• 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’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?

    Demand for affordable devices used to connect to the mobile internet is continuing to drive strong sales of "white-box" smartphones and media tablets in 2014.

    Demand for affordable devices used to connect to the mobile internet, mostly from emerging markets, is continuing to drive strong sales of what Gartner calls "white-box" smartphones and media tablets in 2014. Gartner expects the white-box smartphone market to grow 50 percent, while the white-box tablet market will experience growth of 15.6 percent.

    A typical low-cost white-box device is created by a device manufacturer using a turnkey solution based on application processors and reference designs. The device is targeted at affordable price points in segments across the globe, within the evolving mobile phone and media tablet markets.

    According to the latest market study by Gartner, established and emerging Chinese vendors will lead the growth of white-box devices as they refocus to meet the demand for low-priced devices.

    In addition, the move to 4G in China and beyond will create new opportunities for Chinese smartphone vendors, starting in late 2014.

    "Selling smartphones is no longer a privilege limited to global original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). The maturity of the white-box smartphone ecosystem allows other OEMs to launch an Android smartphone from scratch within a four-week period, making China among one of the fastest-growing smartphone markets," said CK Lu, principal research analyst at Gartner.

    White-box vendors can use the turnkey designs to launch white-box smartphones at prices from $50 to $330. These white-box phones are no longer largely sold via unknown/small brands — the ecosystem today is much more organized.

    Emerging brands (such as Oppo and Gionee) and established brands (such as Lenovo and TCL) are much more like Samsung and Apple, where they get involved in everything from sourcing to design difference in the use of turnkey chipset solutions.

    Gartner also believes that the price of 4G smartphones will reach the price of 3G models by the end of 2014, and become mainstream among white-box smartphones in China by the end of 2015.

    The white-box media tablet market will also continue to grow to reach more diversified types of users, from budget-constrained users to replacement buyers in emerging markets, but the speed of growth will slow down over the next five years.

    Emerging Asia-Pacific and Greater China are forecast to be the largest consumers of white-box tablets in 2014. Growing user interest in large-size smartphones, or phablets, will impact white-box tablets, especially at the 7-inch size.

    Gartner expects the white-box vendors will have to alter their portfolio to adopt this market trend, launching tablets at 8-inch screen sizes and larger, or to integrate cellular functions at 7 inches to compete with phablets at 7 inches and smaller.

    There is no doubt that device manufacturers in China are already well positioned to drive the next wave of internet user growth, furthering the onset of the Mobile Internet era -- by essentially enabling the next billion people to participate in the Global Networked Economy.

    Photo Credit: China and Mobile Internet/shutterstock

    It turns out that Millennials depend upon brand content more than we think – and some even prefer it. Surprised?

    It turns out that Millennials depend upon brand content more than we think – and some prefer it. Surprised? I was. In a Havas Worldwide study entitled: “The Hashtag Nation: Marketing to the Selfie Generation” they find that brands actually play a very key role in the content offered for young people to share - and they’re receptive to it. Focusing on those aged 16 & older in 29 markets, they found that 60% of the youth respondents agreed and used branded content in their social media activity frequently – agreeing that it is “an important part of the creative content online.”

    What The Study Shows about Branded Content & its Acceptance by Youth

    A Brand Momentum poll found tech brands to be the main brands youth connected with, including Samsung, Google, YouTube, PayPal and Facebook. Of the 10K participants, they find that half of the young people were more than happy to “welcome (the brands) into their lives” and saw them as “essential,” as compared to 25% in the 55 & older age range.   (Check out the following link for more on Sponsored Content.)

    A Real Sense of Partnership Between Young People & Brands

    In another part of the study, however, it was found that 4 in 10 participants aged 16 to 34 said that brands don’t take them seriously enough – so there’s some room for improvement for us marketers. Despite this, 50% of young people say that pop culture (i.e.. Brand marketing) has helped to shape both their personalities and attitudes. Therefore, these young people acknowledge that these brands and their voices (i.e. content) are part of their everyday lives. “What’s particularly encouraging about this study is that the data point to a real sense of partnership between young people and brands,” said Andrew Benett, CEO of Havas.  With that in mind, we marketers should be aiming for brand attachment with the Millennial generation.

    Millennials Make an Impact for Brands Across the Globe

    So, contrary to what we might have thought, Millennials actually do have an openness – even a desire – to connect with the brands they love, openly and publicly via social media or otherwise.  Brands rely on youth in these markets consuming their content, and not only delivering monetarily, but also through their enthusiasm and brand advocacy – which they share on all social channels from Twitter to Instagram.

    This is happening not just in the States, but also across the globe. Participants in this study were from: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Turkey, Ukraine, the UAE, the United Kingdom, the US and Viet Nam.  Seeing that these findings are so universal gives the study much credibility and more importantly, makes one realize that it is the global marketplace not just the local one which we can hope to attract via our branded content.  So for PR, branded content will remain a very important way of connecting with our audiences as we move into the future, especially with millennials.

    I would say that this bodes very well for marketing and content marketers, since we’re delivering this branded content more than ever.

    To read more detail on the study results, you can check out this article in The Street.