• Act-On Software
    Act-On Software on November 17, 2014

    The Rules of Engagement on Facebook

    If you want to make your content sharable and searchable on Facebook, you need to have a thorough understanding of Facebook principles and the general rules that apply to content and behavior.
  • Let’s be smart marketers. Smart marketers evaluate what works and where others are seeing success, so I did some digging to review 2014 and what’s coming up in 2015. Here’s what I found: Putting dollars behind digital content and distribution is becoming increasingly important as a more technologically competent generation becomes the target consumer demographic.

    Let’s be smart marketers. Smart marketers evaluate what works and where others are seeing success, so we did some digging to review 2014 and what’s coming up in 2015. Here’s what we found:

    Putting dollars behind digital content and distribution is becoming increasingly important as a more technologically competent generation becomes the target consumer demographic.

    • 68% of organizations have a separate digital marketing budget which averages about a quarter of their total marketing budget.
    • 98% of companies said they intended to increase or maintain spending on digital in 2015.
    • Digital advertising leads digital marketing spending in 2014, and is tied with mobile marketing for largest 2015 increase.
    • 69% of companies are creating more content now than they did one year ago.

    So where should you focus? Two major facets of digital strategy that are expected to be integral in 2015 digital marketing strategies are social and email.

    Why Social in 2015?

    Unbeatable Targeting: The targeting opportunities are vast in social with 73% of online adults actively using multiple social networking sites. With social, you can advertise to increasingly precise demographics and audiences making sure you’re generating qualified leads. For those B2B nay-sayers, just remember that Linkedin is a major social network with over 300 million users. If you’re not using social in your marketing strategy, it’s time to start.

    Mobile Access: 66% of time on social is spent on mobile, which is becoming extremely important to digital marketing. As mobile media consumption increases, marketers will continue to increase their mobile efforts. eMarketer says, “by 2018, mobile will account for more than 70% of digital ad spending.”

    Real-World ROI: 34% of marketers have experienced real ROI from their social efforts, and 88% are seeking ways to measure ROI. Having a socially competent marketing team or hiring an agency are two viable ways to get started. To produce more ROI from social, you need a strong strategy in place to drive measurable results. Starting with some key objectives and one or two social channels based on your target audience. Firming up a strategy even on a small scale can help maximize social resources.

    • Marketers are using, on average, 7 social media platforms this year, compared with 6 last year
    • 63% of marketers saw more of their budget being devoted to Social Media for the next year

    Why Email in 2015?

    It is Your Digital Core: Email is far from dead. In fact, 68% of marketers believe that email is core to their business and 66% of companies believe it to be the most effective tactic in their B2C strategy. Email serves as a critical enabler of products and services that your business provides.

    Generate and Nurture Leads: Remember that email isn’t used to just drive sales - it’s important to inform recipients of ways their lives can be made easier. HubSpot reported that email marketing produced an above average rate of lead conversions for 27% of marketers in 2014. Many digital strategies, such as Inbound, are contingent upon email marketing and are proven to be effective.

    Software Makes it Easy: Software that consolidates and streamlines the process of email marketing is a must. Key capabilities include great segmentation, A/B testing and automation.

    Our favorite for basic email is MailChimp and HubSpot for those interested in lead capture and automation. Both of these scale well with the proper setup and management, but I always recommend evaluating which tools will best support your long-term marketing objectives.

    Where to go from here.

    Trendcasting for 2015 is relatively straightforward. Many of the challenges faced by companies can be solved by correctly utilizing and optimizing their digital strategies. Such challenges include growing profitable revenue, connecting with customers, and effectively measuring the success of initiatives.

    Spend More in Social: 63% of marketers foresee more of their budget being devoted to social efforts in 2015. A major trend that is expected to emerge in 2015 is innovating the customer experience, with an average of 18% of companies’ marketing expense budget spent to support this initiative already in 2014. Another challenge that 38% of marketers plan to address in 2015 is marketing automation.

    Tighten Your Objectives and Connect Dots with Measurement: Many powerful marketing tools are available to us today. Maximize those with analysis and measurement. Proper system integration can draw a straight line from your activity to revenue, so that you can focus efforts on high ROI activity. Set up google analytics goals, always using tagged links, and let the tool do the analysis for you.

    What Worked in 2014

    Content marketing: Look at the interest in content marketing starting 2013.

    We know that good content marketing will drive lead generation. Google users began to discover that in 2013 as success grew. Content marketing will create a strong backbone for social media, email and marketing automation efforts.

    Social Presence and Activity: 93% of companies say social is the number one most used tactic in their content marketing initiative and 58% have received the most positive results from Facebook. Social media marketing has proven itself as a successful means of marketing for B2B and B2C companies alike.

    Blogging: HubSpot found that marketers who have prioritized blogging are 13x more likely to enjoy positive ROI. Blogging as part of a content marketing strategy has been proven to be highly valuable for SEO optimization as well as engagement and many other facets of any strategy. 54% of companies believe blogs to be in the top five most effective digital marketing tactics.

    Ebooks & Downloadable Content: Like blogging, Ebooks, Whitepapers, and Downloadable Content are surefire ways to increase content value and capture leads. These are a great way to optimize for SEO and also create calls-to-action that convert leads into potential sales. Gathering site visitor information by incentivizing your downloadable content creates real opportunity for lead conversion.

    Data from late 2013 also mentioned marketers investing in email, social and marketing automation.

    It’s time to invest in digital marketing. Whether you’re a small eCommerce business or a Fortune 500 conglomerate, regardless of whether you’re B2B or B2C, digital is where it’s at. Think you could use some help crafting and executing a digital strategy for 2015? Social Factor can be your sherpas. Have more questions? Let’s talk today.

    As we enter 2015, it’s a good time to take stock of how far social marketing has come, and where it might be headed. The lion’s share of social marketing attention this year has centered around organic reach, specifically the steps Facebook has taken to decrease it for marketing messages. Twitter continued to build out its ecosystem and ad offerings. Pinterest continues to quietly build traffic and an impressive inventory of high-quality pinned content.

    As we enter 2015, it’s a good time to take stock of how far social marketing has come, and where it might be headed.

    The lion’s share of social marketing attention this year has centered around organic reach, specifically the steps Facebook has taken to decrease it for marketing messages.  Twitter continued to build out its ecosystem and ad offerings.  Pinterest continues to quietly build traffic and an impressive inventory of high-quality pinned content.  And new entrants like SnapChat have made their first steps into accepting paid advertising.

    I predict that 2015 will be even more eventful for social marketers, in these three ways.

    Prediction #1.  Social Relationship Platforms will cease to exist as we know them. 

    Social has become the next great broadcast medium: built by the social platforms, programmed by individuals and media companies, and fueled by advertising dollars.

    Marketers will continue to listen for potential customer service issues, but the responsibility for routing and tracking these social interactions will reside with their existing CRM systems, which have the routing, tracking, and analytics already mapped to the organization’s needs.

    As CRM systems take on a larger role, the Social Relationship Platforms will instead become Social Broadcast Platforms, focused on helping marketers reach the right kind of audiences and gain the right kind of attention to support their marketing objectives.

    Prediction #2.  The decline in organic reach on Facebook will finally free us from the crutch of organic reach on social networks.

    I confess that I find it odd that marketers—who are tasked with reaching consumers with commercial messaging—often express outrage at the decrease in Facebook organic reach.  “Free marketing” is attractive for all of the obvious reasons, but is hardly a sustainable strategy.

    The social platforms have aggregated a breathtaking number of users, and as marketers we have no choice but to try to reach those users, when and how they are interacting with content.  Twitter and Facebook have invested significantly in building an advertising products and an ecosystem of companies to help makreters achieve their objectives, and we’re really just in the infancy of learning how to properly use those.

    People have been predicting the convergence of Paid, Owned, and Earned media for years now.  Perhaps the right framework is for Owned media to become a feed into Paid.  As marketers align the community management elements of their social presence with their media buying, the effectiveness of both will increase.

    Prediction #3.  Native Advertising Will Continue to Scale, But Not in the Way You Think.

    Many have expressed concern about the rise in Native Advertising, whether it be John Oliver on HBO, or in a Federal Trade Commission workshop on the topic.

    The industry clearly has some work to do in defining terminology, and in identifying and rooting out bad practices and bad actors.  But the bigger concern about Native Advertising may not be the erosion of “church and state”, but instead its lack of scalability.  Put simply, how many Native campaigns can a reputable publication execute well, and at what cost?  Companies like Buzzfeed have not been shy about building large departments of “advertorial” creators, but it’s hard to imagine more traditional publishers being comfortable with an advertorial room that is larger than the newsroom.

    Under the category “everything old is new again”, we’ll see a resurgence of old-school advertising:  notably, marketers associating advertising with high-quality editorial content that is already engaging users.  That will happen directly in the social feeds, as advertisers sponsor publishers’ best-performing content, which is distributed as a promoted post or promoted Tweet.  That then generates click-throughs to deeper content and more engaging advertising, including retargeting.

    In that scenario everyone wins:  the Advertiser has a editorial vehicle to which to attach commercial messaging; the Publisher has a new revenue stream for its existing content; and the Consumer is seeing sponsored editorial content in her social feed.

    Conclusion

    2015 will see a number of big shifts, as the industry’s social marketing efforts mature.  As an ever-increasing quantity of content competes for a fixed amount of consumer attention (we each only have 24 hours in a day),  social marketing will evolve to behave more like traditional media platforms.

    Not surprisingly, LinkedIn was the most popular source of information for professional users, with 9 out of 10 of them regularly using it to keep abreast of industry updates and fresh content, ahead of new sites.

    In a social media savvy world, sharing and distributing content has become easier than ever before, with organisations using social channels to target receptive, relevant audiences. LinkedIn’s recent 2014 Professional Content Consumption Report looked into the way professionals are connecting with and reacting to online content.

    Not surprisingly, LinkedIn was the most popular source of information for professional users, with 9 out of 10 of them regularly using it to keep abreast of industry updates and fresh content, ahead of new sites – 64%, Twitter – 29%, Facebook – 27%, and Google Plus – 16%.

    As a result of these statistics, LinkedIn is also the first choice for big businesses, with 86 of the FTSE 100 companies having LinkedIn profiles. In contrast, 70 are active on Twitter, only 42 have Facebook profiles, and just 12 use Google Plus, making LinkedIn comfortably the most popular social media platform for businesses.

    With LinkedIn being so popular among industry professionals, we decided to investigate the most successful and influential brands on the platform, to provide some insight into the best professional content marketing tips. The following three (Inc., Word Economic Forum, and Forbes) have achieved the highest LinkedIn content marketing scores, according to the aforementioned report.

    Inc.

    Inc. Magazine rank third for their LinkedIn content marketing score, and one of the reasons behind their success is their effective implementation of case studies. These are absolutely perfect for professionals, as they provide actionable examples of industry successes that users can then go away and implement themselves. They make content instantly digestible and relevant, rather than just boring readers with an overload of inapplicable theory.

    World Economic Forum

    The World Economic Forum have reached second spot on LinkedIn because of the fresh perspective they apply to their content. Rather than just regurgitating the same standard stories about their interest areas of academia, politics and business, they analyse and provide expert insight into the issues they cover. This all boils down to understanding the purpose of LinkedIn, compared to other social networks. For example, users wanting live updates on a breaking story will use Twitter, and those seeking their friends’ opinions on a topic will use Facebook. LinkedIn, on the other hand, is for providing innovative views and industry specifics on a topic, making it perfect for professionals.

    Forbes

    Forbes Magazine have established themselves as the most effective LinkedIn content marketers by constantly presenting brand new, engaging research. Their strategy is to become a genuine thought leader by providing professional users with a constant stream of top quality content. All of their output is specifically targeted at their highly career-focused audience, and presented in a way that is easy to digest. Forbes’ commitment to providing this regular content and the engagement metrics behind it are both impressive; in the last twenty-four hours at the time of writing, ten original articles had been published, some achieving over 100 likes and all of them obtaining multiple shares and comments.

    In addition to this, Mark Williams, the UK’s first certified LinkedIn trainer, has assembled seven tips for maximising opportunities on LinkedIn that businesses should refer to when considering their strategy for the platform. These are:

    1. Stop selling – rather than direct, product-focused campaigns, look to become a thought leader.
    2. Provide fresh research – make your content stand out by providing original industry research.
    3. Engage your users – provide them with content they will want to like, share and comment on.
    4. Connect with people – genuinely interact with your followers, rather than just connecting.
    5. Provide regular, useful content – give your users a regular stream of content that serves a purpose.
    6. Build trust with your followers – build a rapport with your followers, so content is not a one-way street.
    7. Meet up with people – meet people, attend events, and expand your network face-to-face.

    Referring to these tips, as well as the using the top LinkedIn professional content marketers as examples to aspire to, is a great way for businesses to formulate an effective strategy for the platform and ensure their professional content is as effective as possible.

    Is American Express a credit card company? Yes. But if you speak to CMO John Hayes, he’ll tell you that American Express is first and foremost a service company. How do Hayes and his marketing team push the boundaries of marketing as service? By fostering workplace curiosity, taking up their customers’ interests and extending benefits to non-members.

    Is American Express a credit card company? Yes. But if you speak to CMO John Hayes, he’ll tell you that American Express is first and foremost a service company. Not only is it a provider of financial services, but also a purveyor of entertainment, networking and business growth tools for cardholders and potential customers alike. How do Hayes and his marketing team push the boundaries of marketing as service? By fostering workplace curiosity, taking up their customers’ interests and extending benefits to non-members.

    "It starts with understanding what business you are in and understanding that this is a company that believes it’s noble to serve,” Hayes says. “From that comes the way we go to market."

    Fostering Service Through Creativity

    [[{"fid":"222516","view_mode":"default","fields":{"format":"default","field_file_image_caption[und][0][value]":"","field_file_image_caption[und][0][format]":"filtered_html","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":"john hayes headshot","field_file_image_title_text[und][0][value]":" "},"type":"media","attributes":{"alt":"john hayes headshot","title":" ","style":"line-height: 1.538em; height: 420px; width: 300px; margin-left: 7px; margin-right: 7px; float: right;","class":"media-element file-default"}}]]The first step in creating marketing initiatives that lead to great service? According to John Hayes, it begins from deep within the company. At American Express, nurturing a working environment where inquisitiveness is encouraged has rippled out to the kind of innovative marketing that reaches the customers.

    It’s important to “generate a level of curiosity about what’s happening in the world,” Hayes says, “both in terms of the talent you bring into the company as well as the culture that you build and maintain over time.” He continues, “We have been able to build a culture of curiosity where people are curious about how to make things work better."

    Curiosity, Hayes says, leads to bigger and bolder marketing initiatives. At American Express, settling for the tried-and-true is simply not an option, and the team is encouraged to move beyond what worked in previous cycles. "If you’re going to do something,” he says, “We believe it should live up to very high standard of innovation and newness.”

    At the same time, Hayes and his team are careful not to abandon past successes. “We are taking the things that worked...and applying [them] all over the place."

    Taking Up the Customers’ Interests

    Moving on to exactly how American Express markets differently, Hayes stresses the importance of taking interest in his customers’ lives outside of the their AmEx card use.

    Much like a new relationship, talking about yourself too much or serving your own interests often leads to dead ends and disappointment. But actively understanding your customers’ lives outside of your product or service, and finding the footholds where you can be useful, is a mark of true marketing-as-service, says Hayes, and will lead to customer loyalty.

    "You’re going to serve businesses and people. You need to talk to them about their life,” Hayes says. “Not what they’re going to use to pay for something."

    This notion not only informs the content that customers see, but also the additional perks that American Express cardholders enjoy, such as live-streamed concerts and pre-sale tickets to events. Hayes says, "If you look at what we do on stage – bringing music to so many people on a live-stream basis – the philosophy is the same. That is our way of serving customers who we know have a passion for music because of the things they do, because of the way they spend their money.”

    The Value of Inclusiveness

    Many of the company’s lifestyle perks are offered not just to existing customers, but also to potential cardholders — a risky move that may not always pay off for most service companies.

    Take, for example, American Express’s Open Forum, an online space where business owners and executives can freely exchange ideas. “We don’t require people to be a cardholder to use Open Forum,” Hayes says. Or Small Business Saturday, a widely successful initiative that encourages consumers across the country to do their holiday shopping with small businesses.

    Why extend these initiatives to those who aren’t even cardholders? “Many of these experiences are open architecture,” says Hayes, “because we want prospects to know that’s what it feels like to be a member.”

    “When you’ve contributed in a meaningful way to a small business’ success and then say, ‘Hey, I’ve got some other services for you. I’ve got a card that could help you manage inventory better,’ they are quite open to it because they’ll say, ‘Well, you guys have already been enabling my business, enabling my success,’” he says. “And that’s the philosophy.”

    Some might say that these practices are a gamble, but Hayes says that American Express reaps the benefits over time. “We’ve seen the impact that service has on the American Express brand, our customers and their behavior following a positive experience,” he says, adding, "We’re careful not to overvalue the things we can measure or undervalue the things we can’t."

    In partnership with The CMO Club, The CMO of the Week series profiles CMOs who are shaping, changing and challenging the world of modern marketing. For Neisser’s complete interview with CMO Award Winner John Hayes, click here.

    In this post, we’ll take a look at some personal branding examples from industries including finance, architecture, and marketing. Which tools and techniques have high-visibility experts used to take their reputations to the next level? We’ll look at four techniques our research has found to be most powerful for personal branding, and show how real experts used those platforms to get ahead.

    Our recent book, The Visible ExpertSM, explored the many ways that high-visibility experts’ personal brands boosted the profile and ultimately the success of their firms. The research behind The Visible Expert drew on a study of more than a thousand professional services purchasers – as well as the experiences of some of the best-known experts in the professional services world.

    In this post, we’ll take a look at some personal branding examples from industries including finance, architecture, and marketing. Which tools and techniques have high-visibility experts used to take their reputations to the next level? We’ll look at four techniques our research has found to be most powerful for personal branding, and show how real experts used those platforms to get ahead.

    Ready? Let’s get started.

    1) Content Marketing – Blogs, Articles, and More

    One of the most effective ways for a professional to share their specific expertise with the marketplace is through educational content: blogs, magazine articles, videos, and other forms of content designed to teach audiences useful skills and lessons related to their industries.

    Alan Weiss, Ph.D. is a preeminent Visible Expert in the consulting field, and throughout his career he has made masterful use of content marketing to build his personal brand. Today, his practice serves Fortune 1000 clients such as The New York Times Corporation, Mercedes Benz, GE, Hewlett-Packard, and Merck. Weiss acts as a consultant to consultants, and is widely respected as an author and a speaker.

    How did he build his profile to its current status? While consultants are often wary of sharing their knowledge or intellectual property, Weiss took a different approach. Not only did he embrace the idea of sharing his expertise, he shared it across many different channels.

    “You never know what will appeal to different people, so spread it out,” he tells us. “Try using video, blogs, real books, white papers, and webinars.” By creating content that helps his audience better contextualize and understand their problems, Weiss creates a lead generation framework in which clients seek out his highly visible expertise.

    Jay Baer, president of the digital marketing consulting firm Convince and Convert, helps high-profile clients like Salesforce and Oracle employ similar content marketing strategies. And he practices what he preaches. Baer is an active blogger and social media presence; he delivers webinars and co-hosts the podcast Social Pros. He points out that content marketing efforts tend to be mutually reinforcing.

    “The things I do on social media,” Baer says, “drive traffic to the blog. Once you’re on the blog, you might subscribe to our newsletter. Or you might book me for speaking or download a webinar.” When used strategically, content marketing can act as a complex machine that raises an expert’s profile and attracts an ever-increasing audience.

    2) Writing an authoritative book

    Our research revealed a powerful secret to building one’s personal brand: if you want to grow your visibility more quickly, write a book. Indeed, experts who wrote authoritative books on their industries tended to rise in prominence more quickly than others.

    Youtility by Jay Bayer

    Jay Baer’s second book, the New York Times bestseller Youtility, helped secure his status as an industry all-star. The book was “very impactful,” he says, helping to create new speaking and business opportunities. Baer’s book not only established his authority and credibility in the digital marketing space, but staked out new ground and helped guide the industry forward. This kind of leadership helps set Visible Experts apart from the rest of the pack.

    Alan Weiss generated similar benefits with his major book, Million Dollar Consulting – the book that launched him to even greater fame in the consulting industry. Sarah Susanka, a widely-respected architect specializing in the residential market, launched her reputation into the stratosphere with the release of her book, The Not So Big House. Previously known primarily in Minnesota, Susanka’s book carried her reputation around the world, landing her interviews with Oprah, Diane Rehm, and Charlie Rose.

    “The book caused a huge shift in my life,” she says. “I thought there would be an audience for it, but I didn’t realize how big. It was incredible to watch how, within 3 months of publication, I went from being known only in Minnesota to being known internationally.”

    3) Speaking engagements

    For rising Visible Experts, speaking engagements can be invaluable, placing them center stage in front of an audience of industry leaders and influencers.

    Ted Sarenski, financial planning and wealth management expert at Blue Ocean Strategic Capital, learned this lesson quickly.

    “In the early 2000s,” he says, “I was on the executive planning committee for AICPA (American Institute of Certified Public Accountants). They started a conference on financial planning and they needed someone to speak on social security, and I said I’d do it. I read the social security manual cover to cover and threw myself into doing a great presentation. That first year there were 500 attendees at the whole conference, and I had 250 of them in my workshop.”

    Today, Sarenski’s workshops draw even larger audiences. The last conference saw over 1,100 attendees. Speaking on social security has become a specialty for Sarenski, delivering both press attention and additional speaking requests.

    Jay Baer has likewise invested a great deal of energy in speaking engagements. In fact, he averages about 60 speaking events a year – in addition to dozens of webinars. By speaking for key industry audiences, Baer has not only built his visibility and spread his ideas, but forged direct connections with decision-makers around the world. Speaking engagements take time and energy, but by choosing the right engagements an expert can put themselves in front of focused, highly relevant figures in the marketplace.

    4) Specialization in a niche

    As we’ve discussed our various personal branding examples, you may have noticed a trend: all of the Visible Experts we’ve mentioned are, to one degree or another, specialists. That isn’t a coincidence: our research shows that the fastest-rising experts tend to specialize in a niche. Our research also shows that specialization is a top trait buyers value most.

    What Buyers Value

    It’s not hard to understand why specialization is so powerful. It differentiates you from competitors, helps you focus and define your audience, and makes it easier to attain visibility as an authority in your particular area – as long as you have the expertise.

    SEE ALSO: The Rise of the Specialist: The Advantages of Specialization in Management Consulting

    Sarah Susanka built her reputation by specializing in the residential market. “There were very few large successful residential architecture firms doing single-family work. This struck me as strange,” she says, “because I knew that most people were fascinated by house design. There had to be a way to make services available and reasonably priced to reach them.” This recognition of an unfilled niche was the genesis of her firm – and ultimately, her career as an author, speaker, and Visible Expert.

    Ted Sarenski also identified a niche full of opportunity. In the wake of his accounting firm’s merger in 1997, Sarenski created a focused investment management division, which was a swift and tremendous success. “By 2007,” says Sarenski, “65% of the division’s business was coming internally from my division, and 35% from the other 11 partners.” Within a year, Sarenski bought out his partners and formed Blue Ocean Strategic Capital.

    Conclusion

    The personal branding examples above illustrate some trends that are consistent throughout the marketplace. When rising experts specialize in a niche and share their knowledge through a variety of channels – particularly books, speaking engagements, and other forms of educational content – they give themselves a strong foundation on which to build their personal brand. By sharing useful expertise with the marketplace, experts can take the steps necessary to make themselves visible…and eventually to become superstars in their fields.

    personal branding / shutterstock