Posts

Mega Content Part 2: Boost Long Term Leads Through Compounding Lead Generation

MEGA contentai-01

It’s a long recognized fact that corporate websites that include active blogs generate higher volumes of traffic, leads and conversions. After all, a steady stream of content provides search engines with more pages to index and provides marketers with more opportunity to focus in on specific areas of interest or on sharing multiple perspectives.

When it comes to a solid Mega Content marketing approach, these benefits quickly become a real and tangible part of moving your marketing efforts forward.

(In part one of this series, the concept of creating and leveraging Mega Content was introduced as part of your content marketing and email marketing initiatives. If you haven’t read this piece, you might want to back up and read it for some background.)

What short-sighted content marketers often miss, however, is the longer term compounding value these content pieces can create. In other words, unlike more standard list building efforts that tend to have a defined start and end point and are quickly and easily measured once the campaign has ended, Mega Content looks at lead generation as a more long term enterprise.

Before we get to the part of this series that explains how to create Mega Content, (that’s coming up, I promise!) let’s take a look at the math behind the method and why it holds so much appeal for companies of all sizes.

The Challenge of Landing Page Traffic

The biggest challenge that comes with promoting landing pages designed to produce email leads is the cost of driving traffic into the page. In general, businesses tend to rely on contests or advertising to push traffic. Both are effective, but they also tend to have a somewhat limited lifespan. Contests eventually end, and advertising dollars usually end up being diverted to the next project.

This means the average landing page tends to pull traffic for the span of 2-6 weeks before seeing a huge drop in traffic; or it requires significant ongoing ad dollars to keep the traffic flowing. As a result, you’ll often see blogs and websites triggering pop-up windows to invite you to download a whitepaper or research report. The cost is infinitely lower, and the life span of the landing page can be extended.

Extending the Lifespan of Landing Pages

One of the primary reasons companies engage in Content Marketing is to drive a continual flow of targeted traffic into their website. The goal of this traffic is to drive incremental sales or lead generation, but for many companies, the link between blog content and conversions is tenuous at best. Sadly, many companies still haven’t figured out what the call to action in their blog posts needs to be. (This is, again, a whole other article…)

By building out a Mega Content package, sites now have a high value offering to exchange for email contacts as well as a wide range of content for social media. Their blog also serves as the perfect place to lead people to the landing page for the content. So, instead of using ad dollars or contest promotion, brands can share an image, article or video content. By generating a few months’ worth of supportive content as part of the Mega Content package, you ensure a steady flow of traffic into the landing page over time.

In addition, the content being passed around social sharing services like Pinterest or being housed on the blog can lead to solid long term traffic.

The Power of Compounding Leads

How are your blog analytics? Chances are, your high quality posts are still pulling traffic months (even years) after you originally published them. What’s more, on the posts you included calls to action, your conversion rate is likely staying reasonably steady over time as well.

Using this as a foundation, let’s give consideration to how a well-placed and promoted Mega Content landing page might perform.

Let’s say the first blog post you put out for your Mega Content pulls in 3,000 visitors in an average month, with 3% of them going on to fill out your lead generation form to download the content. This provides you with 60 solid leads per month that can be tied back to the topic of your Mega Content.gears-01

For most established sites, we regularly pull thousands or even tens of thousands of visitors per month to blog posts on client sites for small to mid-size businesses. That said, 60 leads per month may not appear to be much, but it would truly be a mistake to jump to this conclusion. The goal is not to gain a paltry 720 leads over the course of the year. Instead, as new content is produced, new opportunities to build targeted leads are created and combined with the older opportunities that are likely still performing.

If you release one piece of Mega Content per month, for example, it gives you the opportunity to build targeted email lists around 12 distinctly unique topics over the course of a year. Since these landing pages are relying on content marketing, social sharing and search engines to drive traffic, you should continue to receive leads from one piece of content while launching the next one, and the domino effect begins.

A more realistic portrayal of your math would be:compounding leads-01

While you may only see 60 leads the first month, month two will bring 120 leads when both campaigns are performing. And, month seven could bring 360 leads in as the six prior campaigns work their magic together. In fact, by the end of the year, you are looking at a grand total of 4,680 targeted leads!

If you are the ambitious type, or you have a history of producing strong content, traffic and conversion rates, you can be even bolder. If we rerun those numbers with an average of 10K views per month on the content and a 3.6% conversion rate, we’re looking at 360 leads per month – a compounded outcome of more than 28K leads over the course of one year!

Our own internal numbers show these results are not impossible to achieve. In fact, one of our Mega Content landing pages has consistently converted around 40% of its traffic since we launched it.

compounding leads2-01

Just a Change to Your Current Marketing Strategy

The biggest thing to keep in mind when considering a switch to a Mega Content approach is that it’s not about adding yet another marketing task to your list. It’s about making the work you do now more effective by maximizing its impact. Ultimately, it will get your lead generation team to have conversations with your content marketing team so everyone can work together to produce better content AND better leads.

Coming up in the next part of this series, we’ll look at how Mega Content production actually works. I’ll walk you through the idea of taking a huge piece of existing content and turning it into a Mega Content Package as well as how to take a smaller piece of content and scale it up into a legitimate piece of Mega Content.

 

Joe Shmoe’s Guide to Social Media Image Dimensions

Social Media Image Dimensions Header

In social media, size does matter, especially when it comes to image dimensions. It’s definitely a challenge to keep up with all the networks and the various sizes they have for each component of an account. But, if you want to effectively represent your brand, you need to get it right.

We decided to take some of the burden off of you and create a cheat sheet of all the sizes needed for the most popular networks! If you need any further help building your social marketing strategy, we can help with that too!

Social Media Image Dimensions

Mega Content: What It Is & Why Marketers Should Embrace It (Part 1)

MEGA content-01What if you could help create ready-made content for your social media sharing teams while simultaneously boosting the size of your targeted email marketing lists without dramatically increasing the work done by your content marketing team? It’s what every business wants, and it’s surprisingly possible with just a little bit of tweaking to your current strategy.

The History of Mega Content

According to the Content Marketing Institute, 70% of B2B marketers and 69% of B2C marketers say they are creating more content this year than they were last year. Add in the need to serve up a steady stream of both original and curated content across various social media platforms and we sometimes find ourselves drowning under a never ending barrage of content requests.

Why so much content, and what are we trying to accomplish with it? This is what marketers really need to be asking. Study after study has shown increases in indexed pages, traffic volume, leads and sales for websites that have regularly updated blogs. But, the challenge comes in balancing the need to create strong brand building and lead generating blog posts with a slew of other social media postings that are more engaging for audiences.

This can make it difficult for businesses both large and small to balance the knowledge that content marketing produces long term leads with the very real demand for producing trackable data and results on a more immediate timeline. The key to good online marketing is figuring out how to reach both goals, but the jackpot of online marketing is achieving both goals with one set of deliverables.

Thus, the idea of mega content was born.

What Is MegaContentThe Challenges with Mega Content

It started out almost by accident. One of our clients is a prodigious writer. She regularly churns out volumes of outstanding content and has a very strong blog following. This traffic has great carry-over to her e-commerce site and is consistently one of her strongest sources of converting traffic. While this has provided a wonderful bedrock on which to build a solid online marketing business, the need to increase sales and conversions still exists.

Despite strong blog marketing and social media marketing, this client had not done much in the way of targeting or segmented email marketing. As the client prepared to launch a newer version of their e-commerce site with a more flexible backend management system, we decided to prep for more aggressive email marketing in the coming year. Of course, the biggest challenge in email marketing is building out a strong list with good targeting to allow for proper segmentation.

When the client delivered a blog post that clocked in at over 4,000 words, we knew we had a decision to make. We could break the post up into 3-4 posts that were more digestible, or we could beef it up further and consider its potential as an e-book or whitepaper. Since we had already started building out an infographic on the same topic, we decided to move forward with an e-book approach that could be used to draw a list of email addresses that were clearly interested in this specific topic and its corresponding product line.

As our design team worked out the details of the 24 page e-book, we decided to take a more visual approach to the design. Because the topic was targeted at women, we developed a PDF more in line with a pull-out guide from a women’s magazine instead of taking the standard text heavy whitepaper or e-book approach. We included our infographic as well as visual call-outs, quotes and other snippets of information aimed at creating a highly informative piece of content.

The Possibilities of Mega Content

Once our e-book was designed, we then took the time to break the content down into individual pieces of content that could be used on the client’s blog and/or for social media outreach. Two 500 word blog posts were pieced together from the content and paired with the infographic to serve as three separate posts on the client’s blog. Also, a series of images were created showcasing tips and facts about the e-book, which were then optimized for Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter.

Next, we knew we needed to build out a traditional style landing page aimed at trading the e-book for an email address. We paired it up with the style, theme and information provided in our content package. We added testimonials from happy customers, and a few sound bites of information from the content piece. Overall, we ended up with more than a dozen “bite-size” pieces of content that could be shared on social media as standalone pieces of content, yet we still had enough meat to them to lead people back to the landing page to download the e-book.

MegaContent_Combines Best ImpactIs Marketing Mega Content Really That Different?

At this point, some of you may be wondering how this process differs at all from traditional e-book or whitepaper marketing. It’s a fair question with a very nuanced answer. E-books and whitepapers are traditionally written for the express purpose of creating a “prepped” buyer. Sometimes it’s about sharing research and data that draws in the exact type of lead you can feed to your sales team so they can pick up the phone and try to close the deal. Sometimes, it’s about sharing a case study or writing a story that leads people down a path to the right decision, right meaning your product or service, of course. And generally speaking, whitepapers and e-books are viewed as leading people into a fairly deep position in your conversion funnel.

Mega content, on the other hand, is about building a launch point for your conversion funnel. It’s about gathering a lead that can be fed into different parts of your marketing machine over time. It earns you an email address and a topic of interest, just enough to start reaching out. In other words, you have to accept that you are getting a lead with less immediate value than you might gather using traditional whitepaper marketing.

Why Mega Content Works

The appeal to mega content is that the lead isn’t your only value. Your social media team also receives a nice package of content that can be released across social media channels over the coming weeks or even months. This not only reduces the amount of time spent curating third party content for sharing and increases your ability to share a wider range of original content that can stand on its own, but it also has the potential to drive people to your landing page.

What’s more, this leads to the amazing potential for both traffic increases and lead increases, but you’ll have to tune into our blog again to find out how that works. For the next post in this series, we’ll map out the value of compound growth when it comes to long term lead generation and explain exactly how mega content fits into that process.

MegaContent_Breaking It Up

The Ever-Changing Social Media Landscape

With all the changes to social media, it can be very challenging to keep up. The big players like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest are always adding new features and abilities, and the newer, more niche networks are coming and going at an even faster rate. This challenge to stay on top of these happenings even hits marketers that are in and out of these sites on a daily basis.

To make life a little easier on all us, we want to provide a summary of some recent changes and updates that will impact your social media strategy.

Facebook

Apart from Facebook’s recent algorithm changes, namely the drop in organic reach for page owners, the largest social network has been relatively quiet. This is good news since businesses and marketers have had their hands full dealing with said reach issues. While these changes are no doubt frustrating, if Facebook is a really valuable channel for your company, the cost to improve content and/or take on paid advertising will be worth the investment.

In other much less noteworthy news for Facebook, the company has killed off the “Poke” feature and Facebook Camera. The “poke” has been around for some time and was apparently very rarely used anymore. The camera app has also been around for a while, but likely could not compete with its new cousin Instagram.

These moves are simply part of Facebook’s growth and development. We’ve seen it abandon and consolidate products before, and we’ll likely see it again as the company continues to gain knowledge of what its audience wants.

Twitter

Twitter has actually had quite a bit going on of late. Apart from its struggling stock price, the popular microblogging service has had its share of platform changes too. Last month, Twitter announced a new layout for user accounts. The new profiles are much more visual with larger imagery as well as the following features:

  • Best Tweets: Tweets that have received more engagement will appear slightly larger, so your best content is easy to find.
  • Pinned Tweet: Pin one of your Tweets to the top of your page, so it’s easy for your followers to see what you’re all about.
  • Filtered Tweets: Now you can choose which timeline to view when checking out other profiles. Select from these options: Tweets, Tweets with photos/videos, or Tweets and replies.

First Lady's Twitter Profile

The consensus is that the new look strongly resembles Facebook. Ironically, when Facebook rolled out user Timelines, many people remarked of its resemblance to Myspace. Regardless of user feelings, the new Twitter profiles will be active for everyone by May 28.

Twitter also recently announced a new “mute” feature that will allow users to essentially silence users within their feed. After these users are muted, their tweets won’t appear in your timeline anymore. Also, you won’t receive push notifications from them, but the @ replies and mentions will still show up. The feature is actually very similar to Facebook’s “hide” feature. While users may find this feature useful, it brings some concern to businesses.

Over on Marketing Land, Matt McGee spells out why some marketers aren’t fond of the new ability:

Until now, brands had some assurance that their Twitter activity could be seen by every Twitter follower. That was one of the differentiating factors between Twitter and Facebook; Twitter didn’t purposely show updates to only some of your followers the way Facebook does. And Twitter’s still not doing it algorithmically the way Facebook’s News Feed does — Twitter is putting it in the user’s control. But the point is that Twitter visibility isn’t a sure thing anymore. Some followers may not see your activity, and you have no way of knowing.

As this function rolls out over the next few weeks, marketers will be able to see the full impact.

LinkedIn

The professional network has been somewhat low-key of late. In April, the company did away with its Services tab on company pages and introduced Showcase Pages. In summary, Showcase Pages allow companies to segment the various divisions of their expertise. The idea is to deliver specific messages to distinct target audiences.

From what we’ve seen, these pages work well for large companies with multiple divisions. For instance, Microsoft can segment its Office products:

Microsoft LinkedIn Showcase Page

However, it’s harder for small-to-medium sized businesses to do this. Some marketers don’t feel that Showcase Pages are very useful, but since it’s still early, the verdict is still out on their value.

LinkedIn did also recently unveil a Content Marketing Score that measures unique and engaged members. In other words, the tool helps businesses determine what content works and doesn’t work. The functionality also allows users to publish content in various ways across the platform including through LinkedIn Groups, company updates, employee posts, writers’ posts, etc.

Again, this is very new, so time will tell what this really means for businesses.

Pinterest

Pinterest has had some excitement recently as the company announced a paid test of Promoted Pins. If you remember, last fall, the company said it would begin experimenting with ads with a select group of brands. In this week’s announcement, Pinterest is expanding this initiative. Some of the participating brands include: ABC Family, Banana Republic, Expedia, GAP, General Mills, Kraft, lululemon athletica, Nestle (select brands), Old Navy, among others.

This move is significant for two important reasons. First of all, it’s important that Pinterest is finding a way to monetize itself, and secondly, it’s creating more business opportunities for marketers.

The world’s favorite pinboard also recently launched Guided Search and Custom Categories. Through Guided Search, Pinterest is aiming to help pinners search better and discover pins. For instance, if a user begins searching, Pinterest will start pulling categories and keywords, much like Google search works.

Pinterest Guided Search Example

Pinterest Guided Search

In terms of its categories, the new Custom Categories allows users to go beyond the somewhat arbitrary 32 initial categories. Pinterest also made improvements to its Related Pins feature as part of this announcement.

With more than 70 million users, 30 billion pins and 750 million boards, Pinterest is evolving. To accommodate this rapid growth, we need to expect more changes to come.

And to avoid overwhelming you like we talked about at the beginning, we’ll stop here since this is more than enough to digest. J

Is Pinterest Auto-Following Boards on Your Behalf?

Four years after launch, Pinterest is still as focused as ever on driving stronger user engagement, offering up new recipe search refinement options and even slipping their new “Recommended” pins into user’s news feeds. But is Pinterest pushing things a step further and deciding who you ought to follow based on your browsing history? It’s starting to look that way.

A few months back I started to notice an influx of content from boards I didn’t remember following. Mostly this content came from wedding boards. They were easy enough to write off considering my best friend was getting married and we were dealing with a wedding related client at the time. I assumed I’d followed boards without remembering and simply unfollowed them as I noticed content showing up in my feed.

Then I started to notice other types of content showing up. My feed suddenly had Paleo boards, despite the fact that I don’t follow a Paleo diet. It had bee keeping boards and caring for goat boards and other loosely related topics that I’d run searches for, but not actually followed. Once again, these boards were close enough to my interests that I could write it off, but not so close I remember following them. I ran a few searches to see if I could find anyone mentioning a new “auto-follow” feature on Pinterest, but nothing turned up.

Then, this morning, I finally caught it happening in real time.

I was working on a new Pinterest Webinar for Market Motive and was doing research on the Target/Popular Pinners pairings for their new spring product lines. In seeking out screen caps, I clicked on Target’s “Party with Pinners” board and then went on from there to visit the Pinterest account of Target collaborator Joy Cho.

Target is currently working with popular design blogger Joy Cho to design and launch a new Target party collection.

Not an hour later I went back into my account to snag another set of screen shots to showcase how Pinterest’s “related pins” feature works and immediately noticed a pin from Joy Cho showing up in my news feed.

Less than an hour after looking at her boards, I found myself "automatically" following two of Joy Cho's boards.

Clicking through to the board showed I was listed as a follower.

Rather than showing Joy Cho's recipes as "related posts," I discovered I was now following her recipe board.

I immediately clicked over to the profile page of Joy Cho’s account and noticed I was now following not one, but two of her boards. (Incidentally, the boards I was most likely to have followed based on my Pinterest activity.)

Visiting Joy Cho's profile page showed I was now following two of her boards.

Had it not been for the fact that these boards showed up in my account within an hour of my visiting her profile, I could have easily written it off to yet another “I don’t remember following that, but I must have” moment. (After all, I’d been having them for months.) The timing, however was too coincidental.

I took the post to Facebook to see if anyone else had noticed the same thing and the response was pretty consistent.

Several contacts within the online marketing and Pinterest marketing community confirmed they had also noticed this activity, but written it off.

Taking the conversation offline and digging deeper with Polymer Clay artist Katie Oskin, I found that she too had found concrete examples of accounts and boards she seemed to be following without ever making the selection herself.

Katie pointed to two different accounts that had shown up in her feeds without her actively following them.  Her accounts were for a Pinner named “Miranda Clay”

Oskin found herself following a user named Miranda Clay.

And another user known simply as “Clay.”

Oskin also found herself following a user named "Clay," whose content was a far cry from the polymer clay content she usually followed.

Keep in mind, Katie is a polymer CLAY artist. One who runs frequent searches on Pinterest for the word “clay.”

With a few more voices chiming in via email and private messaging, it seems like a pattern may be emerging. Ignitor Digital’s Carrie Hill pointed out that her “following” count seemed to be rising, even on the weeks she hadn’t chosen to follow anyone. Pole Position Marketing’s Kathy Boyle Gray is seeing similar issues with a large number of new accounts showing in her feeds as well.

With Pinterest’s current focus on increasing user engagement, helping pinners find new content and looking for the ties between search activity and interest, I’m not surprised to see them testing this. What DOES surprise me is that it wasn’t announced as a beta test or as “suggested” boards. Perhaps this is part of the promoted post/accounts test Pinterest is running with select advertisers right now, or perhaps it’s something else entirely. Either way, I question how well received it’s been and I question how users will feel if they ultimately learn that Pinterest HAS been following people on their behalf.

The Growing Value of Pinterest & How You Can Capitalize on It

 

Pinterest Logo

In case you didn’t realize it, Pinterest is big deal. It’s currently one of the hottest social networks not only for pinning recipes, decorating ideas and more, but businesses are also finding tremendous value in the world’s greatest pinboard.

But, is it really just hype, or is there any real value behind the pinning? Check out the 5 following facts that should get some serious head turns:

–          Pinterest is the 2nd largest driver of traffic from social media sites. Facebook is the #1 driver, but Shareaholic found that Pinterest is now leading Twitter as the #2.

–          Pinterest is the 4th largest source of organic traffic. In 2012, Pinterest beat out Yahoo as the 4th largest traffic driver in the world.

–          Pinterest is a proven sales driver. According to customer experience engine Monetate, Pinterest is the top referrer of high-value orders to e-commerce sites.

Monetate Chart on Pinterest

–          Pinterest generates 400 percent more revenue per click than Twitter and 27 percent more than Facebook. This incredible data came from QuickSprout.

–          Pinterest hosts at least 25 percent of accounts from Fortune 500 companies. Though this number is likely greater now, it’s still a significant finding in Burson-Marstellar’s 2012 Global Social Media Check-up.

These are just a handful of facts that prove what a powerful tool Pinterest is. In other words, if your business is not utilizing Pinterest, it would be a good time to embrace it. So, now the question becomes: what can you do to leverage it?

Realistically, we could talk all day about various ways to leverage Pinterest. But, for the sake of time, we’ve put together a few basic tips to help you as you begin your Pinterest strategy.

For starters, you need to optimize your images. It’s very important to incorporate text and information on your image, but it must be done strategically. Basically, you want to offer enough information to draw people in, but then you want them to go beyond the pinning action and land on your website for more information.

Secondly, understand that Pinterest is about the community. While this is true on other social platforms, it takes on an even bigger meaning on Pinterest. Yes, obtaining followers and getting pins repinned are important and help build credibility for brands, but you must reach out as well. Out of all the social platforms that you use, you may find Pinterest to have your strongest group of influencers. If you comment on pins, repin relevant content, and engage with other pinners, you will build your following and a strong community.

Thirdly, think outside the pin. When you’re creating content for Pinterest, obviously pin content related to your product or service, but take it one step further. Find or produce content and pins that impact the end user. For instance, if you have a line of fitness clothing, give examples of exercises or particular moves when your product shines. You could also build a board related to the best workout music, foods, etc. The idea is to essentially show the consumer that you care about their needs instead of shoving your product down their throat, which again, reinforces the concept of community.

Any good marketer knows that you should also conduct periodic evaluations of how your strategy is working, track analytics, and many other routine marketing tasks. But, hopefully, these steps will get you started thinking about how you can incorporate Pinterest and all its value into your marketing mix.

We also recommend reading Pinterest Marketing: An Hour a Day by SugarSpun Marketing’s own Jennifer Evans Cario. Yes, this is a shameless plug, but if you are looking to build a successful marketing strategy on Pinterest, the book offers a step-by-step guide to put you on the right track toward getting actionable results.

How Well Do You Really Know Your Audience?

 

One Size Tag

One size in social media does not fit everyone

Determining your target market is a process that should be familiar to all marketers. While your audience will likely not deviate too drastically unless you revamp your business, it is a good idea to evaluate who exactly you’re trying to reach before each campaign. It’s almost like conducting an audit to make sure you’re on the right track.

When you do this, you must question how you define your audience. If not, it’s like you’re driving somewhere without any navigation. In other words, you’re taking action, but it doesn’t tie back to a particular goal or strategy.

As a business, you are trying to reach and connect with people. This group is a specific crowd that has a particular set of needs and wants. For the most part, it will stay consistent. But, trends may influence them from time to time. For instance, if you’re serving B2B, the decision makers may change demographics periodically, which could influence how you market to your target. The same is true with B2C too as trends come and go and family dynamics alter.

With these thoughts in mind, can you really understand who your audience is? The short answer is yes. However, there is a “but” involved that means it takes constant babysitting.

Who’s out there?

Any business, new or old, has an idea of who it would like to reach. For some, it may be families, app developers, or any number of groups. From this, marketers need to hone in on families of a particular age group, what type of app developers, etc. This will help to dictate your customer personas. From here, you will obtain snippets about your audience, but it’s up to you to put the story together. There will likely be a few different stories, but they all come together through you.

What do they want or need?

As you begin to define customer personas, you’ll notice that there is a common denominator among them. Your audience may include people that are as opposite as day and night, but there will be something that ties them all together – this is your ticket in. It’s important to understand the different backgrounds so that you can better relate to why they want or need you.

When you gather this information, you will connect with your audience in a language that relates more directly to them, which is very effective. Furthermore, you’ll be able to identify where to connect with this group. For some, it may be your blog, and for others, it may be on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest. This will also guide you as to whether you should reach them through photos, videos, text, etc.

How can you show you’re not full of crap?

Everyone knows that there is a LOT of noise online and offline today, which poses a challenge for consumers and businesses alike. Everywhere we turn, there are advertisements and brand messages. As a result, society has become skeptical.

So, how can we, as businesses, cut through the noise and stand out to our target market? It’s an ongoing challenge, but there are some steps that can be implemented to show that you have something valuable to offer. For starters, you must show that you have integrity. If you deliver your brand with honesty, consistency and a sense of value, you’ll become trusted.

It’s also important to identify the negative side of the noise, a.k.a. the crap, and be careful not to ever include anything similar in your messaging. For instance, weight loss ads have a tendency to not be trusted. If you are trying to promote a weight loss program, avoid using any of the same verbiage.

In addition, you need to have proof to show that what you are saying really works. This could be in the form of statistics, third-party studies, testimonials, and various other means. Businesses just really need to show that there is more than just empty words behind their content.

What’s more, as social networks specifically have grown, it has become increasingly harder to cut through the noise. Facebook has even openly admitted that organic reach is decreasing and has advised brand pages to utilize its advertising options. While this throws a kink in many marketing campaigns, it’s not surprising. Many of the popular social networks are public companies and are expected to make money, which means that we, in turn, need to embrace advertising on Facebook and other channels to stay relevant.

In the end, getting to know your customer takes a lot of time and effort. And just when you think you have a handle on it, I can guarantee that Google will introduce a new algorithm or a new trend will emerge to start the whole process again. But, it’s worth the time to get a valid understanding of your audience. It will improve your content, your strategies, product and service development, leads and even sales.

If you’d like more information on how you can effectively find and target your audience, check out how we can help.  Feel free to drop us a personal note too, as we’d love to tailor a response for you.

Image courtesy of teradatamagazine.com.

 

 

10 Years of Facebook & Its Influence on Social Media

“…People often ask if I always knew that Facebook would become what it is today. No way.

I remember getting pizza with my friends one night in college shortly after opening Facebook. I told them I was excited to help connect our school community, but one day someone needed to connect the whole world.

I always thought this was important — giving people the power to share and stay connected, empowering people to build their own communities themselves.

When I reflect on the last 10 years, one question I ask myself is: why were we the ones to build this? We were just students. We had way fewer resources than big companies. If they had focused on this problem, they could have done it.

The only answer I can think of is: we just cared more.

While some doubted that connecting the world was actually important, we were building. While others doubted that this would be sustainable, you were forming lasting connections.

We just cared more about connecting the world than anyone else. And we still do today.”

Above are the words of Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg. It’s been 10 years since his dorm room project came to life. And what a decade it has been! We’ve witnessed tremendous growth, transformations, impact, business capabilities and even an IPO. But, as anyone knows that has even somewhat followed the social giant, the past decade hasn’t just been a bed of roses. There have been challenges and backlashes along the way including privacy concerns, competitors, legal issues, financial alarms and more.

Facebook CEO and Founder Mark Zuckerberg

But, 10 years in, Facebook is a successful, global company that has had a tremendous impact on all society. We would be here a very long time if we went back through all the Facebook milestones and the effect they have had on both the company and overall culture. But, we do want to take a little time to reflect on the big picture of Facebook in the past decade, and more importantly social media and the role it has played.

To do this, let’s back up. In 2004, when Facebook was built, what was your social media life like? At this point in time, MySpace was a big deal, forums were hot, instant messaging platforms such as ICQ were all the rave and Friendster was a means to connect with people online whom you already in the offline world. Other platforms such as Orkut, LinkedIn, and Classmates, among others, existed as well, but the social evolution that we now are familiar with was not present. It was then that blogging really started taking off too.

For me, I remember being in college and getting asked if I had Facebook from a few of my friends from other colleges and universities. I had no idea what it was. But, when it became available to my university, I readily signed up. Funny thing, I remember it blowing up across campus to the extent that there were rumors the president was going to ban it. I was part of the on campus news station, and in covering the event, the overall student response was: “My life would be over if they take Facebook away.” I wonder how many people view Facebook in this same way today…

As Facebook began to grow among the college crowd, it then expanded to include high schoolers, and shortly after, everyone. Although this move took the social network to the next level, Charlene Li from research firm Altimeter Group tells CNET it was “counter-intuitive.”

“If [Zuckerberg] had asked users, “What do you want?,” they would have never said “Add my parents,” she said.

She’s right, but we know now that it was successful for the company that now has more than 1.25 billion users and a reported $2.59 billion in revenue this past quarter. However, beyond this, I think it’s fair to say that social media would not be what it is today if Facebook were not a factor. Like it or not, Facebook has largely influenced the overall social media marketplace. Think about how social we are in everything we do from shopping to cooking to sharing opinions to conducting business and the list goes on and on. Though some would say, if Facebook hadn’t come around, something else would have. While this may be true, the circumstances would still be different. For instance, would MySpace have remained a leader? Whether it did or didn’t, would the road have still been paved for Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and others to enter the social space?

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Though history does not allow us to answer this question, it is clear that Facebook has been very formative in molding social media as we currently know it.

Now, the question becomes, where will it take us next?

“…I’m even more excited about the next ten years than the last. The first ten years were about bootstrapping this network. Now we have the resources to help people across the world solve even bigger and more important problems.

Today, only one-third of the world’s population has access to the internet. In the next decade, we have the opportunity and the responsibility to connect the other two-thirds.

Today, social networks are mostly about sharing moments. In the next decade, they’ll also help you answer questions and solve complex problems.

Today, we have only a few ways to share our experiences. In the next decade, technology will enable us to create many more ways to capture and communicate new kinds of experiences.”

Zuckerberg does not give us any exact information on the next 10 years of Facebook in his above post, but he does indicate that it will become smarter and create new experiences. Hopefully, the social network will continue to grow and transform the way consumers act and think. It’s already helped develop an industry that not only connects a large portion of the world and provides a very valuable tool for businesses, but it also has created a whole new job market.

There have been many headlines declaring that the younger generation was abandoning the site, but new research from Pew shows that 73 percent of children ages 12-17 are Facebook users. So, while Facebook doesn’t appear to be going anywhere but up, it is possible that it could diminish in value at some point. IF this were to happen, the impact is has will still be felt, which is an awesome concept. The way people communicate, react, think, and ultimately, live has been revolutionized in the last decade, all thanks to the influx of social media and led largely by Facebook. Will the next 10 years hold as many changes? We’ll see, but I, for one, am so excited to see where it takes us.

How has Facebook impacted you? Does it play a large role in your life? Has Facebook changed the way you communicate? Could you live without it? Is there a particular event in which Facebook changed your life for the better or worse?

Images courtesy of Facebook.

Online Reviews: Why They Matter to You & to Search

Customer Reviews

With so much focus on Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Pinterest and whatever the latest buzz of the week is other social platforms often get lost in the shuffle. However, this does not mean they don’t matter. It’s these “other” networks that could be of most value to businesses. Online review sites are one area that fits into this category.

PeopleClaim, an online dispute resolution service, created an infographic back in 2012 that clearly depicts just how important these sites are:


PeopleClaim - The Review of Reviews

Though the information is somewhat dated, there are certain trends that are still true today:

– The majority of reviews posted on review sites are positive

– The majority of unhappy customers will come back if their issue is resolved quickly and efficiently

– The majority seeks reviews before purchasing and agrees that reviews make them more comfortable when buying a product or service

– The majority will more likely make a purchase on a website that has product ratings and reviews

A recent report from TravelDailyNews specifically about hotels also found that 66 percent of online hotel reviews were positive and a mere 10.28 percent were negative.

Beyond these facts, even if the review is negative, if you handle it properly, you have the opportunity to change the customer experience for the better. Last year, Amy’s Baking Company Bakery Boutique & Bistro provides a perfect example of what not to do in this scenario. In case you missed the drama, in a nutshell, the Arizona bakery was fired by Gordon Ramsay on “Kitchen Nightmares.” The company owners took to Reddit and Facebook after their story emerged and created fake accounts and responded to all comments in a very defensive and sometimes crude manner. To make matters worse, the two weren’t honest in what they were saying.

Whether it’s Yelp, Google Reviews, Angie’s List, Yahoo Local Listings, Facebook, Insider Pages, Citysearch, TripAdvisor, Amazon, and whatever else you may be listed on, you can likely contact the reviewer directly. This not only gives you the opportunity to right a potential wrong, but it also allows you to potentially create a repeat customer, and furthermore, a brand advocate.

But, unlike Amy’s Baking Company, you have to be smart about connecting with consumers. You shouldn’t respond to every comment or appear on the defensive. Sometimes contacting them beyond their comment platform, such as via email or phone, could be the best option. You must acknowledge their concern and address the issue as plainly and honestly as possible. In other words, strive to have the same customer service as Zappos.

Though mimicking Zappos’ customer service standards is a powerful goal to set, there a number of steps you can do that could help you generate more positive reviews. For starters, look at your current reviews or talk to your customers. This will help let you know if your customer sentiment is happy, or if you have work to do.

Secondly, it’s okay to ask for reviews. If you don’t come across as pushy, consumers really do respond to requests for reviews. If customers are happy, in many cases, they feel empowered and honored to know that a company values their opinion, which is a win-win for everyone.

Thirdly, build your Web presence. If you’re active on your website and across social media, consumers, especially the younger crowd, will be more likely to review something through these outlets as opposed to receiving something in the mail or email. You have to make it easy for your audience. So, being where they are makes you more accessible.

Just as we talked about before, fourthly, you must respond quickly to negative reviews. Most review forums are public, so if a customer only sees bad reviews, they’re going to have trouble a) buying from you and b) leaving a positive remark. In many cases, negative reviewers will also update their review once their issues have been resolved. Also, working in the favor of businesses, consumers may be hesitant about leaving negative reviews in light of recent legal issues that Yelp has experienced.

Lastly, understand that one review leads to another. If you’re thinking this is a good thing, you’re right, but it also requires careful attention. Just like anything else, it’s always the hardest to get the first review. But, once you get that one, the others come more easily. This is true with both positive and negative reviews, so be mindful.

Regardless of what your product or service is, it’s clear that consumers care about what their peers have to say. So, before you allocate all your time on blogging, Facebook, Twitter, etc., set aside some time to plan on building your online reviews because it impacts your brand, potential consumers and search.

Display image courtesy of bloggersideas.com.

 

Getting on Board with the Future of Social Media, Mobile & Tech

 

What's the Future of Social Media and Tech?

During the holidays, Fisher-Price released a baby bouncy seat called the Newborn-to-Toddler Apptivity Seat for iPad that, yes, includes an iPad holder. Is this too much? Or, is it just a natural segue into where society is headed in terms of technology. Fisher Price has been widely scrutinized by children’s advocates amid cries of “babies need laps, not apps.”

Regardless about how you feel about this particular issue, the incident feeds to bigger speculation about where technology and social media will take the next generation. It’s an interesting thought to consider.

A recent study from Ooyala, a digital video provider, found that mobile and tablet video consumption grew 133 percent year-over-year. This is huge. We’ve known for a while now that “live” TV wasn’t what it once was with the ability to record shows for later viewing and download and watch them online. But, to see this kind of growth means that user behavior is changing rapidly.

The same is true for social media. We live in a society that accepts “selfie” as a word. Instead of communicating through a note or even a phone call or email, the new way of communication is through texting or services like Snapchat.

Last summer, the Huffington Post ran an article explaining why social media is a serious threat to the professional future of today’s children. Though the article has some good points, we at SugarSpun, do not believe that social media is a hazard (Duh!). Yes, there are things that teenagers and adults alike are posting and sharing across social media that could be detrimental to their future careers. But, social media isn’t to blame for this. We, as a society, do need to do a better job of educating the younger generation on the permanency of content, but this is no different than content posted anywhere else on the Internet.

The truth is that we are definitely going through a transitional period. Communication has and will continue to change. The hottest tool today may or may not be that cool tomorrow. But, this isn’t bad. While this could mean that we’ll soon find ourselves feeling like we’re living in real-life SCI-FI film or TV show like our SugarSpun president loves so much to watch, it also opens doors for new development and innovation.

Take us, for instance. The majority of our business involves social media. Since it has blown up – and is still continuing to – it has created an entire new marketplace for people like us to create vocations around. Also, similar to when the Internet and blogging first started to emerge and began to give introverts a voice, the same is true with social media.

Business Impact

What does this mean from a business and marketing standpoint? For one, it’s clear that the next generation could likely take us to, what we currently think, is a SCI-FI level. Kids today are growing up in a world where they virtually never have to watch commercials and can always watch Netflix while driving down the road. If my 2-year-old niece can clearly navigate an iPhone and iPad and thinks that a phone call is FaceTime or Skype, then her generation is going to go even beyond a touchscreen stove.

Next Generation Whirlpool Stove

But, all this also means that if social media and technology integration is not a big part of your plan, then you need to make adjustments. We’ve said it before, and we’ll continue to say it until we’re blue in the face – social media is not going away.

It’s a new year, but have you really made changes to the “way you’ve always done business”? Yes, there is a place for consistency, as we talked about last week, but beyond this, times are changing. Having a successful, modern business today is so much more than integrating social media. It’s all about the mentality. Are you breaking down the walls and being transparent? Are you being visual by utilizing tools such as video, infographics, Pinterest, Instagram, etc.? Are you becoming an information source and expert instead of just a destination spot when a customer needs something? All these things and more will help you come through this transition period on top.

Whirlpool image courtesy of Mashable.