Mobile Apps – The Perfect Addition To Your Business
Mobile device usage is now reaching the 4.77 Billion mark worldwide. It is just a fact of life that people use their devices each and every day, all day and night!
This proliferation of mobile traffic, of course translates into people looking for and interacting with local businesses & services. So naturally having a great looking, and easy to use ‘App’ for your business is going to provide benefits – both for your customers/clients and your business; but what exactly are these benefits and specifically what value do you as a business owner gain?
But you have already invested in a website, and linked all of your social media, do you really need an app as well?
Mobile traffic is a reality, and sure your website is still a valuable investment – especially if you have made sure it is ‘mobile friendly’ – but an ‘App’ is just a step further; an additional marketing tool and way to boost business.
What are the benefits?
Mobile Apps Provide High Visibility
Your Brand icon is right there on the mobile screen – whether or not the app is opened, your business is appearing every time the phone is used – there you are, front of mind!
The means to enable instant alerts – offers, deals, blog posts – very powerful! This is a major advantage – an instant link with each mobile device which is used every day. You can use coupons & loyalty cards – push notifications are a flexible means to communicate without needing to actually talk!
Gain A Competitive Advantage
A local business which offers an ‘App’ is going to provide a convenient means for people to interact with your business without needing to call you, to arrange appointments, bookings, purchases – all without needing to talk! Your business will be seen as ‘with the times’ – people love convenience!
Arrange for your Mobile App to be built, gain the advantage – your business will be right there on the mobile screen – push notifications, instant bookings, convenient modern business interaction – one more digital channel for your business to reach the exact community you serve.
There are any amount of generic posts, all advising you to use social media, engage with people and all of that.
In this next series of digital articles I want to present real living examples of how different professional people approach using the opportunity of the digital channels open to us all; it is useful to actually take a look at just how professionals, business owners, organisations take up these communication opportunities, because it is all about communication in various formats & employing a little imagination. Rather than talk about ‘EQ’ and preach social media techniques let’s have a look at social media in action.
The first example is an American plastic surgeon who uses ‘SnapChat’ to open a window into his daily practice; he now has 1 million people following his schedule, not too shabby!
Ideas & Further Thoughts
This is one example of using a particular platform, it does not mean you have to use Snapchat, but it does illustrate that you do not need a big production team, you can use a modest camera (like the one in your phone or tablet) to gain real traction.
Not everyone likes video, or appearing in video but you have to admit this is interesting. In the pre-Internet days it would have taken a lot of money to get one million as an audience, and to gain the exposure this surgeon has garnered. In the future articles we will take a look at how other real businesses are using one of the other social media platforms.
With the maturity of digital media, meaning that after 20 years the consumption habits of people globally have shifted towards digital media, getting your message out has become more and more possible.
Prior to the digital revolution taking off from about 1996, mass-media businesses were the only valid ways in which you could get your ‘message’ out. Literally you had to pay a lot of money to reach the people with newspapers, magazines, radio & television – a significant investment in having articles, photographs, audio produced, journalists and ‘PR’ people were paid attractive salaries, campaigns ran into the millions of dollars.
These days, if you know what you are doing, you can produce your own digital media – Blogging, Video, Podcasting. These are digital forms that can be optimized to reach online communities, and it does not need to cost you a lot of money; the investment levels are actually a lot less to gain an equivalent result.
This is why ‘quality’ is so important, if you can now genuinely reach specific people you can have the same effect as a venerable publication identity like ‘The New Yorker’, the field is now very open to the entrepreneurial spirit, the authority of these old names is based on their position gained prior to the digital revolution.
Merit based consumption is very much a reality, which means you can gain influence, produce the leverage that used to cost millions for thousands, you can create new ways of forming a connection with specific audiences.
A business is able to reach people well beyond the scope of previous media methods. Perhaps the message of this has not really sunk in for many in the business community. You only have to look at what the old names in ‘Media’ are now doing, hiring skilled teams to get their articles out there, this is where search engine optimization, social media approaches are being implemented in the ‘real world’; when business names like:
Are all re-designing their approach, seeking to build their old high profile position by publishing online – well this indicates something very interesting to us all: The territory is now re-set, all bets are off, these are new times, nothing is able to be taken for granted any longer! These media entities are not assured of being accepted, new players can ‘disrupt’ the market with their own quality productions.
Just as with media companies now seeking to re-build their readership, to regain the numbers, business also has to present themselves online, there is a huge opportunity to reach people that you might be underestimating as an Australian business owner. Time to look a bit closer at this!
How To Make Sense Of ‘Content Production’ For Specific Businesses
‘Content is King’, how many times have you seen this maxim being bandied about on blogs, forums for business, social media posts, discussions in local biz groups all across the western world? If I had $1 for each time, it would make a tidy sum.
OK, this assertion is extremely easy to state, and like so much of the shared wisdom concerning online publication, it does not really help you to actually do anything. I very often have a moan about the generic nature of information being offered business builders, the internet is stocked full of seemingly authoritative blogs, self-styled experts and opinion sharers – it is all too easy to adopt an air of authority and proclaim the generalities concerning digital publication. But this does not help anyone!
So this ‘Content is King’ idea, what does it actually translate into being for a person publishing a business website, working with social media and seeking to promote their organization, cause, business, charity online? And does this concept have true merit?
Where does this saying originate? This often repeated saying comes from an essay written by Bill Gates (no less) way back in 1996; this is pretty amazing to me, credit to the man for being insightful and for predicting the shape of things to come.
Back in 1996 the internet was truly in its infancy, at least as far as the public access to it goes. Bill Gates accurately prognosticated that ‘Content’ would follow a similar path to that of our other media channels – Radio & T.V as obvious examples. However, it is the two-way dynamic of internet media which clearly differentiates it from all preceding forms. This crucial difference is highly significant. It is also where Bill probably did not imagine enough!
Right, good, we know that ‘content’ refers to the publication of information, interesting graphics, videos, text, audio, animations, downloadable documents and other media types. That we can reproduce similar formats from preceding media, like the format of a radio show (podcasts), a television interview (Video), Articles (blog posts), Cartoon presentations, Audio. The global network allows us to distribute our content very cheaply, we do not require affiliates and distribution partners to the same extent, as was the case with broadcast media. The costs are significantly less.
This is the way to approach being online for many business types, organizations, charities, personalities, creative artists, political parties and indeed the entire pantheon of social production!
After 20 years the approach to using internet resources has matured beyond all recognition to those early days, when Bill Gates foresaw that ‘content’ would be the currency of the emerging digital culture.
What form would this take for say a Medical Center in the suburbs of Melbourne for example? Or a Building company in Sydney’s outer suburbs? A Fruit grower in the south west of Western Australia, a Psychologist in down town Adelaide?
Very clearly the type of venture is going to determine your approach. One size certainly does not fit all occasions! But this is what has been offered to you very often by digital services – a kind of template driven general approach. For even those services which purport to serve very specific business areas we have had this generic approach!
Flexibility very obviously is needed, responding to the unique qualities of your particular area. This is where we shine. Web Star Services is able to help a wide range of business areas because we have expertise in multiple aspects of digital production.
Content is one of those deceptively simple terms which actually correspond to a bewildering range of different skills and production standards. Very clearly for each case the type of content produced is going to also vary: a Medical center might decide to publish a series of videos describing how to manage a case of the ‘Flu’, or the benefits of Vitamin D3 on their Facebook page, a Building business might publish a DIY series on their blog on how to paint a room and optimize the articles to show up online to their area which include videos; the type of content can be purposed to reach and serve their communities, but also to promote their services and improve digital ranking.
Taking the production values and standards from other media areas we can produce a wide range of digital content and put it to good use. This is clearly an emerging trend and how we can build engagement, while also generating our digital presence, optimizing our sites and creating syndication, or wide distribution.
It is through broad digital syndication that today’s businesses are maximizing their investment with online publication; the approaches of using digital content have matured significantly, your website becomes your digital headquarters, and each business essentially is also a media company, providing valuable materials that potential and existing clientele consume; but also this same content becomes the PR mechanism, the means by which your business is discovered via the machine-level indexing of content.
You might be among the many people who are aware of the growth in social media use, and of the various platforms which are being widely adopted and massively used each day by millions of people globally.
The situation is that mobile, graphics-based platforms such as Instagram & Snapchat have a considerable user base, and these represent many different markets, and localities. But how practical is it to participate with these and gain genuine traction, in fact to leverage them to build your business – or are they simply trivial and superficial mediums where it is just too noisy and chaotic to gain anything of value?
Good question, and I’m glad you asked!
The Raw Numbers
Let us take a quick look at the numbers, it is always useful to evaluate any channel on the basis of raw numbers, and demographic participation to see if they offer us a meaningful and relevant audience.
Instagram launched on October 6 2010, so it is one of the newer players in terms of internet businesses, and it was not long before the potential for leveraging the global mobile user population was recognized, and Facebook purchased the platform for a cool $1Billion in April 2012.
Currently Instagram has 500 million active users, of which 75% are outside of the USA; not bad, that is a lot of people, but who are they and is it relevant to you?
According to Pew Research, which is a source I tend to refer to quite a lot because they are non-partisan and competent, the age groups represented on Instagram are:
55% are in the 18-29 bracket
28% are in the 30-49 bracket
11% are in the 50-64 bracket
From this it is clear the user groups tend to the younger end of the spectrum, however significant numbers of the other age groups makes it worthwhile to include in our mix of platforms that offer us powerful opportunities. Plus because the platform is targeting Photography and also Video it offers us broad scope for presenting lots of different products & services!
Any platform where significant numbers of people are present on a daily basis of course is a marketing opportunity – it is common sense and the basic and essential nature of business marketing; technology may be driving and creating the space, but it is people who we are interested in.
Conclusions & Moving Forward
OK, so we have evaluated Instagram in very basic terms, and it is pretty clear that we can derive the benefit of being able to reach large numbers of people, and that these people will indeed represent interest in a broad range of markets.
How do we actually go about participating, and driving specific groups to our business?
Photographs! We need to have compelling, intriguing, powerful, attractive, inspiring, delicious, beautiful, interesting photographs of what we work with – or indeed that will derive a response 😉
The actual mechanics of participating on Instagram can be very time consuming, and involve editing and tweaking photographs, using tools and utilities, filters, text editors – in fact a wide range of tools to enhance and add value, messages, links.
It can represent a significant investment of time and skills to optimally use the medium for our marketing. This is common to all social media, it requires that we invest our time, or pay someone else to do it on our behalf. This is why so many people get stumped by using these resources, we do not all resonate with the activity, but one has to adopt a pragmatic approach to all marketing, it is a means to an end – a way to build our business.
This series of posts will be taking a look at the mobile platforms which are widely used in the world. ‘Social Media’ being the slang term for the current state of the internet** – we should simply regard all of these sites as being what people generally get up to online in these times – it makes simple sense to investigate, and actually to implement using them; this is what is happening in the world.
This is where people’s attention is, this site is largely targeting the mobile user, however there are ways to also use it on desktops and laptops-there are a number of utilities and tools available which marketing agencies (like us) and others often use to leverage the potential of Instagram.
We provide services for clients wishing to reach groups on Instagram, this is definitely a worthwhile and profitable approach, one that we include in our Social Media mix of services.
The time has arrived when we should review Search Engine Optimization, it is widely discussed and promoted as a service but exactly what is going on, and why should we be interested?
SEO is regarded as being the ultimate craft and skill among digital experts, and among website builders all over the world.
The development of the web as a public space, as a means to publish all kinds of content, easily accessed by us all, brought with it an entire raft of related issues, and problems.
Just how can we ensure our materials actually get through to the groups of people we intend to address – how can we maximize our visibility?
This in essence is the objective of anyone taking the trouble to publish something ‘online’. There is often too much over complication and certainly way too much technical language being used when describing ‘Optimization’.
We should take a look at this service area, and chart how it has developed. I am going to make some suggestions which many in the industry will find uncomfortable. But it is time to say these things!
Optimization Is Nothing New
Certainly the basic principles of optimizing published materials are by no means new, every publisher of books and newspapers understands the importance of making their offerings as appealing and marketable as possible.
So, we need to understand that optimization refers to any effort you put into producing something, or performing an activity, which is intended to improve and boost the quality and performance of that production – maximizing the chances of success.
OK, the intentions and principles of optimization are pretty clear, and easy enough to understand. So what kinds of things can we do to optimize our websites, videos, articles and other digital content?
Even if something is optimally positioned, glaringly visible and accessible, this does not mean it will automatically succeed.
SEO has generated an entire specialist group, in fact large businesses have sprung up to serve up the latest wisdom and guidance, and of course wherever there is money to be made, and kudos to be gained personalities also emerge as being thought leaders and champions of particular schools of thought.
SEO has polarized into two main streams, these are: White Hat & Blackhat. These labels are not even legitimate – as far as Google is concerned you are breaking their terms of service if you so much as think about building ‘back links’. Automatically 95% of web masters are ‘grey hat’!
To chart the development of these two polarities would take a long time, and involve a lot of research and description. It is not useful to do this for the sake of offering a useful account. For the purpose of this article it is sufficient to identify the major characteristics of them both, and to assess if these two schools are still of any interest to us as everyday users.
Fully support and follow the Terms of Service of Google
Perceive SEO as being a long-term process
Are concerned with producing high quality content which serves a specific group
Accept that ranking occurs incrementally, it takes time!
Are methodical and scientific, but also aware of ‘wild cards’
Strive to work ethically, and in a fair minded way
Regard the Terms of Service of Google as a challenge, to be appeased but circumvented
Always chasing quick results and dramatic numbers
Have zero interest in the quality of content, will use any technical short cut to produce it
Have impatience with the entire process
Are sometimes criminal
Tend to regard internet users as an exploitable resource
Just like the old Western movies, when the good guy wore a white cowboy hat, and the villain a black one – this duality, of good and less good intentions is of course a little simplistic.
There are forums which cater to the white and black hatted communities – however this separation of the SEO camp is becoming less and less relevant due to improvements and evolution of search technology, and how the internet syndicates content.
As I mentioned earlier, Google does not want us to think about ‘optimizing’ through building links – they would prefer we all purchased their advertising; Google does acknowledge that we want to get our websites ranking, but after all they run an advertising business.
Private Blog Networks
The current state of play regarding SEO is that the major service providers offer you leverage of their expertise, and this often takes the form of what is known in the game as a ‘PBN’ – this used to refer to networks of websites that had a high page rank, and overall rank, these private blog networks were outlawed by Google and their algorithm adjusted, to remove any advantage from these links.
However, the PBN of today is likely to be a legitimate site which also occupies a high search rank – but it is highly specific, often domains with a few years on them, and indistinguishable with a typical website in a given niche. The ideal ‘PBN of today is in fact just another site ideally which can be leveraged to provide ‘link juice’.
Now, PBN’s are strictly against the terms of service of Google – but let’s be realistic here, most sophisticated digital players use links from other websites to their advantage!
They are not the only factor by any means, but the world wide web is built around linkages, it is inescapable, Tim Berners-Lee made this the case with the ‘WWW’.
So the more successful SEO services gain their reputation through owning lots of high ranking websites they can place links on to provide significant leverage to your site-thereby giving you an ‘unfair advantage’ for which you will pay a generous fee.
Is this the only way SEO can work, is it really so corrupt?
Well fortunately back-links can be gained legitimately, and there are other factors which contribute to your site, or digital content syndicating and gaining position.
SEO is now all about every aspect of building web property, each element adds its weight – now more than ever you need to include social signals, and high quality content syndication in your optimizing efforts.
It is critical that your digital presence be managed to attain wide distribution of your presence – it is no longer about simply being found on page 1 of Google. The mobile and social media revolution has resulted in an opportunity to gain more visibility from syndication. It has gone way past ‘Search’.
In terms of White & Black hats, those SEO services offering you quick results are most likely to be those who own, or have commercial access to hidden resources – there is a risk involved because these are strictly against TOS (terms of service) and businesses have suffered in the past by unwittingly gaining their online traffic from PBN links and being discovered by the ever-vigilant Google engineers and being de-indexed.
There are however, absolutely ‘kosher’ SEO services, these tend to be from those offering a range of digital services, not simply ‘SEO’.
Because optimization is a compound, complex and all-inclusive approach – the net result of building websites, producing content, video, text with a high quality production value and with syndication as the objective, is that your web presence gains rank, and visibility. If you also add some legitimate powerful links gained honestly, and with skill & outreach – you are going to gain the best possible outcomes.
Search Engine Optimization is not simply a service which you apply to a business website, it is now all about ongoing management, it is the sum total of many different approaches, it is the entire production values of any given online publication.
No doubt I will get attacked by some for saying this, everywhere there are self-styled experts who seek to bamboozle business owners and collect their inflated fees, to promote themselves as being ‘miracle workers’.
SEO is certainly a valid digital topic, but it has changed significantly – SEO begins when your website/video/content is first developed, don’t be deceived by the unscrupulous purveyors of false information – as always ‘Caveat Emptor’ is the watchword.
The nature of SEO will always attract controversy and mystique, because the mechanisms by which online content gets to be made visible are complex.
Syndication is the ultimate objective – and this attained through the total effort put into building your digital presence. The arguments and debates rage on, but ‘SEO’ to me just means high quality production standards, and the broadest distribution possible.
Optimization is essentially just good publication skills, and these should be an integral part of every website development. SEO IS web development!