Blog Writing Tips for High-Impact Results

These blog writing tips will help you publish high-impact articles that find a relevant audience. You need more than clever content; you need a good presentation that pays attention to structure, format, and SEO.

1. Pick a central keyword or phrase. Think about what terms a potential reader might use to find your content. (research what people are using in searches with Google’s keyword planner). Know your main keyword and three to five variations BEFORE you start writing.

2. Structure your article; an outline helps tremendously:
• Core thesis
• Supporting point and evidence
• Supporting point and evidence
• Summary/so what/what to do next

3. Article length matters—aim for between 301 and 500 words. If your article is shorter it hurts your SEO. If it is longer, you most likely don’t have a tight, focused, high-impact idea. Consider breaking a long article into a multi-part series. That actually helps SEO and encourages reader engagement.

4. Revise with keywords. Go over your first draft and sprinkle keywords throughout. A rough rule of thumb is to use the keyword once every 100 words, and then use:
• In the headline
• In the first sentence
• In at least one subheading
• Use variations throughout as needed

5. Add a visual and make sure you have clear copyright ownership. Visuals can be photos, illustrations, graphs, icons, logos. Name the image file name the central keyword. If “naming products” is my keyword, I change my image name from IMG_20150805.jpg to Naming_Products.jpg. Make sure the alt-text also contains the keyword.

6. Add at least one outbound link to some other source or resource—with the anchor text containing the central keyword.

7. Provide metadata that includes a title and description for Google that uses your keyword: Title of 55 characters and description of 115 characters. Be sure to use the keyword in your post URL and on all alt-tags on the page.

8. Include social media posts for Linked In, Facebook and Twitter. It makes sense to write this important content at the same time you are writing your blog. Use an active statement that invites a click.

Good example: Get advice for naming products from brand naming expert Lisa Merriam with important “do’s and don’ts to avoid product naming problems.”

Not so good example: Lisa Merriam offers good advice about how to name products in this month’s blog entry.

Now that you’re ready to begin writing high-impact content, make sure that coworkers, who are also writing for your blog, have access to the same toolbox. Share this information with your colleagues to help them along on their content creation journey.

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This article was written by Lisa Merriam from Business2Community and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

4 Ways Social Media Helps SEO

Imagine if your business appeared high up on the first page of Google’s search results whenever someone typed in a relevant search term — without your having to spend a single cent on ads. How amazing would that be? Are you drooling yet? Did you know that social media helps SEO, i.e. search engine optimisation?

With over 1 billion people on Facebook, and over 900 million combined on Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Pinterest, you would be crazy to not have a presence on the social media networks where your customers hang out. But did you know that these networks are also giving smart businesses an edge over their competitors when it comes to search engine rankings and SEO? Raise your hands if you’d like some more love from Google, Bing, Yahoo, DuckDuckGo, and other search engines…and read on.

1. Social media helps SEO on Google — directly.

Google and Twitter have announced that Google’s search results will now include tweets and Twitter accounts that match the search term. People searching on mobile — which actually represents the majority of all Google searches done in the U.S. — will be the first to see this change. They’ll see it when they’re doing a Google search in their mobile browser, or in Google’s iOS or Android apps. But soon anyone using Google.com on a desktop or laptop will also see the change.

Now when the two companies first announced this change, they used a few popular, media-friendly, search terms like Taylor Swift and NASA to explain this new feature. But unless you’re a huge Taylor Swift fan (and who isn’t?) the most interesting question is, what will results look like for less glamorous searches, like “best real estate agent in Dallas” or “small business consultant in Kansas City”? And how can you get your Twitter account to the top of the heap?

As is usually the case when it comes to unpacking the mysterious, voodo-wrapped black box known as SEO, this calls for a bit of speculation.

 

Social media helps SEO -- the black box

 

How the major search engines build their algorithms. No, really.

If you were Google and Twitter, which Twitter accounts would you put at the top of those results? I’m willing to bet that the Twitter accounts that make it to the top of Google’s search results will have at least 4 things:

  • The right search terms in their Twitter bio
  • A sizable number of followers, providing social proof of their right to represent this search term
  • A sizable number of other people actively talking about this Twitter account, and
  • Having people who are not just talking about this Twitter account, but mentioning it in conjunction with that search term.

So are you going to wait until your competitors own this? Or would you rather start prepping now? Here are the steps you should start taking today to get ready for this brave new world.

  • First, use Google’s keyword planner to figure out the search terms with which you want to be associated and make sure these are in your Twitter bio. (And also the bios of all your other social media networks while you’re at it.) Ryan Cruz has a great post that explains how this planner works (and also shows you a few other nifty ways to use it.)
  • Then, make sure you are building up a steady stream of new followers by tweeting frequently and consistently. Don’t just broadcast, but engage with your followers and potential followers to get people talking to and about your Twitter account.
  • Finally, when you do talk about your brand on Twitter (which should only be about 20-25% of the time) make sure you’re using the key search terms you want to own. With luck and skill you’ll get followers echoing the sentiment, building a trail for Google to follow.

2. Your social media profiles are already appearing in search results.

As Chloe Mason Gray points out, the results of a search for your brand’s name are likely to include your social media profiles today, anyway. So, whether you are aware of it or not, your social media may be already helping to direct people to your business when they type in a certain search term. A look at your Google Analytics stats can tell you, particularly if you use a tracking URL to help detect this. (Here’s a free, easy-to-use tool from Google to create one.) If you’re General Electric you can worry less about your brand being misunderstood, but if you’re a lesser known entity who wants to stake its claim to fame it will definitely benefit you to put the keyword terms you want right upfront in your social media profiles to help your SEO and, more broadly, to help you establish the reputation you want.

3. Don’t forget: “search” is more than just Google….

Google may be the big kahuna, but don’t forget the concept of marginal utility: the smaller you are, the more mileage you will get from even the smallest incremental gains. As a small(er) business do you really want to neglect all the other search engines that have long been taking your social profiles into account?

Take Bing. It hosts one out every five searches done on the desktop in the U.S. and has explicitly told Search Engine Land that it looks at your social networks when compiling results:

We do look at the social authority of a user. We look at how many people you follow, how many follow you, and this can add a little weight to a listing in regular search results. It carries much more weight in Bing Social Search, where tweets from more authoritative people will flow to the top when best match relevancy is used.

This is backed up by a statement directly from Bing:

Social media plays a role in today’s effort to rank well in search results. The most obvious part it plays is via influence. If you are influential socially, this leads to your followers sharing your information widely, which in turn results in Bing seeing these positive signals. These positive signals can have an impact on how you rank organically in the long run.

And because Bing powers most of Yahoo search its reach is actually greater than its direct market share.

4. Finally, consider how many searches are now being done directly on the social media networks, themselves.

Neil Patel explained just how significant this has become:

  • Twitter: handles 19 billion search queries a month (based on 2010 data)
  • Facebook: one billion search queries per day (based on a statement it made in 2012)
  • YouTube: roughly 3.7 billion search queries a month (as of 2010)

So while you should certainly keep an eye on where your website ranks in Google, Bing and Yahoo results, remember that search is getting more social by the day. Social media helps SEO, so do optimise your profiles, post frequently, and talk to your followers to take advantage of it!

This article was written by Jeniece Primus from Business2Community and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.


8 Ways to Effectively Communicate with Clients

It used to be (back before the Internet, smartphones and social media) that if you wanted or needed to speak to a client, you picked up the phone – or you sent her a letter. Today, however, there are many ways to communicate with clients. However, not every method is right for every situation or for every client. Indeed, choose the wrong communication strategy and you could wind up alienating valuable clients.

To help you navigate the various options, we’ve compiled a list of the most popular, and effective, communication methods (listed alphabetically) and included advice from client communication experts regarding when and how to use each one.

Top 8 client communication methods

1. Email

Email allows you to “communicate in a way that respects the client’s time and attention, as both are scarce resources,” says Anne Janzer, an author and marketing consultant. “That means sending short email messages, with the most important content in the first sentence and a clear subject line [as] some people never read past the first line of any email.”

Email is particularly good “where multiple parties need to be kept in the loop on something,” adds Adam Weissman, account supervisor, Max Borges Agency, a communications and digital strategy firm. “Plus, with email, there is always a record that is easily searchable.”

2. Newsletters

“It seems rather counterintuitive but we actually send a paper copy of a newsletter to our clients,” says Nick Espinosa, CIO, BSSi2, an IT services company. “I thought this was a bad move when we first tried it, but I was amazed at how many responded asking questions about articles. And I have actually spotted our newsletter on the desks of our clients!”

3. Phone

“When one needs to work with a client in detail and manage the nuances of the conversation, a phone call is still the best communication channel,” says John Kinskey, founder and president, AccessDirect, which provides virtual PBX phone systems. “At times a staff member will forward to me an email chain from a client and ask me how to respond. I say ‘pick up the phone!’”

Indeed, while good for certain types of communication, “email responses at certain points can become counterproductive,” he says, and can lead to misunderstandings. “With a phone call (using a VoIP desk phone) we have a chance to show that we care about solving a client issue quickly, along with apologising for any misunderstanding,” he explains.

“We use email to keep a recorded history of client requests, but all of our client follow-up and engagement is done by phone,” says Espinosa. “As an IT service corporation we are following up with clients roughly 24 to 48 hours after work is completed. Our phone communication is constant and we consistently receive excellent reviews from clients,” he reports. “I personally use between 3,000 to 4,000 minutes a month on the phone, and it really pays off.”

4. Skype (or Google Hangouts)

“For regular communications, we try to maintain a weekly or bi-weekly Skype call with clients, with or without video (based on need and bandwidth),” says Weissman. “These weekly ‘calls’ can typically last 30 to 45 minutes and offer a great way to connect multiple people in different locations.”

“Skype is great for conference calls and international clients, as it’s free,” says Michelle Garrett, owner, Garrett Public Relations. “It’s [particularly] useful when you have people in multiple countries coming together for a meeting.”

[Google Hangouts provides a similar free video chat and messaging service.]

5. Slack

Slack, one of my favorite team messaging applications, allows me to stay in touch with clients on a day-to-day basis when launching a new campaign, or updating [them] on current project developments,” says Nina Tomaro, a content strategist. “It takes away from the clutter of email and keeps all communications in one location, where the client can choose to check and respond at their convenience.”

“We use Slack to get clients out of email and into a chat room format,” says Kate Finley, CEO, Belle Communications. “We can make communication much more personal [using Slack] and decrease the need for lengthy meetings or the trap of multiple correspondence channels like text, email, phone and social media.”

6. Snail Mail

“Don’t dismiss ‘snail mail,’” cautions Deborah Dumaine, CEO, Better Communications Writing Workshops. “Today almost all of our communication is delivered through our phones or computers. To stand out to new prospects [and even existing clients], a mailed letter can make a far bigger impression than yet another email in an overflowing inbox,” she says. “Letters are so rare that people can be intrigued and will open them. Try it.”

7. Social Media (LinkedIn, Facebook & Twitter Messaging)

One of the most significant upsides of staying in touch with clients over social media is that you’re meeting consumers where they’re already spending their time,” says Bruce Milne, executive vice president, Socialware, which helps clients manage social media across the enterprise. “Use social media networks to regularly share content, updates and your own tips with clients, thus establishing yourself as a credible expert in your field and a top-of-mind choice when your type of services are required. In situations where discretion is necessary, [use] Facebook Messenger, Twitter direct messages (DMs) [or] LinkedIn InMail.”

Another advantage to using social media is “communications can be attended to at a client’s leisure,” he adds. “That means you [don’t have to worry about] interrupting [an important meeting or] dinner [or messages] getting buried in their email inbox.”

8. Texting

“I always give my clients my cell number and let them know it’s OK to text me about urgent matters,” says Tomaro. “This not only helps me stay on top of things that need my immediate attention, but shows my clients I truly care about their business.”

“Some of my service providers (doctors, salons) have moved to text messaging, which is really effective as a way to remind clients of their appointments and of special deals they may have going on,” notes Garrett. “It gets my attention much more so than an email that just sits in the inbox with dozens of other messages.”

“As businesses look to woo the critical millennial market and break through today’s cluttered communication channels, SMS/text-based messaging is one of the fastest and most efficient ways to accomplish this goal,” explains Tim Fujita-Yuhas, director Product Management & New Product Strategy, OpenMarket, a mobile engagement solution provider. “Businesses should also look to text-enable customer service phone numbers to streamline requests internally and to allow clientele to reach out and interact when it’s convenient for them.”

How to choose the client communication strategy that’s right for your clients

“The best way for businesses to stay in contact with clients is to discuss with them the best means of communication,” says Kyle Brigham, director of Accounts, Marcel Digital, a boutique digital marketing and web development agency. “Give them the opportunity to tell you how to reach them best. [And] never assume one [method] of communication works for everyone.”

“Once you have [ascertained] their communication preferences, record that information in a customer relationship management program,” says Zach Schaefer, president, Spark the Discussion. “Then follow the preferences that they [have] given you. The worst thing a service provider can do is ask their clients about their communication preferences and then ignore that information.”

Remember to be respectful of clients’ time (and patience)

Whichever method of communication you use, “make sure you are delivering value in your communications and ensure the method and frequency of communications is welcome,” says Erika Goldwater, vice president of Marketing, ANNUITAS, a demand generation company. “Contact or notify customers with useless information or a few too many promotional emails and you may lose them as customers.”

This article was written by Jennifer Lonoff Schiff from CIO and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

How to Get Noticed By Influencers Without Looking Like a Stalker

Let’s face it, you want visibility and profile and you’d probably fall over yourself if an influencer took you under their wing and shared your voice with their tribe—right?

For many people it’s a prized moment—to get the nod from someone who has a huge following, someone who is well respected, admired, a mover and shaker in their niche.

Think it’s just a distant dream—you’re wrong.

Influencers are within your reach

It is absolutely possible to get noticed by influencers but it comes down to doing the right things in the right order and for the right reasons. And, it doesn’t matter if we’re talking about a journalist, a social media influencer or an authority in your niche. The same rules apply. Want to blog for The Huffington Post? It’s within your reach.

In fact, it’s much simpler than you think. But, the vast majority of people over think it, over complicate it and, crucially, go about it in completely the wrong way. Of course, you need to know what to do but it’s just as important to know what not to do so you don’t make a fool of yourself or look like a stalker.

How not to approach an influencer—or anyone—for that matter

OK, this is going to sound a bit odd. But, just stop trying so hard. It’s never been easier to access people, whoever they are, by using the Internet. Blogs, online contact details and handy ways for working out email addresses can all give you the information you need. The people you want to reach are all reachable and that is part of the problem. It’s why so many people make a complete fool of themselves – because it’s all too easy and just turns into a numbers game.

Well, contact enough people with your template email and you’ll get a response, right? Well, that’s a bit like throwing paint at the wall hoping that you’ll get a perfectly decorated room. Yes, some of the paint will stick but it won’t look nice and there could be an awful mess to clear up.

OK, I’m not an influencer but if I get emails from people saying ‘love your stuff, have re-tweeted you. Now, will you re-tweet me and can I write on your blog about the health benefits of goji berries?’ then, can you imagine the rubbish that influencers get bombarded with each and every day? Stuff that isn’t relevant, stuff that isn’t interesting, stuff that isn’t timely, stuff that isn’t up to standard, stuff that is just part of a mass email blast.

It’s all about people

The issue boils down to this – this person you want to reach out to is, well, just that—a person. So, you need to treat them like one and not just another name or number on your list. Respect them, respect their time. If you’ve reached out to an influencer and not heard back then it could be for any number of reasons. But, more than likely it’s because you’ve made the fundamental mistake of putting your own needs before theirs.

I’ve found that influencer connection comes when you are genuine about connecting and giving and expect nothing in return. In fact, you should probably think about it as a stepping stone approach. First and foremost—share your knowledge, your story, your insight, your experience as it relates to the work that the influencer is doing. No more or less.

So, let me give you an example of how this worked for me. And, how you can make it work for you.

Reaching out to Arianna Huffington

I’d gone through the usual channels of pitching to blog on The Huffington Post and the results? Crickets. My pitch had gone into their pitching inbox never to be seen again—and no contact name for me to chase up. So frustrating. But, I’m not one to be beaten.

So, I brushed myself off and got on with other stuff but it lingered at the back of my mind. Then, I saw an interview that Arianna Huffington did with Marie Forleo where Arianna spoke about her book Thrive and of a time in her life when perspective changed for her following her collapse from exhaustion. She became much more focused on appreciating what was important in her life.

That message resonated with me quite strongly. And, to put it simply, I felt compelled to email Arianna—not to pitch but just to thank her for sharing her story, her message and also to share my own ‘life change’moment. The result? I was invited to blog for The Huffington Post. You can do that too.

It’s all too easy to get caught up in putting yourself out there. Of course, you want more profile and visibility, more coverage, more guest blogs published, you want more traffic, you want more people jumping on your list and more potential customers knocking at your door. And, you know that getting in front of other people’s tribes can help you accelerate that.

But, sometimes, you just need to stop pushing so hard and simply to share because you want to. That’s a much better approach than trying to ram your pitch down someone’s throat or asking for something before you’ve even made the slightest connection.

Put yourself in their shoes

Think about how you would like to be approached by someone who tells you that they have retweeted you and immediately asks for something in return? Or, by someone who simply gives and shares to be helpful without expecting anything? So, how exactly can you ‘give’? There are so many ways, like:

  • sharing their content on social media
  • commenting on their status updates and tweets
  • commenting on their blog
  • answering questions they pose
  • sending them information, resources and insight related to their podcast or blog post
  • emailing them with suggestions for podcast interviewees of guest bloggers
  • sharing your successes from using their tips, training, and products
  • responding to their email newsletters
  • sharing your story as it relates to their story and what they are, or have been, doing
  • connecting them with people who can help them

But, the key lies in wanting to help because that is the type of person you are. Ulterior motives soon get found out. So, be genuine and you’ll find that the opportunities will come knocking at your door.

In a nutshell: If you want to reach out to influencers then simply give without expecting anything in return—and give—so that it benefits them first and foremost. That is sure to set you apart.

 

This article was written by Debbie Leven from Business2Community and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

How to Research and Find Ideas for Phenomenal Content

If you’re a content marketer, you play psychologist, writer, and creator. You know what people want and how they think. You write in a way that draws people to (and through) the article. And you’re always looking for inspiration, which means your brain never turns off.

Regardless of the brand being represented, every content writer eventually reaches a point where every idea seems pointless. Inspiration eludes them. They feel devoid of creativity and wonder, “Will I ever be the confident writer I used to be?”

The answer is an emphatic yes! You are still that writer, and you just need something to spark new inspiration. And we’re here to show you how to do it!

Go Back to the Basics

If you feel like you’re churning out articles just to fill blank space, you’ve forgotten the whole point of content creation. Remind yourself why you are writing in the first place:

  • You want to capture interest. You can’t write successful content without looking at your metrics. Which articles get the most traffic? Which have the most user interaction (e.g. comments or clicks on internal links)? Does success seem to depend on the topic, or were those articles written in a particular style? Did they have a particularly catchy title or interesting hook? Whenever you write, keep these successes in mind and optimize your content accordingly.
  • You want to elicit emotion. Once a user’s interest is caught, you want to make them feel something. It could be excitement, motivation, encouragement, self-worth, satisfaction, or trust. Decide how you want the user to feel when they read your piece, and appeal to that. This is where the psychologist in you comes out.
  • You want results. There are a hundred ways you can measure the success of your article: Traffic received, traffic funneled, newsletter sign-ups, comments, purchases. Figure out your goals and nudge the user in that direction.

Capture interest. Elicit emotion. Get results. You can do this.

Talk About It

Do you feel stuck in your own brain? The best way to get out of a futile mental cycle is to get out. Get out of your office and go talk to someone – anyone – about it.

Why? Because talking forces you to organize your chaotic half-baked thoughts into words. Sometimes just vocalizing the struggle will make you suddenly stop and say, “Never mind! I know what to write – Gotta go! Thanks!” leaving your friend bemused and you inspired.

Talking can also give you insight into your audience. Ask for advice, even if your friend doesn’t know anything about the topic. The perspective of a novice (who could be a potential customer) might just show you the most effective way to reach your audience.

Break It Up, Write It Down, Flesh It Out

Break it up. Look through your past content, especially the most successful articles. Is there an element that could be expanded upon in a new piece? If so, write it. And don’t forget to link the articles to each other so the reader will stay on your site to get more information.

Write it down. It’s hard to come up with ideas while you’re staring at a blank document with a deadline. But write down ideas as you go about life. Even seemingly unrelated experiences can jog an idea – Facebook posts, overheard conversations, news stories. And when your articles are inspired by real life, they connect better with your audience.

Flesh it out. You’ve broken down previous articles for ideas; you’ve jotted down overheard sentences. And now you write an outline, flesh out a draft, add some pictures, and make it pretty.

More Resources

  • Search a reputable academic website for your topic. You’ll get tons of new ideas and great sources. Check out Google Scholar, Jurn, and Refseek.
  • Check out what questions people are asking related to your topic on Quora, Yahoo Answers, or Answers.com.
  • Get ideas directly related to your market from sites like Crayon, or use Social Mention to search what people are talking about on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other social media sites.

You know the drill from here. Get out the coffee. Find what’s already been written on your topic and offer something unique. Tell stories, cite famous people, and link to good sites. Google like crazy. own your topic, and be the successful content writer you always were.

Inspiring content is also a great way to win influencers over and extend your media reach.

 

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This article was written by Jonathon Ohayon from Business2Community and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

6 Steps to Proving Our Worth: Social Marketing ROI

What does social media do for us, anyway?

I have been one of those beleaguered folks looking for meaningful KPI’s to show senior management that things like The Twitter had a viable business purpose.  Those of us in “softer” marketing disciplines (PR, brand, community, events, social media) have traditionally had a very difficult time quantifying our efforts to prove out what we’re doing to higher-ups accustomed to the cut-and-dried metrics of direct marketing disciplines (SEM, direct mail, display).  Traditional PR and socially-driven program measurements like “ad value” and “impressions” are guesses that media outlets have applied to their real estate in order to provide numerical value to earned media, and these metrics can cause a raised eyebrow among C-level execs who want clear, quantifiable social marketing ROI. (For more on this, check out this article on vanity metrics.)

Relationships aren’t best measured by a single interaction

Those softer metrics are fine for what they are, and “awareness” is actually a perfectly valid business goal: customers don’t usually give it up on the first date just because we winked at them.  But in the case of social marketing metrics, we have the technology to measure engagement.  First, though, we must differentiate between a direct marketing discipline and a relationship marketing discipline.  Direct marketing leads to single-sale conversion, and its metrics are very simple.  We send an email or post an ad with a prompt to buy, and a certain percentage of those people will buy.  The customer journey is clear, linear and trackable.

Now, established brands can indeed use social media channels for quick, direct sales: Clif Bar, for example, once used Twitter to sell an overage of bars at a reduced price.  But this effort was a direct marketing campaign that happened to be on a social channel, not a social marketing initiative – and that’s another article (and it’s covered in this social channel strategy overview).  For the purposes of this article we’re going to talk about the fuzzier side of marketing, which is to say the relationship marketing discipline.  Social marketing is, at its core, about building relationships.

Relationship marketing disciplines are nurturing models that serve a multi-touch awareness effort.

twitter birdClick to tweet

Advocacy can’t happen without awareness

social marketing ROI
A typical sales funnel starts with awareness and ends in purchase, but an ideal customer journey ends in advocacy. Relationship marketing disciplines like social marketing typically touch the customer at the top and bottom of this funnel.

Relationship marketing is a nurturing model that heartily embraces awareness as the beginning of the customer path to sale, and carries with it an understanding that most customers will need multiple touches (read: impressions) before they buy something from us.

That said, in exploring the difference between traditional monologue marketing and social dialogue marketing, we’ve discussed the importance of action-based social marketing metrics (read: a click).  These metrics are important not just because the ultimate goal of social is word-of-mouth, but because this sort of measurement allows us to both follow a customer and set up a reporting process that will please the people wondering why they’re paying someone to fiddle around on Facebook.  With that in mind, setting up a workflow to make sure that every social marketing effort we undertake ties to solid metrics looks about the same.  So, without further ado:

6 Steps to Having An Answer to “What Does Social Media Do for Us, Anyway?”

 

1. Make sure that the social marketing effort is servicing a larger business goal

As discussed in the deep dive on social media campaign strategy, our social marketing needs to be crafted with a solid business goal in mind.  Once we know what we’re trying to accomplish, it’s a lot easier to measure it.  Don’t try to get more Twitter followers; look to engage targeted social communities and specific influencers that make sense, and craft a Twitter campaign whose success will leads to more followers organically. It’s here that having a good media intelligence solution comes in really handy: influencers are a critical part of our communications programs, and figuring out who to engage (and how to do it) is much easier with a tool that gives us the answers.

2. Use an action-based engagement metric for the first round of tracking

In social marketing, this amounts to a click. If we get their attention, what do we want to do with it?  Do we want them to share?  Click off to a landing page?  Actually purchase something?  Participate in a contest?  Here is where have to understand what sort of action works toward those larger marketing and business goals.

One thing to note here is that people don’t typically like to leave the native app, and herein lies the rub of social media marketing: while we say that our Facebook and Twitter pages are owned media, they’re not really owned – they’re rented. Nowhere is this more evident than when we want to understand how those Facebook likes led somebody to engage on our owned properties. Facebook’s been stripping away various functionalities over the past 2 years that used to allow brands to capture more information from their Fans, ostensibly because it improves the user experience. With that in mind, setting expectations to engagement higher up in the funnel (rather than direct lead capture) is the best bet.

TIP: When reporting out successes for the quarter, we should include all the earned social media shares for any content we marketed both onsite (like blog posts) and offsite (the social shares attached to a Facebook post that was shared by someone else, or the shares attached to an article that was syndicated). Keeping track of the social shares on paid, earned and owned properties helps provide a more holistic view as to what’s working – and why it matters.

3. Follow those clicks

If we’re fine with just understanding what content is engaging folks, measuring the engagement on our social channels themselves (and keeping track of the message amplification therein) is good enough. But if we really really want to use our social media properties to drive people into the purchasing pipeline, that click needs to take them off-site – and that means that we can track them. This level of tracking is typically for those of us who live in an online purchasing model. That said, even if we’re selling cat food in a local store but have an online presence, it’s nice to know what content on our site is keeping people engaged. (And if the “Prettiest Cat Contest” is bringing people in droves, we might consider taking online orders.)

At this point, we need some sort of analytical tool that follows the customer – and we probably need to use a tracking pixel for the landing page and/or UTM’s on the original URL for tracking. Marketo, for example, can tell us how many folks who read this blog post end up asking for more information about our products (thank you, kind friends) – and this is the level of detail that helps social, PR and content marketers understand what content is actually driving leads. With that understanding comes both a better understanding of what content customers want to consume (making this a better experience for them), as well as quality reporting that senior management can appreciate.

Another thing to look at is referring URL’s, which is a free metric from Google analytics. This can be particularly helpful for PR placements, the success of which are notoriously hard to track (beyond the usually-public social share number). If we earned a “New York Times” article and suddenly the NYT is showing up in that same time period as a referrer, that’s something to note.

4. Prompt leads to the next step of engagement

Now that we got his number, it’s time to use it… wisely.  Yes, we should wait at least 3 days.  If we have an email nurturing queue set up to add teeth to our social marketing program, so much the better.  If we don’t, we might consider getting one set up.  It’s up to us to determine how engaged and interested our leads might be in our product. Working with our demand generation team here (if we have one) is a great way to build bridges internally, and make sure that the folks we’re sending along are being welcomed appropriately.

5. Follow these leads through the funnel

Leads may ultimately convert off an e-mail or a sales call, and it’s up to us as the Social Media Manager to make sure that multi-touch attribution is considered and counted toward our own social marketing KPI’s.  Most affiliate models credit the originator of a new lead with the sale; our company may have a last-touch model.  Whatever the revenue attribution model is, it’s important for everyone that might touch a customer to understand where that customer has been touched along the sales cycle. This is another place wherein good software with great analytics come in very, very handy.

6. Report up in a format that helps the boss understand success

Senior executives are busy, but they do like to know what’s going on in our social marketing world – especially when revenue is down.  We might not have to do a Power Point deck, but it never hurts.  (Well, the doing of those slides hurts those of us generally pained by such exercises, but they’re almost never a bad thing to have.)  Keep reporting consistent, both in format and in schedule.  Some things I’ve learned over the years are summarised in the somewhat crude but entirely heartfelt matrix below:

Executive Thumbs-Up Executive Thumbs-Down
Data visualisation Vague explanations
Short bullet points Reading expository statements
Real numbers compared against KPI’s Made-up metrics without hard data
A traceable path to ROI ROI?  *Shrug*

 

Manage up and stay strong, fellow relationship marketers

At the end of the day, it’s important that our higher-ups understand that getting people to click on a Twitter link is easy, but unless we’re a known brand with lots of followers and we’re having a deadline-driven sale, chances are that our social marketing has more to do with awareness and nurturing relationships than closing the deal – and that’s as it should be.  Social marketing programs usually have an indirect but strategic connection to business goals, and proving our value doesn’t have to mean an immediate sale off a click.  However, we must understand and demonstrate how our efforts encourage the prospective customer along the happy path to a sale, loyalty and – if we’re really lucky – advocacy on behalf of our brand. (For more on that, check out this article on why brand advocacy matters.)

 

 

 

The Gamification of Social Media

Robert Nissenbaum (follow him on Twitter at @RNissenbaum) of Tactical Social Media recently wrote a post about fun being the ROI of social media, which made me think. We’re all intrigued by fun, but can it lead to more business? If you read the statistics on how many hours people spend playing games, with every subsequent generation spending more time and money, then you’d say it makes a lot of sense. For instance, Millennials spend 1.47 hours a day playing games, according to the Wall Street Journal. 1.47 hours!

Anything Can Be Gamified

Gamification is the practice of adding gamelike elements to reward behavior in a non-game setting. Think: getting points every time you brush your teeth. Or an award for doing the laundry. Or washing the car. I’d like a prize for doing the dishes! Also: can someone please make music come out of the soap dispenser? Please and thank you.

Foursquare

Foursquare is one of the first social media platforms that made social more fun. With its location-based check-ins, badges, mayorships, and points, Foursquare gave users a way to measure excitement during outings. Foursquare’s explosive success has led to its morphing into a company that rewards its users in different ways now, without the intense competition that led to its early success. Still, the idea of play and social became intertwined with Foursquare.

Are Fun and Serious Work at War?

Fun and serious work can coexist peacefully. Playing games at work or playing games for work is possible when the purpose is to get work done. Many people experience a “flow experience” from playing music. And a game player achieves that same “flow” while playing a game. So why not play games at work? In fact, as Mario Herger explains “with new times there are new tools. And “Sales gamification platforms are one new set of tools that you can use.”

Could Gamification Work with Social Media?

Among your co-workers, how about running contests for the post with the biggest reach, or the most comments? You might consider giving away movie tickets, a night out, or a board game as a gift for the tweet or post that creates the most “likes” on a company account. Of course, the playing field would need to be level for each instance. You could also give away a prize for the best tweet during a tweetchat. Here’s a post about Twitter Chats: 101 tips for success.

Gamification Makes Us Smarter

Gabe Zichermann, in his excellent TED talk on gamification, explains how kids, given a game-based curriculum, improved in math and science from a third-grade level to a mid-fourth grade level. And the kids, when interviewed, say that “learning is fun.” He underlines that for Gen G (Millennials and those growing up on games), their primary form of entertainment is games or a game-like environment. And he recommends that we all get in the game so that we can understand kids. You might also like this article about how the San Francisco Giants can improve your game.

This article was written by Carol Stephen from Business2Community and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.


21 Social Media Facts You Should Know Right Now

Millennials are still on Facebook. Images get shared more. Digital ad spending is increasing. People will unfollow your Facebook page if you over post.

Yes, these are things you need to know – and there’s proof to back it up.

Earlier this year, I wrote a post with 16 marketing and social media facts you needed to know heading into the year and now I’ve rounded up 21 facts you need to know right now. They span a broad range of topics and yes, I already know Snapchat is nowhere on the list. Not that I’ve had my head in the sand, I just am not drinking the Snapchat-is-where-it’s-at-for-brand-marketing kool-aid. I have an account. I use it. I believe Snapchat still has a long way to go for it to be a viable, legit marketing option for brands, especially the ones I work with.

These stats are incorporated into my now-revived Marketing Fact Friday series that you’ll see on my social channels, so feel free to share the graphics as they post each Friday. 🙂

Here are 21 marketing and social media facts you need to know right now…

Social Media Facts

  • Facebook’s user base is estimated to reach 1.43 billion monthly users by the end of 2016. Mobile is estimated to account for 82% of Facebook’s US digital ad revenue this year. (Source: eMarketer)
  • 95.8% of social media marketers worldwide said Facebook produced the best ROI. (Source: eMarketer)
  • 21% of Facebook users say they unfollow brands that post repetitive or boring content. 19% say they would unfollow a brand on Facebook if the brand posted too often (more than six times a day). (Source: Adweek)
    • True story – I was a conference this Spring where a social media “expert” told the group of about 300 that they needed to post “as much as possible” on their Facebook pages. I was horrified! I wanted to stand up and yell NO!!! because you are asking to have scores of people unfollow you if you do that. Yes, you can post multiple times per day, but it has to be done strategically and not “as much as possible”. And the organizers (who I know) consider her an “expert” and selected her pitch over mine…
  • 7% of U.S. companies with 100 employees or more used Facebook for marketing activities in 2015. That share is projected to rise to 85.3% this year and 85.8% next year. (Source: MediaPost)
  • 91% of millennials (aged 15-34) are on Facebook. (Source: Infinitdatum)
  • There’s an average 45% increase in engagement when a LinkedIn post contains a link, a 50% increase in comments when a post contains a question, and a 98% increase in comments when the post contains an image. (Source: DMR)
  • 32% of U.S. companies with 100 employees or more used Instagram for marketing activities in 2015. That number is predicted to increase to nearly 49% this year and 70.7% next year. (Source: MediaPost)
  • 81% of B2B decision makers use online communities and blogs to help make purchasing decisions. 74% use LinkedIn and 42% use Twitter. (Source: Marketing Think)
  • 71% of consumers who have had a good social media service experience with a brand are likely to recommend it to others. (Source: Get Ambassador)
  • Visual content 40 times more likely to get shared on social media than other types of content. (Source: Hubspot)
  • 78% of people who complain to a brand via Twitter expect a response within an hour. (Source: Lithium)
  • When it comes to communicating with businesses, 33% of Millennials prefer using social media over any other channel. (Source: Marketing Sherpa)
  • Internet users have an average of 54 social media accounts. (Source: Global Web Index)
  • When making a purchase, 75% of B2B buyers use social media for their decision-making. (Source: IDC)

Content Marketing Facts

  • Marketers who blog are 13 times more likely to generate ROI. (Source: Contently)
  • 74% of readers trust educational content from brands as long as it doesn’t push a sale. (Source: Contently)
  • 88% of B2B marketers in North America use Twitter for content distribution. (Source: DMR)

Advertising Facts

  • 56% of general internet display ads are never seen by actual humans. (Source: Contently)
  • Half of B2B buyers are using smartphones for business purchases — with 40% of these purchases directly influenced by such devices. Conversely, the allocation for mobile in digital marketing only amounts to 3%. (Source: PureB2B)
  • Total spending on Internet advertising is predicted to grow 12.9% next year. Ahead of TV, Internet will become the largest medium for advertising this year. (Source: MediaPost)

And the most concerning stat I read…

  • One-third of marketers say they don’t know which digital marketing channel has the biggest positive impact on revenue. (Source: MarketingProfs) THIS IS WHY YOU NEED TO TRACK YOUR ACTIVITIES!!!

These facts and stats are all in the service of building the case for supporting a robust social media program. To get more information on building a social media program the right way, read our ebook, Social to Scale: How to Build a Serious Social Media Program.

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This article was written by Mandy Edwards from Business2Community and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

3 Steps to Bridge the Gap Between Online and Offline Channels

Imagine you’re browsing online for a pair of hiking shoes for your upcoming trip to the Yosemite. You make a mental note of a few pairs and decide to visit the store nearby to try them on. As you approach the store, you receive a push notification on your phone that one of the pairs of shoes you were looking at is now 20% off. Score!! You make a beeline for those shoes, try them on, and buy them. The next day, you get an email promoting the perfect pair of wool hiking socks to go along with the shoes.

This may seem like a rather seamless experience, but what you may not realize is that there’s quite a lot going on in the back-end that connects these different channels to deliver that experience. In the example above, website, mobile, in-store, and email were all used—listening and responding to your different actions.

Connecting online and offline experiences is not a new endeavor; many marketers understand the need for it. However, what many don’t recognize is its potential to make a significant impact on bottom line goals—like revenue. To influence the entire customer journey, it’s important to look at entire customer experience across channels, not in silos. Online marketing affects offline behavior and vice versa. In fact, according to Econsultancy, 40% of online searchers make a purchase after being influenced by an offline channel. With this understanding, marketers can pull the necessary levers in their toolkit to optimize and achieve their desired results.

offline_online_channels.png

Here are three steps to bridge the gap between online and offline marketing:

1. Identify All of Your Marketing Channels and Determine the Best Combinations

List all of your online and offline channels and who owns each channel (in larger organizations, each channel may be owned by a separate team whereas in smaller organizations, they may be shared by one or more teams). If you have a mobile app, don’t forget to include it in your list; mobile marketing is an effective medium to bridge the online and offline worlds as mobile devices have become an integral part of our everyday lives.

Then, identify complementary channels where you can have continuous conversations with your buyers. Some examples are email and direct mail, mobile app and on-premise advertising, and SMS and your website. Whichever combinations you choose, secure alignment and buy-in from the channel owners from goal setting to execution to measurement and optimization. The more you can do with your existing resources and tech infrastructure, the easier it is to move forward. A marketing automation system of record, like Marketo, can enable a 360 degree view of customers and their online as well as offline interactions, so you can truly trigger communications on one channel based on behaviors on other channels.

2. Set Goals and Success Metrics

Like all campaigns, before you begin running your cross-channel campaigns, start by setting your goals. Work backwards from your revenue goal and determine your objectives for each channel. While online and offline metrics may differ, the end goal is the same: drive more sales and revenue. Here are some examples of some online and offline metrics that you may want to track to help you measure your success:

  • Website: Page views, average session duration, most visited pages, bounce rate, conversions, behavior flow, keyword rankings, etc.
  • Mobile: Users, session length, time in-app, actions, retention, etc.
  • Email: Click-through-rate, conversions, unsubscribes, etc.
  • Digital advertising: Impressions, reach, clicks, click-through-rate, engagement rate, conversions, etc.
  • Offline metrics: Store visits or tradeshow booth visits, phone inquiries, offer usage, store purchases, etc.

Set goals for the lift you expect to see when you integrate your online and offline channels. This largely depends on the channels you integrate and what influence each has on the customer journey. A conservative goal would be around 3-5%, while an aggressive goal can be 20% or more. On the other hand, if you already have goals set for each channel, determine what percentage of those can be driven from other channels instead of from increased ROI on the original channel.

3. Get Creative with Integrating Your Channels

With your goals and framework on hand, start brainstorming campaign ideas that provide a seamless experience for the buyer. Here are some examples that integrate online and offline channels:

  • Email and direct mail: Increase customer engagement with direct mail that is sent out based on triggered campaigns. For instance, if a customer opens or clicks on an email, you could send a direct mail customized to that action.
  • In-store promotions: Offer repeat customers coupons that they can download online for in-store usage. With a unique code, you will be able attribute coupon-driven offline purchases to your online marketing efforts.
  • Geo-specific promotions: Mobile devices allow marketers to reach buyers wherever they are. Add SMS opt-ins to your online forms so you can send important information to customers on their mobile devices.
  • Mobile app messages: Send triggered push notifications or in-app messages based on a buyer’s email actions or non-actions, and vice versa.
  • Events: Use beacons to track and measure interactions with attendees and follow up with relevant and personalized content.
  • Promoting online channels on offline: Aside from QR codes, there are plenty of ways to drive offline traffic to online channels. Include social handles, vanity URLs, and coupon codes on your offline presence to give your online channels a boost.

An integrated online-offline marketing strategy can go a long way in making a significant impact on your organization’s overall goals. With the Internet of Things becoming mainstream, you’ll have many more channels at your disposal to integrate into the customer journey. As you evaluate your current online and offline channels, remember that it’s never too early to start exploring newer channels, such as smartwatches, thermostats, and other connected devices.

 

This article was written by Vyoma Kapur from Business2Community and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

Search vs Social: Where Should You Be Spending Your Online Advertising Budget?

It’s a battle that is heating up (but has been going on for years).

Everyone seems to have a different opinion or way of looking at it.

So what’s the best way to spend your marketing budget; search engines or social media?

Paid ad spend has been strong in 2015, with the US market seeing 26% growth year on year, whilst growth in PPC budgets from existing users continues to grow at around 70% year on year (as way of contrast only 6% of businesses actually report using search advertising to drive website traffic).

Ad spend graph for search vs social

Social spend in comparison has also been rising consistently, hitting 27% last year and is expected to hit 29% in 2015 ($26.74 billion).

In mobile, search still dominates, with Google receiving over 3.5 billion searches each day, and continuing to dominate mobile ad revenues, collecting 35% in the U.S, compared to Facebook’s 17%.

Ad revenue for mobiles - search vs social

Digital ad spend on the whole across search, social and mobile has never been greater, and it is only going to grow as web usage worldwide, especially mobile, continues to grow. In fact, advertising revenues are expected to grow 10.7% annually to reach $266.68 billion by 2018 (just $27.42 billion behind predicted TV advertising growth).

Internet advertising PWC - search vs social

Statistics aside for a moment, it pays to take some time to think about which is the superior marketing strategy for you; search vs social?

To really answer that question will depend a lot on the nature of your business, your customers and what you are trying to achieve.

Social Networks

There’s no escaping the huge growth of social media and the ability for it to get your ads or content in front of a lot of people.