3 Social Media Marketing Trends for 2015

It used to be that successful businesses could get by with advertising done through traditional radio, newspaper and television mediums. Those days are gone. Now consumers want to know the company behind the brand. They want to know the people behind the company. They want to know.

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Actually, that’s putting the cart before the horse. Unless you have original, fresh content to market, you have nothing to give; nothing that a consumer wants, anyway. To be a success today, businesses have to have better, fresh, original content and use all of the tools that are available to socially market their brand. They need to become a brand publisher.

Here are three social media marketing trends to watch for in 2015.

More Personable

Consumers want to connect with the people who make up a brand, and social media is the way to do it. If you haven’t been doing this already, you are missing out. To compete, more and more brands are getting to know people up front. One company that has taken great advantage of social media marketing is Lifelock, Inc. Lifelock is a company that specializes in identity protection security, and it took to Twitter to publish its brand. In 2007 it established @LifeLock on Twitter, where you can get all the latest on identity hacking and interact with people who have had the life-altering experience of losing their identities.

Lifelock went on to have Twitter parties. These are online events where the company teams up with another whose members share the same interests and gives out prizes during the party. The company partnered with a woman’s marketing group, MommyPR, for example, to host the “Safe Shopping Holiday” party and offered five winners a basic one-year Lifelock membership along with a $50 American Express gift card just for attending. Marketing like this lends itself to company trust and customer loyalty, which means you’ll definitely see more of it in the future.

Mobile Optimized

The mobile device market has exploded and is only going to become more widespread. While businesses know to make sure their brand is correctly optimized for a smartphone or tablet, a huge amount of companies will go full-force and optimize their brand for mobile devices. There are now businesses specifically designed to fulfill this need and more companies are taking advantage of this service. The Web Presence Group, for example, has recognized the expanse of the mobile industry and focuses on mobile web development and text messaging optimization, among other optimization services.

More Diverse

As more social media outlets emerge, so will more ingenious ways to use them to connect with consumers even more than in the past, fresh and original content being key.

Facebook, of course, is the reigning champ of social media, and a tough act to follow with a concept that would be hard to diversify. Ello is a new social network that has been designed by a small group of artists and, unlike Facebook, has no ads and is a PBC (Public Benefit Corporation) which means it is not permitted to supply consumer information to third companies. Ello has provided a clever diversification on how social networks succeed; look for more companies to do more of that in the future.

The DOs and DON’Ts of LinkedIn

For all of the particulars involved with the many different social media sites out there, there is probably not a more particular social media site than LinkedIn. Because it is a business social networking site, there is a certain decorum that its users expect everyone to follow.

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The pictures of your nephew’s birthday party you’d post on Facebook, the clever one-liner you came up with to Tweet, the photo of that delicious desert you can’t wait to Instagram—none of those are things your followers on LinkedIn are expecting—or wanting–to see in their feed. This is a site for networking business professionals; post something out of the bounds of accepted norms and someone will surely let you know it.

LinkedIn is probably most often used by job-seekers and potential employers, which is something you as a small business owner can surely take advantage of as you search for that missing piece of your team. But there are also many other uses for LinkedIn.

As a small business owner, you can use LinkedIn to grow your professional network and introduce yourself to potential sponsors, customers, and business partners. And don’t be shy about introducing yourself to people ‘cold’. Joining LinkedIn comes with a certain set of expectations that include being approached about business opportunities.

However, be strategic and purposeful with the people you connect with. LinkedIn is not like Twitter where you want as big an audience as you can get. It’s about meaningful connections. People can see through accounts seeking to boost their numbers.

When using LinkedIn, it’s critical to remember that this is not your typical social media site. The levity and candor that sites like Facebook and Twitter thrive on do not translate to the professional networking site. We’re not saying to come across as stiff, cold, and unfriendly, but rather pleasant and professional, direct and purposeful.

How Brands Use Social Media to Enhance the Customer Experience

Social media is no longer optional for businesses wishing to grow and compete in their industry. A survey published by eMarketer last October found that 88 percent of companies with 100-plus employees currently utilize social media for marketing purposes. Despite 52 percent of companies saying it’s nearly impossible to measure ROI on social media marketing, a majority will increase spending on mediums in 2015, according to a study by Gigaom.

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Instead of measuring returns by profits, companies are utilizing social media to enhance the overall customer experience. A good customer experience means positive word-of-mouth advertising and retention of brand loyalists. The 2011 Customer Experience Impact Report by RightNow Technologies found that 86 percent of customers were willing to pay more for similar products to a company that provides exceptional customer service.

Social media is a very public forum, so both positive and negative customer experiences voiced online can impact your bottom line. The following companies have provided blueprints on how to effectively use social media to improve customer relations.

JetBlue Rapid Response

Twitter and Facebook provide customers a real-time way to complain about your product or service in front of a large audience. Airlines are particularly vulnerable to online venting since flight delays are a common occurrence. Social media gives companies the opportunity to show they care.

JetBlue passenger Jennifer Kennedy tweeted her frustration about a 40 minute flight delay with no updates being given on January 14. A few minutes later, the company responded directly to her, offering both empathy and an update on the flight. Kennedy responded with appreciation for the fast response, along with her flight number. The plane was in the air a few minutes later.

The most impressive part of this exchange was the fact Kennedy’s original message was not addressed directly to @JetBlue. The airline’s social media administrators obviously follow all activity on Twitter mentioning its name. JetBlue ultimately retained a customer and showed others how the company does its best to address all concerns.

LifeLock Cares

Facebook user and Lifelock customer Mindy Lacey allegedly had a payday loan approved in her name that she never applied for. She posted her frustrations on Lifelock’s Facebook timeline, telling the company she should be canceling her account.

Despite the post being published after midnight, a company representative responded within an hour. They apologized for the inconvenience and reminded the customer of their $1 Million Total Service Guarantee which covers these types of instances. The response concluded with another apology and the company’s toll free number so the customer could call and start the process of remedying the issue.

Granted there are a lot of people who complain just to complain. But LifeLock makes it point to address these matters publicly. A Twitter user posted a complaint about someone stealing his identity. Once again, LifeLock quickly apologized and offered the 24 hour customer service number. These instances may seem trivial on the surface. But the footprint left behind for others to see makes it worth the trouble.

Pinterest Personality

Though rarely mentioned in the same breathe as Twitter and Facebook, Pinterest is actually the second-most powerful social network available. Pinterest directs more traffic to company websites than Twitter, Reddit, LinkedIn and Google Plus combined, according to a 2013 analysis by social plugin developer Shareaholic.

Pinterest provides a platform for companies to convey a friendly and fun public image. Taco Bell pins photos of corporate ugly sweater days, jalapeno eating contests and in-store birthday parties for employees. UGallery, an online art exhibit, uses Pinterest to feature individual client’s work. Girl Scouts of America pin pictures of community service projects, including their members making care packages for homeless people and children suffering from cancer.

Regular engagement on social media gives companies instant feedback and opportunities to provide good customer experiences. The returns will ultimately be in the form of better loyalty and higher retention rates.

3 Tips for the Best Use of Video in Mobile Marketing

video_mobile_marketing.jpgNielsen’s 2013 Digital Consumer Report should pique the interest of every marketing executive in the country. The study found that 65 percent of Americans in 2012 owned a smartphone, up from 44 percent in 2011. It also found that the average American consumer spends 60 hours per week perusing content across all devices.

Companies know their websites must be mobile-compatible and that consumers need an easy way to browse and buy via their devices. But marketing campaigns containing only a talking head and still pictures are missing the boat. Neil Fleming, the New Zealand professor best known for developing the VARK learning model, estimates that 65 percent of all people are visual learners. Others raise that estimate to 83 percent. People also respond well to charts, diagrams and symbols, things that are lacking in most marketing campaigns.

These three tips will help marketing executives maximize returns on their campaigns and subsequently increase company profits.

Create A Logo And Slogan

A 2009 study published in the journal Psychology and Marketing found that preschool children who didn’t know how to read could identify brands based solely on their logos. But the most interesting finding from the study was that 80 percent of the kids recognized the Toyota logo and 53 percent recognized Shell; neither of which are particularly marketed to that demographic.

Companies without a logo are companies without an identity. There’s simply too much content on the web for consumers to organize in their brains. But customers can easy recall the Golden Arches and those “Just Do It” shoes when they’re hungry or need new footwear respectively.

There are numerous options, such as Logomaker.com and FreeLogoServices.com that you can use to create your own logo or go off a pre-drawn selection. Just make sure it’s an all-encompassing visual that conveys what your company’s culture and mission. Consider using the color yellow in your logo, as it’s considered the “happiest” color in the spectrum. Your slogan should complete whatever you cannot convey through your logo.

Music And Sound Effects

People often use their smartphones on the go in noisy places like trains, sports stadiums and bars. An advertisement could be a poetic masterpiece, but if consumers can’t hear it, it’s useless. Smartphone speakers simply do not have the juice to overcome noisy situations. Further, the screen is much smaller than a computer monitor or television, thus all visuals should be easily distinguishable.

Mobile video ads should contain short, simple and clearly audible vocals. One way to ensure consumers get the message is by supplementing the audio with truncated captioning. When using stock video footage from a company like Shutterstock or video clips with only a soundtrack and no other vocals, well-placed words can keep consumers’ attention. Use filter words like “guys” or “gals” if they fit your target demographic. Phrases like “save money” and “limited time” will also keep consumers engaged.

Musicologists at the University of London concluded there are four traits that make a song or musical score “catchy.” Male vocalists with higher-pitched voices tend to be the singers in the 10 most catchy songs researcher identified (including “Y.M.C.A.” by The Village People and “Livin’ On A Prayer” by Bon Jovi). The more sounds there are in the chorus or hook, the more likely people are to sing along. The Oscar Meyer “I Wish I Were An Oscar Meyer Weiner” and Alka-Seltzer’s “Plop Plop, Fizz Fizz” campaigns immediately come to mind for this purpose.

Show, Don’t Tell

In January, The Washington Post published 40 charts that explain the entire world. One of the most telling diagrams was one showing, in five lines on a chart, how the richest people in poor countries have less wealth than poor people in rich countries. A long explanation for this would be great for a documentary movie, but this simple visual told consumers a complete story using less than 20 words.

Remember this when planning your mobile marketing efforts. Law firms, for instance, could show pie charts comparing conviction rates for those who use public defenders versus paid attorneys. Pharmaceutical firms can make colorful bar charts summarizing studies that show nutritional supplements to be no better for your health than prescription drugs.

All of these tips can be summed up in three words: short, clear and concise. Marketers who keep those concepts at the forefront of their minds are already ahead of the curve.

5 Tips for Better Twitter Advertising

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(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Advertising on Twitter can be effective for increasing the size of your audience and also for sending traffic to your website. Besides knowing what your goal is, these tips will help you advertise better on Twitter…

1. Goal Impacts Type of Campaign

Deciding on your goal for your Twitter advertising will help you choose the right type of campaign. The promoted account campaign (followers campaign) is best for increasing your followers and building audience for the long term. If your goal is to boost traffic to your website (or to particular pages on your website), then take a look at the promoted tweets campaign. And if you’re trying to get people to install or engage with your mobile app, there’s a campaign for that too.

2. Targeting Usernames vs Interest Categories

For smaller organizations that are looking for niche audiences, use username targeting to find followers similar to the ones you enter. Interest category targeting works better for larger organizations or broader audiences.

3. Good Messaging

Just like any other good messaging, Twitter ads should have use plain and understandable text and have a clear call to action. Adding pictures can also increase clicks on your ads. Try adding 3-5 different tweets to test your message and images.

4. Competitive Budget

Advertising on Twitter can be cost effective, but make sure your bids are within the suggested range or you may see a drastic decrease in the impressions of your ads.

5. Test to Optimize

Just like any advertising, testing will help you optimize the ads to get the best results for your budget and goals. Test different messages, images and calls to action. Test for a certain length of time, and then copy your campaign to make changes and save past tests and data.

Twitter advertising can be a very cost-effective way to increase the reach of your social media marketing.

Turn to the E-Market for Real-World Customers

communicationsThe oldest question in business is how to drum up more customers. It’s a question that can never be answered easily or conclusively due to the ever-changing nature of consumer behavior. However, the advent of the Internet makes it easier than ever for some companies to tap into new pockets of clients and customers. The holiday season alone accounts for $42 billion in online sales annually, as Comscore reports. How can you tap into an e-audience to improve your company’s bottom line?

Create a Discussion

Everyone enjoys having their opinion known, and the Internet represents the world’s largest forum. Having a detailed comments and reviews section for your web page or outlinking web pages ensures that more people are able to gain trust in a brand. According to Bright Local, only 15% of digital shoppers don’t take reviews into account when thinking about a purchasing decision, since the vast majority of e-customers put their full trust into a review that’s as short as a few words. Retail sales consultants especially need to take heed to customer reviews. A negative review will not necessary sink a product, but a lack of reviews indicate that nobody at all is willing to buy.

Turn Customers Into Sales Members

Few methods of expanding a customer market work as well as letting your existing customers sell the products to their friends and family. Not only do word-of-mouth customers cost significantly less to sign up, but they tend to be some of the most stable and profitable, and have higher elasticity, according to a University of Florida study. Generate e-leads by incorporating a referral system with your customers, providing them with the chance to get savings or rewards simply by passing along the brand to their networks. Specialty sales force members will find this particularly helpful for business-to-business (B2B) products or services.

Hunt and Gather

With a wealth of contact information floating around the Internet such as email addresses, mobile phone numbers, and social media links, there are plenty of dragnets out there working to harvest this valuable metadata. A sales associate with a high customer turnover rate, such as an insurance salesman looking for car insurance leads, can take advantage of leads profiling services that deliver the contact information for active, enthusiastic customers right to their doorsteps. These services reach out to potential customers, screening for location, demographics, or other information, and provide a sales agency with the resources needed to enlist new customers.

Social Spending

The lines between social media and online shopping have become blurred to the point where you can go to one site for both purposes. Generate new customers by incorporating social media information, hotlinking, and shares, but be wary of the pitfalls of this process. Since social media represents an active, dynamic medium of exchange, today’s users expect a rapid response to their inquiries—to the point where Lithium Technology reports that half of all average Twitter users want a unique response to their query within an hour. Create a compelling social media dynamic in order to recruit new customers, but keep the keyboards active and monitored in order to avoid the risks of losing customers before they ever pull out their credit cards.

Internet Marketing Strategy Articles for the Week of April 7, 2014

Here are the top Internet strategy, marketing and technology links for the week of April 7, 2014…

What You Want to Know Will Dictate What You Measure

Google Analytics Hacks

Google Analytics Hacks (Photo credit: Search Engine People Blog)

With so much data, it’s so easy to get caught up in all the numbers. Looking at the wrong numbers will result in faulty analysis and recommendations — you may fix things that aren’t broken, or not fix things that are. Or you may think you have the right solution to a problem, but not even be looking in the right place. While it may seem obvious, taking a step back to understand what you want to know first will help you choose the right measurements.

Step 1: State What You Want To Know

The first step is to state what it is you want to know — without using any measurements or metrics at all. For example, if a website has several links to its Careers page on the homepage, ‘We want to know what place on the homepage is sending the most traffic to our Careers page’. This is quite different from ‘We want to know where the most traffic is coming from that enters the site on our Careers page’. One is about the design of the homepage and the marketing there — the other is about external marketing efforts to the Careers page. We’re going to stick with the first for our example…

Step 2: Refine Your Data Needs

Now that we understand what we want to know, we can further refine our data needs to see if we have the right measurement in place. When we look at the homepage, we can see that there are actually 4 places that someone could click through to the Careers page: 1) Menu at the top of the page 2) Linked text in the middle of the page 3) Ad box in the sidebar 4) Menu in the footer of the page. Ok, so now we know there are 4 possible links a visitor could click, so in order to answer our ‘what we want to know’ question, we have to be able to tell the difference between each of these 4 links.

Step 3: Know Your Technologies

Unfortunately, the next step is fairly technical. In order to know if you can distinguish between the 4 links, you need to know 1) how your analytics package collects data and 2) how the links have been coded. In the case of Google Analytics, it treats all data that goes from one page to another as the same, if the links are the same (with a caveat explained in a second). This means that to Google Analytics, it can’t distinguish between the 4 links on the homepage in terms of how much traffic each sent to the Careers page. But there is hope… Google analytics allows you to add tags to links that can help you distinguish where traffic is coming from to the same web page. Which means that if the links were coded with these tags, the data will already be available. And if not, it can be if they are added. Other analytics tools may collect data differently and your content management system (CMS) can also impact how this works.

Step 4: Zero In on the Right Information

So now that we know what we’re trying to measure, what data refinements we need, and how our web technologies work, we can zero in on the right information in our analytics tool. In Google analytics, we’d look for traffic to the Careers page from each of the 4 tags on the homepage to provide information about what place on the homepage is sending the most traffic.

Good Measurement is In the Details

While this may seem complex, the first step — knowing what you want to know — is really vital for communicating your measurement needs to those that may help provide you with the metrics. Without this refinement, you may get back the wrong metrics, or your technologies may not be setup properly to provide them in the first place.

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Just Like Anything, Internet Marketing Takes Patience

Zen Beach Stones at Home

Zen Beach Stones at Home (Photo credit: Pink Sherbet Photography)

In this instant-on world, where we can get access to just about any constant with a google search or an ipad app, we sometimes forget that not everything is instant. Good internet marketing is about providing the right message to the right people at the right time. Researching and figuring out what tactics and channels to use to find the right people takes time, and sometimes experimentation. Even with tactics in place, it takes time to build reputation, audience, and reach, all which may be in vain if the timing isn’t right. While internet marketing can provide results faster than many other channels, it still requires patience in execution.

Research Required

One of the benefits of internet marketing is the access to information that previously was either difficult or costly to attain. This valuable information can provide insights into where your audience is online, what they care about, and what they need.  Taking time to do research will help you tailor your messaging, tactics and even products to align more closely with what your potential customers want and need.

Experiment & Collect Data

Because the Internet moves so quickly, there is an opportunity to constantly experiment and collect data. Most marketing is a best guess based on research and previous experience. Internet marketing tactics allow marketers to test their theories relatively quickly and cheaply and collect data to improve results.

Analyze & Improve

The downside of so much information and data is that you can easily become overwhelmed with what to focus on. Analyze the data that provides direct information about how well your marketing is working — these should be your primary and secondary key performance indicators. Ask the ‘so what?’ question about each metric to move from a number to a recommendation on what to improve.

Patience Takes Dedication

One of the biggest mistakes companies make is to give up on marketing efforts before they have a chance to provide results. By being dedicated to patience and controlling expectations, internet marketing tactics can have the opportunity to show what they can do. Constant measuring and analysis along the way will help provide data that tactics are moving in the right direction.

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Leveraging Social Networking for B2B Lead Generation

Banking District

Banking District (Photo credit: bsterling)

Businesses that sell to other businesses (B2B) typically have much longer sales cycles than companies that sell to consumers (B2C). The products and services that are sold are usually much higher in cost, which requires more hand-holding during the sales process.  Salespeople are invaluable to B2B companies because they nurture relationships throughout the sales process. B2B companies, even when they do use social media, tend to overlook it as a relationship builder and a lead generation channel.

B2B Relationships Online Matter Too

If you’re building relationships with a customer in-person, and they’re online, that’s another opportunity to listen to their concerns, learn about their needs and provide value to the relationship. If you’re also online and your customers are connected to you and you’re not listening and responding, that can impact in-person relationships as well. In lead generation, referrals are often the best source, and social networking provides an opportunity to build relationships with those in your customers’ networks.

Your Customer’s Customers Are Your Customers

In B2B relationships, your customer also has customers. Social networking provides an opportunity to connect directly to your customer’s customers. This will help you understand your customer’s needs and wants and can help you provide them with valuable information for their own marketing and sales. Needs often will trickle up the sales channel, and social networking can give you advanced notice of benefits and features you need to build into your own products. In some sales channels, knowing when your customer’s customers are looking for a product can generate a lead for you that a customer may need a product or service from you.

Building B2B Brand Preference

Because B2B is built on relationships and trust, brand preference can be a strong driver of sales. Using social networking can help you build your brand’s reputation by helping your customers with questions and problems, as well as their customers. Increasing your reputation will help generate referrals.

Provide B2B Lead Generation Opportunities

One of the most difficult aspects of lead generation is knowing when a customer or potential customer is interested in your products. It’s obvious when they call or use a contact form, but there often is interest well before those touchpoints. Providing lead generation opportunities online and with social networking can help you tap into those who are earlier in the sales cycle, allowing you to provide valuable information to move them closer to a sale.  The easiest way to provide these opportunities is to build content that is valuable (hint: lose the marketing speak and opt for benefits and value instead) for those considering a sale and providing it through social channels, not only by posting on your online profiles, but by offering it directly to those who seem to have a question.

Closing the Sale

Just like in-person sales and marketing in B2B, social networking for B2B lead generation requires time and patience.  It means listening and responding to customers in a timely manner. If social networking is treated as an extension of in-person networking, it can be an extremely valuable lead generation tool for B2B companies.

How do you use social networking for B2B lead generation?

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