• 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.
  • BeverlyMay
    Beverly May on August 13, 2014

    Countdown to the UX Awards: Get Discounted Tickets and Vote Now for the Winners!

    We're a partner with the UXies, the premier global awards for exceptional digital experience, which is in downtown San Francisco on September 11 after 3 years in New York!
  • Organic reach on Facebook is declining, meaning you need to pay to reach your fans. If you're paying to distribute your content on Facebook, then is there any reason to try and increase the number of page likes you have?

    Organic reach on Facebook is declining.

    It’s been the discussion point for marketers using social media since the beginning of the year and by now you’re probably familiar with the issue.

    If you’re not, here’s a quick catch-up for you: organic reach on Facebook (the number of people who see your content with no advertising) has dropped to just 6%. That means of those 10,000 Facebook fans on your Page that you’ve spent all this time collecting, only 600 of them on average will see what you post.

    To reach the rest of them, you’ll need to advertise and promote your content. Facebook organic reach is expected to fall further and many analysts are predicting it will be almost zero by the end of the year. This means no one will see your content unless you pay to promote it.

    To me, this raises a big question…

    What does this mean for Facebook Page Likes?

    Brands have spent plenty of time (and in the majority of cases, money) trying to grow the number of Page Likes they have. That’s because more Likes = more people seeing your content. Right? The people that Like your Page are the ones that see your content and hopefully share it so others see it too. Even with organic reach where it is now, 6% of 100,000 fans will give you more views than 6% of 10,000 fans.

    But if organic reach keeps on reducing, particularly if it does end up at zero, what is the point of having Facebook Likes on your Page at all? It seems as if they’ll become largely redundant. If the vast majority of people that have liked your Page won’t see your content organically, then why does it matter how many Page Likes you have? 0% of 100 Likes is the same as 0% of 1,000,000. If you have to promote your content for anyone to see it, then doesn’t it make more sense to put your entire Facebook budget into post promotion rather than increasing Likes?

    If you’re advertising to increase Page Likes, you could spend £1,000 on the campaign and at around 30p per Like you’d gain 3,000-3,500 new fans. That only translates to an additional organic reach of about 200 people. Not a great return from £1,000.

    So should we give up on trying to increase Page Likes at all and just focus solely on promoting content, even if it’s a brand new Page with zero likes? You’re going to have to advertise to get your content seen anyway, so why pay to increase Likes only to pay again to serve them the content? Isn’t it better just to cut out the middle part and just pay to promote your content directly from the off?

    There’s definitely an argument to be had for this approach. You could in theory have a Page with no Likes but spend your entire budget on promoting your posts and you’d be getting your content out there directly in people’s News Feeds. You’d reach significantly more people within your budget through this approach. And really, that’s the main reason you’re on Facebook, to get your content seen.

    So why do Facebook Likes still matter?

    A key reason for still wanting to have Likes on your Page is for social validation. If we perceive something as liked by others, we are likely to have a better view of it. This particularly helps if the user isn’t familiar with your brand; they might check out your Page to find out more about you and, if they see a large number of Likes, perceive you as more established and trusted brand supported by a higher number of fans.

    What’s more, social context helps to make ads more effective. Facebook admitted (if a leaked document counts as an admission) that brands should now think of fan acquisition as a way to make advertising more effective: social context helps increase engagement and reduce costs.

    If we’re looking at fan acquisition as a way of increasing advertising effectiveness, then a major strength of having plenty of fans on your Page is Facebook’s soon-to-be-released Audience Insightsfeature, as well as the existing ability to create a Custom Audience based on people who Like your Page.

    These tools will help you advertise to the right kind of people through highly targeted campaigns. By creating tailored campaigns, whether the objective is to increase Likes or promote content, hopefully you’ll be able to attract a more engaged audience. And this is the key.

    It is far better to have a smaller, more engaged audience than a huge Page that no one is interested in. While this has always been the case it is now even more important, as Pages with highly engaged users and good quality content are still seeing higher reach than the average. Many newspapers for example, which are creating a constant stream of high quality content, have actually seen organic reach increase this year. Meanwhile, for Pages with over 500,000 Likes the average organic reach has fallen to just 2% compared with the 6% Facebook average.

    What should you do?

    So, I will try and sum this up with a tidy answer…

    Do Facebook Likes still matter? Yes. For now. But less than they did before.
    Should you still advertise to get Facebook Likes? Yes. For now. But less than you did before.

    If you have a Facebook Page, you’ve got to have an advertising strategy to go with your content strategy. You’re wasting your time if you’re not promoting your content. But, Facebook Likes are still useful; you just have to get the balance right. If I was given a budget of £1,000 to spend on promoting a new Facebook Page, I’d assign 25% of that to gaining page Likes and 75% to promoting content. The more you can grow your Likes organically, for example by promoting your Facebook Page on your website and traditional advertising, the better.

    Keep an eye on how the level of organic reach changes though, because in a few months it could be an entirely different story.

    If you found this interesting, we’d love to hear from you. Tweet us @TheHPSGroup with your thoughts on the recent Facebook changes.
     

    If you’re new to the concept of inbound marketing, or you’re looking for a quick and dirty rundown of its elements, then this blog is for you. Whether you hire an agency or undergo the process on your own, here are the four main goals of inbound and the associated services that you can expect to find in a solid inbound marketing plan.

    We’re going back to basics! As an agency that follows the principles of inbound marketing, sometimes we forget that not everyone out there is drinking the inbound Kool-Aid. So this week, we’re taking a step back and looking at the basic elements of inbound marketing that guide us through everything we do for ourselves and our clients.

    If you’re new to the concept of inbound marketing, or you’re looking for a quick and dirty rundown of its elements, then this blog is for you. Whether you hire an agency or undergo the process on your own, here are the four main goals of inbound and the associated services that you can expect to find in a solid inbound marketing plan.

    Goal 1: Generate Qualified Website Traffic
    Associated Services: Content Marketing (Blogging!), Search Engine Optimization, Social Media Sharing

    Let’s say you’re shopping for a new bike. Perhaps you’ve seen some ads in the paper, or on television, but you’re the kind of person who does their research, so you turn to the trusty Google. You type in “Best Bikes for City Biking” and come across a wonderful blog article about various types of bikes that are great for city biking. After you finish the article, you notice that the site hosting the blog has a lot of other blogs about biking, bike maintenance, bike tires, etc., and you start to think, "Hey, these people really know what they’re talking about, they’re bicycling experts!" Suddenly you feel affinity towards that brand; you might even want to buy a bike from them. Boom. Inbound marketing at work.

    Search algorithms are becoming increasingly smart about content and context. When you write relevant content that answers your customers questions and addresses pain points you set yourself up to attract more qualified website traffic. When you blog and share those blogs on your social media channels, you establish yourself as an expert, build awareness, and gain credibility for your brand online.

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    Goal 2: Convert Website Visitors into Leads

    Associated Services: Call-to-action (CTA) buttons, Landing Pages, Forms

    Part of being a successful inbound marketer is turning qualified traffic into qualified leads. To do this, you need to use premium content pieces, calls to action, and landing pages.

    Creating more in-depth premium content pieces and offers like eBooks, Webinars, Free Demos helps you generate leads when you place them behind a form. When you ask a website visitor to fill out a form in exchange for a free piece of your premium content, you turn that visitor into a lead and obtain valuable data that allows you to guide them down the sales funnel.

    Goal 3: Turn Leads into Customers
    Associated Services: Email Marketing, Sales Consulting

    Generally speaking, prospects don’t have a tendency to just call out of the blue and say “I want to buy something from you!” Even if they are interested in your brand, most people need a little more convincing before they’re willing to shell out the cash. That’s why we utilize the process of lead nurturing to guide prospects down the path to purchase. Utilizing email marketing is a great way to accomplish this.

    Remember that premium content offer we talked about? The person who downloaded it might also be interested in an ebook or webinar on a similar topic. In order to market to this individual, you would set up an automated email campaign that sends a series of emails suggesting various top-of-the-funnel, middle-of-the-funnel, and bottom-of-the-funnel offers to keep them engaging with your content and your brand.

    Eventually, when your sales person gets on the phone with this individual, they have an exact idea of what the prospect is interested in and how to best accommodate their needs. It’s the farthest thing from a cold call.

    Goal 4: Measure, Analyze, Interpret & Refine 
    Associated Services: Marketing Automation Software, A/B Testing, Misc. Analytics Tools

    If you’re going to put in the effort to create a killer inbound campaign, it's important to make sure that what you’re doing is actually working. Marketing automation software, like Hubspot, provides you with an integrated platform to facilitate and analyze all of your inbound marketing efforts.

    One easy way to gauge results is through the use of A/B testing. For example, with A/B testing you can try different text on a call to action to see which performs better. You might determine that more people are likely to click on a CTA that says “Get Your eBook Today!” as opposed to “Download Now.”

    Utilizing analytics helps to fine-tune your campaigns and offerings, allowing you to replicate successes in the future and dispose of the occasional failed effort as quickly as possible.

    Takeaways

    To stay competitive in this changing marketing landscape, you must create campaigns that place your brand directly in front of your target audience. You need to be able to answer questions, address pain points, give expert advice, and entertain with fresh, original content.

    Applying these core elements of inbound marketing methodology, you too can create a campaign that will attract more qualified visitors, generate more leads, and convert more leads into customers. Happy marketing!


    inbound marketing / shutterstock

    Is your social media strategy delivering ROI or is the social web all too confusing? This article sheds light on the size of the opportunity and the size of failure if your strategy is not up to scratch.

    The communication between brands and consumers has changed dramatically, so much so that brands can no longer effectively communicate using only TV, print media, radio and outdoor. In 2014 social media has grown to become one of, if not the major approach for brands marketing to todays super savvy audience. But with an abundance of knowledge and insight at our disposal, are brands today seeing success from social media or is it merely a minefield that few are able to navigate through?

    The general public have direct access to the majority of brands and if they don't have access, those brands are effectively not in the very large shop window.

    It is ideal to engage with users that have are speaking positively about your brand. However, negative feedback from consumers can reveal the dark side of social media. This is nothing to be afraid of; criticism is part of business and the way you address the conflict and respond to the negative feedback can humanise your company. Social Media is a two-way channel where real value lies in building and developing relationships.

    Having a Clear Social Media Strategy

    A social media strategy is such a necessary tool that will not only help to address conflicts, but increase brand awareness. In addition, it will improve the understanding you have of your consumers, your competitors and ultimately if the strategy has been positioned to, it can generate ROI. Recent research has confirmed that social media will be in 6 years now the first priority to collect consumer data.

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    According to the last report from Mass Relevance and the CMO Club, 87% of Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) said social media is the most engaging digital medium for serving real-time content. 95% said that content marketing was important to their business in 2014. Moreover 66% of them expect their content marketing efforts to yield a positive ROI in 2014, being much higher for B2C companies who expected 71% and B2B at 58%.

    Screen Shot 2014-08-15 at 17.36.16

    By creating and curating interesting stories and content, marketers are seeing an increased ROI for their campaigns.

    Only 1 out of 200+ CMOs claimed content marketing "wasn't important at all" to their business. And 33% said it is an "extremely important" part of their marketing mix for 2014. The biggest challenges for marketers were to create fresh timely content (35.7%), reaching consumers across digital touch-points (24.4%) or understanding how to use social media for content marketing (17.4%).

    Social media has become a massively important part in people's lives. 15.1m consumers use social media channels before making purchases where 71% are more likely to make a purchase based on social media referrals. 74% rely on social networks to guide purchase decisions which means if 3/4 people are navigating to social media prior to making a purchase, it is imperative that as a brand you are in that shop window. Another highlighting statistic from the report suggested that 78% of people were influenced to purchase by the content that brands they follow were posting.

    An interesting stat from the youth led market was that 64% of millennials said that brands should provide more ways to share their opinions online. This target demographic has been born into digital technology, they're native to it and they're likely to be your early adopters and brand advocates; an important fact to think about when considering who to target for your social media strategy.

    Screen Shot 2014-08-15 at 17.21.58

    If the annual purchasing power of millennials is estimated to be $170 billion, combined with the knowledge that 76% of smartphone owners used their devices whilst in store; it doesn't take a NASA scientist to calculate the importance of having an effective social media strategy. 

    Questions to think about:

    Is your social media strategy delivering ROI?

    Do the stats in this article make you anxious about your approach to social media?

    With social media budgets expecting to double within the next 5 years, do you have an effective long-term plan of action?  

    Pinterest has been a slowly waking giant for several years, but it has finally wiped the sleep from its eyes and is in the process of ferociously conquering the social marketing space. Just because you have relegated Pinterest to "that other social site" in your mind and your marketing strategy doesn't mean that it has paid any attention to your dismissiveness. As of earlier this year, Pinterest passed Twitter for the number of U.S. adult users, making them the second most used social site for probable buyers.

    Pinterest has been a slowly waking giant for several years, but it has finally wiped the sleep from its eyes and is in the process of ferociously conquering the social marketing space. Just because you have relegated Pinterest to "that other social site" in your mind and your marketing strategy doesn't mean that it has paid any attention to your dismissiveness. As of earlier this year, Pinterest passed Twitter for the number of U.S. adult users, making them the second most used social site for probable buyers.

    Users alone don't tell the whole story, however. That second place standing quickly jumps to first place when conversion rates are accounted for. Pinterest conversions spend almost $10 more per order than the second place social site, Facebook. Over 70% of Pinterest users are adult women, the largest block of purchasers, and over 20% of all adults in the U.S. use the site. It is quite literally becoming the new shopping mall, where social interaction meets with buying stuff.

    The takeaway is very simple yet very important: if you sell a product, you should be using Pinterest for all it's worth. The secret is, of course, how to create pins that will make an impact, gain you a following, and convert into sales. Thankfully we live in the age of data, so there is plenty of analysis and advice to go around.

    Trust the Numbers

    Numbers and statistics are not the only things that matter in the marketing realm, as it is very much a psychologically-based field, but that doesn't mean that they should be ignored - not for a second. The statistics form the solid foundation on which the nuances of personal and targeted marketing stand. You have to start with the statistics and then experiment with what hits your own audience best. The statistics for successful pins are so plentiful that it can almost be called an exact science.

    A study from the University of Minnesota showed that unlike the nuances that are involved with gaining followers on sites like Twitter, Pinterest is just about as straightforward as you can imagine (and what every Twitter user wishes were true). The top three factors that attracted an audience in their study of more than 45,000 users were:

    1. The number of users you follow

    2. The number of pins you have, and

    3. The number of boards you have

    Quite simply, the more people you follow and the more you pin, the more likely you are to gain a following. Of course the subject matter does make a difference as well. The top three topics people are interested in are DIY and crafts, Hair and Beauty, and design and home decor. However, diversity in topics scored just below these three and higher than most other single-topic boards, which leaves a lot of wiggle room.

    One of the best analyses of what constitutes a likeable and sharable pin comes from the company Curalate and was featured last year on Wired. After studying over a half million pins and analyzing them for 30 different visual characteristics, they found six common features among the most popular images.

    No Faces - Pins by brands are 23 percent more likely to be repinned if they don't show a human face in the image.

    Less background - images with over 40% of the shot being background (like white space) are repinned only a quarter to half as much as those who fill more space more interestingly.

    Multiple dominant colors - having more than one dominant color standing out in an image increases it's sharability more than threefold.

    Reds over blues - Red and orange shades are shared twice as much as predominantly blue shades.

    Moderation in saturation and light - 50% color saturation and moderate lighting far outperforms heavy or light color saturation and very light or darker images.

    Portrait sizing - Vertical pictures with an aspect ratio between 2:3 and 4:5 work best. The image tool Canva (that I have mentioned before) has a Pinterest template which takes this into account.

    You should also consider how you can incorporate animated GIFs into your equation, as Pinterest has supported them for some time now and they are very popular, as proven by Twitter's recent adoption of them.

    This is a ready-made sounding board to bounce your images off of, make sure you use it.

    The Size and Font Paradox

    This is an idea that you'll need to play with to see what works best for your audience. Studies show that infographics and similar images get a lot of attention and are highly shareable. The paradox comes with click-through rates, according to the guys at CopyBlogger. When an infographic or image with compelling text are readable on the Pinterest website, the click-through rates fall. When users want to know what information is being  put out but can't quite read the font or get all the info they want from the image, they click through more. In classic marketing this was essentially "the tease".

    If you can make the image and title compelling but then force them to click the image to get all of the information, your conversion rate will increase.

    Pinterest <3's DIY

    The words used in pins have also been parsed to death. A study from Georgia Tech University gives us a list of the most common and identifiable words used on Pinterest. The top two words are "DIY" and <3 (the unicode symbol for a heart), and the top verbs are use, look, want, and need - a perfect reflection of the primary uses of the site.

    Business Must-Do's

    Just as with any social network, there are things that businesses need to do to make the most of the platform that regular users don't. First, you should validate your company through Pinterest. This opens up new tools and opportunities for your company that you don't have as a regular user.

    One of these is rich pins, which are pins that include extra information such as price and availability for products, where to buy them, phone numbers and maps, and other information based on the type of rich pin it is: article, product, recipe, movie, or place. Only validated business accounts can use rich pins.

    Another more recent development that companies should look into is promoted pins for small and medium-sized businesses. These will be sold on a cost-per-click basis, which should make it much easier for companies with small social marketing budgets to get their word out. 

    Validating your business also gives you access to Pinterest's analytics tool to help you track your success and reach on the site. While every piece of analytics you can add to your toolbox is important, having reports and analytics that cross network boundaries is even more vital to your overall marketing strategy. Sendible's social media analysis tools covers all of your bases, measuring and reporting on your activity from every major social network, your blog, and more. Sendible is integrated with Pinterest and even supports posting animated GIFs. Try Sendible out for 30 days for free and use it to take your Pinterest account to new levels in followers and sales conversions

     

    Marketers, what if you didn’t have to wonder where your future business was coming from? What if the Internet could tell you through the application of insights supported by data visualization? Well, this future isn’t so far away. Let me explain further.

    This post is the third and final of a multi-part series about the future of marketing and the role that semantic, context and intent will have on how we experience the internet.

    It’s becoming eerily apparent that the Internet knows a lot about us. Due to our lust for free applications and our complete oversight of the privacy we relinquish for access, there are cookies and bots that have endless insights about what we are interested in.

    Don’t believe me? Recall your past few conversations online and then look at the ads that appear on your Facebook page.

    This is the result of big brother and big data, not some type of ESP that the internet has about our needs wants and desires. However, the internet is getting smarter and this growing intelligence is populating a new kind of semantic web that is providing more than just the most relevant results for people searching; it is also providing some key data to marketers that may just tell us about intent.

    Movie fans out there may remember the movie Minority Report. In this Tom Cruise feature film, the star would go out and stop crimes before they would happen, as intelligence reached a point where authorities could see a crime that was about to be committed. At the time the concept seemed pretty far-fetched, but really this type of intelligence is very similar to how the semantic web may be able to tell you who may be your next big customer.

    Marketers, what if you didn’t have to wonder where your future business was coming from? What if the Internet could tell you through the application of insights supported by data visualization?

    Well, this future isn’t so far away. Let me explain further.

    The Semantic Web Is Creating Clarity On Intent

    By its very definition, the idea of “Semantic” is to find meaning and or intent in someone’s words. But as of today, through knowledge graphs, socially validated search and modified SEO, most of the intent is to bring clarity as to what is being searched for today.

    Revisiting one more time the example of the “Chicago Steak” query in the first two parts of this series, it was about knowing that the person searching wanted to go out for steak in downtown Chicago at a high quality restaurant, even though very few of those words actually appeared in the search.

    This same type of ability to extract meaning from search could also be a powerful tool for marketers to better understand what a consumer may intend to do. The question comes down to how marketers can collect, sort and utilize this to connect with a consumer at the right time to drive an inevitable purchase their way.

    An Example On Future Purchase Intent

    One of my favorite examples of a consumer-driven purchase that can take place almost entirely online is the purchase of a car.

    What may have been driven early on by a disdain for car salesmen has evolved through a consumer driven purchase experience that puts the buyer at the controls when it comes to gathering information that is critical to their purchase.


    But for a marketer, by the time the buyer shows up at the dealership it may be too late for them to drive the purchase one way or another. But through the potential of the semantic web this could be possible.

    If a marketer could acquire information on a buyer that was searching for information, pricing and reviews on three different car models, they could likely gather that they have an interested buyer, although at this point they are undecided as to which of the three most interests them.

    However, the time spent researching shows clear intent that the shopper is interested in purchasing one of these cars. Now that the intent is clear, their next clicks on features or lease options could show more about the exact vehicle they want and how they may be looking to pay for it.

    Using other semantic queues like social data from public posts, data visualization could pull out the buyers in a geography that are asking their networks about a certain type of car. The responses could be graphed to better understand how their network may have influenced them providing the marketer with a clear picture of just how interested the buyer may be.

    Knowing the buyer is looking for a lease and a certain type of car with a subset of known features, a marketer could potentially target that consumer acutely by packaging the entire deal based upon their intent.  If delivered at just the right time the marketer could steer them to one particular model over another all while really using the intent data that was provided by the consumer.

    Semantic Web Means Better Understanding For Marketers

    In the end it is going to be the marriage of Big Data, Semantic Search and User Generated Content that will tell the story of intent for consumers.

    The web is smarter, but mostly because we incessantly use tools that allow data to extract meaning. For consumers that leads to some better content to be driven our way, but for marketers this is a goldmine for understanding current behavior and how that may lead to a purchase in the near future.

    This trend is in motion and irreversible. The marketers that maximize it first, will have the chance to cash in by taking the benefits of mass customization and driving it into a 1:1 marketing experience.

    This post was first featured on Forbes and can be found here. Image: Creative Commons