• TheDigitalJen
    Jennifer Stalzer on November 19, 2013

    Tough Lessons to Becoming a Socially Engaged Brand

    About 18 months ago, MasterCard set out on a mission to become the most socially connected and engaged brand in the payments space. As I look back, here's a look at almost ten hard lessons we learned.
  • ChristopherCarfi
    Christopher Carfi on December 9, 2013

    Five Trends That Are Going to Affect Marketing in 2014

    Agile marketing is now a common approach, and includes a healthy loop of building, testing, measuring, learning, refining and improving. There are five trends that you need to be on the lookout for when creating your marketing plans in the coming year, a combination of focus on results and a set of new channels that can connect directly to the bottom line.
  • JeffreyDachis
    Jeffrey Dachis on December 18, 2013

    Real-Time Marketing 101: It All Starts With The Trends

    Imagine you are a marketer in 1951. Harry S. Truman is president and Milton Berle is the most famous person on T.V., raking in 80% of all television viewers every night of the week. It’s the dawn of modern mass marketing. What if you were the first marketer to figure out how to use T.V. to sell stuff? You’d probably be in pretty high demand. The potential to sell your products would be effectively limitless. Well, an innovative, new marketing channel with the potential to rival television for its importance has arrived and marketers are starting to take notice.
  • Act-On Software
    Act-On Software on April 18, 2014

    Six Best Practices for Creating a Content Marketing Strategy

    Content marketing is the linchpin of demand creation –the link between brand awareness and lead generation. Done well, it builds familiarity, affinity and trust with prospective and current customers by providing information that resonates – in the right format, through the right channel, at the right time.
  • IBM Social Business
    IBM Social Business on April 18, 2014

    Patterns in Achieving Social Business Success by Leading and Pioneering Organizations

    Here is an excerpt from “Patterns in Achieving Social Business Success by Leading and Pioneering Organizations,” an exclusive whitepaper brought to you by IBM. This whitepaper provides a step-by-step guide for determining your strategy to achieving social business success.
  • Spredfast
    Spredfast Business on May 1, 2014

    The Social Media Pocket Guide: Six Ways Marketers Should Use Social

    This guide walks through each of the “Big Six” objectives and provides a tactical overview of the business case, team considerations and actual content examples and templates to use for your social media initiatives. 
Download the guide now and use it as a cheat sheet on how to get started today using proven tactics and best practices.
  • Actiance
    Actiance Compliance on May 9, 2014

    The Forrester Wave: Social Risk and Compliance Solutions, Q2 2014

    Forbidding employees to use social networks because they may expose your business to risk is no longer a viable business strategy. According to its new report published today, “The Forrester Wave™: Social Risk And Compliance Solutions, Q2 2014,” Forrester Research, Inc. says “the practice of prohibiting social [is] no longer feasible.”
  • Spredfast
    Spredfast Business on June 9, 2014

    6 Blueprints for Social Network Success

    The Big 6 social networks offer tremendous marketing opportunities - but each one is very different from the next. That’s why Spredfast has assembled the 6 Blueprints for Social Network Success. In this quick-read collection, you’ll discover more than 50 constructive, actionable marketing tips and real-world examples from major brands like Hyatt, British Airways, Target, and General Mills. Let’s start building!
  • Synapsify
    Synapsify, Inc. on June 16, 2014

    Piecing Together the Story: Synapsify’s Annual Voice of Customer Industry Survey and Insight

    This eBook reveals the common practices and challenges faced today by social media managers/directors and brand insight analyst and conducted an online survey of 70 social media and content analysts professionally recruited for this survey. The survey results are presented as part of a complimentary eBook in which insight industry professionals shed light on their challenges and common practices they face in understanding the true voice of their customers.
  • Many businesses worry about customers posting negative reviews online and the impact those negative reviews may have on their business. While this is a legitimate concern, a bad review is far more powerful when there are no good reviews online to out weigh the bad.Today, business owners who want to have a say in how their business is reported online MUST be proactive in managing what is being said about them online.

    Recommendations from people we know ranks #1, not surprisingly, as the most trusted form of advertising, according to the ‘Under the Influence: Consumer Trust in Advertising‘ report by Nielsen. In other words, word-of-mouth advertising!

    Word-of-mouth advertising has taken on a whole new meaning in our online world. It’s no longer me telling you and a handful of others I know about a good or bad experience I’ve had with a business.

    Today, word-of-mouth advertising might begin as an online comment on Facebook, Twitter or Yelp, but that comment has the potential to go much farther than my family,  friends and others that I know. It has the potential to spread to hundreds and even thousands of others. It might not, but it can.

    Removing The Power Of Bad Reviews

    Many businesses worry about customers posting negative reviews online and the impact those negative reviews may have on their business. While this is a legitimate concern, a bad review is far more powerful when there are no good reviews online to out weigh the bad.

    Positive customer testimonials and reviews posted online can significantly outweigh a few bad reviews and show that the majority of our customers are happy customers, hopefully very happy customers.

    Most of us are not surprised with a business having an occasional negative review – sometimes it can even make the more positive reviews seem more credible. But this only holds up if negative reviews are far outweighed by reviews from happy customers.

    Managing Your Online Reputation

    Where negative reviews are a serious problem is when the bad reviews are running anywhere near to neck-and-neck with the positive reviews. This tells people “this company is bad news, don’t even think about doing business with them.” Or when the only reviews available are bad reviews.

    Unfortunately, the latter is often caused (bad reviews only) by one of two things:

    1. The business really isn’t one you want to deal with.
    2. The business is not being proactive in managing their online reputation.

    In the #2 scenario, rather than inviting happy customers to provide them with testimonials and share their positive thoughts online, they leave their online reputation in the hands of the Internet. Not good!

    Today, business owners who want to have a say in how their business is reported online MUST be proactive in managing what is being said about them online. In a world where most of us, at least in North America and Europe, go online regularly to find out about products, services, brands, etc., we need to be actively harvesting feedback from happy customers and sharing this ‘proof’ of who we are online.

    4 Simple Ways To Harvest Reviews From Happy Customers, to Manage and Influence Your Online Brand

    Here are four (4) simple ways to manage and influence what is being said about you online, to help you begin to actively harvest testimonials and reviews from happy customers:

    #1: Invite customers to share their experience with your business in writing (or video) and share it on your website.

    • Add a ‘Testimonials’ or ‘What Customers Say‘ page to your website where you can add positive feedback from your customers.
    • Include each customer testimonial along with the customer name, company, title and city, as relevant/appropriate. (Reviews that do not include at least a full first name and last name will be less credible in the eyes of consumers.)
    • Add a customer photo (optional) to go along with the testimonial. (Only do this if you have high quality photos of your customers. Poor quality images will reflect poorly on your website.)
    • Make sure you have permission from clients to use their review and any personal information before publishing it anywhere.

    “Adding testimonials is probably one of the easiest ways to improve your website, and a good one can generate more selling power than some of the best sales copy out there.” - Derek Gehl, Entrepreneur.com

    #2: Invite LinkedIn connections to provide a recommendation through LinkedIn, and share these on your website too.

    • If you’re not on LinkedIn, this is an important social network to be on. Especially for micro and small business owners, professionals, sales people, etc.
    • Find out which of your customers are on LinkedIn and invite them to connect with you there there. (Check out this article: 6 areas of your LinkedIn profile you shouldn’t ignore. Before inviting customers to connect with you on LinkedIn, you need to make sure your profile represents you and your business well.)
    • Once connected, invite happy customers, or other business associates whose recommendation would work for you and your business, to provide a recommendation (click here for how) through LinkedIn for including on your personal LinkedIn profile:
      1. Personalize each invitation and send each out individually, not to a wide group of people at one time. How you approach inviting the recommendation says something about you and your business.
      2. Ask for permission to share the recommendation on your website too.
    • At this time LinkedIn doesn’t have a ‘recommendations’ feature on their business page.

    #3: Offer a way for customers to provide a review online through your website.

    • Have your webmaster build your own review system (pricey!) or, if your site is a Content Management System (WordPress is), check to see if there is a feature/plugin already built that will work with your theme/platform.
    • For WordPress sites WP Customer Reviews works quite nicely, on most sites. As each theme is different you’ll want to check it out on yours to make sure it will play nicely. The link provided in the last sentence takes you to the WordPress codex where you can learn a bit about the plugin. It’s worth checking out if only to see how a few negative reviews are pretty much overridden by all of the 5-star reviews (at least at the time of this writing).
    • With this type of system you can (usually) also decide not to publish the negative reviews submitted. In other words, you need to approve the reviews that show up live on your site.

    #4: Have an easy-to-complete form (name, email/phone number, comment, permission tick box) readily available for in-store customers.

    • When one of the team receives praise or a compliment from a customer encourage the staff person to ask the client to take a moment to complete an in-store comment card. In some cases, the customer may find it is more convenient for the staff member to write out what they said, have the customer confirm it and sign off on it. Ultimately, whatever works best for the customer.the exact statement they’ve made is written out for them.
    • Check out this short article from Your Marketing Liaison on how she encourages her customers, mainly doctors and lawyers, to obtain client testimonials.

    Deciding To Manage Your Own Online Reputation

    There is much more to managing your online reputation than posting positive reviews to your website. In truth, this will only work if your customers overall are actually happy with the products, services and customer service you provide. If they’re not, there are plenty of places online where they can (and will) share BAD reviews that you have absolutely no control over. And, this is as it should be. Customers should be able to get the word out about businesses that aren’t delivering on their promises.

    That said, to simply abdicate responsibility for your online reputation to fate is (forgive me) insane! Happy customers rarely send you a testimonial ready to use, unless you ask for it. It’s usually people who are unhappy with a product or service who are the first to share this information online as a warning to others. And, again, this is a good thing.

    But unfortunately, among those who are completely justified in their complaint and are helping the general public by sharing said complaint online, there are also those who are simply:

    • Habitual complainers who may be virtually impossible to please;
    • Cut off by a business because they didn’t pay their bill, and all attempts to resolve the situation failed, and now they’re getting even by going online and telling the world how bad the business is;
    • . . . and other varied reasons.

    If you decide to let fate have its way, and not manage your own online reputation, you’re letting down those customers that count on you and do, or could, benefit from the services you offer. Seriously!

    If you’re good at what you do, you under promise and over deliver and if you really care about your customers then you owe it to them, and to yourself, to ask for their feedback so you can share the positive results with others. This isn’t about being perfect.  Every business messes up from time to time. We’re all human and mistakes happen - but mistakes well handled can, believe it or not, leave to even more loyal customers. Mistakes or problems are usually not the issue, how they’re handled is!

    Unhappy customers, legitimate or not, have many avenues for telling their story. Business owners have a few. It’s up to each of us to make the most of the opportunities given to us, including making sure we harvest the feedback from happy customers that can help us grow our business.

    This 2012 article in Inc. titled “How Online Reviews Make (or Break) Your Business” will provide you with some additional reasons to make sure you are taking responsibility for your own online reputation.

    Far too often, brands and marketers take the time to create social media accounts “just because.” It’s easy to look around and to see that everyone is on social media.

    Far too often, brands and marketers take the time to create social media accounts “just because.” It’s easy to look around and to see that everyone is on social media; it’s the center of conversations and the reason many people go online in the first place.  The end result? Pages are constructed, with a little initial effort some followers demonstrate interest. Then? Nothing. They become ghost towns that do more harm than good when they’re stumbled upon by potential customers in the future. The problem? A lack of purpose.

    When social media accounts are created with a “just because” mentality, they lack purpose and become more of a trend to follow than an actionable marketing initiative. To reap the full benefits of a digital community, it starts with purpose. Check out these 5 ways to determine yours.

    1.       Revisit Your Mission, Vision and Values

    When you set up your brand in the first place, you probably put a lot of time and effort into creating a mission statement. You had a vision in mind and you have values that you make a part of your daily operations. These should go hand-in-hand with your digital community creation; the two should work together.

    Are you looking to share knowledge? To work together for a specific goal? Do you value open customer communication? Take the time to consider these when starting a digital community, just like you did when creating your brand in the first place.

    2.       Find Your Target

    A community can be welcoming to everyone. That’s great; it just might not be the most effective method of increasing online conversions. The most effective online strategies target a specific audience.

    What age bracket do you do the most business with or want to reach? Are they educated professionals? Teenagers? Tech-junkies? Car lovers? When a specific audience is a target, content can be created that is effective and useful, rather than too broad or general.

    3.       How Will Your Target Find You?

    It’s a common scenario. Brands create social media pages and hope followers will come organically. Yes, it can happen, but, no, this is not the best method. It’s slow and unproductive.

    Instead, think about how your brands will find you. Where can you market your community? On your website? On printed materials? Through an e-mail marketing campaign? Thinking this through from the start is critical.

    4.       Think About Value

    For an online digital community to be a success, value must be provided every day. What value will you provide to your future community members? Distraction-free open communication opportunities? Contests and special events? Discounts? Meaningful content? Consider the way you’ll provide value from the beginning.

    5.       Learn Your Network

    Social HubSite is an excellent platform for creating a social network that centers around your business. Free of distractions and unnecessary tools and features, it is designed with user experiences and brand engagement in mind. This doesn’t mean that it’s the only network out there. Before getting started, it’s critical to take a look at what network you’ll launch your community on. Become familiar with it. Learn the features, take a tour and learn everything you can to be sure you’ll be interacting in an effective, productive manner.

    Without purpose a digital community is sure to fail. Follow the 5 steps above for maximum results. Ready to go? Sign up for a free Social HubSite free trial today!

    Great content is a top way to get in Google’s favor today. But with all the content variations you could and should publish, how do you correctly sort?

    Great content is a top way to get in Google’s favor today. But with all the content variations you could and should publish, how do you correctly sort? Blogs, articles, web pages, landing pages—don’t pile ‘em up and forget to organize!

    Avoiding content clutter amounts to a basic principle that we all learned at a young age. Do you remember your mom or dad telling you to put your toys away and clean your room? The idea was to put things where they belonged, thus cleaning up your space. Well, to avoid content clutter the same principle applies. You need to know where all of your cool toys go and properly put them away after you’ve played.

    Your Cool Content Toys

    We all love show and tell! It’s time to show off your super cool content toys. So whatcha got? Well, here are a few of the toys that should be somewhere on your website floor, and if they’re not, you better get them:

    Niche and product specific content: Back in the day when businesses marketed on a local level, competition was fierce. The Yellow Pages and highway side billboards were prime advertising real estate, and the potential audience pool was seen as huge. Successful marketing took specifics. Imagine how much more important this is today.

    The Internet isn’t local; it’s international. Your potential audience pool is a lot less pool and a lot more ocean. Niche and product specific content are essential content variations you must utilize. So if you haven’t already, focus on reaching you sales goals by creating various blogs and content for precise products and niches.

    Storytelling your way to sales: According to Forbes, “storytelling is used to create an emotional investment” in marketing content. The ultimate goal of storytelling is to make the audience pay attention. Emotionally charged headlines grab attention. Investing the readers’ emotions as they read keeps them reading all the way to the most important part of your copy: the call to action.

    Storytelling is a good start, but it isn’t a standalone toy—it’s like the hot wheel that needs a racetrack. You also need to organize your content logically. Otherwise, your audience won’t have a clue.

    Well-organized content: Structured content can break down into a lot of detail, but for the purposes of this post, we’re going to focus on the big picture: your publishing platform, tags and categories, SEO, and meta tags.

    • Your publishing platform: Get a good one. It should be easy to use, easy to understand, and capable of basic search engine optimization features. A recommended and epically popular platform is WordPress.
    • Build in SEO: Most publishing platforms hand you simple SEO tools. For example, WordPress sports several plugins that offer full site, per web page, and per blog post optimization options including keyword and meta information insertion.
    • Utilize tags and categories: This takes a little finesse. You create blog categories and tags to logically sort and label your posts. The trick is to keep it simple. Each post should fit into a specific category, not a ton. And each post should carry relevant tags, not every possible tag under the sun that applies just a smidge. Your audience will use your categories and tags for search purposes. Keep them simple and highly accurate.
    • Don’t be afraid of meta tags: Wait just a minute! Am I talking about HTML? Yes, I am, and it’s nothing to be afraid of! I’ve seen people react to meta information like these little tags are the gigantic spiders just in from the Forbidden Forest of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. There’s nothing to be afraid of, folks! Meta tags are easy to use, and they structure the big picture of your content. Don’t be without them!

    Tap into the power of a monthly newsletter: Use a monthly newsletter to pull together your best blog topics and send them out to all your clients. It doesn’t matter if these people subscribe to your content updates and social media channels. You should still leverage the power of a newsletter because chances are they’ve been too busy to catch everything. In fact, they likely missed that one topic that was just for them. Help them out. Hand them a monthly newsletter.

    Get the most mileage out of your content: Use social media. Share, share, share! Think of shares as miles. For each share, you gain a mile of exposure. The more miles you gain, the farther your content traveled, and the more area your message hit.

    Always Put Your Toys Away

    To cut down on clutter, you have to put your toys away. Copyblogger points out that we are all “searchers” seeking the best way to solve our problems or satisfy our desires. We make split-second decisions about clicking on a headline, and the last we want to do is trip over a scattered mess of toys the moment we land on a website.

    Now, putting your toys away isn’t just about putting up your content when you’re done. No, it’s about putting it where it belongs. That means completing the following steps logically:

    • Sorting: Meticulously order your content. Ensure that the how and why of its labels and the display make sense to the audience. If it’s not organized, it’ll just look like endless, chaotic, and unhelpful clutter.
    • Publishing: Be sure your content is proudly published. Build in SEO, use the tools provided by your publishing platform, and don’t be skittish of meta information.
    • Publicizing: Maximize your miles. Use social media. Publish a monthly newsletter. Don’t just publish and hope it gets to the right people—publicize it straight to them!

    It’s a content jungle out there, and your audience won’t hesitate to ignore less than stellar content because if you can’t provide it, someone else will. Your goal should be to display your best toys proudly, as they relate to your uniqueness; i.e. avoid content clutter by putting the proper tools in the proper place.

    The post How to Avoid Content Clutter appeared first on Express Writers.

    Photo Credit: Content Clutter/shutterstock

    The key point about JerkTech, is that they corner the market in publically available resources and then charge people for the privilege of using them.

    It seems to be turning into a bad week for those that believe technology is solely a force for good. Firstly, the UK government has rushed through new legislation that means that ISPs and telecoms companies have to store metadata on email and phone communications (though not their actual content). The aim of the new law is to fight crime and protect the country against terrorism, according to the Prime Minister.

    And over in the US, there’s a growing backlash against so-called JerkTech applications. For those that have missed the debate, these are applications that let people sell on resources at above the market rate that they’ve paid. For example, Monkey Parking enables drivers who are parked in public streets to auction off their space, while ReservationHop makes reservations at hard to book restaurants under false names and then sells them on.

    The key point about these apps, and those like them, is that they corner the market in publically available resources (whether parking spaces or restaurant tables) and then charge people for the privilege of using them. While this is neat in economic terms – you are taking something that is underpriced and selling it at the market rate, they remove the ability for anyone to chance upon a parking space or get that hot table. And the actual provider of the resource (City council or restaurateur) doesn’t get any benefit at all. Indeed, if ReservationHop fails to sell a booking the restaurant will have an empty table that it could have filled in other ways. Hence, the JerkTech name, as coined by Josh Constine of Tech Crunch.

    The best technology is disruptive – but that does come with risks and potentially even responsibilities. In the same way that scientists and medical researchers are governed by ethical standards, just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should. This particularly applies to ways of using technology to manipulate people (without their consent). There’s been a huge furore about a Facebook experiment where users were served a preponderance of either happy or sad content in their newsfeed – the result of this manipulation was that they posted either more positively or negatively themselves.

    We live at an exciting time for technology. We’re moving beyond the original web, to a more mobile, wearable and all-encompassing version, with the Internet of Things allowing previously dumb machines to communicate in real-time in order to improve our lives. The danger is that the sheer pace of change will overwhelm everyone except for early adopters, and consequently new innovation will either be banned or will simply not be used by those that it could benefit. Genuine advances (and I don’t mean parking apps or social networks) will be lost, and there is a potential that geeks will join bankers in the category of ‘most hated profession’.

    I think everyone in the tech community needs to think about four questions before they launch (or market) new innovations if they want them to flourish.

    1. Is there a genuine need behind your software, hardware or app? No, we don’t need yet another social network.
    2. What are the positive and negative consequences of your disruption? I don’t mean that a big business will be inconvenienced or will lose market share, but will it hit those that genuinely have no other source of income or add to the load on the public purse? If so, how can you spread the benefits to them, such as by creating a social enterprise or partnership.
    3. Is it ethical and responsible? In the absence of any existing code, maybe the best way to check this is to explain it to a senior citizen – do they find it fair?
    4. And finally, is it secure? Is there any danger that personal data could be hacked or lost, or confidentiality breached?

    It may seem odd for tech start-ups and developers to look beyond the coolness of their technology (or the possibility of selling it for millions later in its development). However, in a world dominated by social media, the consequences of being a jerk can be fatal to your company’s success, no matter how innovative your product. So think first – and run it past a senior citizen just to be sure.

    “Technology has exceeded our humanity” (Photo credit: Toban B.)

    In June the Baltimore Police Department hit a milestone on Twitter, reaching 50,000 followers. In celebration of this, they released a video thanking the community.
    In June Baltimore Police Department hit a milestone on Twitter, reaching 50,000 followers.
    In celebration of this, they released the following video, reflecting the department's achievement and thanking the community for helping them make Baltimore's streets safer.

    It is an awesome video and I totally support and respect organisations celebrating like this. It's important for staff to recognise when their organisation has done well and share in the success, and it can be a powerful way of connecting an organisation with its community.

    This type of approach is also a great way to show that an organisation is composed of real people, who are simply performing a role when they don their uniforms. it humanises the staff and can bridge gaps between faceless bureaucracies and corporations and their constituents and customers.

    Unfortunately this isn't where the story ends.

    Several Baltimore Police officers have been charged with various offenses related to animal cruelty or inappropriate behaviour over the last few years, becoming the subject of significant media attention.

    A local newspaper created a response to the Police Department's video using the same music (different lyrics) illustrating a number of these incidents, to paint a different picture of the Baltimore Police and, they said, as a courteous reminder for the Police Department to clean up their own act.

    While this second video has only received 10% of the views of the Police video so far (it has been live for about half the time), it is a telling reminder for organisations of the importance of building and maintaining positive community relationships.

    If the public are well disposed towards your organisation, they will (largely) support you on social channels. If your organisation has taken actions, or has been portrayed to have taken actions, that place it in a negative light, you will face a greater level of negativity when engaging with the public on social media.

    This crosses channels, however is often most immediately visible on social channels due to their speed and reach. Ultimately a bad impression will reflect on how the public engages with your staff via other means - on the phone, in correspondence and in person - making it harder for staff to perform their roles.

    Of course, it may take only one disgruntled, sarcastic or delusional individual to create and distribute material like the video above, and may not be reflective of broader community views. However how far this material will spread and how fair a representation it is seen to be depends on the pre-existing negative or positive views of your organisation.

    A good reputation will have your community come out in support, a bad reputation will see the material distributed far and wide with support.

    Social media isn't just a reflection of the world - it is part of the world. How your organisation conducts itself on social channels can significantly shape community views - creating a positive or negative impression.

    So don't take this parody video as a reason to not celebrate your successes or shutdown your social accounts. Instead use them as ways to effectively engage with your community, helping solve problems and participating respectfully and humanly to build and maintain good relationships with the people you serve.

    Photo Credit: Community and Trust/shutterstock