• Social Media Management Hacks That Will Save You Hours Each Week

    When you’re managing social media for a brand, you don’t just bang out tweets and Facebook posts with abandon – at least, we hope you don’t.

    Instead, you might be spending 30 minutes putting together the perfect status update. Taking an hour or two to sift through the day’s industry news to find a few great news articles to share on your Twitter feed.

    Crafting your brand’s social media voice is a full-time job (literally: it’s called being a Social Media Manager). And because the internet never sleeps, social media managers need all the time-saving techniques they can get.

    Time-saver #1: Schedule your posts.

    Have you ever found yourself checking the clock at 4 p.m. on a Friday and thinking “Oh no! I forgot to send out that tweet / post that update / share the link to that influencer’s site!”

    Then you scramble to put something together that people will actually see before they leave the office for the weekend, and hit send at 4:58, the sweat running down your fevered brow?

    That’s not exactly a fun place to be.

    #SocialMediaMarketing Time-Saver #1: Schedule your posts. Click To Tweet

    So instead of doing that, try scheduling your posts throughout the week. Use a social media management tool, like Hootsuite or Twittimer, to schedule posts for when you want to send them.

    That way, you can take a couple of hours each Monday to plan out your posts for the coming week. Schedule them to go out when you want, and you won’t have to worry about having nothing to send out come Friday afternoon.

    You’ll still be posting throughout the week, of course, as you find relevant and valuable information to send to your followers. But you’ll be able to rest assured that your baseline social media posts – the ones you need to keep your brand active and engaged – are already taken care of.

    Time-saver #2: Set aside time to review and respond to comments. 

    Push notifications are great for staying abreast of all the comments, mentions, and direct messages that your brand receives, but they can also be a huge, monstrous time suck.

    If you’ve become like Pavlov’s dogs, automatically picking up your phone or clicking on a link every time you hear that “ding!”, then you’re definitely not using your time efficiently. What you are doing is interrupting yourself between 5 and 50 times a day (depending, of course, on how much engagement your brand gets online).

    Of course, you might be thinking: “But that’s my job! I’m supposed to stay on top of our social media activity!”

    And that’s true – you are. However, you’re also supposed to be managing your overall social media presence in an effective and efficient way. Processing each and every comment as it comes in is the very opposite of efficient.

    #SocialMediaMarketing Time-Saver #2: Set aside time to review and respond to comments. Click To Tweet

    Instead, try this time-saver and best practice. Set aside 10 minutes (or 20, or however is reasonable) every few hours to review your notifications and attend to any comments or messages that need it.

    That doesn’t mean you need to ignore your notifications completely. You can still glance over now and then just to make sure that nothing needs immediate attention, like an offensive or inappropriate comment, for example.

    Time-saver #3: Adapt your existing content for your various social media profiles.

    If your brand is creating solid content on a regular basis – webinars, blog posts, e-books, infographics, etc. – then you’ve got a huge leg up when it comes to social media management.

    Use that content across your social media profiles to really maximize its potential, and adapt the content as needed.

    So, for example, if you have a blog post with an embedded infographic, post that infographic on Instagram and link to your post. For Facebook, you might excerpt a short paragraph and include your header image, rather than the infographic. And on Twitter, you could take out a few different “tweetable quotes” and use those to direct followers to your post.

    Of course, if a particular piece of content is evergreen – in other words, it’s not tied to a specific event or time period – then you can reuse it after enough time has passed since you initially shared the content.

    #SocialMediaMarketing Time-Saver #3: Adapt your existing content for your various social media… Click To Tweet

    That’s not to say that you shouldn’t be posting new, high-quality content as often as you can, but if you’ve got a webinar or infographic from years ago that is still consistently bringing in strong traffic, it might be time to highlight it again on social.

    Time-saver #4: Crowdsource your social content from coworkers and colleagues. 

    Your coworkers and team members can be a great help when it comes to cultivating your social media engagement – not to mention, having that extra assistance brainstorming will take some of the pressure off of you.

    While asking your coworkers to brainstorm a few good social media ideas with minimal direction can always work, you might find that it’s more effective to ask for something more specific.

    One idea we love was shared by 9lenses’Swetha Venkataramani shared on the DrumUp blog. She suggests coming up with a topic or theme that your coworkers can share something about on their own social media channels. That could be something like #WorkLifeBalance, or #contentmarketing, or #NationalDogDay – whatever you’d like to emphasize on a given day or week.

    #SocialMediaMarketing Time-Saver #4: Crowdsource your social content from coworkers and colleagues. Click To Tweet

    Then, your brand can retweet or quote your coworkers’ posts, resulting in more mentions and higher engagement.

    Time-saver #5: Share curated content.

    Want to know something truly awesome? You don’t have to rely on only your own, original content to up your social media engagement.

    Curating content is an essential element of content marketing, and if you’re not doing it yet, it’s time to start. To get a better idea of how you should be balancing your original and curated content, read this post, “The Ultimate Content Marketing Battle: Creation vs. Curation.”

    All curating content means is finding content by others that is relevant and valuable to your audience and sharing it with them (always giving proper credit).

    #SocialMediaMarketing Time-Saver #5: Share curated content. Click To Tweet

    By curating great content and sharing it with your followers, you’ll end up saving yourself a huge amount of time. That’s because you can easily search for content ahead of time and schedule it out in advance, ready to go.

    What’s more is that as you begin curating, it will become easier and easier. You’ll know what sites to check first, which influencers to partner with, and whose Twitter feeds to follow to find the best, most interesting content for your audiences.

    Time-saver #6: Carry a notebook (or just use your phone) so you can write your good ideas down. 

    Sometimes the perfect tweet just comes to you. When that happens, make sure you capture it by writing it down or typing it into your phone.

    #SocialMediaMarketing Time-Saver #6: Carry a notebook (or just use your phone) so you can write… Click To Tweet

    If you do this regularly, you’ll end up with a list of excellent social media ideas that you can pull out any time you’re feeling stumped. Then, instead of staring at that blinking cursor for 20 minutes, you’ll be able to refer to your list, type something out, and hit send – and then move right along to your next task.

    Want to learn more about social media management? Read our post “12 Must-Have Social Media Skills for Every Digital Marketer.”

  • 16 Invaluable Guidelines for Managing Your Social Media Comments

    Social media. It can really bring out the worst in people, can’t it?

    From all-out trolls to plain old rude and offensive people, social media threads can become perilous places. That’s especially true for brands, which must tread an extremely fine line when it comes to comments.

    Obviously, they can’t tolerate anything overtly offensive – but they also don’t want to be seen as exercising censorship over their followers.

    You want your fans and followers to feel encouraged to engage with your posts.

    You want them to feel confident that their views will be respected.

    And you want them to know that personal attacks and inappropriate comments will not be allowed on your site.

    How do you pull this off? How do you create an open, engaging forum for the exchange of opinions without allowing it to get out of hand?

    The answer: A robust, clearly-defined comment management policy. These 16 guidelines will help you get there.

    1. Establish a moderator. You need someone who’s committed to moderating your comments every day – not every few days, not once a week, but every day.

    That way, you won’t log onto your social media page one day to find that a blatantly racist comment has been left to fester there for days, prompting a massive negative response from your more civilized followers and – who knows? – a boycott of your brand.

    It’s happened before.

    A moderator will prevent this from happening by checking your social media comments regularly throughout the day. How often will be determined by how many comments your brand generally receives.

    2. Decide what constitutes harassing comments, and ban them.

    One of the most important functions of a comment policy is to ensure that your followers feel safe while engaging with your brand on social media.

    After all, that’s the whole point of having a social media presence in the first place: encouraging your customers to engage with you. If they get called names or otherwise harassed when they comment, they’re going to back off your site all together.

    Decide what you won’t tolerate, and put it plainly in writing. Here’s a pretty standard example from the Huffington Post.

    via Huffington Post

    3. On that note, don’t tolerate hate speech – ever.

    Hate speech has no place – well, anywhere, but certainly not on your brand’s social media pages. Your customers deserve better than that.

    If you have a commenter who repeatedly posts hateful speech or derogatory comments, you can either reach out to them privately to let them know they will no longer be allowed to post on your page, or you can simply remove them.

    It’s important to know that social media networks have their own hate speech policies, as well as policies for banning certain people from commenting on your page. Make sure you follow the guidelines for whatever social media site you’re on.

    4. Decide whether or not you’ll accept anonymous comments.

    While social media sites don’t allow anonymous comments, your website or blog may. Whether you accept those is up to you.

    Organizations that deal in sensitive areas – women’s shelters, for example, or groups that assist vulnerable populations – may need to enable anonymous comments for the safety of their customers.

    If, however, commenters are using anonymity simply to post terrible things, there’s no point in allowing it.

    5. Don’t allow spam.

    People don’t like spam on their conversation feeds any more than they like it in their email. How do you decide if something is spam? Anything that is solely promotional, that links to a malicious website, or that is clearly irrelevant to the post at hand constitutes spam.

    6. Delete inappropriate comments quickly.

    As mentioned earlier, the last thing you want is to leave an offensive or inappropriate comment up on your brand’s page for days. Delete problematic comments immediately, or notify the moderator if you’re not the one responsible for handling the comments.

    7. Consider pre-moderation.

    If you have the resources, you may want to consider pre-moderating your site’s comments. This simply means that comments must be approved before they go live.

    This can go a long way toward eliminating potentially inappropriate comments, but it also requires that someone go through your comments daily to approve or delete them. That can be a big time commitment if your commenters are fairly active.

    8. Remember that constructive criticism is not inappropriate.

    Maybe someone says something about your brand that you deeply disagree with. Maybe they post a strongly worded complaint on your page, right in front of everybody!

    These sorts of comments may be uncomfortable to deal with, but they’re not inappropriate. Deleting them sends the message that you’re not willing to listen to your customers. Instead, the best tack is to engage respectfully with the commenter. Acknowledge their opinion or complaint, and then see if there’s anything you can do to help change their mind.

    9. Establish timelines for responding to inquiries.

    Jay Baer of Convince and Convert has found that 42 percent of customers who post complaints on social media expect a response from the company in as little as 60 minutes. 24 percent expect a response within 30 minutes.

    And while the other 34 percent may be a bit more lenient, you can bet they’re not going to be pleased if you take a week to respond to their comment of post. That’s why it’s so vital to respond to inquiries or complaints in a timely manner.

    10. Use a social media management tool.

    If you have multiple social media accounts, a social media management tool like Hootsuite can be of invaluable help.

    These tools allow you to keep tabs on your profiles and comments from a single dashboard, rather than having to switch back and forth between different browser tabs. You can also set up email alerts that notify you each time there’s a mention of your brand.

    11. Start conversations.

    One way to get more high-quality comments is to start conversations. Pose an open-ended question, request images from your fans, ask for feedback on a new product – all of these are great ways to up your engagement.

    You’ll get even more, of course, if you offer an incentive, like a discount or giveaway.

    12. Identify your brand values, and ensure your comment policy and social media behavior uphold those values.

    Knowing your brand values is an essential part of developing your brand’s voice on social. It’s also essential to managing your social media comments well.

    These values should always be guiding you when you’re moderating comments from others, or posting your own.

    13. Keep jargon and overly technical language out of your responses. 

    No one likes a show-off, so unless there’s truly no other way to say what you’re trying to say, don’t use jargon or tech-speak when responding to customer comments.

    14. Be kind and polite.

    Unless snark is part of your brand’s persona, your best bet is to always be kind and polite in your comments.

    And if snark is part of your brand’s persona, you’d better be really, really good at it – like the UK grocery chain Sainsbury’s:

    via econsultancy

    15. Make sure your commenting policy includes the consequences of violating one of your guidelines.

    Commenters should know what will happen if they violate your commenting policy, whether that’s by posting spam or saying inappropriate things.

    Don’t allow anyone to be totally blindsided by having their comment removed – that can end up backfiring on your brand in a big way.

    16. Update your policy as needed.

    As your brand evolves, you may find you need to update your commenting policy or your tactics for engaging with your followers. Don’t fall into the trap of doing something that’s no longer working, just because you’ve always done it that way.

    Want to learn more about managing your social media presence? Read “12 Must-Have Skills for Every Digital Marketer.

  • Marketing to Millennial Parents: 7 Surefire Tactics

    It’s a hard pill to swallow, but we Millennials are no longer the youngest generation (thanks, Generation Z).

    Instead of college community service programs, trendy bars, and artisanal mayonnaise, many Millennials are finding themselves spending more time thinking about baby monitors, preschools, and nontoxic toys.

    That’s right: Millennials are becoming parents.

    In fact, 80 percent of new moms today are Millennials, according to a 2015 study by BabyCenter. which means that if you’re marketing to parents at all, you’ve got to have a strong grasp on what makes Millennials tick.

    80% of new moms are #Millennials. Marketing to parents IS marketing to Millennials. Click To Tweet

    So how can you grab these parents’ attention in the increasingly overloaded digital landscape? Here are 7 surefire tactics for marketing to Millennials with kids.

    Embrace diversity.

    One of the most striking features of Millennial parents is their diversity – and not just their cultural and racial diversity. Take a look at these stats from AdAge, for example:

    • 4 out of 10 Millennial moms are single parents
    • 67 percent of Millennial moms are multicultural
    • 61% of births to Millennial moms are to unmarried women
    • By 2020, 50 percent of U.S. children will be non-white

    While marketers have done fairly well in recent years breaking out of the WASP family model – white mom, white dad, and 2.5 white children – it’s important to remember that this isn’t the only diversity that matters.

    Does your marketing reflect the large number of single-parent households, for example? Does it reflect the multi-ethnic, multi-racial homes that lots of Millennial parents are creating? Are you showing multi-generational homes? Moms who are the main breadwinners for their families? Stay-at-home dads?

    While not every one of these profiles will be relevant to your product, making sure that you’re thinking about diversity – in all its incarnations – will help you immeasurably when it comes to reaching Millennial parents.

    #Millennials are diverse. Make sure your marketing is too. Click To Tweet

    Make sure your mobile and in-store marketing work together seamlessly.

    It should come as no surprise that Millennial parents spend a whole lot of time online. According to that same BabyCenter research, Millennial moms spend 4-5 hours per day online on a smartphone, tablet, or computer.

    But it’s not just for entertainment. 80 percent of Millennial moms use their smartphones to help them shop while they’re in-store, whether to download coupons, check product reviews, or check prices.

    That means that your mobile marketing should tie in to your in-store marketing, even if all that means is highlighting the same products on mobile and in-store, or offering mobile coupons that can be used in-store only.

    Target’s Cartwheel app is a great example. You download Cartwheel onto your phone, add coupons to your cart while you shop in-store, and then scan a barcode at checkout that processes all your savings at once.

    Build a robust social media presence that will add value to Millennial parents’ lives.

    As Millennials have grown up, partnered up, and had kids, they’ve maintained their strong social media habits – as anyone whose Facebook or Instagram feeds are constantly updated with new baby pictures knows well.

    But aside from oversharing, Millennial parents also turn to social media for help with parenting (97 percent of moms and 93 percent of dads, to be exact).

    If you’re not developing and maintaining a robust social media presence, you’re missing out. Sharing your curated content from top parenting websites or influencers, as well as original content around parenting trends, funny parenting fails, or tried-and-true parenting advice will go a long way toward engaging the Millennial parent and make it more likely that he or she will try your brand.

    Videos work.

    Research conducted by Google found that 3 out of 4 Millennial parents are open to using branded YouTube videos for guidance on parenting topics. 72 percent said they use YouTube to make better purchases for their child.

    That’s because Millennial parents – like every other new parent who’s come before them – crave guidance and answers, especially when they’re parents of infants. And as all digital marketers know, video is swiftly becoming the most popular format for digital marketing.

    Brands that can help parents achieve peace of mind by providing tutorials and information will earn Millennial parents’ loyalty much more easily than those that simply offer a product – even if that product adds enormous value to parents’ lives.

    Make your brand experience easy and convenient.

    The average mom in 2015 has added 9 hours to her day, resulting in 13 fewer hours for herself. 65 percent of mothers to children under age 6 work full-time.

    Clearly, these mothers don’t have time to search through your website for that coupon you emailed them about, or to jump through three or four digital hoops to enter your latest giveaway.

    If you want to reach Millennial parents throughout the course of their ever-busier lives, you have to make your brand experience both easy and convenient. Keep account registration short and simple. Make product reviews easy to find. Ensure calls-to-action are clear and easy to follow through on.

    Put your money where your mouth is. 

    Millennials are skeptical of brands that promise too much or present a too-perfect picture.

    Moms and dads today want to see “real” people in their advertising. They want to see brands living up to their professed values. They want to know that a high-quality item really is high-quality.

    In other words, your brand must embrace authenticity on every level, from brand voice, to mission and vision, to advertising. This is even more important when your product is for children and parents.

    One great example of this is Johnson’s (the parent company of Johnson’s Baby Shampoo) So Much More campaign. This marketing campaign consisted of content, including infographics and video, that explain how bath time for babies can actually play a large role in developing baby’s senses and stimulating brain development.

    This educational, informative content is exactly the type that Millennial parents value.

    Invest in your e-commerce options.

    This is a good idea for most brands, as e-commerce is growing 23 percent year-over-year. Among Millennials, 67 percent prefer to shop online than in-store.

    However, brands that market to parents will especially want to up their e-commerce game, as moms and dads, strapped for time, are some of the most frequent online shoppers.

    Offering a seamless online shopping experience is one major way to connect with Millennial parents, and ensure they’ll come back to your brand over and over.

    Millennial parents have different values and characteristics than earlier parenting generations. Knowing what they are will help you engage these new parents and create long-term, meaningful customer relationships.

    For more on marketing to Millennials, read “Marketing to Millennials: 10 Things Every Company Must Know.”

  • 4 Awesome Ways to Use Twitter Moments to Skyrocket Your Engagement

    Who among us hasn’t felt overwhelmed while searching through Twitter for something – news of an event, maybe, or views on a certain topic? By the time you scroll through the first 20 tweets on your screen, 10 “New Tweets” appear. It’s truly neverending.

    Twitter’s content overload isn’t going away. Around 9,000 tweets are sent every single second, which means there are about 58 million tweets, on average, each day.

    So how does your brand break through the noise? There are a few ways – Promoted Tweets, Pinned Tweets, Twitter ads, partnerships with influencers – but in this post, we’re going to focus on Twitter Moments.

    What are Twitter Moments?

    Even if you’re an avid Twitter user, you may not be that familiar with Twitter Moments.

    A Twitter Moment is a selection of tweets, curated by a particular user, on a single topic or event. You can find them by clicking on “Moments” in the top left-hand side of Twitter’s menu bar, right next to Home.

    Click on that lightning bolt, and you’ll see the Moments posted today. There are various categories, too, for Sports, Entertainment, News, and Fun.

    Once you click on a particular Moment, you’ll see a collection of tweets relating to the topic – like this one on Bon Appetit’s bizarrely-named hand salad “recipe.”

    As you can see, Twitter Moments are a good way to bring together some of the best tweets on one topic, whether you’re talking about hand salad or the latest news out of the White House – like this Moment that Marketing Zen was a part of, when our client Dippin’ Dots asked for our help in responding to Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s tweets about their brand. (To read more about the insane amount of publicity we brought Dippin’ Dots with our response, check out this infographic!)

    Twitter Moments also solve the problem with curating on Twitter. Sure, users can create Twitter Lists to curate a collection of other users who focus on particular topics or industries, but there wasn’t much you could do to curate particular tweets before Moments.

    And since content curation is becoming just as important as content creation, you could argue that Twitter simply had to jump on the curation bandwagon at some point. 

    Creating a Twitter Moment

    When Twitter Moments first rolled out back in 2015, only select editorial partners – BuzzFeed, the New York Times, and others – were able to create Moments.

    In 2016, however, the social media platform decided to give every user the ability to create Moments – and it’s really easy to do.

    After you click the Moments tab, you’ll see “Create New Moment” on the righthand side.

    After you click on it, you’ll be taken to a page where you title your Moment and select the tweets to include. You can search tweets, sort them in different ways, select ones you’ve recently tweeted, liked, or retweeted, etc.

    Once you’ve added them, select either “Finish Later” to save it as a draft, or “Publish” to publish to Twitter now.

    How can brands use Twitter Moments?

    So what about brands? How can brands use Twitter Moments to better connect with their followers and amplify their message?

    There are a few great uses for Twitter Moments.

    Cover an event.

    Brands that regularly host live or even online events know that Twitter can be an excellent way to provide up-to-the-minute coverage.

    The same is true of Twitter Moments. Before your event begins, you can create a Moment pulling together the best buzz about it from people who are attending as well as those who want to attend. Use your own tweets with pictures of the event space being set up, shots of speakers or celebrity guests, sneak peeks of the menu – the sky’s the limit.

    After your event is over, you can create a different Moment showcasing the best tweets from the event itself. Make sure you include plenty from attendees, and not just from your brand account and/or employee accounts. Images and videos, of course, will really improve engagement.

    Showcase influencer relationships – subtly.

    Nobody likes a show-off, but you can certainly emphasize your brand’s influencer relationships with a Twitter Moment – as long as you do so in a natural, authentic manner.

    One way to do so is to include a prominent influencer tweet about your brand in a Moment. Make sure that the influencer’s tweet is on-topic and relevant, and don’t go too crazy. One or two influencer tweets will be plenty.

    Showcase a tweetstorm more effectively.

    Tweetstorms, or a series of related tweets that are published in quick succession, are perfect candidates for a Twitter Moment.

    If you’ve got a campaign that involves a tweetstorm, you can increase its reach by not only tweeting, but collecting all of those tweets into one Twitter Moment.

    For example, you could tell your brand’s story in a Moment, or disseminate important information about an event, product, service, or new company development.

    Repurpose old content.

    We’re huge proponents of getting the most mileage out of the content you produce. After all, it takes a lot of time and effort to write solid blog posts, create informative webinars, and produce awesome videos.

    You can increase your content’s reach by creating a Twitter Moment around the topic your blog post, webinar, video, or infographic is about.

    For example, if we were going to create a Moment around our blog post on virtual reality in marketing, we’d include this tweet, where we shared the original post:

    via @marketingzen

    Then we could curate several of the best tweets about using virtual reality in marketing. We’d include ones from peer agencies we admire, marketing industry influencers, virtual reality enthusiasts, and brands that are using VR effectively.

    After publishing our Moment, we’d tweet it (obvi), and share the link across our other social media profiles.

    This also works for old tweets, not just old content. Timing can be your best friend or your worst enemy on Twitter. You could spend hours crafting the perfect tweet to announce a new product, and Twitter could suddenly erupt with breaking news that eclipses it completely.

    What better way to recycle that worthy but unappreciated tweet than with a Twitter Moment? If your product launched a while ago, create a Moment showcasing its history as seen on Twitter. Or you could curate the best tweets surrounding your product, including one by an influencer or two.

    Twitter Moments are underutilized by many brands, which means that yours may have a better chance of standing out. For more on making the most out of Twitter, read our post “3 Twitter Marketing Secrets the Pros Know.”

  • The Immense Power That Virtual Reality Can Have for Your Brand

    If you’ve been paying attention, you know that virtual reality is being used for a whole lot more than scaring the pants off of gamers with apocalyptic zombie games.

    Manufacturers are using VR and its cousin, augmented reality (AR), to help employees learn how to operate high-tech machinery.

    Medical universities and hospitals are using VR for training and surgery simulations.

    But perhaps more than any industry (after the gaming and entertainment industries, that is), it’s marketing that is embracing VR and AR with open arms. It didn’t take marketers long to discover that VR has incredible applications for brands, whether they’re selling shoes or pitching the next season of a popular TV show.

    It’s easy to think “Hey, we should be using VR too!” when you’re brainstorming ideas for your next big marketing campaign. But how exactly do you employ VR effectively? How do you create something authentic, rather than gimmicky?

    You’re not alone in asking that question. Lots of brands are struggling to figure out what VR can do for them, and how to use it organically to spread their message. And while the medium will certainly continue to evolve with time, here are a few pointers on how to make VR work for your brand now.

    VR has a huge “wow factor,” but its real power is its massive storytelling potential.

    When you think of experiences that lend themselves to virtual reality, there are always the obvious ones that pop up.

    Roller coaster simulations.

    Space travel.

    Extreme sports, like skydiving.

    These are all fun, exciting uses of virtual reality, but they’re essentially gimmicks. They’ve got plenty of use for video production companies that need to show off their VR skills, but they won’t do much for brands that are trying to market their products (unless you make roller coasters, spaceships, or parachutes, that is).

    And while those experiences are bound to set your heart racing and give you a thrill, they probably won’t stick with you the way a VR story would.

    A great example is Tom’s, the shoe company that gives one pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair that a customer buys. Tom’s created a beautiful, moving VR experience that takes viewers on a giving trip to a small village in Peru. Viewers get to see – and feel – what it’s like to hand out boxes of shoes to hundreds of joyful children.

    The reason it works so well is that it’s on message, it’s authentic, and it’s a memorable story. There’s nothing gimmicky about seeing the positive impact that your dollars have on children around the world.

    The Marriott hotel chain is doing something similar with its in-room VR offerings.

    Marriott is a pioneer when it comes to VR, having created the 4D virtual reality travel experience, the Teleporter, back in 2014. When you step into the Teleporter and don your virtual reality headset, you’re transported to a luxury hotel, a serene beach in Maui, and the top of a London skyscraper. The Teleporter added in experiential elements like sprays of water and gentle breezes to really take the VR experience to another level.

    While you can’t access the Teleporter in your Marriott hotel room, you can order a VR headset and headphones and experience one of the best things about travel: immersing yourself in the story of another place.

    Marriott’s VR Postcards are immersive travel stories that take the viewer on a short journey with a real traveler to a unique location. You can visit an ice cream shop in Rwanda, the Chilean Andes Mountains, or the streets of Beijing.

    While the Teleporter was incredibly popular, for obvious reasons, creating an entire 4D virtual reality machine is the kind of undertaking that only the largest companies with the biggest budgets can even consider. It’s heavy on the wow factor, but not as much on the emotional connection.

    The VR Postcards, on the other hand, are simpler but more emotionally rich experiences. And since marketing today is all about creating authentic connections with customers, your brand would likely do better to create something simple and emotionally fulfilling, rather than mind-blowing but hollow.

    If you sell a product, a VR demo can be a great way to build excitement.

    Crafting beautiful VR stories is an important way to use VR, but there are some more practical uses for the technology, too.

    If your business sells a product, creating a VR demo to show it off can be a highly effective way to build excitement around a launch.

    For example, Volvo created a VR Test Drive experience for their XC90 SUV. Viewers find themselves right in the driver’s seat, driving through the countryside on a beautiful day.

    This kind of product demo makes a lot of sense because test driving a car is a fairly big deal. You’re not going to head to a car dealership and ask to test drive something on a whim.

    Being able to do so in VR expands Volvo’s reach to thousands more customers, increasing not only their general brand audience, but also the possibility that someone who doesn’t live near a Volvo dealership will make the trip to test drive a Volvo in real life.

    Another major advantage of VR for product-based businesses is that they can demo lots of products – not just one.

    Consider a VR experience for a trade show or exhibition. When customers come to your booth, you can give them a VR headset that transports them into your showroom. Instead of the 5 or 10 square feet of your booth, they’re suddenly standing in a 1,000 square foot space, where they can check out multiple products instead of the one or two you were able to bring along.

    While product demos can be quite practical and still be effective, you shouldn’t forget about the importance of storytelling when it comes to VR.

    If all your customers want is a straightforward chance to see and “feel” your product, that’s fine – but if your product lends itself to a story, the way a luxury car or Tom’s shoes does, explore that avenue. You may end up with something far better than you could have imagined.

    If you’re going to do VR, do VR well. If you’re not ready to make a full VR investment, consider 360 video instead.

    There’s no denying that VR is an expensive marketing tool. Full VR experiences can easily get into the tens of thousands of dollars, depending on how complex the project and how long the video is.

    Since you don’t want to give your customers a mediocre VR experience, you should do plenty of research before committing to creating a VR video. Get bids from several agencies. If they’re coming in higher than you’re prepared to spend, consider a 360 video instead.

    360 videos create similarly immersive experiences, but without the interactive component that VR offers. That lowers the cost substantially.

    The New York Times, the Obama White House, and Conservation International have all created powerful 360 films – in fact, they can feel so immersive that the average viewer might not realize that they’re not technically VR.

    VR and 360 video have immense powers for brands that are willing to jump in and make the investment. For more on how video can improve your marketing, read our post “Video and Social Media Marketing: Which Platform Will Boost Your Brand.”


  • 20 Things You Had No Clue Google Analytics Could Do

    In 2017, more than ever before, data drives every aspect of business. From predictive analytics powered by artificial intelligence, to data-based operating systems that allow businesses to perform just about any task with an immediate backdrop of company data, businesses are growing increasingly savvy about how to use data to guide their every step.

    The story is no different in the realm of marketing. The most effective marketing decisions are data-driven these days, based on which tactics garner the most traffic, the most engagement, or the most conversions. And where does most of that marketing data come from? Google Analytics.

    Everyone knows that you can get website traffic information from Google Analytics, but what many people don’t know is just how much it allows them to drill down into the details of that data, and how they can use that nitty-gritty to inform every marketing decision they make. Here are just 20 of the things that Google Analytics can do – and how you can use them to your advantage.

    1. Import data from other sources.

    Wondering where your social media stats fit into the big picture presented by Google Analytics? Need one central dashboard with all your marketing data in one place? Google Analytics has a Data Import function that allows you to combine data from other sources with the data it provides, thus giving you a complete picture of the results of your online marketing efforts – vital information in order for you to make educated decisions about your strategy.

    2. Show real-time traffic data.

    How many people are on your site right now? Log in to Google Analytics and you can watch visitors come and go in real-time on your computer screen. What pages are they on? Where are they lingering, and when do they leave? It can be extremely informative – not to mention exciting – to watch your traffic in real-time.

    3. Find the geographic locations your visitors come from.

    Whether you’re targeting an international audience or just your own hometown, GA can show you where your marketing activities are having an impact. It allows you to see both the countries and the cities where your visitors are located. You might be surprised to learn that your marketing message is resonating with people in unexpected locations – and you can use that information to tweak your tactics accordingly.

    4. See which devices your visitors are using.

    Google Analytics allows you to see whether your visitors are primarily mobile or computer-based – which gives you insight into how important it is for you to have a mobile-friendly site. But more than that, GA lets you know what types of devices they’re using, right down to the brand and operating systems, so you can check your site’s performance on each one and make sure it’s optimized for all of your visitors.

    5. Show the channels your traffic is coming from.

    If you’re wondering whether your marketing tactics have been more successful with search engines or on social media, Google Analytics will show you exactly which channels are sending you traffic, and how much of it you’re getting from each one. You may want to focus more intensely on certain channels once you see their ROI, and tweak your tactics on others to make them more effective.

    6. Watch the path visitors take through your site.

    By clicking on ‘Behavior Flow’ in GA, you’ll be able to see each step a visitor takes when they visit your site, from the page that brought them in, to the ones they visited next, and finally, which one made them leave. This data is invaluable, giving you insight into what attracts your traffic, what holds their interest, and which pages you still need to work on to make them just as interesting.

    7. Rank pages by popularity.

    You can also check to see the top, most often visited pages on your site – whether you want to know which pages are your all-time best performers, or which ones did the best last month. This data gives you a deeper understanding of what type of content does well with your audience, and what falls flat. Maybe seasonal blog posts draw a ton of traffic, but informational pages don’t – or vice versa. The numbers practically write your content strategy for you.

    8. Track your ecommerce performance.

    This one require a little legwork on your part first, as you’ll have to set up ecommerce tracking manually within GA – but once you do, Google Analytics will keep tabs on sales activity on your site, from which products are your best sellers to the times they were purchased and whether they were eventually returned and refunded.

    9. Watch your conversion rates for other goals.

    Once again, you’ll need to set this up manually within GA, but once you set your goals, Google Analytics will track how many visitors are converting. You can have multiple goals, from filling out a Contact Us form to signing up for an email newsletter, and GA will show you just how effective your content, design, and calls to action are.

    10. Track clicks on your site.

    Google Analytics will actually track every single click on clickable parts of your site’s pages, so that you can see what’s working to attract clicks, and what’s not – and tweak accordingly.

    11. Segment your traffic for more insight.

    You can also segment your traffic within Google Analytics, dividing it up based on traffic source, whether they converted or not, and much more. By doing this, you get a much more granular view of which groups are doing what, and which pages on your site are working – or not working – with each group.

    12. View the interests of your visitors.

    While you can’t personally track individual visitors with Google Analytics, you can still find out a lot about each one. Their interests, for example, and even their professions. This data can also be invaluable in determining how to tweak your marketing approach to appeal to them most effectively.

    13. Check the results of your longer-term marketing campaigns.

    Whether it’s a paid AdWords campaign or an organic social media blitz, you can track your results in Google Analytics easily. You’ll just have to add a tracking code to the end of the URL you’re sending visitors to, and then GA will be able to show you how well you’re doing by tracking traffic to that URL.

    14. Check the results of quick, one-day campaigns.

    With GA’s real-time traffic tracking, you can watch the performance of even short marketing campaigns in order to find out what works and what doesn’t. This can guide your future short campaigns, or inform your strategy for longer campaigns.

    15. Watch the real-time effects of social sharing.

    Did you just post a new blog post to Facebook? Or ask people to visit your landing page on Twitter? Once again, GA’s real-time view of traffic will allow you to watch as people begin to engage with your content, and help you determine what works and what doesn’t.

    16. Test site changes in real-time.

    And one more real-time benefit? You can make changes to your site, and then track exactly how they’re affecting your traffic’s behavior in real-time. Are they leading to more conversions, or fewer? Are they guiding visitors through the sales funnel, or are they causing a higher bounce rate? The answers will tell you how to tweak your site.

    17. Create your own channel groups for tracking traffic sources.

    Google Analytics does offer its own channel categories for tracking the sources your traffic comes from, but you can also create your own unique groupings of channels to keep tabs on your visitors and which tactics are most effective at attracting them to your site.

    18. See how quickly your website loads.

    Since site loading speed is part of Google’s ranking algorithm, this is an important thing to check from time to time. If Google Analytics tells you it’s taking longer than three seconds to load for your visitors, you’ll need to take steps to speed it up.

    19. Track cart abandonment.

    One of the most important things GA can do for ecommerce sites is help you determine the point when visitors are abandoning their carts. Is it at the shipping page? The payment page? Once you have this information, you can try offering discounts or free shipping or even just changing the flow of your check out process to see what gets more visitors to complete their purchases.

    20. Track form abandonment.

    If, for you, a conversion means filling out a form on your site, then GA can help you see which blanks are being filled in, and at what point your form is being abandoned. This can be invaluable in understanding how to change your form or your calls to action in order to get visitors to finish giving you their information.

    Believe it or not, this is far from all that Google Analytics can do. Start with these 20 things to give yourself a solid foundation in navigating GA, and then you’ll feel more confident exploring everything else it has to offer. And once you’ve got the hang of it, you’ll be amazed at just how much more effective your marketing becomes, now that it’s based on the detailed data Google Analytics provides.

  • The Ultimate Guide to Buyer Personas

    Ultra-targeting is making buyer personas more important than ever. Click To Tweet Surveys and interviews can give you the data you need to create your #buyerpersona. Click To Tweet

    Conventional wisdom used to hold that buyer personas were something only large businesses needed to bother with.

    Small and mid-sized companies often didn’t (and still don’t) develop buyer personas, for a variety of reasons. They’re time-consuming, for one thing, and some managers feel that time spent on a buyer persona could be better spent actually selling.

    For another, they can be very difficult to do correctly. Maybe you’ve experienced this yourself: you sit down, ready to create your first buyer persona, when you realize that you know a lot less about your customers than you thought you did. Naturally, this can be a disheartening feeling.

    What do you do with this feeling? Do you tamp it down and switch to working on something else – analyzing data from your company’s latest social campaign, or writing a new whitepaper, perhaps?

    Or do you get down to business figuring out what you don’t know, and making the best buyer persona your company’s ever seen?

    If you’re in the latter group, then this blog post is for you!

    First, what is a buyer persona?

    If you’ve never created a buyer persona before, then you may not know where to begin.

    Let’s start with what a buyer persona actually is. 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.

    You can do these in a couple of ways.

    First, you can create buyer personas for your existing customers to better hone in on what they want and identify new ways to sell to them.

    Second, you can create buyer personas for the customers that you want to attract. This is very helpful if you’re trying to break into new markets or launch new products.

    To achieve maximum efficacy, you’ll likely find yourself using both of these approaches at some point. After all, businesses can’t grow without attracting new customers, but they can’t sustain themselves without keeping their current ones.

    Why are buyer personas important in digital marketing?

    As consumers’ internet experience becomes ever-more personalized, buyer personas are becoming more and more vital for reaching your customers effectively. As the capabilities for ultra-targeting grow, we’re becoming better and better at filtering out what doesn’t apply to us.

    If my browsing history shows that I’m a woman who loves shopping for high-end clothes with subscription boxes, I don’t want to see a bunch of ads pushing brick-and-mortar, budget clothing stores.

    But what’s more, if those ads did show up as I was surfing Facebook or Twitter, I’d probably just tune them out. And that means that that company just wasted their money on me.

    If you want to make the most of your digital marketing dollars, you’ve got to know who you’re targeting and you’ve got to get as specific as possible. Hence the need for accurate buyer personas.

    Step 1: Identify your buyers into broad, generalized groups.

    Before you can start coming up with specific individual personas, you need to start big.

    Who do you sell to? Let’s use a hypothetical company for an example.

    Let’s pretend you work for a company that sells premium ice cream to gourmet grocery stores.

    Your broadest personas would therefore be:

    • Wholesale purchasers for major gourmet grocery chains
    • Wholesale purchasers for smaller, high-end grocery stores

    Now let’s zero in on each category.

    Step 2: Decide what questions about each persona you’re going to answer.

    For each persona, you’re going to be answering several questions. The important thing is to decide which questions are relevant for your business, as well as how you’re going to get the data you need to answer those questions.

    For the purpose of this blog post we’re going to focus on the second one: purchasers for smaller, high-end grocery chains.

    Let’s begin with the basics. We want to know:

    • Age
    • Gender
    • Location
    • Job title
    • Job functions

    That will give us a good start. So how do you find this information? Well, you probably already have a good deal of it. If you use a CRM, then you likely have demographic data on the people you deal with as well as job title information.

    Your digital analytics tools can also offer lots of this information. Look through Google Analytics, Facebook Insights, and any other third-party tools you use to draw demographic information about the people who are interacting with your site.

    Your sales team will be able to answer many of these questions, as well.

    Once you’ve gotten these simpler questions out of the way, it’s time to start looking at more nuanced information.

    For example, what kind of frustrations or obstacles does this person confront in their job? What makes their job easier? What does he or she need from a supplier?

    Step 3: Go to your customer to get answers.

    When you’re looking for answers to these sorts of questions, analytics will only get you so far. A better way to get real information is to interview prospects and current customers, and, if you can, former customers or customers who have had complaints about your product or service in the past.

    Doing so may not be that much fun, but it will give you valuable insight into areas that your business needs to improve.

    To find people who might be open to being interviewed, start with your sales team. They’ll likely have a good feel for customers who would be interested in talking with you, and who would give you candid answers.

    Another option is to create an online survey that you place on your website.

    Online surveys do have some inherent issues. For one thing, people are self-selecting to take a survey, so you’ll likely get people who really like your product or who really hate it, rather than those who feel lukewarm about it.

    However, since you’re creating buyer personas and not doing strict statistical analysis, you are still extremely likely to get some helpful information from your survey responses.

    If you’re creating a buyer persona for a customer you don’t yet have – if you’re entering a new market or launching a brand-new product – you may have to get a little more creative in finding interviewees.

    Referrals from current customers, contacts who’ve signed up for new product notifications or your email newsletter, and social media can be a few good sources.

    Step 4: Use the information you’ve garnered to answer your persona questions, and voila! You’ve created a buyer persona.

    Now that your research is done, it’s time to put all those answers together to create a full picture of your customer.

    Pro tip: before you start answering your questions, consider giving your persona a name, and better yet, an image. This will help you feel like you’re talking about a real person, rather than just a collection of characteristics.

    Here’s a brief, simplified example. We’ll call this persona Purchasing Peter.

    Name: Peter
    Age: 34
    Gender: Male
    Location: Harrisburg, PA
    Job title: Owner/purchaser for independent high-end grocery store
    Job responsibilities/functions: Manages day-to-day operations of store. Decides on and purchases products for store on monthly basis.
    Requirements for products he carries: Reliable supply. Ability to order small quantities. Excellent, personal customer service. Some payment flexibility. Extremely high-quality product.
    Frustrations: Difficulty reaching suppliers. Suppliers who can’t offer the small quantities he needs. Suppliers geared only toward large accounts.

    That’s just a start, but as you can see, this persona has already answered some important questions about what’s important to one of your customer groups. If you can get more detailed, do – it will help you immensely when it comes to targeting your digital ads, honing your social media message, and improving your overall business success.

    Creating buyer personas is an important aspect of developing a strong digital marketing strategy. Want to up your game even more? Get better at talking to your customers by developing an outstanding brand persona.

  • Sharing, Citing, and Stealing: Content Etiquette Rules for the Digital Age

    The Book of Ecclesiastes and Shakespeare said it long, long ago: “There is no new thing under the sun.”

    That was true then, in the days of stone tablets. It was true when Shakespeare was writing his sonnets. And it’s most definitely true now, in the age of the internet.

    It seems sometimes that you can Google anything – a dream you had last night, a thought that ran through your head this morning – and find 15 people who’ve not only had that same dream or thought, but written about it to boot.

    When you’re writing content for your brand, this can become a little disconcerting. How do you make sure you’re not inadvertently plagiarizing? When and how should you cite sources? What rules govern how you share images or content from other sites?

    If you’re new to writing for the web, it’s easy to get paralyzed by all these questions and not write anything at all. To keep that from happening, take a look at these content etiquette guidelines for some of the situations we often find ourselves in when creating or sharing content.

    Doing research for a blog post, whitepaper, or other long-form piece of content

    When you’re researching for a blog post, whitepaper, webinar, or other piece of long-form content, you’ll likely find several sources for the information you’re after.

    If you look closely, however, you’ll likely find that many of those sources all found that information somewhere else – from a reputable primary source. That’s as long as the sources you’re looking at are solid, informative ones, not ones intended to be purely entertaining.

    The best practice here is to follow those secondary sources back to the primary source, which could be an academic paper, a study, a news article, even a well-researched opinion piece on a popular blog.

    Sometimes finding the primary source is very easy, but sometimes it can take some digging. Either way, looking at the primary source yourself will pay off in spades.

    For one thing, you’ll know that the data or information quoted is correct.

    For another, you’ll be able to ensure that you’re not plagiarizing anyone when you put the info in your own words in your content.

    Finally, if you decide to quote, you can quote the original text, rather than someone else’s interpretation of that text.

    When you find information or a quote that you want to use, make sure you cite it correctly. At the very least, include a hyperlink to the original page where you found the information, but if you can, it’s best to also include the name of the site or author in your text. That way, readers who don’t click on the link will still know who the information came from.

    Direct quotations

    Quoting a source on the internet follows the same general rules that you learned in high school English. If you’re taking a direct quotation from somewhere else, you must attribute that quote correctly.

    In print, that usually means citing the author’s name, the publication the quote came from, and a date of publication.

    On the internet, you want to include the author or publication name, but you can handle the rest of the info by linking to the original source. So you could say something like this:

    Corey Wainwright of Hubspot says that when quoting a source online, “Aside from mentioning the person’s name, it’s also nice to provide them with an inbound link – either to the page from which you drew your quote, or to another meaningful page on their site.”

    Corey’s name is mentioned, the company she writes for is mentioned, and there’s a link to the exact blog post where we found that quote. Now if you want to be extra courteous, as Corey adds in that same post, you can include a link to the person’s Twitter handle (@Corey_bos), Instagram profile or personal website.

    When you’re quoting someone else on one of your social media profiles, it’s very easy to do so correctly. You can retweet on Twitter, regram on Instagram, repin on Pinterest and share on Facebook.

    If you want to add your own words or context, you can add “via @username” to the Pin, Instagram post, or tweet. If you’re on Facebook, simply type what you want to say in the status bar, add “via the name of the person whose post you’re sharing” and hit “Share.”

    You can also link to the person or company’s Facebook page within the text of your Status update by adding “@” to the name.

    Using images

    We all know that content with images gets far more engagement than content with no images. According to research on visual content marketing by BuzzSumo, blog posts with images once every 75-100 words received twice the number of shares than articles with fewer images than that.

    Here’s a graph, also from BuzzSumo, showing that.

    Source: BuzzSumo

    In addition, the website’s researchers also found that Facebook posts with images receive 2.3 times more engagement than posts without images.

    So images are pretty important in the land of content marketing. However, we’re betting that you don’t have a photographer on call 24/7 to take high-quality photos to use in each and every content asset you create.

    That means that you’re going to have to use images that are not “yours” – as in, that you did not create.

    The easiest way to ensure that you have the right to use a photo is to pay for it. Sign up for an account with a stock photography website, and you can pay for and download stock images that you can then use in your content. Stock images, by the way, are royalty-free.

    There are even some free sites where you can find either copyright-free images, or copyrighted images that you can use for free with certain restrictions. Flickr’s Creative Commons is one such site.

    See? This is a stock photo we bought from fotolia.

    You can also, of course, contact photographers whose work you like and ask if they’ll allow you to use one of their images in a piece of your content (with proper citation, of course).

    Some may be willing to let you use the image for free, provided you link back to their website. Others may let you purchase internet rights.

    If you are set on using someone else’s copyrighted work for your posts, there’s a set of rules called “Fair Use that you’ll have to follow. Here’s a very brief overview from Nicole Martinez at the Art Law Journal:

    “The purpose and character of the use of the photo you’re using should generally not be used for commercial purposes, and will constitute fair use if you’re using the image for purposes of commentary, criticism, reporting, or teaching.”

    Now, since most brands have some commercial component, by their very nature, you’re probably safest not relying on Fair Use and sticking to using purchased images. This way, you won’t find yourself in a legal muddle over a photo you thought was fair game.

    When in doubt, use a plagiarism checker

    If you’re not sure whether what you’ve written is truly original, it’s a good idea to use an online plagiarism checker. There are several of these available, usually for free, and all you have to do is copy and paste your text into a box and hit “check.” You’ll get an alert if the tool has detected plagiarism.

    These tools are especially valuable if you’re using freelancers or other contractors to help create your content. You never know when someone may accidentally (one hopes it would never be on purpose) plagiarize a source.

    Being courteous and giving credit where credit is due won’t just keep you out of legal hot water. It’s simply the ethical thing to do. For more on creating great content, read our post “What is High-Quality Content?

  • Marketing to Millennials – 10 Things Every Company Must Know

    Much is said about millennials, both positive and negative. They’re simultaneously valorized as innovative social justice warriors and disparaged as being self absorbed, entitled Peter Pan prototypes. Whichever camp you fall into, it is helpful to know how to communicate with them, how to market to them, and how to relate to them through the prism of their own values.

    1) “Millennial” represents a diverse body of individuals.

    As obvious as it may seem, it’s worth underlining that the trends of a demographic do not equal hard and fast rules. And millennials are exceptionally diverse, even in comparison to other generations. For example, 45% of millennial adults identify as Hispanic or non-white, compared to 39% of Generation X, 27% of Baby Boomers, and only 17% of the Silent Generation.

    To complicate matters further, many of the millennials who identify as non-white are second-generation immigrants with complex histories who are striving to balance two or more different cultural heritages. (23% are bilingual)

    In addition to their cultural variability, millennials range from 16 to 35. That range is indicative of different tastes in everything from music to politics. And though that doesn’t mean there’s no common ground, it’s important for advertisers and companies to identify sub-groups and target them.

    2) Identity is important.

    Millennials grew up with both the internet and identity politics. In other words, they’re hyper aware of both the collaborative and constructed nature of identity. If your product can speak to their values and their lifestyle, it’s that much more attractive.

    As MZ founder Shama Hyder loves to emphasize, consumers choose brands according to what those brands empower them to say about themselves. If companies can anticipate that in their outreach and engagement efforts, they will encounter less resistance.

    3) Create consistency and overlap through multiple channels.

    Though millennials make up the smallest population of newspaper and magazine readers, they expect information to flow through multiple channels. Variation in both medium and format is the baseline.

    Get creative and use infographics, guest posts, video tutorials, and webinars to share your message. Whichever channel you opt for, make sure the information is easy to digest and relatable. Also, take into consideration technical compatibility. Is your website mobile-friendly? How does it look from a SEO perspective? Is it competitive?

    4) Leverage the social.

    Millennials love community like a kid loves cake. Memes, current events, shared passions are all a means of developing “tribes,” showcasing identity, and integrating commerce and self-expression.

    This is one of the reasons that user-generated content is as popular and effective as it is. Millennials trust word-of-mouth buzz over old school marketing, and 85% seek out the opinions of those in their network when making purchasing decisions. Additionally, thirty-three percent cite blogs as being trusted authorities for research.

    5) Go Mobile.

    With 85% of millennials owning smart phones, marketers and companies need to be tailoring their ads to mobile platforms and the habits of mobile users. For most millennials, their phones are extensions of themselves. They use them to connect with loved ones, hook up with cute ones, browse on Amazon, or banter with Siri.

    And, many are willing to trade data for convenience. If a brand can be equal parts transparent and respectful, this is a golden opportunity.

    6) Don’t put them in a box.

    Traditional ways of categorizing and labeling demographics don’t always resonate with millennials. Though some may follow a more linear trajectory, far more pave their own path and march to the beat of their own drummer. Marketing to millennials according to life stages or preset types could backfire, but marketing to millennials according to their interests and their curiosities is an astute strategy that honors their maverick streak.

    Millennials, whether they take a more or less conventional route, seem to be in agreement that there’s no-one-size-fits-all. Dads can stay home with the kids. Women can have children later. And two people who have never been in love may be the best co-parents ever.

    7) Bridge the global and the local.

    Many millennials feel like global citizens with local concerns. They realize they live in a vast, yet interconnected, world, but they also feel the pull of their most proximate networks. Balancing the two in intelligent, creative ways is a great way to a millennial’s heart. From boutique brands that bring artisan goods from remote corners of the world to buyers in the first world, to artistic movements that weave together disparate sounds into groovy rhythms, the common, if divergent, pulse of the planet is an attractive and compelling idea.

    Not all millennials will be sworn to free trade or sensitive to the perils of the Ivory Coast, but most will appreciate a brand that champions a sense of discovery and wonder while offering solutions to the problems of daily life.

    8) Personalize the shopping experience.

    Millennials love customization almost as much as they fantasize about which Hogwarts house the sorting hat would place them in. How can you make your brand more personal and interactive? How can it be a canvas upon which your customers paint their stories? We’re not just talking monogrammed towels; we’re talking about a shopping experience that’s founded on listening, dialogue, and meeting exact and particular needs.

    For example, clothing brands, like MM. La Fleur or StitchFix, that bridge the experience of a personal shopper or stylist with the time-saving economy of ordering items online are becoming more and more the new normal.

    Even if this feels like a more high-end offering at the moment, it’s undeniably the wave of the future.

    9) Use influencers.

    Millennials respond well to influencer marketing. However, it’s o.k. if your marketing budget can’t afford Tom Cruise or Halle Berry. “Influencer” doesn’t equal celebrity, as it may have in the past. With the rise of YouTube and Instagram stars, an influencer with a great following can be a great way to target a niche market or develop your brand’s presence on a particular social platform.

    A Collective Bias report found that 70% of millennials value endorsements from influencers that feel more like peers than “famous people.” The takeaway from that statistic confirms that a heightened sense of recognition and relatability are the driving force behind the popularity of influencers. This also explains the rise of “micro influencers” — social personalities with a critical mass of followers that have high engagement and a sense of authenticity. More and more brands are finding that micro influencers are the sweet spot for really reaching customers.

    10) Be socially responsible.

    There’s a reason millennials love Tom’s. The reason is that the brand tries to solve a big real world problem while simultaneously offering a product that people enjoy. Such idealism and innovation inspire millennials, and statistics show that 77% of millennials engage brands with a corporate social responsibility department. Though old ways of thinking might see doing good and making money as at odds, millennials challenge this narrow outlook.

    What’s sexy to a millennial? A triple bottom line — people, planet, and profits. Companies don’t have to save the world. They just have to show they care. That may mean fair wages, community outreach, or sustainability initiatives. It could be as simple as offering an easy way to recycle old products, or to hire veterans.

    Whether you work for millennials, employ them, or are one yourself, these ten ways to reach them should shed some light on their mystery and their power in the marketplace.

  • To Rebrand or Not to Rebrand: A Guide for Businesses at a Turning Point

    Rebranding shouldn’t be gimmicky, but you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Click To Tweet Rebranding can’t be all about the bottom line. Click To Tweet

    Even rock stars have a difficult time rebranding.

    When – in an effort to wrestle back control from Warner Brothers – Prince began to go by a mysterious symbol, or ‘The Artist Formerly Known as Prince,’ fans reacted with annoyance, and the population at large reacted with mockery. Though his fight for artists’ rights may have been laudatory, the abrupt execution of this new moniker alienated just about everyone.

    Rebranding represents a pivotal moment of transition for a company or an artist, and whether superficial or totally transformative, it can highlight the fact that a brand’s identity is always a negotiation between popular opinion and the interests of the brand itself.

    Lesson One: Don’t Neglect the Value Proposition

    There are many good reasons to rebrand, and a few lousy ones, as well. The important differentiator and the one that customers will be most sensitive to is whether there’s been a significant change or merely a surface re-design.

    For example, when Radio Shack, in an attempt to regain relevance, changed its name to “The Shack,” the public response was a mix of confusion and apathy. The problem was that the value proposition hadn’t been updated, so consumers felt like they were being tricked or talked down to. It was, in a sense, insulting.

    Source: Gear Live

    Lesson Two: Rebranding doesn’t have to be radical.

    Although a rebranding that is received as merely a marketing gimmick is likely to fall flat, it’s also not necessary to reinvent the wheel. Ideally, you want to build on your past successes and spotlight your strengths.

    When Dos Equis launched its “Most Interesting Man in the World” campaign in 1996, sales rose 22% in three years.

    This rise was not due to the fact that Dos Equis had started selling orange juice instead of beer or was moving its headquarters to Iceland. It was because it had found a way to showcase and amplify brand values such as a love of adventure and a healthy sense of curiosity.

    Lesson Three: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

    Companies will sometimes revamp their branding out of an anxiety around staying current or in an attempt to maintain a competitive edge.

    However, this well-intentioned move can backfire because it misjudges the marketplace. The “new” can definitely have an appeal, but the “classic” or the “traditional” are also of high value.

    We reach for something because it is familiar as much, if not more, than we reach for something because it’s novel. Whatever the ratio of their relative sway, both the familiar and the novel exert a powerful influence over us, and it can be a mistake to choose one at the expense of the other.

    In 2010 when the Gap changed its logo from its well established tall, unique typeset to a dull helvetica, it was met by such a backlash of criticism and disapproval that it reversed its decision in six days.

    Source: Unit Partners

    Lesson Four: Rebranding can’t be all about the bottom line.

    Your brand represents a relationship, and though the overall health of that relationship is often measured by a bottom line, it can’t be reduced to it. It follows that a rebranding motivated entirely by profit margins could be counter-productive in the long run.

    The classic example of this point is the 2011 Netflix/Qwikster debacle. When Netflix proposed a split into two companies and a 60% spike in service charges, 800,000 subscribers said, “Bye, Felicia.”

    Lesson Five: Offer quality.

    One of the best reasons to rebrand is to offer higher quality. How can you make your product safer, healthier, tastier, or more environmentally friendly? Whether the motivation is a new competitor, customer complaints, or simply a great idea, boosting the quality of your product is a sound move.

    When Harley Davidson faced bankruptcy in the 80s, they realized that the reliability of their motorcycles had to match the popularity of the brand. When they adjusted the quality of their product, they were able to thrive.

    A word to the wise here: don’t compromise something customers love about your brand to offer something new. If Harley Davidson had redefined its culture in the process of upgrading its product, its fans would have been outraged. Even if it feels like the trade-off might be worth it, it’s a risky move.

    Lesson Six: Adapt, adapt, adapt.

    “The times they are a-changin,” sang Bob Dylan.

    He might have been referencing the civil rights struggle and the expansion of consciousness that marked the 60s and 70s, but his words still ring true. Perhaps, the times are always a-changin’.

    This doesn’t, however, mean that there’s nothing to hold on to. Some of the most successful brands are ones that blend a sense of heritage with a sense of ongoing evolution. Dylan himself underwent just such a transition in 1965 when he “went electric.” As a smart rebrander though, he kept the same lyrical sensibility and intelligence that had earned him millions of fans.

    Burberry, the high fashion darling, was seen as incoherent and out of touch as recently as 2006, however, under the management of new leadership and with the help of influencers like Kate Moss and Emma Watson, it underwent an overhaul.

    By centralizing design and making its products more exclusive, it was able to climb the ladder of luxury brands and offer more by offering less.

    Lesson Seven: Tap into a new market.

    There’s a running joke about the struggling model or actor who says, “I’m really big in Japan!” Though rebranding in a foreign market can occasionally be perceived as an act of desperation, there are many cases in which it represents an astute tactical move.

    No one laughed, for example, when Pabst Blue Ribbon, the go-to beer for broke college students, featured a jaw dropping $44 Blue Ribbon 1844 in China.

    The Blue Ribbon 1844 is a special mix of German malts, aged in oak whiskey barrels and catered towards the Chinese elites’ affection for pricey beers. It was a brilliant, if unexpected, idea, and it goes to show that there is room for brands to explore their alter egos without letting go of their home base.

    Lesson Eight: Connect with your audience.

    The most effective brands sync up with their audience, and in some ways, know them better than they know themselves. This could be reflected in the style of seasonal campaigns, or more dramatically, in a total rebranding.

    When Apple dropped the “Computers” in its name, traded in its colors for a clean slate, and designed the iconic “Be Different” campaign, it tapped into the values of its clientele of cultural creatives and secured a loyal following. By aligning its brand with values of innovation, simplicity, and social revolution, it distinguished itself as an ally and leader in the dreams of the young.

    Lesson Nine: Get help.

    It’s natural to be secretive while rebranding, since an early release by a third party or in less than ideal circumstances can diffuse or distort the excitement of a rebrand. But, in isolation, it’s all too easy to lose perspective. To the extent that you can, use focus groups, employee feedback, and customer opinion to refine your rebranding efforts.

    No brand exists in a vacuum, and if you can tell a new story while involving everyone who makes your brand vital and viable, the new story will be a success.

  • 7 Digital Marketing Mistakes That Can Kill Your Brand

    Everyone makes mistakes.

    You type “Helo” instead of “Hello” in one of your email newsletters.

    You forget to create a custom URL for one of your blog posts.

    You mistype an email subject line.

    These are small things that, while certainly undesirable, probably won’t have a long-term negative effect on your brand (unless you do them habitually, of course, in which case you probably need to talk to us!).

    But then there are the mega-mistakes. The things that can take a brand from being generally liked to generally loathed, or The snafus that are incredibly difficult to come back from.

    Chances are, you’ve seen some or all of these screw-ups played out online in all their gut-churning glory. And goodness knows, you don’t want to be the next brand sacrificed at the altar of social media public opinion (which is even more cutthroat than public opinion IRL).

    But mistakes don’t have to be public to be major. In fact, perhaps the worst mistakes you can make are the ones that get you…indifference. The campaigns you shell out thousands, even hundreds of thousands, for, that get almost no results.

    Without further ado, here’s a list of the mistakes that you really, really don’t want to make.

    Hopping into a trending conversation online without having anything valuable to contribute.

    We all know that authenticity is something consumers value almost above all else when it comes to marketing. This is especially true among Generation Z – according to a recent survey, 63 percent of Gen Z wants to see “real people” rather than celebrities in advertisements.

    What this means is that the general consumer has a pretty sophisticated filter. They can sense when brands are engaging with conversations around a topic, movement, or current event as part of a sales pitch, rather than because it relates to their brand values.

    For example, take the tragic passing of Prince in 2016. Along with the thousands of people who expressed their grief for the musician’s death on Twitter, countless brands tried to pay tribute, too. Some were appropriate and well-done – but others seemed to cross the line into self-promotion, like Cheerios’ attempt:

    via AdWeek

    While the brand may not have meant for their tweet to feel like an advertisement, the social media universe definitely thought it did. The tweet was pulled down and an apology issued quickly.

    A more fitting tribute was Instagrammed by the Minnesota Vikings:

    via AdAge

    Notice how there’s no mention of the brand anywhere on the image? That’s because this isn’t about the Vikings. It’s about Prince. That’s something you have to remember when deciding whether or not to comment on major events like this: it’s not really about your brand.

    Shutting down a campaign or initiative prematurely because the results aren’t what you think they should be.

    There’s a myth about digital marketing that just refuses to die: that digital marketing efforts create immediate results.

    While this can be true in certain, one-off cases – like when we helped Dippin’ Dots write an open letter to Sean Spicer that went viral – the majority of the time, digital marketing takes time. It takes effort.

    Let’s say you’re working on building a blog for your brand. You’ve been blogging regularly for the past 3 months, but you’re still not seeing a major increase in your site traffic. So you decide to put those blogging resources somewhere else.

    What you should actually be doing, however, is looking more closely at your blog posts and site traffic to see what the posts are actually doing. Are they bringing in some traffic? Are certain posts getting more clicks than others?

    Instead of blogging less frequently or not at all, you may need to change your blogging strategy or promote your blog posts better.

    And, as difficult as it is, in some cases, you just need to keep building your momentum.

    You don’t do your research.

    The digital marketing world moves fast, for sure, but that doesn’t mean you should skip doing the research necessary for a post.

    A perfect example is DC Comics, which posted an image of a comic they said was translated from … wait for it … Pakistanian. Yikes. We all know that’s not a language, right?

    via Entrepreneur

    If you’re making any kind of factual claim, you’ve got to make sure your facts are correct before posting it for the entire internet-using world to see. Someone’s bound to screenshot your mistake before you delete it, and the results could be disastrous.

    Buying fake followers.

    Many brands are desperate for social media followers, and unsurprisingly, plenty of businesses have popped up with the aim of satisfying that need.

    To do so, these companies employ a couple of techniques. Using your Twitter account, they might follow thousands of people each day, waiting for those accounts to follow you back. Then they unfollow the ones who don’t follow you back.

    Another way is to use “zombie” accounts. These are inactive accounts created by the fake follower company that they use to artificially inflate the number of followers you have.

    If you’re having trouble growing your social media following, maybe you’ve been tempted by these types of companies and their promises to get you thousands of followers quickly and painlessly. We get it.

    But you don’t want mindless followers. You want engagement. Quantity might have beat out quality 10 years ago, but today, it’s all about quality. If you have 100 followers who engage with your social media posts, that’s much better than 100,000 followers who barely retweet you, let alone engage with your brand.

    Plus, people can usually tell when your followers are fake, and the negative impact from having that knowledge floating around will be much worse than any potential negative from having just a few followers.

    Not making the most of analytics.

    Analytics are vitally important to the success of any digital marketing campaign. How else are you going to know what’s working and what isn’t? What’s worth the money you’re spending, and what’s simply a waste of resources?

    What’s great about the analytics platforms out there today is that you can customize them so extensively that you’re able to discover all kinds of minute, yet crucial, details about your customers.

    For example, you can use your analytics platform to see how your audience falls into various age ranges. If the majority of visitors fall into the 35-44 age range, you’ll want to focus on creating content that will appeal to this age group.

    You can also use analytics to see how well a particular campaign is performing. If you’ve created a campaign-specific landing page, for example, you can see:

    • How many visitors that page has received relative to other pages on your site
    • What the bounce rate is
    • How many unique visitors have visited that page

    And much more.

    Making poor use of humor.

    Humor on the internet is a touchy thing.

    There are so many examples of brands using humor that either falls flat or inadvertently comes off as offensive (IHOP’s “flat but has a great personality” pancake tweet, DiGiorno’s #WhyIStayed tweet) that it’s wise to think twice before trying to be funny or edgy on social media.

    However, when used correctly, humor can be a powerful tool. Just look at Old Spice and their bizarre, yet hilarious social media voice:

    via @OldSpice

    We bet you remember the first time you saw their “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” commercial, too. That was epic, right?

    But you can bet that ad campaign wasn’t the product of a couple funny guys at Old Spice throwing around ideas. That was a finely honed, comprehensive brand campaign with a highly developed voice.

    If your brand is willing to put in the time and effort to develop a specific humorous voice, and outline how it can be used, then you’ve probably got a good chance at doing funny well. But if all you’ve got is one funny person at the office who likes taking over the Twitter account now and then, well – it might be wise to leave the humor out of it.

    Not focusing on your customer.

    Whether you’re a B2C or B2B company, your digital marketing has to be all about your customer.

    That means things like making it easy for customers to find your site or purchase products through your social media accounts, not bombarding them with constant marketing emails, and giving them a personalized experience.

    But when it comes to social media, there are other ways to put the focus on your customer. For example, if a commenter on one of your social media posts is attacked or threatened by other commenters, it’s vital that you manage that situation and protect your customer by addressing those offensive comments head-on.

    In most cases, it’s best to delete the threatening or offensive comments and make a statement about why you’ve deleted them. Care should be exercised, of course, but cruel language should never be tolerated.

    Not planning.

    Flexibility is important for a successful digital marketing campaign, but so too is planning. Before you launch a digital marketing campaign, which could take up huge amounts of resources, you should have a few things mapped out.

    First, you’ve got to know what your objective is. Is it to gain more followers? To increase brand awareness? To sell more of Product A, B, or C?

    You should also know what channels you’re focusing on and how you’ll be distributing the content associated with the campaign.

    Will you be posting daily pictures on Instagram, and sharing them via your other social media accounts?

    Will you be crowdsourcing images by asking fans to submit their own, with a particular hashtag?

    Then, you’ve got to know how you’ll measure success. Will it be a percentage increase in unique site visitors? Lower bounce rates? An increase in conversion rate for email newsletter sign-ups?

    Navigating the waters of digital marketing can be challenging. It’s important to be aware of the potential pitfalls so you can avoid them, and keep your brand from either fading away or going up in flames.

  • 15 Writing Tips to Make Your B2C Blog Posts Shine

    Literary genius is not a prerequisite for making your B2C blog posts shine. Click To Tweet Calls to action can include “imagine,” “consider,” and “follow through,” in addition to “sign up… Click To Tweet

    What’s the difference between a blog post that makes your reader feel curious, laugh, and empathize and one that informs, but is otherwise lackluster?

    The difference is a sense of connection, a sense of humor, and a wittiness that admits the subtleties of irony and nuance. Don’t worry – you don’t have to be J.K. Rowling to tell a great story.

    Literary genius is not a prerequisite for making your B2C blog posts shine. It certainly helps, but it’s not necessary. There are several simple things you can practice and keep in mind before, after, and while composing your posts that will showcase your creativity and cause readers to take notice.

    1. Surprise your readers.

    The element of surprise lends novelty to your post, and it can inspire readers to lean in. One of the most common reasons we tune out or dismiss a blog post is because we think we already know what it has to say. We’re protective of our time and weary of the redundant.

    Note that this doesn’t mean reinventing the wheel. What you have to say may have been said before, but it may not have been said in the way you’re saying it. Leverage your unique perspective to bring out and emphasize aspects of the story or news you’re sharing that may been purposefully downplayed or simply left underdeveloped.

    2. Ask questions and explore alongside your reader.

    It can certainly inspire confidence when someone has all the answers, but it can also be refreshing to be in the presence of someone who’s thinking out loud. Great writing invites us into a process. We feel like we can’t help but participate, wonder, and follow along.

    3. Use imagery.

    Compare these two sentences:

    “Broadman and Sons is featuring a new kind of cake in its bakery.”

    “Broadman and Sons, after years of toiling knee-deep in flour and sugar, has created a new chocolate cake, and it tastes like heaven.”

    While similar in message, the two sentences actually exist worlds apart. Through the use of rich imagery, the second sentence has the reader literally salivating. It also feeds the imagination. The reader feels invested. Who are these people? What have they made? What does heaven taste like? Can I stop by the bakery on my way home from work?

    4. Use detail.

    Our lives are complex and filled with color and specificity. The more you can include this color and specificity into the story you’re telling through your blog post, the more it will shine.

    Even in the most technical writing, there is room for detail. If you’re talking about a new piece of machinery, for example, the reader may not be that excited about its formal specs or mechanical functions, but even adding a few sentences about the people and process that enabled that new piece of machinery will generate interest. Did it take years? Was there a “Eureka!” moment? What struggles did the team have to overcome to get to the big reveal?

    5. Pair words with visuals.

    Though good writing has built-in imagery, actual visuals can be a great complement to rich language. They can drive home a point, sum up a complex idea, and as the old adage goes, — be “worth a thousand words.”

    Finding the right visual, whether a stock photo or a compelling infographic, is not always easy. Choose something relevant and vibrant that fosters an emotional connection, or in the case of an infographic, is thought-provoking.

    6. Make a joke.

    Comedic timing is both complex and simple. A touch of sarcasm, a wry observation, a self deprecating confession can all interrupt the standard script and foster a sense of lightness and trust.

    If joking is not a part of your skill set, don’t worry. Just be open to the power of humor and practice when you can. Little dashes of mirth and mischief will sprout up organically. In the meantime, you have an excuse to watch Chelsea Lately and call it work.

    7. Know your audience.

    This is probably one of the most important tips because it will not only shape the tone of your writing, it will provide the substance. What do the folks you’re targeting care about? Money, health, spirituality? How can you meaningfully speak to your customer’s values?

    8. Ask them to act with a call to action.

    We discussed how asking questions and enacting inquiry can inspire reader participation. A more direct approach of suggesting actions the reader can take accomplishes the same goal.

    Usual calls to action include things like:

    • “Sign up here”
    • “Purchase the newest edition”
    • “Tell your friends”

    But you can also direct your audience to:

    • “Imagine”
    • “Consider”
    • Or “Follow through.”

    Offer your readers options, which will signal the beginning of a productive relationship – one in which they feel deeply invested in the development and evolution of the brand.

    9. Be intentional about the length.

    Factor in both SEO considerations, which favor longer length posts, and what will best serve your topic. Sometimes, an exciting update can be delivered in an enthusiastic 500 words, while other times, a topic with many dimensions will require 1,500- 2,000 words to really tease out the different perspectives and possible complications.

    10. Plan ahead. Though the best ideas sometimes come on the go while we’re improvising and being spontaneous, organization can support the creative process in many ways.

    Mapping your key points ahead of time will ensure that your blog post has a structure. Then, you can add flourishes to your heart’s content.

    11. Read!

    Good reading practices lead to good writing practices.

    Pick out your favorite blogs and make a practice of reading them regularly. As you read, ask yourself what makes the style and content engaging and effective? Is it depth, succinctness, humor, intelligence, or some combination of strengths?

    12. Make it skim-able.

    The internet is a land of varying paces. And though there are occasions in which readers will want to dive into a blog post and really soak it up, sometimes they just want to look it over for its major points.

    Write to accommodate both types of readers. Using lists, bullet points, and the classic clear beginning, middle, and end will help orient those segments of your audience who only have a few minutes to peruse your blog.

    13. Consider legality, etiquette, and ethics when using sources.

    The internet makes so much information readily available, but it can also blur the lines around intellectual property. The importance of crediting your sources can sometimes depend on content. A list of suggestions for cat names may not require the same attribution as somebody’s years of medical research, but it may still be polite to credit Jane CatLover.

    14. Make use of digital tools, like the Hemingway App or Grammarly, to tweak sentence structure and errors in grammar and punctuation.

    Having sharp editing skills does not always guarantee a winning blog post, but it does create a strong foundation to build on.

    15. Finally, enjoy yourself.

    Think about writing a blog post that stands out the same way you might think of a lovingly prepared meal. Take pleasure in crafting something delicious and thoughtful for your guests, and use your own tastes and intuitions to guide you.

    Still facing writer’s block? Take a look at our post “How to Create Epic Content: Writing Tips for People Who Hate to Write.”