• 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.
  • What could possibly go wrong with 140 measly characters or a simple Facebook post? Perhaps a better question to ask would be, how could simple snippets of information on social media sites help your business?

    What could possibly go wrong with 140 measly characters or a simple Facebook post? Perhaps a better question to ask would be, how could simple snippets of information on social media sites help your business? In numerous national to local marketing campaigns, social media is seen merely as a throwaway item, although that is beginning to change. If you have some text and a hashtag you’re good to go, right?

    Perhaps you should take a little more time to think about posting on social media sites. A post with a picture and a link to an industry news story can be fine, or can become a powerful marketing tool.

    Guidelines for Posting on Social Media Sites

    In many ways, content creation is only the tip of the iceberg in meaningful social media marketing. You have to set the stage for conversation, and you also have to respond when the conversation gets going. The following simple posting guidelines can help you to build buzz around your brand online in all of the right ways.

    Let Users Know Upfront What Your Posts Mean

    Provide meaningful titles and relevant images to everything you post. If you can’t clearly convey what your post is about, your competitors probably can, and will. Instead of unleashing your inner abstract artist, make social media easy for users to participate in. Think about hosting a conversation instead of a scavenger hunt, and avoid click bait titles at all costs. Facebook actually just came out with an update that aims to reduce these types of posts on the site.

    Think About How to Make Posts Easy to Find and Share

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    Go the extra mile if needed. Take an extra minute to add a relevant picture and a searchable hashtag to your posts. The most brilliant marketing strategies might not be all that great without the ability for new audience members to find your Facebook page or Twitter feed. Additionally, images will help increase user engagement by giving your posts a little extra edge to them.

    Put the “Social” in Social Media

    Once audience members start posting on your site and engage with you, post back! Engage in your own conversation, and show others the brand persona you want your business to have. Just be sure to provide valuable and pertinent information in your conversations. Best way to stand out is to spark interesting conversations. Don’t ignore people simply because they may have a different view from you and definitely don’t be combative. Always look for new and creative ways to engage audience members. This can be quite the challenge, especially for national to local marketing but no one has ever said effective social media marketing was quick and easy!

    Look at the Metrics

    Use big data and analytic tools to see if what you’re doing is working and how it could be done better. Regularly look at your social media metrics to get a handle on whether or not it’s time to change posting strategies. Social media is hallmarked by innovation and fresh ideas. Try new ones out, and see what works best to stay ahead of the curve.

    Takeaway: Make Everything as Easy and Enjoyable as Possible for the Audience

    Remember, everyone has a little middle school kid inside of them who really wants to fit in with a crowd. That’s just human nature. Make everyone feel welcome and involved in your social media community, and they will spread the word about your brand for you. There are very few shortcuts to social media success. However, the right amount of footwork combined with engaging posts that are easy to find and read is a surefire strategy. 

    Editorial content enhances your commercial content. A content promotion strategy that incorporates both types and is focused on research can help increase your relevance. And that helps you reach your audience by doing more than just meeting their shopping needs.

    If you’re a marketing professional working today, advanced content creation and promotion is on your mind. Everyone knows you must have content and lots of it. Delivering content to an audience that addresses pain points but which also educates them and maybe even tells an entertaining story, however, can be a tall order. Sometimes that audience is looking for information to help with the purchase of a product or service. But sometimes the audience is looking for information around a product or service and isn’t necessarily interested in making a purchase at that moment. This means you need to create two types of content:

     

    • Commercial content: Essentially product descriptions or an explanation of services, commercial content is straightforward and to the point. By being focused on delivering information about a particular product or service, this type can offer help to a customer in making a purchase decision.
    • Editorial content: This type can take various forms, from a list of tips to a whitepaper or webinar. Editorial content is focused on delivering information that increases the user’s knowledge of a particular topic. Editorial content can inform future purchase decisions, but that isn’t its main intent.

    The two types are distinct and work separately but in concert with each other. A content promotion strategy that incorporates both types and is based on research can help increase your relevance. And that can increase your search and SEO results.

    Commercial content

    Commercial content comprises product descriptions and explanations of services created around keywords derived from commercial intent queries. Many of the keywords will come to you intuitively. But if you sell shoes, for example, you don’t just have one giant page named “Shoes” that lists all the shoes you sell.

    Instead, you break down the shoes into categories based on keyword variations, as explained in Chapter 5 of the eCommerce Guide to Search Visibility and Content Marketing. To determine all the appropriate keywords, you research the variations, paying attention also to long tail keyword phrases, such as “women’s 6” red heels” or “men’s high-top hiking boots.”

    In this way, you’re organizing the shoes in a way that makes sense according to how shoppers are typing search engine queries. You’re using commercial content to help search engines point shoppers to your site, specifically to the page showing the thing they want to buy.

    Editorial content

    The second type of content deals with search queries related to your product or service when the user isn’t looking to buy. Keyword research around creating editorial content can be more difficult. The key, as explained in Chapter 6 of the eCommerce Guide, is to tailor the editorial content creation around research that can help you discover the most relevant content to create.

    Begin that research based on an audience’s needs and interests. An audience who shops for hiking boots, for example, might also look for hiking-related content, such as beginner’s tips or the best trails for novice hikers. Next you need to get more specific by finding out which websites answer those queries, analyzing the most pertinent articles and focusing on top authors and social influencers in that topic.

    Note which authors and influencers have the most followers. Which types of content – articles, videos or infographics – are shared most often? On which content did users comment most? These details help you further pinpoint the audience. Most importantly, these details help you identify which particular aspects of a topic will resonate with that audience, which strengthens the relationship you can build with that audience.

    Commercial content is product-focused. Editorial content falls into thought leadership territory. Adding your marketing smarts to both commercial content and editorial content ensures you’re delivering the right message to the right audience at the right time – which can provide a smooth yet calculated buyer’s journey for your customer.

    As businesses become more dependent on their websites to be the initial gateway for customers, SEO has taken on a growing importance. Search engines are now putting more emphasis on content relevancy, popularity, freshness and authority.

    As businesses are increasingly becoming more dependent on their websites to be the initial gateway for customers, search engine optimization (SEO) has taken on a growing importance. While SEO may have been formulaic in previous years, Google and other search engines are now putting more emphasis on content relevancy, popularity, freshness, and authority. Following a defined content strategy and architecture allows companies to differentiate themselves from the pack and claim their stake in a competitive online marketplace.

    Defining the User Experience and User Path on Your Website

    The first key to a high performing website that fits its user needs lies in the user experience and user paths companies set out to achieve. This framework then determines the content needed for the site and how it should be structured.

    Businesses that know how their website fits into the sales cycle and what steps and pages they want each market segment to explore will always be a step ahead. Examples of well-run sites that emphasize user experience and user path include Apple, the BBC, and Lewa Process Technologies.

    On-Page Elements Optimization for Topics & Keywords

    Once the content and user experience is defined, it is imperative for businesses to optimize each page for the core theme and topic that it represents. Optimization around keywords and topics should be done for each pages: title, meta description, header, anchor text and copy. This effort should be done in a natural way so that you are able to target your audience and the search engine without seeming robotic or forced.

    Consistent Content Push & Delivery

    Customers are always looking for what is cutting edge, relevant and top of mind. It is important to consistently build on your content strategy and push out new and relevant content. To have the results you desire from your site, you need to always cultivate and invest in your site. This can be done through a mix of blogging, public relations, social media, and online videos.

    How Your Company Can Rise To The Top             

    Building a great site built around a solid search engine content strategy will lead you a long way towards optimizing your site. The steps outlined above are just part of the equation in reaching the target goals for your website. It is equally important to find the perfect partner to help you strategize, develop and lead your web and creative efforts.

    Photo credit: Infocux Technologies

    While it’s true big brands need more time to prep for the holidays because they’re operating at a large scale, there are still lots of reasons small businesses should start preparing for the season early, too. It’s like warming up before a big game. If you don’t do it, you won’t be able to play at your best.

    It’s October and my company already has a couple months of planning for the holiday season under our belt. Sounds a bit zealous, right? Well, as it turns out, not really. For big corporate companies like Walmart and BestBuy, planning six or more months in advance for the holidays is normal. Why isn’t the case the same for small businesses?

    While it’s true big brands need more time to prep for the holidays because they’re operating at a large scale, there are still lots of reasons small businesses should start preparing for the season early, too. It’s like warming up before a big game. If you don’t do it, you won’t be able to play at your best. What business doesn’t want to be at playing at their best when Christmas rolls around?

    If you haven’t started strategizing for the holiday season yet, time is still on your side! Here are five Facebook strategies you can start implementing now:

    1. Promote Shopping Holidays Your Fans Already Love

    Believe it not, in the United States, there are nine other holidays recognized by brands and consumers other than Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas. My team described them all last year in a blog post titled, “9 Shopping Days Businesses Must Know About This Holiday Season.

    One of the most popular shopping holidays for brands and consumers to celebrate is Free Shipping Day (FSD). It lands on December 15th this year and, as you might have already guessed, it’s a day when businesses offer free shipping with the guarantee that all orders made on that day will be delivered by Christmas Eve.

    For last-minute holiday shoppers perusing their news feeds, an update from your business with a free-shipping offer could be the perfect incentive to help them decide to purchase from you, rather than another brand.

    If your brand has never participated in FSD, here are some things to consider:

    • Don’t let high shipping costs jeopardize your holiday sales: Forty four percent of online shoppers abandon their carts because of high shipping costs, according to a Forrester Study.

    • Offering free shipping is Amazon’s most successful recruiting incentive — it could be yours, too: So far, in 2014, 63 percent of Amazon customers have joined the service because of free shipping.

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    2. Use Posts and Forms to Get Valuable Insight from Your Fans

    There are two really simple ways to start gathering valuable insight from your Facebook fans today.

    1. Make attention-grabbing visuals for insight-seeking status updates: Last year, the company Everpurse received valuable product feedback from their fans when they shared this status update:


    Maximize Social Business

     

    If you’re wondering which product to feature in your upcoming holiday promotions, you can use these types of Facebook posts to quickly gather sentiment data.

    2. Reward fans with extra giveaway points when they share their insight: If you’re not a product company, you can still benefit from gathering insight from your fans before the holiday season gets underway.

    My company, for example, started collecting information about our fans’ expected holiday behavior this month. When a user visited our September“Facebook Monthly Giveaway” app, they were given the chance to double their chances of winning our prize by responding to our holiday-themed question.



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    The results of this question will help us decide the direction of our blog and Facebook post content as we go into the holiday season.

    3. Host Facebook Giveaways to Quickly Build Your Email List

    Did you know that 55 percent of brands use email as their number one holiday marketing channel (Accenture) and a massive 74 percent of holiday retailers use email to get customers to cash in on deals (Shop.org)?

    There’s no doubt email marketing is powerful during the holiday season, but what if the size of your list doesn’t support your ambitious holiday email marketing plans? Hosting an action-gated giveaway is one surefire way to quickly grow your list before December.

    What’s an action-gated giveaway? Action-gated giveaways are hosted on your Facebook page via a third-party app instead of as a stand-alone update. These campaigns aren’t for collecting general comments under a status update; they’re for collecting specific demographic or contact information, like email addresses.



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    Here’s an example of a simple action-gated giveaway hosted by the clothing retailer Lulu’s. For the chance to win a $50 gift card to their online store, Lulu’s Facebook fans must first share their email address.

    4. Collect User Generated Content to Stretch Holiday Marketing Bucks

    If your marketing budget is already a little tight, consider collecting user generated content as a means for stretching your holiday dollars.

    Last year, Yosemite’s Scenic Wonders, a vacation rental company, hosted a photo contest on Facebook and received 247 photo submissions. Those 247 pieces of user generated content (UGC), as they see it, is $741 dollars worth of unique photos from their fans. They came to this conclusion by assigning a value of $3 per photo if they would have had to download the photo from somewhere else.



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    Making an effort to collect user generated content early not only helps supply your brand with key marketing content, it helps drive healthy engagement with your fans before the holiday madness begins.

    5. Allocate Money for Facebook Ads

    If leading into October the reach of your Facebook posts is low, you need to find a solution for the issue pronto. There’s nothing that can kill the success of your holiday Facebook marketing efforts faster than consistently low post organic reach.

    If you aren’t able to find a solution for your low post reach by November, start investing in Facebook advertising to boost your most important marketing messages. Although I wish it weren’t so, ads are the only guaranteed way to ensure your fans are exposed to your brand this holiday season.

    Conclusion

    Through promoting popular shopping holidays, collecting insights from fans, building lists with giveaways, gathering user generated content and, finally, investing in advertising, businesses can prepare themselves for success this holiday season.

    Readers, how does your business plan to use Facebook this holiday season? Have you already started preparing your strategies? Let me know in the comments below!

    Ello, the social media upstart, is making waves. Learn how and why their approach is different from Facebook's, and the impact it will have on advertisers and marketers.

    The statement is quite clear: “Your social network is owned by advertisers.” Those seven words begin the manifesto of the social network garnering buzz not because of what their product offers—but rather what it doesn’t. Ello is the ad-free social networking brain-child of co-founder Paul Budnitz and even though Ello isn’t ready for its IPO yet, what they’ve created is a disruptive ripple in the Facebook pond. Their approach, as you will see, looks to drastically distinguish them from the folks in Menlo Park through a number of changes and as marketers, all of these have an impact on the way we currently (and will) do business.

    One of the most notable claims Ello is pushing is evident in their initial manifesto: they will never sell data to advertisers. Clearly this effort is central to their identity and drastically contrasts the $7.8 billion in revenue Facebook brought in during 2013. The manifesto alludes to this reality: “Every post you share, every friend you make and every link you follow is tracked, recorded and converted into data. Advertisers buy your data so they can show you more ads. You are the product that’s bought and sold.” They’ve got a point there, right?

    The fact that Ello will never be able to show advertisements and sell data isn’t really that newsworthy in the age of a startup trying to distinguish itself. What is significant is the fact that there is a marketplace for consumers who are tired of Facebook (and other social networks—looking at you, LinkedIN) using their personal information as a monetary tool. Entire blogs are dedicated to pointing out all the ways Facebook and other social media giants are watching us. This “Big Brother” attitude prompted Sucharita Mulpuru-Kodali, an analyst at Forrester Research to tell the Wall Street Journal that Facebook’s impact might be waning. "A few years ago, there was a frenzy, but the interest has peaked…There's the fear of, 'Oh my God, I'm going to click something and God knows what's going to show up on my Facebook wall.” The backlash against the all-knowing Facebook has certainly taken many shapes and forms—but one has to recognize that Ello itself is a direct result of this reality. Again, while Ello hasn’t made inroads yet with soccer moms and iPhone-toting grandparents, the reality is there is a marketplace for this product and the numbers are evident in the fact that Ello continues to double in size every 3-4 days, according to the company.

    Additionally, Ello is trying to distinguish itself in other areas including a no-tolerance stance towards hate speech, a “liberal” policy towards NSFW-content and a visually simplistic approach. What does all of this actually mean for users? A completely different experience and a wait-and-see-if-your-friends-join approach.

    With any startup in this space there is clearly going to be some pushback from both a functionality and a usability perspective. The folks at PC World have already pointed out that Ello isn’t available in a smartphone environment and “apps shouldn’t be an afterthought—they should launch with or before a website.” Its flaws could make it another MySpace, Diaspora or Google Plus—or it could just be a poor product and never catch on. Or it could spread like wildfire, displace Vine as the hot social upstart and be on the cover of Forbes in a few months.

    Regardless of what lies ahead for this one company, the very concept that backs this entire social network is a singular idea that finishes their manifesto and runs contrary to many of the current options out there for marketers using social media to drive traffic generation: “You are not a product.” Now we have to wait and see if that translates to a generation of consumers used to being just that.