Free Tools To Enhance Your ECommerce Website and Social Media Campaigns

January 11, 2010 by  
Filed under Design & Usability, Social Media

I hate paying for things that I can find and use for free, particularly when it comes to my online projects. 
 
In an effort to save myself time and money, I rely on a handful of free online tools to help me improve my websites, online marketing and social media campaigns. These websites include:
 
E commerce web design
Smashing Magazine (http://www.smashingmagazine.com/). Smashing Magazine is a hidden gem I advise everyone to bookmark. While the site is aimed mostly at web designers, its  templates and free tools (not to mention the inspiration) are aimed at anyone with a penchant for the web. Of particular interest to e commerce web site designers and owners is the icons section (http://www.smashingmagazine.com/tag/icons/), which features hundreds of downloadable e commerce buttons, graphics, icons all for the price of mentioning the artist’s name in your credits.
 
HubSpot Website Grader (http://websitegrader.com) HubSpot, like Smashing Magazine, offers a bevy of free tools you can use to grade your website and campaigns. To grade your website, enter your site’s URL on the first screen of the site. The resulting grade (out of 100 points) and report will indicate where and how you can improve your website. These improvements can include information on meta data, keywords, Google Page Rank, Traffic Rank, inbound links. A similar grader is available for blogs as well.
 
Google Webmaster Tools (http://www.google.com/webmasters/). As a self-professed fan of Google Products, I use Google Webmaster Tools in concert with my Google Analytics to make sure my websites aren’t doing anything hinky. A simple verification is all that’s needed to unlock information on inbound links, top search queries, keywords and crawl errors. Like the two sites listed above, Google Webmaster Tools is also free. 
 
E commerce social media campaigns
HubSpot’s Grader.com (http://www.hubspot.com/marketing-tools)  Part of the same family that offers the Website Grader, Grader.com also includes tools to help you rank and improve your Facebook Fan Page, Twitter rank and posts, Press Releases and calls to action. Similar to Website Grader, all of these tools are absolutely free.
 
Mashable (http://mashable.com/) Mashable isn’t a tool so much as a multitude of posts about all things social media. From how-to’s about construction a YouTube channel to the lasts report on Google’s new phone, Mashable is a free website (no subscription necessary) that will have you sounding like an online expert in no time. The site also includes how-to guides for understanding and using both Twitter and Facebook.
 
E commerce extras
Sometimes you just want to try a new tool for the sake of streamlining your productivity. These two websites offer daily doses of free tools to try:
 
UsefulTools.com (http://www.usefultools.com). On this site you can find apps to organize your email discussions or wishlists, design a custom website, get feedback on an idea or even download a directory of cool Twitter Apps.
 
Lifehacker (http://lifehacker.com/). As the name implies, Lifehacker helps with hacks for your life. From creating your own Gummy candies to finding out the best DVD ripping software, Lifehacker, will have you wondering how you ever survived with out it.
 

The How-to and Why of Twitter Lists for Ecommerce Retailers

Twitter’s recently added list functionality has turned the social networking site into a list-maker’s paradise.

If you’re asking yourself what the point is or why use a Twitter list if you’re an ecommerce retailer, then you’ve come to the right place. Below, you’ll find a brief introduction to Twitter lists as well as reasons why web retailers might want to use them.

Twitter-List-1 What are Twitter Lists and how do you use them?

In the simplest definition, Twitter lists are a way to organize – into lists — brands, associations or people you want to keep together in a group. You can put together up to 20 lists containing up to 500 users each of whomever or whatever you choose.

Creating a Twitter list is fairly simple. Using my own Twitter account, we’ll create a list for my Chicago Tweeps (that’s Twitter People for those not up on the Twitter lingo).

Once you’ve logged into your account, find “New List” on the right column.

Once the dialogue box appears, begin typing the name of your list. This name is unique to you in that it’s attached to your Twitter profile name. You needn’t worry about copying someone else’s list name.

You may include a description with your Twitter list if you so choose. This might be helpful if you choose to make your Twitter list public or if you need to remember why you put the list together in the first place.

Finally, choose whether you want to make your list public or private. If you choose the public option, other Twitter users will be able to see who you have on your list. If you choose private, only you will be able to see who is on your list.

Twitter-List-2

Once your list has been created, you can now start to add people to it.

There are several options for adding people.

You can use the search function:
Twitter-List-3

You can search for Twitterers you follow (click on the ‘list’ icon and check the list you’d like to add them to.)
Twitter-List-4

You can search using other Twitterers’ lists. To do this, click on their list(s) in the right column to open up a list. Select individual Twitterers to follow or choose “Follow List”

If you chose to follow another Twitter’s list, the list will be added to your list of lists in the right column.

Twitter-List-5

Why would you want to use Twitter Lists as an Ecommerce Retailer?

Twitter lists are a great way to organize the people you do business with. If you’ve been on Twitter for any amount of time, you’ll notice that it can be cumbersome to find and follow specific users you may consider important.

Twitter lists allow you to organize those users into easy-to-follow screens.

Say you have 900 followers. A third of your followers are customer-based; another third are vendor-based and the final third are industry-based.

With 900 followers, you’d have to be on Twitter all day long just to keep up with everyone. With Twitter lists, you can segregate your customers from your vendors and industry experts and concentrate on a specific group of Twitterers.

With Black Friday coming up, wouldn’t it be a great idea to call attention to your loyal customers (whom you have showing on a public customers list) and give them all a discount? Same goes for your vendors. If you love Paypal and your newsletter software so much you wish you could marry them both, why not give them the attention they deserve by pointing your followers in the direction of your vendor list.

Appeal to Your Recession Shoppers Through Social Networking Venues

Welcome to the age of the Recession Shopper. According to research conducted by Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates and commissioned by LinkShare Recession Shoppers are the new breed of consumers.

Careful and conscious of what they’re purchasing, Recession Shoppers scour the Internet for good deals as meticulously as Martha Stewart folds hospital corners.

According to LinkShare, “Retailers that offer discounts, special promotions and product comparisons to engage – and keep – these consumers will have more success than those that continue to try striking emotional chords through traditional channels.”

The study also revealed that in order to engage with these consumers e-commerce retailers must change how they think and connect with current and potential customers.

Your e-commerce consumer is going to be an information-based shopper. They are going to click through a lot of websites before making a final decision. They’re going to ask their friends on Facebook, send out a Twitter post and post a question to their online web group.

To separate yourself from your competition, you’re going to need to get into those online channels with them. You’re going to appeal to those Recession Shoppers through social networking.

Facebook. If you’ve done your homework, you’ll know that there are more decision-making purchasers using Facebook than nearly any other tool out there. These purchasers are asking their Facebook friends for opinions on products as well as referrals. If you want to get in — or stay in — the conversation, you want to be on Facebook, too. You’ll want a fan page that your loyal or prospective customers can click to in order to learn more about your site and your products or services. Use your Fan Page to post pictures and announcements about discounts or sales. Consider it a customer service portal.

Twitter. Twitter is closing in on The New York Times as one of the most often clicked-on sites in the United States. Like Facebook, this is another place where your decision-making purchasers are talking. Like Facebook, they’re posing questions and doing research. Creating a Twitter account and using it to connect with your brand loyalists will show you’ve already gone above and beyond your competitors.

YouTube. Given our visual nature, it’s no wonder YouTube has taken off the way it has. Why not serve up a series of how-to videos for current or potential customers. Create a channel dedicated to your site and post tutorials, consumer testimonials or alternative uses to your products. Host a contest that asks people to post a 60-second video on why they love your product. Create buzz and the customers will follow.

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