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Video, Videmus, Vident: How to use Video to create a better User Experience

Jim Infantino
(slab)
Video Videmus Vident How to use Video to create a better User Experience
With the growing competition to getting better SEO results, more and more businesses are turning to professionally created video to grab and convert your visitors. Google now values professional video as part of your overall user experience strategy. To this end, Slabmedia has recently partnered with bostonvideoproductions.com to help our clients create compelling stories for their brands. Contact us for more information, or visit their site.


A professionally produced video helps to

  1. tell your story
  2. increase shares and likes
  3. increase your visibilty online


1. Video helps you tell your story

A well scripted, clean short video on your home or about page can do wonders communicating a compelling message about your brand. What is the history of your company? What is the vision and mission in the company owner's words? Seeing these things spoken, and delivered can greatly increase their impact. Perhaps you have some loyal and happy customers that can come and evangelize on camera for you. That goes even further. There is a sense that you have met the customer, and that they are real people and that they really care about what you have done for them.

Keep it short and sweet. Remember most folks can only tolerate 1-3 minutes (closer to 1-2 minutes) of your message, but you can communicate a lot of emotional information in that time. A professionally edited and shot video of that message is key here, as no one has time to watch back-lit people getting in and out of chairs in front of an iphone.


2. Video helps increase your social media reach

Social media loves a meme. When images and words are combined, they communicate more than plain text. Moreso, social media loves video. Try to create something surprising, unique and with broad reach to gain more shares and likes. Combine text layover with the footage to hammer home your key points. Google actually reads that text, so it helps with SEO as well.

Be sincere. There is no reason to shout in the world of social media, it doesn't get you more attention. Try to be less the car salesman shouting out in the parking lot, and more like a friend you might meet at a party. Play it cool, but be on point and friendly. Focus on what problems your company solves for people, and how you can help them. Honesty and directness will go further in selling your brand than overtly trying to sell your brand.Create moving content to motivate them to share it. Don't bother telling them to share, that can be a turn-off. When you have it right, people will find a message in it that will help someone they know and they will spread the word.


3. Video helps increase your visibility

Video can be shared either from your site or from YouTube, Vimeo, Dailymotion or anther site. If you embed the video from one of these sites, it plays from both locations. People may find you on YouTube and want to know more about your brand. Make it easy to find your site either in the overlayed text in the video or via a link below it or both. Generate curiosity. Draw people in slowly like a steady stream of air to a funnel.

Present questions to engage their minds. The more you get them thinking about what you do, the more likely they will remember you and seek out your services. Remember that it is a commitment for people to press play. You are asking them to stop multitasking and focus on your message for up to 3 minutes. Use relevant text above your video or in the video title that speaks to a need they might have and one you can help them with. During the course of any day, people are dying for a distraction from their workload. Provide them with a good one, and they will seek you out.


User Experience is the future

The web is moving away from SEO and User-Interface concerns and towards the world of User Experience (UX). Creating fun and compelling video for your site takes you a long way towards a greater user experience for your brand. Invest wisely in video communication for the web and reap the rewards.

Using Stock Photos? Here's What You Need to Know First

James O'Brien
(jamesobrien)
Photo Creative Commons trialsanderrors httpswwwflickrcomphotostrialsanderrors3047701635 nbsp

If you listen to experts on website design, they'll likely tell you about the value that great content provides to your visitors. And part of that conversation will be a discussion of great artwork. In some cases, the photos (and other graphics) with which you illustrate your site may well be your own creations. But what about when you turn to the vast libraries of stock photography and images out there on the Internet?

The rules surrounding stock photos might seem straightforward — but, buyer beware. To help clarify the stock-photo and stock-image landscape, let's turn to some key tips — four details to look for the next time you're looking at photos for your site.

Stock Rules: What You Get When You Get Stock Photos

"I would caution against anybody ever using content that they merely stumble across online," said David Reischer, attorney and co-founder of LegalAdvice.com. "It is important for a user to have a valid licensing agreement to avoid any claims of copyright infringement."

Perhaps that's a given, but when one wades into the realm of licensed stock photos, there are still gray areas into which even the good-intentioned downloader can stray. If we assume we're starting with with a provider that offers a proper license for an image, what does a site owner and/or designer need to pay attention to, next?

  • RF vs. RM. Not every stock photo is licensed for every kind of site — especially when you're using the image for marketing and sales. That is, some licenses let you reproduce what you download over and over and in numerous ways, all for one price. We call those royalty-free (or RM). Others are restricted. You might only be able to host the image for one year, or in certain regions or on a site within a certain business type. These are rights-managed images. Know the difference. Check the license details of the image you're acquiring to make sure it conforms to your needs (and you to its as well).
  • Image resolution. Uploading a licensed stock image at a resolution higher than the display capacities of the device(s) on which it's intended to be viewed can land a designer in hot water. The problem is that the upload can be construed as an attempt to redistribute the photo — offering it at a high enough resolution that can be downloaded and reused by others. In some cases, higher-res uploads are allowed, but you'll need to buy an enhanced license to do so.
  • Buyer renewal. Unlike a magazine subscription, the onus to keep track of license renewals for RM images — and the responsibility for making good on them — is typically in the buyer's court when it comes to stock images. So, keep a list of all applicable expiration dates and send out a renewal notice to the sources from which you've purchased licenses as the end of license periods approach.
  • Details, Details. Here's another thing: you might license an image in completely the right way, but the photo itself contains a trademark or likeness for which the supplier has neglected to secure proper rights. Examine your stock: if you see a restaurant sign in the background, ask the seller if that logo/trademark has been cleared. The same attention should be given to any paintings, sculptures, and the like within the shot. Note that larger stock-image vendors, such as Shutterstock, often offer protection to the customer against claims regarding trademarks and model releases.

"Navigating the web for photos to populate your website, company newsletter, or other marketing tools can be like tip-toeing through a minefield," said Bonny Clayton, owner of Your Web Chick. "You might emerge on the other side completely unscathed, but one wrong step can blow up into a legal morass."

To prevent the kind of outcome about which Clayton cautions, start with the four steps we've just outlined. Beyond those, carefully read the rights and terms conferred for every stock image you use — and ask questions of the seller every time you're unsure about using a photo or artwork that you didn't make yourself. Diving deeper into specifics is also easy, online. Bookmark this FAQ from Stock Photo License.

Managing your business is hard enough. Managing your website should be easy. Slab offers high quality, custom designed, easy to edit websites. Talk to us about building your site, one that you can update yourself with ease. E-mail office@slabmedia.com, or call us at 617.566.3433.

How to Drive External-Video Viewers to Your Landing Page

James O'Brien
(jamesobrien)
How to Drive External-Video Viewers to Your Landing Page

Creating immediate and compelling arguments for your brand is one of the key values of video. Getting that content in front of millions of potential viewers is another.

Some 1 billion viewers click their way through YouTube's offerings, each month. Vimeo has earned some 100 million unique monthly visitors itself. By volume alone, when brands do video right, their external campaigns stand to drive what's been measured to be an average of 20% more traffic, according to a recent Unbounce report.

So, let's say your team is starting to see a healthy number of visitors on your external video platform — that is, viewers are coming to your content at, say, YouTube. Now, how can you weight their experience so that it most often leans toward a click-through to your landing page — and then a conversion?

Strategies abound, but we've talked with brand leaders and marketers, breaking out a number of key approaches to making the video-to-website pathway a consistently attractive route for your audience.

  1. Tell a compelling story. Concept number one: you're not making a commercial. Engaging viewers and driving traffic from an external video platform are similarly dependent on a common factor: you must have something useful and interesting to say. If you're an artist, your story lies in the process and challenges inherent to creating your work. If your company brings gourmet spices to the market, your audience is primed to learn what delicious recipes those ingredients will help enhance. Understanding the stories that bring value to your viewers' experience — ones that prompt them to ask more of you, and visit your site to do so — is key to making the next three strategies relevant.
  2. Frontload the reason to watch (before the link to click). Does it seem counterintuitive to not lead with your link? Consider that experts say visitors to a platform such as YouTube typically decide within the first 15 seconds whether to stick with what they're watching. "Whatever the style of the video, webisode, webinar, etc., there should be a narrative," said Joseph Somerhalder, CEO of Ascently, a digital marketing firm. "This narrative should start from the beginning so that the first few seconds of the video are effectively a call to action. If the first few moments of the video are compelling, then the viewer is more likely end up on the landing page." In other words, begin with the payoff of your product or service, not a link to your website. Then, take the viewer into the story that circles back to that promised end result. Give them opportunities throughout the experience to make their decision. More on this in the next step.
  3. Provide links within the context of narrative. Interstitial title-cards with links can interrupt the all-important narrative and end-title links often come too late to capture a viewer. Instead, if your story includes parts, ingredients, or other items, annotate these details right on the screen — YouTube is an example of a platform that allows for just this option. The idea is to provide clickable notes such as "organic truffle oil (available at our site)" as that product appears in the video. Now, your audience can click through to your landing page right at the moment when they've visualized how your brand fits into their immediate future. "I’ve seen the greatest success when using internal nested buttons on the actual video itself," said Michael Lazar, a "growth hacker" at TrueShip. "When strategically placed at certain intervals, I’ve found that the placement of such a button has generated the most substantial results on my video tracking … resulting in a healthier click-through ratio."
  4. Incentivize the visit. The example of "organic truffle oil" in the preceding tip is more enticing still when there's a reward packed into the viewer's experience of clicking-through from it to your landing page. "Give something to your users so that they have a reason to click," said Brian Nickerson, co-founder and CEO of Chippmunk Rewards. "Coupons are a great way to do that" standing to "increase CTR by 3–5 times as compared to a static link."

Finally, sew your landing page call-to-action into the video experience. In other words, reference it. It could be our friend, the "organic truffle oil", presented as a still from the video, and then a button that says "get your ingredients for the recipe here".

This has the additional benefit of offering website-first visitors the opportunity to discover your video channels. They see the call to action on the landing page, and then reverse the process to see the recipe episode. The video then prompts them come back to the site via your wisely placed link to fill up their shopping cart.

The point is that your external video and your landing page can can exist in a state of synergy. Build them to do so and you could well be on your way to joining that YouTube club — earning 20% more traffic and enjoying the conversions that come with it.

Photos Matter: 7 Tips for Sharper Website Images and Design

James O'Brien
(jamesobrien)
Photo Wikimedia Commons httpcommonswikimediaorgwikiFileEd_Westcott_in_darkroom_1945jpg


Marketers spend a lot of time talking about content as a kind of end result — meaning the whole of the story that's being told, the message that a brand delivers. Within that end product, however, in every example of compelling content, there are key components. And one of those components is the photo.

The images we use to illustrate, enhance and even generate the core ideas of our websites demand at least as much attention as the writing and calls to action that can drive conversions. Miss out on the chance to make your online visual landscape the best that it can be, and you're missing opportunities to engage your audience.

Luckily, getting to a better-looking site is a task with which designers and site owners are engaging all the time. Reaching out to them, we've culled seven steps toward sharp image-based design. Read on, and start thinking about your own approaches to photos and layout.

  • Size for the user's reality. File size can be paramount, especially when everyone's point-and-shoot is able to take 3,000-by-2,000-px, 3–5MB photos and an increasing amount of website traffic is mobile. "Most of the time your viewers don't want or need to view a photo that large," said Raymond Selzer, co-owner of Interslice Designs, a firm that helps develop brands. "The average computer user has a monitor around 1,400-px wide, larger monitors average around 1,920-px. With this in mind you can save a lot of file size by resizing your photos to a maximum 1,900–2,000-px wide." If you still insist on offering the full resolution image, provide an extra download link, so at least the high resolution image doesn't load automatically for every user.
  • Strike the balance between quality and file size. "Often photos are saved at their original resolution and quality which is unnecessary," said Gerald D. Vinci, owner and author at Vinci Designs. "Using a photo-editing program you can usually set the quality to around 70% of the original 100%. This will still give you a clear and crisp photo but will greatly reduce [load times]. Photoshop for example, in the save-for-web settings, allows you to play with the quality and see the file-size results right in the save window."
  • Never 'size up'! As a newspaper designer once told your humble blogger — you can't add information to the image. A .jpg file (and a .png, for that matter) is rasterized, meaning that it has only so many pixels of information per inch. Enlarging it will create a fuzzy effect: pixelation sets in. Bottom line is, you can size and image down but not up.
  • Arrange images with equilibrium in mind. "Image placement within websites should be about balance and equilibrium," said Leon Roy, graphic designer at Bring Digital, a marketing agency. For example, try three images in a row with equal spacing between them. "Or just two," Roy suggested, "again with equal spacing and the equivalent amount of text in the third position, where the photo would be."
  • Your photos and text can create interactive context. If you want to draw attention to something on your website, use visual cues by having the subjects in your images positioned so that they’re looking or pointing towards the most important detail on the page. "Humans naturally follow sight lines of others, even in images," noted Kim Herrington, founder of Bear & Beagle Creative, "and this can help direct viewers’ attention to where you want it to go."
  • Keep stock photos to a minimum. "I know it's easy, you can just buy them on the fly and they look great, but they also look incredibly fake," said Gael Breton, co-founder of Authority Hacker (a consultancy helping owners to build expert-level content on their websites). And, he adds: "Nobody thinks people in your company are that good looking."
  • Approach visuals differently, desktop to mobile. Finally, remember that the mobile experience can be more sensitive to load times than that of the desktop. Don't burden your potential customer's device with too many images — it can lead to a slowdown, which leads to a bounce, and that's an anti-conversion kind of event.

And so, go forth and bone-up on your photo work and layouts, getting your pages into fantastic visual shape. When you think you've got your site just right, send us some examples. We'll include the best submissions in a future best-of article — showcasing stellar designs, images, and content that your site interweaves.

Managing your business is hard enough. Managing your website should be easy. Slab offers high quality, custom designed, easy to edit websites. Talk to us about building your site, one that you can update yourself with ease. E-mail office@slabmedia.com, or call us at 617.566.3433.

A Q&A with the Author of 7 Essential Elements of Effective Websites

James O'Brien
(jamesobrien)
A QampA with the Author of 7 Essential Elements of Effective Websites
Your online presence is an expression of your identity — it's a tangible representation of your business, your goals, and your value to the visitors that find you. Now, after 20 years and some 30,000 hours of design and coding, Jim Infantino, founder of Slab, is about to publish a book on the craft of creating web pages that bolster brands.

In 7 Essential Elements of Effective Websites — which Jim introduces to readers as a manual for brand leaders seeking to better reach their active and inquisitive audience — the author takes us through several core concepts of online content, from personalized and brand-specific design (versus template-driven trends) to the basics of theory and structure that help well-built sites succeed.

In the way of a preview, let's talk with Jim about some key ideas in the book.


Q: One of your points, in the book, is that we expect more from websites than we did in the past. What do we tend to demand from our online experiences with a site, these days?

Jim: Our expectations of how a website should behave has changed significantly. They've become more a part of our daily walking-around lives. Your website is a key element in your online reputation. The reputation market is rapidly replacing the Search Engine Optimization market, as we begin to think of our identities online more holistically.

Social integration is important — we have the expectation that a website not only links to the most popular social-media sites, but automatically publishes to those many sites with a click. Mobile layouts for all phones and tablets are also a part of it — making your site work more like an app for visitors checking information on the go. Better data-reporting is key— but so is presenting your information as data to search engines with better structure for search-engine optimization. We want better audio and video that is mobile-device friendly.

In general? The growing Internet of Things and our increasing involvement with social networking is driving the need for constant innovation in web design and web programming.

Q: What are some ways that a website can make a brand look bigger than it might actually be — meaning, in a good way?

I think any small- to medium-sized business should always want to present themselves as an expert. That is part of what your website does for you. If it's well designed, it makes you look more competent — inspiring more trust from your visitors.

This really depends on design and content. You might be a freelancer, but if you have a great design and sizable portfolio, no one needs to know it's just you. In this way, so long as your work holds up, you can attract larger jobs than you might have if it was just you and a business card — or you and a hastily created, generic, template site. This goes to the value of custom design for your business.


Q: In your book, you make some distinctions between what is a trend and what is a gimmick when it comes to website design. How does one walk this line during the design phase, and what keeps trendy design elements from becoming problems for site owners, later on?

There was recently a study on whether the parallax effect — a background image that scrolls at a different rate, or in a different direction, than the rest of the content (very popular right now) — entices people to stay on a site longer, absorb more information, and/or engage the website's target action areas. The study found that between identical sites, one with and one without this effect, there was no discernible difference in visitor behavior. This could mean that the parallax gimmick has little or no benefit for sites that use it, or that the study was not structured correctly to take into account overall brand perception.

The only downside to using a feature like this is that at some point it will look dated. When that happens, you want to be able to remove or replace that gimmick without having to redesign your entire site. The best practice is to keep the gimmicks discrete from your main design. That is one reason templates built around them can be problematic down the road.

Q: You raise an interesting point about planning and launching websites: sometimes you need to consult experts other than a graphics designer. What kinds of other-than-designer advice would you recommend owners seek?

If you have access to a user-experience (UX) expert, that would be excellent. Most web programmers have some understanding of UX. In general, you need three minds at work, here: a graphics designer, a web developer, and a UX expert. Sometimes you can find two or three of these minds in the same person — but not very often.

Q: Are Facebook, Tumblr, and other social-media sites capable of doing the same job as a brand's home website with a blog? What's the best role that a brand's social-media pages might play?

When you are at Facebook, the branding is all about Facebook, not about you. Visitors come and find you and then see something shiny, like one of their friends liking your status, and they are gone. Social sites like this are best for luring in visitors via excerpts, images, and links.

Of all social-media sites, Tumblr comes closest, but none of them is a substitute for your own site. We don't recommend that people blog on any of these sites but Tumblr. We have a script that integrates your Tumblr content into Slab — but we have found that most of our clients who used to use Tumblr for blogging have eventually switched over to blog only on Slab.

Q: There's a point of view out there: mobile web is dead, long live the app. Is there any advice in your book that you would you highlight as being applicable to app design?

Only when you are offering something really essential that will stand repeated use do you need to develop an app. Ninety percent of the time, a client of ours who says they want an app doesn't really want an app. What they could be better served by is a mobile-friendly website.

Apps are not connected to the Internet of Things in the same way as websites. For example, if you integrate something in your app with social media, people can't like or link to a screen in the app the way they can on a website. I heard on Marketplace, on NPR, recently, that in general people only use a total of 20–30 phone apps per month with any regularity. Whereas, they may visit thousands of websites per month. It's very competitive and a high hurdle for your app to be one of the 30. Add to that the issue of how to convince people to download it — and then it uses up memory on their phone which cuts down on the number of pictures of their kids, or songs by their favorite band on that device — and you might be able to see why I don't agree with the mobile-web-is-dead point of view.

There is a great xkcd cartoon where the stick figure announces that he has a solution for this: you don't download apps all the time, you just use them as needed from a remote server. In the next frame he realizes he has invented "the webpage".

Managing your business is hard enough. Managing your website should be easy. Slab offers high quality, custom designed, easy to edit websites. Talk to us about building your site, one that you can update yourself with ease. E-mail office@slabmedia.com, or call us at 617.566.3433.

Response Rules: 5 Ways Your Business Can React Properly to Social-Media Comments

James O'Brien
(jamesobrien)
httpuploadwikimediaorgwikipediacommonsee2Waldorf_Statler_Wall_Paintingjpg

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

When it comes to negative feedback online, small businesses don't have to experience a Robin-Thicke level Twitter debacle to grasp the power of the socialmedia critic. Even a single negative comment can be a big deal.

And while most SMBs never have to worry about mass disapproval, they will inevitably encounter a dissatisfied customer or two. And that's a customer to be taken seriously. The trick to dealing with online comments? It comes down to supplying the right response, at the right time, in the right way.

To get to that goal, let's turn to some experts who've dealt with negative (and positive) comments online, and whose tips and advice should help chart your business's social-media course when the time comes to respond.

Moments of Opportunity: Talking to Online Critics

Part of the price of doing business in a digital world is inviting the voices of its digital denizens. Sometimes they're happy with your business, but the unhappy commenter is important, too. You can bet that future customers are paying attention to how you deal with them.

"When was the last time you worked with a business and didn’t look at the bad reviews first?" said Johnathan Grzybowski, marketing director at Dino Enterprise. "Knowing that we all aren’t perfect, we need to understand that it's not about what happens, its more about how you react to it."

And when you react to the social-media critic? "You should comment and show understanding,"Grzybowski said.

What follow are some expert approaches that will help you do just that.

  1. Respond quickly (but not instantly). As a business owner, your pride and reputation are on the line, but your first thoughts aren't always your best response, especially when it comes to a displeased customer. "After exhaling, reread the review objectively and understand what the poster wants or what is their mindset," said Ann Marie van den Hurk, principal at Mind The Gap Public Relations. "Take time to research the situation. Is it a valid review from an actual customer? Who is the customer?" Once you've assessed the situation, you're ready to take the next step.
  2. Engage publicly, but then privately. Splitting the difference between public and private is key to your response strategy. "The best technique is to address it with an apologetic reply, and then take further dialogue to private messaging," said Jonathan Sharpe, digital marketing specialist at DMG Bluegill. "An example response would be 'We’re very sorry to hear about your unpleasant experience. If you’ll send us a message with contact information, we promise to remedy this unfortunate situation.'" In this way, your audience witnesses your responsiveness, but then you're preventing further back-and-forth from muddying the waters of your social space.
  3. Don't argue. In the conversation that follows, online or private, protect your business while projecting the idea that you're open to your customer's experience. "Even if the complaint is untrue or exaggerated, try to make the customer feel heard by acknowledging their disappointment — without affirming the complaint itself," said Brittany Carey, digital account manager at 30 Lines. Try to get the customer to a place where they're no longer frustrated. Not every commenter will go there, but those that do are more likely to add a new note to their original complaint — one indicating that you've successfully solved their problem. And that's a key goal, when it comes to what you can gain from your responses.
  4. Let off-the-wall comments alone. Your impulse might be to delete comments that appear to be nothing more than trolling — or just plain old bad-mouthing. "As strange as this seems, the best plan is to let it be," said Sharpe. "Your social pages should have enough goodwill and positive interaction to make this commenter’s attack insignificant. When your page is engaging and fun for followers, those comments don’t hold much weight." Plus, you gain additional credibility when you show a tendency toward online transparency.
  5. Respond to positive comments. While negativity might be the initial concern of the SMB owner, don't neglect the good things your social-media audience has to say about you. This requires a balanced approach, too. Turns out love-fests don't work as well as a tiered system. "Replying to every positive comment takes away from the personal touch," Sharpe said. "The first move should be a 'like' or a 'favorite', depending on the medium," and then, "comments that go above and beyond should earn a response from the company."

It's about respecting your critic's right to speak up, but also addressing — and adjusting — the circumstances of their stated experience so that, in the public arena that your SMB now occupies, you've the chance to show off the best side of your business.

Following the above five steps can get you right up to a certain threshold with your customers. Reaching through that doorway and pulling an online poster over (or back over) to your side of the conversation? That takes a commitment to opening dialogues. Making the best out of whatever scenario has gone wrong is in your hands, one comment at a time.

SMBs and the Social Equation: Which SocialMedia Sites Work Best for Businesses? 

James O'Brien
(jamesobrien)
SMBs and the Social Equation Which SocialMedia Sites Work Best for Businessesnbsp

There's little question that small-business owners understand the power of social media and its importance to their bottom line. As of 2013, some 92% of polled SMBs (Small - Medium Businesses) said their social profiles were effective tools for their marketing and brand-building push.

"We use social media as a means to not only attract new people to our website and online community but also as a tool to nurture relationships with customers who choose to friend or follow the company," said Stephanie Ciccarelli, chief marketing officer and co-founder of Voices.com, an online voice-over marketplace.

"Sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn have given our already social brand another outlet to shine and connect regularly and freely with our customers," she continued. "When someone follows you via a social channel, they are also granting you the opportunity to enter their world, as in permission marketing."

But what platforms are out front, which ones are SMBs turning to most often? To help illuminate some answers to that question, Slabmedia conducted an informal survey of 35 small businesses. Let's look at what they had to say.

SMB Survey: Social Media and Brands Like Us

Chances are, you haven't got a multi-million dollar advertising budget. If you own an SMB, and your line item for marketing is still a modest amount, you likely already work with social media to help fill the brand-growth gap.

One national survey of 2,292 small-business owners revealed that 88% of SMBs with social profiles list Facebook as a top social-media channel for business outreach, followed by LinkedIn (39%); Twitter (31%); Google+ (22%); Pinterest (20%); and YouTube (17%).

But how do the national stats square with what Slabmedia found, in its survey? Our results, based on the responses of 35 SMBs to the question "what are your business's top 3 social-media platforms", were as follows.

slab 2158

slab 2158

And so, we see Twitter with lead by a 6% margin over Facebook. LinkedIn comes through in third place, and then Google+ and Instagram round out the top five. The category of "other" — accounting for 11% of the voting — includes Tumblr, YouTube, Foursquare, Vimeo, Yelp, Scoop.it, SlideShare, Quora, and Flickr, all of which garnered 2% or less among the platforms cited by our polled owners.

The Blog: Still a Place for Brands and Customers

Among the respondents, another message came through as well: blogs still matter.

Chris Cooper, co-owner of Active Movement and Performance, a personal training studio, said that his company's emphasis on Facebook and Instagram goes hand in hand with the way the business's blog allows staff to elaborate on services and topics of interest.

It's a key point to make, and it's backed by stats. That is, 95% of small businesses in a recent e-Strategy Trends report said blogging is also part of their effective marketing toolkit."Our blog gives a bigger area to discuss what is going on in the news relating to health, fitness, and nutrition," Cooper said. "Our blog also enables us to educate our clients — and really any readers — on what to do. We also provide weekly motivational posts to kickstart the week."

Blending the blog with the shorter-form environments of social-media platforms is good advice for SMBs. If the overall strategy is outreach, and finding your customers where they go to chat, then bringing them into your sales funnel from those location means drawing them back to a website where calls to action can lead to that one important result — not just the fostering of interest and loyalty, but an actual conversion at the end of the conversation.

Best Web Designers in BostonBest Web Designers in Boston 2016