• 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.
  • For some small businesses, resources may not be available to have a full-time manager who could handle all social media activities. This is where automation comes in.
    Curating and sharing quality content is a brilliant way to build your brand's online presence.
     
    However, for some small businesses, resources may not be available to have a full-time manager who could handle all social media activities. This is where automation comes in.

    Social media automation can help you to stay on point with your marketing by giving you the time and space to focus on engaging with your audience.

    Take a look at this infographic from insuranceoctopus that illustrates how social media automation can work for your business.

    Click image to enlarge

    How Facebook, Twitter, Google+ Content Automation Can Work For Your Compnay - #infographic

    2 key takeaways:

    Not everything should be automated, but as a general guide 'your own awesome content as well as other's awesome content' is a great formula to get into the habit of scheduling ahead of time. Scheduling and sharing the thoughts and quotes, or retweeting the content of others - particularly if they're an important or valued in your industry - Sends a message to your audience that you're supportive of the industry you're a part of. It's a great way of networking.

    Remember that automation is not a replacement for genuine interaction on social media but it can help to enhance it by freeing up time to find great content to share and to have meaningful engagement with your customers.

    Show Your Love, Connect With Us On Social Media: Google+ Facebook Pinterest Twitter
    Twitter chats can be a valuable part of your social media engagement strategy. Lesley Price shares her top tips and tools with us in this week's SMToolbox.

    Live Twitter chats are a great way to engage with your audience and to build deeper relationships on social media. This week I caught up with Lesley Price, CEO of the charity Learn Appeal, who helps run a popular Twitter chat: #chat2lrn. She shared some great practical tips for managing Twitter chats and the tools they use.

    A Twitter chat is a conversation around a specific hashtag. The hashtag is used by all participants and effectively tags each comment so you can follow and participate in the conversation.

     

    There are many benefits to running and participating in a Twitter chat, such as:

    • building relationships

    • creating a community

    • demonstrating knowledge

    • getting instant feedback

    • staying informed

    It is easy for people to participate and, as they are public, they can promote your brand and help gain new followers.

    You can also build authority both by hosting and appearing as a guest. Twitter chats are also proving popular for providing support to customers. There are many good examples, such as Hubspot’s weekly Twitter chat #SciChat and #Chat2lrn run by Lesley Price and others.

    Top Tips For Hosting and Managing a Twitter Chat

    Like most things in life preparation is critical to success. I was impressed by how much thought and hard work goes into making #chat2lrn successful. Lesley’s advice is as follows.

    General Preparation

    • Choose a short, unique hashtag. The hashtag will appear in every tweet so keep it as short as you can.

    • Timing is critical as participants in Twitter chats may come from around the world, so choose your time to reach as many of your audience as you can. Global timings get difficult in the Spring and Fall when clocks start changing at different times. Lesley says you have to anchor your event somewhere, they stick with a fixed UK time.

    • Use an avatar. Lesley’s advice is to set up your own Twitter account with an avatar for your chat. This makes it clear when you are managing and running the chat. The avatar for example tweets out the questions.

    • Create a team. In Lesley’s experience Twitter chats work better organized and managed by a team.

    • Be consistent. Most successful twitter chats are regular events. They are also a big commitment, so run one every two weeks if you can’t commit to one a week but be consistent.

    • Prepare a calendar with dates, names and topics.  The team then know well in advance when they are responsible for leading on a chat and it also allows you to keep track of topics you have discussed and are planning to cover.  This will ensure that you are not rushing around at the last minute scrambling to find a leader, a topic and also that you have a good range of topics.

    Event Preparation

    It is important to prepare participants for an event and to promote it actively. Lesley’s advice is as follows:

    • To create a good discussion and a well informed event the #chat2lrn team create a blog post on the subject to be discussed. Typically the blog post is written either by someone in the team or by the guest expert for that week’s chat. “This allows the community to read about the key issues that will be explored during the chat.” See their site here http://chat2lrn.wordpress.com/.

    twitter chat tips

    • The team meet virtually prior to the event and come up with approximately 8 agreed questions that will be used during the one hour session. The questions should be designed to encourage discussion and have a natural flow, so try to avoid questions that have a simple yes/no answer.

    • Promote the event including regular tweets using the hashtag, for example this week’s #chat2lrn is about gamification, join us on x day at x time. The #chat2lrn team typically send out different message types before an event.

    Running the Chat

    • The #chat2lrn team agree different roles during the session. One person takes responsibility for leading the chat.  This role involves writing the post for the topic or inviting a guest post. They are also responsible for making sure the discussion flows.

    • Another member of the team manages the avatar account and administers the session. They do the welcomes, post the questions and keep an eye on the clock. “They move things along as guests or the topic leader can get very involved in discussions and forget the time.” The team take turns in running the avatar account.

    • The #chat2lrn team run a skype back channel during the session using just text messages to share thoughts and help ensure things are running smoothly. The guest is also invited to be part of the back channel as it helps keep them involved and makes them feel part of the team for that chat.

    • The first question Q0 is normally an introduction and they ask people to make sure that they put the relevant question number in front of their responses as chats can get busy and out of synch.

    • “The role of the team is to act as facilitators rather than moderators” say Lesley “You do occasionally get people who try to hijack a session to sell something. In my experience it is sufficient to just tell them firmly this is not the place to sell. The community are also good at policing this type of activity.”

    • At the end of the chat get people to reflect, ask them for their biggest takeaways.

    Tools to Use

    Lesley’s favourite tool is Tchat.io. You just sign in with your Twitter account and enter the hashtag. You then enter what is effectively a room or stream that just shows tweets with the hashtag included. Tchat allows you to reply, retweet and favourite and puts in the hashtag automatically to all of your tweets.

    tchat screenshot

    Others in the team use similar tools such Tweetchat and Twubs, and it is partly a case of personal preference.

    Some people in the team also use Tweetdeck and Hootsuite to monitor wider discussions, as sometimes participants forget to include the hashtag and you will miss it if you are only tracking hashtagged tweets.

    Running Twitter chats requires a lot of concentration. Lesley’s advice is to make sure you are in a quiet room, with no interruptions.

    After the Event

    It is useful to continue the discussion after the events. To support and help people the team use Storify to produce a curated list of the the tweets from the event. Here is a good recent example http://learnpatch.com/2014/09/curated-tweets-from-chatlrn-twitter-chat-on-gamification/

    Summary

    Twitter chats can be a valuable part of your social media engagement strategy. However, great chats do not just happen, they require preparation, organization and management. The #chat2lrn approach is a great example we can all learn from.

    I’m not much of a photographer and am often short on time, so creating my own images wasn’t much of an option. When the prices at iStockPhoto.com leaped up to fifteen dollars per credit, I went in search of a new vendor for stock photography. Enter, Dollar Photo Club.

    Until last week, I was a staunch supporter of iStockPhoto.com.

    At three credits for a low-res image suitable for blogging, it was my go-to resource for stock photography. Depending on how many credits I purchased at a time, it would run from $1.59 to $2 per credit – so my image would cost $4.50 – $6.00. Not too bad. I can live with that.

    But last week, we broke up. I’m not giving them my monetary love any longer.

    Why? They changed their pricing structure to one credit per image, with a price leap to $15 per credit. They are now selling only high-resolution images, instead of letting the customer chose the size they wanted and spending fewer credits for lower resolution. Not only is the cost twice as much (I’d be spending over $100 on images each month!), but I would now have to spend time resizing each image. After all, larger images take more time to download, significantly reducing website performance (and hence, SEO results).

    NO, THANK YOU.

    I’m not much of a photographer and am often short on time, so creating my own images wasn’t much of an option. I went in search of a new vendor for stock photography.  Enter, Dollar Photo Club.

    One dollar images! Love at first sight!!

    Well, second sight, actually. I had to check out their inventory to make sure it was sizable enough to cover my needs and of decent quality. So far, so good!  Like a dollar store, it’s a mix-up of fantastic bargains and over-priced junk.

    I also like Canva quite a bit – instead of a simple stock photography site, Canva is an image editing tool designed to be used for social media, content marketing and other uses. It allows you to buy images for one dollar as you are using the graphic design software, or use solid colors and your own images for free. If you haven’t taken a look at it yet, go check it out.

    Just How Important Are Images?

    Very.

    25 Free Tools to Rock Visual Marketing from ThriveHive

    In addition to the above SlideShare that has some freebie resources to check out, here are a few more resources to explore… Just in case my one-word answer to “Just how important are visuals” wasn’t enough for you. (Picky, picky.) 

    In addition to the above SlideShare that has some freebie resources to check out, here are a few more resources to explore… Just in case my one-word answer to “Just how important are visuals” wasn’t enough for you. (Picky, picky.) 

    With the emergence of content filters, ever rising competition, and consumption capacity overload, it’s reasonable to ask how are you going to succeed with content marketing? Content marketing will only deliver on its promise if the content’s good enough to deliver customers.

    There’s turbulence in the air. After recently attending Content Marketing World (in Cleveland no less) it’s apparent that certain practitioners of content marketing (and lots of software providers) are emphasizing producing a high volume of content at the expense of content quality. This marks a significant milestone in the short life of content marketing. Because quality is not just some imaginary feature that lies in the “nice to have” attributes check list. For those choosing to dismiss quality, let’s remember that a foundation of content marketing is to create content that’s relevant, informative and helps foster relationships that can lead to revenue. That requires quality, not regurgitated spam or unimaginative drivel. Quality is what people want or will ever consider consuming.

    Overloaded. And ignored.

    As Harvard Business Review pointed out in recent article, disappointing readers with content that fails to rise above mediocrity is the exact opposite way to build brand awareness or drive sales. If you want to win over the hearts and minds of your prospects, a dull or unreadable paragraph or two is just the ticket to turn prospects away—fast. Considering that 27 million pieces of content are created each day, research indicates that 60 to 70% of website content goes unread. There’s a paradox with the promise of content marketing and the overload of digital information that everyone is experiencing. Just because there’s more content being produced every second, it doesn’t mean that people can just consume more. Audience’s today aren’t looking for more. They’re interested in quality—defined by relevance to them and how it helps inform or entertain with lots of personality and passion. Online guru and professor Mark Schaefer summed up the rising tension nicely by sharing that the “The dirty little secret of content marketing today is that you don’t have to be best teacher to succeed. Just the first who overwhelms an audience with volume.”

    [Tweet "The dirty little secret of content marketing is that you don’t have to be best teacher to succeed."]

    A customer focused view of success.

    Shane Snow, founder of Contently, has a dramatically different point of view. As Shane sees it, just throwing tons of content out there and hoping it will eventually yield a great return is misguided. Shane adds that those who share stories will get people to notice and care—usually by a lot. As Mark Schaefer points out, “We will find the time to do what we value.” And if quality delivers what we’re looking for, people will gravitate to it, consume it and share it.

    How to improve your content quality.

    Celebrated author, Ann Handley, of Marketing Profs, reminds us that words are often ignored, or worse, are considered just an afterthought. Yet, words are our emissaries because they tell the world who we are. They should represent what we stand for and demonstrate how we’re different. So before you start just stringing words together to fulfill a content creation deadline, stop and get into the head of your target reader by respecting her/his needs and wants. Your goal should be empathy and understanding of their unique experiences. By focusing here, you will improve the chances of your story being relevant, useful and inspired. Start with a simple story line premise and then keep asking questions to drill down to your customer need. Your focus should always be on WIIFM (What’s in it for me?—your customer) In this scenario, truth matters. Because people have an inherent sniffer that helps them filter out untruths or content that’s just plain spin.

    Have a voice that stands out.

    Write in the first person with an approachable and useful tone that tells your story with light touch. Use action verbs that integrate empathy with your reader and what he/she gets. Always keep in mind that it’s not just copywriting. Your words make a story and if they’re constructed with insight into your customer's needs or challenges, they enhance your brand value and can become an essential part of your online DNA.

    Tough times ahead for content marketing?

    With the emergence of content filters, ever rising competition, and consumption capacity overload, it’s reasonable to ask how are you going to succeed with content marketing? Content marketing will only deliver on its promise if the content’s good enough to deliver customers. That’s why improving content quality is today's never ending challenge. But more than ever, it’s time to decide if you want to be just another contributor to information overload? Or would a better path be to invest in and create what an audience is seeking to consume? Quality or quantity? Time to decide.


    “Do you have a blog?” Whenever I happen to sit down with a new client that is one of the very first questions I ask.

    The Case Of The Missing Blog

    “Do you have a blog?”

    Whenever I sit down with a new client that’s one of the first questions I ask. You may be saying this to yourself…”Betsy, you should have checked the client’s website before the meeting.” And you’re right. But read on:

    At our first meeting I have already spent some deep analysis time on my client’s website. If there is a blog I should know, right? But I’ve learned through experience to ask that question anyway, even when I didn’t find a blog. That’s because sometimes the answer is an emphatic “Yes, we have a blog!” So where is the missing blog?

    The blog is on a completely different domain.

    When your blog lives on one domain and your company website lives on another it’s usually because you wanted to avoid hiring a developer to build and imbed it in your site. WordPress, in particular, is so easy to use, that it can seem like a great idea to just do it yourself. So you go ahead register a new domain name, host it either on your usual host, or even on WordPress’ server, and and launch your blog. Imedding it in your website takes skills you don’t have. But, whatever you have saved can often cost you a lot in the long run.

    If you’re serious about blogging then it’s important that your blog is a part of your company website, and here’s why:

    4 Reasons Why Your Blog Must Be Part of Your Website

    1. Your Website Needs Visitors – Google loves a popular website and popularity is partially measured by the amount of visits your site gets. So, if you disseminate your blogs through Social Media and other methods, and your blog is not on your main domain, all the visitors you’re attracting are going to a separate blog and your company site is getting none of that “popularity juice.”
    2. Your Website Is Your Home Base – Your company website is the home base of your brand. When someone finds you through a blog post, you want that person to land where in the place where all wonderful reasons to do business with you are laid out.
    3. Extra Clicks Are Extra Work – Although you may have a link to your company website on that separate blog, you are asking your reader to take the time to find and click the link. Yep, it’s only a click, but it’s extra work and if your readers aren’t real motivated to find and click on the link, you’ve lost ‘em.
    4. “Confusion Trumps Persuasion Every Time” – That’s a quote from Dr. Flint McGlaughlin of Marketing Experiments and it’s so true on the web. If your blog is on one domain and your website is on another…it’s confusing! A confused visitor will not be motivated to find out more about you. Worse yet, he or she may even leave with the idea your company itself is confusing!

    Creating compelling content and disseminating it across the web is hard work. Make your hard work count. Land your readers on your company website. Your website needs that juice!

    Is there a time you can think of when it may be advantageous to have a blog on a separate domain?