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How to Build Online Communities: What Celebs Can Teach Brands

Build Online CommunitiesThey’re everywhere.

Little monsters. Lambs. Lovatics.

Directioners. Beliebers. Hooligans.

Call them what you will, these people take the definition of “fan” to a completely new—and sometimes terrifying—level. They’ve set up dedicated websites, established active chat forums, and even branded body parts like Bruno Mars’ prominent neck vein.

Whether you love them, hate them, or belong to them, one thing’s for sure: you can learn something about their loyalty and the way their idols mobilize them to act in unison.

While you may not be able to carry two notes, you can still be a rock star in your own industry. Follow along as we look at how these celebs manage to build online communities and retain the unwavering support of their audiences.

Building a Passionate Community around a Brand

When you analyze celebs with massive fan bases, you’ll notice there’s something they have in common—something they understand: the importance of developing a community around their brand. They know how to cultivate a sense of shared identity, which is the foundation on which they build their brand’s following.

How did they do it?

You may think the answer lies in a simple word and a little artistic license. It’s that, but it’s also so much more.

  • They’ve become compelling storytellers. Besides sharing their brand’s story, they share the interesting tales of their fans. They not only help their followers relate to them as both a famous artist and a human being, but they also help their fans relate to each other. Social media has made it easier than ever before to spread powerful brand stories and user experiences with an online audience, so it’s only natural to take advantage of it.

  • Online community buildingThey help their community members identify with their brand’s values so that they feel connected and part of the crowd. When fans feel part of an exclusive group, it’s bound to generate pride and loyalty. Lady Gaga offers a perfect example. Besides instructing concertgoers to put up their “paws” during her performances (something that unites them), “Mother Monster” has also developed her own social network where her “Little Monsters” can interact with each other and share branded content that only strengthens their devotion to her brand.
  • They interact with their audiences frequently and speak to them directly. When you visit the social media profiles of these celebs, you know you’re actually communicating with them, and not some lackey hired to keep the feed flowing with content. While most business brands can’t afford to have their CEO Tweeting all day, once in a while is a good start.

Sometimes the Tables are Turned

You don’t always have control. Sometimes fans will label themselves (as is the case with Directioners) and build online communities of their own without support from the top. Sometimes they’ll give a brand a nickname (think Bud, Chevy, and Bloomies). Is it a bad thing? Not necessarily.

It’s often the consequence of frequent interaction. Communities create their own language to demonstrate their love, admiration, and support. It’s their way of establishing a bond between you and them.

What should you do if you suddenly find your brand in this situation? Embrace it. Adopt it. Make it part of your brand packaging and leverage it to build your community further.

Don’t Hear What’s Not Being Said…

Are we suggesting that you make up some cutesy moniker and slap it on every customer who walks through your door?The power to build online communities

No.

What we are saying is that you need to start thinking about ways you can make your brand a fundamental part of your community’s identity. Your words and behavior have the power to give people a sense of belonging—to make them feel connected. When you empower your audience to become part of something bigger than what your competitors can offer, you’ll find they become your brand’s biggest advocates.

How are you building a passionate community around your brand? We’d love to hear your stories, so join the conversation below.

7 Ways to Use Social Media for Lead Generation

social media lead generationSocial media serves as a great tool in most areas of marketing, but many entrepreneurs and marketers find it falls flat when it comes to lead generation. While much of that boils down to common lead generation blunders, the other part of it boils down to social media users not knowing how to reel in new customers through these platforms.

Believe it or not, there are hundreds of powerful ways you can employ social media channels to become a lead magnet. In this post, we look at seven of them.

1. Listen to Relevant Conversations

Use a social media monitoring tool like HootSuite to set up alerts for your brand name, competitors, products, and industry related topics. You can then monitor these streams to identify influencers you should build relationships with, questions you can answer, and problems you can solve. You never know when reaching out to help a stranger will turn into a valuable lead.

2. Take Your Virtual Communication Offline

Sometimes target prospects don’t want to connect via social media. They need that personal touch—the phone conversation or face-to-face meeting that wins their trust. You’re missing a valuable opportunity if you haven’t yet made your offline contact details available on your networking profiles. Set up a schedule of posts to let your audience know the value of connecting with you in the real world.

3. Leverage Social Ads

If there are funds in your budget, consider paid advertising options on social media platforms. Promoted content on Facebook, self-serve CPC ads on LinkedIn, or sponsored Tweets on Twitter can go a long way to increasing exposure for your brand, driving traffic, and generating leads. To get the most out of your social ads make certain you use a strong call to action, a dedicated landing page designed for high conversions, and ad targeting options that ensure you reach a high-quality audience.

Tweet free eBook offering4. Use Free Offerings

Promoting free eBooks, guides, white papers, and other branded materials via social media is an excellent tactic that should form part of every good lead generation program. Make sure the link you post along with your promotional snippet directs users to a compelling landing page with a lead capture form.

5. Create Promotions

Contests, sweepstakes, giveaways, discounts, and other promotions offer a highly effective way to engage fans, increase social conversions, and accumulate qualified leads. The bonus is that contest entries will provide a pool of unique, user-generated content you can use for future marketing communications. Make sure you explore all the options available through the social platform you’re using and that you abide by any contest hosting guidelines the site has set.

6. Participate In Twitter Chats, LinkedIn Groups and Google+ Hangouts

A huge part of using social media for lead generation requires you to interact with your audience. If you’re not putting yourself in front of your target market, engaging in meaningful conversations, and building authority, then you shouldn’t expect to run a successful lead generation program.

Google+ Hangouts, Twitter Chats, and LinkedIn Groups are three of the most powerful features you can use to engage relevant communities. As you participate, be sure to identify potential leads and search for opportunities to connect with them. Answer their questions in public, and then follow up with a private message. Whatever you do, get to know the ins and outs of these tools and how you can use them to build strong, long-lasting relationships with qualified prospects.

7. Encourage Social Sharing

Social sharing buttons for lead generation

Easier said than done, right? The first things you want to look at are ways to increase the virality of your content. When you create pieces that compel people to share with their networks, you effectively amplify your brand’s exposure, boost traffic, and improve your potential to generate leads.

The next thing you want to do is ensure you provide an opportunity to share. Make sure you embed social sharing buttons into your free offerings so readers can quickly and conveniently share snippets of valuable information and a link to the relevant landing page.

Once you start to generate leads through social media, it’s imperative to evaluate and measure your results. Figure out which traffic sources, social media channels, and types of content deliver the highest number of page views. Assess the keywords visitors use, as well as the content they see, before they convert to leads. When you start to understand the conversion path people take, you’ll be able to tie your lead generation efforts with your lead nurturing plan.

How are you using social media for lead generation? We’d love to hear your top tips so drop us a line in the comment section. 

Google Plus Circles 101 with Chris Dreyer

chrisChris Dreyer of AttorneyRankings.org was kind enough to share some of his strategies for success on curating Google Plus Circles. Whether you are growing a personal or professional network, or maybe using G+ for business, these tips should help you grow your following and get some good engagement.

Q: I’ve heard that Google Plus is not a very active social network for business. Is that true?

A: Several months ago I might have agreed with you, but it seems that with the new dashboard changes and how important Google authorship has become for search visibility, that is no longer the case. Google Plus is being used by more and more individuals every day. It is a very active community.

Q: If I just share content all the time, will people start putting me in circles?

A: It depends upon if you are sharing content on your website that already receives a substantial amount of traffic. If you are in very few circles and those circles aren’t active, then you are going to have a very difficult time building your circles. It’s best if you have an email contact list to import. It’s not 100% necessary, but having this initial group to market to will really help you expand in the beginning.

Google Plus LogoQ: Do I have to comment on posts every day in order to get people to put me in circles?

A: No. You do not have comment or +1 every day in order to get people to put you in circles. Like all of the social networks, the more you engage with your circles, the more they will reciprocate and also engage with the content you share. The best way to stand out is to share niche-specific content that is interesting to your circles. Be selective on how often, when and what you share.

Q: Is there anything I can do off of Google Plus to increase my following?

A: There are a ton of things you can do:

  • +1 Interesting posts
  • Re share Interesting posts
  • Add circles often
  • Re share circles of engagers
  • Create hangouts
  • Join communities
  • Leverage other social media platforms (i.e Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.)
  • Add Google authorship
  • Add Google Plus follow badges on your website
  • Create Google Plus calls-to-action in your website content
  • Use social share icons for your content

other social networksA tactic I like to use for my niche (attorneys) is to identify related communities, agencies and law firm,s and add their lawyer profile circles. You can then actively engage with +1’s, shares and comments to get them to reciprocate and add you to their circles.

Q: How long does it take to start getting a lot of followers on Google Plus?

A: Not long. I started heavily using Google+ in the last few months. In fact, about two weeks ago, I was in around 600 circles. Now my personal account has nearly 1,500. So by actively using G+ in just two weeks, I added 900 more circles to my account. There is a link to my profile at the bottom of this interview to confirm what I stated.

Q: I’ve been interacting with other people’s content on Google Plus and sharing my own content, but no one is putting me in Circles, what gives?

Plus one contentA: It takes time, but if you continue to engage with +1’s, sharing and adding your own content, you will see your circles increase. In the beginning, you will be added to circles slowly, but there is a domino effect that happens with consistent engagement. You will be remembered, and many of the users will reciprocate and add you to their circles.

Q: How would I use communities to grow my following on Google Plus?

A: Communities are an amazing place to market to on Google Plus because they have already established memberships. They already have a group of people to market to and are interested in the same topics as you. Each community has a different set of rules you must follow in order to participate. Read the rules first, and then enjoy.

Q: How would I use hangouts to grow my following on Google Plus?

A: I have to be honest. I am no pro at utilizing hangouts for Google Plus. What I can tell you is hangouts are another great way to engage with your circles on an even more personal level. Sometimes written content and inflection gets misinterpreted and interferes with status posts. With video hangouts, you can clarify information in real time. These hangouts can also become amazing content to share for your status updates. Not to mention those that participate in the hangouts with yourself will frequently share the content to their circles. They can be a great way to extend your social reach to new circles.

Q: Are there any books, guides or blogs that you would recommend for growing my following?

A: Christine DeGraff is putting out a lot of interesting content on how to get more circles. I highly recommend you check out her profile to see what she’s doing. Otherwise, you just need to participate on Google+ by engaging with other users.

Check out Chris Dreyer’s G+ profile for yourself.  He’s grown quite the network, and it’s building every day. Chris is also the president and founder of AttorneyRankings.org, the web’s premiere online marketing destination for attorneys.

 

What are your thoughts on Google Plus and being added to more circles? Let us know what you think by leaving a comment below or dropping a line.

Social Media Trends for 2013: Part 2

In Part 1 of our Social Media Trends post, we talked about some things happening with social media in 2013. In this post, we will expand on that and talk about a few more broad trends that are taking place.

Tracking Success

Social engagement metricsIn HubSpot’s State of Inbound Marketing report for 2013, it was highlighted again and again how marketers this year are working to figure out an ROI for their efforts. I see this happening a lot with social media, as well. As more businesses want to get involved because of all the hype surrounding social media, many are asking, “how will this help my business?” They often want that answered using empirical data and not fuzzy logic.

As a result, agencies and in-house marketers are focusing on the analytics provided by social platforms as well as third-party tools for measuring how their content is impacting the bottom line of their clients or their companies. HubSpot’s tracking platform is one such tool that allows you to track social interactions right back to the moment someone made a purchase. Tools like Viral Content Buzz help marketers spread and track the success of their content across the web.

Being More Active

According to a survey done by Social Media Examiner, 67% of marketers plan to increase their Twitter activities this year. This isn’t just limited to Twitter. Business owners, marketers, individuals and any other person or entity leveraging social media realizes that just having an account and posting content is not enough to be successful and grow a network. You have to be present.

This reminds me of being in school when there would be someone in class sleeping and the teacher would mark that person absent. When the person protested saying that they were in the room, the teacher would say, “your body is here, but your mind is absent.” The same principle applies on social media. Newcomers and even some veterans to the technology of social media realize that they need to have an active participation or it is just a waste of time and resources.

Getting Serious About an Online Brand

Building an Online BrandI still see it happening today, but it occurred more so a few years back: businesses leaving their social-media presence to inexperienced people. It happens less often today because businesses are starting to realize the power that social media has, as well as seeing the missteps of other companies in relation to an online presence. Job listings for these sorts of jobs are starting to require college degrees in Public Relations or Journalism. If a business can’t get that, they are looking for people with years of experience and a portfolio to prove it.

It’s probably safe to say that in the near future, interaction on these networks will become prolific enough that a business wouldn’t dare leave ownership of it in the hands of an intern or someone who has no idea what they are doing. We might even see entire degree programs reshaped to accommodate teaching people how to build a brand on these networks.

Mob Mentality

CrowdThere is nothing new about people receiving their news on social media. I first learned of the Boston Bombing via Twitter, and frequently see news stories repeated on my local evening channels that I’ve already read about on Facebook earlier in the day.

Along with this is a disturbing trend where people are being social media vigilantes or creating a mob mentality via social networks. A prime example is all the misinformation floating around after the bombing that happened in Boston. The combination of a world full of smartphones with high-quality cameras and the ability to disseminate content to thousands or even millions of people with the click of a button has made it easy for misinformation to spread like wildfire.

As it relates to business, it can be very damaging if and when there are inaccurate perceptions about a brand being perpetuated on social media. Half-truths or untruths can become real stories in no time at all, and there doesn’t really seem to be a mechanism in place to stop things like this from happening other than our own rationale, thoughts and common sense.

What trends do you see in social media for the rest of 2013? How will you be taking advantage of them for your business or your clients? Join in the conversation by commenting below.

Social Media Trends for 2013: Part 1

It’s obvious that social media is evolving at the speed of light. Platforms are constantly changing to accommodate user habits, satisfy shareholders and maintain a competitive edge in a dog-eat-dog industry. So as a business, where do you spend your time? Where do you put your resources?

Video in Social Media

Instagram and Vine are a part of social media trends in 2013Video is a phenomenon at the forefront of social media trends. Especially services like Vine and Instagram’s new video service. Millions of people devote hours and hours and hours to watching quirky 7 or 15 second videos on these networks.  There are even professional Viners out there who specialize in making videos for companies. As a brand, this is an excellent chance to show your creative side. For next to no investment, a company can start an account on one of these social networks and put together a video. If it’s good enough, it will get some interaction and get shared. If it’s really good (which isn’t that hard if you’re thoughtful), it will get shared a lot and garner your business some well-deserved exposure online.

Integrated Social Campaigns

Definition of IntegratedSome people may remember the subtle way the Internet started to invade our lives. Back before and during the dot-com boom, we started seeing companies on television including URLs in their marketing. It was becoming more important to let people know that the business had resources and valuable information on a website. Fast-forward 15 years and social media has become the ubiquitous symbol of the information revolution. Even if a company isn’t actively promoting a presence on a social network, they at least have icons present in their advertising.

The simple fact is, more and more people are using social media networks to communicate. It is not just a novelty anymore, but a practical means of connecting with friends, family and old acquaintances. Instead of picking up a phone, people are sending instant messages, tweets, or status updates. For many people out there, if a company doesn’t have a presence on the web in the form of a social media account, they aren’t relevant. More than having logos in their offline ads, businesses are combining activities in social media with campaigns that occur offline and vise versa. Sometimes these are meant to drive engagement online or off.

Less Checking In?

Foursquare LogoSocial Media Examiner reported earlier this year that use of geo-location websites like Foursquare had declined from 17% of respondents in their survey saying they used the websites to only 11%. Some are noting that these types of websites are starting to split up and focus on niche markets. Also prevalent are geo-location services right inside of the social media platforms we are already on. You can check in just as easily on Facebook and let all your friends and acquaintances know where you are instead of logging into a whole other account to do so. Some networks will even add location data for you without you even thinking about it. The novelty of “checking-in” at a location and receiving recognition in the form of virtual badges and trinkets seems to be wearing off.

Social and SEO

Social and SEOThis is less of a trend and more of a reality. There is not really a question anymore as to whether social interactions influence rankings in search. They do. For example, if you are logged into a Google account, and are at least somewhat active on Google Plus, when you search for something that your network has interacted with in some way (whether plus-oneing, commenting or sharing content), it tends to show up in your feed as relevant to your query because of content as well as because someone you are connected to also found it relevant enough to interact with. That same result may have never been seen by you or other users that were connected to the people that interacted with it but because they did, Google thinks you might find it useful, as well.

It isn’t as clear how Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or any number of the other social networks that are out there impact search. One thing is very clear, though – Google and other search engines are constantly searching for ways to deliver more relevant content to their users, and one way of doing that is listening to what the people you are connected to are doing. In theory, people who are connected to one another tend to like similar things, have similar interests, and think in similar ways at one level or another.

What trends do you see forming for social media for the rest of 2013? Do they help you? Hurt you? Join in the conversation by commenting below.

7 Reasons You’re Failing at Social Media Lead Generation

Social Media Lead GenerationAre you struggling to generate a steady flow of strong, qualified leads through social media? There could be a reason for that. In fact, there could be several.

If you think you’re doing everything you possibly can to attract leads, but your tactics simply aren’t working, consider these seven common reasons social media lead generation campaigns fail to ensure you’re not making a critical error.

 

Reason #1: You Don’t Have a Social Media Lead Generation Strategy

 

If you wouldn’t start a business without a business plan or implement marketing initiatives without a marketing plan, would you really expect to generate leads via social media without a strategy? When you think about it like that, the answer is likely ‘no.’ Yet, you wouldn’t be the first social media user to do so.

If you haven’t yet mapped out your approach to gaining reach, qualifying prospects, and enticing them with a compelling offer in exchange for contact details, then that should be your starting point. Plan to succeed and you probably will.

 

Reason #2: You’re Casting Your Net Too Wide

 

Social Media Lead Generation Strategy

In your effort to satisfy everyone, you may be jeopardizing your ability to make real connections with the decision makers in a business or home. While it’s great that you’re trying to reach as many people as possible, this approach is almost doomed to fail as a lead generation strategy because it’s unfocused and confusing to your target audience.

You don’t have to be on every social media platform, and you don’t have to market to multiple buyer personas at once. You do need to be where your prospects are, and you do need to deliver targeted messages that help them relate to your unique value proposition. Once you nail down a targeted approach that actually works, you can think about expanding your reach.

 

Reason #3: You Haven’t Mastered the Art of Persuasion

 

Constructing a persuasive social media message is a tough job—if you don’t know your target audience. Learn how to appeal to their reason, emotions, beliefs, interests, and values, and you’ll find yourself halfway to overcoming their resistance. Practice your copywriting skills and you’ll find your killer calls-to-action will take you the rest of the way to a growing list of leads.

Reason #4: You’re Not Being Seen or Heard

 

Standing out on social media platformsAlmost every business has a social media presence these days, which makes it harder than ever to rise above the ever-increasing noise. The result is you have to work harder than ever to ensure you’re building brand awareness and recognition.

Besides establishing compelling social media profiles that are optimized for search engines, you should consistently share and seed content that’s optimized for the social web. An effective social seeding strategy will ensure natural influencers share your message with their communities and that your lead-generating content spreads like wildfire. Get your message found and heard and you’ll greatly increase your chances of capturing targeted leads.

 

Reason #5: You’re Not Taking an Active Role

 

Thanks to social networks, word-of-mouth marketing has never been as important as it is right now. Besides the fact that these communication channels have increased the speed at which conversations take place, as well as amplified the volume of dialogue being created every minute, they have also changed the landscape of advertising. Since people now trust personal recommendations more than they do ads being broadcast via a TV screen, brands have to rely heavily on consumer recommendations to spread their message and influence potential buyers.

As a result, you have to take a proactive approach to word-of-mouth marketing so that the right people receive the right message. It’s no longer enough to claim your social property, shoot off a post, and then hope a conversation will develop. You have to engage your community, dedicate enough time to meaningful interaction, and make sure people have a positive experience when encountering your brand online. When done correctly and used alongside other inbound marketing tactics, you’re almost certain to succeed at social media lead generation.

 

Reason #6: You’re Not Sharing the Right Content

 

Sharing the Right ContentContent is the most powerful tool you have to draw in leads and then nurture them through the sales cycle. Where most businesses fail is in the content’s focus. You see, buyers don’t want to hear about your business or its products. They want to hear about solutions to their most pressing problems. When you start to share helpful information that focuses on the needs of your target audience, you should begin to see an improvement in your lead-generation efforts. Keep in mind that your social media content strategy should link to multiple sources—not just your blog and landing page.

 

Reason #7: You’re Not Fully Leveraging a Platform’s Tools and Features

 

How well are you leveraging the tools and features each platform provides? Are you using targeted social ads to generate leads? Are you creating or taking part in LinkedIn Groups, Google+ Hangouts, Twitter Chats, or Facebook Groups to build relationships with prospects and influencers?

Your interaction shouldn’t be limited to your Twitter Stream or Facebook Timeline. Look for ways to reach out and connect with the right people on these platforms. After all, many of their features were built for exactly that purpose.

No one ever said becoming a lead magnet was easy. As with anything in life, you have to persevere before you get it right.

What social media lead generation tips can you offer your fellow marketers? Join the conversation below…

‘Mad Men’ and the History of Marketing

The history of marketing is being written every day by people who work hard trying to connect people to products and services that will improve their lives. TV’s Mad Men shows the lives of these people, but during a much different era. What, if anything, can we learn about marketing from the show?Mad Men Logo

WARNING – the remainder of this blog post contains light spoilers for those who aren’t caught up with Mad Men. Proceed at your own risk!

Mad Men’s sixth season has just concluded, and fans of the show are just as engaged with the program’s fascinating characters, surprising plot lines, sumptuous set design and costuming choices as they were when they first laid eyes on Don Draper and company back in season one. At its core, the show is a character-driven drama that illuminates how people lived and loved during one of the most interesting and tumultuous eras in recent American history. However, Mad Men also provides an inside look at how advertising and marketing campaigns were pitched, structured and unleashed to the public during the 1960s. The program is known for its amazing attention to detail, and I believe viewers can learn quite a bit about the history of marketing by following the exploits of the people working at the firm of Sterling, Cooper, Draper, Price.

Is Mad Men’s Take on Marketing Relevant Today?

Obviously, marketing has changed considerably since the Mad Men era. Audiences are not nearly as captive as they once were, and they are generally more cynical when they suspect that they are being advertised to. Thanks to the rise of the Internet, people simply have much more control over their exposure to content. Nevertheless, there are scenes and situations on Mad Men that ring just as true today as they would have in 1966.

The Timeless Importance of the Buyer Persona

Female BuyerThe character of Don Draper is a creative genius and a marketing wizard. He seems to understand timeless marketing concepts intuitively. One such concept is the idea of a buyer persona.

In case you aren’t familiar with the concept of a buyer persona, here is a brief rundown:

  • A buyer persona is an example of a real person who might have interest in purchasing a particular product or service
  • Buyer personas help marketers understand what drives customers to make decisions
  • Consumer goals and drives are taken into account
  • When creating a buyer persona, marketers must ask themselves detailed who, what, when, where and why questions

Even though the term “buyer persona” has never been uttered on Mad Men, there’s no doubt that the underlying concept propels the creation of advertising content produced by the show’s characters. For example, when Don Draper creates his pitch for Kodak’s new slide projector in the final episode of season one, he doesn’t try to sell the product based on its features and specifications (boring!); he sells his pitch to the Kodak executives based on how potential buyers will use the product to experience emotional connectedness with their loved ones. Draper isn’t proposing that people will buy the product because of its amazing features; instead, he’s proposing that people will be able to connect with their emotions through the use of the product. In other words, he’s identified the needs and drives of Kodak’s customer base, and he’s created a buyer persona. What’s more, he’s created a remarkable value proposition, seemingly without even knowing it.

Modern Marketers can Learn a Lot from Mad Men

Modern Marketer ManMad Men teaches us a number of other lessons about the history of marketing, but what the show really tells us is that things haven’t changed all that much since the 1960s. Sure, technology has advanced considerably, and peoples’ attentions are stretched as thin as ever (and people aren’t really chain-smoking and drinking old-fashioneds on the job). However, many of the best marketing practices and techniques are the same as they were 50 years ago.

Marketers can’t be lazy about understanding potential customers, and they certainly can’t afford to ignore the drives of the people who, ultimately, pay their salaries. I believe that Mad Men’s Don Draper would be just as successful in the marketing reality of today as he is depicted in the fictional 1960s because the character has an intuitive, almost preternatural sense of what drives consumers. The character also understands how people connect to the products that fill their lives. That’s why he would have tremendous success in today’s world, in spite of the numerous changes that have taken place since the so-called golden age of advertising.

Have you watched ‘Mad Men’? What are your thoughts about how the show depicts advertising and marketing? Do you feel like the program is true to the history of marketing? Let us know what you think by leaving a comment below or dropping us a line.

Mobile Marketing Trends: SEO and Advertising

Mobile Marketing ButtonMobile is the new landscape that consumers are navigating to interact with content on the web. The explosion of mobile computing advancements has made the experience far better than it was even seven or eight years ago. Now when you promote a website, you can’t just think about those using desktop or laptop machines, but also those looking at your content through a hand-held device. How is mobile marketing different, and how does it affect web marketing and SEO?

Mobile Marketing and Search

Business Relevance

Now that almost 40% of internet time is spent on a mobile device, businesses should be taking notice with their web presence. In just the past two years, search on mobile browsers has increased significantly. According to Comscore, nearly 86 million Americans are using mobile phones to search for local businesses.

If you run a local business and you haven’t done anything for your web presence, you will probably still show up in search; however, the questions are, “how often?” and “what will the information look like?” Those who have never made an attempt to put out relevant and accurate data may be displaying something outdated, while those who have may rank higher.

Mobile Marketing and Advertising

Sale on Mobile Marketing DeviceTrends are showing that mobile use increases during the evenings and weekends. No surprise there, right? The part mobile marketers should be paying attention to is how to leverage that to get the best possible return on your mobile advertising spend. If you are using popular platforms like AdWords or AdCenter, scheduling ads so that they show to users at peak times is a plus.

Website owners and advertisers need to think more about reaching consumers in these channels. They can’t use the same methods, though. People are in a different mindset when using a mobile device. They often consume information differently and have less space and time to do it in. The number of smartphone users is also growing. It is estimated that right now, there are about a billion active smart phones on the planet. That number is projected to double by 2015, which is ten times the rate of growth it took to get to 1 billion in the first place.

Mobile Marketing Strategy

There are not a huge amount of companies that have a mobile marketing strategy. As the number of smart phone users grows and the hunger of advertisers to reach those users also grows, the need for a plan will emerge. In 2011, it was important to at least be thinking about a mobile strategy, if not developing one. The pressure to do so is magnified today and will only continue to get stronger. Device manufacturers are showing no signs of slowing, and the public’s lust for the latest mobile gadget seems boundless.

Just when many small businesses (and even large companies) are starting to find their way in online marketing, they will have to revisit their strategies to make sure they are thinking about mobile, as well. Because mobile is a different animal, many of the same tactics that worked for desktop marketing cannot be repurposed.

Mobile Encourages Conversation

Conversational SearchOne other elephant in the room is voice-activated features on mobile devices. It is much easier, much more convenient and much more likely that someone will use voice to search for something on a mobile web browser. Google’s Matt Cutts recently released a video talking about how query syntax will change based on users having the option to speak their queries rather than type them. He points out that we speak differently than we type, and that Google is striving to become better at conversational search. That is, they are trying to get better at understanding the overall meaning of what a person is looking for instead of linking together a string of words to find in a document.

If more and more people are searching for things using a smartphone, that means that a lot of the traditional tactics for ranking web pages may not be as effective any more. While there isn’t a clear answer as to how this will affect everything, it’s probably safe to say that eventually it will become more important to focus on creating things that people will click on and share a lot rather than something a machine will find relevant based on its structure, keywords and how many documents are linked to it.

 

How are you handing the increasing impact of mobile technology? Do you have any additional insight into this important subject? Be sure to let us know what you think by dropping us a line or leaving a comment below.

Social Media and Personal Branding: 6 Sure-Fire Tips for Success

There’s no denying that social media platforms offer a powerful tool for personal branding campaigns. However, you’re not simply setting out to increase visibility or generate awareness. Yes, self-promotion does play a role, but building a memorable, positive image and reputation goes far beyond that.

The following tips will ensure your brand is authentic and purposeful so that you can have a greater impact on your community.

#1 – Understand your objectives and intentions before you establish a presence.

Social Media Personal Branding Strategy

Like any marketing or branding initiative you decide to pursue, you need to figure out what your goals are and how you can best serve your community while attempting to achieve them. Keep in mind that once you create a social media account and begin engaging others in conversation, you should not stop. Personal branding is a journey that requires consistency and commitment, so make sure you have a strategy in place and that you’re prepared to deliver value at every opportunity.

#2 – Take control of your personal brand before someone else does.

Are you happy to let others label or define you? Probably not, but that’s what you’re doing if you’re not living your authentic self. The last thing you want is to live someone else’s perception of the person you are, so claim your social media property today and start molding your profiles and interactions to reflect your true identity.

#3 – Leverage social media to build your relevancy offline.

It’s great that you’re establishing your credibility in the virtual world, but you’ll make an even bigger impact and add value to your brand if you can provide an identical, if not better, experience of “brand YOU” in the real world.

#4 – Find a comfortable mix that works for you.

The reality is that we’re not all built to be Youtube stars or Instagram legends. Introverts may fear the prospect of a profile picture while extraverts usually can’t wait to post a video of their latest keynote address. Once you figure out your approach to personal branding and understand your intentions, you need to identify the platforms that make you feel most comfortable while effectively communicating your brand message and personality.

#5 – Connect with the right people.

Social Media Personal Branding - Who Are You

You can tell a lot about a person based on the company he or she chooses to keep. Therefore, aligning your brand with the wrong individuals can mean disaster for you on both a personal and professional level. Don’t accept unsavory behavior, negative thinking, or mediocrity. Associate yourself with people who will elevate your brand and help you achieve your objectives.

# 6 – Evaluate your brand and assess how much value you truly add to society.

Be honest. Are you contributing enough? Do others perceive your personal brand the way you do? There may never be a way to gauge your social capital, but the chances are you’re doing something right if your social media communities are growing.

Ultimately, your personal brand is an asset. Make sure you protect it by being mindful of your community, positioning yourself in a way that allows you to be a role model, and creating a positive experience for anyone who encounters you in both the virtual and real world.

Are you actively building your personal brand through social media? Do you think there’s room for improvement? Let us know what you think…

Surviving a Social Media Disaster

Wrench in the gears representing social media disastersSometimes they’re funny. Sometimes they make us cringe. Other times we feel bad for those involved. One thing is for sure: they always draw attention. I’m talking about social media PR disasters. Before the Internet (and especially social media) was so ubiquitous, PR snafus were generally confined to mainstream media. A company had to make a pretty big mistake in order for the press to take notice, but now even the slightest misstep can potentially result in droves of Internet users sharing a company’s misfortune gleefully and without restraint. I’d like to offer some suggestions on surviving a social media disaster.

Before we explore options for mitigating a social media image problem, I’d like to draw attention to a classic example of a social media misstep.

Is That Your Account?

A notable example of a social media blunder happened back in March of 2011 when a Chrysler employee accidentally used the company Twitter account to bemoan the driving habits of Detroiters.

Chrysler's Social media Disaster

Incidents like this underscore an important concept that is easy to lose sight of in the rapidly growing world of interconnectivity. It is far easier to promote a brand, and along with that, far easier to damage it with careless oversight. At the time of this tweet, Chrysler had about 7,500 followers. Reaching and engaging with that many people directly used to be an incredibly costly and time consuming process that involved many seasoned professionals and industries. Today (and probably not in Chrysler’s case), some companies leave such power in the hands of interns, entry-level employees or those who simply don’t respect the fragility of the brands they’ve been trusted with keeping.

What Can We learn?

Obviously, from the Chrysler scenario, you should be aware of what account you are using to post a tweet, post, status update or what have you (especially if you’re using derogatory comments about a business’ audience). For my company’s presence, I don’t even like to log in to a company account on a personal machine or device if I can help it. More importantly, though, as marketers, we have to understand that the brands we manage online for our employers or our clients are delicate and are tied to the livelihoods of other people. With that being true, we should be forever mindful of how we portray a brand online.

Tips for Surviving a Disaster

  1. Image of Blueprints Representing social media disaster planningHave a plan: This tip doesn’t really relate to what you should do in the aftermath of a mistake, but before it happens. The very best thing you can do if your business is just starting out in social media, or even if you have been doing it for a while, is to create a crisis-management plan. This should outline very specifically what you are going to do in the event of a negative scenario. Naturally, you can’t plan for every possible hiccup, but you can at least get the obvious ones out of the way. Include very specific procedures for what you will do and who you will contact, as well as their contact information. For example, a person leaving negative feedback on a Facebook timeline may not warrant contacting anyone and simply responding to the person quickly. Conversely, if an employee is sharing sensitive company information maliciously via Twitter, that may warrant calling the CEO on a Sunday so that you can get out in front of the situation. When social media problems arise, time is of the essence, and having a plan saves you time.
  2. social-mediaReact Quickly: As mentioned before, time is of the essence with social media. Problems get bigger, stakeholders get angrier, and more damage can be done to a brand the longer it takes for an appropriate response to be executed. The very worst thing you can do as a business in the social media realm is to ignore things. For instance, a business might simply choose to ignore negative feedback on a social media account rather than respond to it. Most of the time people posting negative comments simply want to be acknowledged, and doing so often resolves the issue. Configure social accounts so that you will be alerted whenever someone mentions you, posts to your account or otherwise interacts with the brand. Consult your plan and act accordingly as fast as possible. Obviously, you don’t have to respond within 30 seconds, but leaving things hanging for a day is unacceptable.
  3. Be Transparent: Don’t try and cover things up; this typically backfires and could potentially cause more damage to a brand than was being done in the first place. If (as a business) something was screwed up, acknowledge that and then offer solutions to fix it. Don’t blame, don’t shed responsibility (if it is your fault), and definitely don’t lie. Work with customers or other stakeholders on fixing the issue. Also, it is important to leave comments out there even if they were negative. Trying to hide things from public view will also backfire on you. This can also be an opportunity to show prospects and customers something special about your business. It shows them that you are able to deal with customer complaints and problems appropriately and that the business wants to work with people and not against them.
  4. Take it somewhere else: You can’t control who is going to use your public forum to start something with the company, but you can control where it goes next. As a rule of thumb, if someone has an issue with a service, a product or the company in general, always attempt to take the conversation offline. For instance, if someone has a bad experience with a product that they bought from your business and they decide to vent on Facebook about it, acknowledge the issue quickly by apologizing for any inconvenience and invite the person to speak by phone or email in your response. Obviously, it’s their choice as to whether or not they take you up on the offer, but you still need to try. Most of the time (if it is a legitimate grievance and not just someone with a vendetta), they will agree and the situation can be resolved in a non public way. Naturally, you can still solve issues publically (assuming no sensitive information is involved), and this notion relies even more heavily on being transparent as a company.
  5. customer-rightThe customer is always right: As marketers, we often play a lot of different roles. Sometimes we are web masters, other times we are sales people and more often than not, we are customer-service professionals. When dealing with social media problems where customers or employees are disgruntled, you always have to give them the benefit of the doubt and take whatever they have to dish out to you. You may not like it, and even if they are wrong, you have to agree with them.

Of course, there are other social media disasters with solutions not mentioned here, such as Burger King’s recent Twitter password security breach. Often things like these offer their own obvious lessons (like keeping your password safe and non obvious). Or in the Chrysler example above, we can plainly see that someone was careless. Above all, I think the best way to survive a social media disaster is to be open and honest. You can’t un-ring a bell and people realize that organizations are comprised of people; and people make mistakes. As long as those mistakes are handled with grace, humility and intelligence, brands can survive a social media misstep.

 

Do you have experience dealing with social media disasters? What are some of the techniques that you rely on when you need to extinguish a problem in the social media realm? Let us know what you think by dropping us a line or leaving a comment below.