Share Your Awesome Content Across the Web

Posted March 7th, 2011 in social media by Adrian
Image by bengrey

Image by bengrey

One of the most difficult things to do for any internet business, or even any website for that matter, is to get recognition from other websites out there.  By having other sites link to you, you’re not only increasing the ability for people to get to your site from other places, but you’re also adding to your ability to rank high in search engines like Google (http://www.seomoz.org/article/search-ranking-factors).

Plugins to Help Share

There are many plugins out there which can help you share links to your most important pages, but we’ll focus on one of the most widely used ones out there, AddThis.com.

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Add a Twitter Plugin on Your Website in 30 Seconds

Posted February 15th, 2011 in Branding, SEO, social media by Adrian
twitter

Image by Rosaura Ochoa

Twitter is a “real-time information network” that allows people to connect with others that they find interesting. For example, business owners like you can quickly share information with people who are interested in what you have to offer and you can begin to build relationships with potential customers.

If you’re not using Twitter to help grow your company, there’s no better time to start than now!

Twitter Plugins

When you tweet your messages for the world to see, the messages are normally confined to Twitter’s own website and are viewed by those who have subscribed to receive them. As an extra bonus, Twitter also offers a plugin which allows you to install a widget on your own website to display tweets.

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What is an Avatar and Why Does it Matter?

Posted July 14th, 2010 in Branding, Guest Blogger by Mara

avatarOver the past few months, we’ve talked a lot about using social media to grow your online business. But there’s one thing we haven’t yet covered: your avatar.

If you only know the word “avatar” in relation to the movie, that’s ok. According to Wikipedia, an avatar is:

“…a computer user’s representation of himself/herself or alter ego whether in the form of a three-dimensional model used in computer games, a two-dimensional icon (picture) or a one-dimensional username used on Internet forums and other communities.”

So, kind of like how in the movie Jake is represented by his blue Na’vi character, you can use an image and a name to represent yourself online in social media environments like Facebook or Twitter.

How to Choose an Avatar

Your avatar is literally an online representation of you or your business, so choosing one should be done with a little thought. That doesn’t mean that you can’t have fun with it, but you should keep in mind how the image you choose might impact you or your business in real life.

Here are some guidelines to keep in mind:

1.    Use a clear “headshot”.
Social media and online communication is about establishing relationships – people want to know who you are. The exception to this rule is if you are participating as a company, where multiple people will be handling the account. For example, a few of us manage the CityMax.com Facebook and Twitter accounts, so we use our mascot “Max” for our avatar.

2.    Consider the size.
Avatar images are generally shrunk down pretty small, so make sure that your image is clearly identifiable even when tiny. Try aiming for a very plain background for your headshot.

3.    Use the same avatar for all your online interactions.
That’s not to say you can’t change it from time to time, but consistency is good as far as branding yourself or your business.

Although you want to keep to these guidelines, don’t be afraid to show some personality in your avatar – it can help garner a bit more interest in what you have to say.

Have you seen any great avatars lately? Either personal or for business?

How to Build an Army of Brand Loyalists

Posted March 30th, 2010 in Branding, Getting Visitors, Small Business Tips, social media by admin

Build an Army of Brand Loyalists - Jonathan KayGuest Post – Jonathan Kay is the Ambassador of Buzz at Grasshopper, a provider of virtual phone systems. He is extremely passionate about helping / meeting new entrepreneurs and always excited to learn about their unique journey. Find Jonathan on Twitter @GrasshopperBuzz or via email at jkay(at)grasshopper.com.

Having now lived through over a year of my first recession, I have learned a lot. Mistakes and tough times always seem to lead to opportunities and takeaways. The last year or two really taught me the importance of the customer, and the emphasis that needs to be placed on them. With entrepreneurs and small businesses looking for any way possible to save money, “Customer Acquisition Cost” has become an increasingly important metric. It’s simple… the less money it costs you to acquire a customer, the larger the profit margin.

This leads me to a real passion of mine: Brand Loyalists.

A brand loyalist isn’t just a happy user of your product/service: they yell from the roof tops about you, helping to market and sell your product! With all the social media channels available now, there are more and more people telling you what they need, and asking for advice. Having an Army of Brand Champions out there provides a powerful and unbiased sale that is impossible to reproduce. More so, real brand loyalists will spend the time to give you constructive, uncensored feedback. This will only help make your product/service stronger, and increase customer satisfaction in the long run.

Ok. So now you know how important brand loyalists are; the harsh reality is they are difficult to achieve. And, a simple discount or promotion code just won’t cut it. I have been fortunate early in my career to work with a handful of really successful and genuine entrepreneurs. This firsthand experience has helped me develop a certain level of expertise in this area, and below are some helpful tips I have learned along the way:

1. Add Value First
When a customer engages your brand and purchases your product/service they don’t expect you to add value above and beyond what they paid for. This creates an opportunity to WOW your customer and really exceed their expectations. Small efforts make a difference: engage new customers on Twitter and thank them, start discussions about your product, and if you or a colleague is traveling why not reach out to a few local customers and take them out to dinner or drinks. By engaging your customer right away you will make a connection they will never forget.

2. Listen. Then Listen Some More
Have you ever tried flat out asking your customers what they want? What they need? Simple…yes, but trust me it works. Why not just pick up the phone and ask them? It is important to remember that your customers drive the direction of your business. At Grasshopper, all managers call 5 new customers ever week. We ask how the setup process went, what we could be doing better, what we are missing, and how we could help? Listening is a powerful tool. By making people feel actively involved (not through boring surveys) in shaping important features/practices, you will build incredible brand loyalty.

3. Make a Human Connection
It’s important to let your customers know that you are more than just a brand – you are actually real people too. Make an effort from to have less formal conversations. A great example of this is our co-founder David Hauser (@dh). You will find him doing anything from thanking customers to talking about his Iron Man training.

4. Promote Your Customers
People never forget when you make a connection, or open a door for them. Make an effort to be constantly reaching out to your customer base, learn about them and their businesses. The more you know about your customers, the more likely you will be able to set them up with other customers who might be able to help each other out. That is a memorable connection. Here at Grasshopper we have gone as far as to set up a formal program: Tell Us Your Story. This gives our entrepreneurs an opportunity to tell us what makes them unique, and how they are changing the world. Not only do we promote them to the media, but now we also have real stories and examples of entrepreneurs living their passion. Actively trying to help your customers businesses grow is a definite way to create a brand loyalist.

5. Build a Culture of Responsibility
You need to empower your employees to help your customers (and not just your support team). There is no reason everyone should not be concerned with how your customers feel about your product/service. Make an effort to always follow up after resolving a customer issue, this will make people feel heard, appreciated, and create a loyalist for life.

Get Your Website for Free!

Posted February 11th, 2010 in CityMax.com News, social media, Website Builder Features by admin

To show you how grateful we are for every customer you refer, we’re improving how our referral program works!

With the old program, you got your site for free whether you referred 3 or 300 people. With the new program, the more people you refer, the bigger the reward!

Here’s how it works:

  1. You get a link that you can distribute a number of ways (Twitter, email, website footer, etc.)
  2. For every person that signs up through your link, you get 5 credits for every month their site is active.
  3. Each credit is worth $1 and can be redeemed by phone to pay for your website subscription.

You’ll find the new “Get a Free Website” program under “Free Website” below your profile picture on your Dashboard.

2010-02-11-free-website

Best of 2009: 10 Free Software Apps to Manage Your Business and Cut Costs

Posted December 22nd, 2009 in Getting Visitors, Selling Online, SEO, Website Builder Features by admin

Whether you’re running a physical or online business, you probably spend a lot of time on the computer. A great way to cut business costs and manage your time effectively is by using free applications or software. We’ve compiled a few of our favorites – some will even help you make your own website design a bit fancier!

2009-12-21-piggybankMozy
Are you backing up your computer? You never know when something might happen – don’t let a hardware failure cost you your business! With Mozy, you can back up 2GB of data for free, and it works automatically. If you need more storage, you can upgrade to an unlimited account.

Skype
If you’re still using a landline and long distance phone calls are a regular thing for you, check out Skype. If both you and the person you’re calling use Skype, your calls are free.

Gimp
Want to edit images, without spending a fortune on image editing software? Gimp is very much like Adobe Photoshop, so you can use it for adding just a bit of text to an image or making something a little more advanced.

OpenOffice
Need to create documents and spreadsheets, but don’t want to spend on Microsoft Word? OpenOffice is a solid replacement and is compatible with Word – so those receiving your files will still be able to open them.

Evernote
If you like to keep track of ideas or things that you like, Evernote is a great tool. You can capture photos, web pages, voice memos, text notes, screenshots – pretty much whatever you think of – and then organize and keep track of it. Plus, there are smartphone apps that will sync with your online notes.

Dropbox
Working between multiple computers? Or, need to share files with different people? With Dropbox, you can sync files between different computers, so wherever you are you can access the file you need.

TweetDeck
If you’re still managing your account through Twitter, you might want to take a look at TweetDeck. By using multiple columns to display your twitter feed, mentions, and messages, TweetDeck makes it easy to see what’s new. You can also create “search” columns to watch for mentions of your product or company name.

Jing
Jing is a great tool for taking pictures or video of what’s on your computer screen. You can use it for demos, instructional videos, photo narration or whatever you like – then you can upload it to their video hosting service, Screencast.com, or use it elsewhere.

TranslateThis
If your customers are from many different countries, you can add the TranslateThis button to your web page. Your customer can simply click the button and your page content will automatically be translated to their language choice.

WebRSS
With WebRSS, you can use an RSS feed to display content from a blog or website on your own site.

Although we limited our list to ten, there are a lot of free applications out there. From money management to design, you can often get away without paying for expensive software, especially while your business is small and you don’t need to pay for a ton of users.

3 Reasons Why Every Small Business Owner Needs Social Media

Posted December 2nd, 2009 in Selling Online, social media by admin

2009-12-02-twitterYou know about Facebook already. Maybe you have a dusty Twitter account. So why do you need to use these tools for help your business?

As a small business website owner, here are three great reasons why you should stay plugged in.

1.  Instantly connect with your audience

Imagine if you could immediately locate new customers around the world. Through social media, it’s easy to see who the key players in your industry are (find someone high profile, then take a peek at their Twitter followers or Facebook Fans) and it’s likely that people engaged with these brands are either your customer, or otherwise relevant to your business.

Just as important, you can find the people who are already excited about your product (e.g. customers, distributors), celebrate them, and let them know what other great stuff is in the pipeline. The people who champion your brand can quickly become your greatest asset. Social media is all about the strongest form of marketing there is: word-of-mouth.

2. Play to your strengths: bigger is not necessarily better

Social media levels the playing field for small businesses. While big companies lumber, you are agile. Two of the biggest complaints customers have are: 1) automated phone systems, and 2) delayed email responses. The nature of today’s technology allows you to respond instantly to potential customers who want answers now.

Offering better customer interactions online with an actual person (you) builds your brand’s personality. Creating relationships is the backbone of social media and is something that most large, monolithic companies have difficulty doing, but individuals are terrific at. (Caveat – some large companies CAN get it right. Southwestern Airlines’ customer service on Twitter is an excellent example: http://rationalsecurity.typepad.com/blog/2008/04/off-topic-south.html)

3. If you don’t reach the masses online, someone else will

Just because you aren’t using social media yet, it doesn’t mean your customers aren’t. They may already be singing your brand’s praises (or complaining loudly) on Twitter, Yelp, or any of the countless review sites online. If you aren’t a part of the conversation, you are leaving the door open for a competitor to swoop in. Being present and vocal will help you monitor and manage your brand online.

Small and large businesses alike are spreading their message and expanding their customer base online, and you don’t want miss out.  It is cheap to implement: the most popular applications are free, and the only cost is your time.

How should you begin?

Jump in! Without being familiar with the platform, you may not yet know what you are trying to achieve. That is fine: as you learn Twitter, Facebook, or the latest social media tool, the reality of your objectives will become clear.

Think big. Your average customer may result in a $100 purchase, but being mentioned by a top blog could transform your brand into an overnight success. That is the immediacy of the internet – and the nature of social media. Good luck!

The New CityMax.com Blog: A Must-Read For Your Small Business

Posted November 13th, 2009 in CityMax.com News by admin

2009-11-13-newandfreshWe’re upgrading our blog! You’ve been asking us for more business advice, so we listened. The newly enhanced CityMaxBlog will be bring you more articles filled with direct advice on how to make more money in your online business. From marketing trends to public relations, check back often for a variety of helpful how-to pieces from our team and guest bloggers.

Remember, you can always let us know what you’d like to see more of, just send us a message on Twitter – @CityMax (http://www.twitter.com/CityMax).

A CityMax.com Halloween

Posted November 2nd, 2009 in CityMax.com News by admin

Did you have a great Halloween? Sure hope so!

We had a little competition going on over here with our pumpkin carving contest – 3 teams, 3 designs, one winner.

The pumpkins, in order – team 1 (bats), team 2 (CityMax ghoul), and team 3 (Mario).

2009-10-31-pumpkins

Team 1 took the prize, because what you can’t see in this picture is the flashing light and smoke (dry ice) pouring out. Way to go Team 1!

Who would you have voted for? Let us know on Twitter – @CityMax!

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