3 Brand Publishers You Should Copy

Does your company create content that does not have a direct sales pitch? Do you weave SEO strategies into that content so that search engines take notice? And, do you actively use social media to amplify the reach of your content? Congratulations, you are a brand publisher—or at the very least, you’re heading in that direction.

Brand Concept

Brand publishing is an emerging aspect of digital marketing where content is created to capture consumers at various stages of the buying cycle. Brand design consultants Mark-making define brand publishing as “a marketing strategy where brands treat themselves not as advertisers, but as content publishers.” Often used interchangeably with content marketing, brand publishing is taking hold because of consumers’ natural aversion to traditional, in-your-face advertising.

So, in order to more deeply understand the concept, let’s look at how these three brands are leveraging brand publishing to grow their audiences.

Urban Outfitters: The Retailers of Good Cheer

A multinational clothing retailer, Urban Outfitters sells more than apparel and accessories to the hipster generation—they sell a vibe. They promote their vibe through a mix of blog content and social media, which speaks directly to their youthful, urban audience. Heck, even if you’re not a fan of the clothing, who can resist a recipe for glitter-rimmed eggnog shooters? And that’s exactly the point. Eggnog shooters have nothing to do with what Urban Outfitters actually sells, but their 2 million Facebook followers seem to be just fine with pretty pictures of clothing interspersed with do-it-yourself crafts and tiny cocktails. They use brand publishing to keep their brand top of mind with a steady stream of good vibes.

DriveTime: The Friendly Used Car Guys

DriveTime, a used car dealership, helps people with credit challenges find and finance a car. Along with this core part of their business, they’re also accessible to consumers at every stage of the car-buying game. The visually inviting DriveTime blog covers everything from how to save money during holiday travels to two rescue dogs with a hidden driving talent. Not only does the blog offer a balance between actionablae advice and heartwarming entertainment, they carry a friendly, approachable voice through all of their social media channels.

And, specifically on their Twitter page, there are humorous posts and photos sprinkled between the helpful blog content. Through their strategic approach to brand publishing, DriveTime has created a friendly, informative place for people to land whether they’re in the car-buying market or not.

Red Bull: The Content Behind the Can

Anybody with a pulse knows that Red Bull is an energy drink; however, visit their website and you might have a memory lapse. Red Bull takes brand publishing to a distinctively gutsy level with a dynamic website alive with content featuring high-energy people doing highly exciting things. Topping the high-octane site is a separate digital magazine, The Red Bulletin, that profiles everything from new hip-hop artists, to motorcycle legends, to hot cities you should visit—anything cool, and they’re on it. And, they don’t shove a can of product in your face. Ever. Red Bull uses brand publishing to establish a super-charged lifestyle mood fueled by culture and coolness.

Amplify Your Business with Social Media Giveaways

By now, most companies are engaging their customers in some way through social media. But while generating content for the Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebooks of the world can be a fruitful effort in and of itself, there’s more to using social media than just expressing opinions and posting infographics. If you haven’t yet tried hosting a giveaway via social media, it may be time to do so. Here are a few do’s and don’ts to keep in mind when aiming to reach customers through these networks:

Getting Information for the Presentation Online

Be Relevant

Creating a giveaway simply for the sake of having a giveaway may not be your best bet. Instead, consider tying a promotion like this into an event or holiday. Are you a software company that has a big user conference around the corner? Make your giveaway the vehicle for spreading awareness about the event, touting your latest product and enticing users to attend.

A great example of a business that has been effectively topical with its giveaway themes is FTD. In conjunction with Mother’s Day, the online flower and gift shop created a giveaway centered on honoring moms. The company asked for people to send in stories about their mothers, and announced it would choose 100 stories and send free flowers to the 100 moms selected. The contest was posted in several places, and also promoted through social media channels. The idea appealed to the sentiment around the holiday and was timely, and consequently elicited positive results. Relevance is more than just contests. Around this time of year, FTD makes sure to feature a Christmas-centric home page and offer a wide selection of Christmas decor.

Discourage Spamming

Have you ever had a friend tag your name on Facebook and looked to see what picture was posted of you, only to find out they included your name as part of a company’s giveaway? This tactic is a shameless way for businesses to motivate customers to share their virtual address book with them—this way, they can get more leads and expose their products or services to more individuals. While the theory may make sense, the end result is usually a group of highly annoyed people. No one wants to be spammed via email, and no one wants to be spammed on a personal social media site. Forget this tactic, and take the higher road.

Use Multiple Channels

Even the most savvy marketers sometimes fall prey to unintentional segmentation. But with your social media giveaways, segmentation can hurt. Aberdeen Group found that companies who adopt omnichannel strategies for reaching customers achieve 91 percent greater year-over-year increases in client retention rates than those who don’t. The core channel for your social media giveaway should be social media platforms, but don’t stop there. Email your customers about the opportunity, include a blurb about it in your newsletter, and place a banner on your website with information directing them where to go to participate. You’ll see a much higher participation rate, and a more multidimensional process from start to finish.

You Do Have Something to Give

When Esurance hosted a social media giveaway around the Super Bowl, the company promised to give over a $1 million to one lucky person who tweeted “#EsuranceSave30.” The promotion was wildly successful, but don’t think you need extremely costly prizes in order to produce a valuable campaign. While most people flock to cash rewards, money doesn’t even have to be a factor in what you give away. You can ask for items to be donated, or give away some part of your own product or service. Don’t feel limited if your bank account isn’t overflowing. Oftentimes just generating a fun experience with the chance for winning a freebie is enough to get a strong response.

When it comes to social media giveaways, remember they should be enjoyable and take advantage of the social aspect of the channels. Be intentional with your strategy and clear with the goal you have for the campaign from the get-go. Then work to be relevant, capitalize upon multiple channels, and give what you can while avoiding spamming techniques. If you do, you’ll find your stride, engage customers, and have a little fun along the way.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Using Facebook for Business

The benefits of using Facebook for business are now well trod ground. But just signing up and posting a profile picture won’t get you the results you’re hoping for. There are a lot of ins and outs when it comes to running a Facebook page for business. Here are some critical DOs and DON’Ts that will provide a basic guideline for running a wicked good page.

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DO: Keep it light. Facebook is inherently fun and you don’t want to come across as stiff. If you’re looking to engage with your Facebook community and generate good will among potential customers, make them smile a bit. Have fun with it.

DON’T: Be unprofessional. There’s a line between having fun with your customers and coming across as unprofessional. You don’t want to cross it. Avoid sophomoric and crass humor.

DO: Provide customer service. Facebook is a great opportunity to answer any customer service queries that come up. By being prompt and personable, you can add a human touch that customers are so often looking for.

DON’T: Be formulaic in responses. If someone has a question or complaint, be sure to address it but don’t do so in “customer service speak.” People will be turned off by cookie cutter responses.

DO: Space out your posts. News feed burn out is a real thing on Facebook and you don’t want to be the page that is posting something every five minutes, bombarding your followers. It’s quality over quantity on Facebook, which is not necessarily the case on Twitter. Plan your post ahead of time and publish it when your followers are most likely to see it. This is much more effective than posting constantly.

DON’T: Leave your page unattended. Facebook is a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately type of business and if you let your page go dormant for a couple of days, people are going to forget about you and move on. It’s about finding that balance between posting too much and not posting enough.

DO: Keep people informed. If you’re using Facebook for your business, you’re going to want to let people know about what’s going on. Do it in a way that’s Facebook-appropriate: Use photos, be friendly and warm, and keep it informal.

DON’T: Post like a commercial. Of course you’re going to want to let people know about your products or services but don’t do it in a way that comes across like an advertisement. People will tune out the businesses that they feel like is only on Facebook to sell them things. Facebook is a community, not a place for formal advertisements.

How to Utilize Mind Maps to Enhance Your Inbound Marketing

Who isn’t looking for more effective inbound marketing in today’s content saturated society? Dating back to a third century BC philosopher named Porphyry of Tyre, mind mapping is now being successfully utilized online to open new doors to our internet audience. Let’s look at some common FAQs when it comes to implementing this powerful visual aid.

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So, what exactly is mind mapping?

Simply put, it is a diagram used to organize information into a visual form. They are created around a central word or thought, branch out into major categories, then into more minor subcategories, concepts and thoughts, and often ending in many sub-branches. The mind map literally “maps out” thoughts through associated connections. There are even mind maps available on the internet that show you how to mind map.

Why does mind mapping work?

Humans are naturally curious people and our minds are skilled in seeking patterns that are displayed effectively in mind maps. The brain also likes to work on the basics of associative information that are shown through these concepts and ideas. It’s just the way that we are wired.

How can we get started mind mapping?

You can do it the old fashioned way with pen and paper or a whiteboard, but there are plenty of tools and software out there to assist you. Some of them come with a monthly fee, but there are plenty of free options available:

  • Freemind is one of the most popular mind map apps and this software implements some of the major features that digital task lists have over paper ones. Retractable and extendable branches and hyperlinking between different branches, makes it easier to organize and better connect with ideas.
  • Bubble.us is another free web-based mind mapping application. You can sign up for an account in order to save your mind maps, but better still, they don’t force you to get an account to start creating.
  • Mindmeister is a web app with varying account options; there’s a free account and several commercial options. It has a nice design and interface in comparison with many other mind mapping web apps that are available.
  • Labyrinth is a very simple and basic mind mapping application for both Linux and Windows.

Just to name a few. See which one of the many available mind mapping apps and software are the best fit for you.

How do we implement mind maps for marketing?

There are many ways that mind maps can be utilized for content and inbound marketing. Here’s just a few things to consider when creating them:

  • Sharing: Mind maps were meant to be shared with others so make them easily accessible. Proprietary cloud-based companies can host your creations and allow you to control who has access to them as well as make changes to them in real time.
  • Repurposing: Content repurposing is a way to reimage your existing material and give it a whole, new life online. Take a look at some of your previously published data and see if you can refresh it as a mind map.
  • Checklists: Another way to revamp content is by turning it into a mind map that resembles a checklist. Starting with the main concept or idea behind your information, recreate it as a mind map with a purpose.
  • Post to a Blog: Once you have created some mind maps, post them on a blog and measure their success.

Famed author Dr. Seuss once wrote, “Think think left and think right, think low and think high, oh the things you can think of, if you only you try.” Put your brain to work on how you can make mind mapping work for you in your inbound marketing strategy.

About the Author: Hilary Smith hails from Austin, TX, but now works her magic in Chicago, IL. She is a technology enthusiast who loves social media. Connect with her on Twitter @HilaryS33

How PR Can Get the Most Out of Their Crowdfunding Budget

crowdfundingBefore the Crowdfunding craze began, there were few ways that you could effectively market online for donations short of begging for contributions through PayPal. Fast forward to the huge popularity of this new and powerful technique for getting everything from capital for a new startup venture to soliciting donations for charity — and many more.

In this huge arena, PR can feel like a tiny fish swimming in a huge ocean of many others vying for these same funds. How can we transform ourselves from a tiny minnow into a gigantic whale in a sea of worthy adversaries? Since we’re already short the funds we need to get going, how do we effectively get started raising money on a small budget?

Here are some tips to get you swimming towards success in the Crowdfunding waters:

Before you begin: “Seek first to understand, then to be understood,” from author Stephen R. Covey in his bestseller 7 Habits of Successful People.

You can’t expect to get results by simply posting information and asking for help. The best way to stand out in the fundraising crowd is by developing a rapport with an influencer. You need to engage with a successful journalist or blogging before pitching your product, idea or cause.

Before you attempt direct communication, show them that you are reading their material, retweet their tweets and comment on their articles. Ask them for some guidance or an answer to a relative question. Your first email shouldn’t be a sales pitch and they’ll likely recognize you when that time does arrive.

Less is more: “The less you reveal the more people wonder,” states successful model, actress and film star Emma Watson

Rather than bombarding social media, bloggers and journalists with an onslaught of spam, concentrate more effectively on some key individuals. Get to know them, do some research, what topics gain their interest and what groups they engage with. They will likely look at your campaign if they have a shared interest and would therefore be more willing to pass your message on to others.

People bore seeing the same content over and over again. You can gain more interest with a smaller presentation that packs a bigger punch.

Content creation: “Poetry is the rhythmic creation of beauty in words,” a bright insight from the dark mind of author Edgar Allan Poe.

Opening another door into possible interest from an influencer is through content creation. Offer to create relative material through a guest post on their platform and this could generate links back to your campaign. Be sure to create a landing page or press release on a popular Crowdfunding site (PRWeb, PRNewswire or CrowdfundingPR) that explains the  backstory for your project.

Everything is relative: “People respond in accordance to how you relate to them,” offers revolutionary philanthropist Nelson Mandela

If you aren’t getting support from an influencer, keep current and up-to-date with all the trending topics, hot movements and popular conversations. Seek out those topics that are similar to your venture and engage with these groups and/or people. Not only can you later reach out to this audience, you could learn important information from these conversations.

In closing, listen to the experts, engage with your audience and use whatever tips and tricks necessary to ensure the success of your campaign. Happy Crowdfunding!

About the Author –  Dave Landry Jr. is journalist specializing in business tactics and finance. He’s very excited to have contributed to Sazbean.com and encourages you to find him on Twitter: @davelandryjr

Leveraging LinkedIn for Business

Linkedin ChocolatesWith each social media site comes its own set of advantages, characteristics, and user base. While some sites, like Instagram and Vine, may share similar demographics and video sharing capabilities, other sites are more unique to themselves. This is certainly the case with LinkedIn, a social media site designed with business in mind.

At its core, LinkedIn was created as a place for business professionals to network. It’s a place where businesses can form new partnerships, where employers can look for new employees and vice versa. LinkedIn users are, on average, better educated with higher paying jobs. All of these factors make for an excellent marketing opportunity for a business.

Creating a LinkedIn page for your business allows you to tap into that population, allowing you to target engagement with people who may be better connected within your community and also may have a little more to spend on your service or product. There are the obvious businesses that stand to profit from networking with the professionals on LinkedIn—a suit tailor, office supply store, or anything in the technology industry, for example—but just about any business can take advantage of the free marketing opportunity LinkedIn presents.

Find ways to advertise your business to the LinkedIn crowd. If you own a bar and grill, maybe push your happy hour. You can even offer special LinkedIn-only deals to your followers. Boutiques can push business professional-friendly attire. Salons can show off styles that would stand out in the workplace. The point is that though you may not view yourself or your business as something that would fit on the professional networking site, the people already using LinkedIn make for excellent potential customers.

Doing Business on Pinterest

Pretty PinterestAs anyone who has invested in Myspace knows, the social media game has no safe bets. A site you thought would’ve been around forever is already a ghost town while another you thought was doomed from the start slowly builds into a zeitgeist-grabbing juggernaut. When it comes to matters of social media, it’s best to not count anyone out too quickly. Except maybe Myspace. You can probably count them out. But, then again . . .

Pinterest, who has had its fair share of naysayers, detractors, and otherwise, has established itself as one of the main players of the social media game. If your business isn’t on Pinterest, it’s high time you set up an account. It’s an image-based site, one that allows a user to create a sort of online cork board where they pin their favorite pictures, easily accessed by their own personal network of friends and family. It’s built for sharing.

Being that Pinterest is an image-based site, so much of what you choose to share will have to be agreeable to the eyes—to put it lightly. You want the photos you share to look good. You want them to look so good that your followers will be inspired to repin (like retweet) your image for their followers to see. And then maybe one of their followers repins it, too. And so on and so forth: Your image just went viral.

Using photos to showcase your products is great, of course, but you’re going to want to keep your posts varied and diverse. For every photo you pin, you’re going to want to repin someone else’s photo. Not only does this engage other Pinterest users, it demonstrates that your business isn’t only on Pinterest to advertise. Users aren’t going to follow an account that is only bombarding them with advertisements. To be a part of someone’s community, you must commune.

Of course, posting photos of your products and services is an excellent way to drum up business. But don’t stop there. Post coupons available only to your Pinterest community. Post photos of your employees to show that you’re a team. Make things that are visually stimulating and inspiring. Follow influential accounts in your own industry to watch for product trends. Use Pinterest to learn more about your customers and what they’re interested in. Pinterest is excellent for engaging and interacting that community which you rely on. Also, it’s popular and, we think, here to stay.

The Art and Value of Repurposing Content

Now that the content industry seems to have come to the agreement that high-quality, regularly updated content is the best way to get traffic, webmasters are left with a dilemma. In a way, it’s a version of the same dilemma that has frustrated content creators (or as we used to call them, artists) since time immemorial: what to write? What to photograph? What to feature? How to create content, day in and day out, and keep it fresh and interesting?

Repurposing content can answer some of these questions. It takes the pressure off by limiting the amount of creativity your content creators need to deploy, and also allows you to subtly tweak content to better fit different formats. Repurposing content is the key to maximizing your efficiency and ensuring that you get the most bang for your content buck. Read on!

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Get maximum mileage out of each piece of content

Repurposing content helps you maximize the reach and efficacy of each piece of content you create. If you’ve researched a topic enough to write an article about it, get a designer to use that research to create an infographic, a slideshow, or even a video! The more you go over information, the more insights will become available to you, and in this way you’ll be able to add value to your content as you repurpose it.

Attract visitors from difference sources

When you repurpose content for a social media channel, you access a different category of your fans. It’s entirely possible that these fans only follow you on Twitter, and didn’t know you actually had long-form content. Repurposing content for all of the various channels of social media also maximizes your exposure to all the different people who are interested in your brand.

Boost your SEO Game

By reconfiguring and repurposing content, you maximize keyword coverage and density across multiple pieces of content, making sure that your relevance for that keyword is as high as possible. You can further increase your relevance by cross-linking the various pieces of content, however take care not to make your repurposing too blatant in this case.

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Make sure your they get the message

As any Facebook marketer knows, the organic reach of a Facebook page is limited. Facebook itself puts the number at 16%, meaning you’re likely to reach 16% of your page’s fans with a given post, but some people allege the numbers to be even lower than that.

Repurposing your content means increasing the instances of that 16% reach—ensuring that you reach a larger percentage of your fans than that maybe-16% without repeating yourself and possibly getting penalized for spamming.

Repurposing: 2nd/3rd/4th time’s a charm?

Repurposing content is great for maximising the efficacy of your content and giving your creators a much-needed break to recharge their creative energies. Plus, as we have shown, repurposing and repromoting is actually necessary just to ensure that your content is seen by as many of your fans as possible. Your content is there, you already paid for it. Why not get the most out of it?

About the Author

Hilary Smith is a guest author and online business journalist with a background in business telecommunications and media marketing. Her writing often covers content amplification, business globalization and technology as well. Follow her on Twitter to read more!

When to Use Twitter Ads for Business

Twitter Bird SketchFor all the great things social media has to offer small businesses, perhaps the greatest might be the simple fact that it’s free. All of these services allow you to reach thousands and thousands of potential customers without spending a dime.

Well, sort of.

While it’s true that sites like Instagram and Vine don’t charge users to start an account and begin posting to their ever-growing list of followers—i.e., potential customers—that doesn’t necessarily mean that a post is going to be seen, read, or clicked on. How do they offer their service for free? Advertisements.

So while you may be posting for free, this doesn’t necessarily mean that a post is as effective as it can be. In fact, this is sometimes by design. A site like Facebook actively makes it more difficult for posts to be seen these days, gently prodding its users to pay to “boost” their posts so that they experience a wider reach.

While Twitter doesn’t actively limit a tweet’s reach, its wide-open, anything-goes Twitter feed means that a tweet can be quickly buried and quietly forgotten. If a follower of yours only follows 50 users, than your tweet is more likely to be seen. But if they follow hundreds of users, than their twitter feed is more likely to be full of so many tweets that they’re bound to miss some—including yours.

To combat this, Twitter offers its own paid model for tweeting. Users can pay to have tweets appear at the top of their followers’ Twitter feed, which is the ideal location for being seen. Obviously you’re not going to want to pay for every single tweet but if you have a special offer, sale, or event coming up and you want to ensure that it’ll be seen by more of your followers, than paying for a boosted tweet is the right option for you.

Sharing for Engagement on Twitter

Cat Mandoo too

Content, as we say in the social media biz, is king. Well, that and cats. So cat content is king. But the rest of content is a very close second. It’s what drives the social media machine, garnering likes, gathering retweets, and being spread virally through shares. It’s articles, listicles, photographs, infographics, videos, and so much more. Content is the key to engagement.

No matter the format, be it Facebook or Twitter, LinkedIn or Instagram, you’re going to want to share content that occupies that magical space where your own interests and your customers’ interests overlap. Of course, how you share that content is largely determined by which social media platform you’re using. The Vine app, for instance, only posts user-made videos. Instagram started off as a photo-only app, though it now offers video sharing, as well.

Be Concise

When it comes to Twitter, sharing content can be a tricky endeavor. The popular social media site’s 140-character limit per tweet doesn’t allow you to dive into a deep analysis of whatever it is that you’re sharing, like a Facebook or LinkedIn does. Instead, you want to deliver content with a concise but engaging headline with two goals in mind: Users clicking on your content and users retweeting your content.

Be Visual

One of the biggest things that can help is including an image with your Tweet. This used to be more of a hassle but Twitter has recently incorporated images directly into users’ Twitter feed. If you are tweeting a link to someone else’s article, find the author’s Twitter handle and include that in your subject line. This greatly increases the likelihood that you’ll be retweeted.

Be Relevant

You’re going to want your content to be relevant to your message, trustworthy, timely, topical, useful, informative, and personal. And take the time to see what your followers respond to. If you notice that one type of tweet is consistently retweeted more than other types of tweets, thoughtful analysis may reveal what your specific audience is interested in.