• Russ Fradin
    Russ Fradin on July 29, 2014

    Why Employee Advocacy Matters

    Employee advocacy is an emerging new marketing strategy where companies empower their influential employees to authentically distribute brand approved content, create original content, and in turn earn recognition and rewards for their activity and participation.
  • Greg Gerik
    Greg Gerik on September 16, 2014

    Shaking Up Social: Attending the Social Shake-Up in Atlanta

    Last year, the Social Shake-Up was one of the best social conferences to attend and this year promises to be even better. Here are a few of the hottest topics and sessions at the Shake-Up this year that are sure to deliver and drive this industry forward.
  • LPope
    Leah Pope on September 23, 2014

    Using Social Intelligence to Build the Sales Pipeline

    The social web has opened new channels for consumers to discuss products and brands, share opinions and ask for recommendations. Brands today must take a more responsive approach focused around interests relevant to the individual consumer. With the right tools in place, brands can uncover these opportunities, engage strategically and directly contribute to trackable lead generation.
  • I’ve recently created several notification circles on Google Plus and have learned quite a lot from the process. The first time, I created a notification circle on Google+ the whole thing was very new to me, and therefore I did things which looking back could have been done a lot better.
    I’ve recently created several notification circles on Google Plus and have learned quite a lot from the process. The first time, I created a notification circle on Google+ the whole thing was very new to me, and therefore I did things which looking back could have been done a lot better. Hopefully after reading this post, you’ll be able to avoid my mistakes and create the perfect opt-in circle first time around.
     

    Practical Tips and Steps

    First thing you must understand is that the average Google+ user hasn’t heard about opt-in circles and doesn’t know anything about them. So before going into details about how to subscribe, you should start by explaining about the basic concept of the opt-in circle. Don’t make the explanation to long, but do give your audience enough information about your plans. So here are the steps I’d recommend:
     

    Briefly explain about what you’re doing:

     
    “Hello friends! I’m creating a blog notification circle here on Google Plus! The idea is that each time I share a new post on my blog, I’ll send out a notification to this circle letting them know about the post.”
     

    What’s in it for me?

     
    As an initiative for subscribing, a cool thing you could do (but really don’t need to if you have great content) is promise to share exclusive giveaways or posts with that circle alone, or at least before your share them with the rest of the world.
     

    Call to Action – Tell people how to subscribe (in a simple way!)

     
    “If you’d like to be included in the Blog Notification Circle and be the first to know about new posts & tips – simply +1 this post and you’re in!”. Don’t forget to mention that people can opt out of the circle at any time. An alternative for this is sharing the post and then quickly adding a comment on to that post saying: “+1 this comment to be included in the notification circle!” and then disable new comments on the post.

    Create a Dedicated Image

     
    This worked great for me in my last notification circle, so I’d highly recommend using an eye catching bill consolidation design that clearly describes your goals and call to action.
     
    Disabling reshares and comments on the post leaves only one option – +1’ning the post (is that English?!). Keeping the subscription process simple makes it easier for people to understand what they need to do in order to subscribe. When comparing this to a mailing list signup form on a website, I always find it easier when I’m asked to only fill in my Email Address and hit subscribe (rather than name, family name and so on).
     
     

    Add all subscribers to your Opt-In Circle (Yep, this step is important…)

     
    Great! So you’ve followed the above steps and people have asked to join your notification circle? Now it’s it’s time to add them to the circle! Head over to “activity on this post” either by hovering over the profile thumbnails at the bottom right of the post, or by going to the dropdown menu in the top right corner and selecting “activity on this post”. Next, hover over the names of people who’ve +1’d the post and add them to your “Notification Circle”.
     
     
    Doing this one by is definitely possible, but rather time consuming. So be sure to check out Circloscope chrome extension and premium version which allows you to add multiple profiles from any post to your circles at once.
     

    Send out your first post!

     
    When you send out the post make sure to tick the “also send email to” box, and you’re all set. If you don’t do this, you missed the whole point and your subscribers won’t be notified about new posts.

    Important things you should note

     
    Even though it’s rare – it’s possible that even if you’ve done everything right, you won’t see the “Also send emails to …” checkbox. If this happens it’s probably because most people who’ve asked to opt in aren’t following you, and in that case Google+ will not allow you to send emails, and this is done to prevent spammer from bombarding your email with spam messages.
     
    The solution for this is the following – determine which people in the circle are not following you (this can easily be done using Circloscope) and then do one of the following things: Reach out to the non followers in order to explain the situation and ask them to follow you. Unfortunate, but remove the non-followers from your notification circle. After doing that you might need to create a new notification circle in order to refresh the backend system.
     
    I’m repeating this because it’s important – let people know that they can opt out at any time. It’s also a good idea to occasionally send out a message to your notification circle alone just to ask and make sure they still want to be included.
     

    Things you shouldn’t do

     
    A mistake I did the first time I created an opt-in circle was writing about the opt-in circle at the very end of the post and leaving the post open for comments and +1’s. What happened was that many people left comments related to the post’s content and it was difficult to keep track of people who’ve asked subscribe to the notification circle. So don’t mixed up too many things in one post, if you keep it simple and to the point life will be easier for everyone.
     
    Don’t forget to disable reshares on the post. If you leave reshares open and someone shares your post, people will probably start to +1 the reshared post. If this happens you won’t get any indication about that engagement and therefore lose out on all those people. Comments should be disabled mainly to keep the post tidy and help the call to action button (+1) to stand out more.
     
    Don’t send out email notifications if the post is not related to your original opt in circles purposes! If you do this, people will simply mute you and will stop receiving notifications from you. And if you really go too far with this, people will probably even report your profile. Remember, you’re sending out a notification and an email, so think twice before you hit share.
     

    Conclusion

     
    Google+ notification circles are great in so many ways and can easily become a part of your marketing tools. When writing your opt-in post remember to keep things clear and offer a simple way for people to subscribe to your circle. Think twice before you share a post with your notification circles and never send spam. Remind people of the option to opt-out and most important – share great content. If you do – people will never even think about opting out.
     
    Image Source: Steve Jack 
    Sharing up to date content online is one of the best ways to drive traffic to your website or blog however, if you are not continuously distributing content via other sources, you may be losing out on a lot of traffic. Here are 5 of my favourite tools that will help you distribute your content online.

    Sharing up to date content online is one of the best ways to drive traffic to your website or blog however, if you are not continuously distributing content via other sources, you may be losing out on a lot of traffic. Here are 5 of my favourite tools that will help you distribute your content online.

    Hootsuite

    I have been using Hootsuite for at least  four years now and can’t recommend it enough for all my clients and anyone who wants to save time scheduling content across Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+. Free of charge to use on the basic plan and in my opinion, this is all small businesses need.

    Outbrain

    If you want to share your posts across more than just social media, Outbrain is a great tool to reach a larger audience in the easiest way possible. Outbrain will share your content on popular sites (separate from social) but have a similar audience that are interactive.

    SimpleReach

     Just like Outbrain, SimpleReach allows you to share content on popular sites with audiences similar to those on social media however it has a unique feature. This feature allows users to predict how well an article will drive traffic to a site based on SimpleReach’s 0-99 score chart.

    Buffer

    Buffer is one of the longest standing distribution tools when it comes to social media. Just like Hootsuite, you can schedule posts to go out at certain times of day however Buffer also has an option to allow users to leave it in their hands. By this I mean allowing Buffer to decide when the most optimum time to post is for each individual user based on their audience.

    Skyword

    Skyword takes the simple idea of Outbrain but improves on it by offering users the chance to reach an even larger audience by distributing content through Skyword’s approved partners.

    How are you distributing your content online?

    Many businesses have signed up for a social network, more because it seems to be the 'thing to do' than because they have an understanding of how it works and how it fits into their overall marketing strategy.

    Many of us are familiar with the quote "If you build it they will come" from the 1989 movie "Field of Dreams" with Kevin Costner. While this saying may have held true in the movie, real life doesn't usually work that way!

    Just building something ... whether it's a product, a business, a website or a presence on social media ... won't, for most of us, result in people flocking our way to check us out. In the real world, it takes more than building something. It  takes advertising and marketing, time and resources - including cash - to make it happen.

    Those of us who are in business for ourselves know this first hand! We may have a great product or service ... something that may really help people in their lives ... but that's not enough.

    If we aren't able to get our message out, so that people can see the value of our products and/or our services, so that they recognize and trust our brand, then building our business will be an uphill battle.

    Facing Reality

    In 2005, the year after Facebook was launched, Internet users represented:

    • 68% of the population or 223 million people in North America
    • 8% of those using social networking sites, roughly 18 million people

    By the end of 2013, Internet users represented:

    • 85% of the population or roughly 300 million people in North America
    • 78% of those using social networking sites, roughly 255 million people

    (Sources: Internet World Stats and Pew Research)

    While Internet use grew from 68% to 85% between 2005 and 2013:

    • social media grew from 8% of Internet users to 78% of Internet users, or from roughly 18 million people to 255 million people!

    Not surprisingly, as of Fall 2013, 90% of Internet users in the 18 to 29 year age group were users of social networks. A quick look at the Pew Research statistics shown below makes it clear that while the younger generation may be leading the way in the use of social networks, the number of users in the 30 to 49 age group, and those who are older, continues to grow.

    Pew-Research-Social-Networking-Statistics---Fall-2013
    Source: Pew Research

    So, what does "facing reality" have to do with these social networking statistics? Hopefully, the answer to that question is self-evident: There is a huge audience of people using social networks - and the numbers are growing yearly. And where people are spending time, is usually a good place for business to be as well.

    Using Social Media for Business

    Many businesses have signed up for a social network, more because it seems to be the 'thing to do' than because they have an understanding of how it works and how it fits into their overall marketing strategy. This approach usually leads to frustration and disappointment.

    Social media is one piece of the marketing and communications pie. To be of real value to an organization it needs to be integrated into their overall marketing and communications strategy.

    Social media is very different from traditional media and approaching it as if it isn't will leave a business questioning their involvement and "spinning their wheels".  (See "How's Your Online Presence" for more on this and for social media basics that can help you get on the right track.)

    The Price Tag of Social Media

    Social media offers amazing opportunities for business owners. But, it is not a quick fix, a marketing miracle or cost free! There is a price tag tied to social media for business.

    The price tag includes both time and money, and the price is likely to increase over time.

    Social media takes time to get off the ground, grow and manage. There is no easy way around this investment of time, if you are serious about social media.

    So too, because most social networks are public companies with shareholders, there is an expectation they will make money.  Social networks have built their networks on the back of a free service to consumers knowing that businesses will (eventually) pay to get in front of those consumers.

    Facebook has led the way in making it tougher for businesses to reach those who have liked their Facebook business page, unless they are willing to pay for the privilege. (See "Paying for Facebook" for more on this.) Other social networks will follow suit.

    That said, it is still relatively inexpensive to promote content or advertise on networks like Facebook. Businesses should be salivating at the opportunity to find ways to get in front of and 'touch' their target audience on Facebook, assuming their target audience is active there!

    As social media matures and as businesses resign themselves to the reality of paying to reach their target audience, the price of social media is likely to rise. Supply and demand will dictate this.

    Now is the time for many businesses (not all) to figure out how and where they should incorporate social media into their overall marketing strategy. While it's too late to be an early adopter of social media, it's not too late to seriously consider how social media might help your business and to take appropriate steps to integrate it into your overall marketing and communications strategy.

    If you don't do this now, chances are a year or two from now you'll be kicking yourself for not taking action and working hard to try to make up for lost time. Unfortunately, one can never make up for lost time!

    There are a number of applications I use every day, as well as several I have played with, that I thought I would share with you today. I have paid for some of these apps, and others compel me but I don’t really have a use for them yet; that said, I keep on returning to them.

     

    There are a number of applications I use every day, as well as several I have played with, that I thought I would share with you today. I have paid for some of these apps, and others compel me but I don’t really have a use for them yet; that said, I keep on returning to them.

     

    Circloscope

    After complaining about Google+ in such articles as Google+ on Its Third Birthday and Is Google+ the Antisocial Network?, a number of Plussers came to my aid, telling me what a mess my Circles were.  Everyone recommended trying out Circloscope but at $47 for an annual license covering one Google+ personal profile & three business pages I was hesitant. When I looked around I couldn’t find a test drive but there were so many people on Plus who crowed about the app, which downloads and installs as a Chrome browser extension, so I paid for it. As it turns out, however, there is a free version that does everything the premium version does, except the mass adding & removing of people — so you don’t have to go in blind, though the it’s the mass adding & removing of people that’s the most compelling, but that’s not all it does. Here’s what it says it can do for you, from the website:

    • Quickly and easily create circles of engagers from any Google+ post – those that commented, shared, and +1’d the post.
    • Create circles from those that engaged with the most recent posts of any Google+ profile, and those that have been circled by others.
    • Easily create circles of those that have commented on your event, and those that replied Yes, No, or Maybe.
    • Know exactly who is following you back and who isn’t, plus how active and popular they are. Unfollow by any metric you choose.

    I am still trying to get a handle on it, but it seems like the only way I can undo quite a few mistakes I made when I joined three years ago and didn’t spend any time at all being smart about Google+ Circles. So, instead, I had just suffered regrets. Circloscope make the promise of allowing me to simply and easily undo those mistakes.

    FullContact

    fullContactI don’t know about you but my contacts have taken over my entire life. I have to share my contacts over my iPhone 5, Android Nexus 5, iPad Air, Nexus 7, and across my social networks, my Google Apps mail, and who knows what else. I have had terrible problems with duplicates (so many duplicates) and bad merges and out-of-sync issues. It easily allows you to merge dupes as well as use the power of all my social media platforms to update all of my contacts with their social media profiles, up-to-date contact info, and lovely profile photos. I pay for premium which costs either $9.99/month or $99.99/year. FullContact is worth it.

    Scrubly

    logoBefore I discovered FullContact I periodically used Scrubly as a way of doing a power-wash of my contacts.  It does the same thing as FullContact does, I think, but it takes a lot longer and is a lot funnier (they keep it charming and silly while the app goes through your contacts and social media accounts) but when it’s done, everything is tidy, neat, and updated. It’s $19.95-per-scrub (or $39.95 for the year) and that’s what I used.

    Buffer

    bufferAppBuffer’s so cool. It makes Content Marketing Automation easy. It can embed itself into your browser and all your images to easily share content inline with Reddit, Twitter, Facebook, and just about everyplace else. You can also queue up lots of content that you can then share over all of your social platforms, including Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Google+ as well as Facebook Pages, LinkedIn Company Pages, and Google+ Pages (and maybe even LinkedIn and other Groups, maybe?). And, as if that weren’t enough, you can plug in all your RSS feeds and they can then get buffed into your buffer queue. I even use buffer as a way to retweet from Twitter instead of that ugly and awkward “quote tweet” — Buffer does everything better. I am a premium member — I use the Awesome plan.

    GaggleAMP

    gaggleAMPWhat does GaggleAMP do? Well, it’s tough to explain. It’s like a social media listserv. My Gaggle is comprised of people who have subscribed to my social media feed. So, when you subscribe to my Gaggle, you can easily retweet the tweets I place into my Gaggle queue and share any of the LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google+ content I place into the queue. I also automatically queue up all of my blog posts and articles via RSS. And Gaggle allows subscribers to set up their Twitter and LinkedIn accounts to AutoAMP my content so that it gets automagically shared onto their profiles. It’s set up more for business than personal, but branding and sharing is what it is. Even if you don’t have a company, you can become a valuable content curator.  Prices start at $50/month but then top-out at $150/month — but so worth it! GaggleAMP is a true social media secret weapon.

    That’s all for now. I will share another 7 apps next week.  Please let me know what you think about my list so far.  Which ones have you used and which ones are you still using. Which ones have I missed and which apps should I really check out?  Please make those recommendations in the comments and you know what? Go git ‘em, Tiger!

    If your audience has niche interests, it’s important to understand where they're spending time online. More and more, content marketers should look to these four social networks to add value to any content strategy.

    Even if most of my current marketing efforts for clients happen on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, my personal interests and hobbies have led me to join newer, more niche networks where I spend considerable amounts of time. I often find them more relevant and socially stimulating than more “traditional networks.”

    When I first signed up for Facebook, it was important to be friends with everyone, even those acquaintances in my General Biology study group (oh, college flashbacks). Ever expanding my network of friends was a top social priority, but the fact is that as social networks evolved, size started mattering a lot less than seeing relevant information from people you care about.

    Another testimonial: When I signed up for Facebook, I listed that I was interested in over 200 pages: sports teams, games, TV shows, musicians, books, and the list only goes on. But what meaningful content did that bring me? It turns out, if I have an interest, it’s important to go where other people with that interest are spending time, and more and more that’s becoming niche networks. Below we’ll talk through some of today’s more intimate social experiences and comment on how brands can work themselves into those conversations.

    SPOTIFY

    Listening to music has become a social experience, where you can follow your friends and brand influencers, share playlists and create musical experiences through song arrangements. If you want to talk about an extremely engaged audience, the average Spotify user who uses the service across multiple devices listens to an average of 146 minutes of music per day. Paying for a subscription to Spotify, which is arguably the best social music service, allows users to bypass commercials. There are more than 10 million paying subscribers, and over 1.5 billion playlists created so far.

    Just like you can do with images and video on other platforms, on Spotify you leave your mark by the record of what you listen to and how you contribute to a community of music enthusiasts. While traditional audio or banner advertising may reincarnate memories of annoying times on Pandora, brands have also joined the Spotify community to provide their followers with playlists and other forms of content marketing. It’s advertising under the guise of providing meaningful content.

    In 2012, Carnival Cruise Lines used its “Carnival Cruise Tunes” branded playlist to attract almost 450 Spotify subscribers, who spent nearly 800 hours listening to the list. The average engagement on this playlist was approximately 20 minutes per session. Other brands with success stories on the platform include Herbal Essences with its “Songs You Sing in the Shower” public playlist, Victoria’s Secret with its compilation of songs and artists from its heavily publicized annual fashion shows, and fashion powerhouse Rebecca Minkoff, who creates playlists for virtually every occasion that are on-brand and for customer enjoyment. Even if you can’t swing the price-tag of an official branded playlist, there’s still a place for your brand on Spotify as a regular user.

    JAWBONE FITNESS BANDS

    The surge in health awareness has ushered in a trend of wearing fitness trackers, and what better way to be held accountable for exercise and sleep patterns than to join an app with your friends. The Jawbone UP24 Band is worn by the user 24 hours a day and syncs with an app on a smartphone to provide data on REM sleep, a route and count of steps taken with GPS information, and even counts of calories burned via various activities based on your weight and other demographic information you provide the service.

    You can also integrate your UP24 band with IFTTT (If This Then That) to create recipes for connecting with other smart devices, including the Nest thermostat. For example, you can create if/then statements such as “When I wake up (detected by UP24), then set my house to 72 degrees (completed by Nest).

    The social aspect of Jawbone fitness bands is astounding, from competing with friends to hit 10,000 steps/day goals to bringing light to important issues of energy conservation by making it cool to own a smart thermostat. Look for more integration of UP24 bands with other smart appliances to trigger tasks such as starting your coffee-maker or toaster. And know that tech nerds are heading in droves toward this complete technical integration, and the social aspect is sure to grow. How can you create a branded recipe with your app?

    FANTASY FOOTBALL

    Whether you’re in a fantasy football league at work, reminiscing with your college buddies or talking with a random smattering of acquaintances, chances are that it occupies your mind on game days (three days a week, on Thursday, Sunday and Monday) as well as on the days preceding when you’re setting your lineup. Forget to check into the injury report or size up your opponent for the week and you are almost guaranteed to miss points. All of these facts create a network of football super fans who are extremely educated, have significant disposable income and display unparalleled levels of engagement: the exact climate you want for participating as a marketer.

    While the most valuable NFL team, the Dallas Cowboys, is valued at $3.2 billion, the NFL as a whole brings in $10 billion annually. Even more impressive than that, 32 million people spend an average of $467 on fantasy football, which adds up to $15 billion. As Bryan Del Monte cleverly points out, fantasy football is worth more than real football. So why are brands clamoring over those Super Bowl spots, again?

    What brands should be working on is figuring out how to join the intimate networks of fantasy football players. Volkswagen in 2013 introduced the Coach’s Corner, which allows users to compete directly with CBS Sports Personalities. The anchors’ reactions are incorporated into VW-branded banners.

    While some branded sponsorships have found success, it’s surprising that more brands haven’t found ways to join in the fantasy football culture. They can do this by providing educational content, unique competitive opportunities and a social aspect that will bring brands closer to football super fans.

    TWITCH

    Amazon announced in August that it is acquiring Twitch for just short of $1 billion, giving this gaming video app even more potential for mainstream success. With Twitch, already used by 55 million people, Xbox One players for example can follow different gaming broadcasters to watch their live-streamed videos with a side-by-side view while they’re playing the game. You can earn social rewards watching Twitch videos, and even request to join the gaming parties of your favorite broadcasters. There is also a built-in chat functionality.

    Xbox One is built for social broadcasting and sharing. Simply tell your Kinect, “Xbox, Broadcast,” and you’ll start recording a video of your game data that can then be shared with your network. Xbox One and the Twitch app work together to facilitate social gaming and sharing, giving all of your favorite Xbox games a social element even if it wasn’t initially inherently available.

    Where are the brands in this story? Well, Speedstick has already experimented with using a gaming video on Twitch for a product placement for deodorant. Only time will tell if more brands grab at the opportunity to reach an extremely engaged, mostly millennial audience. Finding ways to incorporate brands in games or to create brand advocates out of the most influential broadcasters will clearly be a path to success.

    Across all of these niche social networks emerge common trends: multi-device technical integration, passion for a particular interest or vertical, ease of use and a highly engaged audience. What does this mean for brands trying to engage their audiences in increasingly segmented and specialized locales? How are you evolving your strategy to hit an audience that seeks out new niche networks? Knowing your audience and marketing to them with deep content will ultimately provide this deep value.