Companies can now ‘build their own university’ with Coursera for Business


Coursera is launching a new initiative called ‘Coursera for Business,’ which allows companies to use the platform for continuing education. Boasting over 1,300 courses in 150 specializations, Coursera has already partnered with BNY Mellon, Boston Consulting Group, L’Oréal and Axis Bank to let employees learn remotely. Those companies can choose which disciplines they want to make available to employees, too. “We believe in learning for all, and our goal is to touch 100% of L’Oréal’s employees every year whether they work in our corporate offices or one of our factories,” said Laurent Reich, L’Oréal’s Governance and Digital Learning Director. “In…

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11 Ways to Jumpstart Your Instagram Branding

Starting your Instagram branding from scratch can seem like a tall order task. Far too often we see brands on Instagram turn their channels into graveyards. Typically you see about 15 photos, 150 followers and zero updates in the last couple of months.

If you’re reading this and know you fall into this category–that’s fine–we’re here to help. Integrating Instagram into your marketing and branding strategy is essential for any business trying to grow their audience.

But Instagram branding isn’t an easy task. Gaining the trust, engagement and attention of Instagram users is no a walk in the park either. In fact, eMarketer discovered less than 50% of brands are actively on Instagram. While the agency expects that number to increase to roughly 71% by 2017, there’s still a lot businesses can learn about the social network.

emarketer instagram activity graph

Benefits of Increasing Instagram Branding

With a half-a-billion active users on Instagram, there are massive opportunities to get seen. Pew Research found 35% of Instagram users visited the network multiple times a day in 2015. And nearly 60% of Instagram users admit to checking their feed at least once a day.

Think about how much you’d pay (or have paid) for advertising promising the same amount of viewership? While you’re likely not going to see 60% of Instagram users on your account, you have the chance to tap into this audience and build a name for your brand on the space.

You Build Trust

When you successfully craft your Instagram branding strategy, you gain a large amount of trust from your followers. Additional data from eMarketer showed 35% of social media users trust brands and are influenced by retailers.

While that number might seem low, influencing one-third of your social media followers through channels like Instagram can have serious payoffs. Instagram is the perfect place to showcase your branding, creativeness and visual aspect of your product or service.

With captivating images and videos, you show the true beauty in your products. Even businesses that don’t necessarily consider themselves “visually appealing” can provide insights into their trade.

For example, the packaging and tape manufacturer 3M does a fantastic job creating interesting visuals. This goes against the grain that “boring content” comes from “boring industries.” Instead, 3M posts content daily and receives approximately 200 engagements (such as likes, comments, views or shares) for each post.

You Drive Real Traffic to Your Site

Even though Instagram still only permits one link in your bio, that bridge to your site can mean everything. Your bio link should be updated regularly, especially if you want to drive users to specific landing pages.

As for your content, setting up well-planned and thought-out call-to-action phrases in your Instagram captions can make all the difference. Use actionable voices that don’t seem to salesy or over the top.

Track Your Most Valuable Instagram Analytics

With some of Instagram’s newest features, you now have the opportunity to check link clicks in the native platform. However, there’s no way to track, collaborate or view all of your Instagram analytics in one setting.

instagram integrations collaboration

This is why so many people trust Sprout Social as their go-to Instagram management tool. With Sprout you can easily view your overall Instagram engagement, hashtags mentioned with your name or trending hashtags in your industry.

Also, managing comments makes life easier for marketers and social media managers wanting to take their engagement even further. We’ll discuss the benefits of engagement on Instagram further down, but first let’s take a look at how Instagram branding can work for you.

Here are 11 ways to improve your Instagram branding efforts:

1. Focus on Getting Real Followers

According to a study performed by four Italian computer analysts, data showed approximately 8% of Instagram accounts act like spam bots. Additionally, after pulling data on more than 10.2 million Instagram accounts, roughly 30% were completely inactive or posted only once a day.

This means the rise in fake Instagrammers can harm the value of your marketing efforts when building an engaged audience. I’m looking at you, Instafollower_86.

However, don’t let these in-active, spammy bots deter you from building a real audience. You simply have to focus on getting real followers that are interested in your product or who are already customers.

vans engagement instagram

Don’t add followers just to have them, instead try to build relationships with users by acknowledging them in comments, posting user-generated content or responding to real questions.

Don’t Deceive Your Audience

With followers who comment, share and like, you have a valuable source of social media ROI. On the other hand, a brand account with 100,000 users and no interaction screams you got your followers unethically. This can be deceiving and ultimately hurt your brand.

Don’t risk it. Build your followers slowly and steadily. Try to post once and interact with at least 3 users a day. This will build loyalty, brand awareness and show other users you respond and care about customers.

While this might sound demanding, using Sprout Social’s Instagram management tools can easily help social teams respond to customers, track conversations and collaborate on engagement.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=04gtAx9CyN0?feature=oembed&w=500&h=281]

2. Place Your Emphasis on Beautiful Content

Beautiful, eye-catching content works on Instagram. This social network is all about visuals and using blank images with quotes will only take you so far. As a brand, you have the chance to truly engage with users. In fact, a Forrester report stated engagement with brands on Instagram is 10 times higher than Facebook and 84 times more than Twitter.

Your kind of nightlight. Cabela’s West Wind Tent. ⛺ 📷@sgknut

A photo posted by Cabela's (@cabelas) on Jun 3, 2016 at 9:04am PDT

Follow Basic Photography Tips

Visuals simply engage users. And when they’re great, they get people to click and engage even more. If you’re not a professional photographer, that’s fine. But you have to learn some of the basics of photography to enhance photos:

  • Light is your best friend: One of the most challenging parts of photography is lighting. For your Instagram, try to add as much natural light as possible. Don’t use overhead lights because it creates shadows. Light from the side and add plenty of it. Bright images tend to “pop” and ultimately get more engagement.
  • Put your subject in the center: Your eyes always tend to gravitate to the point of interest in the middle. Make sure you focus your product or model in the center to take better photos. This helps structure the foreground and lead eyes toward the subject.
  • Think of how it will look on Instagram: Beautiful images use up all the space on a photo. However, you have to think of how images will look on Instagram and in others’ feeds. Work with your “square” and try to implement the rule of threes to make use of your image shape. Simply divide your image into nine smaller squares to see how each section makes up the entire image.
  • Find truly bold colors and defined shapes: This might seem easier said than done, but try to find colors that truly stand out. Bright blues, encapsulating reds, and enticing yellows will make you stand out among the rest. Additionally, look for unique shapes and standout lines to actually shape your image. These three things can make all the difference.
  • Get photo editing tools: If you can’t hire a design team to edit photos, try third party apps like Afterlight, VSCO and even Instagram’s native platform to make edits. Remember to not go too overboard with filters or editing settings. You’re trying to engage–not win first prize in a photography contest.

3. Post Content Your Audience Actually Likes

Now that we see how beautiful content engages users, you need to post images and videos that your audience actually likes. According to the Q3 Sprout Social Index, 86% of users want to (and actually do) follow brands on social media.

sprout q3 2016 index follow graph

As for your Instagram audience, they’re there to gain insights on products or services, get deals, or at the very least, be entertained by your visual content. This is why brands have to post content that caters to what their audience wants. But how do you find out what they’re into?

Get More Audience Insights

One of the fastest ways to get insights is to simply ask questions. Ask what kind of content your followers want and they’ll more than likely tell you. If you don’t want to ask, try using social media analytics tools to track engagement over each post.

engagement report

You can gain a ton of insights into social media content performance and see what your audience engages with more per post. For example, Champion drives more engagement because they know people like their vintage- and retro-style content.

Some looks never go out of style. 📸 @boyofftheting

A photo posted by Champion (@champion) on Apr 12, 2016 at 11:01am PDT

In fact, you can clearly see that when they post this type of content, it gains more traction and engagement. As you start your Instagram branding, dive deep into what your users want, and give it to them.

4. Create Your Own Style (Be Recognizable)

Increasing your visibility through Instagram branding needs a bit of creativity. This is why it’s critical to create your own style on the platform so people recognize you. If you look at any major Instagram brand account, you’ll notice something right away–there’s a clear concept or characteristic you can find right away.

anthropology example

For example, the apparel and home goods store Anthropologie has its own style on Instagram. The images all heavily rely on natural light. Even the dark image of the banquet hall uses natural light to draw attention. It’s not a coincidence it has the most engagement of any photo above.

harley-davidson instagram example

Another great brand on Instagram is Harley-Davidson. The iconic motorcycle company uses several wood, metal and other earthy tones. This draws attention to the engine and the mechanical characteristics of their bikes.

taco bell instagram example

Lastly, Taco Bell has made a name for itself in the marketing world due to its strong social presence. Taco Bell’s bright and vibrant colors often brand itself to younger consumers. Instagram is just one network where you’ll see this brand shine.

Before you start your Instagram branding strategy, look at some competitors in your industry and see how they fair on the network. Try to find your own style that speaks to your brand and audience. But remember originality is key, so just use other accounts for brainstorming.

5. Start a Hashtag Campaign

Hashtags make your brand searchable to build a bigger audience. And on Instagram, hashtags get people talking about your brand as you market your product or service. According to Simply Measured, of the most popular hashtags on Instagram, 70% are branded.

Most brands use about two hashtags per post and some are as simple as the brand name itself. For example, the burger chain Shake Shack uses #shakeshack in numerous posts on Instagram. Through these hashtags, the company promotes their brand and gains massive audience participation.

Stack ‘em up! Photo by @tinaaeats. #shakeshack #shackburger #chicknshack

A photo posted by SHAKE SHACK (@shakeshack) on Aug 25, 2016 at 7:00am PDT

Even though Shake Shack has only 303,000 followers, the hashtag #shakeshack is included in almost 500,000 posts. This is why it’s smart to start a hashtag campaign. Whether you’re simply trying to get more people familiar with your brand name or you’re running a campaign, hashtags help.

Hashtags are a great way to get people involved with your business. And it’s one of the best ways to build your Instagram brand from scratch. Need help tracking these hashtags? Try using Sprout Social’s Instagram analytics tools and reports to see what hashtags are being used the most across the platform.

sprout social instagram hashtag reporting

6. Avoid Hard-Selling Language

Instagram’s biggest age range is 18 to 29 year olds. On top of that, this age group is typically the most cynical and hesitant to brands on social media. According to research from Initiative, 30% of millennials in the US (40% in UK) are hesitant or skeptical of the way marketers brand to them.

This means the majority of users can smell crummy used-car salesmen marketing tactics a mile away. Don’t try to pull a fast one on your biggest audience. Instead, try to speak with honest, open and frank captions. The more you try to sell, the likelier you’ll push away buyers.

Two words, Cold Brew.

A video posted by Intelligentsia Coffee (@intelligentsiacoffee) on Aug 9, 2016 at 4:31am PDT

As we mentioned earlier, great images or videos allow users to decide on your product or service themselves. But a great Instagram caption can push users to learn more. Don’t skip your captions because with the new Instagram algorithm, getting seen is a bit harder.

On the other hand, your captions should get to the point and have the most important details toward the front. Just because you have 2,220 characters to use, doesn’t mean you should use all or even a fraction of that. Practice brevity and use great calls to action that get to the point and drive users to read more.

  • Pro Tip: Spark users’ interests with content you know works. Look at your most successful and engaged posts and then think of the language that drives that content. There’s a reason those posts work. Pique users’ curiosity with well-written and straight-to-the-point text.

7. Cross Promote Your Instagram

For many marketers, Instagram is likely your second or third social media channel to tackle. If you’ve already built a nice-sized audience on another channel, use it to promote your Instagram.

It’s hard to find ads these days that don’t include at least a business Twitter handle or Facebook link. Instagram is getting more popular to share across networks because it can break up the style of content you typically push on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.

Use your other social media channels to cross promote and build your Instagram brand. Even though some naysayers believe cross promoting your social channels hurts traffic, there’s a lot more benefits than negatives.

In fact, cross promoting your accounts helps you drive customers further down the funnel. By cross promoting, you provide a social media outlet for whichever one your audience likes the most.

Not only does cross promotion funnel customers, it provides you with different sources to market content. As we’ve discussed, there are several benefits to Instagram branding, but some will argue having one link in the bio makes it hard to funnel customers further.

Bring the velvet trend home. Click link in bio to shop! #homedecor #blue #velvet

A photo posted by Crate and Barrel (@crateandbarrel) on Aug 23, 2016 at 4:43pm PDT

That’s why it’s great to cross promote your Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn to build bigger audiences and ultimately give customers a choice on where to view your content.

8. Showcase User-Generated Content

User-generated content on Instagram is big business for brands. A Bazaarvoice study on UGC and millennials discovered 84% of the age group are at least somewhat influenced by this type of content while making a purchasing decision.

Like we mentioned before, only 35% of social media users trust bands. This means 65% have hesitations and UGC can help break down that wall while building your brand on Instagram. UGC on Instagram can include:

  • Account takeovers
  • Contest winners
  • Celebrity content
  • Influencer reviews
  • Everyday users with your brand or service

It’s important to be cautious with UGC. You want to ask users before using their content on your site to avoid any legal trouble. Secondly, account takeovers can actually drive your audience away if you’re not cautious about who’s posting (and how much) on your feed.

As you begin your Instagram branding process, try to think of ways that can get more people to your site. Just remember to avoid irrelevant contests that award random prizes. You don’t want to seem needy for followers. Instead, build trust by sharing posts, joining conversation and all-around engaging.

9. Make Sure Everything is Cohesive

Brands put a lot of emphasis on cohesive advertising. You don’t want to market to the wrong demographic or seem inconsistent with other advertisements. The same sentiment applies to social media as well.

On Instagram, your brand should be cohesive across all posts. If you use any text or logos on your images and videos, make sure it meets your own brand guidelines. Don’t discredit your brand guidelines on Instagram and make sure your colors, fonts and overall aesthetic match everything else in your company branding.

freshii instagram example

Freshii’s Instagram consistently pushes the idea of “green” eating. It’s relative across nearly all their posts. Themes like this truly work to build an aesthetic for your Instagram branding.

When you’re getting started on Instagram, don’t rush or hurry your posts. Make sure you have others approve your content so everyone agrees it’s on brand and coherent. Being off brand in the beginning could really slow down your Instagram branding strategy.

10. Test Everything

As you begin your journey on Instagram, you should always be testing to improve your content. For example, on this network alone, you could test:

  • Bio links
  • Hashtags
  • Post captions
  • Instagram filters
  • Call to actions
  • Types of content (video or images)
  • Post apps (Boomerang, Hyperlapse, etc.)

While it might seem like too much work, finding the right balance of content could push you from 10,000 to 100,000 followers. Instagram trends are constantly changing, which means you have to be ready to see if the “new” thing works for your brand.

instagram analytics report

By using Sprout Social, you can track audience engagement, hashtags and comments that revolve around your Instagram. Find out what works best and continue to shape your brand on Instagram.

11. Engage, Engage, Engage!

We can’t recommend this enough, but monitoring your Instagram can set your brand apart on the social network. Responding to customer comments, questions or concerns shows your audience you’re human and helpful.

In fact, the 2016 Q2 Sprout Social Index discovered almost 35% of customers prefer to reach out to brands via social media. This beats out 1-800 numbers, email and the dreaded customer service phone calls.

Take advantage of Sprout Social’s Instagram tracking and monitoring tools to manage multiple accounts in a single inbox. See where your customers are tagging and track conversations for future discussions or concerns.

The conversation is moving more toward social media each day. With the rise of Instagram, make sure your brand is there and ready to communicate. Your payoff could be tremendous by following a few simple Instagram branding tips.

Have any recommendations? Feel free to comment below!

This post 11 Ways to Jumpstart Your Instagram Branding originally appeared on Sprout Social.

The Two-Part SEO Ranking Model: Let’s Make SEO Simple

Posted by EricEnge

There sure is a lot of interest in SEO ranking factors:

There have been major studies done on this, notably by both Moz and Searchmetrics. These are groundbreaking pieces of research, and if you’re serious about SEO, you need to understand what these studies say.

That said, these are too complex for most organizations to deal with. They need a simpler way of looking at things. At Stone Temple Consulting (STC) we deal with many different types of organizations, including some of the world’s largest companies, and some of the highest-traffic websites in the world. For most of these companies, understanding that there are 200+ ranking factors does more harm than good.

Why, you ask? So many people I talk to are looking for a silver bullet. They want to hear that they should only change their heading tags on the second Tuesday of every month, except during leap years, when they should do it on the first Tuesday, except in February when they should change it on the third Monday. These distractions end up taking away from the focus on the two things that matter most: building great content (and a great content experience) and promoting it well.

Today’s post is going to lay out a basic approach that most companies can use to simplify their thinking about SEO, and keep their focus on the highest priorities.

What Google recently said

Here’s what Google Dublin’s Andrey Lippatsev said in a Hangout that I participated in on March 23, 2016. Also participating in the Hangout was Ammon Johns, who asked Andrey what the two most important ranking factors are:

Andrey Lippatsev: Yes. Absolutely. I can tell you what they are. It is content and links going into your site.

There we go, that’s a start. According to Google, it’s links and content that are the two biggest. Hopefully, the idea that content is a big factor is obvious, but below I’ll break out more what great content really entails. In addition, you can see some backup for the power of links in the study I recently published on links as a ranking factor.

Should we think of the world as consisting only of these two factors? It’s quite simplistic, and possibly too much so, but let’s try to simplify this even more. How many organizations would dramatically improve their SEO if they focused on creating great content and promoting it effectively? I can tell you that from my experience these are two things that many organizations simply don’t do.

Does that mean that we can take our two factors and put them into a (purely) hypothetical ranking score equation that looks like this?

I actually think that this equation is pretty effective, though it has some limitations and omissions that I’ll describe in more detail below. You also need to think about the concept of “great content,” that will get a high Content Score, in the correct manner.

What is “great content?”

If we step back and think about what makes up great content, it seems to me that there are three major components that matter:

  1. Relevancy
  2. Quality
  3. The overall content experience

The first part of this is simple. If the content is not relevant to a query, it shouldn’t rank for that query, ever. That makes sense, right?

The second part is also pretty simple, and that’s the notion of quality. Does it provide information that people are looking for? Is that information relatively unique to your site? Clearly, it makes sense for the quality of the content to matter a lot.

We can combine the notions of quality and relative uniqueness into the notion of material differentiation. Rand covers this brilliantly in his Whiteboard Friday about creating 10X content.

Creating the 220,001st article on how to make French toast is just not going to cut it:

You need to create something new and compelling that also offers a lot of value. That may not be easy, but being the best at something never is.

If you’re in a competitive market, it’s reasonable to guess that your top competitors are making great, relevant content on topics that matter to their target audience. For the most important queries, it’s probable that the top 5 (and maybe more) pieces of content in that space are really, really good (i.e. more comprehensive than other articles on the topic, or brings in new information that others don’t have).

The third part encompasses many pieces.

  • Is your content well-organized and easy to read?
  • Does it effectively communicate its key points? How do people engage with it? If they land on a page on your site that has the answer to their question, can they quickly and easily find that information?

Once again, you’ll find that the major competitors that rank in the top of the SERPs all handle this pretty well too.

Let’s now take a look at what the role of the content score in ranking might look like:

Note that the Y-axis is “Chances of Ranking,” as opposed to “Ranking.” Nonetheless, this curve suggests that the Content Score is a big one, and that makes sense. Only the best of the best stuff should rank. It’s simple.

Digging a bit deeper on what goes into content quality

But what about title tags? Heading tags, use of synonyms? Page layout and design? Stop and think about it for a moment. Aren’t those all either part of creating higher-quality content, or making that content easier to consume?

You bet.

For example, imagine that I wrote this piece of content:

It could be the greatest information in the world, but it’s going to be really hard for users to read, and it will probably have terrible user engagement signals. On the other hand, imagine that my content looks like this:

Would you say the quality of one of these pieces of content is higher? I would. The second one is much easier to read, and therefore will deliver more value to users. It will get better engagement, and yes, it will probably get linked to more often.

Why do links get separate treatment?

You could argue that links are just another measurement of content quality, and there is some truth to that, but we give them separate treatment in this discussion for two reasons:

1. They’re still the best measurement of authority.

Yes, I know I’m ruffling some feathers now, but this is what my experience after more than 15 years in SEO (and seeing hundreds of SEO campaigns) has taught me. To get and sustain a link, someone has to have a website, has to be willing to modify that website, and they have to be willing to have their site’s visitors click on the link to leave their site and go to yours.

That’s a pretty material commitment on the linking site’s part, and the only incentive they have to do that is if they believe that your content is of value to their site’s visitors.

Why not social signals? While I’ve long argued that they have no impact except for aiding in content discovery, let’s for sake of argument say that I’m wrong, and there is some impact here, and explain why social signals can never be a critical part of the Google algo. It’s simple: social signals are under the control of third-party companies that can make them invisible to Google on a moment’s notice (and remember that Google and Facebook are NOT friends). Imagine Google giving Facebook (or any other 3rd party) the power to break their algorithm whenever they want. Not happening!

2. The power of links should cause different actions on your part.

What is that action? It’s called marketing, and within that discipline is the concept of content marketing. Done the right way, these are things you should do to raise the reputation and visibility of your brand.

In fact, this may consume a material amount of your entire company budget. With or without search engines in the world, you’ve always wanted to do two things:

(1) Make really good stuff, and

(2) market it effectively.

In 2016, and beyond, this will not change.

No doubt, part of attracting great links is to produce great content, but there are other overt actions involved to tell the world about that great content, such as active outreach programs.

Expanding on user engagement

Many have speculated that Google is using user engagement signals as a ranking factor, and that it will increase its investment in these areas over time. For example, what about click-through rate (CTR)? I discuss CTR as a ranking factor here, but to net it out simply, it’s just too easy a signal to game, and Google tells us that it uses CTR measurements as a quality control check on other ranking signals, rather than as a direct signal.

You can doubt Google’s statements about this, but if you own or publish a website, you probably get many emails a week offering to sell you links via one scheme or another. However, you never get emails offering you CTR ranking schemes. Why is that, you think? It’s because even the scammers and spammers don’t think it works.

Important note: Rand has done many live CTR tests and a number of these have shown some short-term rankings movement, so CTR could be used in some manner to discover hot trends/news, but still not be a core ranking factor.

What about other user engagement signals? I’d bet that Google is, in fact, doing some things with user engagement signals, though it’s hard to be sure what they are. It’s not likely to be as simple as bounce rate, or its cousin, pogosticking.

Pogosticking sure seems like a good signal until you realize there are many scenarios where they don’t work at all. For example, when users are comparison shopping, they’ll naturally hop from site to site.

Finding good user engagement factors that make for really reliable signals is quite hard. Many have speculated that artificial intelligence/machine learning will be used to derive these types of factors. Here are three pieces of content that cover that topic in some detail:

  1. The Machine Learning Revolution: How it Works and its Impact on SEO, an article here on Moz by yours truly
  2. SEO in a Two-Algorithm World, a Powerpoint by Rand Fishkin
  3. The Past, Present, and Future of SEO, an article by Mike Grehan

Information architecture

Having a solid information architecture (IA) that Google can crawl and easily find your content is also a major requirement. In Andrey Lippatsev’s response, he undoubtedly presumed that this was in good shape, but it would be wrong to leave this out of this discussion.

At Stone Temple Consulting, we’ve helped tons of sites improve their organic traffic simply by working on their IA, eliminating excessive page counts, improving their use of SEO tags like rel=canonical, and things of this nature. This is clearly a big factor as well. Usability also feeds into IA, because people need to be able to find what they’re looking for on your site.

What I’ve left out with the two-factor model

First of all, there are other types of results, such as images, videos, and maps results, that are opportunities to get on the first page, but the above discussion is focused on how to rank in regular web search results.

To be fair, even in the regular web results, I’ve left some things out. Here are some examples of those:

  1. Local links. I’m not referring to “local pack” listings here. If I search on “digital cameras” right now, in the regular web search results, I’ll see some listings for stores near me. Clearly, proximity is a very large factor in ranking those pages.
  2. Query deserves diversity. An example of this is the query “Jaguar.” Chances are that my two-factor algorithm would rank only car sites in the top 10, but Google knows that many people that type that query want information on the animal. So even if the two-factor algo would slant things one way, you’ll see some animal-related sites in the top 10.
  3. In-depth articles. This is a feature that’s hard to spot in the search results, but sometimes Google includes in the bottom of the top 10 results some pieces of content that are particularly comprehensive. These are for queries where Google recognizes there’s a decent chance that the user is engaging in extensive research on a topic. Here’s an example for the query “constitution”:

We conducted a small sample review of 200 SERPs and found that about 6% of the results appeared to be from factors such as these. The two-factor model also doesn’t account for personalization, but this post is looking at ranking factors for regular search results other than personalization, which, of course, also has a large impact.

Looking for ranking hacks?

OK, I’m going to give you one. Make your content, and the experience of consuming that content, unbelievably good. That’s step one. Stick to your knitting, folks, and don’t cop out on the effort to make your content stand out. You have no choice if you want to get sustainably positive results from SEO.

Don’t forget the overall site and page usability, as that’s a big part of what makes your content consumable. This is a critical part of making great content. So is measuring user engagement. This provides a critical feedback loop into what you’re doing, and whether or not it’s working for your target audience.

Then, and only then, your focus should turn to marketing that will help drive your reputation and visibility, and help attract links to your content. Here it is in a nutshell:

If your content isn’t competitive in relevance and quality, links won’t help. If it is, links will make the difference.

Your content has to be elite to have a chance to score highly on any given competitive search result. After that, your superior marketing efforts will help you climb to the top of the heap.

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

An Introduction to Social Media for Business

Despite the growing popularity, social media for business is still put on the back burner for a lot of organizations. There’s skepticism around its effectiveness for local or small businesses because we see huge brands like Coca-Cola, Nike and Starbucks get all the success.

However, social media can benefit businesses of any size. Many small- and medium-sized companies see growth in brand awareness, site traffic, shares and customer engagement when there’s a plan in place.

Social Media for Business by the Numbers

Social media allows smaller companies to compete against some of the larger businesses to reach more customers. One of the biggest advantages of social media marketing is it’s less reliant on a large budget. Being successful with social media for business comes down to creativity and engagement. The lower barrier to entry make it possible for any business to compete.

Just in case you’re not completely sold on social–or have to convince higher-ups it’s worth it–here are some statistics that make it more than evident that social media is the way to go:

duplass graphic

Social media for business is a necessity just like paid ads, flyers and other traditional marketing efforts. In order to compete, businesses can’t afford to be inactive on social media.

The Benefits of Social Media for Business

Despite all of these stats, some businesses still aren’t sold on social media as a marketing tool. In fact, one in three small businesses don’t think social media is important for their business.

deloitte graphic

One of the primary reasons for this is because organizations don’t realize all of the benefits it has to offer yet. And this is partially understandable due to the nature of social media. It’s used as a way to build brand awareness, fuel content marketing and other important aspects that aren’t as measurable as what small businesses on social media are used to.

It’s time to do away with the old mindset and outdated views of marketing. The internet has completely changed the way your business has to look at marketing. And social media is the perfect example of this shift. Here are some of the benefits of social media for businesses.

Get to Know Your Customers With Social Media

When is the last time you filled out a customer survey? If you’re like most people, it has probably been months or even years. The old ways of finding out information about consumers aren’t as effective today. People have grown to hate unsolicited messages from marketers. Social media gives you the opportunity to find out about your customers in a completely non-intrusive way.

Knowing the age, gender and psychographics of your audience allows you to create and share more targeted content. There are a couple ways to find additional information on your audience. For one, you can manually search through your followers.

Browse your list of followers and get a sense of who they are. Some users put a lot of helpful information in their bios, which often gets overlooked by social businesses.

Admittedly this is a long and tedious process. Luckily there are easier ways to get the information. For instance, Sprout Social gives you insight into your audience’s demographics.

twitter demographics

In addition to demographics, you should also pay attention to what your customers share on social media. Do they Tweet links to industry news? Do they post quotes on Instagram? If they’re sharing it, you can trust it’s the type of content they enjoy.

All of this information lets you dig deeper into who your customers are and what they like/dislike. Before social media you’d have to pay thousands of dollars to put together focus groups and send surveys. But now it’s all at your finger tips.

Know What Customers Really Think

People aren’t afraid to voice their opinions on social media. It makes social networks a great place to get honest and raw feedback of what people think about your products, services and brand. You can monitor what’s being said about your business and resolve issues right away which is a huge advantage.

In the past, if a customer was unhappy with the service at your business, they would just go home and tell their friends. Then they’d never come back. Not only do you lose them as a customer, but you’re also losing referral business without ever knowing.

In the age of social media, when people don’t like your products and services they Tweet about it publicly. That might seem like a bad thing since other people will hear about the bad experiences. But it’s only negative to your business if you ignore their feedback or respond inappropriately. Use social media to rectify customer issues and improve your business.

If you’re monitoring mentions of your company on social media, you’ll can see it in real time and fix the issue. This could save you from losing customers.

You can manually monitor all your mentions, or use a tool with social media monitoring features. Social media monitoring allows you to track specific keywords and mentions of your brand on social media. Don’t limit your keywords to just “Brand Name.” Include variations like #brandname and other potential ways someone would mention your brand on social media.

Social Media Monitoring

Engage With Your Customers

People don’t only Tweet negative things about companies. Social media has done an amazing job of breaking down the wall that used to exist between businesses and customers. People post Instagram pictures of themselves enjoying their favorite brands, check in on Facebook when they go out to local bars and restaurants and happily show off their brand loyalty. User-generated content is one of the best parts about using social media for business.

When companies promote their own products and services, it can easily come off as spammy. But when people see photos on Facebook or Instagram of their friends wearing a company’s t-shirt or bragging about how much they love a certain product, it’s more genuine and effective. Consumer reviews are 12 times more trusted than product descriptions made by the company itself.

Send More Traffic to Your Website

Traffic is something all business owners want, but struggle to get organically. While search engine optimization is usually the first thing that comes to mind when it comes to traffic generation, social media can be just as effective. For instance, 75% of Buzzfeed’s traffic comes from social media.

Social media traffic is on the rise. In 2014 social media accounted for 31.24% of overall online traffic, up from 22.71% in the previous year.

Social Media Referral Traffic

Sharing your blog posts and other content from your website on social media is an easy way to get more visitors. Just make sure you’re not only Tweeting your own content. Curate content from other sites in your industry, share images and other types of media.

Generate Leads

One of the biggest misconceptions about social media is that it doesn’t generate leads. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Not only can you generate leads through social media, but you can also get a nice ROI.

Generating leads on social media is a bit different than other platforms because selling isn’t the primary goal. A majority of the content you share should be non-promotional. Instead of blatantly asking people to buy your product, look for people talking about problems your product solves. Then give them the solution.

An easy way to do this is through Twitter Advanced Search.

Enter some phrases people would use to describe a problem your products or services solve. Then check the question box at the bottom.

Twitter Advanced Search

You’ll see the latest Tweets from people using your keywords and asking a question. Then you can reply to them with a solution. You can reply offering a free trial of your product or share a link to a blog post you made that walks them through the solution.

It’s a good idea to save searches for questions that are frequently asked. Twitter doesn’t allow you to save your searches, but you can do it in Sprout.

Save Twitter Search Sprout Social

When you want to look for some new people to interact with you can just go to your saved searches and see the most recent Tweets. You can also see who you’ve engaged with before, which is a nice added benefit. It’s much more convenient than manually doing new searches every time.

The New Players in Social Media

We’ve seen the rise of a lot of new social networking sites in recent years. Unlike a lot of failed platforms in the past, these new players have really started to solidify themselves and become real contenders. Part of using social media for business is having the ability to pivot to the new networks your audience is using.

Some of the top new social media apps/sites we’ve seen recently are:

  • Snapchat
  • Periscope
  • Instagram

The interesting thing about all of these is unlike Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Google+, they are mobile first. All you have to do is download the app and you’re set to go.

The great advantage of these new apps is even though they have large audiences, they’re not as competitive as major social networks like Facebook and Twitter. This is because many businesses have been slow to adopt newer social media channels.

Creative campaigns tend to generate a lot of attention and have a greater chance of going viral. Plenty of brands do a great job standing out on platforms like Instagram and Snapchat instead of limiting themselves to only Facebook and Twitter.

Be a Breakfast Pioneer with Coffiest. Available now at www.soylent.com.

A photo posted by Soylent (@soylent) on Aug 9, 2016 at 8:14am PDT

While visuals are an important aspect of being successful on Google+, Facebook and Twitter, images and video are the primary focus of these new apps. The trend toward visual marketing is growing thanks to all of these apps. And it’s time for your business to start taking action to be successful with social media.

How to Be Successful With Social Media

Each social network has its own quirks and best practices. But there are also some general tips for success no matter which platform your company is focusing on. Here are some tips for using social media for business growth:

Define Your Audience

We’ve established that social media is one of the best ways to reach your target audience. But before you can begin connecting with those people, you have to start by figuring out who they are. Defining your audience or customer avatar is going to help you:

  • Choose which social networks to dedicate your time to.
  • Choose a voice that connects with them.
  • Determine what type of content to share.
  • Develop a strong social media marketing plan around them.

Don’t just talk about who are your ideal customers, write it down. Include things like:

  • Age
  • Income level
  • Career/profession
  • Location
  • Hobbies
  • Education level

Here’s a great example from RyanBattles.com

customer avatar ryan battles

The more you’re able to define your avatar, the more targeted your social media approach will be. After you’ve put together your avatar, ask yourself what are their struggles? How can you add the most value to them? Then you’ll have a strong foundation to build on.

Don’t Get in Over Your Head

Where most businesses fail with social media is trying to take on too much too quickly. As tempting as it is to jump on every hot social network, it could end up doing more harm than good. Social media marketing isn’t about just blasting out your new blog post across 20 different sites. It’s about establishing a real presence and adding value.

Unless your business has a dedicated social media team, it’s extremely difficult to build your audience on seven different social networks at the same time, so we recommend starting with two to three maximum.

Take a look at this social media demographics post to see the findings of the top social media sites. Compare that information with the avatar you created and that will help you determine which site to focus on.

The second issue businesses run into is inconsistency. The fun and excitement of sending out Tweets and taking pictures for Instagram can start to fade away if you’re not gaining any traction, and then you get burned out.

A good way to combat this is to just dedicate a small portion of every day strictly to social media marketing. Around 30-45 minutes a day is a good place to start. Use that time to find new content to share, reply to any relevant social media posts and keep your finger on the pulse of what’s going on.

Breaking social media marketing into smaller bite-sized pieces will make sure you don’t get overwhelmed and give up too soon.

Don’t Spam

This tip can’t be shared enough. People don’t want to follow businesses on social media that only publish promotional content. If every other Tweet is about your newest product or a 10% off sale, you’re not offering any real value to your audience.

According to a study by Buzzstream and Fractl, the most common reason people unfollow brands is because their content is too boring or repetitive. Promotional posts tend to fall into that category.

Reasons Users Unfollow Brands on Social Media

Instead, focus on sharing content that’s helpful or entertaining. People use Vine, Pinterest and Facebook as a way to get a break during the day, not to be bombarded by advertisements. A good way to judge how promotional your brand is on social media is by looking through and asking yourself if you’d follow your accounts if it wasn’t your business.

Take a Unified Approach

Do you have consistent branding across all of your social media platforms? If your Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages all look like they’re for different companies, it’s time to reevaluate. Each profile doesn’t have to look completely identical, but your company’s core message should be evident in each one.

Sweet Frog Social Media Branding

Aside from just aesthetics, you should also take advantage of the ability to connect different social platforms. For instance, you should be sharing all of your YouTube videos to Google+. And Vine is owned by Twitter so the two integrate very nicely. All of these different connections make it easier to publish content across multiple channels.

Also consider the role your website plays in your social media marketing plan. As the home base of your business, it’s very important to have all your social media profiles prominently displayed on every page of your site. Make it as easy as possible for people to connect with you. To help spread your content across social media, you should also consider having social sharing buttons on your blog posts.

sprout social media share buttons

Don’t Be Afraid to Connect

If you want to use social media for business growth, you have to engage and connect with other users. Unfortunately, the only time a lot of businesses interact with people on social media is when:

  1. They’ve been mentioned
  2. Someone shares a link to their content

Instead of being on the defense, how about going on the offense? When you see someone share a good piece of content that’s not yours, reply. If you see someone post something funny on Google+, give it a +1 and comment. Follow some new people on Instagram, participate in Twitter chats and really dive in head first. If you’re sitting around waiting for everyone to follow you and share your content, you’re going to wait a long time.

Pro Tip: The companies that get the most love on social media are the ones that are the most active and engaging.

Social Media Management Tools Are No Longer Optional

There was a time when social media management tools were seen as something that only large corporations needed. That’s not the case at all, especially today. There are so many tasks associated with social media marketing that trying to juggle them all using native apps can become a mess.

Social media management tools like Sprout Social make it easy to share content across multiple social networks, track brand mentions, get detailed reports and a host of other crucial tasks that every business needs.

Social media scheduling

The Secret to Social Media for Business

The secret is work. You may be looking around at your competitors and wondering what you have to do to achieve the same level of success as they’re having on social media. We’ve outlined all the steps for you in this guide, but the most important step is putting it all into action. Here’s a recap of the most important things to keep in mind:

  • Don’t believe the myth that social media marketing isn’t effective for businesses.
  • Define your target audience.
  • Start small and focus on three social networks at the most.
  • Add value by sharing amazing content, not just your own.
  • Be consistent.
  • Engage and interact.
  • Stay organized with a social media management tool.

If you can do this, your work will pay off. Social media marketing is here to stay, and it’s proven to be one of the most effective tools for business growth.

How are you using social media to grow your business? Let us know in the comments!

This post An Introduction to Social Media for Business originally appeared on Sprout Social.

10 Content Writing Tips That Will Help You Find Interesting Topics in Minutes

writing

You’ve probably faced this before.

I know I have.

You’ve run out of ideas.

Maybe you’ve been blogging along for, I don’t know, maybe three or four years. Maybe it’s only three or four months.

And now you’re done. Why? Because you’ve written everything there is to write about the subject.

You’ve exhausted all possible avenues, topics, approaches, angles, possibilities, and techniques. It’s over. Your blogging career has to die because you don’t have anything else to say.

It’s no use trying to fake it and continue to post recycled fluff just to keep your audience placated, because they will wise up fast.

If you’re out of ideas, you’re out. You can’t just—boom!—make yourself write new stuff on demand.

What do you do?

It’s time to step back and strategize.

I’ve been blogging for a long time. Ten years is a long time, right?

And I still haven’t stopped. I’m not just blogging here, on Quick Sprout. I’m also posting a lot of articles on NeilPatel.com, maintaining columns on Huffpo, Forbes, and Inc., and sharing guest articles with other marketing sites.

Yes, I deal with the same topics, but I have to provide fresh and unique content all the time.

Here are some of the ways I come up with interesting topics in order to keep readers engaged, informed, and coming back for more. 

1. Don’t just read. Analyze all angles of the news

Staying up-to-date with the latest events in your industry is not always a matter of a quick Google search.

Google News only indexes a limited number of websites for its web searches and even fewer for its News aggregator.

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Start with the most basic search, and compare your SERPs and headlines to other news sources.

It helps tremendously to research the demographics of your favorite news websites and determine some of the most recognized brand names in the industry as well as well-known commentators associated with that industry.

Take note of the movers and shakers of your business, and follow their movements.

Follow them on social media to see not only what they are posting but also what they’re reading and what they’re sharing and retweeting.

You’ll see what’s on their minds, and knowing the thought process of influencers in your industry, you’ll be able to anticipate tomorrow’s news.

2. Stay tuned into the voice of the people through social media comments

Don’t stop looking for ideas after reading the most respectable and popular publications. Why? Because some of the best conversation starters are trending on social media.

They may not come from a reliable news source, but do these topics generate interest? Absolutely!

More Americans actually get their news from Facebook and Twitter than they do from network programming.

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Some of the most absurd “guilty pleasure” posts trending on Facebook (you know, ridiculous headlines like “Child Sues Mother for Deleting All Her iPad Apps” or whatever) are great places to collect ideas.

Have you seen this meme that says, “I just came here to read the comments?”

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Well, sometimes I do visit websites just to read the comments!

Why? I gauge what people are thinking about trends, the questions they ask, and what’s inspiring them to comment.

People really speak their minds, holding nothing back! I’ve been shocked by the things I’ve read.

Ask questions about the stories and articles you read.

  • Why did this inspire controversy?
  • What made people comment?
  • What was the biggest issue people commented about?
  • Who else might this event or trend affect besides the person interviewed for the story?
  • What might be the long-term result of these new trends?
  • What does this show us about how people’s attitudes have changed on a given subject over a period of time (several years, for example)?

Maybe the story you encountered on Facebook will spark an idea for a post on “How many parents admit to using iPads to keep their children quiet?”

It’s a related discussion to the original story you read, and yet if you’re an app developer or iPad seller, it’s also more relevant to your audience.

Ideas come from unexpected places. The more you constantly feed your mind, the more ideas will come to you. Write them down as soon as inspiration strikes.

Keeping up with social media news—and just as importantly, the comments of users and how the news makes them feel—is a great place to spark your creativity.

3. Visit some Q&A sites, and borrow their questions

Most questions on Q&A sites are public domain. Your answers can prove to be invaluable.

Industry leaders are always ready to answer a customer’s question, and frankly, it’s just the polite thing to do.

Now, guess where these people go to get a professional opinion on a question they have?

They certainly don’t go directly to your office or your website, do they? They may not even run a keyword search.

No, they just ask whoever is nearby.

The current generation is used to asking questions and getting answers in 30 seconds.

If their friends don’t know the answer, they’ll ask random groups of people. And guess what? Eventually someone answers.

That’s why you have sites such as LinkedIn, Yahoo Answers, and Quora, which discuss thousands of industry-specific questions you can browse.

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Searching these sites is a double advantage for you. You can answer the questions on the site (getting some attention from the mainstream) and then write a new blog post or article by turning that brief Q&A into an entire 500-1000-word discussion.

Expand on the answers already given, and provide more insight on the issue.

Judging from the growing databases of these Q&A sites, you’ll never run out of questions to answer—very often, even with niche topics.

4. Create your own database of customer concerns and questions

Chances are you’ve sold at least a few products, if not hundreds, by now. That means you have plenty of cases to study for your own marketing purposes.

What did your customers say in the reviews? What questions did they ask? Reviews matter, so pay attention.

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You can generate ideas from their statements, survey information, emails, or testimonials.

I jump on the reviews customers leave to see tomorrow’s trends.

I immediately read all posted reviews to see whether the customer is satisfied or not and whether they left any suggestions for improvement. I use their enthusiasm, positive or negative, to fire up discussion on the web content.

If you have never taken the time to learn your customer’s personality and demographic, start now. Send a survey form along with every product delivery, and give them an incentive for taking the time to fill it out.

This will give you insight into your customer’s mind, and it’s the most direct and effective way to keep producing the content they want to read.

5. Research what your competitors have already done

There’s no shame in learning from someone as equally ambitious and dedicated as you are. Make a list of your closest competitors—for industry as well as for local or long-tail keywords—and take notes on what they are writing about and why.

Now, you don’t want to blatantly copy their entire article. Rather, analyze their topics, and determine ways to expand upon the story.

For example, for a broad topic such as food safety, ask yourself if there is a way to narrow it down to something more specific, like recent changes in the FDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act.

If the topic is too niche and you can’t think of a way to adapt it to an original article of your own, broaden the topic to your area of expertise.

There’s no sense, however, in rewriting something that’s already successful and niche-specific.

Coming up with fresh ideas is one-half researching other people’s great ideas and one-half brainstorming ways to make your rendition better.

6. Research the history of your profession and all related professions—offline!

It may surprise you to know there is far more information in book form than there is all across the seemingly infinite Internet.

The Internet makes research easier, but the information found there is not as comprehensive as we might think.

Libraries and bookstores are an underrated source of information, particularly in exploring forgotten or lesser-known histories and studies.

The quality of paperback or hardcover books is generally much higher and more in-depth than that of Internet e-books or articles, which are really scratching the surface of what we know.

Consider quantity alone. According to a very conservative Google Books estimate, about 130,000,000 books are still in existence throughout the world, though the number could be higher than that.

In contrast, Amazon—a place many people consider the definitive source of books—has less than a million e-books and lists 1.8 million print titles for sale (according to a Quora discussion).

Libraries offer access not only to books but also to newspapers, journals, encyclopedias, and archival documents that are simply not online because there’s no interest in them. In these records, though, there is enough research to power up a blog for years on end.

If you really want to establish yourself as an expert in your field and produce thoroughly original content, take your search offline and bring back a gem of knowledge.

7. Interview an expert

Content writers sometimes ignore the option to interview an expert because quoting press statements are easier to use.

If, however, you are in need of a series of interesting blogs or articles, reaching out to a professional in your industry (or related industry) for an in-depth discussion can generate enough information to write a number of individual posts.

Many experts will give interviews free, provided you have a popular blog or are reporting on a niche subject with little available information.

Many experts are eager to give online interviews either to correct what they think is inaccurate information on their subject or to build their reputation and make their name Internet-famous on a given subject.

I remember interviewing a number of leaders in my earlier days, and the issue of payment never came up. Sometimes these experts really love to share their knowledge and have someone listen.

Since they know you’ll publicize the interview, it’s a win-win for them, especially if you keep the interview brief, using phone or video chat.

Profnet, a subsidiary of PRNewsWire, is a site that matches writers with experts (or usually their representatives) in a number of fields.

Some will do brief interviews online or on the phone for free. Some experts might charge a fee, and if it’s a niche in which you can produce a lot of content and get some highly targeted traffic, it may be worth the exchange.

8. Hire young blood

Fresh perspectives are the best way to think outside the box. If you run out of ideas, brainstorm with more members of the team. Owners will oftentimes hire new blood to help in brainstorming sessions.

Even as an individual web content writer, you can tap into young creativity by simply starting conversations with acquaintances in the office or in your circle of friends online.

Many of my websites, such as Crazy Egg, have content from multiple contributors. That’s one reason why the content stays fresh.

Featuring writers from multiple backgrounds and demographics helps bring diverse, and sometimes even opposite, views on the same events we cover.

Another thing that can spark your imagination is hearing personal experiences of your colleagues or friends. People probably tell you stories about their lives all the time, e.g., an exciting commute to work, a weekend adventure, etc.

Do you actually listen and say to yourself, “You know, this would make a great blog topic!”?

You can tell their stories, with permission, or adapt their stories to start a discussion with your readers.

9. Learn to read the work of your enemies

It’s amusing how reluctant we are to listen to our enemies or, in some cases, the “quacks” of a field who we believe are spreading anti-advice.

This is why some people completely block news sites they deem biased or ignore social media users that irk them.

But I think some of the most interesting revelations about any industry come from disagreement. When someone disagrees with you, it’s an opportunity for you to sharpen your debating skills. You brush up on your knowledge of history and science so you can make an accurate rebuttal.

This is actually standard protocol in college when you write a dissertation. By learning the opposing side’s viewpoint, taking into account their objections and their research, you strengthen your own argument.

It doesn’t really matter if you believe the viewpoint or not. Whether spoken or written, it’s a part of your industry. Maybe that means you must correct the misconceptions with your web content.

Be open-minded to new evidence. Test new and outside the box ideas, even if they seem ludicrous.

This is just a part of the brainstorming experience. By spending some time investigating wrong ideas about your industry, you can find the right idea. You will also have greater passion for your industry.

I make it a point to read both sides of an argument before concluding what each side got right and wrong. It doesn’t hurt to play “devil’s advocate” in your industry blog either.

Sometimes, I can come up with a topic after reading someone else’s story that I feel is utterly false and misleading. And guess what? It stirs a great conversation, which gives me ideas for three more posts.

As you can see from this Pew Center graphic, many brand name news outlets are associated with biased viewpoints:

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Bias isn’t a bad thing, and it doesn’t necessarily mean you should avoid a biased outlet.

Objectivity is not your concern. Rather, you can generate fresh ideas for new topics by reading opposing points of view on the same subject.

10. Stay on top of industry news

Social media is not the universal channel for industry news.

While social media is important to review so you can learn the voice of the consumer, blog writing it really its own entity.

If you don’t move beyond social media, you’ll frequently pass over some really good stuff because of poor hashtags, too much competition, and bad scheduling.

On the other hand, using a blog news app will help you stay up-to-date with relevant industry blogs as soon as they are updated.

You can subscribe to the RSS feed for fast updates, or you can use a website such as Bottlenose, which is a data discovery program that gives you real-time insights about the trends in your industry.

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This goes beyond just bookmarking and actually allows you to get analytical insights about drivers of brands, consumer trends, emerging risks, and what the competition is doing.

Alltop provides a free service and, a bit more to the point, shares the top business blogs and the most trending news stories.

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You can also create your own virtual magazine rack of top websites, magazines, and blogs. Better yet, you can even share your rack as a URL for easy interaction.

Conclusion

Lastly, remember that your brain is constantly working.

Even during sleep, it can subconsciously give rise to new ideas.

If you’re feeling drained and out of fuel, take a break and sleep on it.

Let your mind dwell on the idea over time, and make subconscious connections while you attend to something else. Before you know it, inspiration will strike you.

As long as you keep taking in information, you’ll always be capable of generating great content.

What are your techniques for coming up with interesting topics?

Data is the Key to More Engaging Relationships with Your Customers

In today’s age, when a consumer goes to purchase an item, she is faced with an unprecedented level of choice. Purchase in-store or online? Name brand or generic? Local store or big box retailer? Coupled with the number of channels brands have to reach a consumer during and outside of purchasing time, it is no surprise that consumers show a limited threshold for the amount of attention they give to brands.

Consumers have neither the time nor the energy to absorb every message that companies deliver to them each day. There is simply too much information out there to digest it all at any given time. This makes it critical for brands to create unique, timely, and personalized experiences with each engagement to capture the consumer’s attention and generate sales.

Marketing leaders are faced with a perfect storm of business, consumer, and technological change that is exponentially increasing the complexity of every single marketing activity. In this new business environment, marketers need to rethink existing processes and embrace data, technology, and content to deliver more meaningful customer experiences.

Without the right data, however, it is impossible to deliver this type of consumer experience. According to a recent CMO Club study, only 13% of CMOs surveyed said they are able to truly deliver a personalized and engaging customer experience across channels. In order to address this challenge and tailor content and experiences to individual customers, marketers need to be able to listen to and capture contextual and behavioral data across social, mobile, web, email, video, and other digital channels, and combine this with relevant data from their “offline” behavior.

By capturing and leveraging the right data, it is easier than ever for marketers to deliver a personalized and engaging customer experience across channels. Delivering this level of engagement to your buyers opens the door to meaningful, engaging relationships.

At the end of the day though, modern marketing is not about gathering as much data as possible. There is no silver bullet when it comes to collecting and using data. Ultimately, marketers must develop a strategy that is centered on using the right data, in the right way, in the right channels, at the right time.

If marketers can achieve this level of targeting, they have a chance to capture the consumer’s increasingly scarce attention and turn them into a repeat customer. Without this type of focus, however, brands will find their messages fall on deaf ears as consumers face an avalanche of information.

This post appears in The Attention Economy from LookbookHQ. Read more from other marketing experts in this interactive ebook.

Learn how to start thinking about using data in your own marketing to connect and build relationships with customers by downloading the Modern Marketing Essentials Guide to Data Management today.

Why a Twitter Dashboard is Critical for Small Businesses

What are your best performing Tweets? How many new followers did you get last month? What days of the week do you get the most engagement? With a Twitter dashboard, you can easily answer all of these questions and more.

It’s surprising how many businesses have no idea whether or not their Twitter management strategy actually working. Some businesses look at their follower count as the main determinant of how successful they are on Twitter. 

Getting more followers is nice, but are they engaging with your brand? Are you replying to incoming Tweets? What’s the difference between your best performing Tweets and the ones that fall flat? Using a Twitter dashboard will give you all of this data, which you can use to grow your account even more.

What is a Twitter Dashboard?

A Twitter dashboard provides you with stats and data on your activity, profile and followers. Everything is organized into graphs and charts so it’s easier to analyze.

There are several different companies that offer Twitter dashboards. Twitter made big waves earlier this year by releasing its own tool, aptly named Twitter Dashboard. Twitter’s tool was made for small businesses who currently don’t use any type of dashboard or reporting.

At Sprout Social, we have a very robust Twitter dashboard that’s perfect for businesses of all sizes. You can see account growth, your top performing Tweets, what types of Tweets you’re sending and a lot more. If Twitter is one of your primary social media marketing channels, the data you get from Sprout Social’s dashboard is extremely beneficial.

twitter dashboard

Benefits of a Twitter Dashboard

You don’t want to get a Twitter dashboard just for the sake of having one. If it’s not helping you work more efficiently or get better results, what’s the point? Here are some of the top advantages of using a Twitter dashboard:

Organization

There really isn’t a good way to track your Twitter activity without using a dashboard. Spreadsheets just aren’t going to cut it.

If you have multiple Twitter profiles or want to track your other social media accounts, a dashboard is a necessity. You never have to worry about trying to find a specific data point because all your metrics and reports are accessible from a single location.

On top of organizing your data, your dashboard also keeps your Tweets and incoming messages organized as well. Instead of seeing a stream of all the latest Tweets from everyone you follow, you can filter your view to only see Tweets relevant to your brand.

crm-suggested-replies

Easier to Tweet

The native Twitter app isn’t made for businesses, it’s made for casual users. It’s perfect for people that just want to Tweet on the go. But as a business, you need the ability to schedule Tweets ahead of time and put together a complete social media editorial calendar. For that, you need a Twitter dashboard.

social media scheduling

You can–and should–Tweet in real time as well. But having Tweets scheduled for the week or month allows you to Tweet around the clock, which creates consistency. When you’re trying to send every Tweet manually, you’ll likely end up with long spans of time where you’re not Tweeting anything because you’re busy or just forget. Stay prepared by using your dashboard to schedule Tweets ahead of time.

Collaborate

Some companies have multiple people managing their social media accounts. A Twitter dashboard makes collaboration possible because everyone doesn’t have to log into the same Twitter account, they just log into the dashboard. You can also track which team member sent which Tweet.

smart inbox audit trail

If you have more than one person managing your social media marketing, a Twitter dashboard is a must-have.

Analytics

This is probably one of the top reasons businesses use a Twitter dashboard. In a survey from Convince & Convert, 41% of companies said they had no idea whether or not their social media marketing was actually paying off. If you’re not measuring your efforts, you’re going to fall under that umbrella.

With a Twitter dashboard, you’ll get plenty of reports to help track your Twitter activity. Keep in mind that not all Twitter dashboards are created equal. Some dashboards only provide very basic analytics. With Sprout, you get very in-depth reports with data your business can truly act on.

twitter listening report

Check out what’s included in our Twitter Analytics here.

Understand Your Audience

Are you making assumptions about what type of content resonates with your audience? Some businesses make the mistake of guessing what their followers want to see. However, the best way to find out what type of content your followers like is to monitor which Tweets are getting the most engagement.

Sprout Social Sent Messages Report

Use your Twitter dashboard to find which of your Tweets receive the most Likes, Retweets and replies, then start sharing more content about those topics.

One cool feature in Sprout’s Twitter dashboard is the ability to see your audience demographics. The more context you have about who’s seeing your Tweets, the better you can target them with your content. The way your brand communicates with a 54-year-old male will likely be different than how you would with a 20-year-old female. Use your Twitter dashboard to find out who your audience is, and tailor your Tweets to them.

Twitter Analytics Demographics

Create a Personalized Experience

Twitter is huge for social customer service. Aside from embarrassing social media mishaps, one of the worst things brands can do is completely ignore their fans. Our 2016 Q3 Sprout Social Index found nearly 25% of social media users are annoyed when brands don’t reply to their messages.

annoying actions brands take on social media

Since Twitter’s native timeline moves so quickly, it can be very difficult to keep up with all the Mentions your brand receives. Plus you may not have the context for a conversation. For instance, if someone Tweeted your brand about a problem three weeks ago, you may not remember them if they sent a new Tweet today.

With Sprout’s Twitter dashboard, you can see the conversation history of the people you’ve communicated with in the past. That way when someone Tweets your brand, your team doesn’t have to troubleshoot from scratch. Plus you can get to know more about your fans and give your Tweets a personal touch.

sprout social Twitter conversation history

Brand & Reputation Management

Have you ever tried to see what people are saying about your company on Twitter? Without a Twitter dashboard, you have to resort to basic Twitter searches for your company name. The information you get from those search results are limited, and you’ll have to run new searches every time you want to see updated information.

Sprout’s Twitter Dashboard makes it easy to setup searches for anything that you want to monitor conversations about.

Sprout Social Search

Instead of just setting up searches for branded phrases, you can get a little more creative and use industry-related terms or trending hashtags you want to monitor. You’ll get real-time updates when people Tweet the phrases you set, so you can respond to them quickly to engage with potential leads, customers and connections.

Along with monitoring when your brand is mentioned, Sprout also shows you the most common terms and hashtags people use when they mention you. This will give you a good bird’s eye view of your company’s reputation on Twitter.

Sprout Social Trends Report

Engaging with customers and followers is the most important part of being successful on Twitter. Not only are more customers using social media for customer support issues, but when businesses engage customers on social media, they spend 20-40% more.

Social Media Customer Service Graphic

Can I Just Use Twitter Dashboard?

With Twitter rolling out its own dashboard, you may be wondering if it’s worth paying for a premium product instead. While Twitter Dashboard has some nice features, it’s not as robust as what you get with Sprout.

For instance, Sprout comes with ViralPost, an algorithm that picks the best time to Tweet based on when your audience is most likely to engage. Twitter Dashboard lets you schedule Tweets, but you’ll have to use your best judgment for when to send them.

You’ll also lose out on our in-depth reporting. Twitter Dashboard gives you some analytics, but it’s not as advanced as what you get with our dashboard.

One of the most important reasons to use Sprout’s dashboard is because you can also use it to manage Facebook, Instagram, Google+ and LinkedIn. Twitter isn’t the only channel your brand is on, so it makes sense to use a dashboard that’ll let you manage multiple social networks.

If you haven’t tried a Twitter dashboard yet, give Sprout a try with a free 30-day trial.

This post Why a Twitter Dashboard is Critical for Small Businesses originally appeared on Sprout Social.

How to Turn Online Marketing Leads into Online Marketing Sales

If you’re doing online marketing right, you should be driving a steady stream of inexpensive, qualified leads to your sales team.

That means tons of sales and profit for your business, right?

Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Often, you may be sending all the right leads to your sales team, but they simply aren’t turning into sales.

What’s going on?

Is it a problem with your sales team? A problem with your leads? Maybe, but often, the problem is simply a marketing-sales mismatch.

When Things Go Wrong

A few months back, we were using paid search to drive leads for a client. We thought we were doing a pretty good job, but there was a problem—our leads weren’t turning into sales.

To be honest, this came as a surprise.

We had a lot of experience in this particular industry, so we knew our campaigns were driving a lot of high-quality leads.

In fact, from a marketing perspective, our campaigns were a hands-down success! We were sending hundreds of high-intent leads to their sales team at a great cost-per-lead.

What more could you ask for, right?

In our experience, they should have been closing at least 10% of these leads…but they weren’t. As it turned out, they were only closing 1% of their paid search leads.

wait-what

What were we doing wrong? 

On paper, everything looked great, so I called the client to get his thoughts. His answer was both candid and insightful:

“Jake, the leads are great. We don’t have a lead problem. My sales team just doesn’t know how to close these leads.”

Now, this problem isn’t unique. I’ve seen it before. Great online marketing can get leads in the door, but it can’t make them close.

That job rests on the shoulders of the sales team.

So, if you want your online marketing to yield great results, your job doesn’t end with lead generation. You need to make sure your sales team knows how to get those leads to close.

Turning Leads Into Sales

With online marketing, you control all aspects of the lead generation process: targeting, ads, landing page content and call-to-action.

The problem is, while you may intimately understand your leads, your sales team might not really know where your leads came from, why they reached out and what they are looking for in a business.

And, unfortunately, if your sales team doesn’t really understand their leads, they are going to have a hard time closing them.

In order to successfully close online marketing leads, your sales team needs to understand a couple of key things about their leads:

You’re Not the Only Business After Their Business

When it comes to online marketing, you can’t expect leads to sit still.

If someone is interested enough in what your business has to offer to reach out, there’s a pretty good chance that they’ve reached out to your competition, too.

However, first to call is first to close.

In fact, 50% of leads end up choosing the company that reaches out first

New leads are also 100x more responsive if your sales team reaches out in 5 minutes instead of 30 minutes and several thousand times more responsive if you’re reaching out within 5 minutes vs a day or two later.

Fortunately, most of your competitors wait hours or even days to respond to new leads, so if your sales team is quick on the draw, they have a good chance of being the first to respond, make contact and close the deal.

The Internet is a Distracting Place

When it comes to online leads, you can assume that by the time you reach out, they’ve already moved on to something else.

Maybe it’s a competitor’s site. Maybe it’s social media. Maybe it’s back to whatever they were doing before your ads caught their attention.

Whatever the reason, they usually aren’t sitting around waiting for your call.

That means your leads are probably distracted and might miss (or ignore) your first few contact attempts. So, if you want to get a hold of your leads, your sales team can’t just send one email and call it quits.

In fact, it takes a minimum of 8-12 contact attempts to get a 90% contact rate. Even if you’re only after a 50% contact rate, your sales team will still need to make at least 6 contact attempts.

The only problem is, most reps only make 1-2 contact attempts per lead. As a result, internet leads are only contacted about a quarter of the time.

You fight tooth and nail to get those great leads in the door and sales only contacts 25% of them?

epic-fail

Imagine what would happen if your sales team started reaching out 8-12 times and achieved a contact rate of 90%. That would increase your contact rate by 360%.

If your sales team’s contact-to-close rate stayed the same, contacting 3.6x more leads would result in 3.6x more sales. Can you imagine how that would affect your business?

Getting Marketing and Sales in Alignment

In addition to giving your sales team insights into what tactics work best for online marketing leads, there are a couple of things you can do on the marketing side to improve sales performance.

Talk to Sales!

Online marketing leads convert because they believe that your company has the solution to their problems. Your sales team’s job is to confirm that belief.

However, if your sales team isn’t making good on the promises of your marketing, your customers will feel betrayed and they won’t want to buy.

To avoid this, your sales team’s message needs to match your marketing message.

Yes, that means you’ll have to talk to your sales team about the intent, pain points and goals of your leads, but guess what? The better your sales team understands where their leads are coming from, the more effective they will be at closing sales.

In my experience, getting marketing and sales on the same page will make your online marketing effects far more effective and can drive millions in added revenue for your business.

There is Such a Thing as Too Many Leads

If you’ve got your campaigns set up right, online marketing (especially pay-per-click marketing) is pretty simple.

Insert the money, out come the leads.

Now, you and I both know that there’s a ton of work behind that equation, but if you’re feeding too many coins into the marketing machine, the resulting surplus of leads can make your sales team a little lazy.

As a result, ambitious sales reps might be tempted to sift through your leads to pick the ones that will be easiest to close.

They’ll look like superstar salesmen, but on closer inspection, you’ll notice that their lead-to-close rate is actually terrible.

Even though these “rockstar” reps look like they are closing a lot of deals, they waste a ton of expensive leads. In many cases, companies will end up paying more for those wasted leads than they’ll earn off of that “all star” rep’s closed sales.

So, how can you avoid this?

Easy, just keep your sales team hungry.

If you’re putting less money into the marketing machine, your sales reps will pay more attention to the individual leads they’re getting. 

However, you want to be careful with this tactic. Give your sales team too few leads and you’ll hurt productivity and morale.

So, if your sales team is begging for more leads, up your marketing budget. On the other hand, if you’re not getting any requests for more leads and your close-to-sale rate isn’t doing so hot…you might want to dial back your marketing spend.

Conclusion

It’s hard to make a profit off of online marketing if your sales team doesn’t know how to close your hard-won leads.

But, if you’re willing to work with your sales team, your marketing campaigns will not only produce profitable leads—they’ll produce profitable sales.

And isn’t that what online marketing is all about?

You’ve heard my two cents, now it’s your turn.

In your experience, how have sales short-changed your online marketing efforts (or vice versa)? How have you helped your sales team work more effectively with paid search leads?

About the Author: Jacob Baadsgaard is the CEO and fearless leader of Disruptive Advertising, an online marketing agency dedicated to using PPC advertising and website optimization to drive sales. His face is as big as his heart and he loves to help businesses achieve their online potential. Connect with him on LinkedIn or Twitter.

The Three Metrics You Need to Know Before You Waste Any Time on A/B Tests

It’s hard to argue that split testing (also know as A/B testing) is changing the face of marketing. According to Unbounce, 44% of online businesses are using split test software. And software products like Unbounce and Visual Website Optimizer are making it ever easier. Split testing, done right, with good context, can put a stop to all the guesswork, anecdotal conclusions, and correlation/causation errors that can abound in marketing circles.

But it’s not without risks: split tests are expensive to run, requiring investment for both software, and staff/consultants to run the tests. Not to mention the opportunity cost of lost time exploiting other profit levers in your business.

All of which underscores the importance of testing the right metrics in your business, and the potential cost in time and resources of testing the wrong ones.

While I can’t speak for all businesses, what I’ve seen again-and-again with clients and peers is businesses gravitating toward what’s easy to test – landing pages, checkout pages, email subject lines, and sales pages (all of which can be extremely important in the right context) – rather than what’s important.

That’s why one of the most meaningful changes you can make in your business is to implement a process for identifying which parameters to test and optimize. Below are 3 metrics you need to know before you spend one more minute split testing.

1. List-to-Sale Conversion Rate

What if I told you one simple calculation would tell you whether to optimize any conversion metrics between an opt-in and a sale, or to look elsewhere? That’s what the list-to-sale benchmark gives you. “List-to-sale” is the percentage of buyers of your product or service over a given time period relative to the number of opt-ins to your email list for the same period.

Say in a given month you get 1,000 opt-ins to your email list, and in that same month, you make 55 sales of your flagship product. Wondering whether you should go with a webinar funnel instead of an email onboarding sequence? Whether to incorporate video into your sales page? Whether to change the color of your “buy now” button?

The answer to all of them is “no”, and I didn’t even need to take a look inside your funnel. Why? With 55 sales, you’re converting at a staggering 5% list-to-sale.

To calculate, just take the sales in the last 30 days and divide those by opt-ins over the same time period.

list-to-sale-conversion-rate-formula

Some readers will be noticing the absence of a sales cycle in that calculation (i.e. since it takes days-to-weeks and several touch points to make a sale. We should be comparing this month’s buyers to last month’s opt-ins). You can control for this with a simple average:

  • Take the last 4 months, and average the opt-ins over the first 3
  • Then average the sales over the last 3.
  • Then perform the same percentage calculation. (Sales divided by opt-ins)

For example, say you’re calculating in August:

  • First you’d average the monthly opt-ins for April, May, and June. Let’s just say the average is 1500.
  • Then you’d average the sales from May, June, and July, in order to leave a 30-day lag. Let’s say that average came out to 75.
  • Dividing the sales by the opt-ins, and you’d get 5%.

The benchmark you should be aiming for? 1-2%. Below that, go nuts with split testing parts of your funnel. Above 1%, look elsewhere.

Above 2%, and I’d seriously consider raising your prices. In the hypothetical case of the 5% from above, I’d immediately double the price.

Next, and especially if your list-to-sale conversion is at-or-above the 1-2% benchmark, it’s time to look at your traffic.

2. Opt-in Conversion Rate

The vast majority of businesses I work with have list-to-sale conversion rates closer to benchmarks than their opt-in conversion rates. Put another way, if they’re wasting any resources split-testing their funnel or sales copy, they’re completely ignoring the sizable cohort of website visitors who never even see the offer because they bounce off the site.

As with list-to-sale conversions, you can do a back-of-the-napkin calculation for opt-ins. Just count your new subscribes from the last 30 days and divide it by total website visitors during that same 30 days.

The benchmark to aim at for opt-in conversion is 10%.

If you haven’t ever found your opt-in rate before, my guess is you’ll be astonished how low it is. I’ve seen it as low as 1-2%.

Luckily, there’s a simple strategy to improve it:

  • Find the individual opt-in rates of your biggest webpages and your 10 most popular content pieces. (If you’re using a plugin like SumoMe or OptinMonster, you can set up the software to tell you your opt-ins for each page.)
  • Look for the “outliers” – content pages often perform worse than home and about pages.

Once you’ve identified the worst-performers, perform this simple checklist (from lowest-hanging-fruit to more subtle)

  1. Can readers find your opt-in offer, or is it buried below the fold or ¾ of the way down a blog post?
  2. Are you giving your visitors only one thing to do on each page or post, or are you offering 3 different giveaways on various parts of your page?
  3. This is not the type of page you want to create if you’re looking to increase opt-ins.

    too-many-ctas-blog-postDon’t give your readers more than one choice when optimizing for opt-ins

  4. Is your opt-in offer not just well written, but well copywritten? Does it specify exactly who it’s for, describe a clear, specific benefit, and emphasize the urgency for opting in? (Even high performing opt-ins can usually be improved).
  5. Are you requiring your subscribers to double-opt-in? This will lower your opt-in conversions. Many founders I’ve talked to like to use a double-opt-in because it seems more “polite”. In my opinion, making somebody go off the page to get the freebie they just gave your email address for, let-alone to wait up to 20 minutes for it to arrive in their mailbox isn’t particularly polite. When I give my email address to get a lead magnet, I want it now – not after reconfirming my email address and waiting 20 minutes for the email.

Split-test ninjas take-note: if you’ve read this far, and your opt-in rate is indeed garbage, there’s ample opportunity to split test:

  • Two versions of a homepage with different opt-in copy/design.
  • Two versions of an exit-pop on a popular content piece.

Go nuts.

3. Traffic

If you’re among the extremely lucky minority with list-to-sale conversions at-or-above 2%, and opt-in conversions at-or-above 10%, and you’ve raised your prices, I have some disappointing (although kind of good) news: split testing is not a good fit for your business.

Here’s the question to ask: Are your monthly sessions at least 50% of your list size? (i.e. if your list has 2,000 subscribers, are you getting at least 1,000 uniques per month?) If not, you need a traffic strategy. Don’t waste your time A/B testing anything.

While I’m a conversions expert and not a traffic expert, here’s a quick decision tree:

  • Determine your market size. If you could 5x your traffic, are there enough people in your market to support it?
  • Implement a content/syndication/guest-post strategy ASAP. It’s practically the only guaranteed winner across all verticals, but it can take up to a year to bear fruit.
  • Consider hiring a paid traffic expert for one month to test customer acquisition costs from various paid sources. Choose the most profitable and double down while you wait for organic traffic to grow.

Bottom line: the same month spent split testing two opt-in offers on a homepage, landing page, or content page, could provide a 2-4x increase in revenue (by, say, improving an opt-in conversion rate from 1% to 4%), while the same time and money spent trying to boost an already maxed-out sales conversion rate would have a much smaller return.

That’s why a little context can save you thousands.

About the Author: Nate Smith is a direct-response copywriter and funnel expert who helps businesses scale by exploiting their most powerful profit levers. Nate is founder of 8020MarketingGuy.com.

How's that YouTube audience of yours looking?


How's that YouTube audience of yours looking?

You have less than 24 hours to jumpstart your YouTube channel

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TubeBuddy is an extension that gives you the ability to YouTube like a boss!

What kind of things does TubeBuddy let you do? (It would be easier to tell you what it doesn’t.)

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Facebook Displaying Vertical Videos in Mobile News Feed

Facebook has begun displaying vertical videos in News Feed in its flagship mobile application.

Tim Peterson of Marketing Land reported on the update, and a spokesperson for the social network told him via email that its tests found that users watched vertical videos for longer time periods and with audio when they were presented vertically in News Feed, adding:

We know that people enjoy more immersive experiences on Facebook, so we’re starting to display a larger portion of each vertical video in News Feed on mobile.

Prior to the change, vertical videos were cropped into squares in News Feed, and users had to click on the videos to watch them in their intended format.

Peterson reported that vertical videos will appear in a 2:3 aspect ratio in News Feed and not take up the entire screen unless users clock on those videos, and then click on the arrows in the upper-right-hand corner to expand them.

Readers: What are your thoughts on this change?

Screenshot courtesy of Tim Peterson, Marketing Land.

Overcoming the Fear of Being Heard

Hipster in the LibraryBy Karly Nimmo.

In my work with hundreds of podcasters, and potential podcasters (this also applies to bloggers, entrepreneurs, small business owners and anyone putting themselves out there) I see one key thing get in the way over and over again…

Our good old mate, FEAR.

Let’s talk about fear, because it has the capability to paralyse and stop the vast majority from ever leaving the discomfort of their comfort zone.  And, that seems such a shame.  I see so many amazing people, with incredible messages, products and services to share, who are stuck in fear.

Fear shows up in a number of ways and in varying parts of our journey.  When you’re putting yourself out there in a bigger way, there seems to be a few regulars sitting at the bar, like:

  • fear of rejection (by far the biggest)
  • fear of failure and/or success
  • fear of getting it ‘wrong’
  • fear of being exposed as a fraud (good old imposter syndrome)
  • fear that my friends and family won’t get it
  • fear that no one will listen
  • fear that it’s/I am not enough

So, here’s my top 8 tips to move through fear.

Tip one: identify the fear.  

What is it?  Name it.  Shine a light on it.  Say it out loud.

I’m afraid of (insert reason here).

Tip two:  Does the best possible outcome, outweigh the worst?

Best possible outcome?

You positively impact someone’s day/wee/month/year/life.

Worst case scenario?

Bruised ego.  (and I’ve experience enough bruises to know one thing for sure… they heal)

Tip 3:  It’s not about you.

Yeah… that old chestnut.  As humans we have this ability to make everything about us.  Namely, what people might think of us.  And that alone is enough to paralyse us from moving forward.  Focussing on service and shifting that focus from you (and all the things that could potentially go wrong), to those who you can serve, really helps move through the fear.

My go to mantra:  When nervous, focus on service.

Tip 4:  Practice makes perfect (err, practice makes better)

Let’s be real.  Most of the time, when we start something new, we suck at it.  Big time.  And the only way to get better is practice.

Moving through fear is like a muscle.  If you want to build it, keep working on it.  Remember the first time you’ve tried anything new and scary?  We build it up to be something really BIG.  Then we do it, and it might not be perfect, but we realise we can do it.  So we do it again… and again… and again… then it becomes something we are comfortable with…. and if we practice enough, we can become a master at it.

Whether it’s golf, crotchet, growing tomatoes, or doing live webinars, the only way you are going to improve is to keep trying.  Keep showing up – despite the fear.

Tip 5:  Drop perfection for experimentation. 

Drop perfection.  It serves no one.  And replace it with a good dose of experimentation.  Instead of placing all this crazy pressure on yourself to have things go perfectly, reframe things as an experiment.  Test.  Measure.  Review.  Test.  Measure.  Review.  Framing things as an experiment lightens the load and lessens attachment to outcome.

Tip 6:  What you’re afraid of has already happened.  

Yep.  The rejection you’re trying to avoid?  It’s already happened.  That doesn’t mean it’s going to happen again, but if it does, all is well; you’ve experienced it before and you survived.  You can do it again.

Tip 7:  What others think of you is not of your business.

Easy to say, hard to live by… but oh, so true.  What others think of you comes from their experience and beliefs and their opinion of you, and anything you say, is ALWAYS going to be skewed by this.

Tip 8:  You can’t please everyone, so you might as well please yourself. 

Enough said.  You’re always going to piss someone off.  Might as well be doing it for a good cause.

Fear is always going to be present, my friend.  Always.  It’s part of our make up as human beings.  A reminder of our mortality.  A way to protect ourselves from harm.  It stems from our vulnerability as cave men and women… when we were prey to wild animals.

And while there are many people out there who behave like wild animals, trying to rip others to shreds, the truth is they only have the power you allow them to have.  Hiding away in your cave because someone might have something negative to say about you serves no one.

Take a few deep breaths, puff that chest out, focus on those who need to hear what you have to say… and hit record.

The world will thank you for it.

Karly Nimmo is all about about helping people find their voice, and giving them the tools and platform to get it out there.  She’s a passionate podcaster, teacher and mentor atRadcasters Podcasting S’cool.

The post Overcoming the Fear of Being Heard appeared first on ProBlogger.

      

From Campaigns to Conversions – How to Make Sense of the Data You’re Presented With

It’s the question on every marketer’s mind – “How do we turn these impressions, clicks and conversions into something that drives results for our company?”

The fact is, you have a lot on your plate. From new product launches to generating interest to reaching new markets and paying attention to customer sentiment, there’s a lot to juggle. Being able to not just make sense of the data you’re gathering, but also turn that information into actionable insights is a must-have skill in today’s competitive markets.

The good news is, it can be learned – easily.

The Problem with Reach

customer-interactionWhen everything is measured in terms of reach and impressions, we start creating goals that don’t really measure the results we want

In many cases, campaigns are founded with the wrong goal in mind. Everything is measured in “reach”. We look at impressions as the de facto measurement standard when it barely scratches the surface of measuring a consumer’s true interest and intent.

The end result, when focusing too much on reach and impressions, is that you might make a boatload of sales, but not be able to map them definitively to any specific campaign or strategy. Even if people first hear about your product through traditional media (TV, print, newspaper), they’re very likely to go online and do some more research – and that’s where things like reviews, ratings and testimonials can make a significant impact.

Another issue is that most advertising programs assume a straight path to conversions, when the result is anything but. The customer could go from print awareness to online research at your website, but then go offsite to look up user reviews, do some comparison shopping, seek out coupons, watch a product unboxing video, look over the company’s Facebook page to see what people are saying, double-back on the comparison shopping engine to find the best deal, and so forth.

The fact is, the conversion path isn’t pretty and that’s because it’s too often tied to wisps of numbers that don’t make any meaningful and measurable impact on the bottom line.

Mapping Campaigns to Results

advertising-channelsChanging techniques to focus on revenues and relationships requires a change in how we think about campaigns

So how do you tie your campaigns into the kind of insights that deliver the results you need? Let’s take a look at some common types of campaigns and how they can be adjusted:

E-Commerce Sales

E-Commerce relies heavily on the power of reviews, testimonials and coupons – so combining these in a way that makes sense (such as putting reviews of that particular product below the customer’s item when they go to view their cart) will help reduce cart abandonment rates and seal the deal.

Automatically adding in a coupon (especially for free shipping) only serves to sweeten the deal, and greatly reduces the risk that the customer will go offsite to search for coupons – and potentially to a competitor.

Don’t forget the service after the sale either. Following up to inquire about how the customer likes the product, if they’ve used it yet or have any questions are crucial for keeping your brand front-of-mind in a way that’s helpful, not intrusive.

New Product Launch

New product launches are by far the easiest processes to map. Since initiatives are just getting off the ground, you can more easily segment and monitor them across all channels. But even with that kind of segmentation in place, it’s worth noting that few customers who “Like” a particular brand (for a discount, sample or whatever) seldom return to that page.

Your main goal in measuring results with new product launches should be to get customers to visualize their lives made better as a result of having your product in it. Your best customer may not say a lot or interact a lot on social media, but they will tell friends and family about you – and that speaks volumes more than any advertising can.

Brick and Mortar Sales

If your product is featured in traditional storefronts, there’s a lot you can do to help increase conversions. Create a coupon code for a specific retail chain or even a specific locale so that you can tie results directly to that specific campaign.

Help thwart showrooming (where customers browse in store but buy online) by price matching. Don’t force customers to jump through hoops to get the advertised price, either. Move the conversion needle even more by offering users a social coupon. This is one that can be shared with friends, but must be printed and brought to the store to redeem. You can track the success of the campaign through social analytics or the number of coupons redeemed.

There Is No Best Choice

One of the most common questions from the C-Suite with regard to conversions is “which channel drives the most?” Here again, there’s too much of a focus hinging on pure numbers and not more valuable (but intangible) things like customer sentiment, recommendations, brand awareness and so on. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to discovering which channel brings the greatest ROI – because there isn’t a single channel that does this all the time, for everyone, with every product.

Oftentimes, it’s a mix of initiatives that drive the best results. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Look at the mixes of what’s driving the most engagement or converting the most first-time users into paying customers – that’s the avenue you want to improve conversions on.

How Kissmetrics Can Help

If you’re using Kissmetrics, we’ve made it incredibly easy to see which marketing channels are sending the most profitable visitors.

We do this by using different channels. These channels include visitors who are referred directly to your site, who come by way of a third party, by email, and much more. But simply knowing where they come from is only part of the equation.

What you really want to know is — which visitors are bringing in the revenue?

And because Kissmetrics tracks users, not sessions, you can easily tie revenues to people. This is done by setting up the Revenue Report. Set it up once and let it start tackling the data effortlessly. You can even import your existing sales data if you wish.

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An example of a Kissmetrics revenue report segmenting revenue by product category

The most valuable aspect of the Revenue Report is seeing which channels drive your biggest profits — not necessarily the most traffic or even the highest quality traffic — but pure revenues. As stated, you can even segment by marketing channel, so you’ll learn not only which campaigns resonate with your target audience, but what that means in terms of your bottom line.

Map It Out

under-constructionAlways look at strategy from a point of constant improvement rather than a “once and done” campaign

Some of us marketers are just visual learners who perform best when an idea is fully mapped out – so don’t hesitate to do this if you feel it will give you a better idea of how to move forward. Draw a horizontal “timeline” showing the different touch points where your customer interacts with your product or service in any way. Then, draw a vertical line showing the stages of the sales funnel.

Now look at it carefully and see where and how the different areas intersect and mingle with each other. Are there areas where customers are dropping off considerably? Are there touch points where the customer isn’t getting the help or clarification they need? When you map out the process, it’s amazing the findings that will suddenly come to light!

No matter what, going from campaigns to conversions isn’t about looking at the raw data as win or lose. It’s about looking at the big picture of which campaigns cultivated the kind of customer sentiment and brand awareness you want while minimizing friction or cart abandonment. And more often than not, these kinds of results will come from many different campaigns and channels.

It requires a shift in how you think about conversions and how they tie into overall customer retention, to be sure, but making that shift and looking at initiatives in terms of wide-reaching strategies rather than one-off campaigns can make a significant difference in all areas of business.

Have you integrated any of these ideas into your own campaigns? What kind of results have you gotten? Share your thoughts and comments with us below!

About the Author: Sherice Jacob helps business owners improve website design and increase conversion rates through compelling copywriting, user-friendly design and smart analytics analysis. Learn more at iElectrify.com and download your free web copy tune-up and conversion checklist today!

#SproutChat Recap: Social Content & Engagement

Social media managers are often trying to increase social audience engagement. Testing and measuring content and post types across social networks is the best way to see what resonates with your audience. However, there are some proven tactics that tend to garner the best results. This week at #SproutChat, we discussed what content strategies work best for each popular social network.

Engaging on Instagram

We know hashtags and bright photos are necessary for success on Instagram. Beyond your photo’s aesthetics, you can engage your audience by requesting their user-generated images. With an individual’s permission, publish their content on your brand’s account and give their Instagram handle a thank you and shoutout. This personalized connection will stand out with the content owner while the rest of your community will be impressed that you took the time out to recognize a follower. This simple action will make all the parties involved more engaged with your brand and inclined to submit content in the future.

Engaging on Facebook & Twitter

While Facebook and Twitter are very different social networks, images and videos resonate on both. Take advantage of the reach of hashtags and conversational nature of Twitter. On Facebook, try sharing posts with longer copy or test out long form articles.

Measure Extensively

Determine which metrics will effectively communicate your social media engagement goals. Work with your colleagues in marketing to ensure all efforts are working together to impact the bottom line.

Present Metrics in a Format Your Boss Understands

By now you probably already know that measurements such as likes, comments and shares don’t always mean much to senior leadership. While these factors are important, they’re usually not regarded by the people who aren’t managing a community on social everyday. Track the metrics and patterns that do matter to your boss and make sure you format your social media engagement results in a way that’s easy for leadership to understand.

See you next week on Wednesday, August 31 at 2pm CDT when we discuss, how to effectively use video on social with special guest Margot Mazur. In the meantime, join our Facebook group and get to know the other members of our community!

This post #SproutChat Recap: Social Content & Engagement originally appeared on Sprout Social.

9 Psychological Insights I Use When Designing a Pricing Page

Let me be upfront with you.

I’m not a web designer.

I work with some amazing web designers. I know a few things about web design. But when it comes right down to it, I’m not a designer.

What am I? I’m a marketer.

Why am I talking about designing a web page, specifically a pricing page?

Here’s why. Web design and marketing overlap. A lot.

When you get into a discussion about web design, you can’t help but talk about psychology. And when the page being designed is a pricing page, psychology plays a huge role.

What kind of psychology? Customer psychology.

Customer psychology is the study of the way people think, act, decide, and make purchases.

It has everything to do with motivation, mind tricks, color, placement, filtering, eye tracking studies, and, yes, web design.

That’s why I’m confident in my ability to design a great pricing page.

I constantly A/B-test my pages to make sure I’m choosing the most optimal design, and most of the design choices you see throughout my web properties is based on simple psychological principles.

Psychology is common in marketing and design, regardless of the industry. Look at a casino, for example.

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Every inch of that building, from the carpet and floor designs to the signs and turns was designed to psychologically keep people in the building spending money, not focusing on time and outside responsibilities.

Web design is the same way. And when it comes to the pricing page, these psychological principles are extremely important.

Here are a few of the tactics I use when designing pricing pages—one of the most important steps in your conversion funnel. 

Downoload this cheat sheet of 9 psychological insights you can use when designing a pricing page.

1. Devalue money in the viewer’s eyes

Since we’re on the subject of Las Vegas… Another trick casino owners use is the idea of mentally devaluing money.

When you step up to a table, they exchange your money for chips.

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Why? There are several reasons. One is that it makes it easier for dealers to count, but it also detaches people from the value of their money. It’s easier to gamble away two chips than $2,000.

A lot of people are in debt, and, while it’s great that you run a business, you need to get people to stop thinking about their bills.

The average user who looks at your pricing page might have in the back of their mind their consumer credit card debt.

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Maybe you’re not running a casino. How do you get people to stop thinking about their debt problems and instead focus on the value of your product, regardless of the price?

Let me give you an example.

Cornell researchers recently partnered with the Culinary Institute of America to research this concept of devaluing money on restaurant menus. Two different study groups were given two different menus, one with a dollar sign next to the pricing and one without.

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The group given the menus without the dollar sign spent more money. Why? Because they weren’t put off by the high $ price.

One example I’ve shown elsewhere is this pricing page. Notice the small dollar signs?

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That’s not a mistake.

The same thing is happening here:

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The dollar sign serves as a trigger to remind people of the value of money. What they should be thinking about is the value of your product.

A simple removal or minimization of the dollar sign will make your pricing page more compelling, more powerful, and more psychologically potent.

2. Color-coordinate everything

Research from the US National Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health indicates colors are perceived in different ways by different people based on experiences, genetics, context, and other factors.

Still, there are brands of every kind that use specific colors within their logos.

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If you’re at the beginning stage of building your company, choose a color scheme that matches the emotion you’re trying to evoke.

There was a time when Geocities ruled the web and websites commonly looked as though they were drawn by crayons. Thankfully, we’ve progressed, so basic black text on a white background is considered standard for text (with a few exceptions).

Headers and buttons, however, can vary greatly. Amazon uses a yellow color for the “Add to Cart” button on its pricing pages.

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Walmart uses a red-orange.

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Best Buy utilizes bright blue and yellow for different options.

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Whatever you choose, make sure it speaks to your brand and is consistent all the way through to avoid confusing customers at a crucial step.

3. Size matters

Size does matter when designing a pricing page.

Here’s the simple truth. You want people to see the important parts first because that’s what needs to stick with them the longest.

Let me go back to this pricing page to show what I mean:

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What’s the first thing you look at when you see this page?

Probably the center column, focusing on the “Growth” package at $400 a month.

Why? Because it pops with a vivid blue against a very light gray backdrop.

Plus, it’s bigger than the others. Size is important. It’s also centrally located.

All of these are key differentiating features that psychologically emphasize the importance and superiority of that plan.

Where exactly does size matter?

  • Headlines
  • Call-to-action buttons
  • Price boxes (as pictured above)

As explained in Psychology in Action, larger fonts make messages enter our brains faster as we don’t have to struggle to see them.

This split-second difference of time and attention puts the page into a logical and cohesive, Feng Shui-like, order for browsers.

4. Limited time offers

If someone thinks their time to act is limited, they’re more likely to take action quickly rather than delay it.

Several studies have looked at how limited time offers affect our brains. Sites such as eBay and Groupon have practically built empires on the concept.

Essentially, it boils down to supply and demand.

When you create scarcity, the perceived value of an item goes up. It’s called a theory of psychological reactance, which explains why we hate to miss out on a golden opportunity when presented with it.

You’ve probably heard of fear of missing out, or FOMO, right? Same idea, different angle.

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Amazon uses this technique to great effect with constant inventory reminders on every item: “Only 10 left in stock – order soon.”

It’s a great call to action.

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Even though we know one of the world’s largest fulfillment centers will definitely replenish its supplies of literally everything, will it happen soon enough? Can we wait and will it be more expensive next time?

Dr. Eldar Shafir, from Princeton, and Dr. Sendhil Mullainathan, from Harvard, explored how people’s minds work when they feel they’re lacking something. The perception of scarcity leads them to make mistakes or bad financial decisions, spending more money than they should.

Psychology Today’s author Shahram Heshmat notes,

Scarcity orients the mind automatically and powerfully toward unfulfilled needs.

It also motivates us to prioritize our choices, e.g., we’re more frugal with toothpaste when the tube is close to empty, and we rush to purchase a product or service to obtain a deal.

5. Discounts and VIP membership

People love feeling like they belong. Costco, Sam’s Club, and AAA are just a few of the memberships you can get these days to feel like you’re part of a country club.

Everyone wants to be a VIP, so offering VIP membership bonuses and discounts encourages customers to keep spending money at your business. Instead of buying just one roll of paper towels, you can subscribe and save.

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Or buy 10 and get one free.

These promotions increase clicks because, as Ian Newby-Clark explains in Psychology Today,

We are social creatures who yearn to be included. We want to be a part of the group and strive for goals set for us.

It’s like a drug: belonging to something bigger than yourself provides a sense of purpose and meaning to our lives.

Marketing Profs has a great article describing how the inclusion of fans into a community motivates them to support a brand both as customers and ambassadors. I suggest you take a look at it as it’s a great read.

As psychologists point out, our social identity is defined by the groups we belong to. This is why Xbox and PlayStation fans, for example, are so prone to debating their platform’s superiority.

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The NFL, along with all other major sports organization in America, uses this psychological principle to its advantage.

Fans show up sporting their team’s colors and mascot costumes because it makes them feel like they belong.

Seattle Seahawks fans surround a Cleveland Browns fan as she mugs for TV cameras Sunday, Nov. 30, 2003 at Seahawks Stadium in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Above: Seattle Seahawks fans surround a Cleveland Browns fan Sunday, Nov. 30, 2003, at Seahawks Stadium in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

6. Offer tiered pricing

As Talia Wolf points out,

Tiered pricing opens the door to all sorts of psychological techniques.

Hyperbolic discounting occurs when different pricing models provide different benefits, allowing us to personalize our shopping experience. Companies such as BuzzStream and CloudFlare employs this technique:

BuzzStream pricing plan
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CloudFlare pricing plan

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Choice-supportive pricing, anchoring effect, and the decoy effect can also be employed to your advantage. With tiered pricing, anything is possible.

Amazon has about a dozen varieties of Prime combined with rewards cards, affiliate bounties, and subscription services to give you payment options beyond just “cash or credit.”

Tiered pricing is becoming even more popular these days with the growth of the software-as-a-service (SaaS) business model.

By subscribing for longer terms, people know they can often save money and thus seek out these types of deals.

Rational choice theory is a framework to model social and economic behavior. It states individual actors choose the option that maximizes their interests and provides the greatest benefit.

A tiered pricing model provides customers with purchasing options that are all, ultimately, with you.

7. Doorbusters work

Retail has long utilized doorbusters to get people in the doors. These savings are responsible for Black Friday leaking further into Thanksgiving every year. Once you have people in the door to buy a low-priced item, you can upsell them better, more expensive products.

Any pricing page should also have a “recommended” and “similar” section. These personalized offers help lead consumers to buy the right item for them, increasing trust in your e-commerce brand along with the ROI.

It should be noted, however, you should avoid the classic bait-and-switch scam that will get you in trouble with the FTC and ruin the reputation of both you and your brand.

It’s also worth mentioning that many analysts think Black Friday is about more than just the doorbusters.

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Professor Jane Thomas at Winthrop University says:

It’s more of a tradition than anything else. People ritualistically line up at brick-and-mortar stores the Friday after Thanksgiving while a growing number wait for Cyber Monday the following week online.

There’s also a psychological difference in the way we perceive prices such as $13.99 vs $14.00. The item priced at $13.99 is more likely to sell because even though it’s only a penny short, it’s $13 and change instead of $14.

Although consumers initially hit a website looking for a cheap deal on SEO services, soon they realize they’re also missing social media, video, CRO, PPC, and many other aspects of marketing.

They want more.

That’s the value of the doorbuster.

The initial doorbuster brings them to you for a killer deal. You get them in and then convert them to buy more stuff.

8. Get smaller yeses first

Much like with the doorbuster sale, you want to lead people by convincing them to agree to smaller things before hitting them with the big ask.

Zendesk does a great job of leading customers through smaller yeses first:

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While the option is there to buy, Zendesk wants you to try the free version first because they’re confident you’ll come back as a paying subscriber once you’ve experienced the platform.

Who doesn’t like free stuff?

By convincing customers to say yes to the smaller ask first, you make saying yes to the bigger ask much easier.

It’s all part of the psychology of negotiation,

explains Heidi Grant Halvorson, PhD.

Making the pie bigger for everyone increases the maximally efficient outcome 79% of the time.

You don’t have to necessarily give out anything for free either. As explained above, even month-to-month subscriptions are a smaller ask than a year-long contract, so providing different levels of the same offer will do the trick.

9. Provide choices

As explained above, offering both payment and product choices is a great way to improve revenue on pricing pages.

A customer is buying a TV, do they need a warranty? Cables? A stand or mount? A DVD Player, home stereo system, or Chromecast?

Give people options for bundles, add-ons, and other available sizes, colors, and brands. But don’t give them so many options that they get overloaded.

In 2000, researchers S.S. Inyengar and M.R. Leper conducted a study allowing supermarket shoppers to sample the different flavors of jam available for purchase. The test compared the impact of having 24 jam flavors to choose from versus having only 6.

Only 3% of those who sampled the 24 flavors went on to purchase the jam, compared to 30% who sampled only 6 flavors.

Too many options will inhibit your customers’ ability to make a clear decision.

Conclusion

Psychology is important in web design and marketing. How people perceive a brand is directly impacted by the appearance of every landing page, including the pricing, checkout, and confirmation pages.

By A/B-testing different versions of those pages, while implementing the psychological principles discussed above, you’ll be able to optimize conversions and revenue streams from your online marketing.

What psychological techniques help you design your web properties?

5 Ways Your Fans Can Help Optimize Your Site for Conversions

I’ve been watching Facebook closely for a long time.

I’ve tested hundreds of ad iterations.

I’ve worked hard to build organic reach for myself and my clients.

Here’s what I’ve concluded: Facebook is awesome. But it’s also tricky.

Why? Because the algorithm is constantly shifting, forcing marketers to up their game, readjust their techniques, and reorient their strategies.

Here’s the thing. If you have a social presence for your business, Facebook has decided that your organic reach needs to shrink.

Again.

You know, of course, that this isn’t the first time the social giant tweaked its algorithm.

In June, Adam Mosseri, VP, Product Management for News Feed at Facebook, shared a post that detailed how Facebook was updating the news feed.

The core of the update is to prioritize posts that come from friends and family while reducing the onslaught of content from businesses and other publishers. Facebook wants users to see more posts from actual people, not businesses doing marketing.

The gist of the algorithm remains the same.

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But the variability is increasing. Mosseri explained:

It will vary a lot by publisher mostly based on how much of their referral traffic or their reach is based on people who actually share their content directly…

If you’ve got strong engagement from your audience and they’re shouting your name from the rooftops as they share your content, or generate content around your brand, you’ll be far less impacted by the update.

But most of the businesses I work with aren’t enjoying that level of stellar engagement.

This is what it boils down to. If you want to improve your reach and engagement, you’ll need to find ways to leverage user-generated content (UGC) since that’s what friends and family will see first.

What I want to communicate is pretty simple: User-generated content is one of the most effective forms of content marketing available today.

User-generated content is the future of content marketing.

UGC will act as dynamite to your social media presence, accelerate your onsite content efforts, increase engagement, boost conversions, and build up a wall of defense against any algorithm the world throws your way.

Let’s talk about where the rubber meets the road—your fans helping your site become a conversion-generating machine.

Why you should put your money into user-generated content

There are a lot of benefits to UGC, and those benefits can be significant. And that’s primarily because you’re not limited to social media when it comes to working with customers to acquire and leverage it—though that’s where a bulk of your gains can come into play.

Consider for a moment that more than half of the adult users on Facebook have around 200 people in their immediate networks, according to Pew Research.

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That social network graph looks something like this:
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If the algorithm wants all those people to see content from their connections first, it’s in your best interest to get your audience producing or creating content about you.

And that’s not just for the sake of a little (or even big) boost in visibility.

Consumers fully admit they find branded information from their peers trustworthy—85% of consumers, to be exact.

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That’s because the vast majority of them find that kind of content to be helpful when they make a decision about whether or not to make a purchase.

Nielsen’s study on this subject showed that 92% of consumers trust content and the opinions of their peers over any other kind of advertising.

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UGC also has influence over that trust, according to data shared by Yotpo:

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UGC is the best way to beat an algorithm that wants to topple and bury your promotions amid pictures of babies, beards, and breakfast platters.

But you’re not limited to Facebook in leveraging it.

With variations in engagement time across different social channels, you can see where there are opportunities to use user-generated content to drive up engagement as well as increase consumer trust.

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Some brands are having a lot of success on other social channels and digital properties with UGC.

Below are a couple of examples of brands that leverage UGC using different channels.

A touch of wanderlust

National Geographic asked users to capture unforgettable people, places, and experiences that have impacted their lives from their travels around the world. The hashtag campaign (#wanderlustcontest) brought in tens of thousands of submissions branded to NatGeo.

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And, of course, among those public submissions were some truly breathtaking and awe-inspiring photos people were all too happy to continue sharing.

Ignite user creativity

Nissan’s luxury car brand, Infiniti, ran a campaign promoting its Q30 model, aiming to leverage the content of its fans to help promote the vehicle. The New Heights contest had users print out a marker card that would display the vehicle in 3D when used with their mobile app.

Fans were encouraged to show off the vehicle in unexpected places by snapping pictures and sharing them with a branded hashtag via different social channels.

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These two great examples of building campaigns and visibility from user-generated content had a couple of things in common:

  1. They both revolved around contests. While this is a good way to encourage action among your followers, it’s not always necessary to give something away in order to source user-generated content.
  2. These two campaigns were actively asking their fans to provide the content.

This aspect—the asking—is the most important part you need to remember.

Why? Because the majority of brands simply don’t ask. If you don’t ask for it, you won’t get it.

It’s just that simple.

So, what’s the simplest and most effective way to get UGC?

Ask your users to provide it.

If you want UGC, ask your followers to provide it

Brands don’t want to be pushy, but with UGC, you’ve got to approach it like you approach a call to action (CTA).

With a CTA, you’re telling your audience explicitly what you want them to do. It’s been proven time and again that without a clear call to action, you lose conversions.

But only about 16% of brands take the same approach with UGC, expressing to fans just what kind of content they want to see. Without that kind of direction, consumers aren’t sure what’s okay to share.

In fact, 50% of consumers want brands to tell them what they should include when creating and sharing content.

You don’t need to give away a luxury or big-ticket item when you make the ask, but you do need to ask.

Don’t sit and wait for your fans to provide you with gold.

Here are some of the best ways you can start sourcing and leveraging user-generated content for your brand and social channels.

1. Curate user-generated content with Yotpo

I’ve long felt that Yotpo is an impressive platform for sourcing reviews, engaging customers, and utilizing customer feedback to promote growth.

Now, it’s even better than ever.

Yotpo has stepped up its game with the recent launch of the Yotpo Curation tool.

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This tool allows you to collect relevant Instagram photos from fans and influencers, displaying them on a single dashboard.

From there, you can tag products and handle rights management (including engagement with the original user to say thanks), inject the photos into your product pages, and even sell from your timeline.

This simplifies the tedium of trying to manually source user-generated images and lets you quickly benefit from the social proof tied to UGC.

In one survey conducted by Yotpo, 77% of consumers admitted they preferred to see consumer photos over professional shots:image03

That’s a clear indication of what you should have on your product pages.

Imagine the impact of having quality reviews alongside images showing off your products being used by actual customers.

It would provide a significant lift in conversions when you consider that 63% of customers are more likely to make a purchase from a site displaying user reviews. A study conducted by Reevoo showed that reviews alone, without any other UGC, lift sales by 18%.

The Yotpo tool turns your customers into brand ambassadors right on your product pages, plus you can create your own shoppable Instagram galleries or post that UGC to other social channels.

2. Build a community

When I talk about building a community, I’m referring to a gathering of people. Literal people in online gatherings.

You may view your social channels as individual and separate communities, but they’re really not. At least not without some kind of organization.

There are a lot of ways to build communities, e.g., Facebook groups, subreddits on Reddit.com, or communities built into your website.

A community you create and manage can give your fans a sense of belonging and make them feel connected to your brand. They’ll share a mix of personal content as well as content related to the brand as they engage with one another.

Through this engagement, you’ll see things like images, videos, and testimonials crop up that are ripe for the picking.

That user-generated content feeds back into the community, encouraging others to generate more of it, and it helps anchor prospective customers who were on the fence about making a purchase.

Giant Vapes is one of the largest online retailers of e-liquid for electronic cigarettes. It also operates a Facebook community, roughly 25,000 members strong. Members regularly share the products they’ve purchased, industry news, their opinions about interactions with the company, praise over shipping and deals, and more.

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3. Give them customization and unique experiences

Customization provides your fans and customers with a sense of real ownership. They’ll naturally want to share with their friends and family what they’ve created, and you can play on that desire by asking them to do so.

Whether it’s a customized piece of clothing, a bag, or a vehicle, customization often leads to some great user-generated content.

And sometimes you don’t even have to ask.

Scores of people got excited about the announcement of Nintendo’s Super Mario Maker. Players create their own Mario levels to play on their own or share with the community. Fans, new and old, went crazy when it launched, and YouTube was flooded with the creations of streamers, generating a lot of visibility for the brand and the game.

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This video has almost 12 million views to date.

In the same vein of creating unique experiences, Hello Games is seeing images and videos of their game No Man’s Sky showing up all over the web, including a subreddit devoted to the game (a user-created community).

No Man’s Sky features a universe boasting over 10 quintillion procedurally (randomly) generated planets, each with creatures and alien plant life different from the last. That guarantees unique content, and fans have been quick to share images and videos of their discoveries since its recent launch.

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When you give your audience something they’ve never experienced before and the chance to create something unique they feel they own, they’re more likely to share that experience far and wide. That builds a lot of trust and provides a lift in conversions.

4. The UGC contest

I touched on contests above with a couple of examples, but in recommending this approach, I wanted to add one more because of the success of the campaign.

Back in 2014, Starbucks invited fans to decorate their white cups with customized art. Fans were asked to submit the images through Twitter with the #whitecupcontest hashtag for a chance to win. There were thousands of entries, and, of course, a constant stream of buzz that drove customers to their local stores.

I’m mentioning this contest specifically because it pulls in elements from my last point: let users customize and do something unique.

You don’t have to have a multi-million dollar budget to add customization to your product line.

Sometimes, you just need to give your customers a blank canvas and set their creativity free.

5. Use videos on product pages

Yotpo can strap a rocket onto your conversions with user-generated images, but don’t let the rocket run out of fuel.

If you can get your fans and customers generating videos of your products in use, those should be added to your product pages as well.

Explainer videos are great, but there’s nothing that sells a product faster than a video showing real, happy customers, who are 100% satisfied with their purchase.

Here are some quick stats that show how effective product videos really are:

  • 90% of users admit that seeing a video about a product helps them make a purchase decision
  • 36% of customers trust video ads; imagine the trust you gain from earned media
  • 64% of visitors are more likely to buy a product after watching a video online
  • Product videos can increase conversions by as much as 20%

Conclusion

Aside from those five tips, it goes without saying that you should absolutely be using product reviews on your website and social channels such as Facebook.

Leverage that social proof, and find creative ways to team up with your customers.

A large portion of your audience are happy to create and share content for you—they just need to know what you’re looking for.

Tell them how to help, inspire them to get creative, and watch your conversions climb steadily as your collection of UGC grows.

Are you using user-generated content right now to build trust with your audience and increase your brand’s visibility? What techniques are you using, and what’s the most successful?

Why Email Marketing Is Still Effective

Time for Friday Five, a curated collection of five recent industry-related articles on one topic. This go round it's Email Marketing. 

6 Reasons Email Marketing is Still an Effective Tool

For some reason, “older” has become synonymous with “obsolete.” But this is not always the case. For example, did you know today’s LCD screens are based on technology from 1968? It’s true. Many companies shy away from email marketing because they think it’s an outdated approach, but 59 percent of B2B marketers said email is the most effective channel for revenue generation. And in 2014, email marketing was listed as the most powerful tool for customer retention. You should still use email marketing for these six reasons.

Read the full story on Business2Community.com.

7 Email Marketing Tips For Marketers

Marketers should always use email marketing to stay connected with their target audience. Regardless of the different strategies open to marketers today, you’ll find email marketing to be integral to your marketing campaign. This is still the leading channel for getting the best ROI.

Read the full story on Forbes.

Email Marketing Is a Double Win for Customer Acquisition, Retention 

For most small- and medium-sized retailers in the US, email marketing is tops when it comes to both customer acquisition and retention. According to research, four-fifths of these professionals said email helps contribute to this outcome. 

Read the full story on eMarketer

Unlocking the full potential of B2B email marketing

A lot has been written about persuading consumers to click and buy. You probably know of some of the popular B2C (Business to Consumer) best practices. But Business to Business email marketing is different in many ways. Yes, there is a person on the other side reading your email, granted. But he finds himself in a business context, this makes that many of the precooked B2C marketing “rules” don’t apply. Whoops! So what does a strong B2B email campaign make?

Read the full story on emailmonday

What Pokémon Go can teach us about email marketing

Last month, Pokémon Go exploded onto the scene, mainstreaming augmented reality and blowing engagement rates out of the water. Now, talk of augmented reality is everywhere, especially in branding and marketing circles. Pokémon Go is not the first app to integrate augmented reality technology into its platform, but it is certainly the most popular. And it’s the first time we’ve seen AR scaled to a mass audience at this level.

Read the full story on Marketing Land.

Email marketing remains a very important tool in a marketer's arsenal. However, if a given email never arrives at its intended target, it won't make any difference. That's precisely why you need to download Email Deliverability: Guide for Modern Marketers.

What Are the Two Types of Seasonal Marketing?

Good marketers know that customers respond best to brands that reach out to them in a meaningful way. The trick comes in figuring out the winning combination of content, timing, and method of delivery that makes the engagement mean something. One of the most important factors in that equation is seasonality, or “the tendency of consumer expenditure on a good or services to vary in some pattern over the course of a year” (Ideas in Marketing, Kubacki 2013).

This blog post will define the two types of seasonal marketing—long-term and short-term—and provide examples of each method’s pros and cons. These examples will deal with sports season and holiday season, which each have a certain inherent culture. It’s important for marketers to understand the strength in connecting seasonality to business, and to know which kind of seasonal campaign is best for their desired ROI.

What’s the Difference?

Long-term seasonal marketing comes into play when businesses create special promotions, offers, and deals around an ongoing and/or long-lasting seasonal event. Short-term seasonal marketing is best for one-off and/or fast-ending events that happen during a season. For example, a retailer can make a long-term seasonal strategy that lasts the entire three-month duration of spring. But it could also build a smaller short-term campaign to run concurrent to the long-term one, with a focus solely on Easter weekend.

Also, long-term seasonal marketing is about building relationships and using subtle, low-risk campaigns to do so. To contrast, short-term seasonal marketing can afford to be more heavy-handed and in the customer’s face, because short-term campaigns have less time to engage people before losing novelty or relevance.

Fourth & Long-Term

Let’s explore one of the most common examples of long-term seasonal marketing: the sales pitch tied to a local sports team. Almost all of us have seen the ads; “For every touchdown the Wichita Generals score, get a free topping on any large pizza from Pizza Johnny’s on gameday!”

Different deals activate under different conditions for different audiences (and as Nate Silver’s 538 blog shows, brands can even calculate the probability an audience will get to use an offer). But in the end, all these deals are linking business to sports because 1) “people will always watch live sports,” as one ad director is quoted in Forbes, and 2) sports are an ongoing “passion point” for many potential customers.

By appealing to customers’ passions for an extended period of time, long-term marketing feels less like selling and more like affirmation from a company to its customers that they have similar values. This is why long-term seasonal marketing has so much in common with relationship marketing, which “focuses on customer loyalty and long-term customer engagement rather than shorter-term goals like customer acquisition and individual sales” (TechTarget). Long-term seasonal marketing is less about instant uplift than increasing brand trust and, by extension, customer lifetime value.

Short-Term Strength

But long-term seasonal campaigns can’t solve all business needs. What if a company doesn’t want an ongoing, low-simmer campaign and wants to bring ROI to a hard boil with big, bold marketing? In that case it should go with a short-term seasonal campaign, which aligns more with transactional marketing than relationship marketing. In transactional marketing, “total focus is on the point of sale, the moment when a customer is actually charged for the item,” reports Signet Interactive. “In and out: Find the right product, click the purchase button … and be done with it.”

Let’s explore by leaving sports for another kind of season—the holidays. In the U.S., the U.K., Canada, and other Western-influenced countries, holiday season lasts from late November to early January, with people spending over a half a trillion dollars in recent years. Business can thus use this season for both long-term and short-term marketing, with short-term, one-off campaigns built inside a larger, long-term framework.

Retailers, for example, know holiday sales “can account for as much as 30% of [their] annual sales” (NRF). So a popular short-term strategy is to focus on individual days, like Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and to provide eye-popping deals that encourage spending.

According to Deal News, in 2015 video game prices were slashed by an average of 72% on Black Friday in the U.S.; iPhones were 67% off, and beauty products were 53% off. These aren’t modest promotions meant to stay interesting to customers for a long period of time. On the contrary, in the long term these steep price cuts would actually end up costing companies money. In the short term, however, this kind of promotion is valuable and profitable. It attracts so many new customers that the difference between normal price and sales price is offset by the sheer volume of purchases.

What happens when these amazing sales are over, though? Will the new customers that retailers attracted remain customers? This is the main drawback of short-term seasonal marketing. Because it is so transactional, it’s great at pulling in new conversions but not at ensuring these conversions will repeat. In other words, while short-term campaigns are good for customer acquisition, long-term campaigns are better for continuing acquisition.

Whether you’re taking the short-term or long-term campaign approach, this eBook will help you out tremendously. Download Making Spirits Bright: Increase Holiday Results With Retail Shopping Research for a happy holiday retail season.

How Much Should You Spend on Paid Ads? Here’s My Data-Driven Formula

A few years back when I first started NeilPatel.com, I spent $66,372.09 on paid advertising through LinkedIn, Google AdWords, Retargeter, Perfect Audience, and StumbleUpon ads.

You might say that’s a lot of money.

It was. But I learned some valuable lessons.

I learned which platforms and networks work best for targeting which audiences with which ads.

Some of my takeaways?

LinkedIn, for example, provided an excellent return on B2B ads, while Google still reigned supreme for B2C. StumbleUpon’s conversion rate for paid products was woefully low.

The top three paid ad spots on Google’s SERPs, for example, get 41% of the clicks. Even the best SEO techniques will only expose you to 59% of the viewing audience, and Google’s knowledge graph and infoboxes are quickly cutting into that as well.

Marketing professionals across the board agree that pay-per-click advertising works. The hard part is getting set up with a solid PPC plan to serve as your foundation.

We need to know how much to spend, when to spend it, where to spend it, and how to spend it correctly.

Those are tough calls to make, especially if you’re a paid advertising newbie. The paid platforms can be complicated and confusing. What do you do with all these options, data, and metrics?

image04

To answer these questions and be successful, instead of playing a guessing game, we need information and cold hard data. 

How PPC works

First, a quick lesson in PPC, which you probably already know. I’m including it for the newbs (and a refresher for the pros—it never hurts!).

Google and other search engines allow you to purchase ad views on their platforms on a pay-per-click pricing model. The actual price is determined by the number of searches and ads running for a particular keyword or phrase.

A popular search term, such as “insurance,” can cost $59 per click to advertise, meaning you’ll have to pay Google $59 for every lead it gets to your website by displaying your ad at the top of the search results for the terms you bid on.

This isn’t your typical example, however, as “insurance” is actually the most expensive PPC keyword by a large margin.

These costs can be mitigated (and conversions improved) by targeting specific demographics, affinity groups, geographic locations, and mobile devices, which are generating more and more search traffic.

image01

Of course, search engines aren’t the only platforms for paid ads. Social networks and video ads are rising in popularity, as explained in this Search Engine Land article by Pauline Jakober.

Video ads in search results aren’t a reality yet, but with Alphabet owning both Google, the world’s largest search engine, and YouTube, the world’s largest video platform, it’s only a matter of time.

Determining CAC and LTV

CPC isn’t the same as your customer acquisition cost (CAC). What ultimately determines your CAC is your website’s conversion rate.

If each web visitor costs $59 to obtain and you’re only converting 50% of your visitors, the customer acquisition cost for your PPC campaign is actually double your CPC, or $118 in the example of insurance.

This doesn’t take into account the rest of the marketing budget either, which also includes radio, print, television, social media, billboard, event marketing, and other customer outreach initiatives.

The CAC is calculated by dividing all marketing expenses by the number of customers acquired in the same period. For example, if a company spent $10,000 on marketing in a year and acquired 10,000 customers as a result, its CAC is $1.00.

Balancing the CAC with the customer’s lifetime value (LTV) is how you create a successful business model.

image06

So long as the LTV is larger than the CAC, your marketing efforts are working, and you have a sustainable business model.

When the CAC rises above the LTV, you’re in trouble.

Because understanding this concept is critical, here’s a graphic to help make the lesson sink in:

image03

To calculate the LTV of a customer, you need to know how much each customer spends in an average purchase, how many purchases the average customer makes in a certain time period (day/week/month/year), and how long the average customer sticks around.

Profit margins, discounts, customer retention rate, and gross margins are all factored in to the final formula, which you can find here.

In the case of an insurance company, if an average policy costs $1,000 ($100 is profit), and the average customer is retained for 3 years, you’re making $300 for every $118 spent on your PPC campaign, which is close to the actual average.

Businesses make an average of $3 for every $1.60 they spend on AdWords.

I’m sure you want to double your money. We all do. But if everyone is advertising for the keyword “insurance,” they’re missing quite a bit of traffic. You need to check associated keywords.

Extending keyword searches

There are millions of searches for insurance every month, but you have no idea whether those people are looking for medical, life, business, home, phone, or auto insurance.

image00

It’s still worthwhile to advertise on a single keyword, but with such a high CPC, you shouldn’t pour all your budget into that one highly competitive keyword.

image07

“Car Insurance,” “insurance quotes,” “auto insurance,” “compare car insurance,” and “car insurance quotes” all have different prices for different search volumes. Spreading your budget across all these keyword phrases increases the chances that your ad is seen by people searching the web in different ways.

At this point, your overall CPC will be determined by the cost and frequency of each individual search term. You can afford to buy some traffic for “insurance” and “auto insurance” so long as it’s balanced out with “compare car insurance,” “insurance quotes,” and “car insurance quotes.”

You now have a potential pool of customers that’s three times the size of your original pool, which maximizes the reach of your ads.

Continue this research into five- and seven-word long-tail searches for the best results. For example, phrases such as “Best car insurance company in Arizona” or “Cheapest car insurance for 2005 Ford Mustang” are great ways to target specific regions or car owners.

The longer a search term, the more specific information a customer is typically looking for. While searches may be lower, bids will also be lower, allowing you to obtain some customers for $5 and others for $50 while still maintaining a low CAC.

Portioning budgets for each keyword is critical as this is one of two places where smart marketers maximize their ROI. The other is targeting specific customers using Remarketing lists for search ads.

Targeting the right customers

A few years ago, Google moved beyond focusing on just keyword searches to looking at contextual information about customers.

The most valuable result from this change was RLSA—remarketing lists for search ads.

RLSA lets you target customers who have visited your website previously.

image02

Bounce rates are high on websites, but just because a customer leaves doesn’t mean they’re not interested. Shoppers may visit a site 9 times before purchasing, so the more they visit, the further down the conversion funnel they may be.

Take a look at this sales funnel:

image05

For every 5,000 visitors, only 100 inquiries are received, so why waste ad money on those 100 when you should be focusing on converting the other 4,900?

Using RLSA, you can optimize bids to increase your ROI. Tirendo Tires, for example, increased sales by 22% and conversions by 163% simply by raising their bids on previous homepage visitors.

World Travel Holdings increased ROI by 30% by using RLSA to target previous site visitors for broad search terms (like “insurance” in the example above).

By adding the remarketing tag to your website, you allow Google to further segment your visitors and hyperfocus your PPC ad campaigns.

Of course, the downside to these PPC ad platforms is you can’t determine who is already a paying customer. I constantly receive ads for products and services I’ve already purchased, which I know is wasting the advertiser’s money.

You also have to be wary of disgruntled customers and employees who may purposefully click your ads without making a purchase. (Seriously, people do this in order to drive up the cost of your ad spend.)

Segmenting and targeting ads in any way is an essential step toward optimizing them and getting the most bang for your marketing buck.

Conclusion

PPC is still one of the most popular methods of advertising, with over $500 billion spent annually on it.

It can be exciting to envision massive ROI and all the extra sales you’ll be able to make by simply toggling some ads and letting them run.

Before spending any money on a campaign, however, it’s important to understand what keywords and searches have the best conversions for your site. Targeting these searches with ads moves you to the top of the search results, giving you optimal visibility.

Beyond just search terms, it’s also important to target customers at specific points in the sales funnel.

The actual cost of your PPC campaign isn’t as important as the ratio of CAC to LTV. It’s okay to spend a little more if you are marketing a more expensive product or a company with higher retention rates.

So long as your overall marketing budget doesn’t outweigh the lifetime ROI from customers, you’ve built a sustainable business model.

How much are you spending on paid search? Are you getting a solid ROI?

Mastering eCommerce Conversions with VWO and Demandware

Shopping Cart and Conversion Optimization platforms together have been making lives simpler for eCommerce business owners. With its latest release, VWO adds Demandware to its kitty of third-party app integrations to allow easy configuration of VWO SmartCode on Demandware stores. In addition, eCommerce stores using Demandware can also track their store revenue and configure custom URLs to run tests.

Using the plug-in, Demandware users can now directly add their preferred type of VWO SmartCode (Asynchronous or Synchronous) to all pages on their shopping website and get cracking with their A/B testing campaign. The plug-in also allows eCommerce websites to track revenue conversions in their preferred format, using different combinations of tax and shipping charges along with the actual value of each order.

A key outcome of this integration is that businesses running Demandware can enable custom URL tracking. This tracking allows running test campaigns on SEO-friendly URLs that don’t have a common pattern. In a typical eCommerce store, URLs are often morphed to match frequent search queries. However, the changing nature of these URLs makes it difficult for marketing platforms to recognize their page types. VWO’s custom URL tracking allows users to easily classify URLs into different categories such as Product Page, Category Page, or Checkout Page, and then run test campaigns on a specific group of pages together.

How Does it Work?

Installing the VWO code on your Demandware store is a one-minute process. Simply download the VWO plug-in and import it into your Demandware studio. Now, follow these simple steps to configure the VWO cartridge for your store with your preferred settings.

In simple words, there is no need to individually add the VWO code to all pages on your Demandware store. The VWO plug-in does all that for you in no time! Also, don’t forget to configure your revenue tracking with VWO and enable custom URLS for running targeted campaigns.

VWO Free-trial CTA

The post Mastering eCommerce Conversions with VWO and Demandware appeared first on VWO Blog.

Want To Know How To Harness Data and Optimize Customer Experience?

Data and customer experience (CX) may be the two biggest things on marketers' collective minds right now. Marketers around the world want to know how to best use data and optimize the customer experience. 

Of course it's not that easy as today’s digital consumers are demanding. They have become more unforgiving of a poor customer experience and expect their desktop and mobile devices to be responsive, efficient, and easy to use. Modern Marketers understand that creating and delivering an exceptional experience—one that is unmatched by the competition—is the key to gaining continued satisfaction and loyalty from these consumers.

In fact, according to a report from Econsultancy and Ensighten more than 90 percent of CMOs and VPs of e-commerce state that customer experience optimization (CXO) is a must-have for their organization to increase revenue growth, engagement, and ROI.

But despite CXO being a critical part of successful business growth, the same study finds that almost two-thirds of marketing leaders feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of incoming data and are unable to turn it into real-time digital optimization on websites and apps.

Marketers agree that implementing an optimization program at scale can quickly become a complex task due to the multiple tools available in the industry, multiple touch points that customers use to engage with their brands, and legacy technology implemented in their organization.

Five Key Functions for Optimization

A successful optimization program enables marketers to meet business goals for revenue, market share, and cost. It converts more visitors, increases average order value, and transforms one-time visitors into loyal customers. For marketers to drive these results, there are five key functions that every optimization program should have: 

1. Testing & Targeting. Find and serve the best customer experiences for all your online visitors or key segments of visitors.

2. Personalization. Curate and deliver optimal, individual experiences to each visitor based on behavior and preferences.

3. InsightsGather data-driven insights that identify the most lucrative opportunities for optimization and uncover hidden visitor segments that can be targeted for optimal conversions.

4. Channels. Create a consistent, personalized customer experience across web, mobile, and apps.

5. IntegrationsIntegrate online and offline visitor data from multiple sources to create more meaningful, personalized customer experiences. 

Does your current technology do all this?

Hold that thought… 

Want To Know How To Harness Data and Optimize Customer Experience?

Of course you do. 

That's why you need to register for Harness Data, Optimize Customer Experience, a webinar that will show how to be a step above your competition when it comes to harnessing data and optimizing the customer experience.

Harness Data, Optimize Customer Experience
Wednesday, August 31st
1:00PM EST / 10:00AM PST

How to Create Your Own Social Media Video Marketing Strategy

Whether you’re a video producer fielding numerous calls from your social media management team or the social manager making the requests, it isn’t lost on anyone that social media video content has exploded in popularity.

While it’s easy to recognize the need for a robust social media video marketing strategy, it’s more difficult to actually create your own plan that sets you apart from every other video online. That’s why we put together this guide to help you create and launch your own amazing social media videos:

Sections:

  1. Why Social Media Video Marketing
  2. Creating Cost-Effective Social Videos
  3. Choosing Your Video Marketing Goals
  4. Choosing What Kind of Videos to Shoot
  5. Publishing and Promoting Your Content
  6. Tips for Creating Engaging Videos

wistia-sprout_insights-cta

1. Why Social Media Video Marketing?

Social media video marketing strategies take time and resources. Down the line, you may be asked to explain why your efforts are valuable to the social media stakeholders. Make sure you know why video is important for social media to help make your case.

Conveying Complex Information

It’s incredibly difficult to convey complex information across social media sites. The most popular networks rely on brevity. Some of our favorite social networks, like Twitter, even have character limits set. How can you be expected to explain something as complicated as a new feature or product with a 140-character limit? You really can’t do it justice in 140 characters, which is why video is the perfect way to share.

While Twitter has a 140-character limit on Tweets, their video limit is 2 minutes and 20 seconds. Imagine how much more information you can convey with a video than a simple Tweet.

Building Rapport

Social media can be a very cold place for customers trying to reach brands they care about. There are no face-to-face interactions and responses are usually brief or non-existent. That’s why brands should consider creating some social media videos showcasing the faces behind the keyboards. Customers want to do businesses with brands they know and feel emotionally invested in, so make some quick videos introducing your social team.

Increased Engagement

Whether it’s due to one or several of the reasons listed above, videos on social see more engagement than common text updates, links or photos. Because social media engagement can help boost your reach, clicks and revenue, it’s essential to take advantage of social media video content. Below is a brief look at how Sprout’s social video content performs compared to other content types.

Facebook Video Analytics

Scaling Popularity

According to Social Media Examiner’s 2016 Industry Report, 60% of marketers are currently using video and 73% plan to increase their use of video. Make sure you’re establishing your strategy early so you’re not left in the dust.

2. Creating Cost-Effective Social Media Videos

One major barrier for brands creating social media videos is the cost. Many marketers believe it takes an expensive video crew to make all of your content. However, our good friends at Wistia put together this next section on how to create your own social media videos at low cost:

The Camera

One of the best ways to save money on video is to make it yourself rather than hiring a videographer or company to produce it for you. This does not mean you need to go out and buy a fancy DSLR (digital single-lens reflex camera) if you don’t already own one. Try using your iPhone. The cameras on today’s smartphones are really quite good. Besides, when it comes to visual quality, lighting has just as much of an impact (if not more so) than the camera itself.

The Lights

When it comes to light, the bottom line is this: Eliminate all shadows on your subject’s face. Shadows can make the talent (aka the person on camera) look tired and drawn. Having good light will make your subject look as animated as possible. There are plenty of expensive lighting kits out there, but even if you can’t afford a pre-made kit, we’ve put together a basic lighting kit to get you started.

Go to Home Depot or Amazon.com, and buy the following:

  • 3 clip lights: $9 each
  • 3 daylight color CFL bulbs (buy different wattage options for flexibility): $2.75 each
  • 3 spring clips: $2 each
  • 3 12-foot extension cords: $2.50 each
  • 1 package of clothespins: $2.50 each

If you’re on an even tighter budget, try using natural light. Find a spot with large windows, and position your subject so that he or she is facing the windows. You’ll get the best shot on a bright, but slightly cloudy day. Make sure you turn off overhead lights, since they’ll cast unattractive shadows, even if you’re using natural light as well.

The Microphone

Your message is arguably even more important that any visual aspect of your social media video marketing. So make sure you’re capturing the best sound possible. You can use many different types of mics to accomplish this.

But there are some tips that you should follow no matter what. Get the mic as close to your subject as possible but ideally out of the frame itself. Definitely avoid using the built-in mic on your camera or smartphone, since it will pick up too much background noise and won’t be sufficiently close to your subject.

The Studio

You can create your own mini studio in just about any room. Your video will look most polished and well-produced if you find a room with a solid color wall or backdrop. This will eliminate any background clutter as well. You can also make sure you’re capturing the best sound if you turn off surrounding noise such as air conditioners or heating units.

Make sure you’re using a tripod (or at least using something steady to stabilize the camera) while you shoot. Taking the time to create a well-lit, well-put-together space for the creation of your video will make the process simpler. Also your final product will be more compelling to the viewers.

3. Choosing Your Video Marketing Goals

Before you get behind the camera you need to figure out what you actually want out of your social media video marketing strategy. Hammer down your goals because these will help you decide what kind of videos you should be making. Here are some common social goals to choose from:

Brand Awareness

A lot of social marketers focus on growing their following and that’s for good reason. Social media is an amazing channel to get your brand in front of new, qualified audiences. While increasing brand awareness may not seem as glamorous as driving leads to your site, it’s just as important since 75.3% of people are inclined to make purchases because of what they’ve seen on social.

percentage of people who purchase because of social media

Lead Generation

If your main focus is on generating leads with things like gated webinars or eBooks you can leverage videos on social media to help with promotion. Create videos that help promote those gated pieces of content and you can drive more clicks to your site and downloads, leading to an increase in leads.

Customer Acquisition

Acquiring customers on social media is a big goal for marketers. We all know that social media is very important for many qualifiable reasons. But acquiring customers can drive quantifiable data. Videos can help you explain your offering without coming off too salesy.

Customer Retention

It costs roughly 5 times more to attract new customers than it does to keep your current customers. That’s why it’s important to leverage your social media accounts to keep your customers happy. Share videos that teach your customers how to use your products and show what new features are coming out to keep them coming back. You can also share case studies to show your customers how other brands leverage your products.

4. Choosing Different Kinds of Videos to Shoot

The videos you create should depend on your overall social media goals. This is because each type of video will resonate with individuals at different stages of the marketing funnel differently.

Educational Videos

Educational videos are great for building brand awareness. When you show individuals in your specific industry how they can accomplish a task, it helps build trust. These users are more likely to follow you and share your content out to their communities.

Tasty by Buzzfeed is one of the most popular examples of this in action. Their short videos teach users how to create delicious meals and receive amazing engagement.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L_J6ERLpFKI]

It’s even more powerful if the videos you create show how your product can help. For example, Sprout Social may create a video teaching users how to create a social media editorial calendar, something that they can do effectively with Sprout.

FAQ Videos

Social media managers often see the same questions frequently. You can save time answering those messages by creating videos. Share them out to your community to boost brand awareness and increase customer retention.

Lead Gen Teasers

If your goal is to leverage social media to drive leads, then video is your best friend. Videos give you the opportunity to advertise your gated pieces of content just like a commercial. You can also tease what users will receive if they enter their contact information, which helps conversion rates climb.

Product Videos

When you have a major feature or product release, you should consider creating and sharing a video to show to your customers. It’s much easier to teach users what you can do with a video than several social posts. Also, teaching your customers how to use your products is good for retention.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=04gtAx9CyN0?feature=oembed&w=500&h=281]

Culture Videos

Customers are turning to social media to have meaningful interactions with brands, but it can feel unfamiliar chatting with representatives from behind a computer. Share some videos from behind the scenes to showcase the individuals responding on social to help develop lasting relationships with your current customers.

5. Publishing & Promoting Your Content

Once you have your videos created, it’s time to start scheduling and publishing them on social. This will help you get in front of your target audience faster and more efficiently. Once you’ve had some time to publish enough videos, you can start to dig into your social media analytics to see what’s working and what isn’t.

Sprout Social Sent Messages Report

Try leveraging a social media analytics tool like Sprout Social to pull your historical social media data and ask yourself key questions, like:

  • Which video length works best?
  • Which type of video works best?
  • Which post copy drives clicks?
  • What type of emotion facilitates response?
  • Which days and times work best?

6. Tips for Creating Engaging Videos

Once you have your social media video marketing strategy off the ground, it’s time to start refining your videos to increase engagement. Check out this eBook Sprout Social and Wistia co-created with 10 Tips for Creating Engaging Social Media Videos!

This post How to Create Your Own Social Media Video Marketing Strategy originally appeared on Sprout Social.

Why are all the best marketers moving to YouTube?


Why are all the best marketers moving to YouTube?

Video is taking over – and TubeBuddy will help you grow your audience faster and stronger.

Five years ago the best content marketers were blogging.

Today they are moving into original video content – content that is created not to sell, but to engage.

And with YouTube being the #2 search engine, it makes sense to spend as much time growing your YouTube channel as you do growing your Pokemon collection.

You have a video editor sitting unused on your computer. Why not use it?

“AppSumo, is there a tool we should be using with YouTube?”

You bet your sweet Toyota Camry there is.

Meet TubeBuddy.

By optimizing your titles, descriptions, and tags – you can get some serious traction on your vids.

TubeBuddy is going to optimize your YouTube videos so you can drive tons of traffic to them and grow your subscribers.

“Will it really?”

Does AppSumo love delicious tacos? (Yes. Yes, we do.)

Lifetime Access to TubeBuddy

Notice how it even tells me what tags my viewers are looking for

With TubeBuddy, you can track your success and gain valuable insight from data on your videos (and even your competitors’).

It even tells you what keywords you’re ranking for!

How is the integration so seamless?

Because all of TubeBuddy’s functions are built right into YouTube’s website via their nifty extension.

Don’t believe me? (&#9834 Just watch &#9834). Over 800 reviews with a 4.5 Star average? Yeah. No big deal.

Lifetime Access to TubeBuddy

Lifetime Access to TubeBuddy

I know what you’re thinking – this sounds expensive.

Well, Sumo-lings, if you were to mosey on over to TubeBuddy’s website, you’d see that the price for a Pro membership is only $108/yr.

That’s less than my Netflix subscription! (I chill hard).

But, you know AppSumo is all about deals.

And after 28 hours of intense negotiating, TubeBuddy agreed to offer Sumo-lings lifetime access for only $39!

Woohoo!

Click here to buy TubeBuddy Pro for $39 now!

YouTube only gives you a few tools and analytics.

But TubeBuddy takes it to the next level.

Lifetime Access to TubeBuddy

Know when is the best time to publish.

This is just one of TONS of features TubeBuddy has – built right into the extension, so you never have to leave the browser!

You may be asking yourself what are some Pro features that come with this deal.

Pro membership gives you unlimited access to:

  • Video Topic Planner
  • Thumbnail & Animated GIF Generator
  • Stats tracking
  • Annotation Templates
  • Canned Responses
  • and lots more!

If you used TubeBuddy for 3 yrs you’d dish out over $300!

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Lifetime Access to TubeBuddy

  • Lifetime access to TubeBuddy Pro for 1 YouTube channel
  • Unlimited access to Best time to Publish analysis
  • Unlimited access to Suggested Tags
  • Unlimited access to Tag Explorer & Tag Sorter
  • Unlimited access to Video Topic Planner
  • Unlimited access to Thumbnail Generator
  • Unlimited access to Animated Gif Generator
  • 60-day money back guarantee. No matter the reason.

AppSumo Price: $39
Original Price: $500

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How Facebook Live Will Impact the Near Future of Video Advertising

What does Facebook Live mean for the future of video advertising? It means YouTube and Hulu will be eating Facebook’s leftovers.

As Facebook–which has most of its traffic on mobile–increases the adoption of its Facebook Live platform, we’ll see the landscape of video advertising change dramatically and quickly. In a very short period of time, video buyers are considering Facebook as the most important video–not just social–advertising platform. Facebook Live and in-feed video are catalysts in that growth.

SuttonGuestPost1

Pictured: Advertiser Perceptions talked with more than 300 agency and client executives who place video advertising. Study commissioned by Trusted Media Brands.

Recently, 65 percent of marketers said social platforms are their most important partners for digital video campaigns (and social equals Facebook like tissue equals Kleenex).

First, Facebook went to market with in-stream, in-browser-view video–an incredibly different direction from what consumers and agencies say they want. But wait a minute: What do agencies want? Four of 10 say the Facebook model will be the de facto standard.

Then, Facebook beat Google to the punch with Facebook Live–first to market, first in mindshare:

SuttonGuestPost2

You could argue that 72 percent to 69 percent is a rounding error. Then look at agency sentiment, which is no doubt statistically significant. YouTube, the incumbent, has a problem. It’s called “Facebook Live,” but I digress.

Based on the aforementioned current marketplace shifts, marketers and agencies need to think about the near future of video. Here are three key trends driving this change:

  1. Social to surpass video platforms as key distribution: While video platforms are favored by 59 percent of all respondents, marketers rate social as the most important (65 percent). Programmatic will drive at least one-third of ad spend. It’s clear from the Advertiser Perceptions research that Facebook turned the tables on the video discussion 180 degrees toward its social platform by aggressively introducing Facebook Live. The research also points to auto-play and in-browser videos as to why Facebook is now seen as the video leader.
  2. Less will be more … impact: Short-form video is most popular among digital advertisers, and the use of micro video is likely to grow. Marketers surveyed believe shorter video content costs less to create and is better suited to attract consumers on social. Short form content is a better native fit and audiences are more receptive in this medium, agency respondents showed.
  3. In-stream auto-play is gaining acceptance: Why is Facebook Live important to the future of video on the social platform? It’s all about the great “auto-play debate.” The industry has a myriad of reactions when it comes to in-stream, auto-play and sound-off video. Opposition seems low, and some buyers are of the mindset that consumers are “too lazy” to click and it’s the best shot at exposure.

Yet consumers are not so keen. A majority (six in 10) don’t like auto-play videos, citing negative impacts on the user experience, like a lack of control or the sound being intrusive. The rest of the group, the other 40 percent, are an even split among those neutral to auto-play and those who like auto-play.

SuttonGuestPost3

Facebook Live is the social media company smartly doubling down in the video space. Since YouTube’s launch in 2005, it had the video market covered. But Facebook exposes a tear in the seam of YouTube’s seemingly unstoppable video domination.

We’ve seen the future of video, and it’s Facebook Live.

Rich Sutton is chief revenue officer at global media and direct marketing company Trusted Media Brands.

Why So Many Email Marketers Are Worried About Spamhaus

The talk this week in Deliverability has centered around a rash of Spamhaus listings. The narrative is that someone set off a massive number of “list bombs” (entering tons of email addresses at sites without CAPTCHA or Confirmations) which targeted websites that didn’t have any confirmation capabilities.

Those addresses were then added to the lists of those sites. The “hacked” senders are now potentially on the radar of Spamhaus, which led to lots and lots of listings, which consequently led to misery for the senders themselves.

We’re in an interesting time right now even with all of the anti-spam talk and regulations that are out there, Spamhaus is interestingly the only real power broker in the blacklisting space. A listing from Spamhaus can basically shut down an email program, because so many ISP’s use the Spamhaus listing as their blacklisting of choice.

No Denying It

Make no mistake about it, getting listed by Spamhaus will ruin your day, and probably cost you some money. A Spamhaus listing is a devastating thing for some marketers, as the listing exposes the weaknesses in their program, and they find out about the ongoing danger.

There is an easy answer to this potential issue. If you use confirmed opt-in, you NEVER have to worry about Spamhaus, or probably any other blacklisting again. That’s right, if you use confirmed opt-in, you are not going to be listed on Spamhaus… ever. For some of you reading this who have never been on this list, you don’t realize how life changing one of these listings can be, you don’t understand the fuss. You won’t feel that way after the listing.

I know (and have heard) all of the arguments of why you can’t do confirmed opt-in. I’d like to go through these individual reasons, and talk about why if they aren’t already invalid, they will be soon.

  1. List Size Matters – The most common reason for not moving to confirmed opt-in. Maybe you sell or rent your list, and the numbers do matter. People want bigger lists because they want to reach more people.
  2. People won’t click a confirm link in another email.
  3. My Terms of Service has all of my permission rules. That’s why someone can sign-up for one newsletter, but I can send them another.
  4. It isn’t against the law.

These are the most common excuses we get when we talk confirmed opt-in. The truth is that, these are all outdated excuses, and they just don’t hold up anymore. Change now, or your strategy may be changed by someone else in a way that you probably won’t be comfortable with.

The Counterpoints

  • List size is an antiquated way of looking at distribution lists. Sending to bad or fake addresses does nothing except hurt your overall deliverability. This means that your good addresses may be impacted. People who didn’t want your email either get it and complain about it, or they just put in a fake email that might be a spam trap. Many companies who pay for inclusion in email lists have started asking for actual engagement data, not just the number of email sent. The real world analogy would be sending physical bulk mail and having half of the mailers ending up in a trash can at the post office.
  • People will click a confirmation email these days. We are all conditioned to do it. Lots of responsible mailers follow-up the sign-up process with a confirmation message. People are willing to click that email for messages they are interested in receiving. Notice that I said interested.
  • If you are one of those TOS mailers, this is a good time to stop that as well. Nobody wants to receive a newsletter or mailings from a brand they didn’t ask for.
  • We’re not lawyers, and we can’t give legal advice, but I can tell you that when mailers tell us they are CAN-SPAM compliant, it’s usually a sign that they are doing the minimum amount possible. Spamhaus could care less about the law, Gmail doesn’t care about the law, and neither do most receivers. They aren’t trying to sue you, just block all of your messages.

It’s time to move to confirmed opt-in. The excuses are just that, excuses. You build a better list, improve your deliverability, can provide partners with real value, and have engaged customers. When you send a mailing, people will receive it. Don’t take the easy route. Forget about Spamhaus now by doing the right thing.

One other right thing you can do is download Email Deliverability: Guide for Modern Marketers to find out how to achieve email deliverability that really delivers. 

Is your mom your only fan?


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AppSumo Price: $39
Original Price: $720

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