• 7 Email Marketing Trends You’ll Need to Know About in 2018

    Email is still one of the most effective ways to communicate with your customers, and this isn’t going to change in 2018. 91% of all U.S. consumers use email and 66% have purchased something online as the result of receiving an email or an email marketing campaign. Statistics show that email is still a major player when it comes to content marketing. Email is even more important if your business operates strictly online because, unlike social media platforms that can disappear or change their algorithms at any time, email has proven it’s here to stay.

    Email marketing trends in 2018 will continue along the same path that 2017 email marketing did. Emails will become more automated, include more videos, be more personalized, and more interactive.

    Source: https://www.emailmonday.com/email-marketing-future

    Continuing with some of the trends established in 2017, email trends for 2018 fall into seven broad categories.

    • Automation,
    • Mobile-friendly,
    • Video,
    • Personalisation,
    • Interactivity,
    • Data, and
    • Content.

    Automation

    Small businesses in particular will need to take advantage of automation if they want to stay competitive. The key behind automation is that it’s designed to save businesses time and money. It’s also linked to consumer behaviour such as filling out a form or adding something to their cart on your website. This means that an automated email is 70.5% more likely to be opened. It provides information to your customers exactly when they need it.

    Mobile-Friendly

    There’s a good chance that your audience is accessing their email on their smart phone. This means it’s important that the emails you send can be easily read on a mobile device. By the year 2018, as many as 80% of consumers will be accessing their email via their mobile device. When thinking about mobile viewing, keep your subject lines short, your content concise, and use clear calls to action and engaging preheader text.

    Video

    Video requires little effort to understand and is quickly and easily consumed, especially on mobile devices. Until recently, many email management systems (EMS) were unable to display embedded video but this is quickly changing. If your EMS doesn’t allow embedded video watch for this to change very soon. In the meantime, animated GIF’s can be used in place of video or you can even use an image with a play button as a way to link to a site where your customers can play your video.

    Personalisation

    Mass impersonal email blasts just don’t work. Personalize emails by using your customers’ names when you have them. Emails that use people’s first names get higher open rates than those that simply say “Dear Customer”. It’s also a good idea to personalize the “from” portion of your email. It’s important to make sure it’s clear who the email is coming from. Emails sent from a personalized account are more likely to be opened than those that are sent from a “no reply” address.

    Create thoughtful and personalized email subject lines that are relevant to your subscribers. It’s important that the subject line gives your readers an idea of what your email will be about and isn’t just something catchy to try and trick them into opening your email. Nobody likes to be tricked.

    Interactivity

    Interactivity will increase in 2018. Increase engagement by including GIF’s, quizzes, countdown timers, and add-to-cart functionality in your emails.

    Another way to increase interactivity and engagement is to send to lists that actually want to hear from you. Stop sending to lists with low open rates. Low open and engagement rates hurt your domain reputation and your chances of engaging with other customers who are interested in hearing from you. Don’t be afraid to remove subscribers who aren’t opening your emails.

    Have a goal for your email before you hit send. Think about what you want your subscribers to do, if anything, before drafting your email. Identify the purpose of your email, then write the entire email with that in mind. Make it easy for your subscribers to do what you want them to do. If you want them to read your blog post, then provide a link to the post. Provide more than one way for your subscribers to achieve your goal by using links in the text of your email, and buttons or calls to action at the end of your email.

    Data

    Use the built-in analytics that come with your email management system to improve your open rates. Think of the analytics as feedback and make note of how the numbers move (up or down) when you change something. This often requires a lot of testing.

    Play around with the day you send your emails and see what works the best for your subscribers. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays are the most popular days to send emails so an email sent on one of those days is not as likely to be opened because your subscribers will be inundated with emails from other lists they’ve joined. Focus on subscribers who have submitted a form on your website. Don’t buy email lists.

    Keep an eye on your analytics. If unsubscribing seems to be a trend, then you’ll want to find out what’s going on. This is also true if people aren’t opening your emails. Respect your subscribers’ wishes. If you are marked as spam then immediately stop sending emails and see if you can find out what may have caused your subscribers to think of your emails as spammy.

    The definition of spam has changed. It’s no longer just emails to people who haven’t given you permission to email them – it’s also email that gets sent to subscribers who never open your emails. This is called graymail. Unsubscribes can actually be a good thing because it reduces your chances of sending graymail and increases the chances that your subscribers are actually reading your emails.

    Content

    Another way to increase your open rates and reduce the amount of graymail you send is to make sure you’re sending great emails that customers want to read. Think about your ideal customer and what they want to know. Do they want tips and tricks, personal stories, or the latest deals? Maybe they want all of those things. Knowing and understanding your customers is key. A good rule of thumb is to send emails that provide value to your customers 80% of the time and promotional emails the other 20%.

    Almost 70% of consumers have purchased online as a result of an email or an email marketing campaign, so it’s definitely worth putting some thought into your email marketing strategy. If you’d like help making your emails stand out, contact our team of experts at Marketing Zen today.

  • Content Marketing Trends to Watch for in 2018

    Are we entering the golden age of content marketing?

    Well, it depends on whom you ask – but one thing is for certain, and that’s that 2018 is going to be a wild, fast-paced year for the content marketers who are ready to go all-in.

    Video continues to overtake other types of content. Enterprises are placing more and more emphasis on original content. Commitment to content marketing is increasing in marketing departments of all shapes and sizes.

    All of that is great, but what does it mean for you and your brand? We’re going to break down a few of the most important trends right here, right now.

    Blogging just isn’t enough anymore.

    Until fairly recently, having an active, engaging blog was enough to earn you plenty of attention, both from Google’s algorithm and from your customers.

    You might mix up your formats now and then – post an infographic here, a video there – but by and large, brands that committed to traditional blogging and turned out posts on a regular basis didn’t have to worry about falling behind.

    Blogging alone won’t be enough in 2018. #trends #contentmarketing Click To Tweet

    In 2018, that won’t be the case.

    But before you get too worried, it’s important to say that this doesn’t mean that you’re going to have to turn out tons of blog content in addition to a bunch of other types of content.

    The way we’ve approached content marketing has been slowly changing for years, and this is just the latest step. When content marketing was new, everyone focused on getting as much content out there as possible, regardless of misspellings, grammatical errors, keyword stuffing, and other major no-no’s.

    As the industry matured, the focus moved to quality over quantity. Instead of purely measuring shares and reach, we’re measuring engagement.

    In 2018, the focus is still on quality, but in an expanded group of formats.

    Take video. It’s becoming increasingly important to content marketing and it’s not going away. We’re seeing actual short films come out of a wide variety of business marketing departments, instead of just the ones, like Marriott, with massive budgets and in-house content studios.

    Podcasts, apps, commercials – succeeding at content marketing in 2018 will require brands to identify and embrace their strengths, then apply them to a variety of content formats. As Neil Patel writes, content teams will need more than just writers.

    At the same time, however, you don’t want quality to suffer because you’re branching out into something new. Pulling back on a blog or podcast series for a little while to work on something new and awesome won’t destroy your brand. Just make sure you’re getting help in the areas you need to, whether that’s video editing or app-building.

    There will be more ways to consume content away from our screens.

    TED Talks have been discussing the evolution of technology away from screens for years, and it’s definitely happening.

    We can thank the Internet of Things (IoT) for this. Smart devices like Google Home and the Amazon Echo are allowing content marketers to think in completely new terms. Amazon’s Alexa Skills allow developers to create voice-activated apps – and those apps provide an incredible opportunity to branch into new content formats.

    As VentureBeat reports, Sesame Street has an Alexa Skill that allows children (with parental consent, of course) to call Elmo and learn about the alphabet and numbers. The Skill Cook Reference can suggest wine and beer pairings for specific foods, among many other things.

    With AI and the IoT growing more sophisticated, the sky is the limit when it comes to content.

    To stay competitive, your brand should be considering how to make use of these new capabilities, even if you’re not ready to launch an AI app just yet. Since these technologies will become more widespread and easier to access, planning for how to integrate them into your content marketing is key.

    In 2018, we’ll see more ways to consume content away from screens. #contentmarketing #trends Click To Tweet

    Content marketing is not advertising (no, really, it isn’t).

    Joe Pulizzi at the Content Marketing Institute recently wrote about the increase in budgets for content marketing that he’s been seeing worldwide.

    Research bears this out: in a 2017 CMI study, 39% of B2B marketers expected to increase their content marketing budgets over the next 12 months. Curata found that 75% of marketers are increasing investment in content marketing.

    This is good news, right? Well, yes, he says – except he also notes that these budgets are very campaign-oriented. In other words, they’re treating content marketing as if it’s a bunch of advertising campaigns run one after the other.

    This misses the point of content marketing. While it’s true that campaigns are a part of any strong content marketing strategy, your content marketing must be greater than the sum of its parts if it’s really going to bring you results.

    In other words, it has to be more than something that may be slightly different from, but basically still amounts to, a string of advertising campaigns.

    Your content marketing has to be unique, relevant, and compelling. If it’s not, then all the budget increases in the world won’t bring you real results.

    Brands will have to master the art of creating content for the micro-moment.

    “Micro-moments” refer to a specific type of consumer behavior that Google identified and named back in 2015.

    It’s that impulse that we all – 96% of us, to be exact – have experienced, probably on a daily basis. We think of a question we have, and we pull out our phones to get the answer. It doesn’t matter if it’s “How long do elephants live?” or “Where’s the best pizza place near me?”

    No matter the question, we expect an immediate answer.

    This has greatly influenced the way consumers interact with brands. When they have questions about your product or service – maybe they want reviews of your latest shoe style, or testimonials from your consulting clients – they expect that information to be easy to find, follow, and understand.

    The last thing a consumer wants to do nowadays is dig through your website to find the answer to their question. A single click (or tap, since we’re talking mobile here) is optimal.

    How does that affect your content marketing? It means that your content marketing team has to refocus their efforts on creating content for every stage of the sales funnel, as well as content pieces that anticipate and address some of your customers’ most common questions.

    The best way to see how well you’re addressing these micro-moments with your content is to take the time to do a full content audit. Do you have pieces that address customer questions from every stage of the funnel, from awareness to decision?

    If not, that’s your homework for 2018.

    Content marketing in 2018 will be more comprehensive, more creative, and more challenging. If you need to up your content marketing game, read our post “6 Tips for Creating Content That Converts.”

  • 5 Invaluable Social Media Marketing Tips for Niche Industries

    Establishing a strong social media presence can be a challenge for businesses in niche industries.

    When you’re just starting, you may have no idea how to begin getting followers on social media. What will they want to see from you? Will the customers you already have even care if you’re on Facebook? What kind of pictures could you possibly post on Instagram?

    We’ve heard all these questions, and more, from our niche clients (many of whom happen to be B2B), and it’s true – it takes a lot more thought to create a solid Facebook post for, say, a B2B software sales firm than it does a B2C fashion retailer.

    But that is not to say it can’t be done. In fact, niche industries can thrive on social media, just like more mainstream ones. All it takes is a little strategy.

    To help you on your way, here are 5 invaluable social media marketing tips for niche industries.

    Give your brand a face

    One issue many niche businesses have is that they don’t come across as personal.

    Although these are hardly niche companies, think of Microsoft or Apple without Bill Gates or Steve Jobs. Those high-profile individuals served as the faces of their massive companies, lending both businesses a radically higher appeal than they could have gotten simply as tech companies.

    You certainly don’t have to have someone as big as Gates or Jobs at the helm to reap the benefits of personalizing your company.

    Choose your founder, CEO, CMO, COO, or another high-level person who’s willing to take on the role. If they’re already on social media for personal branding reasons, this can be an easy transition.

    All they have to do is make sure that information about the business is in their social media profiles, and that they frequently share posts from the company’s social media accounts with their own followers.

    If you’re a smaller niche business, it’s perfectly feasible to start small. You could begin by using the photo and name of a real person at your business for each of your blog posts, or have the person in charge of the company Instagram account include a few co-workers in your posts on a regular basis.

    The goal is to get beyond the image of the “faceless corporation.” The best way to do that simply depends on your business.

    Put a name and face to your niche business’s social media profiles to drive engagement.… Click To Tweet

    Prioritize thought leadership, and share widely

    What is it that sets your company apart from the other companies that are doing the same, or similar, things as you?

    Maybe it’s a particular value you bring to your customers. Perhaps it’s a unique take on your industry. Whatever it may be, one highly effective method of sharing that thing with current and potential customers is thought leadership.

    This goes hand-in-hand with personalizing your company. You want others in your industry to look to you for informed opinions on new trends, on strategy, and on other important topics that influence your business and others like it.

    You can do this by producing your own content, like whitepapers, blog posts, and explainer videos, and sharing them widely on your own social media profiles.

    Another great way to get your message out is to put time into influencer marketing.

    (Related content: Influencer Marketing from A to Z: a Complete Guide for Businesses)

    Seek out other influencers and thought leaders in your space, and build those relationships. Comment on their content, engage with them on social media, and share their posts with your own audience.

    Once you’ve established a relationship, you may be able to guest blog on an influencer’s site, or partner with another industry leader for a webinar or virtual roundtable.

    Being a thoughtful, yet frequent commentator on important industry issues will reflect highly on you, and by extension, on your business.

    Being a thoughtful, yet frequent commentator on important industry issues will reflect highly on… Click To Tweet

    Make sure your online and offline marketing are working together

    Many niche industries rely heavily on offline marketing strategies, as well as online ones. Trade shows, conferences, product demos, training sessions – if you’re engaging in any of these for marketing purposes, you want to make sure that your online marketing is supporting these efforts, and vice versa.

    The quickest and easiest way to bring these two worlds together? Live tweeting. If you’re at a keynote address during a conference, share salient thoughts from the speaker via Twitter, as they happen (being sure to give proper credit to the speaker, naturally).

    In order to successfully live-tweet, you do need some preparation. You’ve got to know the speaker’s Twitter handle, for one, and if there’s a hashtag that the conference or speaker is using (and there almost certainly is), you need to know that, too.

    For a full guide to how to live-tweet an event, check out our friends at HootSuite’s blog post “5 Things You Need to Know to Successfully Live-Tweet an Event.”

    Live tweeting isn’t the only way to link up your online and offline marketing activities, however. Include a branded hashtag on your event signage, and ask customers to post selfies using the hashtag. You could advertise a promotion via your social media channels that can only be redeemed in person, at one of your offline locations or events.

    Use analytics, as well as manual research, to ensure you’re giving your best customers the content they want

    Creating and sharing content without a documented strategy behind it is like throwing a handful of darts at a dartboard – if you get a bull’s eye, it’ll be from sheer luck.

    The same is true of your content marketing. If you’re creating and curating content without knowing for sure that it’s working, then you’re wasting resources.

    This is especially true for niche industries, which often have a narrower group of topics to choose from.

    So how do you get that bull’s eye on purpose, instead of by chance? Analytics.

    Make a habit of checking your social media analytics regularly to see what’s performing well, and what’s failing. Do opinion posts from your CEO get shared more than posts on industry trends? Are your video case studies getting more views than your video testimonials?

    Use the analytics to take your audience’s pulse, and when you see what’s working, make more of it.

    If you’ve got star customers who are also active on social media, it can’t hurt to follow them and see what they’re saying and sharing about your brand (essentially this is a micro form of social listening). You’ll gain a better idea of what they like about you, what keeps them coming back, and what they think of your content. Those insights can help inform your content strategy going forward.

    Use social media to improve your customer service – which will, in turn, boost your social media marketing

    Social media is an immediate, effective way to address certain customer service issues – at the very least, it’s a way to acknowledge customer complaints or comments right away, and direct them to the channels that will allow you to help them.

    One of the reasons that social media has such potential for improving your company’s image (or, if used poorly, hurting it) is, of course, that it’s public. If a customer posts a question on your Facebook page, and it’s answered quickly and courteously, your other Facebook followers will see that – and it will likely boost their positive image of you.

    Given the public nature of social media, however, it’s also vital that you use careful judgment as far as when you should be directing customers to more private channels like email, phone, or your website’s customer service forms.

    If you direct every question to a private channel, you can create the impression that you have something to hide. But if you try to manage an escalating conversation out in the open, you could end up with a PR nightmare on your hands.

    In general, angry or unsatisfied customers are best served with a quick, but sincere apology and a request to talk via another, private channel.

    On the positive side of things, if you have customers who come out of their service issue feeling very happy with the result, it’s a nice touch to thank them publicly on your social media channels. Don’t share any details of the issue, but something like “Thanks for letting us help with your issue!” can be a gentle way of acknowledging the interaction.

    Niche businesses don’t have to hide behind vague Twitter posts or an endless stream of shared blog posts when it comes to social media. For more on niche marketing, read our post “5 Awesome Digital Marketing Strategies for Niche Businesses.”

  • 6 Steps to Creating a Documented Content Strategy for Your Brand

    Even though most of us digital marketers know that content marketing is deeply important for our digital marketing strategies, there’s a strong temptation to simply wing it, and see what happens.

    We’ll think of a topic that would be great for a blog post one morning, write the post that afternoon, and post it before we sign off for the day. We’ll see an interesting article and tweet it to our followers, whether or not it fits into a larger strategic plan. We’ll reply to a few Facebook comments and share the blog post we just wrote with our followers.

    Then we’ll start this process all over again the next day.

    While this may be content marketing – in a sense – it’s certainly not strategic. It’s reactive, a fly-by-night approach to what should be a much more thought-out and planned process.

    After all, if you’re putting resources into creating and sharing content, you ought to be striving for the highest ROI possible. And while this reactive social behavior is a part of attaining that, it’s certainly not enough on its own.

    So what are you waiting for? Here’s a 6-step process to creating a documented content strategy.

    1. Put the brakes on creation.

    It may sound counterintuitive, but the first thing you want to do when developing a documented content strategy is to stop creating new content – just for a while.

    This is because you want to free up your time to focus everything on putting together your new strategy.

    After all, one of the reasons you’re creating this strategy in the first place is to ensure that you don’t waste resources on content that’s not working for you. If you’re still putting in hours on developing blog posts, you may find that, once you’ve finished your strategy, those blog posts don’t fit in with the direction you want to go.

    To keep your social media feeds fresh during this time, consider scheduling posts of some of your older or evergreen content, or focusing more heavily on sharing curated content.

    2. Determine your audience personas – whom you’ll be trying to reach with your content.

    One frequent issue experienced by brands that don’t have a documented content strategy is that they’re just guessing when it comes to who their audiences are and what kind of content they want to see.

    For instance, you may know that one of your brand’s audiences is young women – but that doesn’t tell you that much.

    To really begin creating content that succeeds, that converts site visitors into customers, you need to know who, specifically, you’re trying to reach. To do that, you need to create your audience personas.

    I won’t go into depth here, because creating audience (or buyer) personas is an extensive process, but basically, you’ll be creating a hypothetical person to represent each of your target audiences.

    Audience personas are huge when creating a documented #contentmarketing strategy. Click To Tweet

    If one target audience is young women, you would develop a female persona in the age range that you’re targeting. Give her a name, a job title and job description, income level, geographic location, hobbies, which social media platforms she uses, where she hangs out online, and any other details you can add. This becomes something you can refer back to when you’re trying to think of content topics that will appeal to your real-life customers.

    For a full run-down of this important exercise, read our post “The Ultimate Guide to Buyer Personas.”

    3. Brainstorm content ideas and formats.

    Once you’ve gotten your buyer personas figured out, it’s time to start brainstorming content.

    One of the great things about having your buyer or audience personas sketched out is you should find it easier to come up with solid topics.

    You can go about this in one of two ways. You can simply brainstorm topics that land all over the map, and figure out how they fit with each persona later. Or you could go through each persona, and brainstorm content specifically for that persona.

    If you’re having trouble coming up with blog post ideas – and who among us hasn’t, at one point or another – there are a few helpful tools out there that can help you.

    One is HubSpot’s Blog Topic Generator. All you have to do is put in between 1 and 3 nouns, and the generator will come up with 5 different blog post titles to get you started. I put in the keyword “digital marketing” and got these results:

    Screenshot of HubSpot blog post generator results featuring the keyword “digital marketing”

    Source: HubSpot

    Another fun one is the Blogabout blog topic generator, which has you fill in one or two blanks to create a blog post title.

    screenshot of Blogabout blog title generator showing the title “8 Ways to Overcome the B2B Blogging Blues”

    Source: Blogabout by Impact

    Of course, you don’t have to resort to online tools to come up with great topics.

    You can always do it the old-fashioned way.

    Ask your colleagues what they’ve been reading about online.

    Keep a bookmarks folder of blog posts that you find memorable or compelling.

    Jot down ideas as they come to you, whether or not you need to come up with content right then (because that’s another amazing benefit of creating a documented content strategy – no more having to come up with content ideas every single day).

    Your goal is to come up with enough content ideas – blog posts and/or webinars, whitepapers, e-books, etc. as well as social media posts – to last you a month. If you can initiate this process and keep up with it, you’ll always be a month ahead as far as knowing what content is coming down the pipeline.

    4. Map your content to your personas and the customer buying journey.

    Once you’ve developed a substantial stable of content ideas, you’ll want to map each piece of content to the appropriate buyer persona. This is in order to ensure that you maintain a balance of content types, as well as balanced outreach to your various different customer groups.

    In addition, it’s helpful to know where your various content items fall on the customer journey. These ought to be fairly balanced, as well.

    Do you have blog posts that will appeal to people who’ve never heard of your brand, and stumble upon it through a social ad or a link shared by a friend?

    How about content for people considering purchasing your product or service? And for current customers whom you want to retain?

    Chances are, you’ll already have topics and formats that will appeal to people at each of these points from your brainstorming session, but if you don’t, take some time to fill in the gaps.

    5. Plan which channels you’ll be focusing on and create a schedule or timeline.

    Thanks to those incredible buyer personas you spent so much time creating, as well as your analytics, you should know where your audience divides its time online.

    Use that information to decide which social media channels you’ll focus on when it comes to sharing your content. There’s Facebook and Twitter, of course, but how about Pinterest? Highly visual products often perform exceptionally well there. How about Instagram? Snapchat?

    Once you’ve decided where you’ll focus your energies, it’s time to create a schedule or timeline.

    This is where social media management tools can come in handy. Using a tool like Hootsuite or Buffer, you can create and schedule posts on multiple channels, all on one dashboard. This can be extremely helpful if you’re wanting to push out multiple posts per day, or several posts on different channels.

    Whether or not you’re using a social media management tool, you’ll want to keep a spreadsheet listing your content titles/topics, formats, platforms, and when they should go out.

    6. Follow through.

    This is both the easiest and the hardest part of developing a documented content strategy: sticking to it.

    That doesn’t mean that you need to write each month’s posts and schedule date in stone. Far from it – it’s vital that you build in some flexibility in case a great content opportunity comes up, like the chance to guest post on a popular blog, or a newsworthy event offers a chance to write a timely opinion post.

    However, for this strategy to work, you do need to make a concerted effort to follow through on all the great ideas you’ve put into it. This will take practice, but once you’ve gone through a month or two, it’ll simply become habit.

    Want to learn more about successful content marketing? Read our post “21 Common Questions About Content Marketing Answered.”

  • Is Content Shock Real, and How Will It Affect My Content Marketing Strategy?

    Every now and then, we digital marketers hear the term “content shock” whispered around the water cooler, or we read it in an article shared with trepidation among content marketers on Twitter.

    If you’re not familiar with the idea of content shock, it basically means that we’ve hit the point of diminishing returns with content marketing. There is so much content being created and shared every day, every hour, that a piece of content that might have been effective 1 year ago may today be hardly a blip on your audience’s radar.

    Content shock doesn’t get as much attention as it should because, well – it’s scary. It means change. It means strategizing in new ways. It means looking at our content marketing strategies with fresh, unbiased eyes. That’s a hard thing to make ourselves do.

    So let’s get real. How is content shock really affecting your brand and your content marketing strategy? How can you adapt to the times without throwing out the entire content marketing playbook?

    Content shock is real, but you’ve probably already adapted – to a certain degree

    Here’s the bad news.

    Yes, content shock is real. Your well-researched, abundantly backlinked, visually pleasing blog post that you spent 10 hours writing simply will not get the same number of eyes on it today as it would have yesterday unless you pay to promote it. It’s far more likely to be drowned out by the other thousands of similar pieces of content than it used to be.

    That hurts, we know, especially since for years, every brand has been hearing how vitally important content marketing is to your overall marketing plan.

    Now here’s the good news.

    While content shock is, indeed, real, you’ve probably already adapted some of your content marketing practices to deal with this new reality – perhaps without even realizing it.

    For example, maybe you’ve expanded into developing video content, in addition to blog posts and whitepapers.

    Or maybe you’ve upped your social media ad spend because you’ve noticed your organic reach on Facebook has dropped over the past few years.

    There are lots of other strategic decisions marketers are making these days that are a way of dealing with the fallout from content shock. If you’re making any efforts to stay current with digital marketing best practices, then you’re almost certainly engaging in many of these already.

    And that means that you don’t have to worry about any sudden effects from content shock – instead, the effects are and will continue to be more gradual.

    What exactly are the effects of content shock?

    This is how content shock may be affecting your brand and your content marketing efforts:

    • Engagement rates are going down, or you’re having to work harder to get the same levels of engagement you had 1, 2, or 3 years ago
    • Organic reach rates are plummeting. As marketing expert Mark Schaefer explains in his blog post about content shock, “In 2011, if you did a great job with your content, audience, and engagement, the average brand could expect 26 percent organic reach on content posted on Facebook. Today that number is below 1 percent. Why? There’s simply too much stuff.”
    • Your audience doesn’t trust your content anymore. Multiple studies have found that consumers, in general, are becoming more skeptical of branded content due to the overload of marketing messages they receive every day. This is especially true for Generation Z.
    Effects of content shock: lowered engagement, plummeting organic reach, and less consumer trust. Click To Tweet

    These are all serious challenges, but they’re not insurmountable. To combat the effects of content shock, here’s what you need to do.

    1. Be more strategic, analytical, and selective about the content you create.

     This is by far the most important takeaway when it comes to dealing with content shock.

    The answer to getting noticed these days is not, as it used to be, more content. It’s more strategic content – and likely in the next few years, a lot less of it.

    As it takes more and more resources to get your posts, videos, whitepapers, and webinars noticed, and in turn, driving conversions, it’s the simple truth that at some point you won’t be able to keep up. You can’t keep paying more and more in social media ad costs, only to get a lower ROI per post.

    Instead, the key is to use those resources differently. Instead of having your content team turn out 2 or 3 blog posts per week – even if they’re well-written and highly researched – have them dedicate some time to studying your analytics to see what’s performing well and what’s falling off the map.

    Then, based on that research, choose a topic, write a post, and pay attention to the analytics.

    You may feel as though you’re slacking, or not doing your job as a content marketer – but consider these facts:

    0.5% of the content on the average website drives more than 50% of the traffic.

    Some studies suggest that more than 50% and as high as 70% of marketing content created by brands goes completely unused.

    Source: Marketing Insider Group

    You want to be creating more content like that 0.5%.

    0.5% of the content on the average website drives more than 50% of the traffic. Click To Tweet

    2. Embrace user-generated content (UGC).

    In an age in which consumers are ever more skeptical of the content put out by brands, user-generated content can be your best friend.

    UGC is simply content that your users create that tags or mentions your brand in some way.

    It can be solicited by a brand, or spontaneous and unsolicited. Unsolicited UGC is any content a user posts that mentions your brand. Someone tags your brand in a Facebook post, they tweet at you, they post an image with your product on Instagram – all of that is UGC.

    Content shock antidote: user-generated content. Click To Tweet

    Solicited UGC comes in many forms. It can be something as structured as a Facebook sweepstakes that asks contestants to enter by posting a picture of themselves with your product on your page.

    It could also be simply popularizing a hashtag, like Loews Hotels did  with their #TravelforReal campaign. The hotel chain wanted to showcase real guests staying in their hotels, so they first searched Instagram for images that users had posted of their properties. They shared the photos with the #TravelforReal hashtag.

    Source: Loews Hotels Instagram

    Then they began asking followers to post images from their stays at Loews hotels, using that hashtag. It’s since become a highly successful campaign, partly because of its uniqueness, and partly because of its transparency. Users who view the images know they’re real and spontaneous – not posed, doctored PR photos.

    3. Accept that Facebook, Instagram, and other social media platforms are generally pay-to-play for the majority of brands.

    For many brands that used to rely on Facebook as a largely free method of getting their message out to the world, it can hurt to acknowledge that the platform’s organic reach stats have dropped precipitously.

    It used to be enough to post your content on your Facebook page and wait for the click-throughs. Today, there’s simply too much content on the platform for your post to have a fighting chance without at least some promotion.

    That doesn’t mean that you have to pour money into promoting Facebook and Instagram posts. One great thing about these platforms that hasn’t changed is that advertising on them can be extremely affordable, while still bringing you a strong ROI.

    4. Use social listening to ensure you’re creating content your audience wants.

    Social listening means proactively keeping track of what online users are saying about a brand, industry, or topic.

    You can do this in a variety of ways. You can use social media management tools like HootSuite, which allow you to set up ongoing searches for your social media handles, branded hashtags, mentions of your brand name, etc. This is both the easiest and most effective way to engage in social listening.

    You can conduct regular, manual searches on the social media platforms on which you have a presence.

    You can use a tool like Google Alerts, which sends you emails with links to any mentions of specific keywords that you set up. That could be your brand name, relevant topics within your industry, thought leaders, etc.

    Once you’ve gotten your social listening methods set up, it’s time to start looking for trends, recurring themes, and other clues into the kind of content your audience might want.

    Is there a particular pain point they keep mentioning? Create a blog post or video addressing that specifically. Is there some element of your product or service that people are confused about? Create a how-to video to clear away the confusion.

    Social listening can be extremely helpful when it comes to refining the types of content you want to be putting out into the world.

    Content shock doesn’t have to mean throwing out everything you know about content marketing. For more on creating valuable, relevant content that your audience actually wants to read, check out our post “6 Tips for Creating Content That Converts.”

  • A Complete Guide to Crushing Your First Snapchat Takeover

    If one of your brand’s target audiences is young adults, then this blog post is for you.

    Snapchat, the social media messaging app that lets users post images and videos that disappear after a brief period of time, is dominated by younger demographics. full 60% of Snapchat’s 300 million total monthly users are under the age of 25, while 26% are between the ages of 25-34.

    This means that Snapchat can be a hugely effective tool for getting your brand message out to a younger, highly engaged audience.

    While there are plenty of ways to use Snapchat to your advantage, for the purposes of this post we’re going to focus on one tactic: Snapchat takeovers.

    What is a Snapchat takeover?

    Snapchat takeovers are a way to get your brand message out to a whole new set of eyes.

    The way they usually work is that a brand will give an influencer access to its Snapchat account for a set amount of time – usually a day. The influencer then “takes over” the account, sharing their own images and messages with the brand’s followers as a Snapchat Story.

    There’s plenty of cross-promotion leading up to the big day, so both the influencer’s followers and the brand’s followers know that the takeover is coming up.

    Why are Snapchat takeovers effective?

    The reason Snapchat takeovers can work so well for some brands is that – with the right planning – you can effectively double your audience for the duration of the takeover.

    That’s because the influencer who’s taking over your Snapchat will be bringing their own followers with them. And, as all good social media marketing moves are, takeovers are mutually beneficial: just as you’re bound to pick up a few followers from your influencer’s fan base, they’re bound to pick up a few new ones from yours.

    Snapchat takeovers can be especially effective when you’re having trouble reaching a very specific demographic – for example, young women in the Midwest, or new college freshmen. By working with an influencer who’s highly popular among your target group, you greatly increase your chances of getting them to follow and engage with your brand.

    How do I plan a Snapchat takeover?

    Planning a great Snapchat takeover requires, first of all, that you have a long enough timeline – from a week to a month or more, depending on how long the takeover will last.

    For example, if the takeover will last just a few hours or a day, you can likely talk through a single theme and a few posting ideas fairly quickly. Longer takeovers, of course, will need more time for brainstorming.

    Snapchat takeovers aren’t terribly complicated, but if you want to maximize your results, you should go through the following steps.

    Decide on your goal

    Every social media campaign needs a goal, and Snapchat takeovers are no different.

    Are you looking to increase your reach? Increase engagement? Grow your number of Snapchat followers? Sell more of a specific product or service?

    These goals are important because they’ll help you both decide on the right influencer, and guide the takeover content.

    Identify potential influencers who are right for your brand and goal

    If influencer marketing is already a part of your digital marketing plan, then you’ve probably got a few influencers who may be willing to do a Snapchat takeover for you.

    For instance, our own Marketing Zen founder and CEO, Shama Hyder, recently did a Snapchat takeover for Inc. magazine. Because Shama already blogs regularly for Inc., they knew she’d be a great fit for their brand.

    Shama snapped text images that offered tidbits of marketing advice, and also made short videos expanding on those topics throughout her takeover.

    Source: Shama Hyder Snapchat takeover for Inc.

    If you don’t have people like this already partnering with you, it’s time to start identifying them. One great tool for identifying powerful influencers in your industry is BuzzSumo – it allows you to see the most shared content based on keywords that you type in.

    You can also read our full blog post on how to find and approach influencers here.

    Obviously, the influencers you’re looking for will have a strong Snapchat presence – so if you find someone on BuzzSumo who has an amazing blog and a huge Instagram following, but a low number of Snapchat followers, then you’ll want to work out another way to partner with them.

    Now, one drawback of Snapchat is that you can’t do a simple search for a hashtag or keyword and find people who are snapping about it. Because of this, it’s usually easier to find your influencer on a platform like Instagram or Facebook first – if they’ve got a large Snapchat following, they’ll often (but not always) include their Snapchat handle in their bio or “about” section.

    Hash out all the details of the takeover with your influencer

    Once the Snapchat influencer has expressed interest in doing the takeover, you’ll need to begin the actual planning phase.

    While you certainly don’t want to micromanage your influencer, you do want to review your expectations with them before the takeover begins. If you have any particular asks, be specific – is there a product you need them to include in a snap on a certain day? Do they need to stay away from any topics or trends? How often do you expect them to post?

    Another key point is to discuss the logistics of how the influencer’s snaps will be posted. It’s possible to have your influencer text images and whatever text they’re including to someone at your brand who then posts them on your account; however, this can be a clumsy and tedious process.

    The other, more streamlined option is simply to change your password to something temporary, give it to your influencer, and allow them to access your account firsthand. Once the takeover is finished, change the password again.

    If the takeover is running over multiple days, creating a new password daily that you share with your influencer is a good idea to ensure your account’s security.

    Handling all these things in advance will make the takeover run much more smoothly.

    Brainstorm and/or review content ideas

    It’s mainly your influencer’s responsibility to come up with the content they’ll be posting – after all the whole point of a Snapchat takeover is to have someone new sharing their unique perspective with your followers.

    However, it’s a good idea to go over any additional guidelines you may have, in addition to the ones mentioned above. You can also take some time to help brainstorm content or creative ideas, if your influencer is open to it.

    Promote like crazy

    Perhaps the most important part of any pre-Snapchat takeover planning is the promotion. Let your followers know that your influencer will be taking over your Snapchat account, with all the specifics of date, as well as time, if applicable.

    You should also always share the influencer’s Snapchat handle, so they benefit from your promotion.

    Just like a Facebook Live stream won’t do much for your brand unless people know about it in advance, a Snapchat takeover will only be effective if you get the word out.

    You’ve also got to ensure that your influencer is doing promotion of the takeover, too. They need to be sharing the info, including your Snapchat handle, on their own social media channels.

    Finally, start snapping!

    When the big day arrives, you want everything to run smoothly, so make sure your influencer has your account password in plenty of time to get up and running.

    Since Stories disappear after 24 hours, you need to take screenshots and save individual snaps throughout the campaign. You can also download your Story so you can reference it in the future, when you’re looking at things that have or haven’t worked. You can also post it on your other social media channels, like YouTube, Facebook, or Instagram.

    Once the takeover is finished, you’ll want to thank the influencer with a solid shout-out on your Snapchat account, which is now yours once more.

    After that, shift into analytics mode. This is when you’ll get to see how effective your Snapchat takeover was. How many new followers do you have? How did your engagement change throughout the takeover? Did your web traffic change?

    Snapchat takeovers can be a great way to utilize this younger-skewing social media platform and extend your brand’s reach. Want more? Read 7 Snapchat Marketing Secrets That Won’t Disappear After 10 Seconds.”

  • What is Shadowbanning, and How Do I Know if It’s Happened to Me?

    There’s been a lot of talk recently about the Instagram “shadowban” that’s been affecting some users.

    It may sound like the title of the next James Bond movie, but it’s actually fairly simple. What it means is that Instagram is making some users’ posts invisible without the users knowing. For businesses that use Instagram to promote their brand, this is obviously a real problem. Being shadowbanned can lead to a plummet in engagement.

    But we hasten to add: The act of shadowbanning is not an attempt by Instagram to censor your posts. It’s actually part of a bigger cleanup job that Instagram is doing to make Instagram content better, more relevant, and less spammy.

    Now back to you. Why is the shadowban happening, and how can you tell if it’s affected your account?

    Check your engagement levels

    The biggest reason you’d notice that your account might be shadowbanned is that you’d see that noticeable dropoff in engagement mentioned earlier.

    This would be because your posts aren’t showing up when people search for a hashtag, for potential reasons we’ll get into later.

    Now, a drop in engagement doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ve been shadowbanned. It could mean that there’s a legitimate problem with your content, or that something you’re doing isn’t working.

    In fact, this is probably the more likely scenario, unless you notice a truly serious, sudden change in the number of likes and comments you’re getting.

    Some users who have likely been affected by the shadowban have reported getting an average of 50 likes within 5 minutes of posting have said that it was suddenly taking them 5 minutes to get just 1 like. That’s the level of change that you may want to look into more closely.

    A more direct way of seeing whether your posts are visible, of course, is to search for a hashtag you’ve used on a low engagement post. If your post isn’t showing up, well, then you may have been shadowbanned.

    There’s also a website that can supposedly check if you’ve been shadowbanned with nothing but your Instagram account name. It might be worth a try, but we can’t recommend it wholeheartedly. There’s no real way to know if it’s 100% accurate.

    Why am I shadowbanned?

    While the exact reasons for a shadowban haven’t been shared by Instagram, there are many people and organizations that have been experimenting to figure out what triggers a shadowban.

    According to social media scheduling tool Plann and others, here are the probable reasons you may have been shadowbanned.

    You’re using bots or an automated app to post on your behalf.

    This is a big no-no nowadays. As Instagram has been trying to clean up users’ feeds and make the platform less spammy, automated posting has become one possible way to get shadowbanned.

    How can they tell if you’re using an app? It’s all about the IP address. If a post goes up on your account from an IP address in, say, Delaware, where the app is located, and then you post 5 minutes later from your location in New York, Instagram will likely look into it.

    You’re buying followers.

    Most brands today know that buying followers is a terrible way to try to get ahead, as social media marketing is all about quality, not quantity.

    However, if you’re still employing this tactic, stop right now. Not only is it ineffective, it could also trigger a shadowban.

    Instead, it’s time to work on building up an authentic audience that is interested and engaged in what you post.

    You’re putting in tons of hashtags that aren’t truly relevant to your content.

    You’ve seen those posts with one long string of hashtags – #nofilter, #selfie, #instalove, #foodporn, etc.

    One thing many – not all, but many – of these posts have in common is that several of those hashtags probably have little to do with the image. It’s clear they’re in the post so that the post will show up in more searches, not because they help define the content in any meaningful way.

    Overused hashtags become cliches.

    Overused hashtags are social media cliches. Don’t use them. Click To Tweet

    And just like your high school English teacher reamed you for using “you don’t have to be a rocket scientist” in your term paper, Instagram is not going to be pleased if you’re appending #sunset, #cute, and #love to every image you post.

    Instead, use hashtags the way they’re supposed to be used: to add something relevant to a trending conversation, help your followers find you, or help develop your social media voice.

    You’re using the same hashtag(s) over and over.

    Maybe you’re careful about using meaningless hashtags, but you’ve been putting your branded hashtag on the end of every post for weeks. This is another apparent way to get shadowbanned on Instagram.

    Instead of sticking with the same hashtags for all or most of your posts, try varying them a bit. Be more creative with your hashtag game, or even stop using them all together for a few days. This can help you start to step out of that dreaded shadow.

    Don’t use the same hashtags over and over to avoid the Instagram #shadowban. Click To Tweet

    You’re using banned hashtags.

    You may not know that Instagram bans certain hashtags from time to time. It’s usually because they’ve been co-opted by users with less than honorable intentions, either for spam or for content that’s NSFW.

    A list of banned hashtags as of May 2017 can be found at the Huffington Post, but you can also easily check if a hashtag is banned.

    All you have to do is tap the Explore icon in Instagram and search for your hashtag. (Images are via Preview’s explanation of how to find banned hashtags.)

    If the search screen says “no posts found,” then you need to make sure that the hashtag is actually banned.

    To do that, tap the hashtag, and see what appears. If no posts at all show up, then the hashtag is completely banned. If a small selection of posts appears, then the hashtag is temporarily banned, and you’ll want to avoid it for a week or two. You can check back periodically to see if the ban has been lifted.

    Source: Preview

    So how do I get Instagram to stop shadowbanning me?

    Well, the good thing about the shadowban is it’s not a permanent thing. The adverse effects of it should end once you’re back in Instagram’s good graces.

    The most effective way to do that seems to be to simply back off of using the app for a few days or a week. Several Instagram users who believe they’d been banned tried this tactic and found that after a few days of silence, their engagement levels were back where they’d been before the ban.

    Going forward, it’s important to stick to social media marketing best practices when posting on Instagram: Post content that is relevant, valuable, and original. Keep your hashtag game concise and authentic.

    If you follow these guidelines, you shouldn’t have to worry about another Instagram shadowban hitting you any time soon.

    For more Instagram marketing tips, read “How to Market Your Business on Instagram: A Complete Guide.”

  • 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.

    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?