• Paid or Organic Social Media Marketing? Do You Know Which to Use . . . And Why?

    Quick, answer these questions.

    Which is better, a hammer or a screwdriver?

    Is a sauce pan better than a skillet?

    Should you use paid or organic social media marketing?

    The answer to all three questions is the same in every case: It depends. The tool you use depends on the task at hand, the results you want, and how you want to achieve those results.

    Source: Search Engine Land

    If you have an online business presence (and if you don’t we need to talk), social media marketing is mandatory. If you don’t have some kind of social media presence, you could be on your way to irrelevancy.

    A major part of social media marketing is understanding the two different types: paid vs. organic.

    Really, though, putting it this way sets up a false dichotomy that lands you in an either-or fallacy. Like most things in life, it’s not “either-or,” but “both-and” – depending on what and how you want to invest in your marketing efforts. Let’s take a look, then.

    Paid Social Media Marketing

    Here’s the short definition. With paid social, you invest money in return for a better chance at getting fast results.

    The most important advantage of paid is that you can define and target a specific audience with, say, carefully crafted ads designed to engage those people who may already have an interest in your product or service.

    Since these ads can be optimized for a specific target audience, zeroing in on those people who meet your specific demographics profile. And this means they are likely to click on your ad or visit your website.

    The paid route will almost certainly get you faster and better results than simply relying on organic.

    In fact, here’s a very important note:

    These days, with all the chatter and noise on every social media channel, it’s virtually impossible to get great results solely from organic social. If you want to get more eyes on your posts and grow your business, you simply have to start investing in paid social.

    Once your ad goes live on the various social media channels, you’ll start getting clicks and visitors to your website. Paid social marketing also usually has built-in analytics – like Facebook Insights, for example, which gives you analytics information on your Facebook ads – which makes it ideal for testing and launching new products or services.

    But as with any paid advertising, there is a small risk involved. There’s no absolute guarantee that you’ll see positive ROI. Without research and careful planning, paid social campaigns can plateau.

    That’s why developing a strong social strategy is key to reaping the potential benefits of paid social.

    And before we switch gears, here’s one more important thing to know about paid social

    Organic Social Media Marketing

    Again, here’s the short definition. With organic social, you invest time and effort for slower, but longer-lasting, results. It’s not as tightly focused as paid, but it can keep on working for you over the long haul. It’s also just as vital to your business as paid social.

    Primarily, organic social media marketing involves using the free tools available through the various social media platforms to build a social community with which you can regularly interact. The goal in all that is to get eyes on your content, which in turn leads to sign-ups, leads, new customers/clients, and sales.

    Although organic is time- and labor-intensive, it does get results. After all, an ad may get a potential customer to Like your Facebook page, but if there’s not much there for them to see once they click on to it, you’ve probably lost that customer for good.

    In addition, organic social marketing has staying power far beyond that of paid. Ads are run for only a set time period, but those links in your tweets to that high-quality article on your website keep getting shared. They can keep rattling around the web indefinitely, earning you leads today, tomorrow, and five years from now.

    Like paid social, however, getting the best results from organic social requires a clear, laid-out strategy. You’ll need to use multiple social media channels where you deploy quality, sharable, strategically planned content. The aim is to keep potential customers and/or clients engaged.

    A Combination of Paid and Organic

    So which is best, paid or social? The answer is neither – instead, a strategic combination of both is best. And businesses are catching on.

    Source: Clutch, Social Media Marketing Survey 2016: Paid Versus Organic Social Media

    For proof that a combined model is best, take a read through this case study as reported by Contently.

    Castrol Moto, the motorcycle division of Castrol, conducted a one-year experiment using both organic and paid social media campaigns on Facebook. The goal was to boost North American engagement with their brand.

    For the first six months of this experiment, Castrol Moto used only organic. Because of their quality content, they garnered 5,000 new fans in that short six-month period – which is really pretty impressive for a brand-spanking-new Facebook page. And they had engagement, too: 26,000 social interactions.

    But here’s the catch. Although Castrol Moto was targeting North America only, Facebook has global reach – and organic social-marketing results can’t be controlled according to target region. It turned out, then, that 80% of the 5,000 fans were of little to no value for this region-specific organic social campaign.

    So for the second six months of this year-long experiment, the company shifted its social focus to paid marketing while still keeping up content distribution through organic marketing. The emphasis was on clearly targeted ads – by region, interests, and age – and heavily promoted and similarly targeted posts. And the results were little short of astounding.

    With this six-month-long social media marketing campaign combining both organic and paid tactics, Castrol Moto added over 30,000 new fans. And a full 50% of those 30,000-some fans were located in the target region. Just take a look at the graphic below.

    Source: Contently

    Whether you decide to use paid or organic or a combination of the two, social media marketing is something you can’t afford to neglect. Ready for more essential social media reading? Check out our post “12 Must-Have Social Media Skills for Every Digital Marketer.”

  • Why Quality Content is the Backbone of Any Inbound Marketing Strategy

    Many brands that are new to inbound marketing struggle to understand just why content creation is such an invaluable element in any inbound marketing strategy.

    Why do we need blog posts? What real value does this ebook provide? How do we know when the content is working?

    We get these questions all the time, and we understand how difficult it can be, at first, to “get” content marketing. So we decided to put some of our answers into a blog post. Here are the reasons why quality content is the backbone of any inbound marketing strategy.

    First: what’s “inbound marketing”?

    Inbound marketing involves using tactics that help potential customers find your brand.

    In other words, you’re not expending energy and resources sending marketing messages out to people who may not even be interested in your what you have to offer.

    Instead, your focus is on strategies that attract customers to your website. That means creating great content, sharing relevant posts on social media, optimizing your site and content for SEO, etc.

    This is a fundamental change from the way that companies used to understand marketing. Today, people don’t want to be interrupted. They don’t want banner ads advertising something they’ve never been interested in. A growing number are using ad blockers. Digital natives, or Gen Z, are especially good at tuning out anything that feels like an ad.

    All this has meant that brands have had to change the way they sell themselves to potential customers. And in this brave new world, content is king.

    Why content?

    Simply put, inbound marketing does not work without content. How are you going to attract visitors to your website if you don’t have something for them to enjoy once they get there?

    Relevant, valuable content is that something.

    Inbound marketing does not work without content. #contentmarketing Click To Tweet

    “Content” can mean a lot of things when it comes to inbound marketing. Here are just a few of the different types of content that brands use:

    If you’re working your strategy diligently, then your various pieces of content will all work in concert to draw potential customers to your blog, your social media pages, and ultimately, your website.

    How is content marketing different from inbound marketing?

    Content marketing and inbound marketing are very similar in a lot of ways. The premise of both is to bring customers in, rather than interrupting them with an ad for, say, shoes, when they’re browsing for something completely unrelated, like dental services or preschools.

    The difference, though, is that content marketing is an element – albeit a crucial one – of inbound marketing. Without content marketing, you can’t have inbound marketing.

    On the other hand, you can have a content marketing strategy without a full inbound marketing one. That’s because inbound marketing also includes things like website optimization, SEO strategy, email marketing, and social media strategy, among others.

    Ideally, of course, you’d have a robust content marketing plan that’s embedded within a full inbound marketing strategy.

    How can content help improve my SEO?

    SEO, or search engine optimization, refers to the tactics marketers use to help brands get to the top of Google’s search results when people search for the thing that brand offers.

    Content is invaluable for improving SEO. That’s because one fundamental element of SEO is keywords – using the right ones, in the right context, and in a natural, well-written manner.

    It used to be that you could just include a specific keyword, like “pink lawn chairs” as many times as you could fit it into a piece of web copy – known as keyword stuffing – and that would boost your search ranking. You’d find web pages that looked like this:

    text paragraph that repeats the keyword custom cigar humidors as an example of keyword stuffing

    via SEO Pressor

    That was before Google got smart.

    Nowadays, Google can tell if you’re writing junky copy simply to improve your search ranking. And the algorithm doesn’t like that.

    Instead, if you want to get to the top of the search rankings in your particular field, you need solid, well-written, and valuable content. You need content written for humans, not for search engines (although you do need to include good keywords in every piece of content to make sure Google can find you).

    Another vital element of SEO is earning solid backlinks – in other words, inspiring other reputable sites to link to your content. Having a university, an industry leader, or a major influencer link to one of your blog posts or videos can have a huge impact on your search ranking.

    The only way to earn these backlinks, of course, is to have great content.

    What kinds of content do I need?

    Really, you need to be creating at least three different types of content.

    You need at least one long-form type – ebooks, whitepapers, and/or blog posts (1,200 words is ideal for a blog post today).

    Then you need the short-form stuff – social media posts, lists of curated content, and/or shorter blog posts.

    Finally, there’s the visual content – videos, live streams, and infographics.

    If you don’t have the bandwidth to support creating all of these things right from the start, don’t worry. You can easily start with blog posts, and work your way up to the more resource-intensive types, like video.

    Why do we need to continue creating content? Why can’t we just write a few ebooks?

    It might seem as though loading up your site with great content, then calling it a day should work – at least for a year or two. Right? You’d think that as long as the content was useful, relevant, and well-written that it would continue to work for you without you having to do much.

    There are a couple of reasons that this isn’t the case.

    The first is basic: people want new, fresh content. They’re not going to keep clicking on the same blog post or whitepaper or video over and over, which means they’ll have less reason to come to your site. You’ll lose the chance to nurture those leads and turn them into customers.

    In addition, if you don’t have new content to share regularly, you won’t attract new customers – which is a major reason that you’re creating content in the first place.

    The second is that Google takes “freshness” into account when determining search rankings. The potential hows and whys of this are far too numerous for this blog post – for that, we highly suggest you read Moz’s epic post on the freshness factor – but in general, you can expect that turning out valuable, fresh content will have a positive impact on your search ranking.

    How do I know if my content is working?

    This is the million-dollar question. How do you know if your content is working? How do you know that you’re giving your readers what they want?

    The first step is to check your analytics. See what your top entrance and exit pages are (what pages people are first coming to your website through, and what pages they’re leaving your website from).

    Check your top 5 or 10 blog posts on a monthly basis. Are the same few consistently ranking high? Create a few more like them, or repurpose those posts into new forms of content like a video or an infographic.

    Determine whether your content is working by running A/B tests on your headlines, images, or both. Click To Tweet

    Another good way to determine whether your content is working is to run A/B tests.

    These are frequently done in email marketing, often with subject lines. You create your email, then you write two different subject lines. You send the email with the first subject line to one random sample from your email list; another random sample gets the other subject line.

    Then you can compare the open rate of each email, and determine which subject line worked best.

    You can do the same with your content. Write two different headlines for the same blog post, and share the post on the same channel at different times. Then see which headline worked best.

    You could also apply this to images. Test the same content piece with two different images to see which performs better. Test the same video with two different headers.

    The options are endless, and by paying attention to which headlines, images, headers, etc. are performing better, you’ll gain more insight into what works for your particular audience.

    Still not convinced that content is key to building your inbound marketing strategy? Read our post “6 Tips for Creating Content That Converts.”

  • Mapping the Social Media World with 5 Incredible Infographics

    If you were tasked with mapping the social media world 10 years ago, you’d have a pretty simple job on your hands.

    You’d have a few social networks, like Facebook and MySpace, that people mostly used to share pictures of their college-aged selves and sound clips of themselves playing guitar.

    There would be Twitter, which most people didn’t really get until users started updating it during natural disasters.

    Add to that LinkedIn, and a few blogging sites, and you’d be pretty well covered.

    Today, however, the social media world has exploded in both size and complexity.

    Now, most of us digital marketers won’t need to know every social network, of course. Many won’t be relevant to our work. Some may be gone for good next year or next month, with new ones to take their places.

    Nevertheless, it’s an excellent exercise to take a look at how these networks and platforms are being mapped by some of today’s top digital strategists.

    For one thing, you might find a new platform that’s just perfect for your brand. But just as importantly, you’ll be able to see how these various social networks are fitting together, and what role they’re playing in changing the way we consume content, communicate, and connect.

    These #infographics give you a bird’s eye view of 201’7’s #socialmedia landscape. Click To Tweet

    The Conversation Prism 5.0 – Brian Solis and JESS3

    By far the most complex, richest infographic on this list, the Conversation Prism is a stunning breakdown of the social media world that digital analyst Brian Solis, working with graphic design firm JESS3, began putting out in 2008.

    It’s been updated over the years, with the latest version coming out in 2017.

    Source: Conversation Prism

    (You can see the full-size version in this Mashable article, or download it at conversationprism.com.)

    So how should you use this all-encompassing map? There are plenty of options, some of which are included on the Conversation Prism site. Here are a few more ideas.

    • Gain an aerial view of your social strategy.
      One of the most effective uses of this infographic is to use it to inform a big-picture view of your own social strategy. Which social networks are you using, and what categories do they fall into? Are there other categories you should be branching out into?
    • Use it to make sure you’re keeping up with trends.By looking at the older versions of the Conversation Prism, you can see how social media has changed over the years. This year, for instance, Solis added the categories messaging, crowdfunding, travel and hospitality, and connecting IRL.While crowdfunding and messaging have been around for a while (the Prism was last updated in 2013), connecting IRL – or In Real Life – is a relatively new focus for social media, and one that’s being emphasized more and more.You can see it in new social networking apps like Shapr, which aims at helping business professionals network online, then meet in real life.
    • Use it as a brainstorming kickstarter.One of the great things about this infographic is how it showcases the connections between the goals or purposes of social media – engage, learn, listen, etc. Take one of these goals as a starting point to brainstorm a new campaign or new piece of content.

    The Biggest Influencer Marketing Statistics, by Mediakix

    Influencer marketing IS social media marketing – just in a different form. All you have to do is look at this mega-infographic by Mediakix to see just how important influencer marketing is to your social media efforts.

    Top 10 Biggest Influencer Marketing Statistics For 2016 Infographic
    Courtesy of: Mediakix.com

    Influencer marketing continues to grow in importance, especially with younger consumers (or “digital natives”) like Generation Z.

    Consumers in general, however, are leaning toward trusting influencers more than they do celebrities. So it’s a good idea to embrace influencer marketing no matter who your target demographics are.

    2017 Social Media Cheat Sheet by Social Media Week

    Ok, so this one isn’t exactly mapping social media – but it certainly is helpful.

    Keep this Social Media Week infographic handy for when you’re posting to your profiles, and you’ll always know how big to make your images and when to push your posts live.

    See the full infographic at Social Media Week

    2017 Social Media Map by Overdrive Interactive

    For those of us who prefer text to visuals – yes, we do exist! – this comprehensive infographic offers a wide-ranging overview of the state of the social media world.

    Source: Overdrive Interactive

    Like the Conversation Prism, this map can help you discover new networks and platforms that might be a good fit for your brand. It’s also useful for spotting new trends, and developing cross-pollination tactics for your content.

    World Map of Social Networks by Vincenzo Consenza

    Let’s end with a literal map:

    Source: vincos.it

    This World Map of Social Networks is great for international brands that trying to set the broad strokes of their digital marketing plans.

    As you can see, Facebook dominates the map – which isn’t surprising. It’s helpful to know that a Facebook post (or paid social ad) is still among the best ways to reach your customers, whether they’re in Nebraska or Mongolia.

    Inspired to make your own infographics after looking at these? Read our post “The Rise of Visual Content Marketing: 5 Reasons Infographics Rock.”

  • Creating Stellar HTML Emails – Tips from Our Email Marketing Pros

    When it comes to designing effective HTML emails, even the most competent designers and marketers can find themselves feeling frustrated.

    While it’s true that email clients like MailChimp and Constant Contact have made it much easier to design nice-looking, readable emails – even if you have absolutely no HTML skills – there are plenty of tips you can follow that will help you take your emails to the next level.

    Here are a few from MZ’s own email marketing gurus.

    Don’t go wider than 600 pixels

    Making your readers scroll side-to-side is the kiss of death for your emails. Not only will it make your brand look amateurish, it will also prove really annoying to everyone who gets your emails, making it way more likely that they’ll just send them straight to the trash.

    To avoid this, 600 pixels is a good standard to stick to. In addition, keeping things consistent will make it more likely that your emails will show up well across all email clients (and there are hundreds, even though most people only use one of the few big ones).

    Keep important stuff on the left side

    Eye-tracking studies have proven that people tend to focus more on the left side of the screen than the right. To put a finer point on it, most web users look in an F-shape – they’ll look at a headline, and then mainly focus on left side and a little ways into the text as it moves toward the right.

    Source: Kissmetrics

    This is, of course, why sidebars are usually on the left side of the screen.

    What does this mean for your emails? While focusing on the left side should never mean sacrificing a pleasing design, you may want to scan your email templates to see if you can optimize them with this in mind.

    Readers focus more on the left side of the screen - which makes that a good place for your call to… Click To Tweet

    For example, where are your calls to action?

    Are you keeping the most important information toward the top?

    Where are you placing your images?

    If you’re not getting the follow-through from customers that you want, moving some of these design elements around is a good step to try.

    The “above the fold” imperative is a myth

    The idea that information has to be “above the fold” – above the point at which a user will have to scroll down – if you want the majority of readers to see it has been popular since the early days of newspapers.

    In the newspaper world, the day’s most important stories (or the ones that were likely to sell the most papers) were placed at the top of the front page, so that customers would see them when the paper was folded and put out for sale.

    The term was co-opted for the web design world and most web designers have advocated putting important information above the fold since a 2006 Nielsen study found that 77% of website visitors won’t scroll down.

    But since then, it’s been found again and again that people do, in fact, scroll. So while it’s still important that key information be placed above the fold, there’s no need to worry that users will ignore most of what’s below it.

    “Above the fold” is largely a myth. People will scroll if you give them something valuable.… Click To Tweet

    However, calls to action should be placed at the top

    There’s a caveat to the above the fold issue for emails.

    Since most users decide whether or not to read your email from the quick preview they get after clicking on it, you do want your calls to action to be both effective and placed toward the top.

    Assume your images will be blocked

    Source: Windows IT Pro

    Even though it’s 2017, and you’d think we’d be past this automatic email image-blocking thing, most email clients – 60%, according to Mailigen – still block images by default.

    So instead of relying on your images to make people read your emails, focus on ensuring that your copy and headlines are compelling all on their own.

    You should also make sure you have descriptive alt text for each image – you never know when the alt text will entice someone to take the extra 30 seconds to download your images.

    Remember that a huge percentage of your readers will be opening your emails on mobile devices

    Mobile usage is outpacing desktop usage, and has been since 2015. If your emails aren’t optimized for mobile and tablet viewing, you’re likely missing out on a huge percentage of your potential readership.

    How do you optimize for mobile? Here are just a few ways:

    • Make sure any buttons or calls-to-action are big enough to use on a touchscreen
    • Keep text to a few lines or less
    • Utilize white space

    Test, test, and test again

    You know that readers will see your email differently depending on the email client and device they’re using. The only way to ensure that your email shows up clearly for as many readers as possible is to test it.

    The most important test is for mobile – check out your email on your smartphone and tablet first. Then move onto web-based programs like Gmail and Yahoo, as well as clients like Outlook and Apple Mail.

    Most email programs have test modes that allow you to see how your email will look in a variety of different programs. If yours doesn’t, for some reason, send a few emails out to friends who use different email clients, and solicit feedback.

    Include links to your social media profiles

    Since you’re working with a captive audience, in a sense, you want to make the very best use of the few seconds – a minute, if you’re really lucky – that you have their attention.

    That means including links to all your social media profiles in each email. They can be small icons, like you have on your website, or you can direct people to your profiles with text links to specific posts.

    Give email recipients as many opportunities to engage with your brand as possible. #emailmarketing Click To Tweet

    Whatever you choose, the goal is to give people as many options for engaging with your brand as possible. Some customers will prefer seeing you on Instagram. Others will ignore those icons altogether, and stick to email.

    The important thing here is that you’ll be giving people in both those groups something they want, so they’ll be more likely to engage with your brand in the future.

    Include several links to the same page

    If you’re trying to direct people to your sale page, or to your latest whitepaper, or that new webinar you just created, don’t just link to it once. Link to it multiple times, using different – but still clear and recognizable – language.

    You want to persuade as many people as possible to visit the page you’re focusing on, and using varied wording, sentence structure, and context will ensure that your message appeals to a wider, more diverse group of readers.

    Be brief

    Every writer knows that editing is one of the most difficult, and yet most important, part of the writing process.

    Believe it or not, that’s just as true with an email as it is with a novel. Edit your text down more than you think you have to – many marketers say a good challenge is to edit your emails down by half.

    Creating awesome HTML emails doesn’t have to be a chore. For more on using email marketing to grow your business, read “Insane Stats That’ll Make You Rethink Your Email Marketing Strategy.”

  • 50 Pro Tips for Boosting Your Reach and Converting More Customers

    We digital marketers set all kinds of goals every day – get more Facebook likes, increase our Instagram followers, achieve a guest post on this or that influencer’s blog.

    But the big goal – the one that all those small goals are helping us work toward – is to convert more customers. In the end, that’s what we want for our brands. We want more people to purchase our product or sign up for our service.

    With all those smaller tasks on our hands, it can be easy to lose sight of how each individual goal supports the bigger one. That’s not to mention how easy it can be to lose sight of what should come next.

    To help you out of your digital marketing rut, here are 50 pro tips for boosting your reach and converting more customers.

    Content

    1.Start a blog.

    A blog is really a non-negotiable in today’s digital marketing landscape. Why? Because fresh, shareable content is what will give people a reason to come to your site. Once they’re there, hopefully they’ll become a customer.

    Blogs are a non-negotiable these days. Click To Tweet

    2. Write a whitepaper.

    Whitepapers, in case you’re not familiar with them, are authoritative reports detailing important issues, policies, features of a product or service, market trends, etc. Whitepapers differ from blog posts in length – often they’re longer than a typical blog post, although they don’t have to be – and, more importantly, in depth and detail.

    They’re important for marketers and brands because they make excellent downloadable content and are a strong way for brands to showcase their knowledge or thought leadership.

    3. Write an e-book.

    Once you’ve got the whitepaper under your belt, go to the next step and write an e-book. These, as you probably guessed, are even more in-depth and longer than whitepapers. E-books are a great format for really digging into a topic or method, presenting an argument, or explaining a complex concept.

    4. Make use of gated content.

    Gated content means content that requires your audience to do something before they access it. That could mean paying a fee, signing up for a membership, or giving you their email address, for example.

    Gated content can be a solid method for increasing your qualified leads, but it has its drawbacks as well. Read “Gated Content for B2B Companies: Pros, Cons, and How to Use it Wisely” for all the details.

    Balance gated and ungated content on your site to maximize qualified leads. #contentmarketing Click To Tweet

    5. Get the most mileage out of each piece of content.

    Blog posts should be shared on your social platforms, but they can also be repurposed into other things. Consolidate a few into a whitepaper. Update an old one and republish on your blog. Take a webinar and write out the information it discusses into an e-book, with screenshots.

    You want to get the most that you can out of every piece of content – after all, creating this stuff takes time. Make it work hard for you.

    6. Vary your blog posts.

    When you’re writing blog posts, make sure you’ve got a few different types of posts that appeal to your different audiences. It’s a must if you want to reach (and engage) the widest audience possible. A bonus: You won’t get bored so easily writing your posts if you have several approaches you can choose from.

    7. Explore visual content.

    Infographics, graphs and charts, and of course photos all make for much more interesting and engaging content. Incorporate them when possible.

    8. Create a video.

    Caption for video: It might even become a classic, like this Dollar Shave Club video from way back in 2012.

    Video is where the internet is headed, as you can read more about in this post on video and social media marketing.

    9. Reach out to influencers.

    Influencer marketing is a powerful force in today’s digital landscape – especially among Millennials and Gen Zers. In fact, more than 60% of Gen Z users prefer to see “real people,” as opposed to celebrities, in advertisements.

    And Millennials and Gen Zers are together in rejecting traditional advertising. In one Harris Poll, 74% of respondents from these generations said they dislike being targeted by brands in their social feeds.

    10. Write guests posts on influential blogs.

    Reaching out to influencers is just one side of the influencer marketing coin. The other is writing guest posts on those influencers’ blogs. This will expose both you and the influencer to entirely new audiences, setting the stage for a mutually beneficial relationship.

    #ProTip: Writing guest posts on influential blogs is a great way to reach new audiences. Click To Tweet

    Email marketing

    1. Start a newsletter.

    If you don’t have an email newsletter, start one. Email marketing is still one of the most effective ways to reach new customers and keep current ones engaged.

    2. Update your newsletter.

    If you already have a newsletter, but you haven’t revised it in a while, take some time to review it. Styles have changed over the years. Blurbs are shorter, there are more images, and more varied calls to action.

    3. Make sure your emails are relevant to your audience.

    The best way to ensure that your emails are relevant to the people getting them is to segment your audience correctly.

    For example, you don’t want people who haven’t visited your site in more than a year getting bombarded with weekly sales emails. Likewise, you don’t want your more frequent visitors to get an email saying you haven’t seen them in a while.

    Segmenting, and creating specific emails for multiple segmented audiences, can fix these problems.

    Read more about that in “Segmenting Your Audience Online: Are You Doing it Correctly?

    4. Include images in your emails.

    Images can be highly effective in your emails, depending on your audience, industry, and some other factors. Test your text-heavy option versus your image-heavy one to see which your audience seems to prefer.

    5. Be brief and concise.

    In the early days of email marketing, emails often consisted of long columns of text, with fewer links back to a website. That’s changed.

    Your users are likely getting hundreds of emails a week, so you’ve got to get to the point quickly if you want them to spend any time with your brand’s email.

    6. Make your calls to action highly specific.

    “Click here” won’t get nearly the follow-through that a more specific call-to-action will. You could direct readers to your latest whitepaper, ask them to fill out a quick survey, or point them toward one of your social media profiles.

    7. Make sure your emails are easy to read on desktop AND mobile devices.

    Mobile usage is overtaking desktop usage, so mobile-friendly emails are no longer a luxury. They’re a necessity.

    8. Set up automated campaigns.

    Automated campaigns can allow you to check in with people at key points in the sales funnel. You can set up an email to go out when someone abandons a shopping cart, signs up for your newsletter but doesn’t confirm their subscription, and any number of other situations.

    9. Agonize over your subject line.

    Subject lines can mean the difference between your emails getting read and getting sent straight to the trash – or just languishing forever in an inbox. Get some tips in this email content blog post.

    10. Make the sender or “from” a real person, not an “info@” email address.

    This is something else that’s changed in recent years. People want to see a real person’s name in the “from” field of their emails, not an anonymous “info@” or “noreply@” email address. This should come as no surprise, considering that digital marketing in general is moving toward more and more personalization and authenticity.

    Social media

    1. Actively engage with your audience.

    The magic of social media is that it allows regular people to directly communicate with the brands, companies, and individuals that they admire.

    The key word here, of course, is communicate. Social media must be a two-way exchange, in which you respond to and engage with your followers just as they engage with your brand.

    Customers today don’t want to be talked at. They want to be conversed with.

    2. Identify and nurture potential brand advocates.

    Just like your followers would sooner trust an influencer than a celebrity whom they know was paid to endorse your product, they’ll sooner trust one of their own – a brand advocate – than they will your brand itself.

    What’s a brand advocate? Simply a regular person, one of your followers, who truly loves your brand and is extremely active and engaged on your social media platforms. If you can identify potential brand advocates and nurture a relationship with them, your social media marketing efforts will become much more effective.

    3. Be selective about your platforms – do a few really well, instead of doing many poorly.

    Don’t set up profiles on every social media platform just because you think you have to.

    That’s the great thing about social media today: you DON’T have to have a profile on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and every other platform out there. In fact, it will likely do your brand more harm than good to have lots of half-maintained profiles than one or two that are very well-maintained.

    4. Create a social calendar.

    If you’re relying on yourself to remember to post on social 3 or 5 or 10 times per week, then you’re setting yourself up for failure. There will inevitably be days when you find yourself drifting to sleep and suddenly thinking “I forgot to tweet today!”

    Developing a social calendar a week, or better yet, a month in advance will allow you to schedule posts as well as develop themes to your posting, should you want to. Then any posts you come up with off the cuff will simply add to your social media presence.

    Developing a social calendar a week or month in advance will allow you to schedule posts as well… Click To Tweet

    5. Develop your brand voice.

    Have you consciously worked on developing your brand’s online voice? Have you mapped out your brand persona? Doing so will make your social as well as your content development much, much stronger.

    6. Engage with key influencers.

    Make it a point to follow and engage with key influencers on social media. Think of it as laying a foundation for any potential relationship to come.

    7. Vary the type of content you post.

    Just like with your blog, you want to vary your social content. Post images, quotes, content, infographics, and simple comments to keep your feed interesting and fresh.

    8. Balance created content with curated content.

    Curated content is just as important as created content. Read about how to balance these two in “The Ultimate Content Marketing Battle: Creation vs. Curation.”

    9. Include calls to action that point to your website.

    Don’t lose sight of the fact that the goal of your social media activity is to get more traffic to your website and ultimately, to convert more customers. Make sure you’re posting items that lead people back to your site, whether to read a new blog post or check out a new product.

    10. Make sure your social ads are living up to their potential.

    Social ads can offer a huge ROI, but only if you’re doing them correctly. Here’s how to get the most out of your social advertising.

    Data

    1. Run A/B tests.

    An A/B test simply means that you run two versions of one thing, see how each performs, and then choose the better one.

    That could mean sending out the same email with two different subject lines to a small segment of your subscribers. It could mean creating two versions of the same ad, running each for a few days, and then running the better-performing one for two weeks.

    Knowing for sure which version does better will help inform the rest of your marketing decisions.

    2. Be as data-driven as possible in your marketing decisions.

    We’ve got access to more data than ever – much of it for free through tools like Google Analytics and Facebook Insights. Use it!

    3. Check your number of unique visitors.

    Unique visitors is a metric you should be checking regularly. It will give you an idea of how many new users are finding your website.

    4. Check your number of returning visitors.

    Returning visitors are just as important as new ones. You want to make sure that both new and returning users are finding what they need on your site.

    5. Create multiple iterations of an ad or image post, then test your top 4, instead of your top 2.

    This gem comes to us from our own Francisco, VP, Social Media and Influencer Marketing. You never know when the image that would have done the best ended up on the cutting room floor. Testing 4 instead of 2 can increase your chances of landing on that very best image.

    6. Closely monitor your conversion rate.

    Has your conversion rate changed recently? What else was going on when the change occurred? Keep an eye on this metric so you can decipher what affects it. It could be something as out of your control as a holiday, or as within your control as posting a new blog post.

    7. Check your exit pages.

    Exit pages will tell you on what page users are landing just before they leave your site. This is important because you may need to revamp that page – maybe it’s boring, or difficult to understand, or just needs to be redesigned.

    8. Check your entrance pages.

    Entrance pages will tell you on what page users are coming to your website. This can be helpful in letting you know what kinds of pages and what kind of content are drawing users in.

    9. Don’t be afraid to try new tactics if the old ones aren’t working.

    Agility is one of the great benefits of digital marketing. If something isn’t working, you can change it relatively quickly. You just have to be willing to do so. This is where having the data to back you up can be extremely helpful.

    10. Include members from multiple departments in your data-mining team.

    Working in silos is never a good thing, but it’s especially unhelpful when it comes to your data. If possible, you want to have various people from different departments participate in a data-mining team. Their differing perspectives will help you identify areas to examine that you might otherwise have overlooked.

    Digital marketing strategy

    1. Create buyer personas.

    Buyer personas are profiles of potential customers that you create using details like age, gender, and demographic as well as more nuanced information like values, hobbies, likes/dislikes, etc.

    They’re tools that can be extremely helpful in designing your website, marketing materials, and more to encourage conversion.

    Read all about how to create and use buyer personas here.

    2. Use BuzzSumo to find key influencers in your industry.

    BuzzSumo is an amazing tool for finding top content along specific topic areas. Type in a keyword, and you’ll see the top shared posts having to do with that keyword – as well as the blogs and sites that they appeared on. This allows you to identify important influencers for your own influencer outreach.

    3. Run ads and promoted posts to niche audiences first – then release to broader ones.

    Here’s another tip from Francisco, MZ’s VP of Social.

    Run your ads and promoted posts to smaller, niche audiences first, so that they rack up likes, comments, and shares. Then release them to a broader audience. People subconsciously look for cues as to what they should like (or how they should behave) and a post that already has lots of engagement is likely to get more.

    Run your #socialads to smaller, niche audiences first, so that they earn likes and shares. Then… Click To Tweet

    4. Review and update your SEO keywords.

    When’s the last time you updated your SEO keywords? It might be time to review them to make sure you’re doing all you can to increase your organic search.

    5. Increase your paid social spending.

    While it’s true that users today don’t want tons of ads cluttering up their feeds, paid social – both ads and promoted posts/tweets – continues to produce a very high ROI. The key is to keep your ads from looking like ads. Get creative.

    Promoted posts and tweets are also a great way to increase your reach – and they’re actually a necessity, now that hundreds of thousands of posts are going up online every second.

    6. Invest in video marketing.

    Live streaming and produced video are both continuing to grow in popularity, and neither shows any signs of slowing down. Invest now, so that you’re not struggling to catch up later.

    7. Develop both proactive and reactive social strategies.

    Briefly, proactive social means posting content. Reactive social means responding to comments and engaging with your followers. Make sure you’re doing both.

    8. Make sure your site and content are optimized for mobile.

    Remember how mobile usage is overtaking desktop? Having a mobile, or better yet responsive, site is no longer an option. It’s a necessity.

    9. Use digital marketing hacks to save yourself time each week.

    Writing blog posts, posting on social, and everything else busy digital marketers do is time-consuming. Use these hacks to help you save time on administrative tasks, so you can put that time toward brainstorming a new strategy.

    10. Explore new technologies like virtual reality and augmented reality.

    Virtual and augmented reality are opening opportunities that have literally never before been seen or even imagined. VR and AR are big investments, so it’s important to examine whether these new technologies are appropriate for your brand.

    If they are, however, start with a small project, and see where it takes you. Costs are only going to go down, while popularity will rise.

    And there you have it! So – what are you waiting for?

  • 10 Medium Accounts Every Marketer Should be Following

    Whether or not your own brand posts on Medium, there’s a lot that this unique social media platform can offer marketers.

    If you’re not familiar with Medium, it’s a platform for individuals and businesses to post long-form content. That could be anything from a short story, to an opinion piece, to a deeply technical blog post complete with graphs and charts.

    For whatever reason, Medium isn’t always the first place we marketers think of to look when we’re searching for the latest and greatest writing about our field. However, the platform is home to some excellent users, as well as publications, that every marketer should be following.

    Here are 10 @Medium accounts every #digitalmarketer should be following. Click To Tweet

    All Things Marketing and Entrepreneurship

    The name says is all – this publication is all about marketing and entrepreneurship, although a quick skim over the most recent posts shows that it definitely leans more toward the marketing side of things.

    Larry Kim, the founder of WordPress, is a prominent voice here, writing about content marketing, mobile digital marketing, and offering advice on building and running startups. A bonus: You’ll also find plenty of unicorn memes.

    Another solid contributor is Joei Chan, whose pieces on SEO and email marketing are great reads.

    Rand Fishkin

    Rand Fishkin of the SEO marketing company Moz is an excellent, candid writer whether he’s writing about the latest changes in search marketing or his personal struggles with having to lay off a large number of staff from the company he founded.

    One of the most helpful things about Fishkin’s writing is that he’s highly transparent about what it’s like running a digital company. He even posts actual numbers from Moz’s campaigns to illustrate what’s worked for them and what hasn’t, what they want to try next, and what they’ve scrapped.

    from Rand’s Blog

    Fishkin’s posts are not just informative, but deeply-felt – and that’s something special no matter what industry you’re in.

    ThinkGrowth.org

    ThinkGrowth.org is a publication by marketing software company HubSpot.

    While there are plenty of helpful, informative pieces in this publication about inbound marketing, SEO, and content marketing, the real gems are to be found in the less straightforward subject areas: diversity, leadership, and building a business culture, for example.

    ThinkGrowth.org’s contributors mainly all work with or for HubSpot, but there are some other voices on here too. The result is a strong, balanced collection of posts that can either help you develop a new skill, or give you something meaty and insightful to read on the plane to your next conference.

    The Startup

    This publication is all about – you guessed it – startups. Thanks to superstar contributors like Seth Godin and Josiah Humphrey, The Startup’s feed is always full of rock-solid posts. Some examples:

    The Freelancer and the Entrepreneur: Which Are You? Are You Sure? by Seth Godin

    Growing Startups When the Product Sucks by Ali Mese

    A Quick Market-Driven Guide to Choosing a “Profitable” Start-up Name by Josiah Humphrey

    Jay Baer

    The founder of Convince & Convert, Baer’s Medium posts waste no time in getting to the point.

    Take, for example, his post “Augmented Reality Beats Virtual Reality.” In a video (the transcript is included for those very few of us who prefer reading to video), Baer talks about the transformative power of augmented reality, which we can actually use while we’re out living our lives. This is as opposed to virtual reality, which is cool, but requires you to be relatively stationary and totally immersed. It’s just not very practical.

    Baer has strong, informed opinions and a straightforward manner of communicating them, which can make for a refreshing pick-me-up during the 2 p.m. on a Wednesday afternoon slog. In addition, Baer’s posts are usually fairly short – 3-minute reads, in general – so they’re easy to consume and digest.

    Marketing and Growth Hacking

    As you might expect in a publication with “growth hacking” in the title, there are some pretty incredible stories here. You’ll see blog posts by people who’ve gone from making $30K to $270K in a year, stories of epic failures turned into epic victories, and plenty of other spectacular ups and downs.

    This makes it a pretty engaging and entertaining read, and definitely one to check out if you’re looking for a bit of morning inspiration.

    Stories by Buffer

    For an in-depth, behind-the-scenes look at startup culture, leadership, strategy, and more, click through a few posts in Stories by Buffer.

    This publication is focused more on offering insight into what the company has learned as a whole throughout its startup journey. That includes posts like “Does Unlimited Vacation Mean No Vacation? Some Ideas to Make it Work at Your Company” and “Why Diversity Matters in Technology.”

    There’s also a healthy smattering of more personal posts from Buffer employees about things like becoming a better writer, or the company’s Chief Happiness Officer’s explanation of exercises to avoid “artificial harmony.”

    Vantage

    Visual marketers, as well as those of us who appreciate visual modes of communication, will find plenty to enjoy in this publication.

    Vantage is dedicated to exploring visual storytelling, and features lengthy, image-heavy blog posts about everything from being a commercial photographer to photographing survivors of war.

    The focus isn’t on marketing, per se – but as digital marketing comes to rely ever more heavily on video and imagery, it’s incumbent on those of us in the industry to incorporate these visual mediums into our work.

    NewCo Shift

    NewCo Shift is a business and tech publication covering developments in Silicon Valley, politics, culture, and more.

    It’s a great spot to find current, interesting, informative articles on big picture issues, always written with an eye to the future. Some great recent posts include “Travis Kalanick, Radical Transparency, and the Rise of Glass Box Brands” and “Venture Capital’s Harassment Problem.

    Art + Marketing

    Art + Marketing is hosted by ArtMap Inc., which is a San Francisco digital marketing and PR firm. The stories here are focused on the creative side of marketing, and offer opinions and information on social media marketing, web design, and more.

    There’s even a fascinating section on the fake news phenomena, and how advertising is connected to its rise.

    Once you’ve taken a look around Medium and followed some of these awesome accounts, think about your own Medium channel. Haven’t started one? Read this post, “6 Ways to Decide Whether Medium is Right for Your Brand.” And if you’re working on developing your Medium channel, try “6 Storytelling Secrets for Forging Connections with Your Customers.”

     

     

  • How to Take Your User-Generated Content from Good to Great

    If you’re on the fence about purchasing a new product, whose word are you going to trust more: the brand that’s trying to sell you the product, or a regular person who’s already made that purchase and loves their item?

    Yeah, we’d trust the regular person too.

    That right there is why user-generated content, or UGC, can be so powerful. Used correctly, it can be the content marketer’s best friend – but only if you know how to make that content great.

    Used correctly, user-generated content is a marketer’s best friend. Click To Tweet

    So how do you inspire your followers to create content that grabs users’ attention? That turns those on-the-fencers into loyal customers?

    Just follow these tips, and you’ll see your UGC go up in both quality and quantity.

    Commit to building a strategy.

    Tons of brands share what their followers post, but not nearly as many have a clear strategy that helps them decide when, where, and how to share that content.

    Engagement, of course, is key to a successful social media strategy, but engagement by itself isn’t a strategy for encouraging user-generated content.

    Instead, think of your UGC strategy like any other marketing campaign.

    First, you need an objective: do you want your UGC to inform, or to entertain (or, optimally, both)? Do you want it to build awareness of your brand at large, or help promote a specific product or service?

    Next, decide where you’ll be hosting the campaign. Where do your users congregate? Facebook? Instagram? Comb through your analytics to decide which platform is likely to give you the most successful results.

    Finally, you’ve got to decide what it is that your customers will be creating. Will you be running a video contest? Requesting hashtagged selfies with your product? Asking users to share favorite moments with mom? The sky’s the limit.

    Create a concise, specific ask for your users.

    If you want to generate high-quality content, it’s essential to give users a clear, specific ask.

    Starbucks’ Red Cup Contest is a perfect example. Every year when the holidays draw near and Starbucks’ red cups start popping up at the coffee shops, the company asks customers to share artful images of their red cups on social media, with the tag #redcupcontest.

     

    The instructions are easy to understand and to follow, and to make it even better, there’s a reward – a $500 Starbucks giftcard. This yearly contest regularly gets thousands of entries, generating some seriously stunning UGC for the company.

    To inspire great user-generated content, include a clear, specific ask. #ugc #digitalmarketing Click To Tweet

    Use hashtags wisely.

    When you’re soliciting UGC, the right hashtag is very important. You’ve got to have a hashtag so that users – not to mention, you – can find all the other amazing content that their peers are posting.

    How do you craft the right hashtag? For the long answer, check out “Winning the Hashtag Wars: How to Use Hashtags to Increase Your Reach and Strengthen Your Brand.”

    The short answer, however, is:

    This might mean that you can’t use a hashtag as simple as your brand name. If that’s the case, be creative, but not too creative. You still want people to immediately associate it with your brand. In the end, that’s much more important than being clever.

    Review your UGC religiously.

    While users can be some of your most effective brand ambassadors, there are those internet trolls out there who can wreak havoc on your brand with a single offensive comment.

    You’ve got to review your comments, interactions, and posts that are tagged with your brand in a timely manner to make sure that you don’t accidentally allow something horribly distasteful to stay on your page.

    With UGC, you need to be just as vigilant – and not only because of trolls. User-generated content contributes to your brand’s image, so if you’re getting a bunch of blurry selfies tagged with one of your hashtags, that’s not going to make your brand look so great.

    Of course, the beauty of social media is that it’s a two-way street. You can’t control everything that users post about you, and you shouldn’t want to – that’s why social media can be such a powerful tool for brands.

    But there are certain things you can do to improve the quality of your UGC. One is to offer rewards or giveaways for the best picture, or video, or comment, or whatever it is you’re requesting. People won’t post as haphazardly if there’s a chance of winning a prize.

    You may also want to look at the guidelines you’ve given users. If they’re not specific or clear enough, you can find yourself with submissions that don’t make sense or that aren’t cohesive with your overall campaign.

    Finally, when you’re looking for UGC to share on your own social media channels, keep your standards high.

    You don’t need to share every post that mentions your brand positively. Be selective – choose the most beautiful photos, most meaningful stories, and the most interesting comments.

    In fact, it’s important to note that you can share things that are simply in keeping with your brand persona. They don’t have to have something to do with your product.

    Patagonia, for instance, is an outdoor clothing brand with a strong set of environmental values. On Instagram, they share beautiful images of nature and outdoor activities taken by their fans, like this one:

    A burst of sun over the horizon affirms the correctness of the path well-chosen. Photo: @andrew_burr

    A post shared by Patagonia (@patagonia) on

    Focus on highlighting your customers’ stories and experiences, instead of just their interactions with your product.

    For more on creating amazing content, read our post “10 Remarkable Strategies for Content Marketing.”

  • Why You Should Up Your Paid Social Ad Spend This Year

    Google’s been announcing some major developments in the past few months.

    In November, they announced that the search engine would be moving toward mobile-first indexing. Then this June, Google’s Senior VP of Ads and Commerce, Sridhar Ramaswamy, posted an announcement that the search engine had joined the Coalition for Better Ads, an organization that works to improve the online ad experience.

    The Coalition released a report recently detailing guidelines for creating better ads – in other words, ads that people don’t find annoying.

    Google pulled some of these guidelines for a post on their DoubleClick blog, which you can read here. And while we won’t go into all the details, suffice it to say that what people find least annoying are ads that blend the most seamlessly with the content they’re consuming.

    Maybe it’s just us, but that sounds like paid social ads, in our opinion.

    Now, it’s important to note that the DoubleClick post refers not to paid social ads, but to the more traditional digital ads that we all see, on content publisher sites, especially.

    However, the takeaway is highly relevant: 

    Internet users today want ads that don’t interrupt, that are relevant to their interests, and that are immersive. 

    That’s why paid social is having a banner year in 2017 – analysts have predicted that social ad spending will top $35 billion this year. Judging by the past several years, which have each seen consistent growth, that growth will continue into the future.

    So while we certainly wouldn’t advise any brand to dump their traditional digital advertising, we can tell you that – as long as you do it right – paid social is an excellent investment in your brand. Here are 5 reasons why.

    Paid social is a necessity if you want your brand to be seen on social media. 

    Organic social is fine and dandy, of course, and it’s still important. However, if you want your posts to be seen, it’s really a necessity to pony up for some paid social ads.

    Why? Well, there’s this statistic, for example:

    There are more than 2 million brands advertising on Facebook, according to Sprout Social. 

    That means that when you post something on social media, you’re competing with at least 1,999,999 other businesses – and those are just the ones that are advertising. Realistically, there’s no way that your posts are going to get engagement from more than a few people unless you pay to promote them.

    This is exacerbated by how sophisticated social media algorithms are getting.

    Social media providers know that users don’t want their feeds cluttered up by branded posts, and so they’re always working hard to make sure their users have the experience that they expect and desire. Because, you know – that’s what great brands do.

    So while this may make you feel like throwing up your hands and saying “How will I ever stand out?” what it should really make you do is pay closer attention to what your users want – immersive, relevant advertising that doesn’t feel like advertising – and give them more of that.

    Paid social allows you to target users with incredible specificity. 

    It’s really amazing how specific you can get with your ad targeting these days.

    Look at Facebook, for example. You can customize your audience by everything from level of education and field of study, to online activities, to simple demographics.

    image of Facebook Ad manager targeting box, targeting people with an upcoming anniversary, who work in B2B Cultural and Recreation industries, and use iPads and iPhones.

    via Facebook

    We just picked some random categories here, but you get the idea. You can even target an ad to people who only use the iPhone 7, which is great for app and game developers.

    This ultra-targeting means that you’re a lot less likely to be wasting your ad dollars. Instead of showing your ad to people who almost certainly aren’t going to buy what you’re selling anyway – men and maternity clothes, for example – you can expect that most of the people who see your ad will at least have some interest in your product or service.

    This is good for business for two reasons.

    First, you’re not annoying people with ads for things they’d never be interested in.

    And second, you’re cultivating an audience. Even if the people who see your ad don’t make a purchase today, seeing that ad may awaken an interest in your brand that eventually leads to a purchase, a second purchase, and ultimately, a loyal customer.

    It’s highly resource- and cost-effective.

    Making a Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, or Instagram ad isn’t an instant process, but it’s something most people can learn fairly quickly – as opposed to, say, the full-on graphic design skills needed to develop great banner ads.

    What’s also helpful about paid social advertising is that there are levels of complexity you can rise through.

    So when you’re just starting out, you can create relatively basic ads with relatively basic targeting.

    Once you’ve done that, you can take a look at your metrics (you are looking at your data, right?) and see how your ad is doing. You can even do split testing through Facebook Ad Manager, allowing you to test out two different versions of an ad to see how each one performed.

    While social media expertise certainly helps, and you really should have a dedicated social media manager on your team, you don’t have to be an expert in order to get started with paid social.

    Another thing you don’t need with paid social: a huge budget. These ads, across all platforms, start at quite reasonable prices – roughly between 16 cents and $1 per click, based on factors including your company size, your budget, the number of people you want to see your ad, and many more.

    However, you don’t need to worry about suddenly facing a $1,000 ad bill because you had a particularly good click-through week. With Facebook (and Instagram, since they’re owned by Facebook), you set a daily or weekly budget and your ad stops running once it’s reached your max spend.

    So if you set a budget of $5 per day, you know you won’t be spending more than $5 a day. Period.

    This is especially helpful for small businesses that don’t have a lot of wiggle room in their budgets. And marketers agree that in general, the ROI on social media ads is significant – certainly worth the investment in the ads themselves.

    Paid social is here to stay, and it’s only going to grow – at least in the foreseeable future. Learn more about developing a great social media presence with “9 Harsh Truths About Your Social Media Marketing – and What to Do About Them.”

  • What Google’s Move toward Mobile-First Indexing Means for Your Digital Marketing Strategy

    In November of 2016, Google announced that it was moving toward a “mobile-first” system of indexing, after using what could be called “desktop-first” indexing for its full history.

    It’s a huge shift – but it’s one that reflects the way users are searching the web today.

    As early as 2015, Google announced that it was getting more searches on mobile devices than on desktop devices. That trend has continued, and while the growth is hardly explosive, the numbers – and your own usage, if you pay attention – don’t lie.

    The stats: mobile vs. desktop web searches

    According to a Google blog post from May 5, 2015 , “more Google searches take place on mobile devices than on computers in 10 countries including the US and Japan.” The company declined to share specific numbers.

    It’s important to note that at this point, at least, Google was grouping tablets with desktops – so those mobile searches don’t include the number of searches coming from tablets. It’s unclear whether Google has changed its grouping since then.

    Either way, mobile searches are outnumbering desktop searches across the board – and especially in certain industries. As you can read about in a great article on Search Engine Land, a 2016 report from Hitwise found that about 58% of all searches in the US are on mobile devices, and breaks the searches down by industry in this graph:

    via Search Engine Land

    Those stats are why Google has decided to experiment with mobile-first indexing. Those stats are also why, if you don’t already have a mobile site, you should probably make creating one a priority.

    What is mobile-first indexing?

    Indexing is how Google collects information on all of the web’s billions of webpages, which it then “indexes” into a big, huge catalog.

    From there, Google’s algorithm decides what search results you see when you search for something.

    Until November, Google uses the desktop version of webpages as their primary source – and while they included mobile pages in their index, they were treated as less important. Now, those two are switching places: Google will be using the mobile webpage as the primary, with desktop pages being relegated to second place.

    What does this mean for my brand?

    It means a few things, depending on what kind of sites you have.

    If your site is desktop-only, then Google says you shouldn’t worry about changes in search rankings. They’ll still use your desktop site to rank you.

    Where this will hurt you, however, is with the users who are primarily searching using their mobile devices, but that’s a separate issue.

    If you have a site that’s about the same across both desktop and mobile, then you really don’t have to do anything. Since they both have the same content, your search rankings won’t really be impacted.

    The most significant impact will be on brands that have a mobile site that is different from their desktop site.

    If this is you, there are a few things you need to do.

    First, evaluate your mobile site. Is it lacking a lot of the content that’s on your desktop site? Is it essentially a stripped-down version of your regular site?

    If the answer is yes, this will affect your rankings. Google indexes sites based on their content – not just the keywords, but the amount of content, the quality of content, the rate of updating, and more criteria that no one but Google knows about.

    So how do you fix this?

    The first step would be to make sure you’re using responsive web design principles in your site building. That simply means that each page responds to the size of the screen on which it’s being viewed, so you can have the same content on mobile that you do on your regular site.

    The next step is a big one, and it may need to be done over months: migrate any missing site content from desktop to mobile.

    This might necessitate some site building – if you have a blog on your regular site but not on your mobile one, you’ll obviously have to create a tab and a place to house your blog.

    There’s no question that this is intensive work, but it’s absolutely worth it – and not just for the Google indexing.

    The real payoff is in the user experience, as a good mobile experience is vital to keeping your site visitors happy. It always pays to remember that there are billions of sites out there and your customer could be visiting any one of them.

    Don’t give them a reason to leave yours.

    How will mobile-first affect my digital marketing strategy?

    While the indexing itself shouldn’t really affect your marketing, it’s wise to take this move by Google as a sign of what’s to come.

    We’re moving toward a much more mobile-centric world, and you need to ensure that your digital marketing strategy reflects this reality.

    The mobile site, of course, is the foundation of any mobile digital marketing strategy, so make sure that’s in place before you move onto anything else.

    Once that’s done, you can focus on elements of your strategy like paid social. Make sure that the ads you’re creating for Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. are mobile-friendly.

    You may even want to adopt that “mobile-first” mindset as you’re designing.

    After all, we know that more than 50% of all web searches are on mobile devices. So unless your brand simply isn’t suited to mobile devices, and you know that your users primarily access your site through desktops, it’s a good bet that more than 50% of searches for your site are on mobile, too.

    If your brand is suited to it, you may also want to consider developing an app. These are especially useful in the retail, dining, banking, music, and travel industries, just to name a few.

    One important note about mobile marketing, however, is that it’s got to be focused on inbound, rather than outbound.

    In other words, mobile screens don’t accommodate the same number of ads as desktops – and the ads that do pop up on mobile tend to frustrate users far more than on desktop screens.

    One last thing to consider is that while your own content should be a top consideration, you should consider your curated content, as well. If there are sites that you regularly share links to, make sure that those sites or pages are mobile-friendly.

    The wave of mobile-first is picking up speed. Is your brand ready?

  • Want Killer Marketing Videos? 5 Keys To Writing Scripts

    There’s probably nothing as sleep inducing as a boring video. Just think back on all those clunky, dry-as-dust videos you had to suffer through in school. And how about those painful orientation and training videos you had inflicted on you at your first job? Remember what a struggle it was to stay awake?

    That is exactly what you can’t afford to have happen with your social media marketing videos.

    The competition is getting much keener and the marketing video arena is getting more crowded. Out of all the B2C companies in North America that engage in content marketing, 82% use videos. So your online marketing videos have to stand out, and it all starts with the script.

    Content Marketing Institute

    Here, then, are the 5 keys for writing knock-’em-dead video scripts for online marketing – scripts that will keep viewers engaged and will rise above the competition.

    Know Your Audience and Address Them Directly

    One reason the videos we mentioned just above were so ineffective is that they weren’t produced for a specific audience. Because they were aimed at everyone, they didn’t really appeal to anyone.

    So the first key to writing an effective video script is to consider your audience. You need to know everything you can about the people – the potential customers – who will view your video. For example:

    • Gender
    • Age
    • Geographic location
    • Socio-economic level
    • Education level
    • Occupation
    • Hobbies and interests
    • Religious and political affiliation
    • Problems, pain points, and concerns

    And, then, your video should address their problem(s) – in a way that targets and engages these specific people. Talk directly to your audience – your specific, laser-targeted audience – about the things they care deeply about and develop that essential trust relationship. They’ll be receptive to your solution for their problem(s).

    Get Your Message Across in the First 30 Seconds

    Kissmetrics Blog

    Attention spans are getting shorter, and your potential viewers also have their attention pulled in many competing directions – email, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, TV, smart phones . . . and on and on. Psychological research suggests that the average sustained attention span is now about 20 minutes. But for online videos it’s only about 60 seconds. That’s just one minute! 

    So you simply have to get your message – your elevator pitch – across in the first 30 seconds of a social media marketing video. A good way to do this is by using the old tried-and-true journalist’s inverted pyramid. 

    Journalists have known for a long time that a lot of readers will read only the first paragraph or two and will skim the rest, if that. So when they write a news piece, they put all the important information at the beginning. The rest of the piece, while interesting, isn’t essential. 

    Be sure, then, to structure marketing videos in the same way. Try to get your message across in the first 30 seconds of the video. 

    Make Sure Words and Visuals Are Complementary 

    The words in your video script and the images in the video itself must be closely allied. The words should belong to and explain the images, and the images must reinforce and illustrate the words for greater impact. It works much the same way a musical score in a movie heightens the emotional mood in a particular scene. 

    But if we have to choose, visuals come in a close second to the words. Even very simple visuals can work well as long as they reinforce and enhance the voiceover. The temptation many times is to get so caught up in producing stunning visuals that they detract from and distract viewers from the message. 

    Tell a Compelling Story 

    Any good copywriter will tell you that the best copy tells a story. And the same holds true for marketing videos. 

    In order to really grab viewers, a good video for online marketing has to tell a story. It doesn’t have to be long – it just has to have all the elements of a story. Why? Because stories have emotional impact, and we remember them.

    Long-form content, short ad copy, novel, short story, or video – it doesn’t matter. If it’s good, it has a compelling story in there.  And it can be just a few sentences. If there’s a character with a problem who is seeking a solution, if there’s dramatic tension with rising action, and if there’s falling action that culminates in a resolution (a solution to the problem), then it’s a story.

    A story can help your potential customers better understand what it is you offer and what it can do for them. They’ll understand the benefits at a deeper emotional level than a mere explanation allows for.

    Use Humor Judiciously 

    Think back once again to the painful videos you had to sit through in school or at work. Remember the awkward and lame attempts at humor? Sure, you laughed, but it was the laughter of ridicule, wasn’t it? You weren’t entertained a bit. 

    Now, humor can be a highly effective tool to get a message across and make it memorable. That, of course, is why so many speeches, sermons, and talks kick off with a joke, usually a bad one. Just make sure you use humor judiciously. 

    As with the visuals, humor should support and enhance your message. It must be seamlessly integrated into your story as a seemingly necessary support – not a crutch. Done right – in the right place, with obvious appropriateness – it can be very effective. Having a little fun along the way can help people connect with your brand. 

    Top-notch videos can be a powerful weapon in your social media marketing arsenal. Just remember: it all starts with the script.

  • Social Media Must-Haves: Proactive and Reactive Social Strategies

    If you’re just starting out with your social media marketing, you’re probably spending a lot of time planning out your social media calendar, posting images of your products, and finding other influencers in your industry to follow and chat with.

    Although you may not have stopped to consider it – you’re just trying to build a social media presence, after all – this is called proactive social community management.

    As you might have guessed, there’s an inverse of this strategy, too: reactive social community management. And while the balance between them will differ for every brand, you do need to incorporate both tactics as you put together your social strategy.

    What is proactive social media strategy?

    Proactive social media strategy involves a lot of the elements of social media that you probably think of when you think of “social media strategy.”

    The daily, weekly, or monthly posts that you put up just to let your followers know what’s going on with your brand – those are proactive.

    via @5Gstudio

    In this tweet, for example, Yen Ong of the Dallas-based 5G Studios architecture firm is sharing a snapshot of a new project the firm is working on. Ong and 5G are letting followers in on what’s new at 5G, offering them an unfiltered glimpse of the process.

    Of course, that’s one of the greatest advantages, and most revolutionary effects, of social media – brands are able to talk directly to their followers and customers, without having to hide behind formal communications channels.

    There’s more to proactive social, however. Think of proactive customer service. Social media has long been established as a powerful customer service tool, and countless brands have put it to work when it comes to communicating with their customers.

    The eyeglasses brand Warby Parker is a superstar in regards to providing personalized, 21st century customer service. Among other things, the brand often posts short “thank-you” videos to people who say nice things about them on social media:

    Another use of proactive social? Sharing your content. Blog posts, webinars, infographics, curated lists and links – these are all important parts of proactive social.

    Advantages of proactive social strategy

    Proactive social has a lot of advantages.

    For one thing, you can plan it out.

    It’s not a response to anything, so you can schedule posts days and weeks in advance. You can develop campaigns around proactive social. You can schedule a photography session of your brand-new beautiful workspace, and use those photos in posts for weeks.

    If an event like a company anniversary, founder’s birthday, or a relevant holiday is coming up, you’re able to develop great posts that can piggyback on that event.

    Drawbacks of proactive social strategy

    It may seem like there really aren’t any drawbacks to proactive social, since it gives you time to showcase your brand’s best side.

    However, there is one major drawback to focusing solely on a proactive strategy: it makes you seem out of touch with the rest of the world.

    No one wants to hear someone talk about themselves all the time, right? Well, it’s just as true in the social media world as it is in real life. If all you’re posting is proactive social content, you’re missing a lot of opportunities.

    You’re not responding to customers, whether they’re singing your praises or airing grievances.

    You’re not commenting on trends or events happening in greater world.

    You’re not taking risks.

    And that is why you need another side to your social: reactive social media strategy.

    What is reactive social strategy?

    Reactive social is the flip side of the coin as far as social strategy goes.

    It means, of course, that you’re reacting to things. That could be a comment by a fan, or a breaking news story that’s relevant to your industry.

    Reactive social is often fast and agile – it’s a perfect opportunity to show that your brand is quick on its feet. This isn’t always the case, of course, but reactive social is often where some of the most memorable posts come from (like the Oreo Superbowl tweet, for example).

    via Slate

    There are a few uses for reactive social.

    The first is simply building connections with other users. Giving a shout-out to an influencer who blogs about your brand, and then later sharing another excellent piece of his or her content – even if it has nothing to do with your brand – is reactive (although, admittedly, you could make the argument that this is a proactive strategy as well).

    Conversing with your fans about topics that are important to them – that’s reactive.

    These are fairly simple things to do, and most brands do them well. Where it gets more complicated is with newsjacking or what some call “culture jacking.”

    Newsjacking involves jumping on a current event, or breaking piece of news in order to capture tons of social media traffic and – hopefully – gain new followers.

    The problem is that it takes finesse to do so tastefully. There are far too many stories of brands that attempted to use a major event in order to pull in more followers, and only succeeded in offending people.

    While this fact ought to be obvious, it bears repeating: newsjacking stories of human suffering is never ethical, and never a good idea. Natural disasters, revolutions, terrorist attacks – the best thing your brand can do when these tragedies strike is either to stay silent or express sincere sorrow.

    So what kinds of events are appropriate to take on? It depends on your brand, of course, but in general, things like the Superbowl, Fashion Week, the Oscars, and other pop culture events can all be good opportunities to jump into a trending conversation.

    Politics is usually a bad idea, unless your following leans decisively one way or another. If that’s the case, there are times when commenting on politics can help your brand.

    The bottom line with newsjacking or culture jacking: be sensitive, be smart, and don’t tweet anything without truly thinking it through.

    How do proactive and reactive social strategies work together?

    You need both a proactive and reactive strategy because neither one all by itself will allow you to accomplish your goals.

    Let’s say you want to gain some new customers. That involves a lot of proactive social – posting new content, searching out relevant influencers, making sure your feed is active and interesting on a weekly, if not daily, basis.

    But how about when those new potential customers reach out to you with a question or comment? You’ve got to be able to react quickly and thoughtfully. Maybe that means posting a quick video like Warby Parker, or simply saying “thank you!” and giving that new customer a shout-out on Instagram.

    On the flip side, what if you’re trying to increase loyalty among your current followers? They certainly don’t want to be talked at over and over and over – they want interaction. They want you to notice them, talk to them, give them opportunities to share their own thoughts and wants and needs. They need reactive strategies to make them feel like they’re valued.

    At the same time, if you don’t give your current fans something to keep them interested – namely new content – they’ll eventually drift away. That’s where your proactive strategy comes in.

    Navigating the social media waters can be a delicate task. Need some help? Read our post “Social Media Management Hacks That Will Save You Hours Each Week.

  • 5 Reasons Huge Brands are Turning to Micro-Influencers – with Massive Results

    Call it the next advance in the evolution of authenticity in marketing.

    Instead of automatically turning to Instagram’s biggest celebrities to promote their products, major brands are beginning to enlist users with much smaller, but more loyal, followings for their influencer marketing needs.

    According to some industry experts, these “micro-influencers” – social media users with fewer than 30,000 followers – are turning out to be a more effective choice for many brands looking to use the power of influencer marketing.

    Here’s why.

    Some consumers, especially in Generation Z, are growing wary of celebrity product endorsements.

    Influencer marketing has been around long enough now that consumers know how it works. We’re wary of the idea that Khloe Kardashian actually uses Express Smile Atlanta’s teeth whitening kit, for example.

    I mean, sure, maybe she does. But it’s a lot more likely that she just posted about it after receiving a huge check for the endorsement and free product. That knowledge diminishes the influencer power a bit, especially among Generation Z.

    Now, it’s true that with tens of millions of followers each (Khloe has almost 68 million as of this writing), the Kardashians could post about garden fertilizer and it might very well be worth it for the brand. But few brands can pay the upwards of $200k price tag that a single Kardashian Instagram post goes for.

    That means that for most brands, a post with that kind of reach just isn’t a possibility. So they’re faced with a different choice: find a traditional celebrity with a huge following (but not quite as huge as Khloe Kardashian’s), or opt for someone with far fewer followers, but potentially higher engagement levels.

    While it will always be pretty cool to see a celebrity you idolize using a product that you could go out and buy, too, most of us are starting to trust those “regular people” a whole lot more. In fact, according to a 2015 Deep Focus report, 63% of Gen Z prefer advertising featuring “real people” over ads with celebrities.

    It depends on your product and your audience, of course, but it’s worth considering whether an endorsement from a micro-influencer might go further for your brand than one from someone famous.

    You can likely find a micro-influencer among the fans you already have.

    Micro-influencers can be similar to brand advocates. These are regular people who already like and use your product or service, and whose praise of it will therefore be far more authentic than that of an influencer who isn’t already familiar with your product.

    One of the great things about finding micro-influencers who already love your brand is that you don’t have to spend time developing a relationship from scratch. You should nurture and develop that relationship, certainly – but the basis for it already exists.

    This can greatly shorten the timeline for getting a strong influencer campaign up and running.

    Micro-influencers can be far more cost-effective.

    Forget $200k for a single social media post. Posts from micro-influencers are much, much less expensive – in some cases, micro-influencers may be happy to post something in exchange for a free product.

    Although costs vary, these are the general ranges for branded posts from micro-influencers, according to a Bloglovin’ Influence survey:

    • Instagram: $250-$500
    • Blog post: up to $1,000
    • Facebook: $250-$500
    • Twitter: $150-$200

    Here’s the full graph of their results:

    Source: Bloglovin’ Influence

    These do not take into account the costs on the brand’s side as far as developing the campaign, sharing the post, etc. However, it’s easy to see that working with micro-influencers is a far more realistic route for most brands.

    Micro-influencers elicit higher engagement.

    One of the key advantages that micro-influencers offer to the brands that partner with them is higher engagement levels.

    There are a few reasons for this.

    One is that micro-influencers’ audiences are more finely targeted. They’re not trying to reach millions of people all over the world.

    Instead, they’re aiming their posts at, say, Chicago foodies. Or moms in Toronto. Or women who love playing tennis. Micro-influencers are talented at developing their niches, and then posting things that are relevant to that niche. This helps automatically up their engagement levels, because a higher percentage of their followers are likely to be interested in whatever they post.

    Another reason is that micro-influencers have more at stake when it comes to the brand partnerships they choose to enter into.

    For a mega-influencer who gets hundreds of promotion requests a week and has millions of followers, there’s not much danger that the stream of requests will dry up or that their fans will leave them en masse after a post that misses the mark.

    Micro-influencers can’t afford to make those mistakes, though. If they agree to a partnership with a brand that has no relevance to their followers, or if they drown their feed in posts that are blatant advertisements, their audience will go elsewhere without a backward glance.

    The great micro-influencers, then, are going to vet their potential brand partnerships thoroughly. While that might mean that you have to work a little harder to find someone to say “yes” to your partnership offer, it also means that once you do find that person, you’re going to get better results than you would otherwise.

    Finally, people simply trust micro-influencers more than they do huge celebrities. In fact, according to a study by Expertcity, 82% of users are “highly likely to follow a recommendation” from a micro-influencer. That’s a pretty incredible statistic.

    Micro-influencers are much more likely to be posting their own content, engaging with their followers themselves, and making their own decisions about whether or not to partner with a brand.

    Followers know this, which means that they’ll be a lot more willing to learn more about your product when they see your promoted post pop up in that micro-influencer’s feed.

    It’s usually easier to develop a strong, long-term relationship with a micro-influencer.

    Since micro-influencers work with fewer brands at a time, it’s usually much easier to develop a real, authentic relationship with them.

    Your request isn’t one of a hundred that they get every week – it’s one of a few dozen, say, or fewer. They’ve got more time to spend discussing ideas with you and fewer distractions from brand that are competing for their attention with bigger monetary offers, or flashier product offerings.

    Then there’s the fact that micro-influencers are simply more accessible than the bigger-name influencers. They haven’t yet built up the layers of people between themselves and brands that celebrities and other major influencers have: publicists, agents, and the like.

    So when you get in touch with a micro-influencer, there’s a very good chance that you’ll be talking to the influencer him- or herself.

    In case you’re not yet convinced about the power of micro-influencers, take a look at this infographic from HelloSociety:

    Source: AdWeek

    Want to learn more about making your influencer marketing as effective as possible? Read Approaching Influencers: The First Step to Influencer Marketing, Outreach, and Digital PR.