tools or marketing tactics to see which ones work best for your business, we encourage you to also test other search engines and see how they can help to increase your brand’s visibility.

Here is a break-down of six new search engines you should be keeping your eye on and why.

General online marketing

While there are lots of strategies and tactics you can try, which can sometimes feel overwhelming, with the right tools and resources you can start to make progress faster. Here are some interesting ones you can experiment with.

BuzzSumo’s Question Analyzer

We’ve mentioned BuzzSumo lots of times on the 123 Reg blog. That’s because it’s a fantastic tool for discovering the most popular content on social media and on the web. It can also tell you who are the most influential users within a particular topic area, so it’s effective at helping you to identify relevant and valuable influencers you should connect with.

A few months ago BuzzSumo added a new feature within its platform called Question Analyzer. The tool is designed to help content marketer search for questions being asked about topics related to their business.

This is extremely useful because the best content you can possibly create is the one where you address the questions and pain points that prospects have.

The Question Analyzer crawls about 100,000 forums, such as Reddit, Quora and Amazon and other Q&A sites, and groups all the questions being asked pertaining to a topic or product.

So, if you’re doing customer research to find out more about your prospects’ pain points, questions and concerns, or if you’re looking for new content ideas that your audience is interested in, you’ll want to give this tool a try.


You’ve probably gone through a plethora of resources about influencers and how much they can influence people’s buying decisions. Up until not too long ago, the top advice was to reach out to influencers with millions of fans and followers. But as a small business, you probably can’t afford those types of influencers.

The great news is you don’t have to. In fact, influencers with a smaller but more loyal following (also known as micro-influencers) can help you to reach your target audience and get better results than influencers with a huge following.

So, one of our favourite resources of 2017 is this article about promoting a brand using micro-influencers and how the best type of influencers are those who are already fans of your brand.

Wrapping up

There you have it – some of our favourite small business tools and resources of 2017. We’d love to hear from you in a tweet @123Reg about which of these you’ve used or any new ones that might be worth checking out.


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Tips for planning your social media over the festive season

Tips for planning your social media over the festive season

The festive seasons is an incredibly important time for brands, both big and small, and many have been preparing for this moment for months. Whether you’re looking to get into the festive spirit with a mix of fun posts and special offers or just want to let things go quiet over the holidays, we’ve put together this essential list of great tip for managing your social media profiles this season.

Use this compilation of tips to ensure you’re making the most of your social media over the festive season.

Do your research

If you’re using social media management tools like HootSuite or Buffer to schedule your posts, make sure to also look at the data analytics to gain insight into your audience’s preferences. Take a look at how they interact with your brand on your various social channels and then use this information to create content that will resonate and truly make an impact.

You can also use the data analytics from these tools, as well as from your Facebook Insights and Twitter Analytics, to see what has worked well in the past. You can then use the data from your previous campaigns to enhance and improve your efforts this year.

Know when and how to post content

The tools we mentioned above can also help you to discover which days and time of the day your audience spends most time online. Usually, during the festive season and until the beginning of January, people take time off from work, which means they’ll have more free time to browse the web and social media. Take advantage of this to share interesting content and great offers.

The easiest thing you can do to get organised it to create an editorial calendar where you add all your upcoming social media activity. Your calendar should include the posts you’re planning to schedule, the time and day when they’ll be posted and the social channels where they’ll be published on.

Scheduling content is a good move if you want to take some time off but if you’re site is still taking orders. However, this doesn’t abdicate your responsibility to keep an eye on your social media and respond to comments and mentions. It’ll hurt your reputation if you receive comments and don’t respond while your business continues to push out updates on social media.

Read our post for more best practices on why and how to schedule your social media posts.
time social media

Help spread the holiday spirit

Nobody likes a Grinch or a Scrooge, right? So make sure that your online presence on social media reflects all the good holiday cheer that lifts everyone’s mood and makes the season memorable.

This can include customising your social media covers and themes to be bright and colourful. Just make sure your branding is consistent as you don’t want to confuse your fans. Pick a single theme, colour scheme and font pack and stick with it. You can also have a bit of fun and add a bit of festive cheer to your updates and replies.

Another thing you can do is to share some behind-the-scene pics. Upload Christmas party pictures or share your team members’ plans for the New Year. Share any type of content that can make your customers feel personal with the brand.

Check before you post

If you’ve scheduled content so you have one less thing to worry about during the holiday season, make sure you take another look before it goes live. Do this not only to ensure they’re error-free but also that they’re still accurate. There are many examples of brands that have used various tools to automate their social media posts while away, only to discover the posts went viral, but not in a good way.

So if you do decide to automate your social posts while on holiday, make sure you still keep an eye on the news and also check your posts before they go live. Your surely don’t want to be given as an example of a social media disaster, like these other brands.

Get in touch with your customers

This is the perfect time to initiate conversations with your audience on social media. For example, on Instagram you can post an image of one of your most popular products and ask customers to share a pic or a short video of how they’re using it or to whom they’re planning to give it to. You can also create fun, holiday-themed hashtags to initiate conversions around your brand.

Going into the New Year, you can share a fun card or a discount as a small token of appreciation for their trust and loyalty. It’s a simple gesture that can get you new brand advocates and even more loyal customers for years to come.

Let things go quiet (but tell people you’re doing so)

It’s ok to let things go quiet over the holidays, but make sure to let people know! As a small business, your customers will be more understanding as they’re aware you don’t have a huge team of people that’s available 24/7. Just make sure to let them know that you’re on a break and when you’ll be back. Simply share a quick update a few days before your time off so they have time to get in touch with you before you leave.
girl writing list

Don’t slack on customer support

If you’re selling products online and especially if you’re running a campaign, the chances are that customer feedback and queries will increase during this period. And where do they go to voice their complaints or ask their questions? Social media, of course!

Whether you’re short-staffed or you’re taking some time off, you need to be ready to deal with any queries from customers. So even if you’re on a break, make sure to check your social media channels at least twice a day to reply to all comments from customers.

Don’t forget to have fun!

While this is a great time to boost sales, focusing solely on sales promotions will drive customers away. So make sure you include a mix of engaging content in any format, whether text, links or videos. Remember that this is a time for having fun so embrace it with your social media.

If you want to save even more time during the holiday season, here are some other tasks that you can automate.

There you have it, our top tips for making the most of social media during the holiday season. Any other you’d add to this list?

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