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Some business owners struggle with what images they should post on Pinterest, particularly if they don’t own an e-commerce business or don’t sell physical products. The truth is, it doesn’t matter what kind of business you have. You can still make use of Pinterest.

Here are 5 ways to make your Pinterest pinboards more interesting:

  1. Pin your instructional videos or images associated with your podcasts. You can always pin the pages where your videos are posted in YouTube.
  2. Take pictures of your customers and employees interacting and upload those to Pinterest. Alternatively, take pictures of your employees behind the scenes (at office parties, industry events, etc.) and upload those to Pinterest.
  3. If you own a brick-and-mortar store, upload pictures of new products in your inventory when they come in. A great way to do this is to take pictures of your employees putting them on the shelves.
  4. For service businesses, you can pin images from around the Web that showcase problems that your staff can fix. For instance, an auto mechanic might pin an image of an overheating radiator. Be sure that you pin images on websites that have a Pin button so that you don’t run into potential copyright issues.
  5. Pin work you do for clients or supporting documents around the Web that back up claims you make on your blog. Infographics are very pinnable.

Need help with your Pinterest account or another social media account? Get Pinterest help at reciprocalconsulting.com/social-media-optimization-SMO.php

If you go to Amazon.com and look for a product in any category, you’ll discover that their navigation taxonomy is quite robust. You can search the site by keyword to find the product you want. Usually, you’ll get a list of products that match your search criteria, then you’ll be given a list of navigation options (usually in the sidebar) that allow you to narrow your search to name brands, sizes, prices, types of products, etc.

So you want to duplicate this type of sophisticated navigation system on your own website. That’s good. Amazon is definitely the model to follow. But there is one big issue to think about as you build your e-commerce website.

First, nix the dynamic URL parameters. They aren’t going to help you. Each product on your website should have a keyword-based URL, and that goes for the categories and specific page navigation options too.

For instance, if your customer comes to your website searching for socks, your search page should have the word “socks” in its URL. Giving the customer the option to click-through to pages for “tube socks,” “athletic socks,” and “ankle socks” without including those descriptors in your URLs could lead to duplicate content issues, especially if your customers can arrive on any product or category page from multiple locations on your website.

Every page on your website should have a single URL before you start adding dynamic parameters and session IDs. Otherwise, you’ll have navigation issues.

Not long ago, Pinterest introduced what it’s calling Rich Pins. There are three types of such pins currently: Product Pins, Recipe Pins, and Movie Pins. Each type of pin adds specific types of information to the pin that could benefit your customers and ultimately lead to more sales for you.

Product Pins include information such as product name, price, and availability. That way, customers know before they ever visit your site what they are looking at and the potential investment on their part. As a result, you’ll likely see an increase in your conversions-to-referrals ratio.

Recipe Pins include the title of your recipe, ingredients, serving size, and preparation time.

Movie Pins show title, rating, director, cast, release date, and run time.

I have to say, if you run an e-commerce store, then you should add Rich Pins to your website. If you run a restaurant or share recipes, then Rich Pins would benefit you and your customers. In the movie business? They’ll help you too.

There are three ways to add Product Pins to your website: Embed, Schema.org, and RSS feed. You can add Recipe Pins in two ways: Schema.org or hRecipe tag. Movie Pins can be added using Schema tags, then you show them how your Movie Pins look through Pinterest for Developers and wait for e-mail verification.

Learn more about Rich Pins from Pinterest’s help pages.

This article from Wired brings up a very important point for e-commerce vendors. If you don’t control your brand, then you don’t control future sales.

“Amazon can show they’re a friend to small and medium-sized businesses by offering them a platform that allows them to sell,” he says. “What they don’t do is allow you to control your own brand.”

So how do you control your brand, and why is brand marketing so important?

Let’s tackle the second question first. Brand marketing is important because without it you are only selling product. You can list as many products as you want on Amazon, but then all you have is inventory that rides on Amazon’s success. You are helping Amazon build their brand.

To truly build your own brand marketing machine, you need an e-commerce website with fulfillment capabilities and a way to stay in contact with your customers – for instance, with an ongoing newsletter.

Brand marketing is done in a number of ways. It starts with a website. The newsletter is another tool. You can also use your blog as a communications platform, social media as a way to develop relationships and draw people in, and search engine optimization to promote your brand through the search engines.

Paid marketing can also get people to your e-commerce website to interact with your brand.

In the long run, building a brand marketing platform will keep you alive much longer than moving product through an online retail store that may or may not be here tomorrow.

In most cases, I’d say if you wanted to build an off site e-commerce application to replace your onsite store, then you should rethink your strategy. But what if you want to add an off site store – on Facebook, for instance – as an adjunct to your onsite store? Then I’d say more power to you.

Facebook now has applications that allow you to set up your page as an e-commerce storefront. That’s not a bad thing.

Remember what your Facebook page is. Primarily, it’s a branding and marketing tool. If you promote it well on Facebook and it gets a good bit of traffic, why not allow your fans to buy directly from the page? Why send them to your website to look for what they want when you stand a chance of losing them in the process to recidivism? Give them the opportunity to buy right where they are and they are more likely to buy.

In other words, put the end goal closer to your customer.

That’s what the Facebook page as e-commerce store is all about. You can use it as an outpost, a franchise to your main store. And sell more product in the process.

I see a day when serious online merchants will have their main website as well as outposts on Facebook and the other most popular social networks.

Today is the biggest shopping day of the year. People are flocking to their favorite online stores to take advantage of today-only specials to purchase Christmas gifts for their loved ones. Will you be one of them? Better yet, will your online store be one of the merchants that Christmas shoppers visit today?

Cyber Monday is not just a one day event. If you haven’t thought about it yet, then you may be too late. But there are some last minute things you can do.

For starters, why not offer a last minute mark down? Just because you haven’t created any specials yet doesn’t mean that you can’t do it. How about offering a generic 10% off any item in your store, or a discount on a purchase of $50 or more? Or you could simply offer free shipping – today only.

These types of specials are easy to implement. All you have to do is update your website and send out an e-mail to your mailing list. Then promote the special through Facebook, Twitter, and your other social media accounts.

You might even drive traffic to your landing page through a well-targeted PPC campaign.

While last minute mark downs are not the most effective way to promote your Cyber Monday specials, they can get you some additional business or at least gain you a few customers down the road. People who shop on Cyber Monday may not buy today, but when they see an item they like and they can’t find it anywhere else for a better price, they’ll be back.

There are two annual shopping days that have achieved famous, or infamous, notoriety. One has been in the popular imagination since before the Internet was commercialized. The other is strictly an online shopping phenomenon.

Black Friday. That’s the traditional biggest shopping day of the year. It’s the day after Thanksgiving, which is tomorrow.

Black Friday is the day offline retailers look forward to. It’s the day that many stores open early to allow shoppers inside to ransack the store and fight over ugly baby dolls. It’s also the day when they earn their paycheck for the year. If you are an offline retailer and you haven’t started your promotions – including your online promotions – to get people to your store on Black Friday, then you are way behind.

Cyber Monday is the other shopping day. It’s the day that online retailers, e-tailers, look forward to – the busiest online shopping day of the year.

Like Black Friday, if you haven’t started promoting Cyber Monday sales, then you’re way behind. Those should have been planned and promoted months ago. But it’s not too late to start marketing for the holiday. You still have a month to go until Christmas. You may be late to the party, but you can still get in. Start your Christmas sales today, and turn this into the best Christmas ever.

Small Business Newz lists the top 10 trending opportunities for small businesses. Interestingly, the first five are firmly established and growing online marketing tactics. I think in five years these will be so mainstream that you can’t ignore them. So what are those five? Let’s take a look.

  1. Social networks – This should come as no surprise to anyone who has been online for the last couple of years, but I think niche networks will grow to be even more popular than the big five (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, and YouTube).
  2. Geolocation – Services like Foursquare and Facebook location updates are putting business owners just around the corner from their customers. Your office can be anywhere.
  3. Crowdsourcing – Small Business Newz proclaims the excellencies of deal and discount sites, but crowdsourcing can come in many formats. And it will.
  4. Social commerce – A blend between social networking and e-commerce, small businesses can use these sites to create outposts with shopping carts. Why just have one storefront when you can have several storefronts, each one getting its own traffic and with its own conversion rate that you can measure and control.
  5. Referral-based review sites – We’re talking about sites like Yelp that allow customers to review businesses and then refer traffic to those businesses. Already popular, I think you’ll see more of these types of sites pop up in the future, and you’ll likely see them serving specific niches.

The trend online for any new marketing tactic is to fan out from the general to the specific. New trends start with general audiences in mind, then when something catches on the concept goes specific with niche-targeting technology. I think you’ll see it with every one of these top 5 online marketing trends.

Cyber Monday has been billed as the biggest shopping day of the season. But one pundit isn’t buying it.

Nevermind the myth-busting tone on that last one, does it really matter whether online merchants have “sold” consumers on the idea of shopping online on this particular day or if it truly indeed is the preferred day for shoppers? The fact is, last year, Cyber Monday was a record-setting day for online sales. And it looks like today could top that.

One reason could be that consumers are getting more comfortable shopping online. So what are you going to do about it?

If you are a brick-and-mortar retailer, then I’d say you need to start thinking about your own website, your own online store. Online sales will only go up from here. I don’t think we’ve even begun to see the scale of where online consumers will go. But if you aren’t online, then you can’t take part in the party. So get your website design plans underway.

It may be too late for this year, but there’s always next year. And the year after that. And then the year after that. Your plan now should be to grow along with the Internet. Don’t wait until you’re left on the outside looking in.

One kernel of truth that every Internet marketer must keep in mind is that everything changes. E-commerce, in particular, is in a constant state of change. And according to WebProNews, Facebook is going to be a big part of the future of e-commerce. But how, exactly?

Well, author Chris Crum offers several ways that Facebook could lead us into the future of e-commerce.

I really like what he says about offline currency. He predicts that Facebook credits will become a kind of offline currency where purchasers will be able to use a credit card or a plastic pay scanner like a credit card to pay for purchases with their Facebook credits. That’s pretty nifty.

Another possibility, and a variation of this, is that mobile phone users will be able to sync up a Facebook payment app with an in-store app that allows them to pay electronically simply by transferring their Facebook payment data digitally through infrared, or possibly through a QR code-type of symbol.

There are all sorts of possibilities with this. E-commerce is definitely changing, and Internet marketers who are serious about doing business online will have to keep their eyes on their innovations that occur and take advantage of the most promising new methods of doing business in the cyber world. Are you there yet?

There has been a lot said in recent months about the various group deal sites – particularly Groupon and Living Social. Bing have now entered the fray with Bing Deals, and while it is really no more than a deal aggregator, it will make finding a deal easier for consumers. However, what is important to note is that Bing is teaming with DealMap, and they deliver thousands of local deals every day.

For many marketers, promoting their businesses through these channels may deliver more sales than through what is now consider ‘traditional social media’ channels (how quick the Internet moves – two years ago we spoke of how social media was the ‘new’ marketing option – now it’s ‘traditional’). If you have been offering special deals through Twitter, for example, you may find that sites like DealMap offer an even bigger stream of sales.

It begs the question, is social media too saturated for this type of marketing? Or more importantly, do you need to change your marketing strategy to match the habits of consumers. It’s clear that consumers are starting to prefer sites like Groupon and DealMap when looking for special deals. With these services really working hard to target the mobile market, and with mobile devices getting smarter, it makes sense that consumers will access them in larger numbers.

Groupon, Living Social, and DealMap are not for every business. However, they do offer a simple method of targeting consumers in their environment. Consumers don’t necessarily visit Facebook or Twitter to find a good deal – instead, they visit those special deal sites. If you are into special deals, then you may want to consider checking those sites out. Internet marketing is continuing to evolve. You need to evolve with it. You will be promoting where the customers are wanting to be promoted to, and that doesn’t happen too often.