Use Facebook Messenger to Connect with Customers Directly

Instant messaging is a simple and easy solution to connecting with customers, but many businesses are hesitant to use it. Some worry about instant messaging being too informal, while others of unsure of how to communicate with customers through IM. Despite these concerns, businesses and customers alike are coming to love connecting through Facebook Messenger.

Facebook Messenger for business pages is accessible from both the desktop site and the Facebook Pages Manager app.
Facebook Messenger for business pages is available from both the desktop site and the Facebook Pages Manager app.

As part of Facebook Pages, businesses can turn on messaging, and allow page visitors to reach out through Facebook Messenger. Turning messaging on adds a “Mess10age” button to your page, which lets users start a conversation. If you’ve set up a handle for your page, users can send you a message just by knowing the handle. This makes it easy for customers to get in touch, and eliminates many barriers to contact a business. In addition, using Facebook Messenger can empower small businesses to communicate more personally, and make connections with customers in a more human-oriented manner.

Adding Messaging Can Add Sales

While this approach isn’t right for every businesses, most business can benefit from using Facebook Messenger. I recommend turning on messaging for most of my small business clients. Facebook touts that 2 billion messages are sent between business and customers every month on its Messenger for Business landing page. More importantly, “53% of people are more likely to shop with a business they can message directly”. If done right, opening your page for messaging can bring more conversions, and build better customer relationships.

If you’re interested in using messaging to connect with customers, check out this guide to enable messaging on your Facebook page, the Facebook Messenger for Business landing page, or reach out, and I can help you through the process.

Add Seasonal Flair to Boost Your Sales

Fall is around the corner, which means brands all around the country are rolling out their seasonal flavors. The upcoming season has become prime for consumers to shop for seasonal products, and for some, has been declared the season of “pumpkin spice everything”. While pumpkin spice flavors might not translate to all products, adding seasonal flair to products can be a great way to drive sales.

The Seasonal Flavor Phenomenon

Offering seasonal variants of your products is often a very cost-effective way to offer limited-run products. The beauty is that the base products don’t change, but rather just a detail or two about the products. In addition, seasonal offerings create a sense of exclusivity and festivity to your products. For example, consider brands such as Bath and Body Works as well as Starbucks, both of which see great success with their products. Some credit Starbucks with creating the phenomena surrounding the pumpkin spice flavor that has exploded across several product lines and industries. Bath and Body Works sells millions of dollars worth of products with each season.

The key behind these successes are due in part to the “limited time” nature of the offerings. Consumers love feeling they’re part of something with exclusivity, and will buy in even more when products are relevant to cultural interests such as seasons and holidays.

Limited-run product variants are particularly popular in fashion, personal care products, and the food and beverage industry, though many more industries can benefit. Even coordinating colors, packaging, and marketing with the seasons and holidays can make your brand feel more responsive and adaptive, and draw in sales.

If you’re interested in offering seasonal products, or making your marketing more adaptive, get in touch. I’ll be more than happy to hear about what you do, and find ways to make your brand and its offerings more versatile.

Social Media Platforms Your Business Should Join Today

Social media is a powerful way to engage with your audience, and develop more personal relationships with that audience. While some resources recommend you establish presences on every platform, it can be exhausting to maintain these presences. To provide better advice, I researched the best social media platforms for small businesses to join.

If you’re not sure if your business needs a social media presence, I address this question in a previous post, which I’ll build upon in this post.

Core Platforms

Regardless of your industry or audience, you’ll want to get your business on these platforms:

Twitter

With its huge user base, simple sharing mechanisms, and adoption by both individuals and businesses, Twitter is a great platform for a small business to join. With its conversational threading, Twitter serves both as a solution for marketing and customer service.

Facebook

Sporting an even larger user base than Twitter, Facebook allows you to market to a sea of users in your target audience. In addition, Facebook can be a more versatile platform for business that need to post more specialized content, like events. Facebook Pages can also make it easier to cultivate a community experience among your followers, making it a great choice for community-oriented businesses.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is often considered to be a “professional Facebook”, but it is a powerful resource for B2B businesses in particular. Building a robust company page with regularly updated content can make it easy for customers to find you, which in turn makes for great customer experience.

Yelp

For businesses with brick-and-mortar locations, having a Yelp presence can make it easy to build a reputation with consumers. Yelp pages can provide business information, including hours, parking information, and even menus. Users provide reviews of your business, and inform others about the experience you provide. Keeping a high rating on Yelp can drive customers to your business organically, and reduce marketing needs over time.

“Nice to Have” Platforms

While these platforms may have varying results based on your industry and focus, they can provide additional exposure to your brand:

Instagram

Instagram is a great platform for sharing photos and videos, though Instagram’s Stories feature can be a great way to communicate your brand’s voice and personality. This platform works particularly well for lifestyle, food, arts, and luxury brands. An added bonus is Instagram’s tie in with Facebook Pages, which allows you to partially manage your Instagram page through Facebook.

Snapchat

Next, Snapchat has an overwhelming number of younger users, and is a great option for marketing to a younger audience. While content restrictions may not allow for detailed posts, you can drive users to your website with Snapchat. By updating your Snapchat story multiple times a day, you can give your audience a glimpse into your daily operations, and show off what you offer with links to follow.

YouTube

First, I don’t recommend investing much time in a YouTube presence to most clients as a social media outlet. Creating high-quality video content on a regular basis can be costly, and tends to be unnecessary for most small businesses. On the flipside, YouTube can be a great platform to host and share content like product announcements and ads. I often refer clients looking to include videos on their websites to YouTube to eliminate bloat in their hosting service. An added bonus is users may stumble upon your content through searches relevant to the videos you post.

Need Help Setting Up Social Media Presences? I Can Help

If you’d like to join one or more of the social networks I’ve mentioned, and not sure where to start, I can help. Want to learn more? Get in touch today.

Hybrid Mobile Apps Make It Easy To Go Cross-Platform

When planning to build out an app, building a cross-platform app can be a great way to optimize your potential to acquire users. The traditional approach to this demands apps are built for each platform separately, which can lead to a number of issues. Inconsistent functionality, high cost, and platform bias are at the top of this list. One solution to this issue is building a hybrid mobile app.

For those unfamiliar with the concept of hybrid mobile apps, the specification is simple:

Hybrid mobile apps are apps built with Web technologies, and packaged in a native wrapper to run like native apps.

Hybrid mobile apps aren’t a new concept, but they’re become very powerful. Some of the most popular apps use the hybrid approach. For example, Slack, Evernote, and Wikipedia’s apps are built as hybrid mobile apps. You may be using hybrid apps on a daily basis and not know it. This is thanks to advancements in Web technologies, and hybrid app frameworks. Despite this, it’s important to consider the advantages and disadvantages of hybrid mobile apps before building your app as one.

Advantages of Hybrid Mobile Apps

One Codebase, Multiple Platforms

One of the biggest advantages of building a hybrid mobile app is that the app can be built for multiple platforms from one codebase. This makes sure your app works the same across platforms, and eliminates minute differences that can occur when cross-platform native apps are built. In addition, updating your app across several platforms is as simple as updating the universal codebase and building new binaries.

Performance

As Web technologies have advanced, the gap between native and hybrid mobile app performance has been closed. In most cases, users won’t be able to tell the difference in performance between a hybrid mobile app and a native app.

Cost

In addition, having native apps built out for multiple platforms can be very costly. With the hybrid mobile app approach, these costs are greatly reduced. The reduction of cost often comes in the form of both time and money savings, too.

Disadvantages of Hybrid Mobile Apps

API  Support

Apps with a large number of target platforms, or looking to complete very specific tasks, may not find API support for all platforms. The more popular hybrid app frameworks may have plugins to account for this. In more complex cases, it may be necessary to develop custom plugins. In the worst case, there may not be a solution to use a specific API for all platforms.

Performance

A hybrid mobile app will work in the majority of cases, but some apps are best built with native technologies. Examples of these are graphically-intensive games, as well as some high-performance applications.

Fine-Tuning

Since hybrid mobile apps are packaged in native wrappers, it’s possible that certain fine-tuning may not be possible. Some frameworks attempt to correct for this, but others don’t offer such options.

Apache Cordova is one of many frameworks for building hybrid mobile apps.

If you’re curious if your app may be able to be built out as a hybrid mobile app, consulting a reputable developer is a great first step. With a detailed list of your app’s desired functionality, the developer should be able to determine if the hybrid approach is ideal for the project.

To reach out and request a consultation, send me a message here.

Boost Sales This Summer With Cashless Payments

With summer in full swing, farmers’ markets and festivals are popping up everywhere. These are great opportunities for small businesses to promote themselves and grow their customer base with the local community, but one thing I see a lot when visiting booths is that many businesses only accept cash. Some of the businesses at these events accept cashless payments in their stores, but only accept cash at their booths because they don’t know how to accept other forms of payment when away from their stores. This is a problem which I’ve been addressing with business owners locally, and an issue I’m working to increase awareness about within the small business community.

According to a 2016 study by TSYS, only 11% of study participants preferred to pay with cash. This statistic is blown out of the water in comparison to card-based payments, which 75% of participants specified as their preferred payment method. This issue becomes even bigger when considering that in a study of 1,002 U.S. adults, 40% carry less than $20 on their person. While we don’t yet live in a cashless world, businesses should be responding to the desire for cashless transactions.

 

The Square Contactless Chip Reader Accepts Swipe, Chip, and NFC Payments.

Accepting Cashless Payments on the Go

Accepting cashless payments when away from your store can be intimidating. You probably don’t want to haul a clunky payment terminal around, but you’re not sure about the alternatives. Luckily, payment processors have a perfect solution for this.

Mobile card readers are a quick, easy, and inexpensive way to upgrade your booth from a cash-only operation to a cashless wonderland for consumers. These card readers are often very small, and either plug into or connect wirelessly to your smart phone or tablet, making it easy to get up and running. Transactions are carried out through the app provided by the reader’s creator, and offer options including signature-based authorization, chip reading, and NFC-based payments, depending on which reader you choose.

The magstripe reader is the more classic version of the mobile card reader. This option is often very compact, but only supports card payments via swipe rather than chip-and-pin, or wireless payments. Both Square and PayPal Here offer a free magstripe reader when you sign up for an account. If being limited to swipe-based payments is a concern, more advanced options are available. In most cases, more advanced readers will accept magstripe as well as chip-based payments, and in some cases, even NFC-based payments. The inclusion of chip-based payments makes this a more secure option, and is ideal for businesses that may accept a large volume of cashless payments.

For businesses that are unsure of accepting cashless payments on the go, the free magstripe reader is the option I’d recommend. The commitment is minimal, and the only charges you’ll pay will be standard card processing fees. By incorporating cashless payments, you can increase sales, and bring your booth-based business to the next level.

iOS 11 Public Beta: First Impressions

I just downloaded the iOS 11 Public Beta on my iPad. Since its announcement at WWDC (Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference), I’ve been very excited about iOS 11. Often times, my 9.7-inch iPad Pro is my go-to for lightweight computing on the go, so an update that makes my iPad even more productive is more than welcome.

While this post isn’t a guide to everything new in iOS 11, here are a few of the first impressions I had while poking around the new OS.

Files

Files is an app new to iOS that mirrors some of the functionality of Finder. It allows users to “browse, search, and organize all your files in one place”. This app has been something iPad power users have been begging for, especially since the release of the iPad Pro line. While you might find the most use out of this app with files on your device locally or in iCloud Drive, Files ties in with their-party services as well to unify the file management experience. I’m excited to see exactly how Files in iOS will coordinate with Finder in iOS as I work on the same files between platforms.

The Dock

The Dock is my favorite update in iOS 11 so far. The new Dock behaves much more like the Dock in macOS. It’s available at all times through a simple gesture, it looks much nicer, and the six-app limit is gone. I’ve set up my iPad’s Dock very similar to my Mac’s Dock, which has made it easier than ever to switch between iOS and macOS and still get things done. There’s definitely still limits as to how much I can accomplish on my iPad versus my Mac, but it’s a step closer to Apple’s vision of the iPad Pro as a notebook replacement.

Multitasking

Multitasking has changed again in iOS. Similar to how the updated Dock better reflects its macOS equivalent, multitasking on the iPad in iOS 11 more closely resembles using Mission Control on the Mac. While the means of opening the multitasking view haven’t changed, the interface does look drastically different from previous versions of iOS. It’s also a little harder to close apps in the new view (you can’t just swipe away apps). This came as a slight disappointment since I try to keep background apps to a minimum, but not a deal-breaker.

App Store

One of the more controversial changes in iOS 11 is the App Store’s redesign. While Apple has made a few tweaks to the App Store in the past, the general experience of the App Store hasn’t changed much until now. One of the biggest changes is that apps and games are now divided into separate tabs. Another big change is the introduction of the “Today” tab, which Apple is putting in place to be a central hub for discovery of new apps. Prior to getting hands-on experience with the new App Store, I was skeptical that the redesign would improve the experience of searching and browsing for apps, but so far, I like the experience provided. Apple hasn’t started to update the Today view on a daily basis, but from the content currently available in the view, it seems like it has potential.

Control Center

Another somewhat controversial change coming with iOS 11 is the redesign to Control Center. The design of Control Center is no longer panel-based, but rather exists as a series of widgets in the multitasking view. The layout is a little weird at first, but more efficient than the old organization. All elements are available up front, so there’s no need to flip through panels to find the controls you need. On top of this, you can now customize which controls are shown in Control Center, allowing users to keep controls they want. This has been a welcome change, since I rarely use certain controls offered by Control Center.

Do you have any questions about iOS 11, or want to let me know which features you’re looking forward to? Let me know by sending me an email, or tweeting at me.

Why You Need A Social Media Presence

In 2017, one of the hottest topics has been social media and its importance. On Snapchat alone, over 2.5 billion posts are created daily. One problem in the business world is that business owners are hesitant to set up social media accounts for their businesses. Some see social platforms as unprofessional or a waste of time. Others worry about negative interactions online. While these are real concerns, it’s important to look at the facts about social media.

The Facts

Digital vs. Physical Populations

If you have concerns about your business going social, consider the audience you could gain. According to the Pew Research Center, 69% of adults used at least one social networking site in 2016. Members of all age groups are showing increasing adoption of social platforms. The youngest group, people ages 18-29, had an 86% adoption rate in 2016. In the same year, 80% of people ages 30-49 and 64% of people ages 50-64 had adopted social media. While the 65+ demographic has an adoption rate of 35% since 2015, projections show this will increase. This makes social media a great way to get your brand in front of your audience.

Social Media as a Recommendation Platform

The Internet has become the go-to source for information. On Yelp, there are more than 2.8 million businesses listed, and as of February 2017, 121 million reviews of those businesses. Online listings allow a users to learn about a business and the experiences it creates for customers. In addition, 71% of users who had a positive social media experience with brands were likely to recommend the brand to others. This word-of-mouth approach can bring significant results with little effort, and unlike spoken word, persists for new users to find years down the road.

These two points are critical in understanding why so many business turn to social media for marketing. Potential for massive audiences and low maintenance costs make social platforms great outlets for most brands. If you’re unsure if social media could benefit your business, get in touch. Seeking this clarity is can be critical, and make sure social presences will benefit your business moving forward.