• Act-On Software
    Act-On Software on January 22, 2015

    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.
  • The top SEO trends to look out for in 2015. Prep your online store now!

    When it comes to selling online, there’s a whole checklist of important To-Dos before you scale to success. From design to check out to product delivery, online store owners must make sure each and every customer interaction with their brand is as convenient and seamless as possible.

    Of course, before any experience can be had, that customer has to be able to find your store first – and this is where SEO comes in.

    In the past, websites optimized for keywords first and quality later. However, as Google’s algorithms continue to change, sites have begun optimizing for quality and social shares. SEO is an ever-changing beast that way, and 2015 will be no different. In fact, 2015 may see SEO’s biggest best practices upheaval yet, as mobile search takes precedence over that of desktop.

    What does this mean for your online store? That’s a great question, and one we fielded over to SEO expert Simon Serrano, SEO manager at Bigcommerce. According to Simon, SEO in 2015 will be focused on two big trends currently disrupting the small business SEO ecosystem. And online small businesses better get ready now.

    What do you anticipate will be the biggest SEO trends in 2015, particularly in relation to businesses with 500 or fewer employees?

    The biggest SEO trends in 2015 for small businesses are going to be 1) mobile SEO and 2) local SEO.

    Google is focused on optimizing for mobile search and expects search queries from mobile devices to outpace those coming from desktops in 2015. Therefore, every business should make sure they have an amazing mobile version of their site that is fully SEO optimized and provides a great user experience. Sites who continue to use a desktop version of their site for mobile users are going to start seeing their mobile rankings drop.

    Local SEO has already gained one update in 2014 via Pigeon and as mobile searches increase, local searches are going to increase as well. Making sure that your site is listed and optimized to show in Google's local results will be key to maximizing visibility on mobile-local searches.

    Do you believe SEO best practices will change as a result of these trends?

    Because of the smaller screen sizes on mobile devices, we may see SEO best practices change in regards to title tag lengths, descriptions and on-page content.

    What's your best advice for small businesses that want to maintain or improve their search engine rankings in 2015?

    Claim your Google Business listing. This will help ensure you show up on local searches.  Also make sure you understand the changes that took place with the Pigeon update.

    Make sure your site is ready for mobile by modifying your site's design so that it is responsive and mobile-friendly. Some website builder and ecommerce platforms already offer mobile-friendly, responsive designs and templates, making setup a breeze.

    For more SEO advice for 2015, drop your questions in the comment thread below.

    Photo: FlickrRobert Scoble

    Choosing an outsourced marketing agency that is the right fit for your company isn’t easy. Here are 6 questions to ask to lock in the right partner.

    I recently had a prospective client ask me where one of my team members went to college. We then got into a deeper discussion about why we hired this person above other candidates, and what we looked for in candidates when hiring new employees. This struck me as odd at first, but then I realized that this client was doing things the right way. He wasn’t just vetting our services to see if Right Source was the best marketing fit for his company, but was diving in deeper to see if we employed the kind of people he would want as a part of his team.

    “Who’s on the team?” is only one of the questions you need to ask if you’re hiring an outsourced marketing partner. How do you really vet a firm, what questions do you ask, and how do you know if the answers make sense? After sitting on both sides of the table – client side and agency side – for countless years, here are a few tidbits I have learned that will help you find and vet the best outsourced marketing partner:

    1. Is the agency listening to you? Do they understand your goals? Any prospective partner should ask you about your business objectives and marketing goals very early in the conversation. Give them your story then sit back and listen to what they have to say. Think hard about what they are saying to you — do their suggestions address your goals in a way that might demonstrate meaningful results? If your goal is lead generation, you might hear, “We can get you 3,000 new leads over the course of the next month.” The problem is, those 3,000 leads are useless if they are all the wrong people and won’t yield a single sales opportunity or deal.

      The agency should get to the root of your needs and explain in a comprehensive, logical manner how they will help you reach your goals. They should explain how, from a lead generation perspective, they understand your industry and audience, and how they will develop targeted content and campaigns to generate the right kind of sales prospects.
       
    2. Does the agency plan or just act? I’ll be the first to admit that I never used to like planning. My mantra is, “I’ll just wing it,” as my colleagues know all too well. This is born out of a long career entrenched in the inner workings of a company where speed and reactiveness outranked planning. Take the time to do things the right way with your outsourced partner, but beware that not every agency views planning as critical to an engagement, so make sure to ask how they operate.  

      I’ve learned my lesson, though. The planning piece is extremely important. I’ve run into countless clients who wonder why we do so much research and planning up front instead of simply executing on what they, the client, thinks needs to be done. You hire an agency because you value their input and know that you need help. If your outsourced agency simply acts upon whatever you dictate, you’ve lost 90 percent of their value. You need them to step back and take a strategic look at your business and processes. You will be more successful in the end by having them evaluate and plan before executing.
       
    3. Do they have great people? Not just good people, but great people — people who are experts in their fields, people in whom you can have a high level of confidence. These people are meant to supplement your existing marketing department (or even become your marketing department), so you want them to be strong in areas critical to the successful completion of your goals.

      Look people up on LinkedIn, investigate their backgrounds. Meet as many of them as you can and talk to them as much as necessary to develop an initial level of trust and confidence. As you whittle choices down to your finalist, ask the entire account team to come in and meet your internal team to discuss roles and process so you are comfortable with how things might really function. You’ll be working with this agency team as if they are your employees and teammates, so you need to believe in them.
       
    4. Can you work well with the agency? We have the opportunity to work with a lot of different companies — all different sizes, industries — and each has its own personality. It can be different for you, as a company, to work with an outside agency versus your in-house team, and you have to be willing to adapt, otherwise you run the risk of becoming a bad client. Make sure you get along with the prospective agency, its people, and the way they do business. You need to be able to trust them, their process and their knowledge across the board, otherwise you and the agency will become frustrated and you won’t meet the goals you set out to achieve.

      At Right Source, we have an “ideal client checklist” that we use to vet clients to make sure they are a fit for our company. This checklist includes all the standard things like client revenue, industry, and budget, but more importantly, it includes the “softer” items that can make or break a relationship. Is the relationship going to be partner-partner, not client-vendor? Will the client treat agency employees with respect for their knowledge, time, and effort? Create your own checklist for your search – remember your prospective agency partner probably won’t tick all the boxes, but they should check most of them.
       
    5. Do they do more than just one marketing thing? Historically, companies marketed in silos. The perception was that if you needed to improve search engine rankings, you would hire an SEO agency. If you needed some media coverage, you hired a PR agency. If you wanted a nice collateral piece, you hired a good designer. What everyone now (hopefully) realizes is that all of these things need to work in tandem, and someone needs to understand how they all fit together to meet the end goals of the business.

      Many agencies have specialized in something in the past, partially to differentiate themselves. However, when interviewing agencies in today’s marketing landscape, you need to make sure they know about everything. And not just a little about everything. They need to be well versed. Yep, that’s a lot to ask, but today’s outsourced marketing agencies should be staffed with the best modern marketers. Modern marketers know a lot… about a lot. If you’re talking blog post writing and they can’t answer SEO questions, there’s a problem. If you’re talking website design and they can’t discuss how marketing automation could fit in, there’s a problem. Look for a breadth of knowledge to help your business grow and thrive.
       
    6. What do their references say? Ask your potential outsourced agencies for references from clients who have similar goals to yours. You should ask pointed questions, so that the responses are telling and meaningful to your decision-making process. 
    • Is the agency responsive to you/your needs?
    • Do they make you feel like they’re a trusted partner, not just a vendor? 
    • Have they backed up all the promises they made in the courting stage?
    • Are the people performing at the level you hoped? 
    • Do you feel like you’re getting ongoing value out of the relationship?
    • Is the agency continuously helping your business grow with new ideas?

    You can think about your agency like a new employee(s) because they truly are an extension of your team, and should be vetted that way. But one employee will never replace a good outsourced marketing team’s varied skill sets and roles. Choose correctly, and your agency will be 10 times more effective than any one single team member you might hire. 

    If you’re considering an outsourced marketing agency and want to see how we stack up, contact us to see if we’re a good extension of your team.

    If your brand is talking to your customers on social media, how do you know if you are living up to their expectations? How do you know you’re truly providing value to your customers? True social media engagement is all about identifying your customers' needs, and being able to engage and reply in real-time to their issues and complaints. If not, customers will easily flock to your competitors.

    If your brand is talking to your customers on social media, how do you know if you are living up to their expectations? How do you know you’re truly providing value to your customers? Brands often believe social media is about applying the wittiest tone of voice, and being the cool kid around the block by rewarding your customers with silly gifts. No, true social media engagement is all about being able to engage and reply in real-time to your customers’ issues and complaints. If not, customers will easily flock to a competitor.

    According to an Immediate Future report on real-time social media engagement, 51% of brands believe real-time social media engagement is their biggest challenge on social media. Always on, always connected customers demand quick and easy solutions, on the fly, to the the issues they’re dealing with on a daily basis. Unfortunately, brands can’t live up to those expectations and are quickly losing customers, money, and time.

    So how can brands meet their customers' expectations? How can you rapidly take matters into your own hands?

    1. Reply to Customer Queries Within The Hour

    According to Hubshout, 72% of customers expect brands to reply within the hour. In most cases, they simply want their voice to be heard. “We are very sorry for the inconvenience and are dedicating all our efforts to find a solution to your problem” sounds like music to their ears. Just let them know you care, and apologize for the issue. Never forget that brands are just a quick online search away: if brands don’t provide a swift and timely reply, customers will easily feel uncared for.

    If you want to be able to reply within the hour, there’s only one thing left to do: organize, and get your act together. Make sure your social media team feels empowered enough to deal with heavy stress levels and knows what to do in a variety of scenarios (e.g. during a crisis, when dealing with complex questions, etc.). Your employees truly are the backbone of any successful organization. Beyond your team, organize your incoming messages and structure the way you're going to reply. With the help of advanced monitoring and filtering, and organizing your data through specific mailboxes, each social media team member will easily follow up on every incoming customer query.

    2. Add Context to A Conversation

    Customers don’t want to go through too much hassle to get a solution to their problems. Plus, they want personalized, real conversations. It’s often the case that large enterprises find it hard to make sense of interactions. They fail to integrate and structure all of the information about their individual customers to help customize conversations and make them more relevant and authentic.

    Brands should be able to quickly identify and acknowledge their issues by scanning through customers’ profiles. By collecting information about previous interactions, each new question can be put in a certain context. To make better sense of future interactions and rapidly solve problems, brands should be able to create well-rounded, and complete profiles of their customers.

    3. Collect Up To Date Information In An Online Knowledge Hub

    When it comes to responding in real-time, brands need to be able to present customers with accurate information in a very dynamic and straightforward way. That’s why brands’ support centers (or online knowledge hubs) should be extensive and continuously updated in order for social media teams to easily find and pass on accurate information through relevant links to the right people.

    Customers don’t want to be continuously redirected to internal “specialists” or outdated forms on static web pages. Customers simply demand timely, easy-to-consume information. How you handle complaints online speaks volumes about your business. Therefore, customer feedback is crucial. Unfortunately, large enterprises are often clueless when it comes to the type of questions customers frequently ask. To optimize their products and services, brands must get a better hold on the issues people struggle with.

    Curious how your brand can actually meet your customers' expectations and put these ideas into practice? Read on, and discover what it takes to engage in real-time on social media.

    Most trending hashtags are about news or celebrities. They relate to subjects that interest thousands or millions of people. Making your hashtag trend needs a lot of planning.

    Why bother trying to make your hashtag trend? Simple answer; it will bring you more visits.

    Most trending hashtags are about news or celebrities. They relate to subjects that interest thousands or millions of people. Making your hashtag trend needs a lot of planning.

    You need to have a network of people who care about your hashtag before you even start your campaign to make it popular.

    There are 3 stages; planning, launch, fuel. Some of the launch stage items need you to set up a site profile and build credibility ahead of the launch date.

    Planning

    No fire will burn unless you have everything in place. Planning and laying the fire are the most important parts of going viral.

    1. Choosing the Right Hashtag

    Your hashtag must be unique. Just search for it on Twitter to check if it has been used before. The subject you plan to push must interest a lot of people.

    2. Use WhatTheTrend.com

    Register your hashtag and give it a definition before anyone else does. Visit the site regularly to make sure all is well.

    3. Time Zone

    Twitter rush hour is from 11am to 3pm US Eastern Standard Time. It is easier to get a hashtag to trend outside those times, but it will be seen by fewer people. Your potential benefits are reduced, too.

    If your target market is outside the USA then aim to get the most tweets by 10am EST. This means launching in Australia, the Far East, India and Europe about 6pm EST. This will help your hashtag to go viral in time for peak US traffic.

    Plan your launch date and time bearing all this in mind.

    4. Get Lots of People Interested

    You need a cascade effect to happen. This is more likely if you have many sources, so you need to start getting people interested in your subject days or even weeks ahead.

    Find people who will benefit from your products. Talk to Twitter users with lots of followers. Hold 5 or 6 Twitter Chats and invite important Twitter users. Boost their egos and get them involved ahead of launch time.

    5. CrowdSpeaking.Co

    Crowd Speaking is a way of getting people to post shares with your hashtag. The shares do not happen straight away though. They are all released at the same time, giving you much more chance to get your hashtag to trend.

    6.Blog Posts

    You are going to need these in place shortly before launch date so you can promote them. Posts can be on your own site or guest posts but each one needs Tweet This links embedded with your hashtag included.

    Launch

    Have all the preparations come to ahead in time for the big launch.

    7. Start the Fire

    Have all your fire-starting materials ready ahead of time. Have your team release everything at the same time.

    8. Tag the Right People

    Be sure to tag the big movers and shakers you found in the planning stage. They will share with their followers and your hashtag growth is certain.

    9. Start Twitter Chats

    You used this in the planning stage and you need to do it again. Everyone is busy and you need to bring all those big movers fully onboard to boost their egos.

    10. EmpireAvenue.Com

    Empire Avenue has many people who are happy to share your news/Facebook page/tweet/LinkedIn page/etc to gain points. You can earn and buy points on the site ahead of the launch date to fund your project. You do need to establish a reputation on the site before you can use it fully.

    11.Promoted Tweets

    Twitter lets you promote tweets with your hashtag to your Twitter users. You can choose your target group of users so they are people who will be interested in your product.

    12.Twitter contests

    If you offer people who retweet your tweet a chance to win $100 you will get many more retweets. Tweet about your contest once an hour for maximum effect.

    13. ViralContentBuzz.Com

    Viral Content Buzz is another site where people share your content for points. You need to establish a reputation ahead of launch date and can buy points. The shared content is blog posts and they do need to be good. You can then embed a few Tweet This links in your post. Success

    14. Reddit.Com

    Reddit success depends on your reputation there. You need to join and contribute to Subreddits that are related to your product. You need to do this long before your intended launch. Reddit users will not tolerate people who try to hijack the site, so prepare a super blog post to share there.

    15. Newsjacking

    Have your most creative minds scouring the news as you launch. Ask them to find a way to inject your content into a big news story. This could be offering your product to help reduce the impact of a disaster. Yu might rush 1,000 teeshirts printed with your hashtag to a typhoon-hit island. It could be that you launch a funding appeal for a sick child. All it takes is a creative approach.

    Fuel

    Your hashtag does not trend instantly. Like a rocket it needs fuel to keep it going up.

    16. Quiz

    Release competitions on all social media channels as your hashtag is moving up. If you require sharing to enter a draw you will get a lot more shares. You used this tactic in the launch phase, but it is important to keep it going now.

    17. Update

    You need to release more articles, more videos, more memes and more infographics hour by hour. This will give the big-hitters who are onboard more stuff to share with their followers. Send links to these updates by private messages and email to make sure they are seen.

    18. Reddit

    A Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) would help to fuel the sharing burn. Just put yourself or another well-known and interesting top person from your company.

    Conclusion

    The benefits to getting your hashtag in the top 10 are massive. Extra visitors will find your site. Are you ready for them?

    You need to have attractive products in place to earn money from the extra traffic. These need to be in place before you even start the hashtag planning.

    You only get one crack at any one hashtag campaign, so put your time and money into getting it right. It is better to be too prepared than to be caught on the hop.

    The voice your business uses in social media is crucial to your branding. Your marketing team needs to know what your business' personality is so that your voice is consistent and leads to conversions. You are one among a sea of many. It’s time to standout.

    The voice your business uses in social media is crucial to your branding. Your marketing team needs to know what your business' personality is so that your voice in social media is consistent and leads to conversions.

    The Business Personality in Social Media

    It doesn't matter what kind of social media you use; from YouTube to Facebook, when you start a channel or profile, you need to set your business up with a distinctive personality. You are one among a sea of many. It’s time to standout. Humanize your social media.

    As a business, you need to be intentional about your social media personality. You might want to plan your social media personality like a novelist plans their characters.

    Identifying Your Social Media Personality

    • What motivates your personality?
    • What things about your brand history influence the social media personality?
    • How do your family/employees, enemies/competition influence your personality?
    • How would your personality react to anger? Cynicism? Praise?
    • What are three of your most important brand personality traits?

    Consistency In Your Brand Voice

    While real people tend to be ruled by their emotions and make poor decisions, your social media personality shouldn't. The only rule you need to abide by is consistency. Take these examples:

    • When you're promoting something, you ALWAYS add a joke
    • When a customer complains, you ALWAYS respond politely
    • When you win an award, you ALWAYS accept it graciously
    • When a customer has a problem, you ALWAYS try to solve it immediately

    It doesn't matter how your team is feeling personally. If the personality of your business is jovial, then your social media presence always needs to be happy and funny. If the personality of your business is generous, then your social media presence always needs to be giving something.

    Everyone involved with your business' social media personality needs to be on the same page with "who" your business is. Consistency creates a voice, and a voice makes your business more personable to your customers.

    Creating a Distinctive Social Media Voice

    Voice in writing is a nebulous term, but absolutely distinctive. Just lke you can recognize your favorite singer even when you don't know the song, you can recognize writers even if you don't know the media.

    Here are some tips you can use to help create a distinctive social media voice:

    • Use catch phrases and create inside jokes between you and readers
    • Find a broad topic that you can use for all of your metaphors
    • Start and/or end everything you post online the same way
    • Use your business' personality to create your own lingo

    A huge part of a social media voice is in creating meaningful bonds between your audience and your business personality. Allow your readers and customers to influence your personality and how you engage with them. Keep them engaged and it will keep you engaged.

    Treat your business' social media personality like a character in a novel; make it three dimensional, believable, and consistent, and you will find your voice in social media.

    Be distinct and likeable. Blend in with the crowd and be forgotten. Be unique and focused and be remembered.

    What is your brand social media personality? If you don’t have one, starting creating one right away. Get with your team, ask your customers and review your social media. You might already have a voice and not even realize it.