PR and Marketing Tips: Visual Content and Your Brand

Social media has become a melting pot of white noise. For your brand to penetrate that noise and actually make any meaningful contact with your intended audience, you have to be ahead of the pack these days. And being ahead of the pack, in no small way, means that you need to be engaging in not only your editorial, but also in the visual content for your brand.

Our news feeds and Facebook walls are overflowing with what people did for lunch today or how tasty their grandma’s apple pie was or how much they love pizza and rosé wine, or how they “literally can’t even” – whatever that means, it’s become a battle for attention. And according to recent research, humans now have a smaller attention span than a goldfish! Researchers also discovered that a colored visuals increases people’s willingness to read a piece of content by 80%. It’s no wonder then that visual content is the top marketing trend for 2016.

Visual Real Estate

Visual content is no longer just a good idea, but an essential one. Especially when you’re talking about marketing and digital PR. Think about it in terms of pure real estate: a text update could occupy a height of about 50 pixels, whereas an image could take up 500 pixels. According to a Digiday and Chute survey, visual content can be up to 10X more effective than plain text. So it would make sense then (in terms of the numbers) that a visual post would be 10 times more effective – because it’s 10 times bigger/more visible.

Follow the Money

That same survey revealed that about one-third of marketing budgets are now being spent on visual marketing, which is up from about 25% in 2014. 60% of marketers plan to invest in video this year – up 20% from 2015. 39% of marketers believe that more of their budget should be allocated to the acquisition or creation of compelling visual assets and that.

Be Original

Almost 80% of visual content is owned, original graphic designs or images. In other words, brands aren’t buying stock images off the web and throwing it up on their channels; they’re hiring visual professionals (designers and photographers) to create original content. The quality of your visual content is way more important that the quantity. Creating interesting, original content can be time-consuming and requires talented people. The payoff is huge – the media, the public, and search engines pay more attention to good original content.

Challenges

Time, money and the right people all pose a challenge for companies that want to expand their visual content. The process is, after all manual, and labor intensive. It seems like brands are already connecting the dots regarding their budget. Finding great designers and graphic artists with experience in what works in digital and visual marketing is a tougher challenge. That’s why so many companies are leaning on the expertise of outside visual content providers and digital agencies.

However, it seems that there are even bigger issues – almost half (42%) of companies that would like to do more visual content say that getting stakeholders to participate in strategic conversations about visual media and resources is their biggest struggle. Just as the early days of content produced a flood of stuff that did not move the needle, the same problem exists in visual content now.

Knowing what to create, when to create it, where and when to post it to get the maximum response requires a strategic plan. And that’s one more reason why smart companies are partnering with experienced agencies who can do the heavy lifting on visual content.

If you’re looking for more on the importance of visuals, check out our posts on data visualizations, infographics, web design, and of course you can check out some of the infographics we’ve produced over the last six months. To include interesting facts and figures into your data stories, consider downloading our ebook about creating stories with marketing data.

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

This post was originally published on our blog on May 13, 2016.

A Statement from Our CEO

I am an immigrant. Since 2005, I have been proud to call the US my home. I arrived in Silicon Valley and was struck by how little people paid attention to your race, religion, or history. The US is a country of immigrants and one of the world’s purest meritocracies. In the US, more than in any other place I know, you are judged by your talent, your hard work, and what you have to offer.

The willingness to give everyone a chance is an American value that has shaped its history, been the bedrock of one of the world’s most successful economies, and created an entrepreneurial and innovative spirit that has been the envy of the rest of the world.

That is what makes America great.

Trump’s ban on immigration last Friday from seven Muslim countries was a devastating blow to the America I have learned to love.

Federal courts have ruled the ban illegal and attorney generals in 15 states (California, New York, Pennsylvania, Washington, Massachusetts, Hawaii, Virginia, Vermont, Oregon, Connecticut, New Mexico, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, and Illinois) and the District of Columbia condemn the ban as unlawful and in breach of the US Constitution.

In airports across the US, thousands of protesters have been demonstrating against this ban, which Trump himself called a Muslim ban when he launched it during his campaign trail.

In spite of court rulings and widespread protests from the public, and even from within the Republican party itself, Trump and his administration are pushing forward. As a result, students, parents, grandparents, and spouses have been denied entry and become stranded in US airports and, in the worst cases, even been sent back to where they came from.

This is not OK.

I am shocked that the US has become a country that targets people based on their religious beliefs and where they were born. I understand the need for protecting a country’s border, but any measures taken must be appropriate. The Muslim ban is like using a sledge hammer to fix a Swiss watch. It is a crude and blunt instrument with no obvious actual value (most terrorists entering the US from abroad have been from other countries), and in addition to being unlawful, this ban is unnecessary, insulting, and hurtful to millions of people across the world.

At Meltwater, we have colleagues that are personally affected by this. Many of our colleagues travel abroad for work constantly. The Department of Homeland Security practices are currently unclear, and many of us here in San Francisco cannot risk being stopped at the border on their way home to their children and family

Many people have to cancel their travel plans, vacations, and honeymoons. Before this ban, they could be visited by family members from abroad, but that is no longer the case. Trump’s ban is punishing innocent people and is hurting millions within the US and abroad.

I want to assure everyone at Meltwater who feels singled out by Trump’s ban that you are not alone. We will support you in any way we can. You can reach out to us to learn more about your situation. If needed, we can support you with legal advice. The person to reach out to for any inquiries regarding the Trump ban is Paty, our HR director. Please, reach out to her if you need to understand your situation better.

It saddens me to have to bring up political issues in a work setting. A workplace should not be a place for politics or religion. In the current situation, though, Trump is implementing policies that are chipping away at core American values and core beliefs upon which Meltwater was built. In this situation, I have chosen to speak up because I think it is a moral obligation to take a stand. When innocent people are targeted for no other reason than their religion or where they were born, we cannot watch in silence.

In a company as wide-reaching as Meltwater, we have people that voted for Trump and we have people who voted against him. My blog post today is not about supporting one camp or another. Everyone that voted for Trump did that because they wanted a better America. Everyone that voted for Hillary wanted the same. The election is long gone. There is no “us and them” anymore. We are no longer in two camps. Right now, all Americans are joined in one important mission: to make America better.

Whether you voted for Trump or Hillary, we have to work together to make sure that politicians, including the President, keep their promises, do good deeds, and move things in a net-positive direction. That is our right as free citizens in a free society. That is the beauty of a democracy.

Cheers,
jorn 🙂

40 Essential Social Media Marketing Statistics for 2017

As we start a new year, here is a look back at the world of social media. Keep these statistics in mind as you create your social media plan for 2017!

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Social Media Demographic Statistics

1. 75% of male internet users are on Facebook as well as 83% of female internet users.

2. 32% of teenagers consider Instagram to be the most important social network.

3. Female internet users are more likely to use Instagram than men, at 38% vs. 26%.

4. 29% of internet users with college degrees use Twitter, compared to 20% with high school degrees or less.

5. 81% of millennials check Twitter at least once per day.

6. Most Instagram users are between 18-29 years old, about six-in-ten online adults.

7. 22% of the world’s total population uses Facebook.

Social Media Statistics

8. LinkedIn boasts more than 450 million user profiles.

9. On any given day, Snapchat reaches 41% of 18 to 34-year-olds in the US.

10. YouTube overall, and even YouTube on mobile alone, reaches more 18-34 and 18-49 year-olds than any cable network in the U.S.

Social Media Usage Statistics

Facebook marketing statistics

1. Facebook continues to be the most widely used social media platform, with 79% of American internet users. Based on total population, (not just internet users) 68% of U.S. adults are on Facebook.

2. Instagram receives the silver medal with 32% of users, Pinterest coming in a close third with 31%, and LinkedIn and Twitter at 29% and 24% respectively.

3. 76% of Facebook users visited the site daily during 2016, with over 1.6 billion daily visitors, compared to 70% of daily usage in 2015.

4. The average LinkedIn user spends 17 minutes on the site per month.

5. 51% of Instagram users access the platform daily, and 35% say they look at the platform several times per day.

6. Almost 80% of time spent on social media platforms happens on mobile.

Most popular twitter users

7. Katy Perry has the most worldwide twitter followers, at 94.65 million.

8. Over 400 million snaps are shared on Snapchat per day, and almost 9,000 photos are shared every second.

9. Just 10 thousand YouTube videos have generated more than 1 billion views.

10. More than half of all YouTube views are on mobile devices.

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Social Media Business Statistics

1. Instagram earns $595 million in mobile ad revenue per year, a rapidly increasing number.

2. Despite news of layoffs and executives leaving the company, Twitter’s revenue is up 8% YOY

3. 59% of Americans with social media accounts think that customer service through social media has made it easier to get questions answered and issues resolved.

4. Over 50 million businesses use Facebook Business Pages.

5. 2 million business use to Facebook for advertising.

6. Facebook’s total revenue grew 56% in 2016, and advertising revenue grew 59%.

7. 93% of Pinterest users use the platform to plan or make purchases.

8. 39% of LinkedIn users pay for monthly premium accounts.

9. Pinterest drives 25% of all retail website referral traffic.

10. More than 56% of online adults use more than one social media platform.

Reciprocity of Social Platforms

Social Media Content Statistics

1. Tweets with images receive 18% more clicks than tweets without images.

2. 100 million food and 146 fashion boards exist on Pinterest.

3. On LinkedIn, 98% of posts with images receive more comments and posts with links have a 200% higher engagement rate.

4. There are about 81 million fake Facebook accounts and about 5% of twitter accounts are bogus.

5. 100 million hours of video content are watched on Facebook daily.

6. More than 1 million LinkedIn users have published long-form content, with 160,000 long-form posts being published weekly and over 19.7 million SlideShare presentations have been uploaded to the platform.

7. 88% of businesses with more than 100 employees use twitter for marketing purposes.

8. The user-submitted YouTube video with the most views is “Charlie bit my finger” with over 845 million views.

9. Pizza is the most widely instagrammed food, directly ahead of steak and sushi.

10. Blogging continues to grow, with over 409 million people viewing more than 23.6 billion pages each month on WordPress alone.

Our prediction for 2107? Messaging apps!

Messaging Apps 2017

29% of smartphone users utilize general messaging apps, like Whatsapp, Viber, or Kik. As Facebook continues to test new methods for advertising through messenger, and customers demand a higher level of customer service, we predict that more brands will look to utilise messaging ads and applications in the year to come. Stay tuned.

This article originally appeared in Internet Marketing Blog by WordStream, was written by Mary Lister from Business2Community, and legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

17 Marketing Trends to Watch out for in 2017

December is the time of year when every strategist should be taking a step away from the day-to-day and giving a good hard look at the past year’s performance. After all, if you’re not paying attention to what has worked (or hasn’t worked) over the previous 12 months, how are you going to know what to adjust in the months to come?

For 2017, here are 17 marketing trends you should pay attention to:

1. Interactive Content

There’s content you can read, and then there’s content you can interact with. The second variety tends to be more popular. For example, BuzzFeed’s “Which City Should You Live In?” quiz has been one of their home-run pieces. Think of ways to get readers to actively participate instead of passively consume. Interactive content can include assessments (such as the classic Cosmo Quiz setup), polls, surveys, infographics, brackets and contests.

2. Influencer Marketing

What’s more effective than an ad in selling your product? A lovable social media personality speaking highly about your product to his or her fans and followers. Influencer marketing is on the rise, because people tend to trust recommendations from people they see as thought leaders. The right influencers establish credibility through each social media post or advertisement. When they work with brands, it’s because they genuinely believe in them, and that trust is passed on to consumers.

3. Mobile Video

Have you looked at your Facebook feed recently? Chances are that 95% of it is video. And here’s a fun stat: mobile video views grew six times faster than desktop views in 2015. In fact, in Q4 of 2015, mobile video views exceeded desktop views for the first time ever. We now live in an age of mobile video, and it’s time we embraced it.

4. Livestreaming

Although we’re still working out the kinks of this technology, it’s clear that livestreaming will continue to push the boundaries. A big step in this direction was Instagram’s integration of a livestream option into its Stories feature. We’re going to see a lot more live broadcasts in 2017.

5. Chatbots

“When you think of chatbots, you probably think of an annoying popup on a website that looks like it was built in the mid ’90s,” says Adam Toren, founder of Young Entrepreneur and BizWarriors, a forum for entrepreneurs. He explains that chatbot technology has become much more sophisticated. A great example is the behemoth Facebook, which invests a significant amount of resources into bot programs that provide users with news updates, personalised responses and more. Are you talking to a human or a bot? If you can’t tell, then the bot is working as intended.

6. Virtual and augmented reality

One of 2016’s biggest highlights was watching a screen-afflicted population carry their mobile devices out into the world to catch, yes, Pokemon. The biggest takeaway from this phenomenon was augmented reality’s ability to drive real business results. This has become a seriously viable option for marketers looking to bring the online into the real world.

7. Short-lived Content

What gives Snapchat its appeal? The fact that the content disappears. Snapchat’s rampant rise in popularity did a lot more for the world of social media than just give users another platform to choose from. It showed the value of disappearing or short-lived content. This is a key attraction for Generation Z, the cohort famous for having an eight-second attention span, and is why you should be integrating short-lived content into your content strategy.

8. Mobile First Strategy

The future is mobile. Internet traffic is now coming more from mobile devices than desktops. If you’re not catering your content, ads and online experience to a mobile user, then you are missing a massive opportunity. And remember: It’s not just about “optimising” for mobile; it’s also about making sure that piece of content gets integrated with a user’s lifestyle on the go.

9. Personalization

Personalisation means segmenting your content to reach different types of audience members based on their preferences, habits, etc. The most common form of this strategy is through lists, where certain content gets sent to certain types of users based on which lists they’ve opted into. In a world of too much content and not enough time, personalisation is a huge win for brands looking to earn the attention of their consumers.

10. Native Advertising

Viewers, followers and consumers are getting wise to the tricks of advertisers, and it’s becoming harder and harder to maintain their attention and earn their trust. Native advertising means integrating your advertising efforts into content that already provides value to readers and viewers. For this reason, it tends to be more effective. Look for ways to weave your products and offerings into a larger narrative, instead of just blasting people with ads.

11. Marketing Automation

Why do the same thing over and over again when you can do it once and automate the rest? Automation is becoming extremely powerful (and popular) among marketers and businesses who are looking to scale and expand past trading hours. As apps such as Marketo and Hubspot become more intuitive and affordable, automation will become more common.

12. Purpose Driven Marketing

One of the most effective ways to extend your story is to give it a feel-good element. Brands that partner with nonprofits or charities, or set up internal programs that “give back” in some way (TOMS shoes comes to mind) have a much stronger presence because their story resonates with the hearts of consumers.

13. Data Driven Marketing

There are two types of marketers: those who want to use what’s popular and those who use what works, regardless of whether it’s popular or not. Data tells you what’s really moving the needle, and the truth is that every marketer needs to be conscious of it. If you aren’t fluent in Facebook ads and conversion ratios, for example, then you’re missing a crucial part of every marketer’s essential toolbox.

14. Social Media “Buy” Buttons

We are moving into an age where purchasing doesn’t need to happen on a third-party site. Users are on a social platform, so why should they have to leave in order to buy something? “Buy” buttons are quickly turning social media sites such as Facebook and Pinterest into social shopping experiences.

15. Dark Social

The hardest part about tracking traffic, conversions and shares is that you’re not always sure what the sources are. With the rise of encrypted and private messaging apps (where people still share lots of content with each other), you may want to invest in tools, such as Google Analytics and GetSocial.io, that can measure, to some degree, where this “dark” traffic is coming from.

16. Embrace the lOT

Should your thermostat talk to you? How about a refrigerator that informs you when you’re low on milk, and then gives you the option to place an order immediately? Everyday objects are beginning to connect to the internet, and this trend is going to open doors for brands and marketers to integrate with the everyday lives of consumers. Watch this IOT trend closely, because it’s going to boom!

17. Beyond Viewability

Currently, most companies use viewability to measure to their success. Instead of solely focusing on views or clicks, companies should measure their ROI on things such as sign-ups, downloads and purchases. This requires going beyond CPMs and looking at the performance-based metrics instead.

 

This article was written by Aj Agrawal from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

Why Your Social Media Needs an Editorial Calendar

For many social media managers, a typical day starts by scanning their social listening platform of choice, sharing a few interesting articles, thanking new followers, responding to @mentions, wondering where the past two hours went, and then starting the cycle all over again in a few hours. They also mix in whatever requests land in their email inboxes from the PR and marketing teams. Unfortunately, this recurring set of activities isn’t a sustainable or efficient social media workflow. Having a casual approach to social media activities can make it nearly impossible to go on vacation. For these reasons and more, it’s important to create—and stick to—a social media editorial calendar.

5 Reasons Why Your Social Media Workflow Needs Documentation

1. Give important corporate initiatives air time

Have you ever gone home after a busy day only to realise you missed out on publicising a critical initiative on a key social channel? Rather than leaving social media boosts of crucial promotions to the last minute, it’s helpful to plan for their broadcast well in advance. Calendaring social media content allows you to plan for significant announcements, prepare appropriate images, create landing page URLs, etc. It provides an opportunity to have available materials on hand to complete social content.

2. Share an engaging mix of content types

Once you start documenting social media content, you’ll notice posting patterns that lean towards sharing certain content types significantly more often than others. Although it’s unlikely that you’ll end up with a perfect balance of audio, visual, and written content, a calendar makes sure you won’t accidentally leave out key content types that appeal to highly engaged customers or outspoken influencers.

3. Create consistency across channels

While you don’t want to use the same tone and copy across all social channels, keeping with consistent messaging and a distinct voice will keep you on-brand, regardless of channel. Viewing copy for each channel, side-by-side, will prevent you from sounding like two or three different company personalities. And will help avert misfires, such as sharing three conflicting sets of information for the same event.

4. Provide a record of past shares

Over time, it becomes challenging to track the content you’ve previously shared on social media platforms, even with analytics tools. Consider the time wasted collating content on a specific topic, or promoting a particular landing page. Documenting your work on a social media editorial calendar as you create and broadcast it will make it easy to replicate what’s worked before.

5. Enable colleagues to pick up social media activities in your absence

It’s not much of a vacation if you’re checking your cell every few minutes to monitor workplace social media accounts. But with a social media editorial calendar, your team has everything they need to keep the social content flowing in your absence. You can provide a detailed overview of the daily to do’s, write copy they can schedule, and ensure your team feels secure in knowing the status of social media programs, whether or not you’re there.

Elements of a Useful Social Media Editorial Calendar

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There are calendar and editorial workflow tools available for managing social media editorial calendars, including CoSchedule, Kapost, and Divvy HQ. However, you can get started without a financial investment by using Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets (example above). The tool you use is less important than its ability to assist you in documenting social media activities in an easy-to-navigate manner.

So what to include in a social media editorial calendar? I’ve found including the following columns or fields to be immensely helpful:

• Day of the week

◦ This is important to include, in case there are any day-specific hashtags or topics (such as #TBT) to consider, or if weekend content differs from weekday content.

Date and time of the post

◦ Is there a cut-off time for RSVP’ing for an event? Have you been asked to share a particular content item first thing in the morning? It’s helpful to spell out what content will be going out at exactly what time.

• Content objective

◦ If your social feeds are always sales calls to action (CTAs), don’t be surprised if your audience tunes out. This column helps ensure a mix of thought leadership, third-party articles, and amplification of marketing efforts are scheduled.

• Content topic

◦ Similar to objectives, if your content has too narrow of a focus, it can quickly get boring. This column is a reminder for all key topics to be shared on a regular schedule.

• Copy specific for each channel

◦ It’s useful to have related status updates side-by-side in one row of the calendar. Not for ease of copy/pasting the same verbiage into every cell (that’s not a best practice!), but to make sure you’re hitting the appropriate channels for content in the right way.

• Unshortened URLs for the CTA and any images

◦ One of the best ways to guarantee URL shortener click counts don’t come under scrutiny is to make it easy for content reviewers and posters to see what lies behind that shortened URL, so they can visit the site for additional context.

• Placeholders for recurring content activities

◦ Do you share a new blog post every Tuesday? Or post an inspirational image every Friday? Are you promoting a quarterly PR program to amplify social channels? Include those placeholders in your calendar, so they don’t fall through the cracks or become a last-minute fire drill.

And don’t forget to include a column that includes key hashtags to use, a link to your content curation source, a tab for evergreen content for regular resharing, plus timing for the industry Twitter chats you frequent.

By documenting social media content in an editorial calendar, you’ll be on the road to creating a more structured social media program that will be able to scale with your organisation.

To read more about how to amp up your social media program with calendaring and documenting, check out our e-book, How to Build a Serious Social Media Program.

 Social

 

Predicting The Next Social Media Disruption

When Facebook came on the scene, it changed the way we all approach social media. It set the standard for how social networks should proceed, and it quickly became the biggest player in the game.

Pinterest was another game changer. Soon after it arrived on the scene, it became the fastest growing social network in history. There was no other site like it, and it soon became a major influencer in the field, causing marketers to rework their strategies and inspiring dozens of knockoff sites.

We know that social media is here to stay, but it remains to be seen how it will evolve. We are sure that as technology evolves and user behavior changes, social media will also see major changes. We’re just left wondering what the next major social media disruption will be.

What Makes a Disruption?

To start, we need to understand exactly what counts as a “disruption.”

Just introducing a new social media site is not a disruption. If that were the case, hundreds of social media sites that have been introduced and fizzled out would all count as disruptions, and they certainly were not.

To count as a true disruption, a new site or technology would need to be:

  • Timely. Technological evolution can happen very slowly or seemingly overnight. To disrupt the social media landscape, a disruption needs to occur very suddenly, almost immediately. Mobile apps are an example of a slow evolution since it took years for people to use them to access social media. Facebook Live was an immediate change because it was introduced and embraced quite quickly.
  • Significant. No site or technology can be considered disruptive if it doesn’t make a major impact. For example, the new emoji reactions that Facebook offers in addition to the traditional “like” have not made a significant impact because they only minorly changed the way people interact with updates. However, Snapchat’s filters and lenses could be considered a disruption since they really changed the way people could post photos and videos.
  • Reach. To be a disruption, a technology or site also has to reach a wide range of people or affect a large number of apps or devices. Therefore, if a small site offers a new feature that only affects users of the site, it cannot be disruptive. But if Facebook introduces a new feature that catches on with all its users and then inspires other sites to offer something similar, that is disruptive.

Having a basic definition for what can be considered disruptive helps us to evaluate new technologies and sites. Then we can see if a change is going to seriously influence the future or if it is just another passing novelty.

Potential New Disruptions

Facebook is the largest social media influencer, and it will continue to be for the foreseeable future.

Because of what many refer to as “the Facebook effect,” it is not likely that another social media site will emerge and attain much influence. So it may be a while before we see the next great disruption.

However, some potential disruptors could come from:

  • Current sites. To take power, you have to already have some power, and there are many social media sites that are in the right position for that. Twitter, especially, could become the next big disruptor. It was a disruptor when it started, and it continues to be one of the top social media sites. It could evolve and provide new offerings, allowing it to take the lead from Facebook or to introduce a feature that could disrupt the landscape.
  • Gimmicks. Gimmicks are usually dismissed as novelties that fizzle out as quickly as they are introduced, but some innovations started as gimmicks. Since gimmicks start out as fads, essentially, they gain a lot of attention right away and pick up steam. The next disruption could come from a gimmick that never loses its momentum. The gimmick could either become the next big thing, or it could influence other sites to offer similar features.
  • Hardware. Think about how mobile changed the social media landscape when it took off. Now think about what could happen if virtual reality headsets take off. Or if smart watches or other smart devices become the next big thing. We could be entering a bold new world for social media and the Internet.

When these elements come together with the right timing and the right reach, we’ll be looking at something new and exciting for how we experience social media.

Whatever changes come for social media they will make big changes for the online landscape and for marketers in general. It is important that you keep up with what changes are happening and be flexible enough in your marketing plans to adapt to them. You don’t want to be the person who is just getting on Facebook after years of it being the next disruptor.

This article originally appeared in CodeFuel.

 

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

5 Trendy New Marketing Skills to Add to Your Arsenal in 2017

2017’s right around the corner. The past year has been a chaotic one for marketers; a trend that has no signs of letting up.

Many marketing professionals will have the opportunity to secure their place at their current company, grow their careers, or move to another high-paying job in the coming year. As marketing and advertising recruiters, we recommend you keep your current skills sharp–and add a few new ones that are in high demand but low supply.

Make a resolution in the coming year to round out your marketing stack and make yourself even more desirable to employers. Need somewhere to start? Try one of these hot emerging skills that employers want but the marketing workforce hasn’t yet fully adopted:

1. Data Presentation

marketing analytics recruiters and staffing

Data collection, management and analytics have been some of the hottest topics in marketing for some time, though as marketing analytics recruiters we know there remains a huge talent gap in this field.

But everyone knows that already, and marketers in all fields are slowly acquiring the relevant skills to process and interpret data.

The next step is the ability to translate that information and display it in a way that makes immediate, meaningful sense to peers, management, and others.

For the first time ever, data presentation has broken LinkedIn’s list of skills in highest demand, coming in just a few spots behind actual data mining and statistical analysis skills.

As marketing has become more and more collaborative, it’s never been more important to be able to share information in a clear, concise manner with other business pillars it relies on: product, R&D, sales, customer service, etc. And accountability for ROI is at an all-time high; marketers are increasingly expected to prove their value and demonstrate their productivity. In both cases, strong data visualisation skills are incredibly valuable.

The good news here is that this is something that should come fairly naturally to many marketers. Conveying a key point in a concise, aesthetically appealing and compelling manner is marketing 101. You just need to apply those classic marketing principles to your new analytics skills.

2. Omnichannel Native: What Advertising Recruiters Want

General ad blindness is growing, and adoption of ad blockers online continues at a steady pace. It’s getting harder and harder to get the attention of consumers through traditional advertising channels. Native advertising has proven to be one avenue to a way to consistently share a message with a target audience.

The job of a native advertiser was once (very briefly) straightforward: work with publications (mostly online) to place advertisements that are relevant to the readers and resemble the content typically published by that organisation.

It has since gotten much more complex as more and more media have emerged and more channels for native placements have become standardised. Native advertising is now available on nearly any channel imaginable, from traditional radio and print media to social networks, podcasts, and influencer outlets. Advertising recruiters want professionals comfortable with chasing native ROI through any channel necessary.

Finding the best bang for your buck is a challenging, but essential, part of this skill. Publishers have gotten wise to how valuable native advertising can be, and many of have their own unique process and offerings available. Comfort with content development and optimisation is also extremely important in finding success in the native environment of the near future.

Finally, developing relationships with influencers, who often don’t have a formal ad placement process like major publishers do, is key for a holistic native strategy. That requires a unique mix of people skills, social media savviness, endorsement deal best practices, and a healthy understanding of moral and legal disclosure guidelines.

3. Site Speed Tuner

seo staffing speed

SEO is back with a vengeance. SEO staffing should now operate with a particular focus on page load times and overall site speed. A fast, responsive site is becoming more and more appealing to search engines and users alike, especially as more and more web traffic goes mobile–where bandwidth and data are at a premium.

A fast-loading site not only improves rankings but improves bounce rate and conversions. There are a lot of factors that influence it, from your CMS and back-end plugins to the foundational code base of your site to the quantity and quality of the content on it. Trimming load times requires a combination of web design understanding, mobile development skills, coding aptitude, and more.

You need to ensure that if your site serves ads, they’re light and unintrusive–not bandwidth hogs. Adopting Accelerated Mobile Pages and lazy loading capabilities, while difficult, can be massively helpful on mobile SERPs. And you may want to look into enabling implementing lazy loading when appropriate.

4. Chat Bot Development

digital staff augmentation bots

While not a brand new technology, modern chat bots have recently caught the eye of marketing departments thanks to new developments in AI that have dramatically improved their sophistication and capabilities. A well-designed and supported chat bot has numerous potential marketing applications: customer service and support, placing orders and walking users them through your ecommerce process, collecting valuable data and proving an always-on line for consumer feedback resource. An entertaining or useful bot can be an incredibly engaging piece of content that keeps your audience coming back again and again to engage directly with your brand.

You don’t have to be a coding wizard to work on refining a great chat bot (though that certainly helps). Instead, you can focus on aspects that have traditionally been more under the marketer’s domain: creative communication, user experience design, social integration, etc.

5. Social Pioneer

The social landscape is constantly evolving, and the preferred networks for consumers to seek out engagement and stories is changing fast.

Video-sharing network Vine, which enjoyed a brief but immensely powerful period of popularity, died off this year. The influence of social juggernaut Twitter, once the darling of marketers and the online community as a whole, may be fading. Facebook is going strong, but also making drastic changes to its advertising options and the way it shared published content.

While some networks are seeing tepid growth, others are rising to take their place. Right now, and perhaps through much of 2017, the image-focused networks of Instagram and Snapchat. Marketers would be wise to turn their focus there for the time being and adapt their story-telling strategy accordingly. But more importantly, you should learn from their lesson; no social network is bulletproof, and you never know when “the next big thing” will come along to capture the hearts and imaginations of web users. Don’t get complacent, look forward, and reap the benefits of being an early adopter of the next social disruptor.

This article originally appeared in MarketPro.

 

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

Are LinkedIn Groups Experiencing A Crisis?

After all of the changes LinkedIn has made to groups, it’s no wonder LinkedIn users and social selling experts are questioning the value of LinkedIn groups for sales and marketing programs. It makes you wonder if LinkedIn groups will experience the same fate as Google+ Communities, deserted after members go elsewhere for relevant discussions and cutting-edge content?

What happened to LinkedIn groups?

LinkedIn groups began as forums centered around communities asking and answering insightful questions to learn from each other. With the rise of content marketing, many zealous marketers began clogging the discussions stream with self-promotional links to landing pages, white papers, and webinars. Unmoderated groups morphed into spammy blog feeds with real discussions being buried. On the other hand, the best LinkedIn groups discovered how to moderate discussions, minimise spam, and foster on-topic discussions among members.

Social sellers started using LinkedIn groups as a way to spam group members with unsolicited sales pitches. They neglected to follow protocol: send a connection request, gauge the prospect’s interest, and then send an appropriate follow-up message. LinkedIn has addressed this issue by limiting LinkedIn users to a total of 15 free 1:1 messages per month. This dramatically slowed down the number of uninvited sales messages sent to group members.

Are LinkedIn groups still worth your time?

The LinkedIn groups user interface would benefit from a makeover, but LinkedIn groups can still be one of the best places to actively prospect, connect with like-minded professionals, and learn from industry thought leaders.

If you want to make the most of your groups, you should first identify the best LinkedIn groups for your goals, and then effectively navigate and participate in your high-value groups.

Participating in LinkedIn groups is one of my preferred ways to engage with prospects, industry peers, and subject matter experts. Because LinkedIn is a professional social network, interactions within LinkedIn groups are different than the more personal Facebook groups or casual Twitter chats.

Now that we’ve established the value in LinkedIn groups, here are my three best practices for using LinkedIn groups effectively, connecting with the right people in groups, and becoming a well-respected group member.

1. Post discussions consistently

Become an active participant by sharing regular, relevant posts with your groups. To be considered a regular contributor, share a discussion with your groups every one or two weeks, depending on the activity level of each group.

I would caution you against using too much automation when sharing discussion. Avoid mass-blasting the same blog article, discussion title, and description to ALL of your groups. Steer clear of social scheduling tools and post discussions manually.

Personalise each discussion based on the focus of that LinkedIn group and the group members (seniority, subject matter expertise, industry). Follow each group’s rules before submitting a discussion.

Use the discussion area to ask questions of group members as a smart way to spark comments and learn from other subject matter experts.

Here’s a good example of a well-crafted discussion:

Good LinkedIn Discussion - Mindi Rosser

Here’s an example of a spammy, self-promotional discussion:

Spammy LinkedIn Discussion - Mindi Rosser

Summed Up: Don’t post spam. Don’t post the same discussion in all groups. Follow the group’s rules. Stick to the subject matter of each group.

2. Monitor groups weekly

Visit each of your high priority groups on LinkedIn with the intention of commenting on others’ discussions on a weekly basis. Commenting within your groups is just as important as posting your own discussions. When you fail to comment on other group members’ discussions, your discussions often are ignored by group members. Group members expect each other to post relevant discussions and comment on discussions. It’s how a thriving community works.

When you do leave a comment, mention the group member (by tagging them with the @ sign) who posted the discussion. Then provide an insightful, unique point of view on the discussion. Generic comments like, “Awesome!” are worthless. And please do not use the comment box as a place for blatant self-promotion.

Here’s an example of a what-not-to-do comment:

Generic LinkedIn Comments - Mindi Rosser - Biznology

Monitoring your groups can take a good amount of time each week. I pick my top 8-10 groups and monitor these on an almost daily basis. As for my other groups, I subscribe to the weekly update email to ensure I don’t miss any relevant discussions.

Here’s how you can adjust your settings in each group to get the weekly or daily update email:

LinkedIn Group Email Setting - Mindi Rosser - Biznology

Summed Up: Comment regularly in your high priority groups while monitoring the others less frequently. Always provide value when you comment. Engaging with a comment is one of the best ways to support your groups.

3. Connect with members

Pay attention to group members—especially potential prospects—who are actively participating in groups and look for ways to interact with them inside the group and then connect with them.

A great benefit of LinkedIn groups is interacting with people outside your network who should become part of your network. Group members are able to search the group membership by job titles or keywords, which can help you find ideal prospects. Actively posting and commenting in your groups helps you gain visibility you would not otherwise have inside the group.

Search LinkedIn Groups - Mindi Rosser - Biznology

When you are an active group member, you will receive connection requests and LinkedIn messages from other members because you are regularly providing value to the group. I’ve made some of my most valuable professional connections from those within my LinkedIn groups because I am a visible group member, comment regularly, and follow up with those who comment on my discussions.

You can also take a more proactive approach to connecting with group members, but be cautious not to appear too eager to connect. The easiest way to make a connection (that I’ve found) is to comment on a trending discussion and then send a personalised connection request to other commenters. Active group members enjoy connecting with other participants. Win-win.

Here’s a good example of a personalised connection request:

LinkedIn Connection Request - Mindi Rosser - Biznology

Summed Up: Be authentic. Look at the profiles of potential connections to ensure they are a good fit. Don’t send generic connection requests.

Are you using LinkedIn groups to connect with prospects or increase brand awareness? If so, which of these tactics could you incorporate into your LinkedIn groups strategy?

This article originally appeared in Biznology.

The Top 7 Online Marketing Trends That Dominated 2016

Every year has new and surprising things to offer the marketing world. We’re exposed to new technologies, we become aware of new consumer trends, and we invent new techniques for various processes.

I made some predictions at the end of last year about how online marketing was going to develop throughout 2016, and I’m proud to say a number of these projections became realities.

Now’s the time for us to look back on the year and evaluate which online marketing trends gave us the most new impact, and which ones changed the game:

1. Apps.

“Apps” is a general term, and a confusing one to see on this list because apps aren’t exactly new. However, a handful of breakthroughs in app technology (as well as adoption) have put apps even closer to fully replacing traditional websites—even if we’re still a few years off from the remainder of that transition. For starters, Google has released “app streaming,” which allows users to try certain apps within search results without ever downloading them to their phones. Plus, social media platforms like Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram are working even harder to give their users complete app-based experiences, optimizing fully for mobile and preventing users from leaving the app whenever possible. App-based marketing is taking major strides forward, and those will likely continue into 2017.

2. Personalization.

Content marketers and technology developers alike are starting to realize the enormous power of personalization when it comes to content distribution and user adoption. Platforms like Facebook and Google are releasing more audience targeting features than ever, enabling advertisers and content publishers alike more opportunities to connect with their most significant audiences, and content marketers are digging deeper into specific niches to eliminate the competition and speak more relevantly to a smaller number of people.

3. Automation.

Marketers are also using automation software in greater numbers, trusting algorithms and machine learning programs to handle the bulk of their responsibilities in areas like content marketing, social media marketing, and online advertising. Programmatic display advertising, which automatically buys and displays ads in different areas, becomes more popular and more powerful every year, and even long-established platforms like Google AdWords and Hootsuite are adding more automated functions to make marketers’ lives easier. While for the most part, this is a good thing, there are also some drawbacks to marketing automation, including a reduction of the “personal” feel of your brand and a possible decrease in your creative output—so take advantage of this trend carefully.

4. Strategic diversification.

Marketers are also finding it hard to see optimal results while only pursuing one or two major strategies. Because strategies like SEO can be volatile and unpredictable, and technology can change quickly for mediums like direct advertising, the best way to “hedge” your bets is to diversify your strategy. Not as many people are pouring their efforts into one “master” strategy, which is good, because every strategy has its own advantages and disadvantages. The only potential downside here is a lack of specialization; if you’re running 10 marketing campaigns, it’s hard to do any one of those campaigns exceptionally well.

5. New kinds of purchase decisions.

Buyers’ purchasing decision patterns are also changing, which has shaped the entire year of online marketing. Consumers are looking at more reviews and testimonials to provide information for their purchase, but they’re willing to move to the next stage faster—as long as they find the right information. This has shortened the buying cycle in some industries, and has greatly increased the importance of having a solid archive of reviews and ratings to show your potential new customers.

6. Better conversion opportunities.

Overall, 2016 gave us more opportunities to secure conversions from our customers, and website owners are working harder to get every visitor to convert. Signup forms are shorter, more visible, and more frequent throughout sites, and most companies are using incentives to encourage even more conversions (such as free content, discounts, or other offers). We’re also seeing more opportunities for conversions in different applications; for example, Google is offering more shopping options for advertisers, and even social platforms like Pinterest are working harder to hybridize “social media” and “eCommerce” realms.

7. Wearables and mobile.

We’ve been talking about wearable devices for years, but 2016 was the first year that smart watches really started to catch on. Other wearable devices and mobile technology (I could even count virtual reality here) are continuing their trends of growth, and online marketers have jumped on these opportunities. Content is becoming more concise and more digestible, making it easier to consume on the go, and apps are starting to become more simplified to cater to the mobile user. Mobile visibility has also taken steps forward with Google’s accelerated mobile pages protocols, which if implemented, can make your page load seconds faster—which is a big deal for mobile users.

With that retrospective complete, it’s on you to evaluate how your campaign changed and how it fared in this new online marketing environment. Did you hit your targets for the year? Did you successfully execute what you intended? If not, don’t see it as a failure; instead, try to trace your underperformance back to a root cause (or causes) so you can plan an even bigger, better, more effective campaign in 2017.

 

This article was written by Jayson DeMers from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

What to Cut from Your Social Media Vocabulary

Social media can be a fickle mistress.

What’s trendy today will be passé tomorrow. What engages readers now will annoy them later. What makes you seem cool and edgy now will make you seem clueless and hokey later.

Even something as simple as the words you use can have a big impact on how followers perceive you and whether they will engage with you.

While the words you use are important, it is almost more important to know what words not to use. Here are a few words and phrases you should cut from your social media vocabulary if you want to get results:

Trendy Lingo

But saying things like “on fleek” and “I can’t even” makes you look like you’re cool and up with the times, right?

No. Not unless you actually understand how to use these terms properly (which you probably don’t if you’re not in high school) and not unless this style of speech actually fits with your brand image.

Can you imagine Fortune saying that their annual 500 list was “on fleek?” No. And if they did, they’d probably lose a whole lot of serious readers.

You also make a blunder when you say something dumb in an attempt to be cool, like suggesting that parents and their children “Netflix and chill” while enjoying your popcorn. (Don’t know what that means? Look it up and see why you should never use it.)

Get rid of words and phrases like bae, on fleek, turnt, I can’t even, lit, and fam. Stick with what you know works and leave it to brands like Buzzfeed to be the trendsetters.

Jargon

Jargon is like the trendy lingo of the business world. No one knows what you’re talking about unless they are part of the in crowd.

You want to engage people on social media and make them feel like they are part of the conversation – you don’t want to make them feel alienated and confused. Using jargon will lead to the latter.

Jargon includes words like “synergy” and “millennial.” People who are in your field may understand it, but newcomers and outsiders won’t. Unless you plan to only market to the established pros in your industry, you need to cut it out of your vocabulary.

Other jargon can include things like optimisation, conversions, sales funnel, virality and regression analysis.

Creative Titles

These days, it seems like no one wants to refer to themselves as just a marketer or a writer. Instead, they call themselves a “marketing rock star” or a “content maven.”

Or instead of an IT technician, you refer to yourself as a “digital wizard” or a “computer guru.”

Many people think these creative titles make them seem more talented and more excited about what they are doing. But others are more likely to think that you don’t take your job very seriously or that you are trying to compensate for the fact that you aren’t very good at your job.

Stop using the made-up titles and just stick to what you are. There’s no shame in using the real title. It is factual and explanatory.

If you want to showcase how talented or accomplished you are, share examples of your work or your accomplishments, such as awards and recognitions.

Hyperbole

Hyperbole is the old standby of marketers and advertisers who can’t think of more concrete ways to sell their product.

“The best cleaning solution on the market!”

“You won’t believe the results you get from our software!”

Unfortunately, this type of language has become so overused that today’s consumers are savvy to it and tune it out. If you use a statement with words like “best,” “worst,” “only,” or “top” in it, people are likely to see your posts as spam promoting junk.

Instead, focus on the concrete ways that your product or service can help people.

For example, instead of saying that yours is the best cleaning solution on the market, talk about how it gets out blood stains within minutes or it can restore old furniture to like new again after just one application.

Instead of telling people they “won’t believe” the results they can get, tell them what kind of results they can get. If they are going to be amazed, they will feel that after you’ve told them and they will be more likely to click through. If you have to hide the big promise, it’s probably not that big a deal.

People are much more used to marketing and advertising schemes, and they are looking for brands that seem sincere. If you want to truly connect with your social media followers, you will get rid of these words in your posts and focus on genuine claims, promises and emotions. By putting your users first, you will create a winning marketing strategy every time.

This article originally appeared in CodeFuel.

 

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

Holiday Marketing Without the Heavy Markup: 11 Tips for Seasonal Marketing on a Budget

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Hopefully! The National Retail Federation anticipates a 3.6 percent increase in holiday sales this year, but even the most successful small business owners can be anxious about how year-end receipts will shake out.

If you’re one of those nervous business owners, the idea of holiday marketing may seem like so much added pressure. But breathe a sigh of relief; holiday marketing doesn’t have to be an expensive endeavor.

In honor of the seven days of Kwanzaa, the eight days of Hanukkah, and the 12 days of Christmas, we proudly present our 11 tips for holiday marketing on a budget. (We picked 11 so no holidays feel slighted and to still give you as many tips as possible.)

1. Send emails!

Email marketing is one of the most cost-effective marketing tools there is, bringing in an average of $44 for every $1 spent. Sending holiday-themed emails to your lists, then, is a no-brainer. Here are some types of messages you may want to send during the holidays:

  • Sale or promotion advertisements
  • Event invitations
  • Seasonal newsletters
  • Holiday greetings or New Year wishes
  • Thank you messages

2. Use social media.

You already have social media pages, right? It doesn’t cost your business much besides a small time investment to keep them active and updated. Use them to advertise all the deals, promotions, or events happening at your business this holiday season. Or run a countdown to a special event, using Facebook and Twitter to steadily beat the drum and whip up online excitement.

3. Make a video.

The benefits of video marketing are immense: a 76 percent return on investment, increased search engine visibility, and elevated customer trust, just to name a few. If you have the time and a mobile phone, there’s no reason not to start making videos right away. Shoot a short video or series of videos highlighting your products, services, or knowledgeable staff. Then upload to YouTube and/or Vimeo (or your own website, if it has the capability), and promote the videos on social media and in your emails. Don’t worry if your camera skills aren’t worthy of a Madison Avenue ad agency — it’s all about getting into the holiday spirit, having fun, and showcasing that small business touch that your customers love.

4. Host an open house.

If you have a restaurant or retail store, use email and social media to invite customers to an open house at your business. Serve light refreshments and showcase your holiday gift ideas or seasonal menus. Open houses are small-scale holiday parties that will put your customers and their friends in the seasonal mood and remind them that you stand ready to serve.

5. Offer a unique experience or gift.

Give away a small gift, only available from your business, to every customer who spends over a certain amount. Or raffle off an experience that customers can’t find elsewhere — a special spa treatment, a romantic dinner for two, or another treat that customers wouldn’t normally buy for themselves.

6. Offer free gift-wrapping services.

Gift-wrapping services can be a lifesaver for harried customers. Generate goodwill and foot traffic with this time- and sanity-saving extra.

7. Promote gift cards and gift certificates.

Not only are gift cards and gift certificates cash up front for your business, but when the recipients return to use them, they will most likely spend more than the amount they were gifted. In other words, it’s a win-win situation for your business.

8. Partner with other businesses.

It often pays to partner with another local business and cross-promote each other’s goods and services. For instance, if you run a catering business, and you have a good relationship with a local cleaning business, you can advertise that both businesses stand ready to serve before and after your customers’ holiday parties. Make the most of this tactic by using each business’s email and social media to cross-promote the other.

9. Reward loyal customers.

If it seems like nearly every business has a loyalty program these days, that’s because they do. Offering an incentive to repeat customers is a tried and true method of enticing return visits. If you don’t have a rewards program already, now may be the time to launch one. The Small Business Association has some tips to get you started.

10. Write a blog.

The blog on your business’s website is your place to write about anything and everything that might be of use to your customers. But it’s good for your business too: It gives you authority in your industry, it helps your business show up in more search results, and it increases leads, to name only a few benefits. During the holidays, use your blog to feature hot products, seasonal services, time-saving tips for your customers, and more. Then promote these posts on social media and in your newsletters.

11. Visit Everything Holiday.

Everything Holiday, our one-stop holiday resource center has dozens of tips, tools, guides, how-to’s, and festive giveaways to ignite your holiday marketing while staying on budget. Need to decorate your social media pages with holiday graphics? Check. Need to plan out your email campaigns? Check. Need holiday calendars? Check. Start seasonalising your marketing today.

This article originally appeared in VerticalResponse Email Marketing Blog for Small Business.

 

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

How to Run Influencer Marketing Campaigns

Do you remember Hammer Pants?

I do. The early 90s was rife with outsized, utterly impractical trousers thanks to MC Hammer’s 1990 smash hit, “U Can’t Touch This.” Everyone was walking around dressed like Aladdin. And loving it.

When I think of those absurd pants, I think of influencers. If you want people to listen to your brand, buy your product, or just wear funny clothing – partner with an influencer. They have power and reach.

Will you partner with an influencer whose album went platinum and still rocks dancefloors to this day? Probably, because you can leverage their audience and swagger to sway your target audience, drive action, and boost your image.

The best brands have made influencer marketing campaigns an extension of their content and social media strategies. This post is going to look at the complete process for running an influencer marketing strategy.

We’ll discuss ways to discover and reach out to influencers as well as maintain a beneficial working relationship. Read and learn how to employ user-generated, professional video and branded content campaigns effectively. We’ll finish with a look at the key metrics to track.

Hammer time.

Why Do We Love Influencers?

Well, because your audience doesn’t trust your brand as much as the cool people they follow on social media (yet). You’re out to sell and they know that. By comparison, influencers are self-sufficient individuals who resonate with their followers. They’re more like distant friends to consumers, advocates for causes and product testers.

  • 74% of consumers use social media to make purchasing decisions. (Source)

Just slide your content materials in with influencer messaging to boost your visibility and effect, allowing your product to receive a big boost in credibility and social proof. Users will see your content as recommended by a leader and respond with the desired actions more readily.

  • 78% of brands increased content output in the past two years, yet content engagement decreased by 60%. (Source)

Looking at the reality of it, how can we not use influencers to drive actions?

3 Factors for Selecting Influencers

“Relevance is the price of attention.”

–Ardath Albee, Marketinginteractions.com

#1 Context

Thankfully, there are plenty of fish in the sea … because not every brand is a match for every influencer.

Just because someone has a huge following doesn’t mean they’ll be able to deliver the conversions your business wants. An influencer’s audience, area of expertise and personal style should all complement your brand. Otherwise, the audience will see right through the messaging and you’ll both lose credibility.

  • How does this person interact with their followers?
  • Do their values always coincide with yours?
  • Are their posting habits consistent with what your brand needs?

For example, Taylor Swift is an influencer with 1.2 million followers. However, would she be as effective with your target market as an industry-specific influencer with 1/10th or 1/100th the audience?

#2 Reach

Of course, getting the most from influencer relationships means partnering with those who can send your message far and wide. Otherwise, your ROI will be … DOA.

#3 Actionability

I don’t know about you, but I like hanging out with energetic people. They do things and get others to do the same!

You owe it to your bottom line to choose an influencer with energy and authority. You know, someone who actually drives action and boosts revenues with their posts. Because influencers don’t press their message on their audience, it’s only natural that some will have more sway than others. Part of deciding on a contextual fit is deciding if your influencer is engaging their users already and if you can catch part of that good juju. Peek at their blog and social accounts to gauge how much feedback they’re eliciting.

How to Create Effective Influencer Campaigns

“Create customer experiences that differentiate your brand.”

Robert Rose, Robertrose.net

How can influencers better differentiate your brand? That depends on how you want to use the appeal of influencers across different types of campaigns.

Use a branded collection campaign, as luxury e-commerce company Gilt does with supermodel Alessandra Ambrosio, to really cement a connection between your image and the influencer.

1-gilt-influencer-instagram-marketing-strategy

Gilt goes for the gold by pairing with Ambrosio and her 7.1 million followers. Users obviously adore the woman, so the brand can only win with bold associations. The influencer is seen “living the life” while using featured products and talking about the benefits of easy, stylish Gilt shopping. The fashion retailer smartly assembled a custom collection for users to shop in the bio and made sure the #Giltlife hashtag appears throughout the messaging.

2-gilt-influencer-marketing-strategy

Most importantly here, Ambrosio is authentic and dazzling in her natural setting. This time, she’s giving a shout-out to Gilt from her own Instagram account. Sure, to reach a wider audience, this message recommends Gilt products but also communicates the wider brand values. The superstar welcomes everyone to sample the exclusivity and the good life available at a Gilt event – “fashion, food fitness and more.”

Approaching Influencers (Even Supermodels)

Want a (professional) relationship with an influencer such as Alessandra Ambrosio?

The rule of thumb for starting relationships is to give before you receive. And show what you can offer right away.

Successful influencer relations begin the same way. Once you’ve found a choice influencer, start to share their content, reshare their posts, hype them on social media and comment on their comments. Don’t just show up and demand a partnership.

These are successful individuals with finite time so treat them like people instead of products. Approaching influencers respectfully means performing your due diligence and investing in their brand first.

Start by reaching out to influencers and ask permission to include them in some of your marketing content. Maybe swap some guest posts. Or, submit your product or service for them to review. The responses and evaluations you’ll get are insight enough into whether your working relationship is going to be fruitful or incompatible.

Starting slow allows you to move beyond money. Many influencers prefer not to be a commission-only sales advocate or receive cash – they’re more comfortable acting as ambassadors for trades or exchange.

Cultivating the Mutually Beneficial, Lucrative Partnership

“33 percent of consumers report feeling deceived upon realising an article or video was sponsored by a brand. Be authentic and communicate up front about what you are doing.”

–Ahava Leibtag, Aha Media

If you’re going to embed your product discretely, be careful. Social media platform users appreciate authenticity above all. And if you’re going to be blatant, make it worth everyone’s while. Advertising done through a branded voice box is still effective.

Online beauty supplier, Birchbox, exemplifies this in their partnership with lifestyle blogger, Emily Schuman of Cupcakes and Cashmere.

3-birchbox-influencer-marketing-strategy

With customised beauty boxes from Schuman, the cosmetics brand creates an exclusive offering sure to resonate with fans. The testimonial delivery across Birchbox’s YouTube channel is personable and relevant within their audience and sure to drive conversions across the 300,000 followers she has on Instagram.

4-birchbox-influencer-marketing-example

What makes this mutually beneficial is that Schuman has a chance at the beginning to share her forthcoming book with viewers. She also references her personal blog between highlighting the great value to Birchboxers. After watching and being told to look below, the CTA link is embedded in the description to make sure viewers can take the next step.

Social media is about authenticity. Feeling squeamish about shameless promotion? Well, then employ a user-generated content campaign to really show users you’re with them. By pulling testimonials and images sourced from your brand advocates you’ll flex some serious social proof and see higher engagement and conversions as a result.

5-birchbox-user-generated-content-example

Birchbox sources user generated content and places it as videos on their Instagram account. The goal is to create happy customers, yes, and the way to do this is to show happy customers! Amidst genuine voices from the audience are other influencer testimonials. Combining multiple influencers with a wide swathe of user-generated content gives the impression that everyone is talking about your brand!

6-birchbox-instagram-giveaway-contest-example

(Source)

This screenshot shows Birchbox holding a giveaway to earn followers and drive engagement. It’s a great tactic for generating interest and content for your brand. What other ways can you generate user content for use?

  • Provide product discounts or giveaways
  • Ask for uploaded videos and photos using your product (narcissism works)
  • Take quotes from discussion boards and comments sections
  • Ask advocates to answer questionnaires and guarantee that they get final publishing veto (and a free product/service trial)

User-generated content can be placed on your web page or attached in product pages. You can utilise it for Facebook ads and send it through newsletters. The more you have, the more creative you can be.

Collaborate on Winning Content

Once you’ve found a great ally, sit with your influencer to create stellar content.

While many personalities are DIY, set aside some time to plan content schedules, keyword use, links and messaging down to the tee. This is how to ensure your content goes the farthest, provides the best SEO boost and can be repurposed in the form of influencer quotes and testimonials.

7-influencer-marketing-campaign-example

I was researching how to make my own screen printing press when I came across this Casper influencer campaign. Bob Clagett, who has almost 1 million subscribers to his “I Like to Make Stuff” YouTube channel, displays a well-embedded professional video campaign from the e-commerce mattress brand. The video cuts away for Bob to reference how he built a bed frame last week – and what a great compliment Casper’s product makes.

While Mike surely could have shot that video himself, trust that Casper delivered the messaging and oversaw the production, perhaps even sponsoring the preceding post about the bedframe. The mini-video format does a great job of keeping viewers on target to learn about the printing press but also highlights what Casper can do for them in a natural way.

Keep Your Metrics in Mind

Be sure to discuss what success looks like before starting a partnership. Are you trying to raise awareness? Gain more social media follows? Content creation efforts will benefit from concrete standards and outlining expectations keeps all parties focused. Consider key metrics when designing your goal-specific content as it relates to phases of the customer journey.

8-influencer-marketing-metrics-example

(Source)

How to Find Your Influencers

My logic is this: Use social media to find social media influencers. Pretty savvy, eh?

#1 Research Hashtags

By identifying and following the key hashtags your influences might be using, you do two important things:

  • Locate active influencers
  • Uncover content topics and ideas for usage in campaigns and for influencer outreach

Try to assemble a list of 25 influencers that match your brand message in your industry. I know it sounds like a lot, but you’ll appreciate the diversity when you start doing outreach. Who knows, you may already have built-in advocates you can readily switch into influential ambassadors.

#2 Use Tools

This costs but it is very effective. Jump on BuzzSumo, Klout, Kred or Moz’s Followerwonk to get rankings and stats from engagement, keywords and reach.

#3 Social Networks

If you’re not already following influencers in your industry, there’s no better time to start. Not only is it great to hear the latest info, but simple keyword searches can overturn a wealth of qualified persons. Plus, following (and maybe even engaging with) this person will go a long way to demonstrating you’re a worthy partnership. A report from Technorati shows 86% of influencers operate at least one blog so seek out their websites as well.

#4 Google Alerts

Set an alert for keywords in your business sphere so you can identify those writing topics in your realm. It’s a good idea to employ a form of social media monitoring as well and create name alternatives for your company in case people are talking about your brand – and are having a hard time with the spelling. This way you can identify any advocates already in place.

#5 SEO Research on Influencers

When you’ve compiled your list, amass the necessary SEO stats and social media information for every influencer. Then decide on which suits your brand and has the reach and actionability you want.

Conclusion

…you can’t touch the power of influencer marketing.

Influencers are here to stay, so once you’ve found a handful of well-aligned individuals, start creating terrific content that will return results. This means drawing from user-generated content to provide social proof to your target audience members who might need a bit of a push.

Be sure to use professional video campaigns to showcase your product or service in an outstanding fashion. Employ a branded collection campaign when you want to place your offering nearby the influencer for a revenue-driving endorsement.

Ultimately, you’ll want to craft influencer campaigns and use tactics that target various segments in various stages of the sales funnel. Setting forth with clear goals and metrics to track will allow you to see just how potent you influencer relationship is, or in what way it can be improved. That could mean tweaking messaging, channels, copy, and even influencers. But no one can resist the power of Hammer Time.

This article originally appeared in Referral SaaSquatch.

 

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

4 Ways to Elevate Your Marketing with Great Content

As marketers, we’re always looking for new ways to engage our audience. New channels, strategies, and campaigns. At the core of these initiatives is our content, which fuels each and every one.

Last week, I had the opportunity to attend Vidyard’s Video Marketing Summit to learn about the latest and greatest in creative content, video analytics, and digital marketing technologies. If you’ve been keeping track of key trends, you know that video is now an essential part of any content marketing strategy. Video content allows you to communicate with audiences on a different level, speaking to their senses.

At Viewtopia, I sat in on some great sessions that demonstrated how you can elevate your marketing with engaging content. Here are my takeaways from four sessions that really stood out:

1. Shift from Content Economy to Attention Economy

Art and science have come together to empower marketers, and we can leverage both to build relationships with our buyers and understand our impact. Tyler Lessard, CMO at Vidyard, opened up Viewtopia with his session on “Connecting with Buyers in the Age of Experience.” We live in an “information age,” where information is now a commodity and buyers are overwhelmed—this reality transcends across demographics and generations.

Buyers are more informed, and it’s all about earning their attention—giving them the best customer experience. So how do we rise above the noise? As Tyler put it, digital marketing and marketing automation are major breakthroughs that are influencing the way we engage our audience. Paired with video, we can create compelling content experiences on a variety of channels and glean unique insights from each.

The brands that are leading the pack have nailed down these three key areas: content, channels, and insights. Effective marketing utilizes a cross-channel approach, placing personalized content and seamless messaging at the forefront. In addition, it’s now imperative that metrics go beyond just clicks and views, showing how your efforts are translating into revenue.

2. Take a New Approach to Content

It’s time to adopt a post-digital mind shift and approach content in a new way. Laura Ramos, VP & Principal Analyst at Forrester Research, shared some valuable insights in her session, “The Power of Video in Making Your B2B Story Come Alive.” Content is all about the buyers and their unique journey, and we can deliver on this expectation through effective storytelling.

Laura revealed five ways to use storytelling to engage our buyers:

  1. Repurpose “great” content as stories or narratives.
  2. Experiment with long-form, multi-chapter assets.
  3. Put customers center-stage.
  4. Shoot more video.
  5. Create a value exchange with buyers.

She also shared four key principles of B2B storytelling, which can be applied to B2C as well:

  1. Empathy creates trust and deepens relationships. Show your audience that you understand what they care about. Don’t just speak to their business problems, but speak to what they deal with on a daily basis. Your marketing should be relatable.
  2. Decision-making is emotional. It’s not always rational, so use stories to stir emotions. Experiment with humor and tragedy, as well as stories that tug on the heartstrings. People are sick of hearing pure success stories. Focus on failure and redemption.
  3. People trust friends, families, and peers. They trust other people more than they trust you as a brand, so build brand advocates and encourage them to share their stories.
  4. Engaging the senses leaves a lasting impression. Engage all of the senses, experimenting with different types of content like visual and audio.

The biggest takeaway that transcends across marketing? Deliver something of value without expecting immediate commercial returns. It’s all about building relationships and trust with your audience.

3. Fuel Account-Based Marketing with Personalized Content

Account-based marketing (ABM) is all about aligning marketing and sales efforts to target and engage high-value accounts with personalized messaging, campaigns, and outreach. And the benefits are tremendous—92% of B2B marketers worldwide consider ABM extremely important or very important to their overall marketing efforts, according to SiriusDecisions. In her presentation, “Multi-Channel Personalization: The Key to Account-Based Marketing Success,” Charm Bianchini, Sr. Director of Marketing at Marketo, revealed how you can take your target account strategy to new heights.

After you identify your high-value accounts and profile them to focus on the right part of the organization, it’s important to have personalized, relevant content to fuel your ABM campaigns. By developing buyer personas and mapping their journeys, you can create content that speaks to specific roles. And the options are endless—videos, reports, webinars, SlideShares, ebooks, blogs, podcasts, infographics, and more. Not to mention, these don’t have to be created from scratch. You can repurpose existing assets and tweak them to resonate with your target audience. This can be done by simply switching out terminology, examples, and language to speak to a specific company or industry.

Once you’ve got your accounts and content nailed down, use as many channels as possible to coordinate your story and target and engage your audience. This includes core channels such as your website, social media platforms, email, and mobile, but don’t forget about video. A video platform integrated with a marketing automation platform can help you gain insight into audience engagement with webinars, demos, and videos to help you score your target accounts appropriately.

4. Unleash Your Inner Storyteller

Some of the best examples of engaging content come from social influencers. Zach King, filmmaker and YouTube and Instagram personality, took the stage in his presentation, “The Storyteller in All of Us.” Zach King started pursuing his passion for videography at the early age of seven, when he experimented with a camera at a family wedding. From that moment on, he saw how video helped frame his perspective and vision to others. Since then, he’s blossomed into a social celebrity, with over 16M followers on Instagram alone.

He shared valuable lessons that he learned along the way. The first? Educate and listen to your audience. Zach got his start on YouTube with his Final Cut video editing software tutorials. He amassed a good following of about 40-50k followers, but his career really took off after he started listening to his audience. People commented that they wanted to see the effects in action, so he created the short film Jedi Kittens one night. It was a spur of the moment idea that went viral and was covered by major news channels.

Link to Jedi Kittens video

Here are some of his tips for creating an effective video:

  • Make it clean so everyone can watch it.
  • Your video should be contagious. It should be something that you would repost or share as a viewer.
  • Establish a voice and be relatable.
  • Have a beginning, middle, and end—no matter how short your video is.
  • Understand what to give, gather, and grow.
    • Give: What value are you contributing? A story, feeling, informative technology? There should be no strings attached.
    • Gather: Find the right platforms. Determine where the right audience will consume your content and use analytics to help you understand how they’re engaging with it. When Vine first emerged, Zach moved onto the platform from YouTube, captivated by the fact that he could create shorter videos that still got a lot of great engagement. The short six second snippets helped him hone in on how to tell a story in a short period of time. Then, once Instagram came out with a video feature, he started experimenting and posting the same videos on both platforms and got much better engagement on Instagram, so he began focusing his efforts there.
    • Grow: Nurture your audience. Go deeper versus going viral. Vital content adds value or entertainment, but viral content only gives you 15 minutes of fame.

There’s no telling what’s in store for us next, but one thing’s for sure: it’s time to rise above the noise by creating compelling content. What takeaways you be applying to your content marketing strategy? Share your thoughts below!

This article originally appeared in Marketo Marketing Blog.

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

How To Make Complete Strangers Fall in Love With Your Blog

Whether you’re having a face-to-face meeting with prospective clients, or trying to market your brand with blog content, first impressions count.

In fact, in the digital world brands often don’t get a second chance, because online consumers have short attention spans and they’re already bombarded with hundreds of blog posts, emails, social media posts and advertisements every day.

According to research published in Psychological Science, it takes an average person a tenth of a second to form an impression about a stranger based on appearance and looks.

However, as a blogger, it’s not just about making a strong first impression. Keeping your readers engaged and converting them into subscribers and customers is equally important.

Which is why, the moment a new visitor comes to your blog, you need to take them from one level of excitement to another.

Sounds difficult right? Let me simplify this for you.

Here are a few ways you can make complete strangers immediately fall in love with your blog and come to you every time they need help.

1. Make a strong first impression with powerful branding

Excuse me for using this word repeatedly, but first impressions are just so important.

What’s the first thing that shapes your blog’s perception when a stranger lands on your homepage?

Your website design, logo, the color theme – in short, the look and feel of your blog.

According to Reboot Online, 65% of people are primarily visual learners who perceive things by looks before exploring them any further.

So make sure your blog has a modern outlook and is compatible across different devices and platforms. You can use a premium responsive WordPress theme or hire a freelance designer from UpWork or 99Designs (especially for logo design) to get started.

Here’s what a good, clean and professional design looks like.

make-a-strong-first-impression-with-powerful-branding-for-fall-in-love-with-your-blog

“But Jawad, why should I listen to you? Seth Godin, Google and so many other influencers and brands have ugly blogs and they still get millions of readers”.

I know that voice in your head.

make-a-strong-first-impression-with-powerful-branding-2-for-fall-in-love-with-your-blog

Seth Godin is a well-known celebrity author and an authority marketer. He doesn’t need a good looking blog to make an impression on his followers. They already know what he has to offer.

You’re no Seth Godin and in this post, I’m talking about making an impression on complete strangers not people who already know you.

But one thing that shapes your brand image, even before a visitor looks at your design, is your domain name. If you’re trying to build a long-term business, choose a URL that resonates with your brand name.

You can use this really useful business name generator tool by FreshBooks or go through different domains listed on a branded domain marketplace to find ideas for your URL.

make-a-strong-first-impression-with-powerful-branding-3-for-fall-in-love-with-your-blog

An ugly design can quickly turn away visitors from your blog, even before they hear what you have to say.

Here are some fabulous blog designs to give you more inspiration.

2. Offer premium content for free to win people over

Do you know the secret to winning the hearts of your readers?

Let me say this loud and clear: offer unbelievably useful content for free.

Yes, I said free.

And I’m not talking about good content. I’m talking about insanely useful and jaw-dropping content.

“Why the hell would I do that?”

Because doing that even once can give you dozens, if not even hundreds of loyal subscribers.

Your content can be an eBook, a video series, a blog post, a knowledge base or anything useful really.

Shopify is a brilliant example to follow.

They not only create mind-blowing blog content regularly, they’ve set up a huge encyclopedia for small businesses which contains everything a small business owner needs to know about doing business online.

offer-premium-content-for-free-to-win-people-over-for-fall-in-love-with-your-blog

Neil Patel, another great example, creates 5,000-6,000 word blog posts every other day. Every one of his blog posts can be sold as a premium eBook, but he gives them away for free.

Why wouldn’t people love him for doing this?

But just because a piece of content has 5000-6000 words doesn’t mean it has quality as well. As a blogging consultant, I regularly see business blogs with really in-depth blog posts that fail to generate any engagement.

Why? Because they write about the wrong things.

You can’t write a billion words praising your own products and expect people to take you seriously. Blogging isn’t about directly promoting your own products or business.

It’s about solving the problems of your ideal customers and offering them free actionable advice.

Here’s a really good example of a conventional business, a medical supplies company to be exact, using its blog the right way.

offer-premium-content-for-free-to-win-people-over-2-for-fall-in-love-with-your-blog

Image Source: Vive Health

Instead of writing about their products, they’re blogging about the problems of their ideal customers and offering free solutions in their content.

If this piece of content helps a blood pressure patient find relief, guess the first company they’ll contact when they need medical supplies or instruments?

That’s how you win people with great content.

3. Win the trust of your readers with social proof

You land on the blog of a digital marketing consultant and the first thing you notice of their blog is the “Featured In” section that mentions names like HubSpot, MarketingProfs, Search Engine Journal and Moz.

What’s your first impression?

Must be an expert, right?

That’s what social proof does to your blog visitors.

Even if they’ve never heard your name before, a testimonial from a leading industry figure or a publication will force them to take you seriously. They’d assume you’re an expert and give your content much more respect.

You’ll find this strategy in action on almost every influencer’s blog (including Jeff).

win-the-trust-of-your-readers-with-social-proof-for-fall-in-love-with-your-blog

If you look closely, however, you’ll notice another subtle social proof used on Jeff’s blog

win-the-trust-of-your-readers-with-social-proof-2-for-fall-in-love-with-your-blog

16 million readers! What else does a stranger need to take him seriously?

There are several ways to get your name on other authority sites.

The most common, and the most effective one, is guest blogging. Simply identify the top blogs in your niche, study their content style, create an epic blog post and offer it to your target blogs for free.

Easy, right? Not really.

Top-tier blogs receive hundreds of guest post pitches every single day, but they accept only the best ones. So to make it through to their editorial calendar, you need to create a high-quality article – which of course requires a lot of time and effort.

An alternate approach is to connect with influential bloggers who are already writing for these authority sites and ask them to feature you in their articles. You can do this on platforms like Get Reviewed, which connects advertisers with influential bloggers.

MyBlogU and HARO are also great platforms to connect with brands and influencers who can help you feature on the top blogs and get the word out about your brand.

4. Create more infographics and video content to differentiate yourself

More than 2 million blog posts are published on the web every day.

You’re not competing with all of them, of course, but that still gives you an idea of the amount of content, mostly useless, being published on the web.

So even if your blog post has lots of value, a random visitor might never read that far to find the hidden gems in your content.

Which is why you need to use more visual content to get noticed and get your message across quicker.

Research shows that content with visual gets almost 95% more views.

create-more-infographics-and-video-content-to-differentiate-yourself-for-fall-in-love-with-your-blog

Infographics and videos, however, are two visual content forms that not only receive the highest engagement but also go viral more frequently than plain text based posts. However, creating viral infographics and videos is a science that involves lots of different factors. Thankfully, though, with so many free design tools like Canva, Visme etc. creating a high-quality infographic isn’t very difficult.

The same, however, can’t be said about video content which still requires significantly more time, budget and effort.

But even if you don’t have a large budget, even simple smartphone videos are good enough as long as you have something valuable to say.

In short, visual content could immediately put you ahead of your competitors and help you make a stronger impression on your audience.

5. Grow your own Facebook Group to create brand advocates

Ever since Facebook changed its algorithms and limited the organic reach of Facebook Pages, marketers have started focusing more on starting and growing their own Facebook Groups.

According to the recently released Facebook community updates, more than 1 billion people are now using Facebook Groups every month.

grow-your-own-facebook-group-to-create-brand-advocates-for-fall-in-love-with-your-blog

This approach has several advantages.

  • You can create a Facebook group and use it to position yourself as an expert.
  • You have complete control over the content and discussions in the group.
  • There’s no limit on the organic reach of your posts – all group members see them.
  • You get a much better opportunity to directly engage with your readers, answer their questions and convert them into loyal followers.

But above all, a Facebook Group is a great place to build a tribe of raving fans for your brand. They’re the brand advocates who will spread the word about your content and bring in more people to your Facebook Group and blog.

According to research, more than 82% of Americans seek recommendations from friends and family when making a purchase, making referrals and word of mouth one of the most influential forms of marketing.

grow-your-own-facebook-group-to-create-brand-advocates-2-for-fall-in-love-with-your-blog

The referral traffic generated from your Facebook Group already considers you an expert so there’s a much higher probability of them taking action after reading your blog content.

You should also make a conscious effort to promote your Facebook Group on your blog. This will allow you to route the visitors coming from search engines to your group and engage them more regularly.

And, of course, a thriving Facebook Group adds to the social proof of your brand (which I mentioned earlier in the post).

Managing a Facebook Group requires time and effort so you’d need to use different social media automation tools to minimise manual work as much as possible.

Wrapping up

With so many new blogs popping up on the web every day, your target users are already overwhelmed with the content that’s being thrown at them from every angle.

To stand any chance of catching their eyeballs, you need to convert your blog into a strong brand that not only contains supreme quality content, but also looks pleasing to the eye and is backed by tons of social proof.

That’s the only way to stand out in this overcrowded blogosphere.

This article originally appeared in Jeffbullas’s Blog.

 

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

Why Cultural Change Is Necessary For Big Data Adoption

Love it or hate it, big data is here to stay. As data volumes and sources of data proliferate at ever increasing rates, leading companies will be forced to plan for a data-driven future. Data is pervasive. Businesses operate in an Age of Data. Rapid access to the latest data can accelerate innovation and disrupt traditional markets. Businesses are finding new ways to do business that serve their customers more effectively and responsively. Businesses can adapt or risk burying their heads in the sand. Should there be any doubt about the prevalence of data, consider just a few “data points”:

  • IDC estimates that by 2020, business transactions on the Internet will reach 450 billion per day
  • Walmart handles more than 1 million customer transactions per hour
  • More than 5 billion people are calling, texting, tweeting, and browsing on mobile phones worldwide
  • More than 30 billion pieces of content are shared on Facebook each month
  • It is estimated that the volume of business data worldwide doubles every 1.2 years, or sooner
  • Data production will be 44 times greater in 2020 that it was in 2009

A Disruptive Force in the Digital Economy

Big data is transforming businesses across industry sectors — from industrial systems to financial services, from media to health care delivery, from drug discovery to government services, from national security to professional sports. The opportunity to deploy data and analytics has accelerated the speed at which companies can enter new markets, with new solutions, and quickly challenge or displace traditional competitors and market leaders. Consider some of the firms which are at the forefront of the Digital Economy – Amazon, Google, eBay, Facebook, Uber, and Airbnb. These are firms that are rooted in big data and analytics, and have leveraged new data-driven business models to disrupt and transform traditional industries such as retailing, media, and travel. For innovative firms such as these, big data brings speed, agility, experimentation, iteration, and the ability to fail fast, learn from experience, and execute smarter. To borrow from Samuel Beckett: “Ever tried? Ever failed? No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”  This has become the mantra of the big data economy.

Transforming the Mainstream Economy

We are at the formative stages of the Big data transformation – Big Data 1.0. The next battleground in the progression of Big data will be transformation of the mainstream economy, comprised of large global firms that maintain massive amounts of data, and make massive investments in data assets. Most traditional businesses are hamstrung by legacy systems, decades old data warehouses, and embedded cultures and skills sets that predate the new big data approaches. These corporations represent the lion’s share of investment in data solutions and services. For most of these firms, big data remains waters that are largely unchartered, and an opportunity that has yet to be capitalised. While most mainstream firms have invested in big data initiatives, and have undertaken big data proof-of-concepts, these firms have lagged behind in their efforts to integrate big data-driven initiatives into their core processes and operations. Few have yet to demonstrate transformative or disruptive success with quantifiable results.

Leveraging Data as an Asset

Data is an enterprise asset, which cuts across products, services, and organisational units of a company. This makes data hard to manage and data initiatives difficult to organise. The big data mindset is driven by experimentation, discovery, agility, and a “data first” approach, characterised by analytical sandboxes, centers of excellence, and big data labs  This mindset often runs counter to, or can complement, traditional hypothesis-driven approaches to data management. Business must now ask new sets of questions. How can we “monetise” new sources of data to new create new products and services? Can we leverage digital technologies – mobile, social media, machine learning, and the Internet of Things (IOT) — to better connect with our clients and constituents, and better and faster services to our customers? Can we use data to transform internal and external business processes? Can we find creative new uses for the data we have – new opportunities for insight, new markets or ways of delivering our services? Can we use the data that we have to be better members of our community, and leverage data for social responsibility? A dynamic and rapidly-changing business environment dictates flexibility and agility.

Forging a Big Data Strategy

Businesses need a clear data strategy if they hope to effectively leverage big data as a core business asset.  An effective data strategy must be a highly dynamic roadmap for the future, and a work in progress to be adapted.  It must recognise and account for the rapid evolution and proliferation of big data and its potential business impact, as well as new business approaches which are altering traditional thinking about how data is managed and deployed. For the industry giants, transformation is commonly measured in years or the better part of a decade. The best strategies identify “quick wins” that can be used to demonstrate success, show results, build credibility, enlist support, counter skepticism, and create momentum. Many firms are implementing data governance programs and processes to address data issues that cut across organisational boundaries. Becoming a data-driven company is a continuous journey characterised by change and flux.

Making the Cultural Shift

Mainstream businesses face ongoing challenges in adopting big data and analytic practices. While some firms pay lip service to the notion of forging a data culture, fewer firms undertake the hard work, and demonstrate the commitment to creating a shared vision which becomes ingrained in the corporate culture and values. The benefits provided by new technology approaches and solutions, such as Hadoop, are having a transformational impact on the application of data and analytics. However, the greatest business challenge for most mainstream corporations is not about technology; it is the process of cultural change  Cultural change represents a business problem, requiring a business solution and business approach. Business adoption of big data requires addressing issues of organisational alignment, change management, business process design, coordination, and communication. These are issues that involve people and communication and understanding. Businesses must start by identifying and asking the critical business questions that will drive business value, and identify and address the critical human and organisational issues that will ensure successful business adoption. Technology is a critical consideration that will follow.

Not all companies will emerge as winners in the digital future. Mainstream firms need to ask themselves how they can leverage big data