how-to-humanize-your-brand

How to Humanize Your Brand and Why You Need To Do It

how-to-humanize-your-brand

Whether your objective is to grow an audience for your blog, sell a product, or provide a service, you first need to build trust. If you want people to come to you for your travel tips or sign up for your online course, you need to give them a reason to choose you over the sea of other options out there. It sounds like this could be quite the difficult task, huh? Well, that’s not necessarily the case as long as you’re willing to put in the effort.

If you’re ready to open up and be transparent, not only about your brand but also the person or people behind the brand, you’re going to have a lot more success.

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Should-You-Fire-Your-Social-Media-Agency-

Should You Fire Your Social Media Agency?

Should-You-Fire-Your-Social-Media-Agency-
 
If you want to increase your brand’s awareness, engagement, and sales leads through social media, then get ready to roll up your sleeves. In a time where things are always changing, especially in the digital world, it can be hard to stay up-to-date with everything you need to know. Social media marketing requires countless hours of brainstorming, developing new strategies and tactics, testing, experimenting, and measuring results.

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marketing lessons from apple

Marketing Lessons from Apple {Infographic}

marketing lessons from apple

When you think of marketing genius, the team behind Apple, Inc. may come to mind. The technology company dominates the internet, cell phone, and entertainment use across the globe. Apple is synonymous with success and technological innovation.

That recognition is priceless.

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How To Structure A Great Blog Post

How To Structure A Blog Post to Get More Readers and Maximize SEO

How To Structure A Blog Post

 

Even if you’re a great writer, you may struggle now and then with how to structure a blog post that’s certain to get your key points across.  In the nearly ten years blogging and helping clients with blogs, I’ve learned a few tricks on how to structure a blog post along the way which may help you.

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The Difference Between a Blog and a Website in Your Marketing Strategy

“The Difference Between a Blog and a Website in Your Marketing Strategy” was co-authored by Stephanie Schwab and Christina Strickland.

A business with no blog or website is left open to the possibility of false representation. Of course, current or prospective clients can Google you, and chances are they will find something about you online. This information could include anything from a Yelp review of your business, your personal Facebook page, or maybe even a comment you left on a forum years ago.

Though none of this may hurt your business, it may not be the impression you’d like to project.

Give your audience a designated place to visit where they can find more information about you. A blog or website will be the reflection of your business that you choose to put on display. It will provide information and answer clients questions, but that’s only scratching the surface. Let’s dive a little deeper.

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Creating a Blog Content Engine

Recently, I had the honor of giving a presentation to some of the smartest people in social media. Hosted by the Social Media Association of Michigan, sponsored by Tech Town Detroit, I was asked to “cram everything I know about blogging into a one-hour presentation.”

Well, it’s pretty difficult to condense 12 years of experience into one hour. Knowing that these are savvy marketers, I thought presenting the tools and systems for keeping the content engine turning would be the most helpful since this can be a daunting task for even the most well-seasoned content marketers.

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Tips for Creating Agile Teams

Tips for Creating Agile Teams

Tips for Creating Agile Teams

Creating an agile team is more or less considered as a must for today’s entrepreneur, assuming you have a small, bootstrapped business. As global trends show, more and more successful businesses follow lean startup model methodology; therefore, creating an agile company and adding additional layers of flexibility and responsiveness to your team structure can really boost your results. Luckily, it’s not all that difficult to create an effective organization. Following are a couple of neat tricks you can resort to in order to add agile in front of your team.

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Hiring Interns Cost More Than You Think

Hiring Interns Cost More Than You Think

Hiring Interns Cost More Than You Think

Hiring an intern can seem like a win-win situation. You get cheap labor for handling your social media, and the candidates for your internship are likely to be digital natives. On top of that, you get the warm, fuzzy feelings that come with helping another person learn and gain experience that may help him or her secure a high-paying job one day. Before you jump for joy at your free or super cheap social media intern prospects, consider that there is a dark side to this arrangement. It’s highly likely your interns cost more than you originally thought they would. Read more

Top Reasons Why You Should Be Using Video Captions

Video Captions: Not Just for Watching CNN at the Gym

Top Reasons Why You Should Be Using Video Captions

Top Reasons Why You Should Be Using Video Captions

These days the idea of making your content “mobile friendly” is top-of-mind for many of us in the content-generation business, but are you also thinking about making it as “people-friendly” as you can? You probably already know that as a best practice you should strive to make sure that your content is accessible to as many people as possible, but you may not be considering captions as part of that accessibility strategy. Here’s why you should.

Who Will Benefit From My Video Captions?

The Hearing Impaired

According to the National Association for the Deaf, there are somewhere around 36 million Americans who are deaf or hard of hearing — that’s a lot of people who you may not be reaching with your multimedia content if you miss out on captioning. I’ve heard first-hand the frustration from hard-of-hearing friends when they encounter a popular video post which they’re not able to get the most out of because the captions are nonexistent. By removing this barrier for people with hearing impairments, you expand your audience and make them more likely to engage with your content.

Non-Native Speakers

Also, consider those who may not speak English as a first language. If you’re anything like me, even if you speak a second language moderately well, native speakers can still sound incomprehensible when talking quickly, using slang, or even when they have a slight regional accent. Captions can help those in your audience who might not otherwise catch 100% of what you’re trying to convey.

The Public At-Large

Finally, you’ll reach those of us who just can’t be bothered to turn up the volume. I’m one of those curmudgeons (you may be, too) who nearly always has the volume turned down on their phone or laptop. The huge number of websites with autoplay videos has turned me into someone who will only un-mute if the content is *extraordinary* (or if it promises an adorable laughing baby). Plenty of people consume content everywhere they go, but not every place is conducive to playing audio — nobody wants to be that person on the bus, the one who you know for a fact is watching a movie trailer because. you. can. hear. it. from 30 feet away. Making sure users can read your content as well see it is much more practical in today’s mobile world.

OK – you’ve convinced me. I should be using video captions.

But Cori, you ask, what about automated captions? We’re living in the future, a magical time when I can ask the invisible lady inside my phone questions – do I need to manually sit there and type out every single video?

ABC – Always Be Captioning

I won’t pretend to understand the bond you have with Siri, but I will tell you that YES you should be manually creating your captions rather than relying on auto-transcription capabilities, and I’m going to tell you why. Anyone who has ever tried decipher a Google Voice auto-transcription or struggled to get their phone’s voice-to-text function to accurately record their thoughts will know that, while word-recognition and transcription technology can be impressive in some cases, it’s got a long way to go.
If your video has any sort of music, background noise, or features colloquial language, multiple speakers, or even a speaker who has a mild accent, relying on auto-captions can lead to confusion. You might not think it’s a big deal… until you discover the auto-captions have transformed your video touting “the cutest dress” into an ad for “acute distress” — not exactly the image you want to be conveying.

Video Captioning and SEO

Of course, if my arguments for creating accessible content haven’t swayed you, there’s one more great reason to caption your web videos: SEO. And you’ll be glad to know that user-created captions — on YouTube in particular — are indexed by search engines as they crawl for content. And, you should know that, if you’ve ignored my advice and are relying on auto-generated captions, you’re missing out on another source of traffic, since those automatically generated subtitles are not currently indexed by Google.

Do you have any captioning software recommendations? Any success stories? Horror stories? Let us know!

Social Media is More than a Part-Time Position

Can you use a part-time social media manager to achieve your online marketing goals? Will hiring a part-time social media manager be enough to acheive your goals?  Isn’t social media marketing simply making announcements to a network of people who have signed on to receive your news and tidbits? Isn’t it simply sharing links, images, and videos you find interesting or inspirational? Or is it all about building relationships and finding ways to engage with your prospects and customers? These things are definitely part of social media marketing, but they don’t tell the whole story.

There is much more to social media than just being social, and doing this type of marketing well requires more than a part-time effort. It requires a strategy, measurement, and constant nurturing. Too often, marketing directors think of social media as a part-time endeavor–something to do whenever time allows, a marketing tool to use whenever inspiration happens to strike, or worst of all, a task that is only performed as an afterthought. When their efforts fail to bring the desired results, they are forced to face one important reality—social media isn’t part time.

What Can an Agency Do that a Part-Time Social Media Manager Can’t?

Our agency dedicates between 30 to 50 hours a week per client, between all of our “hands,” to social media. This includes strategy, consulting, curating content, customer service, campaigns, reporting and more. To ensure that our clients enjoy measurable results, we put in a full-time effort. As with most things that really matter and make a difference in life, you can expect to get out of social media what you take the time to put into it.

Not many brands have an extra 30 to 50 hours worth of internal bandwidth to dedicate to social media marketing.  Many companies outsource their social media, and you can too. But first, you have to understand what it really takes to be successful in this arena. Here are just a few things that our agency does for our clients:

Set social media clear goals and objectives

Without careful, thoughtful goals and objectives, you’re not prepared to go anywhere. Why? Because you have no idea where you really want to go. Sure, you know that you need social media marketing, but you don’t have a clear idea of what you want it to do for you. We work with brands to determine what they need and then evaluate how social media can help meet those needs. Some possible goals can include increasing brand awareness and improving customer loyalty. Next, we set objectives for moving from an unrealized goal to a goal met. All of our objectives are:

  1. Specific
  2. Measurable
  3. Achievable
  4. Relevant
  5. Time Bound

That’s right! Make they are SMART!

Figure out who your ideal customer is

How? We develop buyer personas to ensure that when we are helping your brand, we are targeting the right people. We try to learn the following about your brand’s ideal customer:

  • Age
  • Occupation
  • Income level
  • Hobbies and interests
  • Challenges
  • Habits
  • Motivations

Choose the right social media platform

We help our clients work smarter, not harder. Avoid help them avoid spreading themselves too thin by attempting to have a presence on every social media network. This will waste valuable time. Instead, we use the buyer personas to figure out where your audience spends most of its time. Then, select a primary and secondary network on which to focus most of our efforts. We keep it simple and smart, making sure your brand is where your ideal customer is.

Develop a social media and content marketing strategy

Save the willy nilly posting for your personal social media accounts. For your business, we create a carefully considered strategy for the type of content (text, images, video, links, funny, serious, inspirational, etc.), a schedule for posting and strategies to drive engagement, encourage new followers, and keep your current followers happy and interested.

An on-point social media manager

CMOs and CEOs are typically far too busy with to spend the time needed to follow up on the follow through of a social media manager. Rather than proceed with far less than what you really need, a solution is to utlize an agency that understands not only the social media landscape and your business but also has the staff and bandwidth to nurture your brand’s community and online presence. All good social media manager should have the following character traits:

Curious: A good social media manager will be interested in how things work, why they work that way, what your audience needs, how to provide it, how to fix issues, and how to do it all better.

Teachable and adaptable: Things are constantly changing in the social media arena. New platforms come into play, certain strategies become more effective, your audience changes, or your competitors change the game. You need a social media manager who is eager to learn and willing to not only roll with changes but also lead the way in some respects.

Experience and skills: While it’s not critical that a social media manager knows everything (it is okay to learn more as he or she goes), you do want someone with skills in multimedia (including images, video, graphics). It’s also critical that a social media manager has experience with, and commitment to, exceptional customer service. Likewise, an understanding of analytics and analytic tools is important. This should include the ability to analyze data beyond basics, such as the number of likes or followers you have or how many times a post has been shared.

 

As you can see, social media success requires a great deal of time, effort, knowledge, and enthusiasm. The good news is you don’t have to (and probably shouldn’t) go it alone. Working with an agency can help augment your existing marking team and ensure that your brand’s social media, content and influencer marketing efforts are getting “all hands on deck,” freeing you mind other aspects of your brand marketing.

The Anatomy of a Social Media Policy

Your Corporate Social Media Policy

The Anatomy of a Social Media Policy

As a business owner, marketing manager, or executive, you may wonder if your company needs a social media policy. After all, nearly everyone we know uses a Facebook account, and lots of people are Instagramming photos of their families, or posting this weekend’s party on Snapchat. How do you protect your business when your staff are loose on the social web? Smart businesses have social media policies which govern the actions of employees in social media, whether on behalf of the company or while on their own time.

Most social media policies are crafted primarily with company protection in mind.  I’d argue that an equally important goal of your policy should be to eliminate confusion on the part of employees, making it safe for them to engage in social media without constantly asking for guidance (or fouling up). Therefore, a good social media policy needs a number of key elements in order to make it easy for employees to follow and clear for HR and executives to interpret. Even if you already have a policy, perhaps it’s worth checking to be sure you’re covering the following eight points.

1. Your Social Media Policy Establishes the Face of Your Company

The first part of your social media policy should cover protecting the company. You’ll want to document who is approved to speak on behalf of the company in social media. This could be anyone, or it could be only those people who have been specifically certified or trained to do so – and possibly only people who have been trained in your brand voice. You will probably want to think of social media in the same way as traditional media; after all, you wouldn’t allow just anyone to do a TV interview on behalf of the company, so why would you allow anyone to tweet for the company? And by “approved to speak,” you might mean in any instance – even the most basic of customer service issues may need to go through your approved social media team.

2. New Social Accounts

Make it clear who is authorized to create social media accounts for the company. Although you have likely already established your Facebook page and other social presences, someone in your organization might have a notion down the road that their branch or product line needs a Twitter account of its own. In order to keep things coordinated, perhaps state that all new social presences require approval and specify where that approval must come from.

3. Employee Personal Content

Set some boundaries for personal content. You probably don’t care whether your staff tweets about their kids or their knitting, so help them to see where the line is between work content and personal content. Some policies suggest that as long as employees are not talking about company-related topics, everything else is fair game.

4. FTC Endorsement Guidelines

Realize that staff do want to talk about their work – after all, they spend a lot of time thinking about work topics and it occupies a large part of their day. But you don’t want your employees to run afoul of the FTC Endorsement Guidelines, pumping up the reputation of your brand without full transparency into their relationship with the company. So include in your policy some info on how to incorporate industry or company information into their own conversations, without running afoul of the FTC rules. This could mean that they have to state their company affiliation in their social profile (but that their opinions are their own), or that they should indicate (#employer, or with an explanation and a link) in their tweets or personal blog posts.

If you’re part of an agency or consultancy that serves multiple clients, the same FTC rules apply, only your employees will need to disclose client posts with #client or an appropriate explanation and link.

5. Employee Advocacy

Do you want your staff to amplify your social messaging – retweeting your content or posting your blog posts to Facebook when it’s appropriate for their audiences? If so, clarify this point and help your team to do so; to streamline this process, you can use employee advocacy tools like Bambu, Circulate.it, or GaggleAMP. But be wary of requiring sharing of staff; it’s really not appropriate to ask people to use their personal profiles for business, and it could reflect badly on your company if it looks like you’re making your staff spam their family and friends with your corporate messaging.

6. What’s Off Limits?

Some content may be totally off-limits for any employee posting anywhere. This probably includes confidential information, posting anything negative about a competitor, or posting anything that could infringe on intellectual property laws, at minimum. While this may all seem obvious, put it in the policy anyway.

7. Customer Service & Employee Feedback

Give employees an outlet for passing along information they see in social media that they feel should be responded to. At the very least, providing an email address to the PR or customer service department within the policy will be a valve release for employees which may prevent them from trying to respond on their own.

8. Be Professional!

Remind everyone about the importance of professionalism and respect for others. This seems to go without saying, but why not put it in writing, just in case? Those videos of the company holiday party with the boss in the lampshade probably won’t be good for your corporate image.

A good  social media policy does not constrain your employees’ personal self-expression, but makes it obvious for them where to draw the line. Review some examples of corporate social media policies, work with HR or legal as necessary, and codify something that relieves the stress of “should I or shouldn’t I?” for your staff, while providing you peace of mind.

Have other thoughts about what a social media policy should include? Please share your ideas in the comments.

Blogger-Outreach-All-About-The-Followthrough

Influence Marketing: The Good & Bad of Following Up

Blogger-Outreach-All-About-The-Followthrough

“You gotta follow through all the way.” That’s what my dad, and later numerous softball captains, said over and over again every time I stepped up to the plate. (Mind you, I was no star softball player – just a casual work-league player who mostly warmed the bench.) I’ve taken that notion to heart in business, particularly, and try to be really diligent with followthrough on projects.

Apparently, many people who do blogger outreach and influence marketing do not adhere to the same concept.

follow through

I’m shocked, absolutely shocked, at how few PR people (or social agency people doing blogger outreach, but mostly PR people) pitch bloggers, meet them at events, bring them to events, or otherwise engage with bloggers and then drop them. Cold. Like a stone. No followup, no data gathering, often not even a thank-you note. Or worse, don’t even engage well to begin with.

Here’s my own experience with blogger outreach/PR followthrough. I attended the BlogHer conference one year, and met some nice brand folks at a bunch of parties and expo booths. I estimate that I gave out approximately 50 business cards to brand reps. I did not expect to get anything from any of them because if you go to the website listed on my card, it’s clear I’m not the kind of blogger brands want – I’m a social media pundit, not a parenting blogger or a lifestyle blogger or a food blogger. So I was surprised to have the following happen:

  • Two brands sent me an email thanking me for my visit with them and asking if I wanted to learn more about their products. Good work. I didn’t respond, so they didn’t either – perfectly fine.
  • One brand sent me an invite to a special “influencer-only” event that I was very interested in, so I RSVPd and they were lovely and encouraging so my family and I went. My husband, who is one of those influencers, is now in touch with that brand.

Those were examples of good follow-through. Really good, since I didn’t expect either to happen, given who I am. Here’s the bad:

  • Two brands put me on their email list. Yucch. Didn’t ask, didn’t opt me in, just added me. I unsubscribed from both immediately and now have a bad taste in my mouth about those brands.
  • Nearly six months after BlogHer, a mysterious package arrived for me via FedEx. It was from one of the big PR agencies. Beyond curious, I opened it to find a bunch of product from one of the brands who had had a presence at BlogHer. The only note: “It was a pleasure meeting you at….Please enjoy these [brand] samples enclosed.”

Tell me, what good is this kind of outreach follow-up, six months later, to someone who is not even in their target market, going to do for the brand? Does the brand even know that there is a (likely) coordinator-level person in the big PR firm’s office, sending out product (and a fair amount of it, too) willy-nilly to anyone and everyone?

There are lots of hilarious (and sad) examples of bad PR pitches out there; my recent favorite baddie was one for Kellogg’s Special K that a friend of mine received and then was blogged about by Jessica Gottlieb. Clearly PR people need to figure out how to pitch in a more personal way that doesn’t demean bloggers nor assume that they will work for peanuts (or nothing).

However, little has been written about the follow up, that all important next step once you’ve reached out to, met or worked with a blogger. Good followthrough is really no different than what your mom taught you about thank you notes: short, timely, relevant. Ask questions: How did the campaign perform for your site and audience? Are there any site stats or metrics you can share with me? Was this a good brand experience for you and your readers? Is there anything I can do differently when I’m working with influencers in the future?

If the influencer created content for you, hosted a contest, or did something else that you can point to, thank them with a note – but also by sharing their content on your brand channels and, perhaps, in your customer email marketing efforts. And begin the dialogue about the next campaign as soon as you can, to keep the momentum going.

Build in the time and process to follow through on your next blogger pitch and you’ll see how your data and metrics are more robust, your relationships blossom, and word-of-mouth on how you’re one of the “good PR people” spreads. It will make your job easier, and more rewarding, in the long run. And please share your ideas for good follow up with us in the comments below.

 

Why The Best Agency For You Might Not Be A Social Media Agency

Why The Best Agency For You Might Not Be A Social Media Agency

Why The Best Agency For You Might Not Be A Social Media Agency

Do you know who Danny Kaye is?Danny Kaye - Jack of All Trades

I think I can be appropriately curmudgeonly in saying that most kids today don’t know who Danny Kaye, the great 20th Century entertainer, is (was).

For those of you who are unaware, he was a huge star of his time, incredibly well-rounded, with a career that worked through stage, screen, television, records, and food. He died in 1987, after giving us the classic films such as “The Court Jester,” The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” and “White Christmas,” as well as a variety show and a handful of special TV shows. Kaye was a classic comic, too, always pushing the envelope even in serious situations.

A huge part of Kaye’s appeal was his incredible well-roundedness. No matter the situation, he was able to bring something to it: a little soft-shoe, his lovely singing voice, his wide variety of foreign accents, or his in-depth knowledge of food (especially Asian cuisine).

Kaye was a real, old-fashioned entertainment jack of all trades.

A Dying Breed

Today, being a jack of all trades isn’t necessarily something people aspire to, in entertainment or otherwise. Everyone seems to want to be a specialist in something: Hydraulics engineering. Periodontistry. A mass tort litigator.

And yes, a social media marketer.

Being someone who knows a lot about many things doesn’t seem as valuable today as it might have been in the past. With education costs rising sky-high, you want to come out of school knowing that you have a very specific (and ideally marketable) skill set. Once in the workforce, you want to move up, so you want to gain as much in-depth knowledge in your field as you can, to put you in line for a promotion. And later, when you become a senior manager, or even as a mentor, you’re often valued for your specific skill set and knowledge.

What happened to being a jack of all trades?

The Niche Marketer

Over the last ten or fifteen years, marketing has gotten more and more specialized as well. I got my MBA in Marketing at a time when there was mainly one graduate marketing concentration: the one with the 4Ps and 4Cs of the marketing mix, and taught using endless marketing case studies. Now you can get a Master of International Marketing, a Master of Health Care Marketing, or an MS in Integrated Marketing Communications. You can get an MBA, an MA, or an MS (not to mention undergrad degrees in various marketing disciplines). You can find a program that focuses more on digital or add a digital marketing strategy certificate onto your existing degree.

More and more often, we find our digital marketing agency being compared by potential clients to highly specialized social media marketing agencies. Many of these agencies do only social media: Facebook and Twitter posts, Instagram and Pinterest graphics. Many of them do not also do influence marketing and manage SEO and build websites. Or if they do, they sometimes learn it on their clients’ time (and dime).

A common origin story for some of these specialized agencies (which are often only one or two people) is that they are influential bloggers. Or they are Instagram influencers. Or YouTubers. And they believe that their experience managing their social media presences gives them the knowledge (and license) to manage corporate social media as well.

Jacks of All Trades Are Better

I contend that highly specialized social media agency (or a single individual providing social media services) is bad for corporations and small businesses. It’s one thing to train and manage someone internally to be your brands’ community manager – the person with their finger on the day-to-day content and engagement for your company social media channels. You need that person on your team, or else your agency should have that person on their team, and make sure they’re specialized in your subject matter.

It’s another thing to hire an agency that only knows social media marketing. Think of the old adage: if you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail. I’d say, if you only have social media marketing, everything looks like Facebook.

So how do you know that an agency that only does social media marketing will make the right suggestions for your company’s marketing efforts?

Do they know the 4 Cs (context, customer, competition, company), and the 4Ps (product, price, place, promotion), of marketing? Can they understand where your product(s) fit into the market segment, and how to position them appropriately? Can they look beyond the digital realm to develop the correct promotional mix?

The best agency will have a good understanding of fundamental marketing principles, going well beyond social media. Your agency contacts may not be marketing majors or marketing MBAs, but they should have had enough marketing and business experience outside of social media so that they can understand how your social media fits into your overall marketing strategy.

marketing universe for best agency

Hire the Best Agency For Your Company

To ensure that your company is getting the best advice from your social media agency, inquire about their broader experience outside of social media marketing. You can ask some or all of the following questions of potential new agencies (or even of the agencies you’re currently working with):

  • Who in their organization has formal marketing education?
  • At what level of education, and when did they complete their degree(s)?
  • Have they had experience working in agencies outside of the one they’re currently running or working for? (This helps you understand if they have seen appropriate, professional marketing agency processes and solutions….very important to know that their delivery to you will be buttoned up.)
  • Have they worked in other aspects of marketing, outside of social: brand management, marketing strategy consulting (ideally with a larger, well-disciplined consultancy such as Bain, PwC or Accenture), web design and development, partner channel management, etc.

Of course, these questions are on top of the standard questions you should ask before hiring any agency, including their work processes, who will be doing the work, and how do they bill their clients.

If your current or potential future agency seems like they aren’t very well-rounded, they probably aren’t. And then you should wonder if they’re going to pick up a hammer and give you Facebook.

They just might. And that would be very bad for your business.

7 Tips for Success in Social Media

“Keep it simple” is good advice when it comes to most things business related, and that includes social media. Why, you ask? Well, the fact of the matter is that some of the simplest things can influence your success with social media. However, it’s also the simple things that many business people overlook or forget to do on a regular basis.

For example, it is simple to share information that is of interest to your audience, striving to make their lives better, easier, or more entertaining rather than posting repeatedly about your business and what makes it so great. That’s simple but good advice, yet it’s easy to get caught up in the idea that we should always push our products and services. Unfortunately, constantly pushing our offerings backfires in a really big way. Likewise, there are many other ways in which the simplest of things threaten to trip up even the most-savvy business people. But, no worries. We’re here to help you avoid falling into some surprisingly simple social media traps.

Here are seven tips for ensuring your social media success, even as you strive to keep things simple:

  1. Don’t try to be all things to all people. There are just enough popular social media platforms to make it easy to spread yourself too thin. You figure you need to be on Facebook because everyone is there. But then you get to thinking you should be on [Insert Other Semi-Popular Social Media Network Here]. Then there’s that new social media network you just heard about (there’s always something new in the pipeline), and shouldn’t you be there too? It would be great if you could do everything really well at the same time, but the fact of the matter is that the quality of your presence and interaction with your audience is significantly diminished when you try to be everywhere. That’s the bad news. The good news is you really don’t need a presence on every network to reap the benefits of social media. Instead, figure out where the majority of your audience is, go there, and establish a strong presence on that social media network. If you hear how great a particular platform is, but your audience isn’t there, why should you be? Focus your efforts.
  2. Do branch out a bit when it makes sense for your business. Though you really don’t need to dominate every social media network out there, it’s also a bad idea to restrict yourself to just one. As mentioned in the previous tip, you want to be where your audience spends its time. It makes sense to research which social media networks are most frequented by your audience, and then concentrate on those particular social media networks. In general, most businesses can gain good ground by establishing a presence first on Facebook and then on Twitter and LinkedIn. Once you have that firmly in hand, you might choose to branch out to other platforms that cater to a significant number of your audience members if, and only if, doing so will truly help you engage your audience. If not, you’re probably just wasting time and energy. You’re looking for ROI here rather than simply the chance to see and be seen.
  1. Don’t restrict yourself to social media only. Social media can be a large and critical part of your marketing efforts, but it isn’t the only thing on which you should spend your time. Email marketing is still an important part of the marketing mix, and it’s a mistake to nix email in favor of social media. Instead, it’s a good idea to start your conversations on social media and engage your audience there, but when the time comes for a more in-depth conversation, take advantage of email to further the relationship. And don’t forget that telephone calls and in-person meetings can also help solidify a relationship you initiated via social media. Likewise, emails can be a great vehicle for sharing news and promotions and reminding past customers that you still have what they need. Keep in mind that some of your followers probably miss a significant portion of your posts. Let’s say a past customer hasn’t seen your posts in a bit. Out of sight, out of mind, right? Well, not in this case, because you send a monthly email newsletter that reminds your customers that they need more of [Insert Product Here] and can’t do without your excellent service.
  1. Do use hashtags. You want people to easily find your posts. When they go looking for relevant information, you want them to find you. Hashtags make it possible for people who are searching for what you have to offer to find you. And that’s not all. Not only do hashtags make it easier for you to target a specific audience, but they also make it easier for you to monitor what others are saying about your business and keep an eye on what your competitors are doing (so you can strategize ways to better serve the same audience that they are targeting).
  1. Don’t post willy nilly. Your messages should suit not only your unique audience but also the network on which you’re posting. To save time, you may consider posting the same message to all your social media networks. Don’t do this. Some types of posts that do really well on one social media network may not fly on another. And if your audience follows you on more than one platform, it could be super-annoying for them to see the same posts popping up in multiple feeds. Instead, take note of the types of messages that work best on each network, tailor your content to the specific platform, and vary your messages.
  1. Do track, monitor, and measure everything you do on social media. Time truly is money, and it’s a waste of time to fly by the seat of your pants on social media. You need to monitor and measure if you want to learn what works and how it’s helping your business. Move forward with the efforts that get you the results you want, and reduce or stop the efforts that aren’t helping you meet your goals. Have a new, potentially game-changing idea? Don’t blindly run with it, pushing forward even when the results are disappointing. Instead, test, test, test, and tweak, tweak, tweak!
  1. Be true to yourself and your audience. No one likes a phony, and your social media success is dependent on people liking you enough to pay attention to your posts. Even virtually, people can spot a fake from a mile away. Being likable is important, as people want to do business with people they like, but trying too hard to be someone you’re not is a recipe for disaster. Go ahead and be yourself, be genuine, and let your audience catch a glimpse of the person you really are. While you’re at it, consider sharing a video of you talking about your business, sharing some valuable information, working hard to produce for your customers. This helps your audience feel personally connected to your business, a feeling that is worth its weight in gold.

Strategies needn’t be complicated to serve you well. Apply the simple tips above to your social media efforts and meet your goals faster. What simple strategies have helped your social media marketing efforts? Share with us in the comments!

7 Tips for Creating Marketing Messages that Stick

marketing-messages-that-stick

You try to create the most compelling marketing messages. You know how important it is to speak directly to your target audience and share ideas, features, and tips that will capture their attention. But try as you might, it seems like you’re pushing a bunch of boulders up a super-steep uphill. Your messages seem on-point to you, but your audience doesn’t seem to remember them. And if they do, they don’t seem to remember them long enough to buy your products and services. Never fear! You do have options—good options, actually.

Create Marketing Messages that Stick

Creating “sticky” messages can be a lot of fun. The key is to think like your audience thinks. Here are 7 more tips to get you rolling:

Know Your Audience

If you don’t know whom you’re talking to, you are dead in the water. It may seem like a good idea to create marketing messages that appeal to you, but this is simply the wrong way to go. Your target audience is unique, and it is key that your marketing messages speak to its members rather than to you, your friends, or the world at large.

Create Marketing Personas

You’ve probably noticed that your audience consists of more than one type of person. For example, your audience may consist of busy parents, senior citizens who travel a lot, and executives looking for ways to simply their lives. By creating personas, you can better understand the different segments of your target audience and create messages that speak to each segment.

Keep It Simple

Creativity is a good thing, but sometimes businesses create convoluted messages in an effort to be different and creative. Be careful that creating longer, more complicated messages doesn’t dilute your point and confuse your audience. Often, simple and to the point is more memorable and more likely to hit home.

Go for the Surprise Attack

Your audience is made up of people who have one thing in common. They hear the same things every day. They constantly hear that one brand is better than another. Marketing messages constantly tell them that they cannot possibly live without a product or service or that the only way to get superior quality is to choose company B over Company A. Because they hear these messages constantly, they gradually tune them out. There’s nothing new to be learned, so these types of messages become part of the background noise. But if you can surprise your audience, you can capture its members’ attention and then use their focus on you to give details they’ll need to choose you over the competition. Use surprising facts, interesting product uses, historical information, etc. to surprise your audience into listening and remembering your messages.

Get Visual

Today’s audiences are highly visual. Because of this, plain, old text can be seen as, at best, a little dry and, at worst, flat-out boring. If your messages are seen as boring, your audience is far less likely to remember them, at least not in any good way. The good news is you can take a simple message and give it life through mental and visual imagery. First, write out your message as you normally would. Then, add descriptions that help your audience visualize your message. This is great for provoking emotion, increasing interest, and stimulating memory. Now, go ahead and add images or video whenever possible. The combination of these steps will encourage your audience to not only pay attention but also share your message with others.

Engage Them With Show and Tell

Seeing is believing. Your marketing messages may be spot on, but people are always more likely to believe what you show them over what you tell then. Do create your simple, visual, targeted marketing messages. They are important, but don’t stop there. Create a couple of demonstrations as well to help your audience visualize what you’ve been telling them all along and ensure that they remember you and your products and services.

Tell Stories

People like to be entertained. Even when they are learning about something serious, they prefer to learn about it in a way that entertains and intrigues them. Give them what they want by creating stories that share something they didn’t know, highlight how your brand is different, illustrate that you understand them and get where they are coming from, and speak to their pain points. Your stories will provoke emotions in your customers and prospects, not only ensuring that they remember you but also helping them to feel connected to your brand.

It takes effort to create sticky marketing messages, but the rewards of doing so are measurable. Go ahead and try these 7 tips on for size. They’ll help make your marketing messages more memorable and encourage your audience to purchase from you.

Have tips for creating sticky marketing messages? We’d love to hear them! Share your tips in the comments section.

Role of Images in Content Marketing

What Makes Visuals So Crucial to Content Marketing Success?

Role of Images in Content Marketing

There’s no denying that visual content has taken over our generation. With more than 3.7 billion internet users in the world and smartphone users expected to reach 2.32 billion by the end of 2017, from Snapchat to Facebook to Instagram, there is practically no end to our appetite for visual content.

For your business, that means mastering the art and science of images is necessary to remain relevant in today’s digital era.

Is your content marketing campaign falling flat and short on performance? You may need to double down on your visuals right now.

Below is a breakdown of key roles visuals play in different areas of content marketing along with some practical tips on how to make them work for you, and where you can find and create amazing images.

Search Engine Optimization

Yes, images can improve your organic traffic and help you rank better in Google. It’s a lesser-known fact that images generate massive traffic next to text-based search engine results. Benjamin Ling, Product Manager for Google, discloses that Google Images page views add up to more than 1 billion hits daily. So in addition to making your content more engaging, images can give your search rankings and traffic a giant boost. To get a slice of that huge traffic pie, make sure you optimize your images for search engines. Start with the file name and alt text.

Blogging

Images in your blog can set your content apart from others, or at least make people read it from start to finish. A study from Microsoft claims the abundance of digital content these days combined with easy mobile access make people’s attention span shorter than ever.  If such is the case, big chunks of text would be most likely be unappealing to a modern-day reader.

Kissmetrics advises that splitting your body of text with relevant images will encourage people to finish reading. Buzzsumo studied over one million articles and found out that posts which featured an image every 75-100 words had twice the amount of shares compared to articles with fewer images. And while this formula might not always hold true in certain cases, incorporating several images in your post will more likely improve its engagement rate overall, especially if your blog is not performing as well as it should.

Email Marketing and Newsletters

Similar to blogging, images are indispensable in email campaigns. Images can be used to strengthen branding and therefore, increase conversion.  Perhaps your readers may not click that “link” right away or even remember what was written, but a vivid image will stick around in their minds much longer. However, be warned that overloading emails with images is not the right approach. Regarding layouts, email is a very limited publishing platform compared to a website page. Keeping this in mind, images embedded in emails must not be all over the place. They should be there to boost your email’s performance, to bring the message across and not be a distraction.

The Marketing Bit mentioned some of the ‘don’ts’ of using images in emails and newsletters:

  • Don’t embed important links in image files
  • Don’t include too large image sizes
  • Don’t send an email as one large image

Social Media

The role of images in social media marketing in much more diverse than blogging and email campaigns.  It can also be argued that on social media, the role of images is the strongest. This can be attributed to the fact that social media platforms are designed to showcase a tremendous amount of information with a more intricate layout and design. So for average users with short attention span, it would be harder to sustain their attention using plain text.

Images are the very foundation in which some of the most widely popular social media sites are built on.  On sites like Pinterest, Snapchat, and Instagram, images don’t support a message; they are the message. If you choose these platforms to market, careful attention to curating images is a must.

Other social media sites like Facebook and Twitter have joined the bandwagon. Although text-based posts and tweets are still accepted, statistics reveal that posts and tweets with images get more engagement. In some cases, images carry the same weight of importance with the written words on social media.   As a marketer, you can’t give more attention to one over the other. On social media, you can run an entire marketing campaign anchored mainly on images as they are capable of telling a story or invoke powerful emotions at a glance.

Now that I have discussed the roles of images in content marketing let me also share some of the best practices of creating images for more engagement.

Infographics, GIFs, Memes & Emojis – Visual Marketing’s Rising Stars

emoji marketing crackerjack

It’s 2017, and these four visual elements are your game changers.

We see memes and gifs everywhere on our social feeds, and they have evolved into a culture of their own. This immense popularity gave way to a unique opportunity for marketers to connect with their audience. Netflix’s outdoor advertising campaign and Adidas’ “Thug Life” are perfect examples of outstanding marketing built on gifs and memes.

Love them or hate them, emojis have dominated our digital conversations, and here’s data to prove it: Emojis account for a 25.4% increase in engagement on Twitter, and 17% higher interaction rates on Instagram.

Whether you need a content upgrade or looking to repurpose your content, an infographic’s visual appeal is undeniable. MassPlanner says infographics are shared and liked 3x more than any other visual materials available.

If you’re looking to elevate your marketing to a whole different level, be sure to leverage any of these visual materials into your content marketing playbook.

5 Best Practices to Boost Engagement with Images

Tip 1: Image to word ratio

Is your blog suffering from lackluster traffic? Not getting enough clicks and shares? One reason might be you’re not using enough images on your posts. Buzzsumo studied over one million articles and found out that posts which featured an image every 75-100 words had twice the amount of shares compared to articles with fewer images. And while this formula might not always hold true in certain cases, incorporating several images in your post will more likely improve its engagement rate overall, especially if your blog is not performing as well as it should.

Tip 2: Color Psychology

Color psychology is the science of how color influences human behavior. In marketing, it plays a vital role in helping you deliver your message by invoking the right emotions. Colors tell a story. By using the right color scheme in your images, one that runs in parallel with your content, you amplify your message and help ensure a positive response from your audience. This color psychology chart from Inturact illustrates how each color corresponds with different emotions.

colorpsychologywheel

Click to enlarge

Tip 3: Ditch the generic stock image

It’s tacky, it’s boring, and it simply doesn’t work. Your images should convey emotions, or at the very least keep in line with your topic. Try to be more creative and less obvious with your graphics. Visuals add credibility and authority and helps keep your audience glued to your blog post. Remember, a picture is worth a thousand words, don’t ruin good content by using bad photos.

Tip 4: Optimize for speed and SEO

A well-optimized image should have its file sized compressed and reduced without compromising a lot on image quality. To achieve this, you can use Photoshop or free tools such as Pixlr or GIMP. Make sure it is also search engine friendly by choosing the right file name, ideally a shortened, keyword-focused version of your blog post title. Equally important is the alt text attribute, which again should be in keyword form related to your blog post headline or topic. Try to keep it under five words. This article from Yoast goes into further detail about optimizing your images for SEO.

Tip 5: Image dimensions

When sharing your blog post across multiple social media platforms, it’s very important to have each image in the correct dimension to maintain proportion and clarity. Use this 2017 social media image sizes cheat sheet from a MakeAWebsiteHub to find out the best image sizes for all major social networks along with the best image types to use for each platform.

Where to Find Your Images

Free

Below are some of my preferred go-to sources for free, quality stock images. All the websites listed here use Creative Commons to license their photos. Although photo attribution is not required, feel free to show your support by thanking them on Twitter or Facebook.

You can also check out this comprehensive list of the best for free stock images from Stephen Jeske of Can I Rank and Crazy Leaf Design’s Harris Roberts

Paid

If you’re looking to ramp up your visual game and take it to the next level, you might want to consider getting a subscription from these top stock photo websites. Each of these platforms carries a massive library of royalty-free content. Browse through millions of images, vectors, and illustrations – you’re sure to find what you need.

6 Tools to Help you Create Stunning Visuals

Final Thought

Content marketing trends are forever evolving, but the compelling nature of images and what it can do to the human brain makes it a powerful marketing asset that will remain a fundamental piece of each and every marketing strategy.

Social Media Tools for Collaboration, Organization and Creation We Love (and Use!)

This post was co-authored by Christina StricklandCori Jacobs, and Lesley Lloyd.

 

If you’ve attended any of our social media training sessions, you’ve heard us compare growing social media presences to building a house before. We’ve talked about how you need to build a solid foundation and then the right layers on top of that.

Because construction analogies come easily to me, let’s just roll with, shall we?

If you’re going to build a house, you’re going to need a hammer, right? And, not just a hammer but a screwdriver, a wrench, and some excellent power tools. The same goes for social media.

Sure, we make social media management and content creation look easy, just like those guys doing home remodels on HGTV. But, like those home flippers, we have a great team of talented, dedicated people and an arsenal of tools we use every day.

There are so many social media tools available now that it can be hard to filter through them all to find just what you are looking for. It was equally difficult to determine which tools we should include on our list. To narrow it down, each of these had to meet certain key criteria:

  • The tools must be used by at least two-thirds of the team here at Crackerjack Marketing. In most cases, the tools listed below are used by every team member.
  • The tool must be used every day by said two-thirds of the team members.
  • The tool must have a free version, even if limited, for you to “try before you buy.” For most of these, we have the paid version because we felt the cost (usually minimal) is well justified.

7 Social Media Tools for Collaboration, Creation and Organization We Love

We didn’t want just to give you a boring list of the tools. We also want to share the reasons why these tools are so valuable to our organization by giving you the perspective of several team members, with varying degrees of responsibilities.

Contributing team members include Christina Strickland (that’s me!), Vice President; Cori Jacobs, Client Services Specialist and Lesley Lloyd, Community Manager.

Ready? Let’s dig in!

Favorite Social Media Tool #1: Slack

Collaboration

At first glance, Slack appears to be a simple messaging platform. While it is simple to use, it’s more than just a means of communication. Slack has a broad range of tools and integrations. Everything from uploading documents to sharing funny gifs. Best of all, it has the desktop and mobile apps, so you’re never far from your team.

What we love about Slack:

Cori: I’m showing my age here, but as someone from the internet ‘old school’ I like the familiar feel of Slack — it reminds me a lot of chatting over IRC (Internet Relay Chat). If you never used IRC, think of it as the predecessor to AOL chatrooms or instant desktop chat clients such as MSN Messenger or ICQ. The ‘channel’ model worked then, and it’s a great tool now for keeping multiple topic threads separated so not every single discussion is in one massive, impossible-to-track conversation. I also like the ability to turn notifications off and on per-channel so that I can keep on top of the main topics.

Lesley: I like using the channels. They’re helpful in keeping track of updates going on in social media. We use a Snapchat channel where we add articles on tips, tricks, news, etc. about the network. It’s a great reference tool for writing a blog post on Snapchat, or if we wanted to implement some of the things we learned into our Snapchat profiles. Slack also offers a reminder option for when you can’t look at an article the moment a colleague shares it. You can also pin an item in a channel, so it shows up at the top. Additionally, if you think it would apply to another channel, you can copy it to multiple places. Slack has many shareable and versatile options within the channels. You can designate them to social networks or clients or tools that you’re using. It’s the communication tool to rule all!

Christina: While there is just so much to love about Slack, one of my favorite features is also one of the most basic ones … the search function! If your organization is anything like ours, communication is happening at the speed of light! We love bouncing ideas around and getting inspired. Sometimes, though, we forget what we finally decided on or vaguely remember that someone had a good idea at some point. With the search function, you can enter a word and search your conversation archives. You can narrow it down to a particular channel or conversation or search all of your Slack history. This feature has significantly reduced the number of redundant conversations (“Hey, what did you say about that Instagram campaign, again? I don’t remember.”)

Favorite Social Media Tool #2: Our Editorial Calendar

Organization

We searched the Internet for a long, long time, looking for the right editorial calendar to use for our clients. After an extensive review and so many different tools and templates, we created our own, designed to help keep all of our clients’ content organized and on track.

What we love about the Editorial Calendar:

Cori: The key benefit of our Editorial Calendar for me is its ability to cover each social platform separately in as much detail as is useful a day-to-day community manager, as well as allowing them to maintain a higher-level overview which isn’t bogged down with details. The Overview vs. Detail layout is very useful for situations when sharing a calendar with clients. Most of the teams who we coordinate with aren’t likely to want to dig into a calendar filled with reams of individual tweets, but the high-level view allows them to keep on top of what’s happening across all their social platforms.

Lesley: If you like to plan, the editorial calendar is the place to be. It’s easy to navigate and easy to read when it gets full of all of your ideas and posts. Who’s going to remember what you posted in August of 2014? The editorial calendar will! When working with multiple clients and multiple promotions and channels, creating a calendar for each helps to keep you from getting your paths crossed.

Christina: Aside from being easy to use and understand, I love having an archive, or record, of all the work we have planned and have completed in one place. Don’t forget that you don’t “own” your social channels, so it’s always a good idea to have a backup somewhere.

Favorite Social Media Tool #3: Canva

Creation


If you haven’t heard about Canva yet, stop what you are doing, right now, and go check it out. Canva is a graphic design tool for non-graphic designers. You can start with a template or make your own.

What we love about Canva:

Cori: OK – I’m going to sound like an ad right now, but Canva is genuinely a lifesaver, and has upped my game, graphics-wise. I’m no designer and can barely crop an image in Photoshop, but when a client sends a blog post at 6 pm to be posted the next day, Canva lets me create a compelling feature image in just a few minutes. If I need size variations optimized for multiple social channels, I can also do that with just a couple of clicks with Canva’s “pro” version.

Lesley: The sharing capabilities, especially. The folders and streams make it easy to organize different images for various social channels as well as categories (holidays, contests, promotions, products, etc.). The images don’t have to be emailed or uploaded to your team; they’re saved right in Canva so access and edits can be made by any team member or client if you so choose. Canva also has a variety of designs with sizing and fonts, so it fits everything you’re looking for in an easy-to-use design tool. It makes graphic-creation quick, easy, and professional.

Christina: There is so much to love about Canva. One of my favorite features comes with the Canva for Work subscription (paid). With the paid version, you can create a stored “Brand Kit,” which includes your company colors, logo, fonts and templates as default. No more looking up color codes or using an online color picker!

Favorite Social Media Tool #4: DropBox:

Organization

DropBox is a hugely popular cloud storage option, and for good reason. It’s easy to use and makes your documents accessible from anywhere.

What we love about DropBox

Cori: Like many other cloud tools, Dropbox is invaluable as a shared repository. It’s perfect for storing and sharing all types of files, large or small — anything from spreadsheets to photos to huge video files (though you need a Pro account if your stored/shared files go past the 2GB limit). If you don’t need to collaborate on a file and simply need a place to store and control access to them, Dropbox is perfect. Also, the search function works great, which is good news for someone with thousands of files stored who often needs to be able to put their hands on them quickly.

Lesley: Dropbox is more than a storage tool for documents. Your photos, links, and events fit there, too! When you’re working with multiple clients, you’re going to need space, and you might want to share what you’re working on with them. Dropbox has both! It also has a Paper option like a virtual workspace that you can share with the team with tasks and assignments.

Christina: Selective sync is such a big plus for me! As Cori mentioned, our clients often have enormous video files. The Selective Sync option allows you to control which files sync with your desktop or laptop. Since I work on a MacBook Pro, I prefer not to have my precious hard drive space consumed by video files, and I’ll rarely access. Another on of their great features are file and folder sharing options. You can invite people to view all of the files in a particular folder or create a link to a single file. Even better, you can set an expiration date on that link for sensitive information.

Favorite Social Media Tool #5: Social Report

Organization

Social Report claims that it is “an all-in-one social media management platform with all the features you need in one concise package.” While none of us would agree that it’s the “all-in-one management platform” we do love the reporting capabilities.

What we love about Social Report

Cori: Social Report is a one-stop shop for most of the stats I need day-to-day — super convenient! It tracks an impressive range of platforms and offers breakdowns which aren’t always available through a platform’s ‘native’ analytics. Having a single site for so many platforms means I can save a lot of time when putting together client reports. The Social Report team is constantly looking to improve and add new features, too — for example; they recently added the ability to automatically schedule ‘evergreen’ posts on a rotating basis.

Lesley: I use Social Report every day. Whether for scheduling posts or reporting weekly or monthly, Social Report does it all. Although no reporting website is perfect, and Social Report is constantly updating, it’s my trusty side-kick. I save so much time using it for scheduling 3rd party and evergreen posts (which is a new feature!). Social Report is relatively reliable as well! Minus the occasional error, it’s given me accurate information time and time again.

Christina: Like Cori, I love that I only need to go to one place to find the data we need on a day-to-day basis and for most of our monthly reporting needs. From a team management perspective, I like that we can control who has access to which accounts. I can give access to multiple accounts to our community managers or limit access to a single account for our clients. While “great customer service” isn’t a feature of the tool, I have to say that the support team at Social Report is amazing!

Favorite Social Media Tool #6: Grum.co

Organization

Grum.co is the unicorn of social media scheduling tools, allowing you to schedule Instagram posts in advance, from your computer! While it’s not packed with a ton of features, what is has it worth its weight in gold!

What we love about Grum.co

Cori: The simple interface and the convenience of posting to Instagram from my desktop make Grum a winner. Other Instagram solutions we’ve tried only remind you to post from mobile, but Grum allows you to ‘set it and forget it,’ which is perfect for any busy social manager

Lesley: You can’t beat the simplicity of Grum. Every feature is easy to use and understand. It also offers an archive of past posts for users and clients to reference (but don’t depend on that instead of an editorial calendar!). Instagram hasn’t paved the way for a convenient scheduling tool yet, until now!

Christina: It’s great to be able to log in and make sure that our community managers have the right content lined up. I also love that I can switch between clients without having to log in and out again. Sure, it’s a “little luxury” but one that I can’t live without, now that I have it!

Favorite Social Media Tool #7: Grammarly

Creation

While we use professional copywriters and editors as much as we can, because social media is about responding and reacting in real time there are occasions when using a professional editor isn’t practical due to time constraints. In these situations, we always, always, always, have more than one team member review what has been written but then we also always, always, always, run it through Grammarly, to make sure we don’t have any participles dangling or commas misplaced.

What we love about Grammarly

Cori: Should it be “that” or “which”? Is it “who” or “whom”? Grammarly is a great tool for those times when I’m struggling to deliver my message in the clearest possible way. I never want to embarrass myself (or worse, a client!) with awkward wording or grammar, so Grammarly can really be that ‘second pair of eyes’ I need on a document before pushing it live for the world to see!

Lesley: I never gave grammar in social media a second-look before Grammarly. Correct punctuation, verbs, and tense are often overlooked on social channels because of character amount, laziness, you name it! However, there’s nothing more important to you or your client than appropriate grammar and Grammarly is the perfect tool to ensure your posts are correct. Grammarly catches and fixes many mistakes, but use your discretion!

Christina: The critical and advanced (premium version) grammar checker are excellent features, I’m a huge fan of the vocabulary enhancement suggestions and the style features. I never knew I wrote in such a passive style before!

While we think these tools are just the bee’s knees, remember that there isn’t a single tool that’s going to replace an effective strategy, great content and a great team.

A Lesson in Rebranding from Snapchat

A Lesson in Re-Branding from Snap (Snapchat)

A Lesson in Rebranding from Snapchat

Yes, you read the title right, Snapchat is now Snap. A change of name in the fall told us that the brand is now planning on expanding itself to be more than a messaging network. Since its creation in 2011, Snap has been interesting, unique, entertaining, and fun! You know about the filters (maybe you have used the dog filter a time or two), the disappearing pictures, videos, and chats, the compilation of stories, memories, ads, spectacles, and discovering other news and current events.

Rebranding became necessary to Snapchat in the fall of 2016. You might find yourself in the same shoes now. You can’t hide from rebranding (and that’s a good thing), and you can’t ignore it. If you feel the pressing need to rebrand and don’t know where to start, take a page out of Snapchat’s book on the matter.

Lessons in Re-Branding From Snap

Snapchat rebranded flawlessly; we’re all wondering how they did it, and how we can do the same.

Simplicity

Don’t change too much too drastically. Snapchat dropped the “chat” indicating that they’re more than “chatting” now, but will still be the channel you know and love. Even when you hear “Snap,” you know who that is. Same color scheme, same logo, same basic identity, but they’re moving forward.

Curiosity

Keep your users guessing. Snapchat announced the new name first. The co-creators were clear in the changes and comforted users in the knowledge that more information was coming on the rebrand. There’s a fine line between leaving your users curious but excited and curious but frustrated. Your users like to see you innovating and moving forward, but they want to know about it in a plain and clear manner. They’ll wait to hear what you have next.

Control

Decide what, how, and when new information gets released. Snapchat controlled the details in their announcements, creating the hype until the next installment of information. Users don’t like to be overwhelmed with new information. Make your rebrand exhilarating by giving a little here, and a little there. By keeping your hand on the plans, the rebrand is completely yours and yours alone.

Timing

Plan your timing. The timing of your rebrand may be more important than the rebrand itself. Create a schedule that you’re able to stick to with some flexibility if necessary. Refer to this schedule when users ask you what’s happening (because they will). Make this timing realistic as well, so you can stay on top of what you’re releasing (there’s the control) and do it promptly for you and your audience.

Tasting

Release something new with a rebrand. I like to call this “tasting” because you’re giving your users a little taste of what’s to come. The first question they’re going to ask is, “What’s going on?” The second is, “What will this look like for me?” So you need to show them. Change for the sake of change isn’t always the best answer. Your users are going to ask why you’re changing and you need to know why and why they should get on board. Snapchat released Spectacles with their rebrand. They told us they wanted to be more than a messaging network, and they showed us how with Spectacles.

Personality

Be who you are. The greatest quality of Snapchat’s rebrand is their personality. They want to remain fun and still be familiar to their audience. How will your audience follow you into your new arena if they can’t recognize you? Completely changing who you are will almost guarantee you a loss of current users. Stay true to you, and you’ll reach your net wider to catch the audience you want, without dropping the audience you have.

Follow Through

Do what you say you’re going to do. Don’t make empty and lofty promises if you can’t deliver! If you say you’re going to release a new product on a certain day at a certain time for a certain price, do all you can to make that happen. If you’re presenting a name change, do it! Set yourself up for success by being timely, creating a release schedule, and making your promises simple. If you can’t follow through on your word, or you need more time to make it happen, just be honest! Users can be understanding and patient if external, unfortunate, and unexpected things happen because we all know they do.

Start Using Snapchat

I hope you’re thinking about looking into Snapchat (excuse me, Snap) for your brand or business now. I think that’s what Snap is hoping for with this rebrand, too. It’s no longer a channel for young people, but for everyone. Include how you’re now on Snapchat in your rebrand! You’re casting your net wider, staying true to yourself, giving users a taste of what they can expect, and keeping it exciting. Is it time for your brand to take a new turn? Let us know in the comments!

How to Use YouTube for Content Marketing

How to Use YouTube for Content Marketing

How to Use YouTube for Content Marketing

When you hear the phrase “content marketing,” chances are written text comes immediately to mind. However, blog posts and articles aren’t the only types of content you can use for content marketing. You can also create, publish and share your content in video format. YouTube provides a fairly easy-to-negotiate and definitely well-known platform for doing just that.

Why should you consider video content? The answer is simple. Many people find watching a creative video much more interesting than reading simple text on a page. And if you can be creative and attentive to your audience’s interest, YouTube can become a vital tool for fulfilling your content marketing plans.

Before you begin, here are three critical questions to ask yourself.

1. Is your business right for content marketing on YouTube?

You can do well with YouTube content marketing if you have a product or service you can video-tape and show off visually. For example, if you’ve created a product that solves a problem, you can show it at work. Likewise, if you provide a helpful service, you can show yourself in the act of providing the service. If you clean carpets, you can create a video of you or your employees taking a section of carpet from filthy to pristine. Some services, such as consulting, can be difficult to show off this way. This doesn’t, however, mean you can’t do it. You’ll just need to be very creative to pull it off.

2. Do you want to educate, inform, or entertain?

YouTube is a good choice for each of these purposes, but it’s important to consider which one you can accomplish. Informational and educational videos can be the easiest to make. An informative video just provides details about your products, company, or related topics. Educational videos, on the other hand, typically provide insight into how something works or how to accomplish a task. Both educational and informative videos provide value for your audience, but they can seem dull and boring if not carefully planned and well-executed. You’ll need to put a lot of thought into their creation to keep your audience’s interest.

People tend to flock to entertaining videos, and if done well, they often go viral. Unfortunately, these videos can be hard to make. You need a great idea and equally spot-on execution. If you can make them work, however, they can do a lot for your business. Just make sure that the video you create shows off your business’ personal style and doesn’t detract from its image.

3. What is your goal?

Do you want to use YouTube to get new customers? Are you planning to use YouTube to provide support for the people who currently buy from you? You can use YouTube for both purposes. To attract new customers, you’ll need to create videos that make your prospects want to learn more about you and what you offer. Then, you can provide the link to your site in your video as well as in your video description. If you want to provide support to your current customers, you can create how-to videos and question-and-answer content that help your customers get more out of your offerings.

Now that you’ve decided you do want to publish content via YouTube, it’s time to consider how you will make your content appealing to your audience. Creating video for video’s sake simply won’t help you meet your goals. Instead, it’s critical to develop a plan for your video content that not only speaks to your audience’s interests and needs but also effectively tells your story, and when desired, compels your audience into action. Here are 6 tips for creating video content that sings.

1. Be Interesting: The mere fact that you’ve created video content 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 creating video content, 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: You’ve probably heard this suggestion when it comes to written content, but it’s important for video content 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 video content 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.

So you’ve begun creating high-quality, informative, entertaining videos? That’s a great start, but unfortunately, it isn’t enough. You’ll also need reliable ways of getting the word out and securing the right kind of attention for your videos. Here are 5 free ways and 1 paid way to promote your YouTube content:

1. Use Your Blog: Your blog gets a study flow of customers, prospects, and curious visitors. Make it your first stop for promoting your YouTube content. When you create a new video, be sure to promote the video on your blog by describing it, detailing the whats, whos, whens, and whys, and telling your audience members why they’ll definitely want to check it out. Then, make it easy for them to view your content masterpiece. Embed it in its own post.

2. Share With Your List: Don’t expect the people on your email list to come to you for interesting, valuable content. Go ahead and take the content to them. Craft a relevant, helpful message and email it to your list along with a link to your video. If you have an email newsletter, be sure to include it there as well.

3. Create a Custom Channel: This can be the difference between having what looks like just a bunch of video content and having a series of credible, interesting, valuable videos people want to see and share. A custom channel lends your video collection credibility, makes it look more professional, and helps you to create a more cohesive message.

4. Apply Your Social Media Know-How: Share your videos via your social media accounts. For example, tweet about your video and include links, create a status update with a message about your latest YouTube video and embed the video, and pin your video to your pinboards. Take a look at each social media account and figure out where and how to share your video content. Don’t forget to share your link on social bookmarking sites as well, adhering to the posting rules of those sites, of course.

5. Spread the News: When you create newsworthy, or particularly helpful new video content, look to news outlets that can help you spread the word about them. Write a press release and include the link to your video. Also, contact relevant news outlets about your video by phone or via email.

6. Pay to Promo: You can also pay to advertise your videos. If you have the budget to do so, consider the Google Adwords for Video opportunity. It’s a pay-per-click program for promoting videos on YouTube. With this program, you pay when someone views your ad rather than when you place it.

With time and effort, you can make video marketing a successful part of your content marketing campaigns. Use the above tips to get started. Then, be sure to come back and let us know how using YouTube for content marketing works for you.

The One Social Media Resolution You Need to Make This Year

The One Social Media Resolution You Need to Make This Year

The One Social Media Resolution You Need to Make This Year

It’s that time of year again. If you’re like many of us, you’re probably deciding that this year will be different. 2017 will bring a better you, and perhaps a better business too. That’s right. You can and should make resolutions for your business. But before you get off to the races, preparing your long list of business resolutions, we want you to know that one resolution stands out in importance. It involves social media but doesn’t focus on crafting more posts or finding more followers.

This year, resolve to build a community

If you’re marketing to a target audience, you’re doing this social media thing all wrong. Your goal should be to build a community of people engaged with your brand. This means giving your fans a voice and providing them with information they will find helpful. Solve their problems; don’t just sell your product or service.

How Will You Do This?

Provide Great Customer Service

Anyone can sell products or services. Anyone can ask their target audience to pay attention to and share their messages, but not everyone can build a community. To accomplish this, you have to provide great customer service. To build a community, you need to give your audience a reason to care about you and want to not only pay attention to what’s going on with your business but also stick around after that initial purchase. You can do this by showing that you care about your audience via top-notch customer service.

1. Combine delivery of customer service via social media and traditional methods. Your customers should have options when it comes to reaching you, and they should never feel forced into using one method of contact over the other.

2. Kick the automation to the curb. Customers hate, hate, hate having to struggle with an automated system when they need help. While there are situations in which automation is helpful, you won’t make a community member out a customer who can’t get help from a live person.

3. Train your customer service reps well. They should know your business and its policies inside and out. And most importantly, they should truly care to help your customers. If they seem bored, annoyed, or clueless, you haven’t a prayer of converting customers into community members.

4. Develop a method for monitoring and tracking customer service contact. This will help you to improve your company’s customer service going forward and head off reputation-damaging problems before they become mountains instead of molehills.

Share Relevant, Helpful Information

Yes, you have products or services of interest to your audience, but what else do you have to offer? To build a community, you have to provide relevant, helpful information, not just once but all the time. This gives your audience a reason to come back repeatedly and consume your content. It gives them a reason to share with others and even provide their own relevant, helpful information. Without this, you are just like every other company with something to sell. You’re just adding to the social media noise.

1. Find out what your audience needs. You have your products and services covered. Now, focus on who your audience members are, what drives them and what they want from life.

2. Share content and messages that meet your followers’ needs. You’ve identified their needs, so now go ahead and meet them by sharing meaty, valuable content that speaks to those needs. Keep in mind that you don’t have to create every piece of content you share. You’ll want to provide a mix of original and curated content to your audience.

3. Don’t just share content; have conversations. Communities aren’t built by talking at people. Instead, engage in real conversations, sharing ideas back and forth, asking questions, and offering suggestions. Be genuinely interested and fully responsive. Your followers will know if you’re faking it.

Give Your Community a Voice

Your followers have stories to tell about their lives, about their interests, and about your brand. Give them a platform and a purpose for sharing what’s important to them with others and you. Their shared stories and experiences will build and nurture a sense of community among your followers and support an emotional connection with your brand.

1. Provide a safe place for your followers to share user-generated content. Take genuine interest in what they post, comment on it and share it. This content will interest other followers, inspire them to engage as well, and build the sense of knowing each other and being part of a community.

2. Encourage a range of user-generated content. Of course, videos and photos are among the most compelling types of user-generated content, but personal stories really hit the mark as well. Inspire your followers to share their personal stories by sharing some of your own and by commenting on and showing enthusiasm for the stories your followers share. This not only stimulates an emotional connection with your brand and a sense of belonging but also gives each person who shares a stake in supporting the community.

3. Let your community members sell for you. Building a community takes the focus off selling, but that doesn’t mean selling won’t happen anyway. Your community members’ content becomes part of your brand’s story, and as your community grows, so will your users’ reviews of your products and services. Likewise, many of your followers-turned-community-members will become brand evangelists, telling your story and drawing prospects to your business.

Most importantly, Build Relationships

Social media should be about more than just broadcasting your promotions and building up an impressive number of followers. It should be about more than just making sales, and that’s why your emphasis should be on community building this year. Without a personal connection to your brand, customers are likely to jump at the chance to patronize your competitors whenever they offer sales, announce new products, or simply shout for their attention. However, by developing relationships with your customers, and encouraging your customers to develop relationships with others in your community, you build a loyal customer base that will translate into more sales and steady business growth.

Start 2017 off on the right foot by focusing on building a community. With each step you take toward community building, and each relationship you develop and nurture, you’ll enjoy long-term benefits for your business.

Twitter Hacks for Content Marketing

8 Twitter Hacks for Better Content Marketing

Twitter Hacks for Content Marketing
Often, business owners try Facebook out as their first venture into social media marketing. They know they need to have a Twitter presence too (because their audience is there), but they often drag their feet, finding Twitter intimidating or believing it’s complicated. The truth is Twitter is no harder to use than Facebook; it’s simply different. But no worries; we have you covered. Here are 8 Twitter hacks to make successful tweeting easier:

1. Craft an Engaging Elevator Pitch

Your Twitter bio has to be short and sweet. You have only 160 characters to work with, so make sure it packs a serious punch. Think of it as the ultimate elevator speech, and be sure to include your link. Don’t hesitate to update your header photo with text as well. Many Twitter users will check out your profile before they decide to follow you.

2. Go for Quality Over Quantity

You can cast a wide net and get a huge number of followers, but that won’t help your business if your followers aren’t really interested in what you have to offer. Aim to attract quality followers rather than random hits by crafting tweets that are relevant to your industry and of clear interest to your audience. Tweeting about your lunch or your fun weekend plans might entertain you but probably won’t help your business (unless this is somehow relevant to your brand).

3. Follow the Right People

You can work towards building the right audience by following others who are interested in or involved in your industry. Not only will these people follow you back, but their followers may jump on board and follow you too. How do you find the right people to follow? Do a Twitter search using industry-relevant hashtags and keywords. Check out your competitors and see who’s following them. These people are probably interested in what you have to offer as well. Want some handy tools for finding followers? Check out TweetStork and Audiense.

4. Get the Most out of Each Tweet

With Twitter, you have a low character count, but you’re also dealing with a short tweet lifespan. The average lifespan of a tweet is only about 24 minutes, so you want to make each message count. Use a link shorterner like Bitly or Google URL Shortener to shorten your links, so you have more room for text. And be sure to include relevant hashtags to make it super easy for anyone who is searching to find your content.

5. Tweet When Your Audience Is on Twitter

The worst time to tweet is when your audience isn’t on Twitter. Use a tool like Tweriod to gain insight into your audience’s Twitter habits and figure out when they are most likely to see your tweets. Then, tweet at those times.

6. Provide Appealing Visuals

Social media users are very visual, so give them what they want. Tweets with images or videos get more click-throughs, more retweets, and more favorites. Tweets with images get 150-percent more retweets, and those with videos get nearly 3 times as many.

7. Be an Authentic Engager

There’s something interesting about you and your brand. In fact, there are probably a lot of things your audience would like to know about you. So tell them, keeping an eye toward ensuring that your messages are both authentic and interesting. Not sure what your audience will find interesting? Use a keyword search to learn which relevant topics people are talking about on Twitter.

8. Be Social

All too often, people forget that one of the key words in social media marketing is social. Get involved in conversations, follow others, retweet, share, and bring something helpful and informative to the table. Doing this will not only help attract attention to your brand but also humanize it. Make a point of being social at least a few times each day.

Use the Twitter hacks above to make tweeting a part of your social media marketing plan. They’ll help you put your best foot forward, find your audience, and be more social. Be sure to come back and let us know how these Twitter hacks worked for you!

Influencer Tips to Make You the One All Brands Want to Hire

Honing Your Influence: Influencer Tips to Make You the One All Brands Want to Hire

Influencer Tips to Make You the One All Brands Want to Hire

Being an influencer wasn’t even a thing ten years ago.

In fact, if someone asked you what you do for a living and your answer was “I’m an influencer” you would sound like a pretty nefarious person out to do some pretty nefarious things.

In today’s landscape, however, being an influencer means that you are a powerful and engaging member of the online marketing community making bank for getting things done!

It is a job title many are actively aspiring to.

But how do they get there?

For some, their ascension to influencer greatness is quick and large and spurned on by some viral photo or video shared across countless platforms.

But this is not the norm.

The average influencer works at their craft as meticulously and consistently as any aspiring professional –they are calculated with their movements, they are conscientious with their choices, they are educated about their field, and they pick their partnerships with care.

A lot goes into the development of their influence and they are protective of it at every turn.

Honing Your Influence: Influencer Tips to Make You The One All Brands Want to Hire

Looking for sure-fire ways to make the invite list and get the gig when it comes to hiring influencers? These tips can help you get there.

Stand and Deliver

Deliverables are an integral part of any influencer campaign. The key messaging the brand has hired you to bring to life is as important to their bottom line as your compensation is to yours. Stay true to it. Meet the requirements –include the messaging they provided you with, provide edits when asked, publish when you’re expected to, and promote as agreed upon. This doesn’t mean to sacrifice your voice, provide countless edits, or uncompensated promotion. This means the opposite in fact! The brand wants your voice to deliver their message under the terms of your agreed upon contract.

And remember, communication is key to every relationship and that includes the ones you’re in because of your online influence. If you’re expected to put up an Instagram post or attend an event, make every effort to do so on time and as expected. Of course, things come up from time to time, but standard professionalism says you pick up the phone and call or shoot your contact an email just to say something came up and you need an extension.

Which brings us to out next point…

Be Professional

Because once you start charging for your services, that is what you are. Doesn’t matter if you have another job, doesn’t matter if you’re also a mom, if you’d like to be hired, as a professional influencer, you have to act like one. That means meeting deadlines, responding to emails, negotiating contracts, knowing your space, and behaving like you mean business –because ultimately, you do!

Be Engaging

Your content, your imagery, you! Of course, reach is important when it comes to being an influencer, but engagement plays a major role too. A brand wants an audience that’s listening, one that is talking back, one that is a part of the story that you are bringing to life. Take time to interact with your audience in meaningful ways. Get to know them, what they want, what they like, and what they respond to. Then, when you bring a brand into the equation, your audience will be there for it.

Keep It Real

Authenticity, authenticity, authenticity –it’s like the location of real estate. It’s how you encourage engagement, how you grow your audience, how you differentiate yourself as unique in the sea of influential voices. And being authentic doesn’t mean being an open book –it means speaking your truth, sharing your story in a real way, and putting yourself into your content.

Know Your Audience

What your audience responds to is maybe not going to be anything like what another influencer’s audience is here for. Even if you’re in the same genre, connecting to the same demographic, what your audience expects from you is possibly not what that same audience expects from someone else. You have to learn that. And then, you have to figure out the best way for a brand to become a part of that conversation.

Be Creative

Brands love it when influencers take their basic idea and make it magical. Going above and beyond certainly isn’t a requirement, but if you want to stand apart, make an impact, and ensure that you are first on the list for their next activation, give them something memorable. Your best photos, your best storytelling, a new idea, an awesome video. All of those things make a brand think you’re worth the investment, and maybe more!

Your ability to be a successful influencer rests on your ability to build an engaged, committed audience with a meaningful, impactful story –your influence infrastructure, so to speak.

Work on the infrastructure and your road to success will be paved!

The Ins and Outs of Twitter Chats and Parties

The Ins and Outs of Twitter Chats and Parties

The Ins and Outs of Twitter Chats and Parties

If you’ve been on Twitter for an extended period of time, you’ve seen a Twitter chat and party or two. Maybe you’ve participated in or hosted one or two! It’s one of the ways brands and businesses are connecting on Twitter. Most importantly, chats and parties are a direct connection to your current audience and to the audience you’re trying to reach. We’ve had tremendous success in hosting Twitter parties for some of our clients! Our efforts yielded participation rates of up to 233 (averaging 185 per party) people and 8,194 tweets in just one hour!

The Ins and Outs of Twitter Chats and Parties

Let’s look at what makes up a chat or a party, because they are different. Yes, chats and parties both live on Twitter and include a relevant hashtag for search and participation purposes. However, chats are more laid back and geared toward businesses, groups, and individuals who want to discuss a pre-determined topic in a specific field of interest. Parties are more formal and are sponsored by brands that pay a host to run it for them, and the topic is, of course, about the brand. Start thinking of themes, questions, hashtags (I’ll talk about this later), and prizes now!

Twitter Chats

A Twitter chat is the online version of a social club. Most of them meet weekly at a designated time to discuss relevant topics previously chosen by the host. Chats are a casual event because they don’t require a reservation or registration. Participants are encouraged to join in at the appointed time and use the appropriate hashtag. Sometimes this hashtag changes so it’s important to check-in beforehand to know which one you should be using.

Twitter chats aren’t only social media, digital marketing, or online-topics specific. Chances are if you’re interested in it, there’s a chat for it. That also means that chats aren’t only hosted by businesses. Groups and individuals (sometimes even brands) host them to bring like-minded people together in conversation about what they love. If your interest lies in the medical community, but you want to know more about agriculture, join a chat! The opportunity for networking, socializing, and learning about other businesses are huge!

Brands can participate in chats as well, by not forgetting to look for a chat that aligns with their goals. If you’re noticing a chat that is reaching your audience and/or talking about your topic, join in! After you’ve participated in one or two chats, reach out to the host and ask about a sponsorship. The next chat might include a mention of your brand, a banner on the chat’s page, or an opportunity to ask questions. Sponsorships from Twitter chats have a less restrictive policy, so if you get the chance to have one, be creative!

Twitter Chat Etiquette

As previously mentioned, Twitter chats are more relaxed, but that doesn’t mean it’s a free-for-all. Businesses and users need to follow some basic rules:

· Be polite: Everyone is there to have fun, learn, and talk about his or her interests.

· Don’t talk about yourself (too much): If you’re only there to turn the conversation to you, maybe you shouldn’t be there. However, if you have an experience relevant to the topic/question, that could be valuable to someone else.

· Interact: If you agree with a participants comment, feel free to say so. If you like a question, voice that. Like tweets, retweet, and others will return the favor.

Twitter Parties

Did you know that Twitter parties originated eight years ago? They don’t happen very often (although they could be done weekly), and they typically include a sponsorship from a brand. Organization is extremely vital for a party seeing as there are rules and guidelines participants need to follow. A host gets paid by a brand to run the party, and in return, the host gathers their top resources for the party which can include a diverse variety of things such as: influencers, blog posts, giveaways, events, etc. The host and the sponsor work as a team to decide what the topic will be, and additional features they want the party to have.

Parties are also more formal than chats. Think about a party that you’ve attended. Was there an RSVP giving the time, place, possible dress code, and directions to the party? The same applies to a Twitter party. An RSVP is your virtual guest list telling you who is planning on attending the party. If you’re giving away a prize or two during your party, check your guest list to make sure the winner actually attended the party and participated with the hashtag.

Twitter parties provide an amazing benefit to not only brands but the participants as well. This is give and take at its finest. Typically parties consist of women, either hosting or engaging. Men’s products and/or brands can make a name for them here and break new ground.

Twitter Party Etiquette

Organization matters greatly in a Twitter party. To keep from losing the structure, apply these rules that need to be followed by both the participants and the host.

· Be polite: This is important (and obvious) no matter if you’re in a chat or a party.

· Don’t ignore yourself: This is the opposite of a chat. Since a brand is sponsoring a party, the topics and agenda for the party are partly created by the brand, so, of course the brand is going to come up, and that’s okay! Make sure it’s relevant, though.

· Interact: Like, retweet, and respond to tweets. Show the participants that you’re listening to them and not only letting tweets scroll on by you. If you’re a participant in a party, this needs to be done to show the brand that you’re listening as well!

· Follow through: As a brand, you may be offering prizes and giveaways, and that’s great! After you’ve chosen a winner, get their information right away. As a winner, provide your information as quickly as possible.

Hashtags for Twitter Chats and Parties

A hashtag is arguably the most important aspect of a chat or a party. Hashtags are used for search on Twitter. When a user searches for a particular hashtag, they can choose a conversation based on that hashtag. If you know there’s a chat or party that you’re interested in but not able to attend, the hashtag allows you to come back later, search for it, and see what you missed. It’s what keeps your chat or party organized. Every time you compose a tweet based off of a topic, use the hashtag for it. You’ll be able to reach more people with one than without one. If you want to win a prize, chances are one of the rules is that you’ve used the hashtag.

By using a designated hashtag, you’re conversing with that group and not all of Twitter. At times you may use more than one; one for the party itself, and one for the topic/brand. Brands or businesses should set up a platform that allows them to search for the hashtag and see only that, making it easier to respond to the participants in the chat or party. Some of them even add the hashtag automatically into your tweet if you’re tweeting directly from that platform.

Let’s Chat (or Party)!

No matter who you are, a Twitter party and/or chat should be in your Twitter strategy, because they’re a part of what makes Twitter so special, and they bridge the gap between you and your audience. Get creative! Now’s the time to show your followers that you not only want them to know you but that you want to get to know them! How do you get to know someone? You chat with them of course!

Have you hosted or participated in a Twitter chat or party? Please let us know in the comments.

alternatives to vine

Alternatives to Vine (and What to do When a Channel Gets Shut Down)

alternatives to vine

Twitter through some of us for a loop (pardon the pun) at the end of October, by announcing the closure of Vine, its 6-second video app. This is big news whether you loved and/or were involved with Vine or not. Twitter is now refocusing, and we can’t wait to see what that looks like. In the meantime, social media marketers who have made an investment in the app now need to take serious steps in another direction. If the Vine stars we knew, loved and laughed at can move on, then you can, too. This is a great time for you to revisit your social media strategy to make sure that you have a backup plan if you used Vine, and to make sure the rest of your channels are covered in case one of them bites the dust.

Alternatives to Vine

If you have to say goodbye to Vine, wipe your tears and start looking at other channels. You don’t have to look far; you just have to look at what works best for you and your brand.

1. Snapchat

Snapchat is at the top of the list, and rightfully so. This app is certainly a challenge seeing as they don’t have a follower count or a follower recommendation feature, however, its popularity and 150 million users makes it the app you want to be on. The audience is large, and the demographics mostly include millennials, so how can your brand get started and maintain usage on Snapchat? Interact either directly through stories and chatting, or through special features and advertising! Just like Vine, you can download your stories, so you don’t lose them after 24 hours.

Should you use it?

Maybe. Snapchat mainly reaches millennials, so if you also want to reach that age group of 18 – 24 year-olds, then you need to be on Snapchat. If you’re not sure, keep an eye out. If you’re not using it now, you might be in the future.

2. Instagram

Instagram has also jumped on the stories train, so if Snapchat doesn’t work for you, try Instagram (or both!). The one-up Instagram has on Snapchat is its users base: 500 million. You’ll find a wider range of demographics on Instagram. If cosmetics is part of your goal, Instagram stories look better because of the higher image quality, but they load slower causing people to stop viewing after the 1st or 2nd story. If you’re a brand, the load time is crucial. You will also find ads and private messaging as a viable interaction tool.

Should you use it?

Yes! Or maybe. Again, it depends on your goals and your audience. If you’re already on Instagram, why not give it a try? Compare and contrast with Snapchat to get the best look for your brand.

3. Facebook

Vine might not have been live, but live video is certainly taking over the social world. If you’re considering going live with your posts (and still being able to keep them for later) start with Facebook. They’re adding more Snapchat-esque features like masks (or filters) in addition to enhancing the appearance of their video feature and giving their videos a more interactive feel. Live video gives you the permission to be authentically you without editing. Give a tour, stream an event or an opening; show off a product or a demonstration of one. As people react to your stream, comment back to them! Ads haven’t made their way into video yet, but there’s still time.

Should you use it?

Yes! Facebook is where your audience is. Let them know when you’ll be broadcasting, and you’ll have hundreds if not thousands of eyes on you. That’s great advertising! My sage advice before you “go live” is this: think before you do. Make sure you have a plan beforehand, so people aren’t watching you bop around aimlessly.

4. Periscope

Twitter hasn’t gotten rid of all of its video sources. Periscope is still kicking and still growing. Even though broadcasts disappear after 24 hours, it’s the latest and greatest for real-time marketing. One of the noteworthy aspects of using Periscope for live video is that it’s not limited by location. Your users can find you from anywhere in the world to see what you’re seeing.

Should you use it?

Maybe, probably yes. I’d like to repeat what I said for Snapchat: if you’re not using it now, you might be in the future. Usually the phrase, “everyone is doing it” isn’t the most positive of points, but when it comes to social trends, I live by it. Everyone is on Periscope, so you should be, too.

What to do When You Lose a Channel

Picture this: It’s 2008 and MySpace has been taken over by Facebook. How many of you hung on for dear life until the last possible second before reluctantly switching over to Facebook? So did I. Change can be hard and the opposite of fun, especially if you’ve invested time, money, energy, and strategy into a social channel just to lose it. My challenge to you is not to think of it as a loss, but a breath of fresh air to your strategy.

This is easier said than done because losing a social network can feel a lot like being dumped, can’t it? Sometimes it’s unexpected and leaves us with more questions than answers (especially when you find out you’ve been ‘broken up with’ by reading an article on the internet. Yikes!). If Vine could talk it would be saying, “It’s not you, it’s me.” And it’s true.

Go back to the drawing board to make the necessary adjustments in your strategy. Make sure you know how to move your content from one network to another. Download and save as much as you can to make it shareable on the other existing channels. Chalk it up to experience, brush the dust off, and move on. The closing of Vine is the picture perfect example of why social networks can’t be your only investment in social media. You’re borrowing someone else’s space, and it could go away in a second. Your owned space is your blog, and social media should be adding to that space, not vice versa. Keep that in mind and from now on you have a safety plan in place to protect your content and make a smooth transition whether a channel closes, or you have to leave one yourself.

Moving Forward

Vine is a great loss to many social media users and managers. If you were active on Vine, grab your videos and remember them in a positive light! Then, create a new strategy in case of emergencies and keep researching. Start looking into Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, and Periscope as a place your videos can call home. Thankfully, there are many options (and more to come) as apps grow, evolve, and new ones are added!

Were you on Vine? If so, where are you moving to next? Does your social media strategy include an emergency plan in case of a shutdown? Let us know!

Do You Really Need a Business Blog

Do You Really Need a Business Blog?

Do You Really Need a Business Blog

Any business can create a blog, and as you know, many, many of them do. But when the time comes to plan your own, you may be wondering whether you really need one at all. After all, you probably have a website, and you should be making your mark in social media. So how do you decide if you say “Hello World!” with a blog or just stick to your already traveled Internet terrain? Here are some questions to ask yourself when making this important decision.

Do you need more traffic?

If you already have all the traffic you need and you really don’t want any more, you don’t need to create a blog. After all, what’s the point of launching something that is likely to help you increase traffic and make more sales if you’re fully content in those arenas? A blog makes it easy to put out fresh, frequent content that makes the search engines happy and brings new prospects your way. 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. Maintaining a quality blog even encourages your current customers to check in regularly to see what you’ve published, possibly even sharing your content with others.

Do you want to build your brand?

If the world (and by the world, we mean your entire audience) already knows everything there is to know about your business, you might not need a blog. But if you’re like the rest of us mere mortal business owners, a blog can really help you build brand awareness. Just be sure to publish compelling, relevant content and mix things up with plenty of videos and images to keep things interesting and exciting. Show your audience who you are, show them why they should care about your business, and keep the self-promotion to a minimum.

Do you want to position yourself as an expert?

If you don’t want people looking to you as a source of information or relying on your expertise, you probably should not create a blog. Blogs are an excellent place to educate your audience, informing them and entertaining them at the same time. And a funny thing happens when you consistently produce quality content that fits this bill. Your audience begins to view you as an expert and looks your way when they need not only information but also products and services.

Do you want to engage your audience?

If you don’t want your audience to feel engaged with your brand—if you’d really rather just keep prospects at arm’s length, don’t start a blog. A blog can help with increasing engagement, which involves getting your audience to communicate with you via the comment section of your posts and (gasp!) responding to them. This helps your audience feel connected with your business. It also allows you to learn what your audience thinks and feels, which can only help you better serve them.

Do you want to demonstrate authenticity?

If you don’t want to convey a sense of openness to your audience, you probably don’t need a blog. Likewise, if you don’t want your audience to develop a feel for your brand’s personality, steer clear. With blogging, your audience gains insight into who you are and what your brand is all about with each post. You can’t help injecting personality into your posts, and as your audience witnesses your openness, they’ll also learn to trust you. That’s a win-win because trust builds brand loyalty.

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.

21 Secrets to Getting More Blog Comments

21 Secrets to Getting More Blog Comments

21 Secrets to Getting More Blog CommentsAre your brand’s blog posts getting enough (or any) comments?  Do you wonder if anyone is actually reading your posts? More than likely, your posts are getting read, but you might not be getting the amount of interaction you’d like. While Facebook likes and shares are great, blog comments are the highest expression of social media love. Of course, we’re not talking about the weird “Buy these awesome name-brand shoes!” comments, but even comments that may disagree with your point of view tell you that people are paying attention to your brand.

Blog comments also have a bit of a snowball effect. Once one or two people respond to your post, other people start to jump into the conversation too.

How to Get More Blog Comments

Before asking your mom to leave a comment on your blog, there are a few things you can do to inspire your readers to interact a little more.

Create Compelling Content

No matter the subject, your blog is dead in the water without high-quality, compelling content. Focus on that first to ensure that someone, other than you, wants to read it.

#1. Write valuable content. Your blog won’t get many comments–beyond spam–if the content you provide isn’t valuable and relevant. You don’t need perfect writing skills or a flawless command of grammar to get comments on your site, but you do need to provide content readers can sink their teeth into and walk away with knowledge that helped, encouraged or interested them. If your brand provides valuable content on a regular basis, readers will eventually start visiting your blog more frequently and leave comments to let you know they were there and found your content helpful.

#2. Ask questions. If you’re already providing valuable content and giving your blog time to grow and attract an audience, the next step is asking questions. End each post with a question that is relevant to your brand’s content and intended to stimulate conversation. In general, your questions should be easy to answer but interesting enough that people want to respond and return to your blog to see what others have to say.

#3. Write content that stimulates feeling. Often, people feel most compelled to comment on posts that make them feel something. For example, posts about inspirational topics may be more likely to get comments. Likewise, posts that make readers feel a sense of kinship with your brand can have the same effect. People like hearing that others have thoughts and experiences similar to their own.

#4. Keep it short. If you’re getting enough visitors to your posts, but still not getting the traction you want, make sure your posts are optimized for keeping your readers’ attention. They don’t need to be haiku but shouldn’t be too long, either. Between 400 – 600 words is ideal.  We have a saying in our house, “The mind can absorb as much as the butt can endure.” If your posts are too lengthy, you might be losing your reader’s interest before he or she even gets to the point of leaving a comment or sharing with others.

#5. Ask for it! Are your posts just one long monologue, or do they inspire conversation?  The simplest thing you can do is to ask readers for their opinions.  It’s not complicated and doesn’t require any special or technical wizardry skills. By asking, not only are you likely to get more blog comments and interaction, but you’re showing your community that you care too.

Be Accessible, Prepared and Realistic

It would be wonderful if your goals for your brand were easy to fulfill. The reality is that almost everything that indicates success takes time, preparation and patience to achieve. Increasing blog comments is no exception.

#6. Make interaction easy. There are many ways a reader can interact with your post; leaving a comment is only one of them. Other ways visitors can show their appreciation for a well-written or meaningful article is to share it with their own communities. But, let’s face it, Internet users like things to be e-a-s-y, right?  We like to have the world at our fingertips. Readers will be more likely to share and like your brand’s post if they don’t have to go too far out of their way to do it.  Keep it simple by installing Facebook Like & Share Buttons, a Tweet Button or Social Bookmarking Buttons in each of your posts.

#7. Understand the 65-15-20 rule (formerly the 90-9-1 rule). This rule states that 65% of your community will consume (i.e., read) content, 15% will interact (comment, share, “like” a post) in some way and 20% will create content.  If we work on this assumption, then we know that only 15 out of every 100 people, on average, will interact with your content.

#8. Prepare for a numbers game. We all know that content is king, but if nobody’s aware of it, how can they read it?  Make sure you’re promoting your own content effectively by tweeting out your link, sharing it on Facebook and incorporating other strategies, such as commenting on other blogs. You can also include a link to your company blog in your email signature and let people know in your newsletters.

#9. Consider your own habits. Use yourself as a case study, and consider not only why you interact but also how you interact. Chances are the same thing that triggers you into action will trigger others too.  Take that experience and apply it to your brand’s blog.

#10. Be patient. Sometimes it just takes time to build up enough of a following to get regular comments. If your blog is fairly new and you don’t have a lot of well-targeted traffic yet, don’t panic. With time, you will likely develop a large readership and attract many more comments.

Encourage Readers to Comment

When someone reads your blog and comments, it’s victory for your brand. Commenting is the highest level of commitment someone can make on your blog because it takes the most effort. They can hit the like button or the tweet button if you have one, and both are great votes of confidence in your content, but commenting goes a step further. In general, it is best to respond to comments. However, some situations warrant a bit of caution.

#11. Respond to the “I agree with you” comment. It’s always great to hear when someone takes the time to let you know they like what you’ve said. In this case, it’s nice to comment and show your readers that you recognize and appreciate their feedback. Some people say if your comment won’t add anything to the conversation, you don’t have to respond. We only recommend not responding if you truly do not have the time to respond and regularly get many of these on a post.

#12. Tactfully dig into the “other point of view” comment or a respectful disagreement with your post. This is a comment that is asking for conversation. Absolutely respond to this type of comment by elaborating on your point or recognizing a valid exception. Never get into an argument. You may go back and forth with the commenter more than once, but at some point, you should agree to disagree.

#13. Delete the inappropriate and hostile comment or personal attack. This should be covered in a policy that can simply say “treat everyone with respect on this blog” or “play nicely.” You can post that policy somewhere prominently on your blog. Not only should you not respond to attacks, but these (almost always) anonymous attacks can and should be deleted, as long as you make it clear in your policy that that is how your brand will respond.

#14. Trash or ignore a comment that is meant only for the sake of getting a link back to the commenter’s blog. If you allow links in your comments or if the name of the writer can be linked to his or her blog, you may get a comment that doesn’t seem to add much to the conversation and it is only deposited on your blog for the sake of the link. It may be hard to tell this type of comment from the “I agree with you” comment. If you decide to thank the person, keep an eye out to see if this person makes it a policy to use this device regularly. In the future, you can either delete the comment (use the “mark as spam” function in your commenting software). Otherwise, do not respond.

Comment on Other Blogs

Online engagement is a two-way street. If you want people to take notice of you and spend time connecting with your brand, you need to make an effort to connect yourself. This means taking the time to comment and interact on other brands’ blogs (just not the competition’s).

#15. Get out and connect. Sometimes outgoing behavior is key to getting more attention to your blog and more comments for your posts. Visit other blogs that cover topics of interest to your target audience, and contribute to discussions in a meaningful way. Include your blog URL with your comments so that people know how to find your brand’s blog without any obvious promotion on your part. Readers who find your comments interesting and valuable will follow you to your blog and join the conversation there.

#16. Make sure you’re logged in to your own company’s account. Most blogs use a specific system for comments, such as Gravatar, Open ID and Disqus. If your own blog is using one of these systems, make sure you’re already logged in with your company’s profile first. If your brand doesn’t have one on that system, create one separate from your personal profile. ‘FoxyFlyDJLady’might get attention, but not the kind you want.

#17. Add value to the conversation. If you have something helpful to say, by all means, say it. Steer away from leaving ‘yeah, me too’ type of comments. Even if you do agree and are only trying to show your support for the author, these type of comments are a common tactic for link-droppers (people only commenting for the purposes of getting a link back to their own site). You don’t want to be confused for one of them.

#18. Monitor for mentions of your brand and respond appropriately. Use a simple tool such as Social Mention to look for relevant mentions of your brand. After all, not many bloggers are going to email you to say they’re talking about you. If you find a positive mention, or if the blogger is just trying your product for the first time, tell them thank you, invite them to your community and offer help if they need it.

DON’T Exhibit These Behaviors on Other Blogs

#19. Don’t argue with a negative review. Your brand is not going to please everyone, all of the time. Even if the blogger is completely wrong, using your product incorrectly or simply unfair, arguing will not make the situation any better. Instead, show professionalism and courtesy. Leave a simple comment thanking the blogger for taking the time to review your product, offer your apologies that it didn’t work out for her and offer to help answer any questions she or her readers might have.

#20. Avoid being overly self-promoting. Who enjoys a conversation with someone constantly trying to sell you something? Maybe a shopoholic, but most of the blogosphere does not. If a blogger mentions they are looking for a product or service similar to yours, it’s perfectly acceptable to suggest your brand. Most other situations, it would not be appropriate. In fact, it would be considered spam.

#21. Never use abbreviated text. Keep in mind who you are representing. ‘Gr8 post, UR the best’ isn’t the least bit professional. Unless you want to be perceived as a texting teenager, stick to spelling out the full word. On that note, be sure to have your spell check on too!

Now that you know the secret to getting more blog comments, go ahead out and apply them to your blog. With time and effort, you’ll have readers not only reading your brand’s blog but also taking the time to offer feedback and engage in conversations.

3 Ways to Deliver Successful Content

3 Ways to Deliver Successful Content

3 Ways to Deliver Successful Content
Content marketing is the bridge between you and your target audience – it connects you to people you otherwise might never reach. The goal of your content is to get the audience so interested in your content that they can’t help but cross the bridge to your side. However, we all know that sometimes our content misses the mark and our audience isn’t interested for very long, or even at all! What’s keeping readers engaged? Your story is! What makes up your story? Your content!

3 Ways to Deliver Successful Content

Content marketing is often misunderstood and overlooked. For those of us in content marketing, we might be thinking, “Yes it is, and I don’t understand why!” When you’re a marketer you not only have to think like a marketer, you have to think like a reader. When marketers only think in terms of campaigns and channels, the content only lasts for a short time. If it’s not something you’d like to read, do you think your readers will want to spend time on it? If you find your content struggling to make an impact on your consumers (and maybe your boss, too), we’ve got three (yes, only three, it’s that easy) ways to help you start delivering successful content.

1. If It Doesn’t Make an Impact, Don’t Do It 

How often do you check the efforts of your content marketing? The “post and forget” mentality almost guarantees that your content marketing strategy will never grow because, “if you don’t know, you don’t grow.” Make it a continuous practice to see how well your efforts did after every campaign. Test your campaigns against each other to see which one worked and which one didn’t. Asking these three questions can make the difference between content marketing that delivers results and content marketing that fails:

  1. Why does this matter?
  2. What’s the impact this will have?
  3. How will we measure this?

Can you answer those questions about your content marketing? It’s important to know what isn’t getting used in your strategy. What is your audience overlooking? What isn’t being used? Once you know what is and isn’t working, you can focus your efforts (and precious budget) on delivering strong content.

2. If It Does Make an Impact, Don’t Be Annoying

The internet can be an overwhelming place. There are millions upon millions of conversations happening every day, and you have to make sure that your content becomes a part of at least one of those conversations. However, if you’re content isn’t relevant, exciting, or if it’s constantly seeking attention, your conversation is going to be short and probably won’t happen again. Ask yourself these three questions to make sure your content isn’t bugging your readers:

  1. Am I talking about myself (my brand, my product, etc.) too much?
  2. Am I answering my reader’s questions?
  3. Is my content the overlap between what people are looking for and what I’m posting?

The goal is to show up first in a Google search, right? You want to be the one-stop shop for your consumers. To fulfill that dream, you have to know what they’re searching for, and what they’re searching for is general information. Although it’s instinct to talk about you, don’t do it! Talk about the bigger picture and not about product-specific topics.

3. If It’s Not Annoying, Share It

By now you know what content is working for you, and you know how not to annoy your audience. Now you have to figure out where to put it to receive optimal results. If you’re wondering why your content doesn’t have eyes on it, it might be because it’s in the wrong place. Where you share your content depends on your brand and your niche. If you’re in fashion, consider focusing on Instagram and Snapchat. If you’re in a business-to-business community, utilize Twitter and Facebook. You’re not limited to one or two, but it’s important to know what channel works best with and for you. To find your network, and yourself these three questions:

  1. Where are my customers spending their time?
  2. What social media channel fits my brand?
  3. How can I branch out from the main ones?

Social media is how you distribute your content. If you have a great blog or newsletter you want more subscribers and readers on, share it! Making content worth the time of your readers is half the battle. Sharing the content in the appropriate channel is the other half of the battle. Successful and deliverable content partly relies on where it’s shared. Do your research and your homework and apply what you know.

Add It All Up

Content marketers have to prove that their content is making an impact. You get out of content what you put into it – it’s a continual investment that will provide incredible results as long as you’re attentive to it. You truly can do more with less if you’re cleaning up what doesn’t fit, you’re a part of the conversation, and you’re sharing what you have to say. Remember to follow your content from beginning to end and ask yourself clarifying questions along the way.

How do you tell a story with your content? What are some of the ways you make sure you deliver successful content? Share your strategy!

How to Better Understand Customers

How to Better Understand and Connect with Customers in a Digital World

How to Better Understand and Connect with Customers in a Digital World

“How to Better Understand and Connect with Customers in a Digital World” is co-authored by Sharon Hurley Hall and Christina Strickland”

With the majority of adult Internet users spending time on social media sites, it’s no surprise that social media is such an important way to get your audience’s attention and connect with those in need of your products and services. But if there is one thing many businesses have learned the hard way, it’s that talking at your audience simply doesn’t work. That sort of strategy (or lack thereof) results in your message becoming a part of the online background noise.

Read more

6 Crucial Tactics to Improve Your Facebook Advertising Efforts

6 Crucial Tactics to Improve Your Facebook Advertising Efforts

6 Crucial Tactics to Improve Your Facebook Advertising EffortsFacebook is an excellent place to post ads for your brand. Why, you ask? Though most advertising questions don’t have a simple answer, this one definitely does. Essentially, just about everyone is on Facebook in some capacity or another, so advertising there means more and better chances to reach your audience. Just what do we mean by everyone? Well, upwards of 70 percent of adults spend time on this platform. With well-targeted ads and a good strategy, you can reach a significant portion of your audience, whether you’re targeting a B2C or B2B audience.

Of course, the fact that everyone is on Facebook is really just the tip of the iceberg. There’s also the fact that Facebook really makes it easy to hone in on a particular audience based on locations, demographics, interests, behaviors, and connections. And once you target a particular audience, there is so much you can use Facebook ads for, including boosting likes and engagement and increasing website clicks and conversions. You can do all of this on the budget you set AND use Facebook’s tools to track your progress, so you can easily optimize your ad campaigns.

6 Tips to Improve Facebook Advertising Results

But how do you create an ad that does more than simply look pretty? Here are 6 crucial tactics for successful Facebook advertising:

  1. Keep it short and sweet. Too much text just doesn’t fly in Facebook ads. And besides that, short and sweet wins the race when it comes to promo. No one wants to read a whole book about what you’re offering. Get to the point, and make sure you have a hook to draw them in. Facebook truncates overly long ad text, but even if that wasn’t the case, keeping it short is still a good idea. According to a recent study, ads with 40 characters or less of text get over 80 percent more engagement than longer ads.

Takeaway tip: Make a few catchy ads and try them all out. Figure out which ad texts perform the best and use the same approach with future ads. Be sure to consider different audience groups when you test your ad. One ad may underperform with one age or buying group but soar with another.

  1. Don’t overpower your image with too much on-image text. First of all, Facebook frowns on using more than 20 percent of your ad space on text. Besides that, you might think that adding the maximum allowed text to your image is an easy way to get around tactic number 1, which is all about keeping it short and sweet. Trust us, more text here won’t help you. If your ad includes too much text, it’s likely to have a much lower reach. Or worse, it might not run at all.

           Use the following dimensions for creating your ads:  

           Recommended News Feed image size:  1,200 x 900 pixels

           News Feed image ratio:  4:3

           Right column image size:  254 x 133 pixels

           Right column image ratio:  1.9:

Takeaway tip: Facebook has a handy tool that makes it easy to check if you’ve overdone it on text. Check it out here.

  1. Make it eye-catching. You’ve heard it a million times. A picture is worth a thousand words, and that still rings true on Facebook. For starters, posting an ad that is just all text simply won’t work on Facebook anyway, but even if you could go text crazy on this social media site, you wouldn’t want to. An image catches the eye and makes your viewer want to read your offer and learn more. Make it a good, high-resolution image every time.

Takeaway tip: Make sure your image is easy to understand at a glance, and hone in on the important stuff by taking the time to crop your image.

  1. Create a custom call to action (CTA) button through the ads manager. If you’ve created an effective Facebook ad, your viewers should get the gist of what you want to do, but that doesn’t mean they’ll just automatically do it. Having a call to action button encourages them to take that next step by clicking to perform the action you want. Often, in advertising, you need to tell your audience, and then tell them again (and again) before they actually take action. Custom CTAs can significantly increase your click-through rate. Keep in mind that you won’t have the option of creating a custom call to action button for a boosted or promoted post, but this is an option for website click, website conversion and offer claim ads.

Takeaway tip: When Facebook says it will allow you to customize your CTA button, this really means choosing from a selection of buttons the social media platform has on offer. Select the button that best matches your ad. Choices range from Shop Now, Book Now and Learn More to Watch Now, Donate Now, and Contact Us.

  1. Show more than one image. If a photo is worth a thousand words, how much more, then, are multiple images worth? Using the Facebook carousel format for your ad, you can show not only multiple images but also multiple headlines and calls to action. It works like this: Your audience member sees your awesome ad but doesn’t have to stop there. With just a swipe of his finger or a click of arrows, he can scroll through up to 10 images with accompanying links, headlines, and calls to action. How is that for bang for your bucks?

Takeaway tip: Use the carousel format for your Facebook ad when you want to showcase several offerings, share details that would be otherwise difficult to share with a single image, or use your images to do what you should always try to do—tell a story.

  1. Put Facebook to work for you. Sooner or later, you may run out of ideas for whom to target next. In that case, try this handy trick. Acting as yourself, go ahead and like one of your page’s updates in your home stream. The result? Facebook will recommend pages for you based on the content you’ve liked. Look at the pages it suggests. Since it believes you will be interested in those suggested pages based on liking your own content, it makes sense that fans of those suggested pages will also like your content. Go ahead and target those fans.

Takeaway tip: Make sure you like your page update on your home stream and NOT on your brand’s page.

With Facebook, you can really focus on your unique audience, reaching the demographics most likely to be interested in your products and services. Use the above tips to create the best possible ad, and put this social media giant to work for you.

8 Simple Ways to Breathe New Life Into Your Content Marketing

8 Simple Ways to Breathe New Life Into Your Content Marketing

8 Simple Ways to Breathe New Life Into Your Content Marketing

8 Simple Ways to Breathe New Life Into Your Content Marketing was authored by Sharon Hurley Hall and Christina Strickland.

If you’ve been at content marketing for any length of time, you’ve discovered that it’s all too easy to become comfortable or even complacent. You know what you’re doing, you’re no longer a newbie, and things are running like clockwork, but are you doing all you can do? Could doing a bit more improve your results?

Yes, you are putting effort into producing compelling content, but there is always room for improvement. Why should you bother? Well, the bottom line is that even small improvements can prevent your audience from growing bored and losing interest while also providing your current followers with a reason to keep coming back for more. And you want new visitors, right? Taking the time to refresh and reinvigorate your content also encourages sharing and helps to draw new visitors in your direction.

8 Content Marketing Ideas for Brands

Take the smart approach to your content marketing efforts. Here are 8 tips to help inspire you:

  1. Manage Your Content

People have to see your content several times before you become top-of-mind, so be sure to fine-tune the actual pieces of content you will produce and work out when they should appear. To do that, you’ll need an editorial calendar and a content management system. The editorial calendar tells you what’s happening when on which platform and who is responsible for producing it. The content management system gets everything scheduled and ensures you have SEO information and images to go along with the content. Sometimes, both work together.

Two options you can use are Crackerjack Marketing’s free editorial calendar template or CoSchedule, an affordable paid option that integrates with WordPress.

  1. Vary Your Content

Often, people become really good at creating text content. The problem is, however, that such content may provide information an audience can use but become a bit dry after a while. Readers may become bored with the same old content style, and mixing things up a bit can refresh their interest. How can you mix things up? Here are some suggestions for varying your content:

  • Add photos–This can help boost readership, sharing and engagement.
  • Create and post slideshows.
  • Create and post video content.
  • Include infographics.
  • Add relevant memes to lighten the mood and capture interest.

Most businesses include blog posts (a proven lead magnet) and social media posts, at minimum. They may also include eBooks, webinars, slideshows and infographics. Learn more about the benefits of these content types in our two-part series on 7 Types of Content to Include in Your Strategy and Why.

  1. Get Inside Your Audience’s Head

It is all too easy to forget whom you are trying to reach with your content. Too frequently, business people/content producers get caught up in what interests them and focus too much of their content on that. When you’re trying to connect with customers, however, it is critical to make your content relevant and interesting for them. This means identifying your target audience, learning how you can reach its members, and then providing content that speaks to its needs. Incorporate how-to and question-and-answer content whenever possible. This type of content is not only helpful for your audience but also highly shareable.

  1. Work With Guest Bloggers

Your audience gets used to your voice and trusts in your expertise and unique perspective. While that is a good thing, you can shake things up a little by inviting thought leaders to guest post on your blog. This provides your audience with a fresh perspective and can translate into more sharing and exposure for both your blog and your guest blogger.

  1. Focus on Your Formatting

Sometimes it’s the little things that make all the difference. While what you have to say is the meat and potatoes of your content, your formatting is the presentation. And many people will pass up even the most hearty content if the presentation is just sloppy. Make your content clear, easy to read and attractive by using the following formatting elements:

  • Subheadings
  • Bulleted lists
  • Relatively short blocks of text
  • Fonts that do not detract from your text but do highlight concepts
  1. Listen to Your Audience

Use analytics tools to figure out who’s already visiting your site and blog and what content they find most interesting. That will help you craft new content to keep them coming back, and hopefully, sharing with others. Many analytics tools also include demographic reports, so you can get fine detail on your target audience. Add social analytics tools and social listening tools to this, and you will get a well-rounded picture of your customers and their interests.

7.    Make Sharing Easy

According to Pew Internet, over 76% of online adults use social networking sites, 64% of American adults have a smartphone and more than 45% own tablets. Your strategy must include content optimized for social sharing from mobile devices. Consider:

  • creating a mobile first website and blog design to make sure all visitors can navigate content easily
  • switching your email newsletter to a mobile first design
  • increasing your activity on the key social sites where your potential customers hang out (this could be LinkedIn, Facebook, Pinterest or somewhere else depending on your industry)

8. Revisit Your Strategy

Revisit and refine your strategy periodically. This means doing three things:

  • setting realistic goals
  • planning how to execute them
  • deciding how to measure them

Note that your goals have to be realistic. If your business plan has flaws, content marketing isn’t the bandage, and there’s no absolute guarantee of direct sales. What it can do is get more attention for your business and increase conversions, so that you can turn leads into sales.

Isn’t it great when you don’t have to guess at what to do next? Use these 8 smart tips to give your content marketing a boost. Then be sure to come back and share your results with us.

Building and Protecting Your Brand Voice on Social Media

Creating Brand Voice on Social Media

Building and Protecting Your Brand Voice on Social Media

“Building and Protecting Your Brand Voice on Social Media” was co-authored by Stephanie Schwab and Christina Strickland

Every brand needs a strong brand voice. What is brand voice, you ask? Essentially, it’s the tone and style you use when communicating with your audience. Your brand voice not only tells your audience who you are and what you have to offer, but also proves critical in engaging your audience members and motivating them. Your brand voice gives your audience a feel for your brand’s personality, and since the explosion and rapid growth of social media marketing, it’s become more important than ever before.

That Was Then

Years ago, before social media marketing gave us another highly effective way of reaching audiences, businesses broadcast mass marketing messages to consumers through radio, television and magazine ads. Consumers far and wide received the same generic message. That brief message was delivered in a 30 second spot or a half-page ad. Essentially, marketers used a handful of words to reach everyone.

It’s understandable that with those constraints, it was incredibly hard to show personality. Of course, there were ways to make it happen. If you had a large marketing budget to fund a high-end ad agency and lots of media spend, you could make an attempt at telling a story with consistent characters, celebrities, or rarely, a real person from the company (like Dave Thomas from Wendy’s).

The fact of the matter is that many brands simply didn’t have the budget to show personality, but showing personality is critical. Why? Well, think about it. Great brands stand for something, don’t they? You know what to expect when you walk into a McDonald’s, when you buy a Harley Davidson motorcycle, or when you call a customer service representative at Zappos. And when you’re talking to a representative of a brand on Facebook, via Twitter, or watching them in a video, you expect that person to speak with the brand’s voice.

Do you expect the NPR Twitter feed to sound snarky? Of course not! And as for the Gap Facebook page? If their posts came off sounding snooty and intellectual, you’d wonder if you’d somehow clicked into The Twilight Zone.

This Is Now

Today, businesses put lots of different people to work engaging on behalf of their brands on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms, and more often than not, via a blog too. These people are checking in regularly, answering questions, sharing inside stories, personally recognizing individual customers, inspiring their audiences and becoming an integral part of the community they serve. This differs greatly from the radio spots and display ads of yesterday. Each one of these representatives must use their specific brand’s voice every single day.

As an entrepreneur who started a business based on your own passion and interest in your product, service or company, your brand voice is probably part of the natural way you talk to your consumers. It’s easy for you to talk and write in your brand voice. With social media as such an important part of your marketing strategy, however, you need others in your organization to engage with your audience using that same brand voice and do so not only convincingly but also consistently.

Build Your Brand Voice

Every tweet, every Facebook status and every blog post says something about your brand. Everything you post sends a message about who you are, what you care about and how much you care about your fans or followers.

  • Define your brand voice. Your team can’t use it if they don’t know what it is. Is your brand voice bold, inspiring, humble snarky, playful, sassy, loud, or honest? Clearly define your unique brand voice so that your team can speak and write with it.
  • Take a look at the competition and their brand voices. Differentiate your brand voice enough that you stand out from the competition.
  • Listen to your audience members. How do they speak and write? Make sure your brand voice is a good match for them. You don’t want to speak in a highly formal voice if your audience is very casual or playful.
  • Document the words, phrases and tone that you expect your brand voice to sound like. Your team will be much more effective if you provide them with guidelines and examples to follow.
  • Guide your team in writing tweets, social media posts, and blog posts in your unique voice. This will take some work on your part at first, but eventually, your team will begin to think in your brand voice, and writing in it will become second nature. Keep a close eye on their work until you’re fully comfortable that they’re speaking and writing in the right voice for your brand.

Protect Your Brand Voice

It’s critical to both recognize that your brand voice isn’t static and protect your brand voice at the same time. Your brand voice isn’t meant to be perfect and stay exactly the same over the years. It will, and should, evolve with your audience and changes in your goals and strategies. That’s okay and to be expected. What’s not okay is a team that goes off the rails and fails to communicate using your brand voice.

Address and correct mistakes consistently. It’s never a good idea to leave your brand voice in the hands of others without close oversight. People make mistakes, and if you don’t offer constructive feedback, they will continue to make them. Remember, your reputation, and ultimately, your success is at stake, so it’s up to you to keep your team on track.

Establish a Brand Character

For as much as you’re paying attention to brand voice, you’ll also want to project the right brand character, which is an image your audience will have of you based on your brand voice and the way you use social media.

So what’s your brand character and are you moving in the right direction? You can learn a lot from looking through your past updates in each of your social media channels. It doesn’t take long to notice that a pattern begins to develop based on your timing, tone of voice and types of content. Each of these combined together becomes your brand’s character.

Unfortunately, some characters are bound to miss the mark in social media. For example:

The Magician

This character has an amazing disappearing act! He’ll post, maybe even a few days or months in a row, and then ‘poof! He’s gone! You never know when he’ll reappear, but he does at some point.

The Infomercial Guy

You’ve got to buy my stuff! Seriously, have you seen all the great things my stuff can do? You can’t live without my stuff! While those may not be his exact words, that’s the message. His updates are constantly self-promotional and non-stop!

The Motor Mouth

She’s constantly talking and most of the time it’s far off-topic. She’ll tell you what she had for lunch, what the weather is like outside and what her plans are for each moment of the day. Her updates are not well balanced with her brand’s identity.

The Radio Announcer

It’s a one-way conversation with this character. She loves to send out tweets, Facebook updates and blog posts, but don’t expect her to respond. She’s not out for conversation; she only wants to make sure you get his message!

The Right Brand Character

We’ve given you brand characters to avoid, and now, we’ll share the right brand character. This character almost always hits the target, delivering the right message, at the right time. We call her The Mindful Maven.

The Mindful Maven

Her messages are consistent, clear and well-balanced. You’ll find her sending updates about her brand, yes, but not nearly as often as sharing other content she thinks will be interesting and relevant to the fans that follow her brand. And while she’s not detailing out every moment of her day, she wants to chat with you too. You’ll find her responding to comments, answering questions and joining in the conversation.

As you start to create your brand’s identity in the social media space, be sure that your character most closely matches that of Mindful Maven. You should have your own unique personality, but you want to make sure you’re hitting that sweet spot every time!

Building and protecting your brand voice is a critical but ongoing process. Use the advice above to create the right voice for your brand and engage, motivate, and inspire your audience.

The Essential Guide for Startups Using Social media

The Essential Guide for Startups Using Social Media

The Essential Guide for Startups Using Social media

In years gone by, it was enough to create some business cards and set up a website, but today you need so much more. Today, your prospects are ever more social online, and your audience will expect to not only see you but also interact with you via social media. Too many startups view social media as an afterthought rather than an essential part of succeeding in business. They soon discover just how critical it is for encouraging interest, building a reputation and developing lasting relationships with potential customers Fortunately, you have this essential guide to help you start off on the right foot.

Choose the Right Startup Name

Choosing a name is one of the hardest tasks a new business will ever undertake. It’s easy to come up with names when you’re just dreaming of starting a business, but when it’s time to get started, nothing seems to feel quite right anymore. Why? Well, because there’s so much riding on this name. It has to be just right for your endeavor, and it has to be both catchy and memorable. It has to make an impression, reveal something about your company and inspire people to remember you. And as if that’s not enough, the name has to be available for use. Naming your business exactly the same name as another business can be a recipe for disaster.

Okay, breathe. Yes, it can be difficult, but you can do this. Go ahead and start with these great tips for naming your startup:

Get to brainstorming

Brainstorming is the first step in choosing the right startup name. This part is easy. Jot down a list of words that describe your startup. Don’t think too hard about this or even take it too seriously. The time for that will come later. For now, you just want a basic list with which to work. If you run out of words that fit, head on over to Thesaurus.com, and type in the words you’ve already jotted down. Add some synonyms for the words you brainstormed to generate an even longer list.

Review what you brainstormed

Start crossing the words you absolutely hate off your list. Next, review the list again and get rid of the ones you only like just a little. You should be left with the words that best describe your company. Play around with these words to see if you can use them to come up with a catchy startup name. For example, you might end up with the right name by combining two or three words on your list, or you might build your company name by making one word out of two, such as in Facebook and Firefox.

Consider how the name you’ve dreamed up sounds

Does the name you’re considering easily roll off the tongue? Does it include words that rhyme, such as in HotSpot? Is it fun to say? Does it evoke the types of feelings you want it to? Your name doesn’t have to rhyme or strike a fantastically melodious chord, but it should be easy to say. If it’s fun to say, that’s a definite bonus. Try different word combinations by saying them aloud several times before you choose, and have some friends try them out too.

***Hint: You will also need to choose a domain name, and it can really help to work on figuring out a business name and a domain name at the same time. Be sure to scroll down to the Choose the Right Domain Name section (next!) for tips.

Check on availability

There’s nothing worse than getting your heart set on the perfect startup name and then discovering that it’s already taken. Before you get too attached to that magnificent moniker, do an online search and make sure it’s not already taken. NameChk can help you with your search. Look for your desired name in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office database as well.

Opt for creative and different

Some companies choose names that don’t mean anything or at least aren’t commonly used (Think Kodak and Google!). Others choose a word from a foreign language or select words for impact rather than meaning. This type of approach can really work for you as long as the name you choose will fit your brand image. In fact, a creative made-up or out-of-the-ordinary name can help you stand out in a sea of competition.

Choose the Right Domain Name Too

You probably thought you were finished after you chose a brilliant business name. Sorry! There’s still work to do. The right domain name is just as important as the perfect business name. Today, your prospects expect you to not only show up online but also prove easy to find. If your business name sets off fireworks, but your domain name is too obscure, difficult to spell, or impossible to remember, it could hurt you on the Internet.

Here are some tips for choosing the best domain name for your business:

Choose a domain name that is as close to your new business name as you can get
You may not be able to get AcmeWidgets.com, but maybe you can get AcmeWidgetsSeattle.com. Try different permutations of your business name, or add your location or another descriptor.

If at all possible, go for a .com domain

.com domains are still the most common and most used for business, at least here in the U.S. If you’re trying to match your existing business name, you can consider a .net, .co, .info or .us domain, but be aware that most people will still type in your domain name with a .com on it. Take some time to check and see who will be the beneficiary of all the traffic meant for you that ends up going elsewhere. If it’s your #1 competitor – don’t do it. Find something else with a .com domain.

Make it memorable, but not too long

One and two word domains are nearly impossible to get these days, unless you buy them from someone else (often through a broker like Sedo.com). So you may need to go to three words or more, but try to keep it as short as possible while being descriptive and memorable.

Spell it out

When you’re considering a new domain name, say it out loud a few times and try it out on other people. You’ll often tell people your domain in person or over the phone. If it’s a true pain to spell or explain, you’ll get really frustrated when people don’t get it. So instead of Widgets4U.com or Widgets-4-You.com, try to get WidgetsForYou.com. Or even better, WidgetsInWyoming.com. That’s far more descriptive and easier to convey all around.

Don’t rush it

This is an incredibly important decision. Don’t rush it, and don’t just grab the first domain that’s available. Check out tools like DomainNameSoup.com to play around with and try a bunch of different options. Try the multiple choices or word combinations functions.

Go with a reputable registrar

When you’re ready to buy your domain, use a reputable domain registrar, such as enom or Namecheap.

Make Social Media a Priority

Recognize that social media isn’t a mere add-on. It can be a critical component of getting noticed, meeting goals, and enjoying continuing success. Make it a part of your plans from the very beginning.

Develop a social media strategy

It’s perfectly fine to post willy nilly on your personal social media account. When it comes to your startup, however, it’s critical to start with a strategy that will help you meet your goals. Every post, share, and comment should fit that strategy and the image you want to project.

Set up social media accounts

Where do your prospects spend time? Find out and make sure you’re there too. Many startups begin with at least Facebook (over 1 billion users around the world) and Twitter (over 300 million monthly users around the world), but if a large segment of your audience is on Instagram, you want to make sure they can find you there. If your start up is B2B, you’ll definitely want to have a presence on LinkedIn while Facebook and Twitter are top choices for marketing to consumers.

Do create a company blog too, as this can prove your most engaging platform of all. With your blog, you have the opportunity to develop a strong brand personality via blog posts and videos.

Of course, this is a lot to accomplish all at once. Consider starting with one platform and developing that until you feel confident that you can manage and continue to grow that presence even after adding another platform into the mix.

Craft an amazing profile

Many startups set up social media accounts in haste, creating barebones profiles and generic avatars, thinking they’ll set up better profiles later. Don’t do this. You only get one time to make a great first impression. Your audience has other options, and when they find you online, you want them to feel sure that connecting with you is a good one. Start out with an attractive, eye-catching avatar that perfectly represents your startup, and create a profile that entices your audience to check you out.

Create an editorial calendar

Create an editorial calendar before you begin posting to your social media accounts, and update it regularly – either weekly, monthly or quarterly. Planning out your editorial content in advance takes away the “I don’t have time to write today” problem that most people have and makes publishing content as easy as queuing it up and clicking a button.

Develop social media that informs, explains, and answers questions before they’re asked

At first, you may not receive a lot of questions and comments. That’s okay! You’re brand new! However, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t answer those unasked questions. Put yourself in the shoes of your average prospect and customer, determine what you would want to know in their place, and then create content that provides that information.

Avoid posting dry, dull content or being overly promotional

It doesn’t work to sell, sell, sell to your audience via social media. Instead, work on providing content that tells your story and helps make your audience members’ lives easier and more interesting. Be sure to make it engaging enough that people will want to consume it and pass it along.

Provide customer service via social media

Take advantage of social media to provide great customer service to your customers. Respond to their questions and concerns, offer real help when needed, and use your customers’ suggestions and comments to make your products and services better. Being responsive in this way can really give your startup a boost, encourage loyalty from your new customers, and show prospects that you’re a business they can trust.

Listen, interact and react

Devote time each day to monitoring your social media accounts, checking in at least a couple of times per day on each of your social media platforms. Tools like Hootsuite, Social Mention, and Talkwalker can help you monitor what others are saying about your brand.

Respond to comments, answer questions, share posts, and follow others. Being social helps you gain more exposure and encourages your audience to engage with you.

Use this guide to make real headway with social media for your startup. We’ve provided the basics you need to achieve success. Don’t be afraid to experiment as well, however. Creativity (within the bounds of a solid strategy) can win points on social media.

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Ways to Generate Blog Post Ideas

Surefire Ways to Generate Blog Post Ideas

“Surefire Ways to Generate Blog Post Ideas” was co-authored by Stephanie Schwab and Christina Strickland.

Ways to Generate Blog Post Ideas

Sometimes the hardest thing about having a blog is figuring out what to post on it each week. Maybe you started with a bank of grand ideas, but as you used them up, your blog started to feel, well, a lot less fresh. Perhaps you’ve struggled for ideas since the very beginning. The good news is you can stop liberally applying your forehead to your desk.

Here are some of the best ways to generate blog post ideas:

Answer Questions

No matter what your business, it’s likely that you get a ton of questions each week. And the questions you get represent more than the inquiries of a mere few. They are questions hundreds or thousands of other people have about your products and services. These questions provide an easy way to learn what your customers want to know, so you can provide them with information they need. And since you get all of these questions anyway, why not translate them into blog posts?

Tips:

  1. Answer each question with a brief (or longer) post. You can even put the posts into a Q&A format (put the question at the top, then answer it below).
  2. Get your whole organization involved. Ask everyone in your organization to keep a record of the questions they get.
  3. Pay attention to the questions that come up repeatedly, but don’t ignore those that come up only once. If many people are asking the same question, you can be certain there’s an audience for the answer. So, then, why not just scrap those rare questions? Well, for every person who asks a question, there are many more out there who wonder the same thing.

 

Ask Your Own Questions

When it comes to creating good blog content, you really don’t have to reinvent the wheel, and neither do you need ESP. Stop guessing about what your readers want to read, and just ask them. This is another reason social media is so great. You can use that social contact to ask your followers what they are interested in reading.

What should you ask? Start with the following:

  • What they want to read about next
  • What their burning questions are
  • What they want to read more or less of
  • What they think of your recent content

Tips:

  1. Ask your readers what they’re interested in via the comments. This is the easiest way to get answers.
  2. Create polls. Many people enjoy participating in them, and they are a good way to gauge interest.
  3. Learn from the answers you receive. You will absolutely get blog ideas from asking these sorts of questions, but you may also get something else priceless–feedback! The answers you receive provide insight into what you’ve been doing right and where you’ve been falling short.

Read Your Existing Comments

Haven’t asked for feedback yet? You may already have a source of ideas at your fingertips. Your readers’ comments can give you great insight into what interests them and what they want to read. Notice which blogs and posts generate the most comments, and then read each comment. Often, readers will present a point of view that leads you to your next post.

Tips:

  1. Don’t rely on your readers to know you want comments. Encourage comments and sharing on every post.
  2. If you have some posts that do not get any comments, this doesn’t necessarily mean the topic was way off base. Still, it is revealing if most of your posts do get comments and you have a few with absolutely nothing.

Look for Industry News

Where do your readers go for relevant news about your industry? Why not become a reliable source of the news they seek? By updating your readers on your industry and the products and services you sell, you ensure that you have a ready source of blog topics and give your readers yet another reason to read your content.

Tips:

  1. Keep your readers interested by writing blog posts about changes and improvements not only in your industry but also within your company.
  2. Create behind-the-scenes posts as well. Most people love to read about the goings on at the companies they patronize, and many like to read about the people making it all happen.

Teach Them Something

Some of the best blog posts are those that teach the reader how to do something. These are really useful posts that people tend to save and refer to again and again, sharing them with others as well. Write how-to posts, or create photo and video tutorials, that teach your audience how to use your products or services.

Tips:

  1. Produce life hack posts that demonstrate how your products or services can make your readers’ lives easier, better, and/or more fun.
  2. Produce posts that share how real customers have used/benefited from your products and services (skip the blatant promotion, however). Think more human interest story than an advertisement.

Leverage Expertise

Chances are you have employees that are pretty much experts on some topics. Are those topics relevant to your audience? If yes, get them to writing. Having your employees (or you) cover these topics demonstrates that you are a leader in your industry.

Tips:

  1. Ensure that these posts tackle specific issues and are truly useful. This is not a big chance for the expert to blab about how much he or she knows.
  2. Avoid talking down to your audience or bad mouthing others in the industry. This will only turn your readers off.

Use Tools

You have a bunch of engagement-monitoring tools at your disposal, right?  Well, they’re not just there to look pretty. Use them to drum up blog ideas! All of those shares, likes, retweets, and favorites do more than just say you did a good job. They give you important insight into the type of content that really excites your audience. Use all of this engagement information to figure out which types of content to produce more of and which types you might want to pass up next time.

Which types of tools should you use? Go ahead and try these on for size:

  • Monitoring tools provided by social media sites
  • Site analytic tools
  • URL-shortening services

Tips:

  1. Be sure to analyze your click-throughs as well.
  2. Evaluate click-throughs that lead not only to your site but also to content on third-party sites.

 

With the above advice to hand, coming up with good ideas for your blog needn’t be an exercise in frustration. Just remember to mix up the types of blog posts you publish as too much of even a good thing can get, well, boring. How do you get new post ideas? Share your tips and tricks!

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How to Market Your Brand Using Live Video

how-to-use-live-video-to-marketing-your-brand

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so what does that mean for live video broadcasting via tools like Periscope, Meerkat, Snapchat, Facebook Live, and Blab? I’m going to say live video is worth a million words. Why? Well, as far as content marketing is concerned, we all know how important it is to educate and inform your audience in a way that is also entertaining. We also know how important it is to reach your customers where they spend time and encourage them to connect with your brand. Live video makes this easy.

How to Use Live Video for Marketing

Whether you use Periscope, Facebook Live, or Meerkat, live video allows you to share your brand in real-time. It makes it easier than ever before to provide your audience with a face-to-face experience, even if you’re halfway around the world. It allows you to tell stories, share, support, and teach where and when your audience needs it, offering an undeniably personal appeal and boosting engagement in a way static content never could.

Without question, live video is a big thing in content marketing, and it’s becoming ever more present with each passing month. Audiences are seeing more and more live content from brands, and they will expect you to offer it too. The last thing you’d ever want is to be left behind when your competition is offering loads of great live content, and you’re stuck in the social media dark ages.

Here are some solid ways to use live video as part of your content marketing strategy.

Provide Question and Answer Sessions

Some of the most useful written content answers an audience’s frequently asked questions. And though these written FAQs do come in handy, they can sometimes feel rather dry. Or even worse, it can be hard to make them stand out in the sea of written content out there. Enter the live video, and you have a way to grab your audience’s attention and keep it by providing those all-important answers in real-time. Better yet, live video allows you the opportunity to learn your audience members’ concerns and find out what interests them.

Tips: Do respond to viewers by name. Do answer questions that provide value for your audience. Don’t waste your time with trolls. Ignore and move on.

Let Your Audience Tune-in to Live Events

Is there an upcoming event of interest to your audience? Are you planning to soak it all in and then blog about it for your audience members who couldn’t be there? Why not just take them with you? When you share live events, your audience feels more connected to you and your brand. But that’s not the only benefit. You can also become their go-to person for announcements and news. They don’t have to be there because they know you’ll provide the scoop—live!

Tip: Move about and be sure to capture the most exciting moments and happenings. Your audience will be excited to tune in next time if they know your live video will tell a story and provide something unique and fresh.

Take Them Behind the Scenes

Who doesn’t love a look behind the scene? Use live video to enhance your brand’s story, showing your audience the unique way you do things, what your employees are up to, and even how you manufacture your product or provide your key services. Out in the community making a difference? Show and tell through live video!

Tips: Give your audience insight into things they wouldn’t normally see, and be responsive while doing it. Take the time to read and respond to comments while you’re live. Doing so makes for a much more personal experience.

How-Tos and Training

Is there something your audience needs to learn how to do? Can you teach them how to use your product or even show them other ways to make their lives easier, better, and more productive? Get busy showing them how to do it—live!

Tips: Inject a little personality. Seeing is believing, but there’s little worse than dry, boring accounts of how to get a job done. Keep it peppy and fun; crack jokes. Your audience will thank you for making learning fun.

Interviews

We talk a lot about providing that personal touch, and that’s because it truly is critical. Go ahead and interview key employees and let your audience see the faces and personalities behind the names. But don’t stop there. Interview your customers as well. Think of it as live testimonials for your brand. And don’t be afraid to branch out to interviewing industry experts as well.

Tips: Avoid asking the same tired questions your audience sees in every interview. Work on a unique angle, and research to find out just what your audience really wants to know.

Customer Support

So you already offer customer support by email and by phone? Maybe you even allow customers to reach out via chat as well. Give them that super-personal touch by allowing them to see you while you offer that top-notch support.

Tips: Set specific office hours for providing live customer support each week. Record sessions (respecting privacy, of course) to help other customers with the same issues.

How Are Brands Broadcasting Live Video?

In the past, Periscope was the way to go with live video for brands, but now you have a wealth of options to choose from, including the following:

Periscope: If you want a mobile app that allows you to stream around the world at any time, take a look at this one. Periscope has handy tools for sharing and engaging with your audience.

Meerkat: This app allows you to stream live from your mobile device. Head to Google Play or iTunes to grab it.

Snapchat: This app can be a good choice for quick, live video messages. It’s especially popular with Millennials and marketers marketing to other marketers.

Blab: Think of this one like Periscope—only for groups. Four people can go live at once with this one.

Facebook Live: For most brands, Facebook is an important social media tool. Now you can engage your audience anywhere in the world—live! Your videos are posted to your page for followers who couldn’t catch you live to catch you later.

Give live video a spin, incorporating it into your content marketing mix to grab attention and boost engagement. And be sure to announce when you plan to broadcast. While you can broadcast spontaneously, and there may be situations in which you want to, you’ll have more viewers if you generate some buzz first. Additionally, it can really help to save your broadcasts, when possible, and embed them into blog posts later!

What Brands Should Do on Instagram

21 Things Your Competitors Do on Instagram that You Don’t

What Brands Should Do on Instagram

Instagram has grown by leaps and bounds since its inception. What started off just trying to gain a foothold in the social media arena now has an incredible 400 Million+ people who are active on it monthly, and over three quarters of those users are in the United States. This is an important place to be if you’re serious about your brand. But the competition is fierce! There are many brands that have nailed it on Instagram.

This is both good news and bad news for you. The bad news is that, yes, like I just said, the competition is fierce. The good news is, you’re reading this blog post and we’re going to tell you exactly what they’ve done to become so popular.

Your Instagram Profile

It’s critical that you take your profile seriously. This is absolutely the wrong thing to approach halfway. Your profile gives your audience a snapshot of your brand–who you are, what your brand is all about, and why they should give you a second thought. Make it count.

  1. Choose a Killer Avatar

Take the time to choose an avatar that is not only eye-catching, memorable, and pleasing to the eye on desktop and mobile devices but also a spot-on representation of your brand. You can use your logo if it fits these requirements (and it definitely should), but some brands make featured products work for them on Instagram, even getting a sales boost out of the deal.

  1. Complete Bio

Take the time to craft a bio that will keep your audience’s attention and do a great job of accurately reflecting your brand. Instagram gives you only 150 characters in which to capture interest, so your bio really needs to pack a punch. Check out How to Write Good Instagram Bios to Make an Impression and 16 of the Best Brands on Instagram Right Now to gain insight on what really works.

  1. Public Profile

Be sure to set your profile to public. If you’re saying “Duh!” right now, just know that a significant number of people do forget this oh-so-important step. It’s absolutely fine to stay in stealth mode with your personal account, if that does it for you, but your brand account needs to see the light of day.

Strategy

As with many things in life, proceeding without a plan is a lot like planning to fail. To build your following and keep your audience interested, you need a solid strategy for giving your audience members what they want. Skip the photos of your dog (unless you’re brand is all about pets) and your plate. Your audience just doesn’t care. Don’t try to get away with blatant marketing either. It just won’t fly here and could actually work against your efforts to build a following.

  1. Deliver on Your Promise

You wrote a short but dynamic bio that gave people a reason to follow you. Now it’s time to

deliver the goods. Your Instagram content should entertain, inform, and tell the story of your brand. Without question, every post should be useful, and each one should contribute to your brand’s story, providing insight into what you’re all about.

  1. Tell Your Story

Everything you post should tell your audience something about your brand. What’s your story? What makes your brand unique? What’s your special flavor? Determine this first, and then make sure each posts fits into your story or helps you elaborate on it.

  1. Use an Editorial Calendar

Create an editorial calendar, so you can keep track of what you plan to post and when. Keep in mind that you don’t necessarily have to post multiple times a day or even every day. You don’t want to bombard your followers’ feeds with your brand every second of every day, and it will, of course, take time to create the kind of quality, creative content we’re talking about here. Trying to post constantly could not only prove annoying for your followers but also result in low-quality, boring, or irrelevant images that turn your followers off in an entirely different way.

So just how often should you post? We don’t have that answer for your unique brand, but your audience sure does. Start with considering your audience and how often its members are likely to use Instagram as well as the type of content that will really grab your audience’s attention. Then, from there, consider not only how long it will take you to produce that content but also how often you can reasonably do so. With these times to hand, you may choose to post once per week or a few times a week.

  1. Be Consistent

While you don’t want to bombard your followers with your brand, all the time, consistency is key. When you do decide on a schedule, though, stick to it. Your audience will learn to expect content from you on a regular basis, and you don’t want to let them down.

Content

Post photos that are not only visually appealing but also sure to draw some laughs, provide inspiration, and/or just ensure a whole lot of fun while at the same time providing insight into your brand. Don’t try to get away with blatant marketing either. It just won’t fly here and could actually work against your efforts to build a following.

  1. Display Your Products

When you display your products on Instagram, your customers can window-shop without ever setting foot in the mall. Don’t overdo it by posting all of your products, but do go ahead and use it as a mobile display.

Here are some ideas for displaying your products on Instagram:

  •   Post products that are part of a collection.
  •   Post sale items.
  •   Post holiday offerings.
  •   Showcase your newest products, or share items that don’t typically get a lot of attention yet offer high value.
  1. Behind the Scenes

People love to see the reality behind a brand. Use Instagram to provide behind-the-scenes photos of the manufacturing process or to show off the equipment you use to make their lives easier. You can even show off photos of you hard at work planning to make your business better or preparing to deliver the top-notch service they expect.

  1. Demonstrate

You can tell your audience over and over again what you can do or how great your products are, but nothing beats a little show and tell. Audiences more readily believe what they can see with their own eyes. Post images that show how your product works or that demonstrate lesser-known uses for it. Provide before-and-after images to show how well your service works. Share images of people actually wearing or using your product. User-generated content can come in very handy here as well.

  1. Make it People Orientated

Social media is all about engagement, and how better to encourage your audience to feel connected to your brand than by showing off the people that make it tick. Showcase your staff at work in the office, breakroom hijinks, training sessions, and meetings and demonstrations. Post images of corporate events, workplace parties, and staff ballgames. Do your employees really deck out their cubicles? Share photos of these spaces via Instagram. This is your chance to show a little personality.

  1. Inspire

Your brand has a unique point a view. It has personality. Use graphics and quotes that are aligned with your brand voice and point of view to inspire and motivate your audience.

  1. Use Hashtags & Descriptions

Always create descriptions that are clear and concise, making that critical connection between the photo you’re posting and your brand and its message. Then, use hastags tags that make it easier for interested users to find your content. Use keywords that categorize your images, are always relevant, and indicate such things as theme, location, event, and subject matter. Don’t forget to use some popular, but definitely relevant, hashtags as well, such as the following:

#TBT (throwback Thursday)
#MuffinBreak
#photooftheday
#swag
#picoftheday
#food

Of course, there are a few don’ts too. Don’t just stuff your description with hashtags. While it’s generally accepted to use more here than on Twitter, you don’t want to go crazy. In fact, three seems to be the optimal number of hashtags for Instagram.

Grow Your Following

Slow and steady may win the race in some cases, but that doesn’t necessarily apply to your Instagram following. You want to capture your audience’s interest quickly! Here are some ways to do so:

  1. Run a Contest

Plan an Instagram contest that will appeal to your audience, and cross-promote it on your other social media accounts. Make it appealing enough, and some of the followers from your other social media accounts will head over to Instagram and follow you there too.

  1. Tell Your Customers

Let your audience know you’re on Instagram now. Send out an email announcement, and  share on your website and blog, in your newsletter, and on your other social media accounts.

  1. Tell Your Friends

Let your friends know you’re on Instagram. They many not only become some of your first followers but also help spread the word about your brand.

  1. Cross Promote

Post your Instagram logo on your website and blog and any other domains you own. Create call to actions to draw your audience in as well. Post your call to actions to your other social media accounts too.

  1. Use Hashtags

Use hashtags in all of your cross-promotions, contests, and announcements.

Engage Like a Boss

As you’ve heard from us time and time again, social media is social, so you should not only post but also engage. Without this critical component of your Instagram plan, you might as well be yelling into the wind.

  1. Socialize, Socialize, Socialize!

There’s a whole give-and-take thing that goes on with Instagrammers. Follow others who interest you on Instagram, and they’re likely to follow you back. But don’t just stop there–like and comment too. One caveat is that your comments should always be relevant and add something to the conversations. Otherwise, it’s just spam, and who needs more of that?

  1. Sharing is Caring

Sharing is a big part of engaging and interacting on any social platform, and social media is no exception. Just how do you share on Instagram, you might ask? Here’s the Right Way to Repost Instagram Photos gives you the skinny on getting the job done. Also, don’t forget to repost user-generated content that shows off your products. Just be sure to properly attribute the shared content.

  1. Call Them to Action

While you definitely don’t want to go for the big sales pitch on Instagram, you do want to encourage your audience to take critical next steps. Include a call to action in each of your posts. For example, it only takes a second to ask your followers to “like” your post if you’ve wowed them or they agree with something you’ve posted. And asking them to tag friends who might be interested can only increase your reach.

With these 21 tips at your disposal, you’re ready to take Instagram by storm. Instagram is a powerful tool, and when used well, can only help your brand achieve its social media goals. Put these strategies to work for you, and then be sure to come back and share your success with us in the comments.

Reasons Why Your Influencer Marketing Isn’t Working

influencer-marketing-isnt-working

With over 100 billion active users on Facebook, and one million people using Instagram monthly, social media is a definitive part of our communication culture.

Among the average daily users wanting just to connect with friends and share fun pics of their kids, are what we call influencers, individuals with large, vibrant communities and audiences who tune in to connect with them on a regular basis.

And they are powerful.

With millions of followers and countless brands clamoring to get their endorsements, they have the ability to make a significant difference in the marketplace.

Influencer marketing has emerged as a more scientific way to capitalize on the influencer phenomenon. And, it has indeed become quite an effective way for brands to expand their client base to new audiences in a more engaging, authentic way. This is why it is now an integral part of many well-designed marketing campaigns.

So why isn’t everyone doing it? And why are so many people doing it wrong?

The answer isn’t necessarily simple, yet it’s not complex either. We’ve found that there are few reasons why your efforts may not be paying off.

Why Your Influencer Marketing Isn’t Working

#1: You Don’t Know the Rules

For starters, influencer marketing is regulated by the FCC, and they aren’t playing around. If you want to avoid huge fines and major scandal (yes, major: please don’t be Lord & Taylor), you need to become intimate with the rules that apply to your brand as well as those that apply to your influencers.

Beyond that, you need to know the “unofficial rules” of the game. You need to know what influencers expect, what they desire, what something as basic as the word “partnership” means (hint: it doesn’t mean you’re doing the influencer a favor by working with them). A lot of this knowledge can be found just spending time on blogs, talking to influencers (go to a conference!), and being a real part of the conversation about your industry. (see reason #5)

#2: You Don’t Have a Budget

Influencer marketing could be considered media or public relations, but it is vastly different from the earned media you might be used to working with. Attempting to treat it similarly means you’re destined for failure.

Most successful, prominent influencers are also savvy business people. And, as you know, savvy business people don’t usually do their business for free. You need to come into the partnership with something to offer –and a chance to win product or be featured on your social channels is generally not what we’re talking about.

That’s not to say you can only get this done with a massive monetary budget at your disposal; it’s just to say that, like anything else, you get what you pay for. How you pay is only limited by your creativity and ability to build relationships with the people in the space you want your brand to be a part of.

#3: You Don’t Choose People, You Push Messaging

Influencers are people –each one unique, each one with their own special voice and platform where they use it. You can’t go into a campaign with a template and expect your influencers to cookie cutter create it across the board. And, really, why would you want to?

The beauty of the influencer is that they are authentic. That with their personal story and personal brand, they can reach their audience in a way you can’t. These are sacred parts of the influencer-audience relationship and, when you try to control those, your campaign falls flat.

Take some time to read blogs, find ones that touch you as a human, outside of your role as a marketer, and then figure out how to get your message to that person so they can put the feels on it for their readers.

#4: You Don’t Do Your Homework

Just like influencers need to choose brands they have a connection to, it’s important that brands choose influencers who are a good fit for their brand. I recently received an email, from someone who “loves my blog,” offering me an opportunity to review their “mom and me dresses” with my daughter.

I have three sons. No girl. My blog is about raising boys. Not a good fit for their brand. You want to work with influencers who can bring your brand’s story to life and you find those influencers by truly getting to know them, their sites, and their topic.

#5: You Haven’t Built a Relationship

Influencers rely a lot on relationships –relationships with their audience, relationships with the brands they work with, relationships with the other people who play roles in the stories they bring to life online.

A large part of an influencer’s ability to be successful has to do with their ability to build engaging connections among people. You want influencers to want your brand to be a part of their story, and to do that you need to build a relationship with your influencers. Get to know their process, learn about their inspiration, and then you can help them find a creative way to bring your story to life, alongside theirs.

Influencer marketing has the potential to be the most powerful part of your marketing campaign, but it’s important that it’s done right if you want it to have a positive impact on your bottom line. Take time to cultivate relationships, engage with your influencers as people, and align your goals properly to ensure you, your influencers, and their audience have a positive experience.

Are you struggling with your influencer marketing strategy? We’d love to help!

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How to Run a Remote Business With the Right Tools

How to Run a Remote Business With the Right Tools

How to Run a Remote Business With the Right Tools

There are many benefits to working remotely. Even if you typically work in a traditional office, you’ve dreamt about escaping to work from somewhere else from time-to-time. This is the lifestyle we at Crackerjack Marketing have adopted and loved for a little over six years now: our team is 100% virtual, and we all work out of home offices (or sometimes on the road when we travel for business or pleasure). While we believe there are huge benefits to working remotely, we do rely very heavily on digital tools to help our team stay in touch and in sync with each other.

Simply put: the right tools help your company, your partners, and (if you’re an agency) your clients work together efficiently and effectively without having to be in the same place.

Four Tools for Virtual Team Collaboration

We are always looking into the next best website, app, or extension that will help us get the job done for our clients. New tools are always coming out, but I’m going to highlight four that have become a crucial and integral part of Crackerjack Marketing’s day-to-day work.

1. Slack

When working remotely (as with any work situation), communication is key. However, when you work remotely, you can’t walk down the hallway to ask your boss or a co-worker a question. In collaborative messaging app Slack, we’ve found the next best thing. Here are the two most important Slack features that our team uses regularly:

1. Channels: Slack offers three different types of conversation threads:

a. Team-wide “channels” can be created for each project, topic, client, or department to chat in, keeping conversations distinct. Team members or clients need only belong to the channel(s) that applies to them.
b. Private channels allow you to invite just a few members to keep your sensitive projects secret.
c. Direct messages provide a way for you to chat directly with a coworker; direct messages can also be set up for multiple people to chat together, outside of a team-wide channel.

Fun tip: Within any channel, jazz up your interactions by using GIFs. Add the Giphy app to Slack and type /giphy and a word or phrase such as “/giphy dance”. Giphy will pick a GIF that corresponds with the word or phrase. Since it’s random, try using the command a few times with Slackbot (a built-in helper app) and then share the one that fits best!

2. File sharing: Slack isn’t just for talking. Share files, images, PDFs, and documents directly in a channel. You can also connect files from DropBox and Google Drive (I’ll talk about these later). These files are indexed and archived automatically by Slack so you can easily search and find the one you’re looking for.

Slack is so much more than a messaging tool. It’s neat and organized, but allows for freedom. Create a channel for funny GIFs; create a channel for the most important project your team is working on; create a channel for interesting and relevant articles. Slack allows for the personality of your business (remote or not) to shine through in your every day communication.

2. Nozbe

Project management tool Nozbe is where we like to get things done. Since we don’t have face-to-face meetings, how do we know what’s going in current projects, and what new projects are being started? Nozbe, that’s how. It’s a task manager for projects big and small. Here are a few of our favorite Nozbe features:

1. Inbox: Whenever you have a task you need to get done, you can add it to your inbox. If your boss or a teammate is giving you a task to do, they can add a task and then assign it to you so it appears in your inbox. Each task allows you to add a comment, a due date, a category, a repeat option, and a time needed option. These features allow you to be even more efficient and on top of your work.

2. Projects: Once you’ve received a task, it’s necessary to move it from your inbox into the corresponding project. For example, if you’re hosting a contest for a client on Facebook, create a project called “Facebook Contest.” One of your tasks under that project might be to choose a prize. Once you’ve created that task, move it into the project folder so you can see that it needs to be done for your Facebook project. Then indicate if it needs to be completed by you, or by a teammate. That way, every project you run goes smoothly, efficiently, and correctly.

Fun tip: If you notice that your projects are piling up and you want to make sure the most important ones stand out from the rest, color code them! Chose a project, click “Project info” and select the “Change project color” option. Order your projects by color by clicking, dragging, and moving each one in place.

3. Project Information: Nozbe also has great additional features within projects, such as the priority feature, that allows you to indicate what needs to be done first. Selecting a completion date and time for a task will put it into your calendar on Nozbe that can be viewed by your team. If you want to see what your coworkers are working on when you can’t visit their cubicle, select the team option to view their tasks.

A project never goes unnoticed in Nozbe. The satisfying feeling you get from crossing an item off your to-do list is the same feeling you get from checking an item off your task list. Nozbe keeps you on track, on task and able to delegate with ease. What I find helpful is that Nozbe isn’t only for projects. Use it to securely save your social media and blog logins, your notes from a call with a client, and other sensitive items only viewed by you, or shared with a few others.

3. DropBox

When it comes to file sharing, Dropbox is a no-brainer because it’s the online land of files. It’s where anything from images, to documents, to spreadsheets, to PDFs can live in. We love Dropbox because it’s:

1. Accessible: One of my favorite features of Dropbox is that you can access these files on your computer, laptop, and phone, from anywhere! This also makes sharing a breeze because your items are safe in Dropbox even if you drop your phone in the toilet (don’t judge!), or accidentally delete a folder!

2. Share-friendly: One of Dropbox’s slogans is “Simple Sharing” and I’ve found that to be true. All it takes is a simple invite to a coworker, partner, or client and they have access to that folder. You can share specific links, photos, and files as well to keep items as private or as open as you’d like.

Fun tip: Instead of making edits on a project and sharing a file back-and-forth, use Dropbox’s commenting feature. Your colleague will get notified and can make the change easily (especially if it’s one edit or a simple edit) without having to download the file, make a change, resave, then send it back.

The short and sweet of Dropbox: You don’t lose your files, you’re more successful when your files are safe and in one place! Dropbox makes you look organized. Clients (and your coworkers or partners) enjoy being able to see what you see in real time. When I ask myself, “What would make a collaboration with my team easier?” I think of Dropbox especially when I’m not in the same room as my team or our clients.

4. Google Apps

I’m willing to admit my love for Google Apps right here and now. I absolutely love them. I use Google Mail, Docs, Sheets, and Calendar every day. We use Google Apps, especially Docs and Sheets, for the following:

1. Sharing: If you’re noticing a theme appearing, it’s because there is one: easy sharing is crucial if you want your remote team to be successful. Any item you’re working on at any given moment can be shared with coworkers so they can view them, comment on them, and edit them at the same time. Projects are ten times easier and faster when you don’t have to email, download, open, save, and re-email them (I’m tired just writing that). With Google Docs or Sheets, all changes are saved in one space in real time. An offline feature is also available so you can work without Wifi.

2. Organization: Google Apps has a place for everything and everything in its place. If you’re looking for a spreadsheet, go to the Sheets. If you’re looking for a document, go to the Docs. Every file is searchable as well and listed by the last time opened, and the owner.

Fun tip: If the look of your Google Apps are boring to you, customize them with your favorite color scheme, use backgrounds in Calendar (or use Google’s “Interesting Calendars” option), download extensions and apps that give you even more themes, the possibilities are endless!

The possibilities available through Google are amazing. Features such as Sheets, Docs, and Slides keep you, your team, and your clients working in sync and on the same page (literally – you can see people make changes in front of your eyes). Keeping in contact during a project without having to constantly email back and forth is a recipe for success in and of itself. Google Apps also carry the same features as Dropbox: access across all of your devices and backups of your documents!

What tools should you use?

Of course we suggest you try out Slack, Nozbe, Dropbox, and Google Apps (maybe you already use them!), but not every tool is one size fits all. One thing all of these tools have in common is excellent sharing capabilities. Find a tool that works best for what you need whether that’s communication, sharing, editing, etc. What tools help your company collaborate virtually? Let us know!

how to provide great customer service on facebook

How to Provide Great Customer Service Using Facebook

how to provide great customer service on facebook

Social media sites have become more than just platforms for marketing and advertising. They’re also important channels for soliciting and receiving customer service—all in the public eye. In fact, a recent study showed that nearly half of American consumers use social media to ask questions or to talk about their experiences (good and bad). What does this mean for you? How you treat your customers and what they have to say about you is increasingly visible. Mess this one up, and you stand to lose not only one disgruntled customer but a whole slew of prospects.

I’ve already talked about why your brand should be using social media for customer care a few weeks ago. If you’ve been following along here at Crackerjack Marketing, you already understand the importance of how your brand is represented in social.

How to Provide Great Customer Service on Facebook

It’s critical to have a sound strategy in place when it comes to delivering customer service via social media in general and via Facebook in particular. While we certainly don’t believe Facebook should be your only home on the web, your customers are probably spending more time there than on your website. With that in mind, it only makes sense that you want to do everything you can to give them the tools to reach out to you via Facebook.

Here are a few best practices, tips, and tools that can help you provide great customer service on Facebook:

How to Make It Easy for Customers to Contact You on Facebook

If there’s one way to make a disgruntled customer even more upset, it’s by being hard to reach. Whether your customers want to sing your praises or share their concerns/complaints, make reaching out easy. The easier it is to do something, the more likely it is that we will do it, right? And making it easy for your customers to contact you while they’re on Facebook could lead to both an increase in clientele and customer satisfaction. How can you make it easy, you ask? Just use the

Customers and send you a private message on Facebook, but it’s a good idea to provide alternate methods for customers to contact you. Be sure all of your information is listed in the “About” section, including your customer service telephone number, email address and mailing address.How can you make it easy, you ask? Just use the

You can even take your efforts further by designing a custom tab for customer service or using  the “Contact Me” app to add a handy dandy contact form to your Facebook page. It’s free, and you don’t have to be techy to use it. It’s win-win!

How to Respond to Negative Comments on Facebook

Let’s face it; you’re going to get negative comments about your business on Facebook from time to time. As good as your products and services may be, someone, somewhere, is going to get frustrated with you at some point. Here are some pointers on dealing with issues:

Don’t Hide the Negative Comment

While it may be tempting to remove or delete the negative comments from Facebook – don’t! Unless, of course, the comment contains language not suitable for your audience.

The best way to build brand loyalty is through honest and transparent communication with your brand fans, whether they’re being positive or negative. After all, if they’re on your wall, they’ve committed to liking (or being a fan of) your brand, so they must have some reason for wanting to engage.

If the person commenting has a customer service issue, quickly let them know you want them to be happy and care about their concerns. Be Speedy Gonzales here. The longer he or she has to wait, the more frustrated that customer is likely to become.

Always Be Prompt

We cannot possibly stress this point enough. Studies have shown that the majority of customers on social media expect a response to their questions/concerns the same day. Nearly half expect a response within in an hour. In this case, slow and steady does not win the race.

Think about it. An unanswered issue may prompt “me too” responses and fuel the fire, making you look 50 Shades of Shady. So stay on top of your comments, and be sure to address them as quickly as possible, particularly the negative ones. Note that this may mean some evening and weekend comment moderation. Whatever you do, never let an answer languish overnight.

Craft the Appropriate Response

Once you’re ready to respond, try to determine the root of the issue. Is it a valid customer service problem, a product issue or an erroneous assumption?

  • If it’s customer service, cheerily handle the problem, providing a contact to customer service if necessary, trying to move the discussion off of Facebook.
  • If it’s an issue with a product, acknowledge the issue, stay positive, and thank the poster for the suggestion.
  • If it’s an erroneous assumption, simply and cheerfully update the poster with the correct information, referring them to your website or a news article if necessary to confirm the correct information.

Mind Your Manners

No matter what the issue, remember that politeness and cheerfulness go a long way toward establishing your business as a great provider of service. Never, ever be offensive; stay calm; and provide as much personal contact as you possibly can. You can even provide a company email address for follow-up conversation.

When They are Really Angry

Yes, there may be times when you have to deal with customers who are (ahem) a bit over the top in terms of their frustration. But you simply can’t stoop to their level and expect good results. In the extreme case, if your poster is full of vitriol against your brand, don’t stoop to his or her level. Just don’t engage. If the customer continues to bait you, kill him with kindness and remove the comments.

Evaluate Common Questions and Concerns

Try to collect a month’s worth of activity on Facebook to truly understand the kinds of issues that are being raised, such as, how many comments are written in moments of frustration, how many are technical, how many provide feedback (good or bad), and what time of day your customers are most active. Use this information to inform your choices going forward, including strategies for pleasing customers and steps to take to fix things when they’re less than happy.

Be Prepared

It’s also helpful to prepare a set of standard responses for the most-asked questions and potential issues. Preparing these responses in advance will allow you to feel confident about responding in the heat of the moment rather than dashing off a response when you’re worried about a further backlash.

Providing customer service via Facebook does take some effort, but the energy you put into it is well worth the return in terms of brand reputation and customer satisfaction. Apply this advice to your customer service process, and be sure to let us know how they work for you.

How to Get Facebook Fans Without Advertising

7 Ways to Gain Facebook Fans Without Using Paid Ads

How to Get Facebook Fans Without Advertising

Facebook used to be considered a progressive part of a brand’s marketing plan. These days, it’s not “progressive,” it’s an integral part of your plan. Consumers aren’t impressed with the fact you have a Facebook page for your business; expect you to have one.

Of course, merely having a Facebook page with your logo isn’t enough. Consumers also seek out social proof.  In other words, they look for indicators that your business is thriving and responsive, including your number of fans, how often you post and how much your fans interact with your page.

As Facebook’s continued changes to its algorithm have made it harder to get consumers’ attention on this platform, many marketers have turned to paid advertising to help with fan acquisition. We use Facebook advertising for our own clients as well and think it should, most certainly, be included as part of your overall social media marketing efforts.

Advertising shouldn’t be the only play in your book, though. There are other tactics you can use to give your Facebook page a boost.

How to Get Facebook Fans Without Advertising

So, what do you do if your Facebook page isn’t as vibrant as you’d like it to be? Here are seven actionable ways you could promote your page that you may have overlooked:

1. Check Your Website Homepage

This is the first and one of the most basic steps you can take. Make sure you have a Facebook like button in an easy-to-find place on your website. While the old rules said that your Facebook icon should be above the fold, it’s perfectly acceptable to place it in the footer too. These are the two place visitors look to find your social links.

2. Use Facebook Comments on Your Blog

Using the Facebook comments plugin in lieu of your blog’s default commenting system allows your readers to respond using their Facebook profile. When doing so, it also gives them the option to share their comments on Facebook, giving your brand more exposure and the potential for more website traffic. You can increase your chances of translating additional site traffic into Facebook page likes because you already followed tip #1. (If you haven’t done it yet, you’re going to, right?)

You can get step-by-step instructions on installing the Facebook commenting system at WPBeginner.com.

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3. Announce Your Page Via Email

If you have acquired any type of email list, big or small, put it to work! Don’t just announce your Facebook page as an afterthought in your regular newsletter. Instead, email out a separate announcement – after all, it’s a big deal and a long-term investment on your part.

4. Cross Promote

Do you have a thriving Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram presence? Be sure to promote your Facebook page on other social media channels too. Of course, you need to do this tactfully. Keep your promotion balanced with the other great content you’ve been publishing that attracted your followers on Twitter in the first place.

5. Ask People to Share

When you consider that each person who likes a page has, on average, 150 Facebook friends, you can help your cause by asking people to share your page with friends. If even a few of your current fans share your page with their friends, it will grow your Facebook community. If you have a small, tight-knit community that loves your brand, why not ask for the share?

6. Show It in Print

Whether it’s business cards, brochures, catalogs, sales presentations or ads, make sure you list your Facebook page on all of them. Keep in mind that this is one of the more difficult ways to grow your fan base, because potential fans can’t simply click on your printed material to give you the like. This form of promotion requires them to stop what they are doing in that moment to seek out your page, or remember to do it later.

You can help make it easier for potential fans to remember or to find you. Do this by first claiming your vanity URL and then including it on your printed material. For example, we’d use Facebook.com/CrackerjackMarketing. It’s easy to remember and easy to find. If you don’t have a vanity URL (though you really should!) consider using a link shortener such as bit.ly instead.

7. Get Active on Facebook – But Not Just on Your Page

Another great way to get more exposure for your brand’s Facebook page is to be active on Facebook. Not just on your own page, but other brand pages too. Yes, yes you can like and comment on other brand pages as a Facebook page. Even better, Facebook has made is very easy to do so. All you need to do is to navigate to a brand’s Facebook page and change between interacting as your personal profile and your brand page.

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As you do this, other fans of that page will see your comment, giving you increased exposure. Use this tactic judiciously. Be sure you choose to interact with other pages that are aligned with yours, but not in direct competition. Also, be smart about your comments. You want to leave comments that add value to the conversation; don’t abuse this by being overtly self-promotional.

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Use the above tips to grow your Facebook fan base. And when you’ve finished? Sorry, you’re never finished when it comes to Facebook. Go ahead and rinse and repeat. Continuous action is key to your social media success.

social media for customer care

Why Your Brand Should Use Social Media for Customer Care

social media customer care

Social media is a viable avenue for providing service to your customers. As more and more consumers embrace social media for personal use, they are also reaching out to companies this way.

Some brands listen and respond better than others, and these are the brands that enjoy increased customer satisfaction and loyalty. In most industries, consumers have a good deal of choice when it comes choosing where to spend their money, so encouraging loyalty is an important goal. In fact, a 2015 study from Garnter revealed that customer service, not price point, is the most competitive factor in the purchase decision.

Customer service isn’t an either or proposition, so you don’t have to choose social media customer service over traditional methods. In fact, you shouldn’t choose one over the other at all. Social media isn’t “up and coming” in the customer service realm, consumers are already taking to their favorite social networks with complaints, suggestions, and compliments.

Social Media for Customer Care Statistics:

Remember that using social media for customer service doesn’t just influence your relationship with your current customers. It also influences how prospects see you. Potential customers take note of how well you handle customer service issues by observing your online responses, or they hear about your responses from online friends. They then develop an impression of you that helps them decide that your business is the right one to patronize.

Poor customer service is among the primary complaints customers have when dealing with companies of all sizes. And it’s far from just an annoyance. Some customers will stop patronizing a company completely after a poor customer service experience. Wondering what’s most likely to go wrong?

5 Common Mistakes When Using Social Media for Customer Care

Customers cannot reach a live person when they’re in need of help

Undoubtedly, automated phone systems make routing calls and sharing information easier, but customers tend to hate them when they feel the need for human help. In fact, according to a Consumer Reports survey, more than 70 percent of respondents feel very annoyed when they cannot reach an actual person.

Customer service reps lack customer service skills

You really want your most conscientious and personable people in this position. You’ll lose customers quickly if your reps sound bored, disinterested, or uninformed. Even worse is the rude customer service rep, and these days, it seems many companies have them on board.

Customer service staff lacks training

When customers contact your company, they expect to reach someone who can help them with their issues, who understands what they are talking about, and who has the authority to make decisions or take action. Customers become frustrated when they must wait long periods of time for customer service reps to figure things out (often by going to other company employees for the information they should have readily at hand) or worse, provide incorrect information. Then there is the customer service rep who makes promises he can’t keep. When the customer attempts to follow up, he’s told the original rep was wrong or the solution originally provided is against company policy.

Community Managers don’t fully understand your products or services

No matter how personable and efficient a customer service rep may seem, he won’t do your business justice if he doesn’t understand your products and services and how they are supposed to work. Before communicating with customers, your rep should be well trained and understand how your offerings work and what might go wrong with them. Only then can he or she provide your customers with reliable help.

Not tracking and monitoring customer service contact

How can you hope to improve your services and keep your customers satisfied if you have no idea why they’re contacting you, what type of help they need, which solutions your reps have provided, and how content your customers were with the results of their contact. You need a system in place for monitoring customer service contact and results, so you can evaluate the effectiveness of your company’s reps and policies and make changes when necessary.

As you move forward with using social media for customer service, always keep in mind that monitoring is critical. Monitoring interactions and responses is not only important for determining what you’re doing right and where you can improve but also for getting a heads up about problems before they get out of hand. With effective monitoring, you can note customer issues and complaints and respond to them effectively before they become full-scale crises that damage your business reputation.

Better Twitter Strategy

4 Steps to a Better Twitter Strategy

“4 Steps to a Better Twitter Strategy” is co-authored by Stephanie Schwab and Christina Strickland.

Better Twitter Strategy

With over 106 million users sending more than a total of 140 million updates per day; you can see why we think Twitter is an essential platform for your business. We’ve written about Twitter a lot, everything from finding people to follow, finding content to share and explaining why Twitter Moments matters to your brand.

Now that you’ve gotten the basics down, it’s time to fine tune your Twitter strategy so you can maximize the benefits.

4 Steps to a Better Twitter Strategy

One of the questions businesses often ask is “How often should I Tweet?” This topic has been debated by social media pundits, almost since the dawn of Twitter. The truth is, there isn’t a “one size fits all” answer. The number of Tweets you should send is directly tied to the size of your Twitter community and your content.

One of the questions businesses often ask is “How often should I Tweet?” This topic has been debated by social media pundits, almost since the dawn of Twitter. The truth is, there isn’t a “one size fits all” answer. The number of Tweets you should send is directly tied to the size of your Twitter community and your content.

While you should be Tweeting every day, there is more to it than tossing out a link to your most recent blog post or a random update here or there. Here are four things you should be doing if you plan on keeping up on Twitter:

1. Tweet consistently

For your brand or business, this may mean seven days a week or only Monday – Friday, depending on when your customers are online. This doesn’t mean scheduling or tweeting at the same time, every day. It means that you shouldn’t send out 65 tweets in one day and then not return to Twitter for a month.

2. Keep your Twitter content balanced

Think of Twitter as a party or networking meeting you don’t want to be one of the people everyone avoids because all they do is talk about themselves.

The same principle applies to Twitter. If your tweets are constantly about your own business or blog posts, your followers will catch on and ignore them. Even worse, they are likely to quickly unfollow you. Instead, keep your Twitter stream filled with a lively mix of brand updates and curated content.

3. Schedule your Twitter content

There’s no need to make Twitter any harder that it needs to be (though, really, it’s not that hard, once you get the hang of it). Because you’ve got a lot of moving pieces, it’s a good idea to not only use an editorial calendar (you can get our free editorial calendar here) but also use to tools to help you schedule what content you can in advance.

If you’re using Hootsuite, there is a built-in scheduling feature you can use. If you’re not using a 3rd party Twitter dashboard, take a look at Buffer, a simple tool that takes the guesswork out of Twitter timing and also allows you to schedule tweets in advance, so that you can get out from behind your desk. With Buffer, your content will get the best possible engagement in terms of link-clicks and retweets. Buffer is extremely easy to use, so we recommend it for people who are eager to ramp up their Twitter efforts and start to publish a lot of content but not ready for a full-fledged dashboard, like Hootsuite.

4. Stay engaged

We can’t put enough emphasis on this! Twitter is more than just a collection of links and announcements. It’s about having conversations. Remember, people respond to people. When responding to other Twitter users, retweeting other people’s content or joining in on a conversation, you really can’t tweet too often.

Use the above tips to get your tweeting on track. And keep in mind that it’s okay to experiment a little, update at different times and at different frequencies, and tweet out different types of content to find out what resonates with your Twitter followers. The most important thing is that you just do it and do it consistently, with good content and your community in mind.

social media charitable giving campaigns

Charitable Giving Campaigns Best Practices and Examples

social media charitable giving campaigns

Have you noticed the rise of brands implementing social media charitable giving campaigns or, as some may know them, “share-to-donate” campaigns? It’s no big surprise. After all, sharing on social media is what people love to do most. When you combine that with a good cause, you’ve usually got a recipe for success. Right?

Well, maybe or maybe not. While it’s true that this type of social media campaign could present a huge opportunity for your brand and your chosen charity, it could backfire on you and generate the wrong kind of buzz if not executed thoughtfully.

The good news is that when done properly, charitable giving campaigns really do create a win-win-win situation for your brand, charity, and community. In this blog post, we’re going to take a closer look at four brands that got it exactly right. We are also going to give you some tips for planning and creating a successful charitable giving campaign.

What is a Charitable Giving Campaign?

First things first. Before we go too much further, let’s explain what we’re talking about when we say “charitable giving campaign.” Even though the term “charitable giving campaign” may sound like the brand or charity is soliciting donations from participants, they’re not. What many brands are doing is asking their community to take a specific action and for each action, the brand will donate a pre-determined dollar amount to a particular charity.

The most common action involved is usually based on some form of sharing. This may be sharing a Facebook post from a brand page or a video, or it may be asking fans to share a picture of themselves or tag a friend in social media.

For example, a brand might ask their fans to post a picture of themselves, accompanied by a specific hashtag. For each picture posted, the brand would donate $1 to a particular charity.

Four Great Social Media Charitable Giving Campaigns

 

1. Subaru’s Share What You Love

Subaru asked their fans and followers to post a picture to “Share What You Love” and upload it to their Share What You Love microsite using the #ShareTheLove hashtag.

After uploading the image, participants were asked to choose from a selection of four charities, including ASPCA, Make-A-Wish, Meals on Wheels, and the National Park Foundation, for Subaru to donate $250 to on behalf of the participant.

What made this successful

This campaign was successful because of the significant donation amount, and the freedom given to the participant regarding the image they shared, and the charity they chose.

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2. Coke’s #Reach Up

In 2015, Coke created a video highlighting Special Olympics participants and events, as well as a song created for the Olympics. Coke encouraged their fans and followers to share the video using the #ReachUp hashtag.

After participants shared the video on either Facebook or Twitter, Coke donated $1 to the Special Olympics for each share.

What made this successful

Moving and inspiring content is what made #ReachUp successful. Coke’s audience felt a connection to the video as well as to the Special Olympics, so they felt the desire to share the content. Coke put the focus on the charity, not the brand; this was sharing made easy and heartwarming.

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3. Kellogg’s Share Breakfast

The Kellogg’s Share Breakfast campaign asked fans and followers to share the information about the campaign using the #ShareBreakfast hashtag to their choice of social media channels. For each share, Kellogg’s donated one breakfast to Action for Healthy Kids. With over 1.5 million breakfasts donated because of their social media campaign, we can certainly call this a success.

What made this successful

Kellogg included a “celebrity dad” (Taye Diggs) as an influencer and created a microsite where the participants could learn about the campaign and included a large call to action and easy social sharing buttons.

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4. Disney’s Share Your Ears

Disney celebrated their 60th anniversary by asking their fans and followers to “share their ears” (by wearing or making their own Mickey Mouse ears, or creating ears with their hands) to their social channels using the #ShareYourEars hashtag.

Disney donated $5 to the Make-A-Wish Foundation for every qualifying image shared to Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

What made this successful

Disney encouraged participants to be creative in their entries. They also created meaning by partnering with the Make-A-Wish Foundation, one that many people care about and support already. The foundation also heavily promoted this campaign in return.

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Is a Charitable Giving Campaign Right for Your Brand?

Did any of these examples get you thinking about starting your own share-to-donate campaign? We hope so! This type of campaign will allow you to partner with a charity that resonates with your brand and your community for a great cause. It will get your company involved, the charity involved, and your community involved! Who doesn’t love scrolling through Facebook, and supporting a good cause at the same time?

Charitable Giving Campaign Best Practices

A successful charitable giving campaign is not only about raising donations (although that is important), it’s also about building relationships and community ties.

Above, we highlighted four great examples of charitable giving campaigns using social media. Now that we’ve (hopefully) inspired you to start your own share-to-donate campaign, we want to share our best practices from these campaigns so you can implement them on your own!

1. Choose the right charity

There are so many good charities that can use donations. It’s important to choose one that resonates with your community and also aligned with your brand. Yes, the idea of rescuing baby kittens may pull at your own heartstrings, but it doesn’t make sense if your brand isn’t tied to kittens or animals in any other way.

Disney’s Share Your Ears campaign is a great example of a fantastic brand/charity match up. Disney has partnered with the Make A Wish Foundation in the past, and what do they have in common? Making dreams come true. Magic. It’s the perfect match.

Subaru also had a great idea: Sometimes it’s hard to narrow down which charity you want to work with, so they chose four different charities and invited the participant to choose which charity who would be the recipient of the related donation.

2. Donation amount

Apart from choosing the right charity, this is the single, most important aspect of your charitable giving campaign. Don’t be a cheapskate here!
Make sure your total donation amount is significant enough to make a difference. It should also be related to the complexity of the action you are asking your fans to take to trigger the donation. The harder the action, the more money you should be donating.

A simple post like or post share, or maybe event an easy Twitter update, should equate to at least $1 for the charity. Asking someone to take a picture of themselves doing something specific? That’s a harder task and the donation amount should be more. In other words, if you want someone to do something more than click a like or share button, you have to make it worth their while.

Subaru got it right in their “Share What You Love” campaign. They made a donation of $250 for each new vehicle sold or leased during the event to the charity of the participants choosing.

3. Focus on the charity

Tread carefully, readers. One way to ensure that your charitable giving campaign won’t be successful is to keep all eyes on your brand. Remember, it’s not about you; it’s about the cause! Repeat that like a mantra, and turn the spotlight towards the charity and their mission.

A great example of this is Coke’s #ReachUp campaign. They created a heartwarming video highlighting the events that take place during the Special Olympics. This video put the focus on the charity, and not Coke. The participants felt a connection to the video and therefore a need to share it.

4. Include an influencer

You don’t have to go at this endeavor alone (and we recommend that you don’t). Bringing in an influencer from Instagram, a blog, a YouTube channel, a Twitter account, or even a celebrity can boost your credibility and your reach. If you’re wondering who to choose, see point #1.

Choose an influencer that not only resonates with your community and your brand but most importantly with the charity (remember, it’s all about them). If they’re not passionate about the mission, your audience will be able to tell.

Kellogg’s Share Breakfast campaign included a “celebrity dad” (Taye Diggs) who created a video of his own for the campaign. Your charity is also an influencer! The Make A Wish Foundation participated heavily in Disney’s Share Your Ears campaign, and the partnership was great for the campaign and the charity..

5. Easy tracking

The proof is in the pudding (or in this case, in the shares). When your campaign is over, and you’re ready to report its success, make sure you can go back and count how many retweets, shares, or uploads were received. One of the most used platforms to track with is a microsite. By creating a separate space for the shares or uploads to live on, you can keep your information in one place and access it when necessary.

Subaru’s Share What You Love campaign is a great example of easy tracking. Subaru used a microsite that invited participants to upload a picture of them sharing what they love. This allowed Subaru to easily count the uploads to the site and get even more data from Google Analytics.

A microsite isn’t the only way to track shares! If you’ve chosen a hashtag to represent your campaign, we recommend using a third-party website (like Hashtracking.com or Hashtags.org) to help you count tags on Twitter or Instagram. If you’re using Facebook or Pinterest to share your message, count likes, shares (or repins) and comments on the original post. There is also third-party software to track mentions of you, your charity, or the name of your campaign.

What are your favorite charitable giving campaigns? Do you have more tips to run a successful campaign? Share them with us in the comments!

Tweet Like a Pro

How to Tweet Like a Pro

advanced twitter tips

If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you can probably tell we’re all aflutter about Twitter. Even though we wonder why Twitter is so darn difficult for people, we’re big advocates for using Twitter as part of your overall social media strategy.  It’s a powerful tool for building your business.

What do you do when the ideas just don’t flow as readily as you’d like? What can you do when you’re long on enthusiasm but short on compelling ideas for tweets? No worries! We’ve compiled a list of ideas you can use to get you through those difficult times as well as great resources for finding content to share.

Creative Ideas for Compelling Tweets

Once you’ve been tweeting a while, you’ll develop a formula or a style that makes it easier to come up with consistent content many times a day, virtually every day of the week. If your style is primarily content curation, over time you’ll establish a list of trusted sources for finding just the right stuff for your Twitter followers. You’ll get in a groove so that tweeting won’t become a chore. But in the meantime, you may need some prompts.

Here are 12 prompts that will get you thinking about things you can tweet about. Pick a few every day, and change it up from day-to-day. Each of these prompts is good for hundreds of tweets over the course of a few months.

12 Prompts for Quick and Easy Twitter Content

  1. Tweet a link to a blog post you agree with and add a comment (on the post) that mentions one of the points in the post.
  2. Share a photo of something you pass on the street that relates to your business in some way.
  3. Share a link to your own blog post and ask people a question about it.
  4. Pose a question to your followers asking what they think about an issue that’s hot at the moment.
  5. Start a conversation. Respond to a question someone asked or simply comment on something someone said. Then keep the conversation going, back and forth once or twice using @ mentions.
  6. Answer the question, “What’s inspiring you?” (as in, “Today I’m inspired by…”)
  7. Answer the question, “What’s bothering you?” (obviously, keep it relevant).
  8. Share a link to a video that you think might be of interest to your followers.
  9. As you go about your day at work, notice the behind-the-scenes image or story that you can share with your customers, like a work-in-progress.
  10. Tweet an inspiring quotation.
  11. Retweet the best tweets of those you admire.
  12. Share a link to a news story related to your business and comment on it.

Keeping a list like this handy so you can refer to it when you’re having a Twitter writer’s block can help you keep up your Twitter content and make it easy and fun at the same time.

Resources for Links to Share on Twitter

You may only get 140 characters (for now!), but by linking to an article, blog post or website, you open a door to a whole new world of information. Sharing links is one of the best ways to use Twitter for business. It shows that you are a valuable source of information, and by choosing the most useful information for your community, you ensure that people will come to count on you, and respect your knowledge of your field. There is a firehose of information out there, and anyone who can be trusted to find the best of the best will be rewarded with followers and retweets.

Here are several of our favorite resources for finding Twitter content to share, to help build your stream:

  1. Google Alerts is one of the easiest tools to use. Go to the site and choose the subjects you want to know about. Google will email your chosen content from news, the web and blogs based on the frequency you select.
  2. Addictomatic is a fun and, ahem, addicting aggregator to use. Their tagline of “inhale the Web” is fairly true, and they take content one step beyond Google’s results by bringing in information from Yahoo and Bing.
  3. Paper.li is a tool you can use to automatically curate content on a wide range of topics and arrange it in a magazine-style format. The tool is very easy to do and can automatically Tweet your paper and send it via email too!
  4. If you know there are key bloggers whose content is regularly worth sharing, add them to your RSS reader and search them daily for the best posts of your favorite bloggers.
  5. AllTop is a significant help in finding new blogs to add to your reader. Search for topics and AllTop will return results for you.
  6. When you’re feeling short on inspiration, go to listen to a Ted Talk. Not only are you likely to get inspired, you may just find some great content worth sharing.
  7. Of course, there is always your own Twitter feed! Build a list of people you follow that Tweet about the topics you’re interested in. Or, type a term or phrase in the Twitter search box to find new and interesting content to share.

Try some of the above ideas, and then be sure to come back and fill us in on how they worked out for you. Have bright ideas of your own? We want to hear them! Where do you find the best content to share on Twitter? How do you come up with engaging ideas? We’d love to hear your ideas on this topic. Share them with us in the comments section!

The Art of Content Curation and Making it Work for Your Brand

What Is Content Curation

Content is king, right? But that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to write every word of it. After writing blog post after blog post and article after article, with an eBook or white paper thrown in, you may feel as if you’re penning the Great American novel rather than marketing your business. The good news is you don’t have to type until your fingers fall off. Original content is certainly good, but content curation helps get the job done too.

What Is Content Curation?

In its simplest terms, content curation is the art and science of finding and sharing quality content on a particular topic. It means sorting through topical content on the web and then presenting the highest-quality posts in an organized and meaningful way. You save your audience from having to wade through the tons of available content themselves, and you’re rewarded in terms of engaged audience members who pay attention to what you post and share.

Think about an art gallery and the collections of art on display – those collections are carefully manicured and presented in the best possible light. The concept of content curation is similar in that you pick a common thread (a theme or topic) and collect, or curate, the items you want to showcase. In this case, we’re showcasing articles, blog posts, video, photos, podcasts, and infographics, instead of painting and sculptures.

Is Content Curation the Same as Content Aggregation?

It’s easy to think that content curation and aggregation are the same things but for your reader, it’s the difference between being presented with only the most useful, relevant content versus the 12,343,244 results returned on a Google search. Using our art gallery example, if you were walking into an exhibit on contemporary surrealism, you’d expect to see only the best pieces from the best artists, not every scratch and doodle ever posted on the web. That’s what you are doing for your readers: presenting them with the best of the best.

Does Content Curation Mean Creating Content?

While, technically, content curation doesn’t mean content creation, it doesn’t mean that the opportunity to create content doesn’t exist. And, in fact, if you’re not creating some content around the items you curate, you are missing the all of the best benefits, and so are your readers.

Remember, you are gathering content from a variety of sources and then presenting it in a thoughtful and organized way. “Presenting” is the key word, here. This is your opportunity to create content.

Again, thinking of a collection of art: walking through a museum, you are presented with more than a piece of art to study. You are given information about the artist, the inspiration for the piece, the medium used and sometimes even more. Use this same approach when presenting the content you’ve curated. Let your readers know what the article is about, who wrote it and why it’s important or relevant.

How Do You Use Content Curation?

This is the fun part! Once you’ve collected the “best of the best,” how will you present these articles for your readers, fans and followers? Three options include:

1. Weekly Blog Posts

You can keep your blog both relevant and helpful with weekly posts that curate other people and companies’ content from around the Web. Each post could be on a theme: For a food blog, one week could be all about asparagus recipes, another week about peach recipes. Alternately, you could round up what you consider to be the best or most important news of the week within your topic area into a blog post with links to those news items.

2. Email Newsletters

Like your weekly blog posts, this type of curated content helps your readers save the time they would have to spend finding great Web content. Want to see an example of this in action? We curate content for our weekly newsletter on social media and content marketing topics.

3. Social Media

Include curated content directly into your social streams alongside a mix of personal updates, brand mentions, and other content you already share.

Whatever format you choose to deliver your curated articles to your readers, keep in mind that it’s important to not only write your take on the piece, but also credit the original author. Not doing so could potentially violate the author’s copyright on the article.

How Brands Can Benefit From Content Curation

When done the right way, content curation can fit into your marketing efforts in a variety of ways. Many brands use curation as part of their content strategy with positive results.

How exactly can your brand benefit from content curation? Here are five important ways:

1. Establishing Credibility and Trust

We all love recommendations from people we trust, such as friends and peers. But we also desire information from reliable sources that take the time to explain how these recommendations will help us achieve our goals as well as make our lives easier. Curators carefully select content based on their understanding of the audience, even making the pieces easier to relate to if needed. You do this for your audience, giving it to them short and sweet, so they don’t have to struggle to tame the mountain of information out there.

2. Telling Your Brand’s Story

Every article, picture, message and video you curate provides a window for your customers to look in and learn about your ideas, interests and work ethic. This can enhance the public perception of your brand. People buy products from brands they think have personality. Dull Davids don’t win here.

3. Keeping Customers Engaged

Content curation is a great way to remain engaged with your customers after the sale. Sending news clips or other relevant information to your audience not only keeps them informed but also builds goodwill. And let’s face it: customers can be forgetful. If you’re not right out there talking to them and giving them a reason to think of you, they just may forget to buy from you the next time they need something. With a steady supply of quality content to provide, you can keep yourself fresh on their minds.

4. Keeping Your Blog Fresh and Relevant

A key to maintaining a successful blog is to publish posts on a regular basis. While creating great, original content on a daily basis can be a challenge; you can complement your own original work with the curated copy. No blogging blues or splitting headaches because you have to write yet another post! A good mix original and curated content will help you maintain your audience’s interest and your sanity.

5. Avoiding Self-Promotion Pitfalls

Too much self-promotion will just turn your audience off, and it doesn’t drive conversions anyway. According to a study by Argyle Social, content curation beats self-promotion five days a week and twice on Sunday.

So, let’s address the big question on everyone’s minds right now: Does content curation mean you don’t need to create original content? Sorry, but no. There’s always a need for high-quality, original content. Instead of viewing content curation as a replacement for what you’ve been doing, look at it as a valuable addition to bolstering your current marketing mix.

You can never have too many tools in your content marketing arsenal, and content curation is one you definitely don’t want to overlook. Use it to provide more quality content, increase exposure, and help drive engagement.

How to Find People to Follow on Twitter

“How to Find People to Follow on Twitter” was co-authored by Stephanie Schwab and Christina Strickland

how to find people to follow on twitter

You know the influence of Twitter. It is, after all, a powerful and engaging social media platform. But, if you’re not following anyone and no one’s following you, it’s neither powerful nor engaging. You need followers (beyond your family and friends), and you need to be following other interesting Twitter users too. So, how do you do that? We have you covered. Here’s a quick guide to finding people to follow on Twitter

How to Find People to Follow on Twitter: Make the First Move

When you’re just starting out on Twitter, you’ll want to find people to follow who will satisfy your objectives. You follow them, and a significant number will follow you right back! You may just want to lurk a bit and listen in on conversations at first. You may want to connect with influencers like journalists or bloggers, or you may want to find other people with similar interests. No matter what you’re trying to achieve, one of the most targeted ways to connecting with like-minded people is to search Twitter bios.

How to Find People to Follow on Twitter: Try FollowerWonk

We think FollowerWonk is particularly useful for searching within the content of people’s bios, so you can get to the specifics people include there. It’s one of the best places to source Twitter users to follow.

Once you log in to FollowerWonk using your Twitter account, you’ll see a large search box. Let’s say you are a classical musician and you’d like to find people with the words ‘classical music’ in their bio who live in New York. You can add the phrase “classical music” in the search box and expand your search by choosing the small link below, entitled “more options.” Those other options include URL, number of followers, name and location. Go ahead and choose your location since that’s what you are most interested in.

When you run the search, FollowerWonk not only delivers your results, but provides a list of people that tells you how long they’ve been on Twitter, what their influence is, how many followers they have and how many times they’ve tweeted. The bio will tell you virtually everything else you need to know. So much information at your fingertips!

You’ll be able to decide if you want to follow a musician, a music blogger, a politician who loves classical music, or all three. You never know what kinds of conversations you’ll have or where it could lead until you start listening, sharing information meeting people with similar interests on Twitter.

When you’ve chosen from this richly annotated list of potential people to follow, you can look at the people they follow (since birds of a feather. . . ) and follow them. Before you know it, you’ll have collected yourself the most highly focused, fascinating community of people to talk to, listen to and share information with, all with a few clicks.

Exciting isn’t it? But wait! There’s more.

How to Find People to Follow on Twitter: 4 More Tools

1. Crowdfire

Crowdfire is an app that lets you follow people by hashtag, location or even people following other Twitter users. It’s easy to use and also allows you to see a list of people that aren’t following you back.

2. Tweet Stork

Tweet Stork delivers recommendations to you based on tweets related to your own, users with lists similar to yours or users that retweet the same type of content you do. Just select your option and Tweet Stork will provide a list. You can even follow others without leaving the site.

3. SocialBro

SocialBro (now, Auisense) has a host of tools to help you grow your Twitter followers and find people to follow on Twitter.  Their targeted filtering capabilities help you find some of the most engaged people you can follow.

4. Twitter Advanced Search

This is Twitter’s own search tool. It’s become more robust over the past year or so and is definitely worth a look. It even allows you to include a search for sad or happy face characters or questions.

If you find a lot of interesting users, organize them into Twitter lists for easier conversation management. Of course, we’d never recommend following another user simply because they match a few bits of search criteria. Take a few moments to read through their Twitter bio and tweets to determine if the user is truly a good match for you. If he or she is, follow and be sure to engage!

To get what you want, you typically have to give a little something, and Twitter is no exception to this rule. Go ahead and find like-minded people to follow. Before you know it, you’ll have a long list of followers too.

10 Common Content Marketing Mistakes

10 Common Content Marketing Mistakes was co-authored by Sharon Hurley Hall and Christina Strickland.

10 common content marketing mistakes

Promoting your business with content is an excellent strategy for raising awareness of your brand and getting your customers’ attention. But some businesses don’t get the benefits they should, because of easily avoidable errors. Here are some common content marketing mistakes you should avoid.

10 Common Content Marketing Mistakes to Avoid

 

Common Content Marketing Mistake #1: No Strategy

Believe it or not, some companies approach content marketing piecemeal and don’t have a strategic game plan. Newsflash! No matter how much content marketing you are doing and how many pieces of the puzzle you have in place, you won’t get the benefit unless you know:

  • What you want to achieve with content marketing
  • How content marketing fits into your overall business strategy

That’s why the starting point for content marketing is working out how content can serve your key business goals. Only then can you start to work out who your audience is and what types of content will suit them best.

Common Content Marketing Mistake #2: No USP

As part of your strategy, think about what you bring to the table that’s completely new – your unique selling point or sales proposition (USP). Identify yours and you have a focus for your content marketing strategy. Think about the problem you set up your business to solve and how your approach is different from that of your competitors.

Common Content Marketing Mistake #3: Thinking a Blog is Enough

Similarly, some businesses buy into the “blog it and they will come” myth. In other words, if you have a company blog, that means you have a complete content marketing strategy. It’s true that companies that blog get better web traffic, leads and ROI, but they still need to be strategic to be successful.

How can you use your blog strategically? Here are a few ideas:

  • Think of the questions your customers usually ask and answer them on the blog.
  • Repurpose your blog content for different media, creating everything from podcasts to presentations.
  • Share and discuss your blog content anywhere your customers are likely to hang out (forums, social media sites and more).

Do this, and your blog will fulfill its potential and start to work to market your business.

Common Content Marketing Mistake #4: You’re Only Broadcasting

We get it – it can be hard to move out of the old marketing mindset, where you created information and sent it out, without getting much back. But those days are gone and your audience expects to interact with you. Broadcasting is out; communication is in.

Instead of making it all about you, include discussion starters for social media sites in your content marketing plan. Take part in Twitter chats. Create some images for Pinterest and Instagram and get to know the value of hashtags. Do some social listening to figure out what your customers really want instead of what you think they want. Put it all together by being responsive – it will transform your business (in a good way!)

Common Content Marketing Mistake #5: No Personality

You business may not interest everyone, but that doesn’t mean it has to be boring. Stuffy corporate voices are offputting and unrelatable, but find the spark you can focus on and you can make your content marketing truly special. Don’t believe me? General Electric has got creative in showcasing its business, and shipping company Maersk has made a big splash (not literally) on social media. Somehow, those companies have found the fun which helps them connect with customers. You can too.

Common Content Marketing Mistake #6: You’re Not Mobile

When was the last time you checked your content to see how it looked on mobile devices? There are more people using mobile devices than desktop computers, so you can’t ignore this sector. And with Google’s April 2015 mobile algorithm update, mobile friendliness has become an SEO ranking signal for mobile devices users. In other words, if your content isn’t mobile-friendly, people may not even be able to find it. Find out how to integrate mobile into your marketing mix here.

Common Content Marketing Mistake #7: Not Enough Content

You may hear a good deal of debate about just how often you should post content for your business, especially blog posts. Some people are of the mind that it really doesn’t matter how often you post as long as you do so regularly. For example, these people believe your readers need to know when to expect new material from you, such as every Wednesday or every other Wednesday. Others assert that you’ll get the best results by posting several times each week. For example, some research shows that posting 20 times a month to your blog will get you significantly more traffic and leads. However, for Facebook, posting more than once per day seems to put a bit of a damper on engagement, according to Track Social.

Common Content Marketing Mistake #8: No Variety

Since your readers are only human, they can get bored. And though you work to provide meaty, interesting content, seeing the same types of posts all the time can get to be monotonous for your audience. You can liven things up by adding other types of posts to the mix, such as videos, webinars, and infographics. Slideshows and tutorial posts can add variety and make your content much more interesting as well. Of course, you’ll still want to create traditional posts. Just mix things up a little.

Common Content Marketing Mistake #9: Omitting the Call to Action

Content marketing may fall a bit flat if you don’t remember to include calls to action. While you don’t want to make your content too salesy, you do want to nudge your readers in a particular direction. As such, it’s important to include a call to action. This could be a call to action for requesting your informational content, as your readers are interested in what you have to say already. This means they’re apt to take an interest in your free eBook, webinar, or newsletter. It can also mean including premium offers that help move your readers along towards making a decision and taking advantage of the solutions or products you provide.

Common Content Marketing Mistake #10: It’s an Afterthought

Finally, one of the biggest content marketing mistakes there is, is to make it an afterthought. You’d be surprised how many people create a strategy but don’t take the time or allocate the resources to execute it so they get real ROI. The right content allows your customers to see you as an expert with a human personality rather than a faceless company. That’s even more important as millennials become a more influential consumer segment.

Don’t make these mistakes. If you need help with your creating and delivering a content marketing strategy, get in touch with the Crackerjack Marketing team.

10 Ways to Increase Blog Traffic

Co-Authored by Sharon Hurley Hall and Christina Strickland

10 ways to increase blog traffic

Creating blog content is one of the best investments you can make in promoting your business. The stats are clear:

  • Brands that create 15 new posts monthly average 1200 new leads each month.
  • Blogs increase the number of pages in the search engine index by 437%.
  • You’ll get 55% more visitors by having a company blog.
  • Whichever way you look at it, blogging for business is a good thing.

Many brands build a blog and expect the traffic to roll in simply because it’s a super awesome piece of web real estate. They’re in for a rude awakening when their launch day comes and goes with hardly a couple of stragglers stopping by to read what you’ve written.

Then comes the million-dollar question: How can I increase blog traffic?

If you’ve got your system down and producing a steady stream of content, take note of these ten things you can do to increase blog traffic, up your game and get more from your content marketing efforts.

10 Ways to Increase Blog Traffic

1. Go for Visual Appeal

An interesting graphic or video encourages blog readers to share. And this, of course, is what you want. The more your readers share, the more traffic you can expect. Some good ideas include infographics that provide valuable information and appeal to the eye. A well-crafted, visually appealing video may stimulate your readers to share as well. Creating those how-to posts? Mark each step with clear, helpful photos. Without question, visual content is king online. Still not convinced? Here are 37 reasons why you should be incorporating visual content where you can (including your blog!).

2. Go to Your Audience

Instead of waiting for your audience to come looking for you, go ahead and go to it. Seek out online communities in which your audience gathers. Once you find a few that are very active, don’t commit the sin of drive-by posting or link dropping. Instead, become an active participant. Start and join real conversations. Show interest and provide valuable information. Leave your links as allowed by the online community. Include links to relevant information (available on your blog) when it pertains to the discussion at hand and will provide real value to the community. Many communities also allow a signature link, and you can usually provide information about your blog in your profile. Simply put, you have to be social, so kick your inner introvert to the curb for a bit.

3. Incorporate Social Bookmarking

Social bookmarking is more than just a good excuse to indulge your OCD tendencies. It’s also an avenue to engaging your audience, building your network and sharing your content. How does it work? Essentially, you use social bookmarking sites to organize and share links you consider valuable. Here are some suggestions, just to get you started: Digg, StumbleUpon, Pinterest, and Reddit.

The major benefits of using social bookmarking for your business include the following:

  • You benefit from the social bookmarking website’s credibility. A link from a social website can significantly help your search engine ranking.
  • When your content is bookmarked and shared, you get a boost in credibility, which can draw more customers to your business. Building an image as an industry leader is a good thing.
  • Put all your good stuff in one place. All those awesome reviews and testimonials you get? Make sure interested parties can find them via your social bookmarking site profile. This way, anyone looking can easily find all the reasons you’re so great.

One more thing, and this is important: Always read the rules of the site before you post, and avoid behavior that marks you a spammer. Share other people’s stuff, not just your own, and be social! Finally, keep in mind that it’s even better when others bookmark your content; add social sharing buttons to your blog to make it easy for readers to do so.

4. Try Question-and-Answer Sites

Who cares what you have to say? The people asking questions, that’s who. A high-quality question-and-answer site may have a large audience interested in the types of answers you can provide. Answering their questions in an engaging and interesting manner can help you establish yourself as an expert in your field. You’ll also get to insert links that draw traffic to your blog.
Here’s a handy dandy shortlist of question and answer sites to try:

5. Write Guest Posts

Creating content for a website that is not your own may seem like a counter-intuitive method to increase blog traffic, but it really can work! How? You write an interesting, compelling post relevant to your business and the particular blog. The blog owner posts it and you get to include your bio and a link back to your site, maybe even a line or two about your business.

Tip: Make your links count. Link back to a page (yes, one on your blog) that provides more information about the topic you covered, answers burning questions your reader is sure to have or gives something away for free. Read this post to get all the details on how to get the most out of guest blogging.

6. Present It on Slideshare

One easy tactic to increase blog traffic is to use your content to create presentations on LinkedIn Slideshare. The site has more than 60 million users and is widely used within the business community. To use it effectively, you need to marry the best points from your content, with stunning design and the right tags. If you get it right, your presentation could be featured by Slideshare, which will bring a lot of people back to your blog. Learn more about using the site effectively from this Kissmetrics guide to Slideshare.

7. Publish a Book

It’s also simple to use your blog to create a book or eBook. Spend some time up front thinking about a topic you want to cover in depth, then make each sub-topic an individual post. Not only will you get feedback as a you go (blog comments and social shares can tell you a lot about how people will respond to the content) but you’ll only need to add an introduction and conclusion to finalize your book. Invest in professional editing so that the book of your blog reads like a book instead of a loose collection of posts. Then publish it everywhere, including Amazon, iBooks, and Smashwords. Get it right and you could reach an audience who might never have seen your blog.

8. Syndicate Your Blog

Did you know that Amazon has a tool called Kindle Publishing for Blogs? It’s been around for a while, though it’s still in beta. Add your blog’s RSS feed and a title image and then Kindle users can subscribe to it via Amazon. In our experiences, this won’t net you a huge audience, but it will reach the people who do all their reading on Kindle.

9. Reuse the Stats

If your blog content includes stats, then you have the basis for a compelling infographic. This strategy will work best if you do a lot of research. Well researched and attractive infographics are immensely popular. It’s another way to repurpose blog content and reach a wider audience.

10. Put it on Audio and Video

While you’re pulling data from your blog post, consider two more options for reusing the content. Many people love to consume content on the go and would rather listen than read. For those people, a podcast version of your blog content is ideal. And then there are the people who love watching videos (such as mobile device users). Convert your post to a short video and you’ll get more attention.

These tips will help increase blog traffic and get more eyes on the content you originally created for your blog. As a result, your company can reap the benefits of more attention, more leads and more sales.

Why Is Twitter So Darn Difficult for People?

why is twitter difficult

I do a lot of social media training, which I really enjoy. I work with small business owners, executives, front-lines social media managers, and people who are trying to gain skills for their next job.

I’ve trained on social media strategy, on blogging, and on just about every platform out there: Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and YouTube. As well as Twitter.

And it’s really remarkable: Every person I’ve ever trained on Twitter seems to think it’s the most difficult and confusing of all the social networks. So I’ve spent some time thinking about why this is the case. Here’s what I’ve concluded on what makes Twitter difficult.

1. Twitter is Open-Source

Unlike Facebook, which has built in apps and metrics and functionality, Twitter is open-source. Anyone can build tools and uses for Twitter that get widely adopted by others (like Hootsuite, my favorite way to use Twitter), and it’s not always easy to figure out what all of those tools and uses are, because they’re not baked right into the platform. Even some of what we think of as native Twitter functions, like hashtags, were homegrown by users.

When you start out on Twitter you only need to learn Twitter, but in fairly short order you then get a handle on some of these outside functions or tools.  Whether it’s a tweet scheduling app, a measurement app, or a trackable link shortener, you won’t get far (as a business tweeter) without the help of some third-party tools.

2. Twitter Is Not a Network

Twitter itself has repeatedly said that it’s not a network, it’s a media platform. Unlike Facebook and LinkedIn, you can follow someone without them following you back. The public nature of everyone’s feed makes it very well suited for non-networked media campaigns and engagements. Certainly, you can use Twitter to network, and it’s a very powerful platform for that, but there are a myriad of other uses for Twitter beyond the networking aspect.

Use Twitter to provide customer service, create a mini-newsmagazine for your business, hold interviews, throw online events, or write a novel. One of my favorite twitterers is @arjunbasu – an author who writes 140-character short stories on Twitter. He’s not engaging socially, he’s creating art with his tweets.  Anyone can follow him and be amused by him. No question, that’s media.

3. Twitter Has a Secret Language

Twitter has so many nuances and little-known tricks, it’s very hard for a new user to figure it out and it may be years before they learn them all.  In part, Twitter was built that way – the 140 character limit necessitates short-form commands and functionality shorthand. It’s kind of like an MS-DOS command prompt, from back in the day.

A few of the little-known or often overlooked native Twitter functions that trip people up, or that they don’t often know about, include:

  • If you use an @username as the very first piece of content in a tweet (if the @ is the first character), that tweet is only seen by that person and anyone who follows you both mutually.  It is amazing to me how many people don’t know this, really through no fault of their own. This is definitely the #1 “insider” thing that I get to teach people.
  • You can follow someone by typing “follow username” (with or without the @ symbol) right into the Compose Tweet box
  • You can message (direct message) someone by typing “d username” (with or without the @symbol) right into the Compose Tweet box
  • Twitter has very useful List functionality built in, which helps segment the people you follow so you can be sure to see the tweets of people who matter most to you. Once you’ve added people to lists, you can view just the tweets of the people on a particular list. This is great for people who say “Twitter moves too fast.”
  • Use Twitter’s Favorites functionality to bookmark tweets you want to refer to or share later. If you Favorite someone’s tweet, they’ll also get a notification (if their notifications are set up to receive them), which will show them that you engaged with their tweet.

My advice to people who are intimidated by or feel they can’t figure out Twitter: be patient. Jump in and start tweeting. It will take a while to build your following, so use that time to connect to people who know you well (and will completely forgive any faux pas you make) and experiment with the platform.  And remember, everyone makes mistakes: there are very few things that are truly dreadful on Twitter.

Now go forth and tweet!  And definitely get in touch with me (here in the comments or via Twitter, natch) if I can answer any questions about Twitter for you.

Pros and Cons of Social Media Marketing for eCommerce Businesses

Pros and Cons of Social Media Marketing for eCommerce Businesses

One of the most common answers I hear to the question of “how do I grow sales for my eCommerce business” is: social media. But what does that mean? Everyone’s “doing social media,” but are they doing it correctly, and more importantly, does it work for your business?

By “doing social media,” people generally mean: using social media platforms to achieve an objective in your business. For most businesses that objective will be either raising brand awareness or achieving sales. However, there are other objectives such as community engagement, providing customer service, and to humanize your brand.

In recent years, the volume of businesses using Facebook, Twitter and other social platforms has risen greatly. However, a lot of businesses are only on these networks because it’s the “in thing.” It’s really important to evaluate if social media is an appropriate marketing channel for your business, so consider these Pros and Cons.

Pros of Social Media for eCommerce Businesses

There must be a reason why so many people are doing it, right?

  • People look online before purchasing products. In fact, 67% of consumers look at online reviews before making a purchase. This means, if you’re selling a product and can get good consumer buzz in social media, it’s likely that potential customers will see that info. Therefore, social can be great for brand awareness and customer acquisition.
  • Social media is big business, and growing. Over 71% of businesses are planning to increase their social media budget for 2017. Establishing yourself now will help you to get an edge before your competitors do.
  • Data, lots of it. Over 90% of the world’s data was created in the past two years. Listening to and analyzing social media can provide you with insights into your industry, customers demographics and how demand is evolving.
  • Build relationships. Social media offers you the opportunity to build a relationship with your customers to increase customer lifetime value and acquire more potential customers. Additionally, these relationships help you to work on product development, when you get feedback from your customers (which you can also do via social media!).
  • Social media influencers are a thing. Connecting your brand with top influencers in your industry can do great things for your business; you get to “borrow” their audience every time they mention your brand. A 2015 study found that marketers get $9.60 in earned media for every $1 spent in influence marketing – a very good investment.

Cons of Social Media for eCommerce Businesses

However, there can be problems with using social media…

  • Difficult to quantify. For enterprise businesses, this may be easier, but for small businesses it may be difficult to effectively quantify what kind of return on investment you’re achieving with social media. Particularly when you goal is community engagement or other, less tangible, objectives.
  • Time-consuming. Coming up with ideas, creating the relevant imagery, and posting to different social media platforms can be a difficult task. While tools such as Hootsuite or Buffer can streamline the process, it can still be a time-consuming activity.
  • Difficult to do well. There are tens of thousands of business currently trying to grow sales using social media and frankly, a large portion of them aren’t achieving their objectives. As such, becoming proficient with effective social media usage often requires a time and resource investment initially.

One last consideration: it’s important to understand if your customers are actually active users of social media, and if so, what platforms. A fashion brand oriented towards younger consumers may have best success on Instagram, while a gardening line aimed at homeowners may see more engagement on Facebook.

Hopefully, these pros and cons have created some food for thought in your decision to use social media. I’d love to hear if they’ve helped you form your opinion about how to use social media in your own eCommerce business.

About the Author: Daniel runs marketing for Shoprocket.co in London, a service which enables any website, blog or Facebook Page to add Ecommerce in minutes. Follow Shoprocket on Twitter @shop_rocket.

Why Businesses Should Care About Facebook Featured Photos

facebook featured photos

If you’ve been paying attention to your personal Facebook account in recent weeks, you’ve probably noticed a new feature: Facebook featured photos. Although this addition is currently available for personal profiles only, it’s worthwhile for businesses to pay attention to it, as there’s always a chance it might migrate over to business pages one day.

Before we look at this feature in more detail, here’s a reminder of why it’s important for businesses that value social media to pay attention to Facebook. Not only did it have 1.59 billion monthly active users by the end of 2015 (with 1.44 billion using mobile devices) but its audience is global, with 83.6% of users outside the US and Canada.

Photos are among the most popular content, representing 54% of all posts. That’s why it’s unsurprising that Facebook has introduced this new feature.

How to Add Featured Photos to Your Facebook Profile

Here’s how you add featured photos to your personal profile:

  1. Visit your Facebook profile and look for the “add featured photos” link just below your profile photograph. It’s in the same box that allows you to add a short intro to your profile.
  2. Click it and you will get the option to add up to five photos from among the photos you have already uploaded.
  3. Select the ones you want and save and they will appear on your profile, with two larger photos at the top and three smaller ones at the bottom.

If you’re not happy with your choice of photos, just upload new ones to expand your selection. And if you add a Facebook featured photo, then change your mind, you can remove it like this:

  1. Hover over the featured photos block and click the pen icon that appears in the top right.
  2. Hover over the photo you want to remove and click or top the X that appears in the top right hand corner.
  3. Save, or click the image icon to add a new photo, then save.

Facebook featured photos are public, so it’s important to choose your photos carefully. It’s also a good idea to include a description or some kind of context for the photos to raise interest and perhaps stimulate some conversation.

Benefits of Facebook Featured Photos

As mentioned earlier, this feature is currently only available for personal profiles, but many people use their personal profiles to connect with clients either directly, or through participation in Facebook groups, so you won’t want to ignore the marketing potential of using featured photos on Facebook.

These photos can help people understand your personality and business. On your individual Facebook profile, you could choose to feature photos showing:

  • Your business location
  • Your branding
  • Your interests
  • A current deal or offer (it remains to be seen whether Facebook will allow this or will continue to steer people down to the “pay to play” route)

In other words, you can use featured photos to showcase whatever you think is most important to your business. It’s a way to pique people’s interest before they begin to interact with you and help them decide whether they want to connect or do business with you.

Other New Facebook Features

While you’re at it, consider updating the intro section that has replaced the old “about” section. Hover over the box till you see the pencil icon and enter your own text. This is another way to put your photos into context.

Aside from the intro and featured photos, Facebook has added another new feature that business page owners should pay attention to: the ability to use a seven second introductory video instead of your static profile photo. With video being such a huge part of content marketing, this would be another excellent business feature.

Facebook already offers the business benefit of exposure to a huge and engaged global audience. Today, these new features extend your reach from your personal profile, but in the future, these or similar profile could increase the benefits you can gain from your business page. Are you using Facebook featured photos yet? What has your experience been?

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5 Things You Should Know About Facebook

5 Things You Should Know About Facebook

5 Things You Should Know About Facebook

We use social media sites every day, but how much do we really understand about how to use them effectively in marketing? To help you, Crackerjack Marketing is creating a series of posts to guide you, and naturally, we’re starting with Facebook.

Read more

seo changes

5 SEO Changes That Will Affect Your 2016 Strategy

 

seo changes

If you’ve been paying attention to search engine optimization (SEO) this year, you know that things have changed. That has big implications for how you handle SEO in the year to come.

1. Goodbye Keywords; Hello User Intent

Once upon a time, a focus on keywords was the hallmark of good SEO. That’s been on its way out for a while, and is now a definite no-no. Keyword data is only useful if it tells you about user intent because it’s user intent that you’re optimizing for. Your SEO and content strategy will change depending on whether visitors your site are doing general research, looking for specific information or are ready to buy your services. And whichever it is, focus on keywords will be much, much less important than delivering what users want.

2. Focus on UX

UX, or user experience, is about having a site where visitors can easily find the information they need and have a positive experience on your site. If they don’t, they may “pogostick” away. That will increase your bounce rate and reduce your search ranking because Google will track that behavior and decide that certain pages aren’t relevant to users.

3. Building Authority

Google authorship may be dead, but that’s probably in name only. Make no mistake; Google is tracking your authority and the content you publish is one measure of that.

The more authoritative content you publish and the more visitors you attract, the higher your page authority and domain authority will be, making it even easier for potential customers to find you in search results.

Don’t forget about external authority signals. Publish content on well-respected sites or take part in high-profile webinars and events to increase your online authority.

4. The SoLoMo Trifecta

Social, local and mobile (SoLoMo) are also integral to your 2016 SEO strategy. Social signals also indicate authority and trustworthiness, so being active on social media will make you more visible. Google now indexes tweets – who knows what other social media content they will add next year? Think about whether Blab, Periscope or Instagram should be part of your 2016 social media strategy.

Optimizing your local search listing is also a must, especially since Google now shows just three local results in its answer box. If you haven’t checked out your Google My Business listing, now’s the time to do it.

Mobilegeddon hit earlier this year, which meant that some sites that weren’t mobile-friendly took a search ranking hit. That’s not going away. If you’re using a mobile device, you mobile-friendly pages are labeled, so why would you visit any others? Mobile device users are known to make quick buying decisions, so ignoring this metric could be costly. Search Engine Watch says Google has practically abandoned desktop-focused SEO and advises readers to do the same.

5. Quality Optimization

From the beginning, Google has tweaked its algorithms to make sure that web users see better content. That won’t change. If your content isn’t good, no-one will see it; make it great and you improve your chances. One thing that’s been happening in Google’s search results is the provision of rich answers. That means when users type in questions, the answers appear in a box at the top of the page. If your content appears here, you’ll get more traffic, as Stone Temple Consulting found. The secret? Clear answers to simple questions.

The bottom line? Anyone trying to game Google is wasting their time. SEO in 2016 means working to earn authority by delivering stellar content and an online experience that users value.

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digital-sharecropping

Why You Should Avoid Digital Sharecropping

digital-sharecropping
 
Using social media is now a fact of life, but there’s one key mistake business owners have to avoid. If you have an active presence on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram or whatever social media is best for your business, that’s fantastic, but you must avoid the perils of digital sharecropping. What is it? It’s where you put your eggs in a social media basket and have no web presence of your own.

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memes-for-marketing

Memes for Marketing: Should You Use Them?

memes-for-marketing
 
Is it possible to go a whole day online without seeing a meme? Wherever you look on social media, you find those amusing combinations of images and text sending a short, sharp message.

Originally a meme was simply “an idea, behavior, style, or usage that spreads from person to person within a culture” (Merriam-Webster) but now it can be a piece of content – usually visual – that spreads quickly and may even go viral. A case in point: all the memes around Donald Trump, many of which focus on his hair.

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Get-More-Eyes-on-Your-Blog-Content

5 Ways to Get More Eyes on Your Blog Content


 
Creating blog content is one of the best investments you can make in promoting your business. The stats are clear:

  • Brands that create 15 new posts monthly average 1200 new leads each month.
  • Blogs increase the number of pages in the search engine index by 437%.
  • You’ll get 55% more visitors with a company blog.

Whichever way you look at it, blogging for business is a good thing. But not everyone will read your blog, so to get more from content marketing, use your blog content in other ways so that more people will see it and interact with your company.

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twitter moments

Why Twitter’s New Moments Feature Matters to Brands

twitter moments
Did you notice something different over on Twitter recently? Twitter unrolled its new, and, quite possibly, most important feature called “Moments.” Moments takes what everyone is talking about and puts it into a tidy place for the user to find. Now we don’t have to jump in and get lost, mid-conversation. This is a great way to check out and interact with what’s going on on Twitter, before you dip your toes fully into the stream.

What EXACTLY is this “Moments”?

Essentially, Moments makes trending stories have a longer life. It yanks it from the rapids of the Twitter river and sticks some stuff into a calm little pond, where it waits patiently to be fished out. With the click of that neat little lightning bolt icon, a list of important highlights, along with live tweets, awaits. You’ll never have to wonder what’s happening on Twitter, ever again!

How does Moments work?

It’s quite simple, really. Well, no, it isn’t, but we’ll make it simple. We mentioned the lightning bolt icon already. You click it, which then brings you into the Moment app. What you see on that neat, magazine-like screen is a list of new and emerging stories that are popular in your network. If what’s going on doesn’t strike your fancy, you can click on “Sports” or “Entertainment” and catch up on what’s been going on over there.

How will it affect my own Twitter stream?

It’s supposed to affect your Twitter stream! Moments and your stream are new besties. They don’t go anywhere without the other. Moments tells Stream everything, and vice versa. Together, they are supposed to make a more robust, enriching, newsworthy experience. As Moments grows and learns how the user, well, uses Twitter, the content in Moments will be more individualized, tailoring itself to your own, personal likes.

How can Moments benefit brands?

Twitter is a cultural zeitgeist. As a brand on Twitter, you need to be aware – no, ahead – of the trends. Currently, we can stay on top of trends by staying really active on Twitter, checking out trending hashtags and using Twitter lists. Twitter’s new Moments feature now gives you another way to keep your finger on the pulse of the Twitter sphere.

As a brand, it’s not enough to settle for not being left behind the conversation, you want to be the leader. Imagine if your content was selected to be part of the curated collection!

At the moment, “Moments” (see what I did just there?) are only curated by a couple of Twitter partners but Twitter will be opening Moments up to more users in the future which, in turn, could present huge opportunities for creative thinking brands to set trends!

Twitter created a game-changer with Moments. Unlike some other features that Twitter has played around with in the past, this one is going to last a lot longer than…a moment.

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5 Tips for Brands Using Periscope

5-periscope-tips
Getting acquainted with Periscope and learning what it does was an important first step. Now, however, you have to figure out how to use this innovative new social media tool for your brand. Don’t worry. We have you covered with five tips brands can use to make the most of Periscope:

1. Promote

Promote your broadcast before, during, and after your event. The more you promote, the more people will actually view your broadcast, and even better, share it. Use all of your social media accounts to let your audience know what you have planned. Shout it from the rooftops while you’re live too, even if this means assigning someone else to promote or schedule posts/tweets in advance. And once your broadcast has ended, it would be a mistake to fall silent. Your broadcast will remain available for 24 hours, so make sure your audience members know they haven’t missed out, even if they couldn’t tune in when you were live.

2. Vary Content

There’s nothing worse than all promo, all the time. While you do want to promote your awesome products and services some of the time, you don’t want to turn your audience off by trying to sell your brand at every turn. Fortunately, Periscope lends itself to such varied content as educational videos, tutorials, FAQs, announcements, interviews, focus groups, and surveys as well. You can even use it to provide VIP access, customer support, and product demonstrations.

3. Engage

Just because it’s a different type of social media doesn’t mean all of the best practices you’ve learned fly out the window. Your attention-grabbing broadcast is a great start, but you still need to bring it home by engaging your audience. Post questions on Twitter to get your audience not only thinking about your content but also talking about it. Get involved in discussions about your broadcast and take the time to respond to comments.

4. Share Reviews

Without question, great reviews can work wonders for your brand. According to a study by Dimensional Research, a whopping 90 percent of purchase decisions are influenced by online reviews. Now, combine that with the appeal of not just video, but live video. Use Periscope to ask your customers for feedback and use it again to share live video reviews—good reviews, of course. You can’t lose!

5. Build Trust

Consumers are much more likely to buy from and return to brands they trust. Use Periscope to provide a new level of transparency by allowing your customers to see your face (or your employees’ faces) and listen to your voice as you answer questions about your brand and products. And as much as possible, keep it unscripted so that your message comes across as natural and genuine while showing off a bit of your personality.

Periscope isn’t just the latest hot thing. It’s a valuable tool for reaching your target audience, getting its attention, and boosting engagement. Use the above tips to incorporate Periscope into your brand’s marketing plans.

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5 Reasons Your Brand Should Be on Periscope

periscope

No brand can afford to rest on its laurels, thinking last year’s, last week’s or yesterday’s marketing is enough to keep its audience interested and engaged. You have to continually market, finding new ways to gain exposure and get the right people paying attention. One exciting new way to do that is with Periscope.

What is Periscope?

In February 2015, Twitter made a bold move by purchasing a live video streaming mobile app called Periscope. Twitter launched the app in late March, and it’s been hot, hot, hot ever since. It’s still a fairly new tool, which lends quite a bit to its hotness, and it’s an excellent way to gain more exposure for your brand. Fresh out of the gate, Periscope had a cool million users just 10 days post launch. By August, it boasted 10 million active users. And guess what else? It’s still growing.

Here’s why you need it for your brand:

1. You Can Reach Your Audience Live

Periscope allows you to use your mobile device to do something fabulous—broadcast live. This means you can allow your audience to join your broadcast, tuning in to your live streaming video and audio from virtually anywhere. And with Periscope, you aren’t limited to just seconds in which to get your message across. You can not only say everything you need to say, but also give your audience a much better experience.

2. Your Audience Can View It Now and Later

Your audience can view your broadcast message the moment you make it and up to 24 hours later, replaying it and commenting as often as desired. It’s real-time marketing at its best. And as if that’s not enough, you also get access to all kinds of useful data, providing insight into such things as how many viewers watched your broadcast and for how long.

3. Amazing Communication Options

You’ve probably heard a great deal about FaceTime, and maybe you’ve even used it to communicate one-on-one with your friends and family members. Periscope allows you to communicate directly with a potentially huge audience. It’s taken an intimate type of communication and transformed it so you can communicate with everyone.

4. It’s Social

Social media is a critical part of any marketing plan. With nearly 80 percent of Internet users considering social media content when making purchasing decisions, your brand needs to be where your audience gets social. Periscope provides yet another social avenue for reaching your audience and not only makes social sharing through Twitter simple and easy but also helps stimulate discussions and encourage feedback. It even includes location and notification features.

5. Access to More of Your Target Audience

You know the deal. If a large percentage of your audience is on a particular social media platform, you want to be there too. If your audience goes looking and only finds your competition, don’t expect that to help your bottom line. In fact, Periscope could even provide access to a demographic you haven’t reached before. Keep in mind, too, that Periscope is a new, innovative tool. Those who aren’t there now will likely use it later as more and more people learn what it can do and how to use it.

As a brand, you have to keep up with marketing trends in order to effectively reach your audience. By doing so, you demonstrate that you care about communicating with your audience while dramatically increasing your exposure. Periscope is a fantastic way to do just that.

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content marketing value

How to Get the Most Bang for Your Buck with Content Marketing

content marketing value
 
Everybody wants a magic bullet. And if you’re using content marketing to promote your business you may want it more than most. There are so many sites and types of content out there, so how do you find out what really works to you get great performance and return on investment, and content marketing value for your efforts?

The good news is, you don’t have to look far to find the answer, because Buzzsumo and Fractl have done it for you, analyzing 220,000 articles over a 6 month period from June to November 2014. The infographic is published on Hubspot. Here are some of the key findings, along with the lessons to learn about your content strategy.

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resurrect a blog

Tales From the Crypt: Bringing Your Company Blog Back to Life

resurrect a blog

No matter how motivated you were about starting your blog way back when, it’s all too easy to let it slide. It starts with a day of posting missed here or there. Then you start missing weeks, telling yourself it’s no big deal and you’ll get back on track…er…soon. Before you know it, your blog has gasped its laugh breath and you’re faced with deciding whether to bury it or try to perform a modern miracle of resurrection.

Do You Need a Blog?

The first thing to figure out (or remind yourself of) is why you needed a blog in the first place.

Did you need a blog to:

Bring traffic to your website
Aid lead conversion
Improve engagement with your customers/prospects
Increase exposure
Establish yourself as an expert/authority

Whatever your reason for giving life to a blog, ask yourself if that reason still exists or if you have new reasons to maintain a blog.

If the answer is no (highly unlikely), go ahead and let your blog rest in peace. If the answer is yes (much more likely), move on to figuring out why it kicked the bucket.

What Went Wrong?

There are many reasons a blog may go belly up, and examining them can help you figure out how to avoid the dead zone again.

Did you:

  • Lack a strategy

Blogging without a strategy is like setting off on a cross-country drive without a GPS or, at the very least, a map. Don’t start typing before you’ve settled on everything from your blog’s purpose and who your audience is to what your target keywords are and where you will distribute your content. How to Create a Successful Blog Strategy: A Step-by-Step Guide gives you the ins and outs of creating a strategy for your blog.

  • Find it difficult to blog because of your busy schedule

This is a common problem. Crafting high-quality blog posts takes time and energy, and we all run out of both. If this was the reason your blog went caput, you can delegate the responsibility to someone else in your company who has the time and enthusiasm for it, hire a social media professional to take your blog in hand, or seek the services of a ghostwriter. Be sure to check out How To Get Help When You Don’t Have Time To Blog for tips on selecting the right blogger.

  • Lose focus

An editorial calendar is an absolute must for staying on track. A carefully planned calendar will help you plan out your content (so you’re never at a loss for topics), keep your posts in line with your marketing efforts, and hold yourself accountable. Simply put, it’s your ace in a hole for keeping your blog healthy. Check out May the Force be With You: Your Blog Editorial to learn how to use The Force (your editorial calendar) to complete your mission (maintaining an awesome blog).

  • Run out of ideas

This is a true blog killer. Once you run out of ideas, blogging begins to feel like work. Then it begins to feel like torture. You grasp at straws to throw something, anything, up on your blog, but it ends up awful. Then your audience starts to lose interest, because, well, your posts hold little-to-no value for them. The good news is there are numerous ways to get great post ideas. As mentioned in 4 Ways To Get Your Marketing Back On Track, analyzing your audience and making use of social analytic and social listening tools can give you insight into the types of content your audience wants. Additionally, make use of questions your customers ask you and trending topics in your industry to craft relevant posts.

Keep in mind that there are many types of content you can use to make your blog step lively. Create posts around memes or inspirational photos, create series of posts so that each topic builds or expands on the previous one, give interviews, and invite guest bloggers on board. Have theme days and run giveaways on your blog. Mix it up! Editorial Calendar Continued: 9 Ways to Program Out Blog Content shares great ideas for filling your editorial calendar with compelling content.
 

There are many reasons a blog may go belly up, and examining them can help you figure out how to avoid the dead zone again.

 

How Long Should Your Blog Posts Be?

Once you’ve figured out what went wrong with your blog and decided to make the changes to revive it, it’s time to take a look at the simple question of how long to make your posts. Generally, shorter rules when it comes to blogging, but more important than a particular length is whether your posts are tightly focused and if they are easy to scan and absorb. Take a gander at How Long Should a Blog Post Be? to get food for thought on blog length.

It doesn’t matter if your blog was truly dead or merely struggling for its last breath. You can not only revive it but also make it a true content marketing engine. Use the advice above to give your blog a second chance at life.

 

content marketing investment

Why It’s Worth Investing in Content Marketing

content marketing investment

Many people don’t trust advertising any more, especially millennials. That’s why you need content marketing. If you create content that speaks directly and personally to your target customers, they are more likely to trust you. And if their friends also recommend your content, you will win their trust and loyalty and they are more likely to buy into your offer.

Content marketing lets you reach your audience in lots of different ways and helps your search rankings and online authority. But to get the benefits, you have to see content marketing as an investment. Not everyone does, even if they should.

As a writer, blogger and professional content creator, I’ve noticed that the people who approach me about writing often fall into two camps: those who want to invest in content and those who want content without the investment. Some freelance marketplaces give the impression that good content is cheap, and if you have a limited budget, that can seem appealing. Don’t fall for that. Failure to invest adequately in content marketing hurts your business. Here’s how.

Content marketing lets you reach your audience in lots of different ways and helps your search rankings and online authority.

 

How Failure to Invest in Content Hurts You

First, you won’t get the right writers to work with you. If you pay peanuts you won’t attract the kind of writers who will enhance your brand. If you want a professional writer, it will cost you. Good content is simply not available at $10 for 600 words; great content has an even higher price tag. Some of the blogs with the best content pay hundreds of dollars per post.

Second, your writer may not stick around. Consistency and reliability help you connect with customers but underpaid content creators soon move on because they need to earn more and there’s no incentive for them to stay. That’s bad for your content marketing strategy because you constantly have to onboard new content creators and you will find it difficult to get a consistent voice for your content and a reliable content flow.

So what do you get if you allocate a decent budget for content creation?

The Benefits of Content Marketing Investment

You get content creators who function as partners, actively working to make sure that content meets your needs. And you get experienced professionals who know when to stick to your style guide or when to inject a little personal flair. You get writers with experience of writing, some industry knowledge and the ability to add value to your content (for example, by creating tweets to accompany a piece of content). You get a level of excellence that makes your brand stand out for your target customers. And you get content that it’s easy to market.

The other reason it pays to invest in content marketing is because of the results you get. Dig deeper into reads, shares, links and referrals in your analytics and social analytics software and you will see the difference that good content makes.

That’s the content part of content marketing, but the marketing element is also important. Once you have nailed content creation, there’s a lot of behind-the-scenes activity to ensure that content works for you. For example, the Crackerjack Marketing team ensures that every piece of blog content gets shared multiple times on multiple platforms on a rotating schedule to give as many people as possible the chance to see it.

A marketing firm will help you create shareable graphics to accompany a blog post, craft social media updates and schedule those regularly after working out the best possible timing so people can see and share your content. And the firm can also help you respond quickly when your social connections share and comment on your content.

The bottom line: investing in content marketing is one of the best ways you can promote your business. Ask how the Crackerjack Marketing team can help you.

 

instagram ideas for brands

Instagram Content Ideas for Brands

instagram ideas for brands

Visual content is king, and Instagram is its court. More than any other social media platform, Instagram provides your audience with a way to visually connect with your brand, taking a virtual look inside your business. Of course, any social media platform is only as good as the content you post on it. To put Instagram to work for your business, post images that are not only creative, beautiful, inspirational, or fun but also accurate representations of your brand and the subject matter you find important. Above all, aim for fun and interesting, taking care to avoid obvious marketing.
 

Above all, aim for fun and interesting, taking care to avoid obvious marketing.

 

Need some help figuring out what to post to reach your audience? Here are 10 Instagram content ideas you can use:

  • Behind-the-Scenes Photos: It may be the everyday grind to you, but your customers want to see what goes on behind the scenes. Show off a little here, giving your audience an insider’s look into how you do things.
  • Photos of Your Business Location: Your audience wants to see where you make the magic that consists of your products and service. Show off the best or most creative images of your business.
  • Photos of the Surrounding Community: The community you do business in can add quite a bit to your brand’s unique flavor. Show off parts of the community that mean something to you, beautiful spaces, and anything that is unique to your area.
  • Images of Events: People love photos of company events, parties, seminars, and the like. Just be sure you share the photos of people smiling and laughing. If it looks like a snooze fest, it’s not a good choice for social media.
  • Photos That Feature Key (and Photogenic) Employees: We all like to put a face to a name. Post attractive photos of your employees that demonstrate their winning personalities and show off their great smiles. Don’t be afraid to post images of them hard at work too. Your audience will enjoy seeing them in the act of producing your company’s products and services.
  • Fun Scenes From the Breakroom, Holiday Parties, and Interesting Employee Cubicles: Let your audience see you and your employees having a great time. These sorts of photos help your customers see you and your employees as real people, and they encourage a connection with your brand.
  • Photographs of Various Parts of the Manufacturing Process or Your Service in Action: Don’t we all want to know how things work? This is your chance to give your audience an insider’s look and help them feel more connected to your brand.
  • Images of Your Product in Use: Post photos of customers using your products. This can work as a visual recommendation, encouraging your audience to give them a try. Likewise, such photos may give your customers ideas on other ways to use your products.
  • Photos of Contest/Giveaway Prizes: A picture is worth a thousand words. When you post photos of contest/giveaway prizes, you generate excitement, stimulate your followers to enter for the chance to win, and encourage sharing.
  • Reposts of Fan-Generated Content: Fan-generated content can be an important part of your social marketing campaign, influencing your prospects’ purchasing decisions, driving engagement, and serving as a complement to your other marketing efforts.

Anyone can create an Instagram account. It takes effort to build a presence that increases exposure, engagement, and even sales. Use the above tips to not only reach your customers and contacts but also to connect with them.

 

which social network

How to Decide Which Social Network is Right for Your Business

which social network

There are already more social networks than we know what to do with. In addition to those trying to fix social networking, like Ello, there are networks for almost every niche. So how do you pick the ones your business should spend time on.

Let’s be clear: it’s almost impossible to do several social networks well on your own. If you’re a small business without an individual or team dedicated to social media, you’ll find it hard to handle all the social media marketing tasks for every network. Unless you’re planning to hire a marketing agency you have to pick a place to start, whether that’s Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, LinkedIn or another network.

Here are some of the questions to ask to help you make the decision.

1. What does the research tell you?

A good starting point is the demographics of each social media site. If you have a breakdown of the age, gender, education, income and interests for the different sites, you can pick the site or sites where the profile best matches your own customer personas. (Google Analytics includes demographic data in its reporting, so it’s easy to check for similarities.) You can probably guess that if you’re marketing to business, LinkedIn is a good place to start, and if you are trying to attract teens, then Snapchat is a better bet for your marketing focus. Check out research reports like this one from Pew Internet and this recent roundup from Sprout Social to help you decide.

2. Where are your customers?

After doing the research, see if it matches where your customers are. You’re probably already collecting data to help with this. Use analytics software to see where people were before they came to your site or blog, and to check out their path through your site.

Pay particular attention to the social media reports which show which social sites bring the most visitors to you and which social sites most of your visitors use to share your content. Sometimes the data might surprise you. For example, I discovered that people were sharing my content on Stumbleupon even though I didn’t have a button for it.

Add to your knowledge store by using a social media analytics tool to get detailed information on where your customers are. A dashboard aggregator like SumAll or Cyfe will help you to view this data across multiple platforms.

Between them, these should help you narrow down some social media starting points, but there’s another aspect to consider.

3. Where are your competitors?

You already know who your key competitors are, but do you know what they’re doing on social media? If you’re targeting the same customer base, then it’s helpful to know which social media sites they favor, who they are talking to (and who’s talking to them), what kind of engagement they are getting and how you can improve on that with your own social media strategy. Check out Swellpath’s guide to social media competitive analysis to help with this.

4. What kind of content do you have available?

If you already have content, then you could use that to determine where you’re going to make a social media splash. If you’re already creating appealing graphics, then Instagram could be good for you. And if you’re selling products to a mostly female demographic, putting product images on Pinterest is a good strategy. The research you did in steps 1 and 2 will help you match demographics, online presence and content for the best outcome.
 

If you already have content, then you could use that to determine where you’re going to make a social media splash.

 

Taking a Shortcut

Of course, if you want to take a shortcut and start with a single social media site, then that shortcut has to be Facebook. The Pew Internet research linked earlier shows that 71% of adults are active Facebook users. Sure, it might be difficult to advertise there, but if you want to be social and don’t mind a crowd, it’s a place where you can share videos, images, short updates, long updates, news – almost anything. No matter what you do in creating your social media strategy, you won’t escape the lure of the huge Facebook audience, so consider making that your starting point while you do your research and choose your next social media target.

Which social media site did you create a business presence on first?

 

brand voice

Finding Your Brand Voice

brand voice
This is an oldie but goodie and it’s still as useful today as it was when I wrote it for Social Media Explorer. This construct is being referenced by social media smarties everywhere, including Buffer and Kevan Lee writing for Fast Company.

Are you using this in your company? Please tweet me @stephanies if you are!

Oscar winner Colin Firth could be the perfect person to ask about finding his voice – his virtuoso portrayal of a stuttering King George in The King’s Speech so cogently highlighted the frustrations of not having a clear way to communicate with a community. Some brands are equally tongue-tied, unclear about what the brand should sound like, leaving them either silent in social media or sounding haphazard and unrehearsed.

Get over your brand speech impediments by considering the following concepts, all of which play an important role in a well-rounded social media brand voice.

Character/Persona

This is the starting point for the development or furthering of your brand voice: Who does your brand sound like? In order to determine this, you may need to first determine who your customers are, so you can assume a persona for the brand that will resonate with your primary target audience. If you have multiple audiences you may need to have a more flexible brand voice, or you may determine that you need multiple social media channels to reach different audiences. Ideally you will be able to determine character attributes (see diagram) which meet the needs of the majority of your customers or users. If you’re a non-profit which raises awareness of childhood diseases, your character might be a gentle parental type. If you’re a software tools company, you might want to be a bit geeky, just right for the Star Trek crowd.

social-media_brand_voice

 

If you have multiple audiences you may need to have a more flexible brand voice, or you may determine that you need multiple social media channels to reach different audiences.

 

Tone

Tone is the underlying vibe that emanates from your brand’s communications. This is where you establish your credibility; place your brand in the past, present or future; and subtly alert fans and followers whether your brand is going to be wide-open or a bit more buttoned up. Be a showoff if your character is something like a street-savvy hip hop artist, but know that humble usually goes farther in generating customer loyalty. Clinical or scientific could be good for a very specific B2B entity or professional services organization.

Language

Although your brand may be the expert in its field, coming off sounding like you’re smarter than your customers could turn people off pretty quickly. Establishing appropriate brand language will give you a foundation for the types of words, phrases and jargon to be used in social media communications. Want to sound very exclusive? Use insider language and acronyms. Want to sound hip? Stay up-to-date on the latest slang. But be careful – if you make a misstep in slang it’ll look like you’re trying too hard.

Purpose

In the end, why are you here? Your brand voice in social media can help customers understand what you want to do with and for them. Are you working to educate your user base? Do you want to delight them, and get them to visit your store or website just because they’re amused by what you’re writing? And even if you do want to sell stuff, what can you give people to help them become engaged by your brand?

Once you’ve brainstormed around these four brand voice attributes, develop a roadmap for your brand’s voice which you can share with everyone who is involved in writing for, or speaking on behalf of, your brand in social media. This roadmap can be a simple as a one-sheeter with your brand voice attributes in writing, or you can craft some examples which front-line engagers can emulate. Add buzzwords – the words which describe your brand and which you want to have used when appropriate; for example, if you’re Disney, your buzzwords are something like: kingdom, magic, magical, family, experience, fun. Then add some “dos and don’ts” guidelines for your engagers so they can get a feel for the types of language and content you expect them to create.

social-media_brand_voice_example

Your brand voice in social media will evolve over time. It would be great to think about undertaking a brand voice development exercise before you open a new Twitter account – but if you’ve already been engaging in social media and feel like your voice needs refinement, take the time to work on it now. Make subtle changes and your fans and followers probably won’t even notice that there was a change – but if you can more closely match your voice to their needs, you may attract even more customers and develop greater engagement and loyalty than you ever have before.

 

negative comments

Negative Comments About Your Brand? Make Them Work for You

negative comments
It’s never pleasant to receive negative comments and reviews. You work hard to deliver your very best products and services, and bad feedback stings. However, every business receives negative feedback from time to time. It’s how you handle it that sets you apart and keeps your customers coming back to you despite one less-than-stellar experience. And it’s how you respond that influences new customers to give you a chance, despite any negative reviews. The most important thing to remember is that social media is a public forum. Your audience (current and potential customers) will be paying attention to how you handle criticism and complaints.

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social media konmari

Social Media: The KonMari Way

social media konmari

The KonMari Method is taking closets everywhere by storm. If you haven’t heard of it yet, it’s a system of decluttering that focuses on keeping only the items that spark joy in your life. And though the book that reveals the system, The Life-Changing Magic Of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, is all about organizing your belongings at home, you can use it for social media too. Here’s how to organize your social media the KonMari way:

Purge

One of the basics of the KonMari Method is the purge. You are to ruthlessly discard what is unnecessary before you start organizing anything. Take no prisoners. All those sites you bookmarked (because maybe someday you would need them) but have never actually cared to visit? Delete them. The groups you joined because you thought they might be helpful (but they weren’t)? Remove yourself. Those lists of links you thought you might share with your audience (but they kind of sucked)? Delete them. Apps that seemed useful but just clutter up your devices? Uninstall them. Getting notifications from a million pages you don’t actually want to follow anymore? Unfollow them. And last but not least, drop the social media platforms you joined just because everyone else did. If your audience isn’t there and it won’t yield the kind of exposure you need, it’s just taking up space. Drop it like a bad habit.

Make Sure It Sparks Joy

Once you’ve discarded a bunch of the social media clutter that’s been inhabiting your online space, take some more time to evaluate what you have left. With the KonMari Method, you’re supposed to discard anything that doesn’t bring you joy. In this case, not only should your content bring you joy, it should bring joy to the people that follow you. Everything you keep should do one of the following:

  • Help you better reach your audience
  • Help you demonstrate skill and knowledge relevant to your industry
  • Make it easier for you to provide your audience with valuable content
  • Help or inspire your audience
  • Enable you to be better at your job
  • Connect you with people likely to help you reach your goals

 

Not only should your content bring you joy, it should bring joy to the people that follow you.

 

Organize

With the KonMari Method, you don’t organize one entire room and then move on to the next. Instead, you organize by category, something you can do with social media as well. Here are some smart ways to organize your social media:

  • Create an editorial calendar, organized by type of content, topic, and date. Include categories for images and links, so you always know at a glance what you’re posting, and when. You don’t need several different calendars (one for each social media platform) either. Use one calendar to cover them all.
  • Use your editorial calendar as a guide to schedule posts ahead of time, in bulk. This can be a huge time-saver and make publishing social media content less of a hassle.
  • Create a file to store all of your links and notes for content resources. When you need to post timely, relevant content for your audience to enjoy, you shouldn’t have to waste time searching for it.
  • Use an RSS reader to stay on top of the latest news and content from multiple blogs.
  • Create a folder to house images for an entire campaign. Let’s say you’re implementing a campaign across several different platforms. Creating the campaign images ahead of time and keeping them organized in a single folder can work wonders for your efficiency.
  • Create a uniform identity across all of your social media networks. This means branding with the same or similar handle/username and using the same logo and colors on all your accounts to ensure that you are easily recognizable (and memorable). Likewise, it’s important to have the same professional profile image across all of your platforms. This give you a single, credible identity.
  • Use a social media aggregator, such as HootSuite or TweetDeck to see content from your social media feeds in a single place rather than going from site to site to see the latest activity.
  • Create a social media folder for your email. Keep your social media notifications, promotion information, comments, content others send to you to share, etc. in this folder to ensure that the information is right at your fingertips when you need it.

Appreciate Your Social Media Tools and Resources

How you care for your belongings is also important with the KonMari Method. In keeping with this system, take the time to back up your files and maintain your blogs, websites, and social media accounts with up-to-date information.

We can all use a little KonMari in our social media. It’s a system that makes simplicity and joy paramount. Use it to get your social media organized and keep it that way.

 

user-generated-content-brand-marketing

How User-Generated Content Can Tell Your Brand Story

User Generated Content for Brand Marketing

Your brand story is so much more than a collection of facts about your business. It’s even much more than how you feel about your company and what makes it tick. It’s a unique, complex combination of the facts about your brand blended with the emotions your brand stimulates in its customers. Essentially, it’s a human-to-human representation of your business. Fans are already posting to Instagram and Facebook, why not empower them and harness their user-generated content for brand marketing?

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guest blogging

The Essential Guide to Guest Blogging

guest blogging

Co-Authored by Sharon Hurley Hall and Christina Strickland

So you thought guest blogging was dead? While Matt Cutts initially suggested that, he later clarified that he was talking about guest blogging for SEO link building. Guest blogging for reach and authority is alive and well, but you have to do it right. That means getting a professional to handle your guest blogging campaign. 

The Benefits of Guest Blogging

If you’ve ever been asked to write a guest post or been offered a guest post for your own blog, you might wonder what all the fuss is about. Rest assured, there is more to guest blogging than just the exchange of free content. Guest blogging can help you establish yourself as an authority in your industry and get more targeted visitors to your blog or website. This, of course, carries the potential for increased sales. Besides that, however, guest blogging can help you develop relationships that will further your business.

Expand Your Reach

When you write a post on your blog, you reach your audience–your current readers and any new readers who happen to find your latest post, such as through the search engines or sharing. When you guest post on another party’s blog, you reach that blog’s audience. You can write about what you know and tweak it to cater to the blog’s audience, expanding your reach and attracting a whole new set of readers to your own blog. Some of these readers might not have found you on their own.

Boost Traffic

Each guest post you write should translate into increased traffic for your blog. Typically, you’ll have the opportunity to include a link or two back to your own blog, and if the blog has decent traffic and a solid readership, this can mean an upswing in visitors to your website or blog. If you also accept guest posts, you’ll have even more potential for increased traffic. Your guest bloggers will share the links to the content they provide for your blog, and the people who come to read it may stay a while to check out your other content.

Develop Relationships

If you write as a guest blogger, you have the chance to get to know other bloggers and share ideas. The same goes for accepting guest posts on your site. These bloggers may prove willing to spread the word about your business and send referrals your way. They may also share business opportunities and suggest ways to improve your strategies. Some might even become customers or develop an interest in a partnership with you.

Build Your Reputation

Write guest posts that inform or solve problems for the intended audience, and something wonderful will happen. In time, you will develop a reputation as an expert in your industry–a go-to person. This is especially true if you guest post on well-respected, well-written blogs. A better reputation means more business!

Tips for Guest Blogging Success

Take a look at the profiles on your social media accounts.

Make sure they are complete, accurate, and compelling. Editors and website owners will want to check you out online, so you want your profiles to put your best foot forward. Generally, it makes sense to have a presence on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn. Include a link to your website/and or blog in each of your social media profiles.

Write several articles related to your industry and post them to your website or blog.

These articles will help show off your writing skills and provide a peek at your writing style. Make sure they are your very best work. If an editor or site owner goes to your website to learn what to expect from you and sees a bunch of spelling mistakes and grammar errors, he is unlikely to want you writing for his blog. Format each article to ensure that it is easy to read, and focus on interesting, helpful topics.

Reach out to the editor or owner of the site for which you want to guest blog.

The blog will usually list the owner or editor’s email address. Some will make it even easier by providing a contact form for you to fill out and submit. Alternatively, you can contact the owner/editor through his or her social media accounts, but try emailing first.

Introduce yourself to the editor/blog owner in a professional and friendly manner.

Explain what type of business you own and share your passion for the industry. Inform the editor/blog owner that you would like to contribute as a guest blogger. Share your goals as well. For example, you might want to guest blog for the purpose of building a reputation as an industry expert. Provide links to your website and your best articles as well as contact information.

Pitch topics about which you are passionate, making sure they are a good fit for the blog on which you will guest post.

Send well-written posts to the editors/blog owners who have accepted you as a blog owner. Include a link back to your site in each post. Also, if possible, link from each post to one of your previously published articles/posts, choosing one that is relevant and provides valuable new information (rather than the same information you included in the current post).

5 Mistakes to Avoid with Your Guest Blogging Campaign

Whether you choose a seasoned individual blogger or a marketing agency, you need someone who will avoid tarnishing your company’s reputation with spammy pitches. Believe it or not, people are still sending those out, often on behalf of people and companies who probably know better. Here are some examples of what to avoid so you can vet the people who will be pitching on your behalf.

Poor Greeting and Tone

Sometimes the initial approach is wrong. If you’re going to pitch a guest article, then it’s worth finding out whether the site owner is male or female (not hard to do with Google and social media at your fingertips). I can tell you that I’m not thrilled about being called Mr.

Added to that, if your pitch letter suggests you are doing the site owner a big favor, then unless you’re really an expert in your field, the tone is wrong. An approach that recognizes that both parties get something from guest articles is more likely to get a favorable response.

Poor Spelling, Grammar and Writing

I’ve lost track of the number of guest post pitches I’ve received that read like an SMS message. Heads-up: if the blog owner has to decipher your pitch, it will end up in the trash.

Spelling and grammar errors are another no-no. From the blog owner’s viewpoint, if your pitch is full of mistakes, your article is likely to be just as bad.

If you want to give your guest article the best chance of publication, proofread, proofread and proofread again. Your job is to deliver a post that’s as close to publication-ready as possible. It’s the best way to impress the person who might publish it.

No Thought for the First Reader

Here’s something that I learned from journalism: when you’re pitching an article the person who is reading the pitch is your first reader. You have to make sure that person finds it interesting or your article won’t see the light of day.

People are busy, so you only have a couple of sentences to show that you:

  • can craft a great headline and introductory paragraph
  • know where you’re going with the article
  • can show how it is suitable for the blog’s readers
  • have the writing chops to deliver it

A no-fluff approach is the best way to get your pitch past the first hurdle.

Keyword Stuffing

Yes, people are still keyword stuffing, and still submitting short, badly written, virtually unreadable content.

My message to them: just stop!

It’s more important than ever for guest articles to be in-depth, relevant and useful. Format your post so it reads well on everything from smartphone to desktop screens and is web readable. That means plenty of subheadings, short paragraphs and an easy way to identify key points.

Same Old, Same Old

I get it; sometimes the best way to figure out a winning pitch is to base it on something you already know was successful. But some non-professionals do more than use a proven success as a starting point; they virtually replicate it. That’s just wrong and no-one wants to read me-too content. It’s getting harder to do something different but you can do it by:

  • expanding on a single point in an article
  • responding to an issue raised by someone else (perhaps in a comment or tweet)
  • posting a controlled rant (they always do well) about something important in your niche.

If you want to improve your chances of acceptance, offer something different, like an infographic or Slideshare presentation. It will take longer to produce, but that kind of visual content is widely shared and will do wonders for your online authority.

Whether you’re using guest blogging to build authority or simply for outreach, avoiding the mistakes listed here will make your campaign more successful. If you need some help with strategy or writing, contact the Crackerjack Marketing team.

Exploring Mobile and Social Analytics

Exploring Mobile and Social Analytics

Exploring Mobile and Social Analytics

In my last post I explained some of the insights analytics offers to help you improve your marketing campaigns. This time round, I’d like to look at two aspects of analytics in more detail: social and mobile analytics. Over the last couple of years, Google has enhanced these features significantly, so it’s worth seeing what you can learn. The reason this is important is because the more you know about how your customers are using mobile and social, the better you can target your marketing.

Mobile Analytics

If you live in North America, two out of every three people you know probably have a smartphone or tablet. We Are Social says mobile device penetration has reached 63% in this region. Worldwide, that figure drops to 50%. How is that reflected in your web analytics?

Go to Google Analytics – Audience – Mobile to see some interesting statistics. Analytics data now segments your audience so you can see who’s browsing from a desktop, a tablet or a smartphone. You can see bounce rate, average session duration and conversions (if you have set goals) for each type of device. When I checked my own site about a year ago, only a small percentage of web visitors were using mobile devices; at the time of writing, the figure had risen to 20%.

If you click on Devices, you can also see which devices people are using. Not only does that help with mobile web optimization efforts, but it can guide you if you are thinking of integrating a mobile app into your strategy. Google Analytics lets you set secondary dimensions (in other words, other metrics) so you can fine tune your analysis. That means you can see, for example, which pages people with iPads landed on or cross-reference referral path with device. You can use this information to understand your customers and segment your marketing even further.

Beyond the mobile report itself, you can add mobile traffic as a secondary dimension to many of the other pieces of data, for example to find out which browsers mobile device owners use to access your site.

Social Media Analytics

To find social media analytics, go to Google Analytics – Acquisition – Social.

From a marketing viewpoint, it’s important to know that if you have goals set up, you can see how social sites contribute to conversions and revenue. This report is on the social media overview page. You can also check which social sites are sending traffic your way (there might be a few surprises), including activity from Google’s Data Hub partners.
 

From a marketing viewpoint, it’s important to know that if you have goals set up, you can see how social sites contribute to conversions and revenue.

 
Also included here is data on landing pages resulting from social media referrals, trackbacks, plugins and conversions. It’s also useful to see how people navigate your site after arriving from a social site – it can be another indication of whether your search engine optimization and social media marketing efforts are paying off.

While the mobile and social media reports in Google Analytics aren’t the only reports you need, they provide a good starting point for other analyses. When running your campaigns, it’s useful to augment these with the other analytics tools which are geared to measuring marketing effectiveness and not just traffic.

 

How to Improve the Success of Your Marketing Campaigns with Analytics

How to Improve the Success of Your Marketing Campaigns with Analytics

How to Improve the Success of Your Marketing Campaigns with Analytics

It’s only a small snippet of code, but it’s the difference between knowing whether your marketing is working or failing miserably. I’m talking about analytics software, which packs a powerful punch in terms of helping you to understand your website, social media profiles and customers and letting you know whether you’re succeeding in getting attention for your brand and making your business better known.

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Will Your Customers Be Wearing Your Website?

Will Your Customers Be Wearing Your Website?

Will Your Customers Be Wearing Your Website?
 

The Mobile Market Shift – Are You Ready?

Will your customers be wearing your website soon? The chances are that they will be. If you pay attention to technology news, you know that wearable computing (it’s exactly what it sounds like: computing devices that you wear) is set to make the mobile market even more mobile.

The most common devices are smart watches. These started by allowing you to manage smartphone functions from a device worn on the wrist. But some of the latest ones fly solo, so you don’t need a smartphone to use them. (Check out the Samsung Gear S for an example.) That’s the revolutionary part, and it’s why if you’re not ready for mobile market changes, it’s time to think seriously about what that means for your website and marketing. Google Glass may be wearable, but something that’s just like the watch you wear already, but better, is likely to be more popular.

All the major tech developers are investing heavily in wearables. Google has even launched Android Wear, an operating system specifically for wearables. With application developers busily updating all their apps to work with Android Wear, it’s another reason to bet on mobile.

The mobile market is already huge, but there’s still room for growth. According to We Are Social, mobile penetration is already at 63% in North America and 50% worldwide. In many emerging markets, mobile devices are the primary devices used, so if your business targets those markets, a mobile marketing strategy is a must.

Here in the US, mobile devices are the devices of choice for millennials. According to eMarketer 77% of millennials watch video on tablet computers while a whopping 90% watch video on their smartphones. Social media is part of the mobile revolution too, with mobile device users twice as likely to share content from those devices as from desktops. (Source: ShareThis)

So what does all this mean for your web and marketing strategy? You already know the impact of a good user experience (UX) on marketing success. Some mobile users wait less than a second before leaving a website that’s not working for them. Good mobile UX, says Google, can help turn people who visit your site and read your marketing material into customers.

That’s why it’s more important than ever to fine tune your marketing strategy to take account of mobile device users. You need a website that loads quickly, with messaging that’s on point. You need to ensure that people don’t have to spend a lot of time swiping and can act quickly on your call-to-action. A screen the size of a watch face doesn’t leave much room for error.
 

It’s more important than ever to fine tune your marketing strategy to take account of mobile device users.

 
One day, there may be even more devices providing information to help you target your marketing. At this year’s soccer World Cup, several players wore boots with chips that provided stats on running distance and more. That’s the tip of the iceberg. In the future, your customers will expect to have the same seamless experience on small computing devices as they do on smartphones, tablets and desktops. If you haven’t thought about how to adapt your web and marketing strategy, it’s time to start now.

 

google algorithm updates

Google Algorithm Updates: Should You Be Worried?

google algorithm

The Mopocalypse is here. What does that mean for your marketing strategy? Let’s take a look at Google’s mobile-friendly update and other algorithm changes and see what you need to do next.

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How to Hire the Right Writer for Your Content

How to Hire the Right Writer for Your Content

How to Hire the Right Writer for Your Content

Never underestimate the value of great content to your business. Companies that get content right get more attention and more leads, and if their marketing funnel works right, that usually translates into more sales. But in order to get those benefits, you need to have the right writer for your content. Since the writer is creating content to represent your business, you can’t afford to leave it to chance. Here are some tips on finding the right writer to deliver on your content strategy.
 

Since the writer is creating content to represent your business, you can’t afford to leave it to chance.

 

1. Assess Writing Experience

The first thing to know is that writing experience counts, but it doesn’t have to be in your niche. Sad to say, some industry experts can’t write, so hiring someone who lives and breathes your sector may turn out to be a poor decision. The good news is that all writers worth their salt can research. An experienced writer with great research skills will be able to produce a wide range of excellent content for your company – and that’s what you need in this content-hungry world.

2. Investigate Research Skills

Speaking of research, ensure that your writer’s research skills extend beyond Wikipedia. It’s best to find a writer who knows where to find expert sources and who is comfortable interviewing your employees and customers. If your writer has a background in journalism or writing for magazines, it’s a huge plus point. Writers from those background are used to getting to grips with topics quickly and distilling the essentials for readers. That works well for online writing, which is mostly what you’ll need your writer to do.

3. Can the Writer Write?

Next, it’s on to writing skill, because even if a writer is experienced with great research skills, that writer still has to produce content you want to read. This is where you check out your writer’s online portfolio and LinkedIn profile and run a quick Google search to see what you find. You’re looking for content examples that show breadth, readability and knowledge of how to optimize content the right way so you don’t incur Google penalties. And if you’re planning to commission bylined writing, then a writer who’s active on social media will be an asset.

Drill down into the writing samples and look to make sure that your writer has a good grasp of tenses, homophones, spelling, grammar and knows how to avoid redundancy. Better yet, your writer should understand when to avoid jargon (which is most of the time) and when to use it.)

4. Get Some Extras

Beyond the actual writing skills, there are a few other qualities you should look for. The best writer will partner with you in content creation, so he or she should understand your business well enough to be able to generate content ideas and write approved content in an appropriate voice for your business. Social media skills, the ability to work with your content management system (like WordPress) and knowledge of search engine optimization (SEO) are also useful.

Find a writer with all these qualities and your content strategy will take off. Better yet, hire a marketing firm to gain access to a pool of experienced writers so you always have the quality content to improve your business.

 

Social Media Management Checklist

Social Media Management Checklist

Social Media Management Checklist

So you’ve signed up for a bunch of social media accounts? Now, you can sit back and bask in your accomplishments, right? Wrong. So, so wrong. Signing up for social media accounts is only a small part of the battle. You need more than just a presence on well-known social media networks. You have to engage on them, and, well, be social. This means putting daily effort into developing your network and increasing your online visibility. How? By attending to housekeeping, monitoring, posting, and reaching out each day.

Here are some must-do tasks to include on your social media checklist:

Housekeeping

  • Log in and check your messages daily. It sounds like a no-brainer but it’s way too easy to let slide when you’re busy with other things. Don’t let out-of-sight, out-of-mind thinking derail you from this.
  • Respond thoughtfully. If your audience members reach out to you, the last thing you want to do is lose their interest by making them wait too long for your response. Don’t just hit the “like” button and think you’re done. Personal responses, thoughtful questions, and helpful advice will help you stand out from all the rest.
  • Commit to posting on each of your social media accounts at least once per day (more is better)–and make each post relevant and sharable. Keep in mind, however, that your posts don’t always have to be long and involved. They can be as simple as a link, quote, or photo, or as meaty as an informative video you created or an in-depth article (or link to one). Mix things up! Nobody likes boring.

Monitoring

  • Monitor your daily results. Check reviews and mentions of your business. This will help you stay on top of what people are saying about your business, so you can help keep the buzz going.
  • Note which posts saw lots of engagement and which tweets fell, well, flat. This allows you to make better choices by learning what works and what doesn’t.
  • Pay close attention to bad reviews and complaints. Of course you want to see positive mentions, but when bad reviews and complaints show up, your ongoing monitoring will pay off. You’ll be able to respond quickly to negativity and fix things or at least minimize the damage to your reputation.
  • Watch the competition. Sure, you’re different and your business is the best out there, but there’s still plenty you can learn from your competition, both what to do and what to never, ever do.
  • Find out who your friends are. Track increases and decreases in follower numbers and friends. Use the information you get to inform your marketing and social media efforts. Simply put, if it gets you a boost in numbers, keep doing it.

Reaching Out

  • Socialize! Well, duh. Why are we telling you this? The unfortunate truth is that business people have a crazy way of forgetting that social media is supposed to be social. Work on beginning, developing, and nurturing relationships every single day.
  • Set a goal. Connect with at least a few of your followers each day and initiate contact with the same number of new people. The attention you pay to others will boost their interest in your business, encourage sharing of your content, help you expand your network, build your reputation, and when all goes as planned, boost sales. Share content, like pages and posts, provide recommendations and endorsements, and even send good tidings on birthdays and anniversaries.
  • Shut up about yourself. No one likes people who talk too much about themselves. Ask questions. Ask lots of questions, and then show genuine interest in the answers.

Take the time to accomplish the above each day. And remember, if you lack time to get it all done, you can delegate the responsibility to an employee or a social media firm.
 

If you lack time to get it all done, you can delegate the responsibility to an employee or a social media firm.

 

What’s on your social media checklist? Share with us!

 

social sharing

The Power of the Ask – How to Encourage Social Sharing

social sharing

Did you know that among the five most popular words on Twitter are the words please and retweet? That tells you something very important. If you want to encourage people to share your work on social media, sometimes all you have to do is ask. It’s a call to action, social media style. Most people can’t resist a heartfelt appeal mixed with a little politeness. That’s why one of the things it’s most important to master in your content marketing is the call to action.

Most people can’t resist a heartfelt appeal mixed with a little politeness.

 

1. Include Social Sharing Buttons …

Social media is full of them. On Twitter they are pretty short (like “pls RT”) because you only have 140 characters to play with. The Facebook “like” and “share” buttons have built in calls to action which it’s hard to resist. In my opinion, that’s much clearer than the Google “+1” button, because many people still don’t know what that is. The point is, if you’re trying to improve your social sharing rate, calls to action are a must. A typical blog post could include:

  • social sharing buttons at the top or bottom of the post
  • a floating sharing toolbar to the left
  • a written call to action within the text

2. … But Not Too Many

If you use a social sharing plugin, it’s tempting to include as many buttons as possible. That’s a mistake. Neil Patel found that when he added LinkedIn and Pinterest to his default of Twitter, Facebook and Google+, the number of shares fell by 29%. In other words, you’re likely to get more shares if you give readers less choice. That’s why it’s important to focus mainly on the networks that are most important for building your business.

3. Include CTAs in Videos

Since online video is so huge, get people to share by including calls to action within the video. Some people never watch to the end so having a call to action about a minute in, plus another one at the end is a good strategy. If you use the right tools, you won’t just get social shares from your video, but email signups too. And by the way, the multiple CTA technique works in written content, too! 🙂

4. Be Specific

The more specific your call to action is, the more likely it is that readers will do what you want. So if you just want shares, ask for shares; if you want comments and shares, ask for that. And if you want them to share their favorite part of the post (made easier with the SumoMe suite of tools), than ask for that. Here are some tips on improving social media calls to action from Social Media Examiner.

5. Keep Asking

Even if you’ve asked for the share before, you can ask again, says Canva:

Don’t make the mistake of putting your call to action out there and then moving on. Share that same call to action across each of your social networks multiple times and in many different ways.

What works best for you with social media calls to action?

 

Social Media Advertising: Facebook, Twitter & LinkedIn, Oh My!

Social Media Advertising: Facebook, Twitter & LinkedIn, Oh My!

Social Media Advertising: Facebook, Twitter & LinkedIn, Oh My!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ever wanted to know how to use social media advertising for your business, particularly your B2B business? Look no further – here’s our guide to advertising on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

We cover general advertising tips, plus capabilities and use for each of the three major social ads platforms.

Feel free to download and share this eBook direct from Slideshare. (Hint: View the Notes for the presentation by clicking on the Notes tab next to comments and statistics.)

And of course, if we can assist with your social media advertising programs, please don’t hesistate to contact us!

Social Media Advertising Overview: Facebook, Twitter & LinkedIn from crackerjackmarketing

f9756b57-646c-475a-8bdc-1d355f00fa23

5 Ways to Use Google Analytics

5 Ways to Use Google Analytics

5 Ways to Use Google Analytics

You’ve probably heard plenty about the importance of tracking and monitoring in your online business. And while there are many tools designed to help you collect and analyze data about your online audience, Google Analytics is one of the most well-known.

Here are 5 ways you can use it in your business:

1. Get Juicy Browser Details:

So you know (okay, hope) that people are checking out your content. But just how are they checking it out? You can use Google Analytics to discover which browsers they’re using as well as which operating systems and devices they use to check out all your cool stuff. For example, you can figure out the percentage of visitors who use Firefox versus Internet Explorer and how much of your audience is viewing your content on a mobile device.

Why on earth does this matter? Sometimes the best content will look 50 shades of crappy in a certain browser or on a mobile device. With this information to hand, you can ensure that your content is optimized for however the bulk of your audience views it, providing the best possible experience.
 

Sometimes the best content will look 50 shades of crappy in a certain browser or on a mobile device.

 

2. Get a Search Engine Marketing Report Card (sorta):

If you’ve listened at all to what we have to say, you have put time and effort into choosing well-targeted keywords. But what good is that if you have no idea whether your efforts are paying off. With Google Analytics, you can easily discover which keywords are sending traffic your way. Did you hit the motherload of keywords or did your choices go splat, much like a sucky movie review on Rotten Tomatoes?

Why should you care? Content gets old, loses its luster, and eventually gets forgotten and ignored. Besides, you have other things to share, right? Knowing which keywords get you the customers means you can create the right new content to keep them coming. Totally bombed in the keyword department? It’s okay. It happens. Use these reports to switch gears.

3. Find out Who Is Helping You:

Thought it was only Google sending you traffic. Think again. If you have significant traffic, some of it likely comes from sites that link to yours. Google Analytics lets you know which sites are helping you get more visitors and how much referral traffic these sites are sending your way.

Does this really matter? Really? Of course it does. Let’s say you contribute to the big, beautiful Blog A as well as the smaller, less flashy Blog B. You probably thing Blog A is sending you tons of traffic. After all, bigger is always better, right? Silly you. You know better than that. Google Analytics may just reveal that Blog B is referring more traffic or that they’re both duds. You want to be where your audience is, and this information will help you decide where to go.

4. Discover Your Big Earners:

If you use Google Adsense to earn money, Google Analytics can help. You can use the report data to evaluate which pages of your site earn the most.

Why pay attention? If you’re all about the money, you’re going to want to watch which of your pages brings it in. Why spend all your time mashing up potatoes when it’s the salty deliciousness called French Fries that all the kids want? Use this feature to decide where to invest your time and effort, so when you say, “Show Me the Money!” it’s more likely Google will.

5. Track Online Sales:

The Goal Funnel feature helps you analyze e-commerce transactions and evaluate the level of success you’re experiencing. It may prove particularly helpful for figuring out why some people load up their shopping carts with your products and then bail out without buying anything.

Why does it matter? Duh! You want to stop your customers from window shopping on your site. Use this data to figure out how to turn more looks into buys.

Tips You Can Use:

  • Take a look at your bounce rate. This indicates the number of people who stop by and visit without bothering to look at your other pages. This information might spur you to develop content that grabs their attention and makes them stick around.
  • Filter out your own IP. Your numbers will go up if you visit your site multiple times per day and hit that handy dandy refresh button, but having your own visits included in your data won’t help you very much. Sorry.

Do you use Google Analytics for your business? What feature do you consider the most helpful? Share with us!

 

blog editorial calendar

May the Force Be With You: Your Blog Editorial Calendar

blog editorial calendar

You are the social media Jedi, and your editorial calendar is The Force. Use The Force, my young Padawan. Use it well.

Making your blog or social media into an effective marketing tool is a challenge, and so many people get lost along the way. It’s harder than it sounds to not only post regularly but also post content that attracts the right type of traffic and keeps it coming back for more. Even harder is getting your audience to engage by commenting on your content and sharing it. When the going gets rough, though, you’re not at the mercy of fate. Here are three ways your blog or social media editorial calendar can make your job easier.

Mission #1

Post regular content. Regular content helps draw in traffic from the search engines and also gives your audience a reason to come back to your blog. They get used to reading your scintillating content on certain days and come back expecting more of the same. If your posting isn’t consistent, you will have a much harder time building a loyal audience.

The Force

Your blog editorial calendar will help you stay the course. You’ll have it right there in black and white—what you are supposed to post next and when. This makes it much harder to procrastinate and fall into the posting every now and then category.

Top Tip

When you create your blog editorial calendar, make columns to help you stay organized, including those for the month and the day you will publish; the topics, categories, and keywords you will cover; the images you will add; and any notes that may help you with your post.

Mission #2

Create content of value for your audience. You could blab all day about the way your sofa swallows your remote control and the deals you got at the grocery store, but that’s only going to interest some audiences. You need to plan the right content for your unique audience.

The Force

Create a blog editorial calendar with various topic categories of interest to your audience (after you’ve done your research, of course). Then fill in post topics for each category. Use the calendar to ensure that you don’t focus too much on one topic or category and ignore the world of others you could cover.

Top Tip

So you get stuck for topic ideas? No worries. The rest of us are rowing along in the same boat with you. It’s always a good idea to spend time where your audience does and create content based on what they are discussing or asking. Don’t forget that you can, and probably should, turn those great questions and comments you receive via social media into blog posts as well.

Mission #3

Create content that marches in step with your other marketing efforts. Maybe you have a big promo coming up, an event, or a new product line coming out. Maybe you’re opening a new location or bringing some new, exciting talent on board. Shouldn’t your blog content reflect what you have going on in the present or coming up in the future? If it doesn’t, you’re missing out on an important chance to spread the word.

The Force

Use your editorial calendar to strategize around the release of blog content that works hand-in-hand with your other marketing efforts. Of course, many of your posts will be unrelated to your specific business activities, but when you have news, you want to share it. And when you aren’t posting specifically about your company’s going-ons, you may do well to share content that is somehow related. For example, if you are selling computers, posts about malware and anti-virus protection might fit the bill.

Top Tip

Guess what? If you’re cultivating an audience on social media, you need an editorial calendar for that as well. It’s a separate entity from your blog, and you’ll have different goals and rules of engagement. Here’s what you need to know about creating an editorial calendar for Facebook.

Become a social media Jedi, and tell us about how you’re using an editorial calendar to wrangle your content. We’d love to hear from you in the comments.

content marketing worth it

How to Convince Your Boss Content Marketing is Worth It

content marketing worth it

“What’s the point of content marketing, anyway?” It’s a question many in-house marketers hear from those higher up the chain. It doesn’t matter that YOU know it’s worth it; the question is how to convince your C-level colleagues that this kind of marketing is worth their investment. My experience of doing this shows that there are four areas you need to cover to show what content marketing can achieve.

1. Paint a Picture

First of all, it’s important to show the evidence that content marketing works from sources the executives will trust. That means bringing out the heavy hitters like Gartner, Forrester and Pew Internet to present statistics like:

  • In 2015, 12% of marketing budgets will be spent on content marketing (Gartner)
  • Businesses need to allocate dedicated resources to content marketing to achieve its potential (Forrester)

You can also show the benefits many businesses get such as traffic, engagement, leads, sales and more.

2. Create a Baseline

At the same time, create a baseline for where the company is now. Look at:

  • your social media profiles, paying attention to branding, activity and engagement
  • your web and social traffic
  • blog content publishing and related social sharing activity
  • other content publishing initiatives

Then see how all of these translate into leads and or sales. This tells you where you’re starting from. Put these in a spreadsheet before you move on to the next step.

3. Set Realistic Expectations and Goals

This is where you create your plan, moving from what’s achievable from your current position. In other words, if your Twitter account is dormant, it’s not realistic to expect it to bring hundreds of people to your website. But you can set some goals for:

  • getting more of your customers to sign up for your email newsletter
  • increasing your social media mentions and conversations (the numbers will follow)
  • boosting the numbers of people who decide to download your free report
  • connecting with customers
  • expanding your digital footprint

All of this helps you to build trust with your customers, which takes time. It’s like the difference between a first date and a one year anniversary date. Content marketing helps you bridge that gap.

4. Measure and Report

Once you know what your goals are, it’s all about robust reporting. Luckily, there are plenty of tools to help with that.

  • Almost all social media sites have some form of analytics so you can track the raw numbers, and there are plenty of other social analytics tools that show how your content is doing across the spectrum.
  • Web analytics helps you figure out which content is doing best, and how your content affects search engine positioning, web traffic and social sharing.
  • Email marketing providers also have analytics on opens and clicks.

You could also track everything at once with an all in one dashboard like Cyfe or Hubspot, or simply enter updated figures in the spreadsheet you created in step 2.

Whichever method you choose, you will soon be able to see the impact of your content marketing efforts, so you can report on it to the people who are paying your salary.

And if you still need more, check out these compelling arguments for the ROI of content marketing from the Content Marketing Institute.

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walking dead

Social Media Lessons from The Walking Dead

walking dead

What You Can Learn About Social Media From The Walking Dead

You can learn a lot from watching The Walking Dead (TWD), and not just how to survive a zombie apocalypse (Hint: Always stay with Rick and Daryl). Believe it or not, TWD teaches lessons that are critical for social media. Here are 5 social media tips you can take from TWD.

Seek Alternative Routes

The poor characters of TWD never have it easy. Just when they see light at the end of the tunnel, bam! Here comes something or someone nasty to ruin it all. How many times have we gasped because the road or route the group wants to take is blocked by walkers, fallen trees, disabled vehicles or dregs of humanity bent on having our heroes for supper. What do they do? Well, sometimes they have to plow ahead, but the results are usually much better (and less bloody) when they have an alternate route for reaching their destination.

The same can be said in social media, especially in light of the latest Facebook EdgeRank apocalypse. If you can’t reach your destiny (eg. Target audience) through Facebook, find a different route.

Remember, Facebook is just one of your options. Here are some of the other roads to take when a hungry zombie (eg. Facebook disaster) gets in your way.

Twitter has over 215 million active users, with the average user spending close to 3 hours there every day.

LinkedIn has more than 270 million users, so if your journey includes B2B, this is the place to go.

Google+ boasts over 250 million active users and offers cool tools for marketing and collaboration, such as Hangouts.

Pinterest has over 20 million active users, and yes this is less than the three above, but it’s growing every day. Let’s face it, people love to pin.

The point? Find out where your audience is and get yourself over there, even if it’s not (or isn’t only) Facebook.

Act Quickly

You can’t wait to strike a walker. If you hesitate or spend too much time saying “I won’t,” when you really just kind of have to, chances are pretty good you’re going to become someone’s snack. The same can be said for customer service in social media. Don’t over-analyze the situation. Respond quickly. And always remember that it’s not only important to act but also critical that you take the appropriate action. In TWD, it’s not always smart to fire a gun at a stray walker. That could bring the whole horde on. Instead, act quickly, but do apply common sense (Use that ax, friend).

Forbes offers 7 Reasons You Need to Be Using Social Media as your Customer Service Portal. And don’t make the mistake of thinking consumers aren’t expecting to reach you this way. According to J.D. Power and Associates, almost 70 percent of consumers have headed to a business’ social media page to get the help they need.

Zombies Come in Hordes

And so does negative chatter on social media. Walkers hear another walker chowing down, and they want to get in on all the action. They hear a scream or a few too many loud chews, and suddenly they’re everywhere. People are essentially the same. They have noses that sniff out negativity online, even if only to find out which products or services they should avoid. And, sadly, it only takes one person to start a firestorm of negative sentiment.

What can you do?

Have a plan for monitoring chatter through a single dashboard (just makes your life easier).

Set up alerts to inform you right away if certain words or hashtags are used in relation to your company.

Respond quickly (see Point 2 above), keeping honesty and transparency priorities.

It’s Not a One-Man Show

Sure, Rick is the group’s recognized leader but he often takes the advice of his fellow zombie-apocalypse survivors in determining the next move and strategy. Your social media strategy shouldn’t rely solely on one person either. Remember how things were with Rick after he lost Lori? Dude kind of shut down, and who could blame him? When it comes to your business, you don’t want to be stuck scrambling because your social media genius is down and out. Focus on having a whole team of brilliant people who can (and consistently do) rock and roll at a moment’s notice.

Need some tips for assembling your TWD-worthy dream team? Check here.

Expect the Unexpected

Part of what makes TWD so exciting is the fact that you never know what’s waiting around the corner. You just know that something is waiting. The same goes for social media. How so? Well, the thing to remember is that social media is a two-way street. You need to participate (engage, interact, rinse, repeat), but so do your fans. In many ways, you are putting your brand in the hands of your fans. Sometimes they will surprise you in delightful ways; sometimes the surprises will be far from pleasant. What you can count on is that they will surprise you. The takeaway from this? Just as our TWD heroes can’t always prepare for the worst (that revolving door scene–poor Noah), you can’t always stay ahead of the game. But that doesn’t mean you have to become walker food. Make a plan, do the best you can, and like Daryl, always be ready. Carol’s no slouch either. That chick is a survivor, come what may (well so far).

Consider yourself lucky there aren’t walkers waiting for you around every corner. Because, really, who has time for that while running a business? Still, it pays to be prepared and stay strong. Things do get dicey out there in social media land. The above TWD tips will see you through.

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relationship building

Relationship Building Via Social Media

relationship building

We know what you’re thinking: platforms like Facebook and Twitter are perfect for generating leads. And yes, you can use social media for lead generation. But if you focus on that alone, you really don’t get the gist of how this thing works. The be-all and end-all of social media for business is, wait for it: relationship building. Without it, you’re dead in the water.

Why Is Relationship Building Important?

Chances are there are many other businesses offering similar products or services, so why should anyone choose you? Having a good product or service is enough, right? Think again. Social media is work and you have to do the following to make it translate into dollars:

  • Grab your audience’s interest (yes, grab it)
  • Build trust
  • Increase exposure
  • Demonstrate the value in connecting with you
  • Keep your audience’s attention
  • Nurture your relationships

Over three-quarters of small businesses get customers through social media. Be a part of this.

How to Build Relationships Using Social Media Platforms

This is both easy and hard. It’s easy because, well, being social isn’t rocket science. It’s hard because it takes time and effort. Here’s what you have to do:

1. Identify your audience and discover what its members need. Forget about your products and services for a minute. Stop gasping in shock. It’s for a good cause. Now think. What does your audience need that you can provide through social media? Let’s say your audience needs ways to save time and money. Provide related hints and tips that make them look forward to your posts and share your content with others in need of the same advice.

2. Make sure everything you share is of value. A quick way to lose the interest and respect of your target audience is to post content just for the sake of posting. These types of posts are both obvious and irritating. No one has time to bother with them. If you post willy-nilly, low-value content, you will find yourself unfriended and unliked with surprising speed. Be all about the meaty information that truly helps your audience.

3. Get involved in conversations. Sure, you have a lot to say, but social media relationship building requires back-and-forth sharing. Respond to others’ posts, ask questions, offer answers, make suggestions, and always respond to comments directed at you. Show others that you are interesting and interested. But keep your responses genuine. Faking it is no longer acceptable.

Think setting and forgetting is the right way to go with social media? Be careful, auto-posting decreases engagement by a whopping 70 percent on Facebook. Expect poor results on other platforms as well.

4. Get personal. Building trust often means getting to know prospects personally. Many prefer to give their business to someone they know and like. In contrast, people are often turned off by out-of-nowhere sales pitches. Getting personal builds relationships that help you get your foot in the door.

How do you build relationships via social media? Please share with us!

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social search

Social Search: What the Heck Is It?

social search
With so many social terms whizzing by, it’s easy to forget if you’re coming or going. Maybe you finally have terms like engagement, consumer advocate, and ROI figured out. Well, now we want to toss another one your way — social search. Don’t worry, though. We have no plans to leave you twisting in the wind. We’re going to lay it all out for you, in terms you can understand, without so much as wrinkling your brow.

So Seriously, What the Heck Is Social Search?

The long and short of it: Social search is a different way of finding the content you want.

So what does that mean: Unlike the traditional searches that most people are used to, it considers the searcher’s social graph when returning results.

In plain English, please: Social search makes it easy to find content posted by people and businesses within your social circle. With this type of search, a person gets all that juicy content from people in his social network. It omits the stuff every Tom, Dick, Harry, and, well, Bonnie posts.

While traditional search will likely remain the primary tool for finding content, more people are using social media every day. Over time, social search is likely to grow in importance.

How to Benefit from Social Search

Okay, but how is social search going to help you, beyond being really sorta cool? Essentially, the people in your network want to hear from you. They don’t dither over whether to bother with your content. They’re pretty much a warm sell. So social search means they can go looking for all of that amazing content you post and easily find it without wading through the drek.

Here’s how you can, and definitely should make your content more social search friendly and increase visits to your website or blog.

  • Use keywords and hashtags in your posts. Whether you’re tweeting, posting on Facebook, or updating on LinkedIn, you can expect the search engines to index the content you post, as long as it isn’t private. You can help make your content easy to find by incorporating carefully chosen keywords and adding hashtags. Let’s look at Twitter for just a sec. Tweets that include hashtags get twice as much engagement as those that skip this. And if you skip the keywords, it’s like tossing your special fish into an entire ocean of others swimmers and expecting yours to get caught. Do you feel that lucky?
  • Only use relevant keywords in your content. The use of irrelevant keywords can hurt you with the search engines. Keyword spamming is bad, very bad.
  • Add links. Improve the chances that social searches will lead to an action you want your audience to take, such as buying something or downloading a free report, by incorporating links. If you link to one of your most attractive products or informative content you want your audience to see, you have the potential to get more than just traffic out of this type of search. Show them what they want. Then show them again, and again.
  • Use long-tail keywords. Often, people search using longer keyword phrases, so including them in your content ensures they will find you. For example, instead of “math tutoring,” you might benefit from incorporating a long-tail keyword like “algebra tutoring services in Atlanta.” Want some really good news? Consumers often search for the longer phrases late in the buying cycle, and you know what that means, don’t you? That’s right. More sales.

Don’t take a nap, pass go, overanalyze, or do any of the other things that routinely slow your amazing ascension to the top. Start using these tips right now. No, seriously. Why are you still reading? Go already!

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6 Ways to Help Your Marketing Agency Do a Better Job

6 Ways to Help Your Marketing Agency Do a Better Job

6 Ways to Help Your Marketing Agency Do a Better Job

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are you planning to hire a digital marketing agency this year? Here’s what I’ve learned from working on thousands of projects that can help set you up for success.

1. Talk Amongst Yourselves

One of the first things to do is to brainstorm internally about what you want from your marketing agency. You’ll be looking at areas like:

  • in-house capabilities
  • strategic goals – this is important!
  • whether you have buy-in from the right people (you don’t want your strategy to fail later because you didn’t get all the necessary approvals)

Think about who will take responsibility for managing your relationship with the agency. It helps to have a main point of contact and someone with the final say, in case of issues later.

If your business is multi-faceted, divvy up the areas of responsibility before you talk to the agency. That will avoid wasting time when the agency sends you content for approval.

The bottom line: sort out internal issues and minor turf wars in advance so you present a united and coherent front right from the start. That’s less confusing for everyone and will result in a smoother working relationship

2. Prepare a Brief

Share your thoughts on strategy with the agency, making it clear which points are hard-wired and which are available for their input. This will help the agency to come up with a digital marketing strategy tailored to your business. Expect some back and forth before you nail down the strategy.

3. Foster Collaboration

Marketing is a collaborative effort. You know your business and some of the ideas you want to communicate; the agency knows marketing and can help flesh out your thoughts. Help the agency by providing background information and context so they can do a better job when creating content for you.

Don’t make the agency beg for new info; keep them in the loop! Let internal content producers know it’s ok to share information which the agency can drip feed to your social media profiles and blog. Work together and you can create a great online profile for your business and enhance its authority.

4. Communicate Often

Especially at the start, spend some time working with the agency so you can identify any issues. Respond to emails promptly because in this time-pressured social environment, delays can make content less relevant and downright boring. It’s worth setting up regular phone or video meetings or face to face chats to keep the strategy on track.

5. Trust the Agency

I get it: your company is your baby and sometimes it’s hard to let go. But when the agency communicates issues, listen and act. The best digital marketers are experts at what they do, have worked with dozens or hundreds of businesses, and are always willing to put that expertise to work for you.

Think of your digital marketing agency as a trusted nanny who will look after your business as if it were their own. After all, a good recommendation from you means more business for them.

6. Be Realistic

Keep your expectations manageable. No agency in the world can guarantee a top three Google ranking in a couple of months, or thousands of followers for your social accounts overnight. What they can guarantee, especially if you use their expertise, is more attention for and awareness of your company. More attention means more leads – you’ll have to take it from there to convert those leads into sales.

Put these tips into action and you can have a beautiful working relationship with your digital marketing agency, executing a strategy to put your company on the map.

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annoy your fans

How to Annoy Your Fans on Social Media

annoy your fans

As in the brick-and-mortar world, it is surprisingly easy to develop social media bad habits. You know how you start out eating ice cream at midnight just a couple of nights per week? Then, before you know it, you’re eating a bowl of the good stuff every night before bed, and packing on the pounds. The same goes for social media. Bad habits snowball until your formerly interested fans wants to hear from anyone but you—anyone.

Often, we develop bad social media habits in the hopes of becoming more efficient and effective, but these no-no’s actually undermine our efforts. Here are 5 ways even smart business people annoy their audiences on social media. Take a look and pledge to avoid them at all costs:

Begging

Sure, it’s kind of cute when my dog does it, but it’s not so cute for brands try to employ the same tactic to get new followers.

Begging is one of the most common and annoying bad habits displayed on social media sites. Business people post or tweet something and then beg others to share it or retweet it. This comes across as overly self-interested and doesn’t even pretend to offer value for your audience. Of course, in most cases, you will get some people to share or retweet this way. This will generally work because they either always share when asked or feel sorry for you. Most people will simply ignore your request and perhaps even feel embarrassed for you. You’ll get on some people’s nerves so much that they’ll unlike, unfriend or unfollow you. Crap! And social media sites hate it too.

What to do instead: Share meaningful posts that provide value for your audience members, entertain them, and speak to their needs. Funny stories, awesome photos, and information they can’t get elsewhere will get the job done. And guess what? They’ll like, share and follow, not because you had the social media equivalent of puppy dog eyes but because you shared something worthwhile.

Gimmicks

Everyone likes free stuff, but when it’s the overdone, you could be hurting your brand.

Social media is supposed to help businesses engage with their audiences, but many forget all about that in favor of giveaways or contests intended to boost likes. With this type of competition, you offer a prize just to get people to like your page or follow you. You might think you’re slick, but guess what? It’s not that hard to get your number. This is just a sneaky way to beg. And you’ll get out what you put into it. Many of those your contest attracts will simply stop following you once the contest ends. Repeat after me, “Less is more and just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

What to do instead: Use giveaways sparingly, so that your audience is really excited when the next one comes around. Focus on giveaways that encourage your audience to engage, such as by sharing how your products make them feel, what your company means to them, or even doing something cool, such as creating a new slogan, banner, or ad for your company.

#TooManyHashtags

Do your status update demonstrate that you’ve never met a hashtag you didn’t like?

Hashtags definitely have an important role in tweet categorization and the curation of content. They actually help double engagement. But there absolutely is too much of a good thing. Cramming your tweets full of hashtags is a no-no. You’ve seen them—the posts that almost seem to have more hashtags than actual content. Can you say super annoying? Even if all the hashtags are relevant, just don’t do it. Please.

What to do instead: Trim all that fat. Stick to a maximum of two hashtags per tweet. On a platform like Instagram, you can go with a couple more, but make four your maximum. You will have the urge to add in more. Others do it, right? Just say no. Your audience will thank you for it.

World Domination

Okay, it’s really “feed domination,” but “world domination” probably got your attention.

It is important to post regularly, so if you drop the ball for a bit, you may feel tempted to lay it on thick when you return. This is usually a bad idea. Sending a flurry of tweets or posting Facebook update after Facebook update in an effort to “fix” your mistake will only annoy your audience.

What to do instead: Just start posting on a regular schedule again, and try not to go AWOL any time soon.

Automation

If you’re a smart marketer, I may have just raised your hackles a bit. But, I’m talking about cross-posting automation here, not scheduling tools like Hootsuite.

Cross-posting automation. Yuck. Yuck. Remember that your best bet for social media success is tailoring your message to match each of the social media sites you use. You want to engage not broadcast, right? Syncing your cross posts is both lazy and spammy. A lazy spammer, who needs that? When you post this way, you tell your audience, you don’t care enough to speak to them personally. Think about it. You tweet 15 times in one day and have those messages cross over to Facebook. Those short messages feel awfully impersonal on Facebook, which has a much more personal feel. And to make matters worse, your audience can’t get away from all your stuff because you’ve gone ahead and clogged up their feed with it. Good job.

What to do instead: So you want to share messages over several different platforms? Take the time to post each one manually, crafting the content to fit the platform. Remember, you have a limited number of characters on Twitter but on Facebook, you can go wild. And keep in mind that with automated cross posting, images, links, and text don’t always appear the way you want them to. Entering them manually means you can make your posts more attractive and eye-catching too.

Which bad social media habits would you add to this list? What do businesses need to avoid? Share with us!

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7 types of content

7 Types of Content to Include in Your Strategy and Why {Part 2}

7 types of content

In my last post, I looked at the importance of including long form articles, data rich infographics and online video in your content strategy. Now here are four more content types to round your strategy out.

4. Social Media Posts

The mobile shift provides another reason to do social media well. Statistics from ShareThis show that people are twice as likely to share content from mobile devices as from the desktop. So creating shareable social media content is a must.

For this, it’s essential to think beyond the tweet. Short social media updates have their place, but it’s also important to include:

  • images, which can be easily shared on all networks
  • media, which many social sites embed
  • longer social posts, for Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+

In many cases, you can share the content you already have, but make sure to share content from others too – self-promotion must take a back seat to the goal of engaging your audience by the breadth and quality of what you share. It’s the best way to get attention for your brand.

For networks that allow longer posts, take some time to craft summaries of the key points and add a question for discussion to increase your options for engagement.

5. Educational Ebooks

With digital publishing on the rise, ebooks have become an important promotional tool for business. As Hubspot says, ebooks are a great way to educate your prospects while starting a relationship with them. Ebooks also show your knowledge and can be the first step in getting those leads into the sales funnel.

You have two options for creating your ebook: using content you already have or authoring an ebook from scratch. If you do a lot of presentations and have an active blog, it’s easy to choose the most popular topics as the seed for an ebook. Alternatively, you may prefer to use an ebook to answer the questions that most customers have about your products or services.

With the help of a professional writer (and maybe a little bit of design assistance, too), you can create an ebook that is valuable and easy to read, which makes it more likely that readers will be interested in your next offer. This is something Hubspot does extremely well.

6. White Papers

From the outside, white papers may seem identical to ebooks, but they are not (though I believe the gap between them is shrinking and some people use the terms interchangeably). White papers typically focus on a customer problem, examine some of the failed or flawed approaches to that problem and show how your product or service can solve it. They tend to be more formal than ebooks and can be a good way of showing topic expertise. Many white papers are data-driven, sharing business and industry statistics to make the case.

If you are in the B2B market, then you can’t afford to ignore white papers. As white paper expert Mike Stelzner points out, they are an excellent lead generation tool, are widely shared and are used to help businesses evaluate solutions to their most pressing issues.

7. Lead Converting Webinars

Lewis Howes believes that webinars are one of the most effective ways of converting leads to customers. Since most webinars are free, there’s no barrier to entry, but only people who are already interested in the topic sign up, effectively pre-qualifying themselves. A webinar gives you the chance to talk to people for around 45-60 minutes in a focused way that’s almost impossible on social media.

Webinars also allow you to offer more value to customers and prospects by partnering with experts and by taking the chance to explain complex concepts. The more people understand, the more the realize why your product or service could be a good fit for them.

Don’t be fooled: webinars are hard work, so it’s worth getting help to brainstorm topics and potential partners, work out the structure and create the slides. Then you can focus on what you do best by delivering the presentation and talking to attendees.

Add these seven types of content to blog posts for a well rounded content strategy that allows you to attract and retain customers no matter where they are in the sales funnel.

Learn how Crackerjack Marketing can help you get leads and sales with ebooks, white papers and webinars.

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types of content marketing

7 Types of Content to Include in Your Strategy and Why {Part 1}

types of content marketing

When creating content, a good rule is to make it deep and wide. That’s why you have to think beyond the blog when developing your content strategy. Don’t get me wrong; blogging remains one of the most important ways to increase your influence and authority and to grow both trust and traffic, but why stop there? To get the full benefits of inbound marketing, you need to create shareable content.

So how do you determine what’s sharable? BuzzSumo is a tool that tracks what content performs best on your site or your competitor’s site. (It’s a powerful tool!) When I performed a recent search there, I found that the most shareworthy content included articles, infographics and video.

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What Brands Can Learn About Social Media From Game of Thrones

What Brands Can Learn About Social Media From Game of Thrones

What Brands Can Learn About Social Media From Game of Thrones

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Social media doesn’t just emulate life. In some ways, it emulates television too, especially good television like Game of Thrones. If you’re a fan, read on to learn what Game of Thrones has to teach those of us who work with brands who strive for social media success. Not a fan yet? There’s still plenty to learn here. Read up, avoid the spoiler (towards the end), and then start watching.

A Little Social Listening Goes a Long Way

Varys, aka The Spider, has little birds that bring him news. He can’t be everywhere at the same time, but his little birdies keep him on top of things. The same concept applies to social listening tools. You can’t be everywhere or listen to everyone on the Internet at all times. Skip the little birds, though, and use a social media monitoring tool, such as Radian6 or CustomScoop, to find out what people are saying about your brand and its products and services.

Step out of the Box and Try New Things

Life is pretty dull if you do the same things day in and day out. Jon Snow is a natural risk taker. First, he took up a post on The Wall, and in Season 3, he got frisky with Ygritte, a Wildling. He must later account for his actions (Season 4), but even then, he’s not content to settle for what’s always been done. Knowing that the Wildlings plan to strike Castle Black, with the White Walkers to up their odds, he argues for going on the offense rather than staying put to defend the castle. He also wants to seal the tunnel under Castle Black to keep enemies out.

Ser Alliser Thorne is adamant about staying put. His argument? They’ve never done it before, and they won’t do it now. Jon, on the other hand, is all about trying something new to get better results. Fortunately, for social media users, trying new things isn’t as risky as joining The Night’s Watch or fighting White Walkers. Be proactive about trying new initiatives in addition to continuing the tried and true. This is critical for reaching more of your target audience and keeping its members interested. As in the Game of Thrones, complacency has no place in social media.

Get a Great Team 

Daenerys Targaryen, or Khaleesi (whatever you choose to call her), has something going for her that every business social media user should have. No, it’s not the ability to walk through fire, though that could come in handy. Instead, it’s an awesome team. The Dragon Queen Ladyhas a translator, advisors, a community manager, and an entire army of advocates. That army? She’s not dragging it along for the ride or threatening it into submission. Her soldiers are with her voluntarily because she won them over. You can do the same with members of your own audience, and they will become advocates of your brand.

Be a Giver

Back in Season 2 of Game of Thrones, brave little Arya Stark made friends with Jaqen H’ghar and then managed to save his life. How did he return the favor (three times over)? Well, he offered to kill three people for her (because “only death can repay life”). While we certainly don’t advocate killing anyone, there is an important social media lesson to be learned from Jaqen H’ghar: Always give more than you get. Be generous with your retweets, shares, and promotion of your community’s content. Jaqen H’ghar received something valuable from Arya before he became a giver, but social media users should deviate a bit from his example. With social media, it’s important to start giving before you get anything in return. Still, the main principle is the same.

Show Them the Money 

There’s so much we could learn from Tyrion Lannister in terms of using wit. But since we are still awaiting his fate in the season finale (or perhaps the next season premiere), it’s too soon to draw any parallels here. One thing we can learn for sure, though, is that money talks and, well, you know the rest. This is especially true when it comes to advocates. Tyrion has paid Bronn handsomely for his services. In exchange, Bronn has been a loyal and dedicated protector. I know you’re probably thinking of how {Warning! Warning! Spoiler alert! Skip to the end if you haven’t made your way through this season yet!} Bronn has decided not to testify for Tyrion at his trial. The same lesson applies here, though. Bronn received a better offer, and again we see what happens when you show them the money. Keep in mind, too, that even though Bronn is no longer Tyrion’s paid advocate, he isn’t testifying against him either. The takeaway? Yes, it’s nice when we get something for free, but value your advocates and compensate them well.

There’s one more thing you can learn from the characters of Game of Thrones: Always seize the day. Apply these tips today to make sure you won’t miss a single opportunity to grow your social media network and meet your business goals.

 

What Top Brands Can Teach Us About Social Media

What Top Brands Can Teach Us About Social Media

What Top Brands Can Teach Us About Social Media

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Social media has changed the way brands reach customers. It has redefined interacting and sharing, provided new ways to use content to promote products and services, and made engagement easier. If that’s not enough, it’s also amplified the voice of the customers. Here’s what three top brands can teach us about social media and viral content.

1. Coca Cola Highlights the Importance of Accountability and Transparency

Coca Cola is undeniably the most sought-after brand when it comes to the soft drink industry. Still, it is impressive to see how this big brand is embracing the social media culture to follow through with customers and promote its campaigns.

For instance, Coca Cola created an Expedition 206 campaign in which it used social media to pick three individuals to act as the company’s Happiness Ambassadors. These individuals will go around the world to interact with people and share the idea of happiness on a personal level and via real-life contact. Using videos, photography, blog postings, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other social networks, the three will share their adventures with the world as they happen.It’s heartening to know that a big brand like Coca Cola realizes the importance of being accountable and transparent to its consumers by making them part of the campaign through social media.

Coca Cola knows how to touch people’s lives. The proof of this is evident in how the company effectively defined sharing happiness. Where will happiness strike next? Isn’t that worth a share?

2. Dove’s Meaningful Content

When we think about soap, we think of making our skin smoother, healthier and cleaner. We think about beauty being only skin deep.

Dove’s Real Beauty Sketches have changed the paradigm of content used for promoting a brand. It promoted something intangible and deep that made it more interesting. It dealt with a self-esteem boosting message: “You are more beautiful than you think.” It was a great piece of a meaningful content without showing much of the logo. You wouldn’t even think it was a soap advertisement.

Social media is more than just knowing a certain product’s specifications. It has changed the arena of human experience. We want to be aware of almost everyone’s perspective. How we look at things and what people think about us—that’s what we really care about. That’s what we really want to share. That’s the reason this content became the most viral ad.

3. IKEA’s Interactive and Engaging Way of Bringing Great Relevance to Your Home

Change begins at home. No matter who you are or what your design tastes, there’s something IKEA offers that will really help create a beautiful space.

Some of IKEA’s campaigns use interactive and engaging online videos to make small places big. They are useful for everyone. Others follow the instructions shared through blogs or through content that has been shared on the Web and via social media.

The satisfaction IKEA brings its customers and the fascinating content it creates is a great experience worth sharing with family and friends.

These three big brands shared major social media lessons by highlighting the importance of authenticity, accountability and transparency when communicating with customers. Moreover, creating more meaningful, interactive and engaging content inspires consumer to share their great experiences with their friends, families and other members of the social community.

Are You Committing These Social Media Sins?

Are You Committing These Social Media Sins?

Are You Committing These Social Media Sins?

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media platforms are part of our daily lives. They serve as highly effective strategies for marketers and as social mirrors and megaphones for individuals. How interactive are you? How well do you know your favorite platform? Are you a social media sinner or saint? There are seven fatal sins of social media. Are you guilty or not? It’s time to find out.

Misappropriation

“Do not unwrap a piece of candy with a sledgehammer.”

The analogy of unwrapping a piece of candy with a sledgehammer is a brilliant example of misappropriation. The sledgehammer in the cyber world is anything that catches the social media user’s attention, and the piece of candy is the brand.

Whenever something is trending online, do you take advantage of the social media craze to promote your brand? Just because you want to get your audience’s attention doesn’t mean you should force a connection between the trending topic and your brand. The content about your brand may look like spam if it doesn’t provide a clear relation to the hottest trend. Likewise, it may give the appearance of intentionally soliciting social media engagement. Remember that a trend doesn’t last forever, so don’t get carried away. Keep your brand’s footprint on the ground.

Abandonment

If only your post could talk, it would beg you not to leave. The moment you introduce your brand to the Internet marketplace and then suddenly drop off from engagement, you are stealing the curiosity and peace of mind of the millions of people who see your brand and wait for answers to queries about your product. You are boosting their social media anxiety, especially if they are sharing your content and commenting on your posts but you are not responding at all.

Taking your brand to any social media platform is one of the best marketing strategies, but abandonment does not contribute to a worthwhile result. Never leave your post. Engage and personalize your interaction; doing so will make your brand remarkable.

Manipulation

Nowadays, people spend a great deal of time on Facebook newsfeeds viewing other people’s updates, videos and photos. Since social media has emerged as an effective tool for marketing, developers have designed and introduced more powerful tools to help marketers get the maximum value out of their social media marketing efforts.

For instance, Facebook’s Edge Rank determines which posts appear in the newsfeed. The reason brands are posting photos is simply because they remain in the newsfeed for longer. Since people can be manipulated into viewing your posts, why not invest in sharing inspiring content?

Ignorance

Did you know you can’t use Instagram photos in advertisements without express consent?  Did you know it’s illegal to ask Facebook users to share a post as part of a contest entry? Did you know any social media platform can suspend you if you’re not carefully following its rules?

It only takes one tick on the “I agree” box without reading the terms and conditions to be ignorant. Take the time to read the terms of service.

Monotony

Are you getting redundant with your content?  If you were in your audience’s shoes, would you get bored? Monotonous posts kill interest.

Unleash the creativity in you. Research and create content related to your audience’s passion. If your followers like photography, do not talk about photography techniques all the time. You can come up with fresh content, such as the latest but cheapest camera accessories on the market or different ways to clean the camera.

Narcissism

Do you find it annoying to see your news feed flooded with photos of the same person or quotations and updates of people glorifying themselves? Selfie syndrome is an inevitable reaction in our social culture. We are now living in the me generation.

Remember, social media is not just about you. There are billions of human beings contributing posts to a platform. Make your content stand out and worth sharing.  Isn’t it cool to get recognition from other people?

Uniformity

Let’s figure out how uniformity affects the social media strategy. Each social media site favors different types and frequencies of content. For instance, images do better on Facebook. Twitter is limited to 140 characters, but you can post more frequently to Twitter than to Facebook.

Casual language is acceptable on Twitter and Facebook while most people prefer professionalism when using LinkedIn. With these key differences, you simply can’t cross-post the same content at the same time and get the same level of effectiveness.

Interaction and engagement are keys to meeting your social media goals and keeping your audience’s interest. Avoid the seven fatal sins of social media, and you’ll have the best chance of standing out in the social media crowd.

 

Content Marketing: 5 Goals for Your Business

Content Marketing: 5 Goals for Your Business

Content Marketing: 5 Goals for Your Business

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When using content marketing for your business, you probably have one, very clear main goal in mind: making more sales. However, there are a bunch of other goals that help you achieve this one. Having a firm idea of what they are will help you gain perspective and make sure your content marketing efforts are moving in the right direction.

  1. Traffic: One of your main goals with content marketing should be an increase in traffic. You’ll need to get more people interested in your products or services if you want to sell more of them. Create content that helps you get as much traffic as possible.
  2. Engagement: Tons of traffic means little if the people who visit your page aren’t really interested in what you have to say. You want to create content that stimulates long, quality interaction. To do this, you’ll need to create content that is not only relevant to the audience you want to engage but also likely to capture and hold its attention. Keep in mind that a good design and layout can help you increase engagement as well. If your layout is crappy, many visitors won’ stick around long enough to read your content.
  3. Social Media Success:  Social media can help you get the word about your business out there, helping not only to improve visibility and increase traffic but also to boost your reputation. You want to create content that gets more followers, shares, comments, retweets, and likes.
  4. Backlinks: Many people, especially those just getting a feel for content marketing, underestimate the importance of backlinks. Others may simply theorize that they aren’t as important as they were in the past. Both of these positions are mistakes. Backlinks are important for two major reasons. First, they help you increase traffic. Second, they help boost your search engine authority, which ensures that more people see your pages in their search results. Of course, backlinks from just any site won’t do. You only want links from reputable sites.
  5. Conversions: Ultimately, you want content that helps you convert your traffic. Keep in mind, however, that this doesn’t always mean sales conversions. Often, you are directing your visitors towards another action instead. For example, you may want visitors to sign up for your newsletter or online course. Well-crafted calls to action help.

Keep these goals in mind as you create content for your business. And be sure to track your results. Monitoring what works and what doesn’t can help you decide how to proceed going forward.

 

3 Ways to Use Mobile to Reach Millennials

3 Ways to Use Mobile to Reach Millennials

3 Ways to Use Mobile to Reach Millennials

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do you know a teen or young adult who isn’t tied to their mobile phone? According to Pew Research, 80% of 18-34 year olds own a smartphone – and they’re all using them a lot. If you want your brand to appeal to this audience, implementing an effective mobile marketing strategy is the way to go. But how do you capture the attention of individuals who are always on the go? A good start would be to capitalize on the channels that they always access on their mobile devices.

Social Media

When it comes to mobile marketing, social media is the top channel to reach millennials. Make sure that your social media strategy translates from desktop to mobile; since the layout space for mobile devices are smaller and more compressed, less text and more pictures and graphics can garner more attention and interest from millennials. Promote your brand by sharing relevant yet fun videos and photos on social media networks like Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter. Other social sharing sites most appealing to the younger generation include Snapchatand Vine.

Email Campaigns

Email campaigns feel old school. but continue to be a golden ticket in the mobile age. A Rosetta Marketing survey reveals that 68% of millennials check their emails hourly;

Millennials love to shop on their mobiles, so use email to promote coupons and showcase products. Announce contests and sweeps via mobile, and promote upcoming events. Another option is to collaborate with email deal providers like Groupon and LivingSocial to promote your product or service for you, or barter emails with other like-minded companies to get in front of a new audience.

Be aware that millennials will delete emails that are not optimized for mobile devices – and make sure that the click-through experience is also optimized for mobile.

Apps

Millennials absolutely love apps; they use them for many purposes, which include entertainment and gaming, social networking, online shopping, and utilities.  One type of app that is proving to be a hit to the younger crowd is instant messaging. This type of apps pose a huge potential when it comes to advertising your brands, because millennials relish the idea of being able to instantly connect with their friends. The immense popularity of this platform convinced Facebook to acquire instant messaging service Whatsapp for an eye-popping $19 billion. Despite critics calling it as one of the most lopsided deals in internet history and other pundits expecting an eventual bust, Facebook believes the acquisition will be worth every penny as they express optimism the number of Whatsapp users will surge to 1 billion within the next few years.

Another effective way of integrating apps into your mobile marketing scheme is to leverage television advertisements to drive mobile engagement as explained in this MediaPost article by Eddie DeGuia.

Should you create your own, branded app? It depends on whether you have enough content to keep it interesting and active. Otherwise find ways to use existing apps, including social networks and text messaging apps.

Final Thoughts

It’s not only important that you engage in mobile marketing to reach millennials, you must also optimize online content for mobile devices. And keep your eyes and ears open for the next new thing, it’s likely millennials got there first.

What other mobile platforms do you use to reach out to millennials? Let us know in the comments below!

 

7 Habits of Top Digital Brands

7 Habits of Top Digital Brands

7 Habits of Top Digital Brands

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We hear a lot about top digital brands and wonder what sets them apart. It’s not just a lot of luck. It’s not even offering a product or service that no one else sells. Instead, these brands earn this designation through hard work, creativity, and effective strategizing. According to digital agency 360i, there are 7 Habits of Highly Digital Brands – and adhering to most, if not all, of these habits can set a brand far ahead of the pack.
The 7 Habits are:

  1. Being a Skilled Conversationalist: Top digital brands don’t just talk at their audiences. Instead, they are talented at creating and participating in conversation that leverages their content and messages for the building of lasting relationships.
  2. Being Authentic: Top brands identify truths relevant to their audiences and incorporate those truths into their content. As a result, they are able to inspire their audiences.
  3. Being Data Driven: Most brands understand the importance of collecting data, but do they know what to do with it once they have it? The top brands effectively use the data they collect for the optimization of their campaigns as well as to gain insight and inspiration for their efforts going forward.
  4. Being Discoverable: Even the most creative and inspiring of campaigns can fall flat if a brand is in the wrong place at the wrong time. Top digital brands learn where their customers are and position themselves to have a discoverable presence where their customers and prospects spend time online.
  5. Being Relevant: The conversation is currently changing in the digital arena. The brands that excel are those that stay relevant through effective navigation of current conversation.
  6. Being a Content Creator: Content is still king, but in an ever-changing market, brands must strategize and take creative approaches to producing and distributing the right type of content at the right time. Top digital brands do this exceedingly well.
  7. Being Constant: Top digital brands develop and steadfastly maintain core values while remaining constantly alert for new ideas and approaches.

Let’s look at two brands, one old and one new, which exemplify many of these 7 Habits.

Oreo: Reinventing a Classic Brand

Consider Oreo as an example of an oldie but goodie that has reinvented itself through social media. For example, Oreo incorporates fun, attention-grabbing memes and current events into its “Daily Twist” campaign. The real-time Super Bowl 2013 “Dunk in the Dark” campaign was another excellent example of its skill as well as its effective use of top-level marketers to make smart choices. Oreo is also discoverable, doing extremely well on Facebook, where it has over 35 million likes, and on Twitter, where it has over 283,000 followers. Further, its website does a fantastic job of engaging the brand’s audience by allowing its community to share Oreo moments.

7 Habits of Top Digital Brands

Oreo’s best habits: Authentic, Data-Driven, Relevant, Content Creator

Warby Parker: Newcomer Built Digitally

We’ve seen how a venerable brand has reinvented itself digitally, so let’s also consider the relative newcomer, Warby Parker. This brand is not only newer but also an industry disruptor: they sell eyeglasses entirely online for one price point of $95.

Because of its only-online approach, this brand had to prove itself digitally and socially strong right from the very beginning. To this end, the brand provides its customer service socially via Facebook and Twitter. It also encourages engagement and draws attention by asking customers to share videos of themselves trying on Warby Parker glasses and then posting their videos on Facebook. Shoring up its efforts are buzz-generating events, Internet ads and online video campaigns.
7 Habits of Top Digital Brands
Its April Fools campaign is a good example of this brand’s skill. It offered customers doggy eyeglasses via a fake pet eyeglass vertical called Warby Barker. When customers added Fido’s eyeglass choice to their cart, they received an April Fools message! And the photos of doggies wearing stylish eyewear? Simply brilliant, and adorable.

Warby Parker’s best habits: Data-driven (they were born that way), Discoverable, Relevant, Content Creator

Top digital brands recognize how critical social and digital is: it’s the fabric of their companies. But they work very hard at capturing and keeping the attention of their audiences. You can’t go wrong if you strive to make the 7 Habits of Highly Digital Brands the habits of your brand.

 

reaching teens with social media

Reaching Teens Using Social Media

reaching teens with social media

Co-Authored by Stephanie Schwab and Archie Alibasa

“The Young and the Restless” is not only a popular American soap opera, it’s also an accurate description of the teens today. According to Forrester Research, teenagers today, including the group considered “millennials,” have a strong need to be connected on the internet more than any other generation.

Teens are able to fulfill this desire because they have the time and energy to be active online on a regular basis, compared to other age groups. One of the best ways to gain the attention of millennials as your target audience, is to reach out to them via social networks. But with so many existing, not to mention up-and-coming, social media platforms, you can’t possibly delve into all of them to meet marketing goals. Instead of juggling several social networks to keep up with the ‘trend”, it’s smarter and much more efficient to choose networks proven to be popular, effective and easy to use.  Here are the five social networks where you can establish an effective inbound marketing strategy directed to teens.

5 Social Networks to Use to Reach Teens

Facebook

If you‘re wondering what’s the best social network for reaching out to teens, keep looking: there is no definitive answer. Teens are not the most loyal when it comes to apps, tools and social networks. For many years, Facebook has demonstrated its dominance in the social media scene; however, research conducted by Pew Reseach Center reveals that Facebook’s popularity is waning among the younger crowd. 

However, a large number of teens out there still maintain their Facebook account; when it comes to reaching out to the younger generation, Facebook is still one of the top social networks. But remember that the key to using Facebook with all demographics is engagement and participation. Your Facebook feed should not only contain photos, videos and text appealing to teens, they should also encourage responses from them. After all, most people, not just teens, get excited to see their likes, comments and followers they have on Facebook.  

Twitter

Who knew that a microblogging site will become a phenomenon in the field of social networking? But Twitter’s “tweets,” messages that are restricted to only 140 characters, became an instant hit, especially among teenagers. This format is exactly what teens find appealing as they don’t have to come up with coherent paragraphs like the ones required in their English class. Tweets are short to write and quick to read, but they can let you in with what’s new and most talked about in and around the world, especially in the field of pop culture.  Teens also gravitate to Twitter because it’s a widely known promotional platform for celebrities. (It also doesn’t hurt that Twitter allows anonymous profiles, thus potentially hiding teens’ tweets from their parents.)

The short-short tweet format makes it tricky for any marketer to get the millennials’ attention. Don’t blatantly push your product or services on Twitter. Instead, create a feed that establishes an identity that teens can relate to. To gain followers, follow other prominent people, businesses or organizations. Participate in trending topics most relevant to teens and your marketing objectives.

Instagram

Teens love taking and sharing photos, and that’s why Instagram is one of the most popular social media platforms for the young and trendy. On Instagram, users are not only able to share photos instantly, they can also edit these photos and write short descriptions about them. Editing can be in the form of using artistic filters and special effects enhancing their look and message. Other Instagram staples that excite teens are the “comment” and the “like” features. One way to meausre the success of your Instagram marketing campaign is by measuring the number of likes and comments you receive on your content.

Celebrities also have a presences on Instagram as they use it to connect with their fans. And where you have celebrities, a