6 Tips for Video Marketing Success

Interested in video marketing, and wondering where to start? Don’t let this valuable tool intimidate you. Here are 6 tips you can use to get started and marketing with videosucceed with video marketing.

  1. Be Interesting: The mere fact that you’ve created a marketing video won’t capture your audience’s attention. There are many other video marketers out there trying to accomplish the same thing. To stand out among them, use different perspectives, include movement, incorporate color, and add music where appropriate. Focus on creativity and personality.
  2. Try It: Often, people hold off on video marketing, spending too much time thinking about it and not enough time acting on it. Go ahead and plunge in with creative content, and try not to worry about perfection. Use your first few efforts to gauge effectiveness and reaction. Then use what you learn from your initial efforts to tweak your approach and create even better video content.
  3. Publish Regularly: When someone sees your video content and likes what he sees, chances are he will check to see if you have any related content. Don’t be a one-hit wonder. Publish regular content so that your audience knows what to expect from you and looks forward to viewing and sharing your videos.
  4. Create Video Tutorials: People are always looking for how-to information, and many prefer video how-tos. Fulfill this need by making your own video tutorials. You can use questions your customers asks as topics or search the Internet to see what burning questions your target market has.
  5. Tell Your Story: Youve probably heard this suggestion when it comes to written content, but it’s important for video marketing too. Some people just prefer digesting video content instead of the written word, so don’t limit yourself. Go ahead and tell your story in a video, or a series of videos, as well.
  6. Create Video Contests: You can use video contests to engage your audience and obtain more video content. Run contests that ask consumers to submit videos or video clips. Set guidelines for submissions, and offer attractive prizes. Use the best video on your site or make a new video that compiles the best of the video clips you receive.

Pros and Pitfalls of Sponsored Content for Brands

Recognizing that many consumers have become bored and disillusioned with traditional ads, many businesses are looking to create new types of advertising. Although technology makes it easier than ever to create and post attractive ads online, and many advertising opportunities are fairly inexpensive, consumers less likely to pay attention to them. Therefore traditional ad options just aren’t as attractive as they used to be. Sponsored content, also called branded content or native advertising, is filling a gap for advertisers.

Pros and pitfalls of sponsored content for brands

Sponsored Content and Native Advertising Defined

Sponsored content includes content that is demarcated as “sponsored by,” “brought to you by,” or “presented by” – as in the soap opera days of old. These may be stories written either by a media publication or blog or by the brand. Sponsored content may also be eBooks, whitepapers, videos or infographics made available on a publisher’s site.

Native advertising, a slightly narrower universe of sponsored content, typically fits only within the site or platform its on. Facebook sponsored stories, for example, can only be found on Facebook. An article sponsored on a media publication, written by and for that publication and only run in that one place, could also be considered native advertising.

Benefits of Sponsored Content

Sponsored content looks a lot different than ads did in the past. Because sponsored content look more like the standard content of the site they’re on, more consumers pay attention to them. This can translate into greater brand awareness, more consumer-to-consumer sharing, and ultimately, more sales. The advantage of sponsoring or publishing native content is that brands can often reach larger audiences through the publications they choose, vs. through their own sites or social channels. For advertisers and publishers, sponsored content is often a win-win scenario: brands get better access to consumers and publishers get revenue, sometimes premium revenue for this type of sponsorship.

One Pitfall: Ethics Concerns

One of the main concerns about sponsored content is that it be deceiving. Often, sponsored content resembles news content, which causes many, especially those in journalism, to question the ethics involved in posting it. In fact, some go as far as to call this type of content corporate propaganda, while others argue that the articles provide valuable information that addresses important issues and offers real value to readers.

Many publications do put effort into ensuring that this type of content is separate from the news they provide. However, that separation isn’t always enough to ensure that consumers can easily distinguish between news and sponsored content. In some cases, publications position editorial and advertorial content side by side or on pages practically identical to those used for news content. Despite the fact that sponsored content is typically marked as such, many opponents of this type of advertising argue that the “Sponsored by,” Supported by,” “Paid for by,” “Partner of” wording is just not enough to help consumers tell the difference between news and ads. In their eyes, brands are taking advantage of consumer naivety to get their ads ranked and shared just like true news articles.

Another Pitfall: Google News Doesn’t Like Sponsored Content

Not surprisingly, Google doesn’t like that. The search giant has taken a strong stance against mixing sponsored content in with news. Google warns publications to keep the advertorials out of Google News and sets consequences for those that fail to heed the warning. If a business site mixes sponsored content in with the news, its entire publication may end up excluded. If Google sets an example with a few publishers, it could lead other publishers to minimize sponsored content opportunities.

Sponsored Content Examples

Here are just a few examples of sponsored content on the Web:

Halfway through 2013, I’m going to make the prediction that we’re going to see more and more about sponsored content and native advertising in 2013, and it will truly explode in 2014. Do you agree? I’d love to hear your opinion in the comments.

 

Is Cold Calling Obsolete?

With so much discussion of online sales tools and social media, it may seem that cold calling is a thing of the past. Many might say good riddance,Is Cold Calling Obsolete as they dreaded making cold calls anyway. Before you strike it from memory completely, however, consider the point of a cold call, which is to make a personal contact with someone who needs your product or service. That point is far from obsolete.

Why Bother?

Why bother picking up the phone when you could easily just send an email or a tweet? There is much to be said for the personal touch, and a telephone conversation can be the next best thing to meeting a prospect in person. Besides that, it is very easy to simply ignore or delete a message received online. It’s much harder to ignore pleasant conversation from someone in a position to help solve your problems.

The Focus

Some people feel eager to bury cold calling and dance on its grave because they view it as trying to sell to a large database of people who have no interest in the product or service.  Essentially, they view it as telemarketing. However, cold calling shouldn’t focus on making sales. Instead, you should do it with the goal of introducing yourself and your company. The point is to make a personal contact that allows you to follow up with more information, set up a meeting, develop a relationship with a prospect, and eventually make a sale. Focus on setting an appointment during which you will pitch your products and services.

Good Preparation

In addition to having the goal of introducing yourself rather than making a sale, you can make cold calling more palatable (and effective) by performing careful research before you pick up the phone. This means researching to choose targeted prospects who are in need of what you offer. Your research will save you from attempting to sell ice to Eskimos. Additionally, the research you perform before a call should provide you with valuable information about a prospect. It should help you demonstrate that you understand the prospect’s company and its needs from the beginning of the conversation. (Figure out the company’s/contact’s problems and prepare to show how you can solve them.). Your careful research also ensures that you will understand your contact and his or her role within a company. As such, you will avoid reaching out to the wrong person or expecting an unlikely result.

Keep in mind that cold calling need not replace emailing, social media, and other tools for reaching out to prospects. Instead, you can benefit from using this method of communication along with your other strategies for making contacts and initiating relationships. Cold calling is just another tool in your arsenal, and you will benefit most by using all of the tools at your disposal.

Do you think cold calling is dead? Why or why not?

 

Visual Content for Brand Marketing

The alternate title for this post is: A Picture is Worth 1,000 Words, because given the rise in visual sharing platforms today, including Pinterest, Instagram, Vine and more, it’s imperative that brands have a plan for creating compelling visual images.

How to create visual content for brand marketing

Some brands have in-house graphic designers or can afford to hire one, which partially solves the problem. But designers need ideas, and ideas need to be aligned with marketing plans and goals.

Here are some ideas for incorporating photos (or short-form video like Vine) into your brand marketing plans, fueling your visual social networks at the same time.

Photos of Your Team & Location

  • Humanize your brand by creating a series of pics of your team: in silly hats, in their workspaces, or out in the field
  • Show off your office, your factory, your stores, or your tradeshow booth in a series or gallery
  • Create a caption contest for funny faces your team members make

Photos of Your Products

  • Take pictures of your products in the wild – being used by actual people in real life
  • Take or crop close-up or partial pictures of products and ask your fans/followers to identify them
  • Create a fashion show or product parade with brand fans at an event, or have an impromptu show with your office staff

Graphic Images of Words or Numbers

  • Create infographics or, at the very least, charts you can share with your social networks – data can be silly (average number of sandwiches eaten between midnight and 4 am) or serious (reduction in bandwidth consumption based on your software efficiency)
  • Illustrate quotes or key data points through typography (example in my image above and also here)

Highlight A Hero Product

  • Highlight a hero product and create a series of topical, relevant photos or graphics around it; Oreo does this exceptionally well
  • Use your hero product as your mascot or spokesproduct in funny cartoons or graphics
So now you’ve got some ideas; the next question is how to create the photos or graphics. Here are a few photo and graphics creation resources to get you started:

Online Photography Help

Photography for Social Media (from Convince and Convert)
iPhoneography Course (from Photojojo)

Photo Editing Apps (simple!)

PicMonkey (my favorite, and what I used to create the image above – free for basic use)
OverHD (for iPhone only – but great for creating images on the fly – worth the $1.99!)

Infographics and Charts

Piktochart (free for basic use)
Infogram (free)

Now go forth and create! And please follow me on Vine (@stephanies), Instagram (stephanies) or Pinterest (stephanieschwab) – leave your links in the comments so I can check out your visual profiles, too!

Image source (frame only): Flickr (eriwst)

 

Mobile Is Not a Strategy, It’s a Necessity

Today’s world is growing ever more mobile. It seems that everyone, from the youngest grade schooler to the happy retiree, has at least some sort of mobile device, and it’s more and more likely that device is a smartphone. These devices aren’t used for just entertainment anymore. Today’s users rely on them for everything from driving directions and work productivity to research and shopping. Since you need to be where your customers are, you need more than a mere mobile strategy or mobile campaign. You need to make your business mobile.

You probably need little convincing of the importance of mobile technology for today’s business, but here are some stats, just in case:

The idea of a mobile strategy implies that mobile technology should be separate from other aspects of your marketing plans. It also implies secondary importance. This can be a mistake, as it may lead you to believe that producing an app or creating a mobile campaign or two will prove enough. In reality, your target market expects you to be where it is – in the mobile realm, and it expects you to be easy to find and patronize. If you fail at this, or only provide mobile tools here and there, you can bet your competitors will lure your customers away. This could happen, not because your competitors are necessarily better, but instead because they provide the mobile accessibility you do not.

Mobile Across the Marketing Organization

When you drop the idea of mobile as a mere strategy, you can begin to see why you need to take your whole business mobile. If your customers can view some of your content on their smartphones but have to wait until they get home to view the content they really want, they will eventually consider going elsewhere. Likewise, if they can access your content but cannot place orders from their devices, there’s a good chance they’ll give a competitor who offers easy mobile ordering a try. To stay competitive and give your target market what it really wants, you’ll need to make sure all of your sites, all of your pages, your ordering system, and your marketing campaigns are mobile. This means leaving nothing out: give no reason for your customers to throw their hands up in frustration and move on to a company that’s better at mobile.

Mobile Is Not So Different From Online

Many of the same considerations that apply to a traditional online presence also apply to mobile. It’s critical to make mobile navigation easy and intuitive. Customers and prospects should be able to find what they need quickly and easily. Your mobile sites should be visually appealing and quick to load, and the content you provide should, as always, be fresh and of value to your audience. Marketers often disagree on whether businesses should create separate mobile sites for their mobile audiences. Taking your business mobile, however, means making sure your sites are easy and even enjoyable to use no matter what type of device your customers and prospects use to access them.

Mobile is Not A Department

You may have mobile specialists within your organization – the folks who understand the underlying tech, can build or specify what you need, or who understand mobile advertising. But everyone in your organization should know what your company’s offerings are on mobile, how your mobile sites work, and how important it is to plan mobile into everything they’re doing, from marketing to commerce to information.

Marketers need to infuse a sense of urgency about mobile throughout their companies, and make sure that it’s not being treated like a separate line item. It’s got to be part of the DNA of everything that you do.

 

Business Social Media: Farming vs. Fishing

As a social media consultant, I get asked this question all the time: Which social media platform should I use for my business. And my answer is always the same: It depends.

Of course, there are many variables to consider when determining your marketing strategy, and your use of social media platform(s) should be part of that strategy.  And your personal preferences, or available resources, must be part of the decision making process. If you hate yourself on video, YouTube may not be your first or best choice of social channels for your business.  If you don’t have a smartphone, Instagram won’t work for you.

But ultimately, for most businesses, I think there’s actually another question which will help you to answer the platforms question. It’s whether you want to own a farm or fish in a river.

Here’s how I see it:

Your own blog, website and email list are like your farm, and social media is like a river where anyone can go and fish.

farming vs fishing in social media resized 600

Your Farm

When you own a farm, you get to choose everything: what to plant, when to harvest, whether to let it lay fallow.  You own it, and any time and effort you put into it is for your benefit alone.

When you create a blog on your own website (side note: your blog should never, ever be located at blogspot.com or wordpress.com – it should always be somewhere on your company website), you are farming your fields. You are adding value to your website in the form of search engine-friendly content, creating links back to your site when people link to your blog posts, and providing content to your customers and potential customers which may help them build their relationship with you.

The same goes for your email list (which you should start building today, if you don’t already have one), and your website in general. These are things you own. No one can take them away from you. If you later choose to stop farming (stop blogging, stop collecting, email names), that’s up to you.

The River

Social media is a fishing river, and you never know what’s going to happen to that stream. There may be vast amounts of fish one day (or year) and you could see huge benefits from it because you can get fish (customers) you may have never otherwise attracted to your farm (business/brand/cause).  But you’ll never own the river, and so you should never put all of your resources into fishing, to the detriment of your time farming.

Consider how quickly MySpace went away – the stream dried up, and all the money and time brands put into MySpace was lost, forever. The same could happen tomorrow to Facebook or Twitter. Sure, it’s not likely, but it could happen. Or brand pages could just fall out of favor with consumers. Or some other platform will be shinier and newer. The point is – none of these platforms are yours.

You Need Both for a Balanced Presence

Doing both farming and fishing (your own content/properties + social), however, gives you a balanced pantry as well as a balanced business…. and the combination of the two can be very powerful.

I always advocate that small companies and non-profits start their social efforts by creating and writing a blog. It’s rarely what they want to hear – they want to hear that Twitter will be a huge channel and all they have to do is open an account – but blogging is really the best place to start.  And once they have a blog, then they have original content to use in social channels, if they choose: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.  Unfortunately, if they have no interest in blogging, they just won’t do it, and so Facebook or YouTube or something else may be more appealing and more valuable for them. I get that. I just think it’s a short sighted view.

So in my mind, the question a business should ask isn’t whether to choose Facebook over Twitter, or if Instagram is important. The first question to ask yourself is whether you’ve built and tended your farm.

Image source: Flickr (State Records NSW)

 

5 Practical Lead Generation Tips

Looking for more (and better) leads for your business? Hoping to turn more of your leads into actual sales? Generating leads and converting them into sales is a tough, ongoing process, no matter what type of business you’re involved in. Here are 5 tips for more effective lead generation and conversion:

1.Take a combination approach to generating leads rather than focusing on just one method. Use online and offline ads, word of mouth, referral requests and partnerships with other professionals to generate leads. Network and participate in trade shows as well. It’s also helpful to establish yourself as an expert in your field, which you can do via networking, producing informative online and offline content, building your readership, and speaking at conferences, seminars and workshops. These steps get you noticed, establish your reputation as an industry expert and naturally help generate leads.

2. Always follow up as quickly as possible. Since you’re busy with so many tasks required to run your business, you may feel tempted to delay your lead follow up. This is a mistake. It’s always best to strike while the iron is hot and your lead’s interest is at its peak. If possible, follow up on leads within 30 minutes to one hour, keeping in mind that sooner is always better.

3. Realize that transforming a lead into a sale can take time. While you prefer to close a sale on the first or second contact, it can take several contacts to close a sale. What does this mean for you? Don’t give up so quickly that you miss out on sealing the deal. Keep in mind that some people may take the information you provide but choose to buy weeks or even months down the line. Develop a plan for deciding whether a lead is truly dead or just needs some nurturing to become a sale.

4. Be a source of information and instruction. You can often attract customers/clients and encourage sales by providing information of value in addition to pushing your products or services. Provide industry news and updates as well as helpful how-to content for your prospects. Teach your prospects how to use your products and how to take advantage of your services. Further gain their attention by offering hints, tips, and advice for making their lives or business dealings easier. For example, if you are a real estate agent who focuses on vacation homes, information about things to do in a vacation area or tips for preparing a home for an extended absence can prove valuable.

Have tips for generating leads and closing more sales? Please share them!

Which Social Media Platform is Right For Your Business?

Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest! Oh, my! There are many different social media venues to choose from. While each one might have a place in a social media strategy, not all may be right for your business.

We presented this free social media class entitled “Which Social Media Platform is Right For Your Business?” last week. In case you weren’t able to attend, you can view the presentation right here:

A few of the key takeaways our students learned in this class were:
  • Facebook is about customer retention & relationships
  • Twitter is great for customer service & outreach
  • Pinterest can be used to build rapport with your customers
  • A blog is essential if you don’t have a website
  • LinkedIn is a great tool for account executives and C-level management
We’ll have more free online classes coming soon. In the meantime, sign up for our free weekly Small Biz Social Media Tips newsletter.

 

How to Get More Referrals

As a small business owner, referrals should be part of your game plan. Unlike other ways you can get business, referrals don’t cost you anything, except a little effort. And even better than that, people who are referred to you are ready to trust your expertise and buy your products and services. Since people they trust and care about have referred them to your business, they are primed and ready, with little selling on your part. Remember, each customer and business associate has a whole network of people who might need your services. Can you really afford to pass that up?

Every business can benefit from more referrals, and here are some tips for getting them:

  • The most important tip for getting referrals is simple: remember to ask. Many business owners forget to ask for referrals or feel nervous about doing so. However, if you want more business, you’ll need to make asking for it a habit. Though your customers may think you’re wonderful, they might not think to refer others to you. If you give them the idea, however, many will happily oblige. Whom should you ask for referrals? Basically everyone you know or meet, including friends and family members, current and past business associates, and current and past customers.
  • Ask in person if you can, using good eye contact and a confident, friendly tone of voice. Rather than creating a whole pitch, just casually inject your request into the conversation. If a customer is complimenting you on your services, that’s a wonderful time to ask. You might also ask new customers for referrals at the end of a project, when they’re happy with a job well done, or even when you initially sign an agreement with a new client. For example, you could ask a new client if he will spread the word about you if you do a good job. Look for referral opportunities at networking events as well, and if you have a store, ask customers to refer you when they check out. Ask during meetings with established clients as well. If you can’t ask in person, you can do so over the phone or by email. The important thing is to ask–frequently.
  • Give referrals. Whenever you have the chance, provide referrals as well. If you hire a plumber and he does a great job at a reasonable price, go ahead and give his name and business card to others. If one of your clients needs an interior designer and you know a good one, bring the two of them together. People appreciate this kind of thoughtful attention and will often return the favor by sending business your way.

What’s your best advice for getting more referrals?

 

What Is The Difference Between A Blog And A Website?

We hear many questions in our Social Media for Executives and Business Owners class. One of the most common is “What’s the difference between a blog and a website?” The answer is simple: a blog is actually a type of website. It has an address on the Internet, and it’s a place where you can create and post content of all types, ranging from written content to images and videos.

The main differences between a blog and website are that a blog’s content is organized by date, with the most recent content appearing first (reverse chronological order), and that each blog post is usually open to comments, which allows for interaction. Blog software and platforms allow you to create your blog from a template, so you don’t have to custom design every aspect of it. A website is typically more static, which means the information doesn’t change much unless you add new products to it. Websites tend to resemble digital brochures. They can, however, incorporate a blog (quite easily too!).

The major blogging platforms, such as WordPress and Blogger, are free to use. At Social Media School, we always recommend setting up your blog at your own domain (URL) or on your website (atblog.yourwebsite.com oryourwebsite.com/blog) so that the traffic your blog generates comes to your website and not to wordpress.com or blogger.com. If you need a new domain to host your blog, there’s a small cost to buy the domain and host it with a provider like GoDaddy or1and1.com. Beyond that, you can get professional technical and design help to customize and visually brand your blog. This will add to your costs, depending on your needs and choice of vendors. In all, it should cost between $500 and $5,000 to set up a blog, depending on the level of design and complexity you need.

A blog is a form of social media. People can respond to the content you write by commenting directly on each post, and you can respond to them. Most blogs are also designed with sharing buttons so that people can easily share your information, for example, on Twitter or Facebook or by email.

Google and other search engines give higher rankings to fresh, relevant content. If you’re keeping your content fresh by providing helpful information and updating your blog regularly, search engines will make it easier for people to discover your blog. By contrast, search engines do not give the same weight to regular brochure-style or e-commerce sites because their content is primarily promotional and static rather than helpful and relevant to people looking for current information and solutions.

WordPress, the software we recommend at Social Media School, is open source, which means anyone can create plugins (programs that provide a wide variety of functionality). This includes everything from calendars to shopping carts to social sharing buttons. A blog, and in our opinion, WordPress blogs in particular, can replace a website because WordPress allows you to create a more traditional type of home page and then add a blog as a tab on your site. This way, you can promote what your company does on the homepage and still benefit from the blog content elsewhere on your site. You can also add your blog to an existing website by adding WordPress or Blogger software to your site. Your webmaster or graphic designer should be able to help with that.

The time and effort it takes to maintain a blog may be significant, but the benefits can be tremendous. Consumers have come to expect more than just promotion from the companies with which they connect. And if you want to encourage visitors to return to your site, give them a reason to do so. Provide the kind of regularly updated and useful content they expect from a blog.