All posts in Online Marketing

thumbs up!Facebook’s Open Graph promises to “personalise” the web. Soon, you won’t even have to think: Facebook, Google, and your IP provider will just do it for you! Open Graph stores “stories” about our interests, hobbies, relationships, and likes. As Facebook creates a comprehensive accounting of our lives, Open Graph organises it into a usable database for businesses. Facebook recently added Open Graph tags that will help draw attention to publishers and writers.

Facebook recently added two tags to “help people follow their favorite media publishers and journalists.” The tag enables a link back to your Facebook page whenever someone shares content from your website. The first tag is article:publisher:

<meta property=”article:publisher” content=”https://www.facebook.com/publishersite” />

 

When a piece of content is shared, people are prompted to like the publisher’s page. The second is article:author:

<meta property="article:author" content="https://www.facebook.com/yourname />

 

This will link back to the author’s Facebook profile or page. Make sure that if you are implementing the author tag you have allowed people to follow you.

The new tags are beneficial in building a following and interlinking content. You can create more organic follows and engage with your audience without requiring them to leave their homepages. In many ways, it is a similar offering to Google’s authorship tag (though Facebook declined to say whether or not the tag would affect an article’s rank). Take advantage of another quick, easy tool to build online credibility and visibility.

Brands flood

Conversion rate optimization has become a top priority for websites. You’ve heard it before, but the best visibility and the best SEO is useless if a site cannot get visitors to complete a desired call to action. One of the ways that you can boost conversion rates is to develop a co-branded website. What exactly is this, and how can it help with your CRO efforts?

You may have heard of co-branded credit cards; you may even have a few in your wallet right now. All this means is that a merchant or vendor has partnered with a credit card company to offer this card. The merchant is the dominant brand, but it is supported and given credibility by the distinctive CC company brand. This results in higher spending, increased card use, and encourages customers loyalty. It works in much the same way with websites.

In terms of a website, multiple brands appear together as a joint enterprise or are involved in selling one product or service. Nike and Apple, for instance paired up and created the Sports Kit, a wireless system that connects shoes and iPod. VW co-branded with Trek Bicycles and created the special edition Trek Jettaa, which came with a bike and rack. It works, too, with affiliate type situations. Users associate the affiliate with the major or parent brand and are more comfortable completing the CTA.

Additional benefits of co-branded websites include:

  • Cost savings.
  • Increased user confidence.
  • Improving product exposure.
  • Effective marketing of new products or services.
  • Increased association between both brands, conferring the benefits of one to the other.

There is a flipside to consider as well. Co-branding confers the benefits and drawbacks of one site to another. If one brand suffers a reputation crisis, it can affect the co-brand. As well, co-branding can be a difficult balance in terms of agreeing on a creative concept and putting out timely materials. When you can overcome these, co-branding may be a great way to increase your CRO and leverage another brand’s name and recognition.

 

King

Content is king, and it can be a pretty demanding one at that. According to the 2013 B2B Content Marketing Report, the biggest challenges faced by content producers are producing enough in terms of quantity and variety and making sure it is engaging and relevant to searchers. To combat these issues, you need to have a toolbox full not only of ideas, but of ways to generate them, ways to expand on them, ways to capture the attention of your audience. Here are a few of the best content marketing tools to help you break through obstacles and create winning content.

Ideas, ideas, ideas

The more, the merrier. If you have a repository of relevant topics, no slow news day will ever stop you from producing relevant content. The first places to start gathering ideas are, of course, Google Alerts, LinkedIn (from Answers and your group discussions), and Quora. Beyond that, try:

  • TrendSpottr. Simply type in a search (or browse their trending topics) and find all the latest information on that topic. This is a goldmine for ideas – and it can help you keep on top of your industry’s news.
  • Pinterest. Watch out; this can be a time-sucker! But it can also lead you to top information and opinions on relevant topics. Further, it helps you see what is trending and popular as far as content types.
  • Topsy. This is a great tool that lets you search social media, find relevant topics, identify key influencers, and receive alerts of changes, negative mentions, etc.
  • Bubbl.us. Create a mindmap and flesh out your best ideas.
  • Trello. This helps you organise your content ideas, share with others, create a repository, create a community bulletin board, assign projects, etc.
  • Evernote. This is a wonderful tool that keeps track of all your notes, your interests, and your ideas in a streamlined way. If you see something online that catches your eye, you can save it here. If you see something in real life, snap a picture and save it. Very useful.
  • Visual.ly. Now you have the (free!) tools to create compelling, shareable content. Visual.ly specialises in creating infographics and data visualisations and has a network of 3500 designers to help.

These are just a few of the great content creation tools out there. Play around with them, and see which you find most useful.

Twisted directions“Content marketing is the only marketing left.” Seth Godin, author

The sales funnel concept holds that people go through different stages in the buying cycle. At the top, the widest part of the funnel, are those people who might be interested in your product or service. From there, it narrows into “hot” leads and, finally, customers. While the journey from unqualified lead to paying customer is not linear, this is a useful model because prospects have differing needs based on where they are in the sales cycle. Today we’ll talk about mid-funnel content to help you nurture leads.

Quickly, top-funnel content is educational; you are not going for a hard sell. Blog posts, tutorials, infographics, how-to-videos, and other content fits perfectly here because it delivers value to your customer without pitching. Bottom-funnel content is the time to break out the demo, discuss pricing, and, again, offer educational content to keep them interested and engaged.

In between, you have established trust with leads; they see you as a resource. They have completed a call to action, such as filling out a form or signing up for a newsletter. To capitalise on their interest, mid-funnel content focus on even greater value. Perhaps, in your top-funnel content, you discussed the importance of crafting a strong vision statement. In mid-funnel content, you can dive deeper into the subject. Perhaps you offer a case study; maybe you offer a step-by-step process they can follow. If you are in an industry that depends on research, you could offer a report or whitepaper on a specific topic.

Here are some strategies that you can use to optimise and leverage your mid-funnel content:

  • Try a drip email campaign. This delivers pre-developed messages appropriate for the recipients’ stage in the funnel. This, again, keeps you top of mind. Practice the soft sell, offering value to your prospects.
  • Offer a whitepaper to your top prospects. This must have information, data, and insights that they cannot find elsewhere, or which would take significant time for them to compile on their own. Other ideas include offering an exclusive video or access to a webinar or webcast.
  • Categorise your prospects into user personas; these are essentially fictional characters that represent the needs, desires, age, race, ethnic background, professional or career level, and other features of your real prospects. Once you have fleshed out these personas, generate topics specifically for them. Develop content based on persona and stage of the sales funnel.
  • Track your content. Are people reading your emails? Are they clicking on links you provide or downloading content you are sending? Which content seems to be sticking with them most effectively?
  • Make sure that your mid-funnel content does not have risk for the prospect. That is, they are not going to lose money, time, etc. if they take you up on an offer. Here is where  free works; whitepapers, videos, infographics, articles, and other valuable content drives your objectives, pushes them down the funnel, and keeps you top of mind.

Mid-funnel content sets the hook; you want to capitalise on the interest and trust you’ve built by continuing to offer more relevant, interesting content. You need to go deeper, and offer a bit more – not the whole farm; you still want something to sell at the end! At this stage of the game, though, it’s about positioning yourself as the expert, as the answer to questions and concerns, and as the logical next step.

eccommerce concept 3A businessperson’s work is never done. There is always optimising to be done, whether you’re working on your site’s navigation, your keyword strategy, your content offerings, or your ecommerce site. Optimising your product pages is key because it allows potential customers to access the information they want – and be enticed by your products.

To ensure that your product pages are working their hardest for you:

  1. Use clear, focused images of your products. Make sure they are original or that you have secured permission from their owners. It is best to get high-quality shots of real people using the product and to ensure you have multiple angles. The good news is that if you cannot afford a professional photographer, you can take these pictures with a decent camera.
  2. While you’ve got the camera going, add video. If having video for each product is unfeasible then produce them for your top selling products – or those that are up-and-coming. People want the next big thing, so show it to them. Video content could be a box opening, a quick how-to, a testimonial, or other attention-grabbing format. It doesn’t have to be blockbuster  quality; but clear and professional is a must.
  3. Create clear product descriptions. Include most important features, bullet points, a quick summary, a more detailed description, and links to important information, such as shipping, returns, and FAQs. Don’t try to “sell” the product; just tell about it.
  4. Make sure the price is clearly listed. Price should be readily apparent. But don’t forget the shipping. Often, shipping prices come as a surprise when we’ve gone to our carts to check out. Make sure your customers know this information ahead of time to cut down on abandoned carts. Shipping calculators are always a great idea.
  5. Notify of restocking. If a product is out of stock but you are planning on restocking, let visitors opt in to receive an email when it is back. Then, when you have their email address for this purpose, do not abuse it. If they have signed up to receive updates or newsletters, fine. If they have not, don’t consider this license to send them any other emails.
  6. Encourage reviews. Make it easy to leave a rating or review. This is great user-generated content for search engines, and other customers trust these highly.

Your product pages are just one element of your overall site, but they are crucial to your success. Spend some time making your online store as inviting and helpful as you would a physical location.

How about if your friends send emails to all their friends, and their friends keep cascading emails to their friends, and friends of the friends, recommending the amazing quality of your products and services? Soon enough, the whole world will celebrate you!

online presenceUnless you died and went to the marketing heaven, the earthly reality cannot match this utopia. For all that, social bookmarkings may come quite close. We could also name them peer-to-peer referral networks, because they run on input from „real people”, as opposed to the soulless algorithms of a search engine.

There are several things that can be shared and recommended on the social bookmarkings, depending on their specificity: websites, blogs, photos, videos, products, and content. A user can make their own list of favourites, and they can also view their friends and other users favourites. Bookmarkings can be searched by tags, keywords, category, most recent, or most popular.

There are hundreds of such services, and it is up to you if you want to invest time to sign in to all of them. Some examples of popular bookmarkings are: StumbleUpon, Delicious, Fave or BonzoBox. On AddThis, you can take a good look at all those social bookmarkings out there. They can be sorted by trends, popularity, regions, and the type of services they provide.

Among the benefits of using them, the most important ones are:

    • higher search engine ranking
    • inbound links
    • readership
    • influence
    • traffic
    • visibility.

However, some services may not allow a direct submission of your own website or blog, and require the users to do so. In this case, you can feature a “badge” on your site, to inspire your viewers to submit your page.

How to decide which social bookmarking is for you?

As with any other marketing activity you undertake, you start with narrowing down to those tools that can get your closer to your client base. Alexa offers an easy and direct way to find out more demographics and traffic statistics for each bookmarking.

In accordance with your online marketing goals, a good social bookmark should have a lot of traffic, focus on your market niche and be able to attract your target consumers. Periodically, you may want to measure their efficiency and stay tuned for new up-and-coming social bookmarkings, as their world proves to be quite volatile.

History has a funny way of repeating itself. The good old days when the grocer knew every customer’s name, culinary preferences and marital escapades were quickly replaced by the detachment and stiffness of the industrial era. Big scales, automation, and the commercial marketing techniques brutally cut the warm-hearted connection between the retailer and its customers.

eCommerce

Today, the eRetailers are making significant efforts to re-enact that special bond with their clients, as part of their odyssey to gain trust, loyalty, appreciation, and naturally, bigger sales.

The advent of the Social Media turned the wheel in favour of the consumers. Its exponential growth over the last few years triggered the frenetic chase for eCustomers, right where they like to hang out the most: on the social networks.

By now, pretty much all online and offline retailers know they cannot continue treating customers as masses. And those who don’t … are probably learning it the hard way. People’s voluntary submission to social media made it possible for everything to become personalised. And thus, companies and brands came to learn their names, culinary preferences and, if they don’t cover their online traces well, even their marital escapades.

Oh well!

 

Make Social Media Matter to your Business

Let’s say you are an Online Communications Manager. As the one responsible for Social Media in your company, you have a hot potato in your hands. If you still think in terms of B2C, switch to P2P! Person to person, that is.

You get a carte blanche to dodge the rigid corporate identity rules and to connect in a more friendly, more direct and more entertaining manner. But does it mean you should be experimenting with rhetoric and hope for the best? We don’t think your CEO would like it. And you might give a bad name to all those content editors out there.

Instead, make Social Media “matter”, and by this I mean make it contribute to the company’s objectives.  One way to demonstrate its efficiency is to keep track of the business metric ‘return on investment’, or ROI.

Let’s go through the ROI formula:

Return on investment calculation

Here are three things you need to check on your list in order to make sure your Social Media activity is influent and you are actually bringing revenue in for your company.

 

1.    Tie Social Media to Business Performance

It all starts with defining your objectives clearly. Now, having fuzzy goals is pretty much one of the most common mistakes in business. People invest a lot of time and money in their companies, but when the time comes to measuring their results, everything becomes uncertain. It’s like throwing darts into a white wall.

Reaching business goals

“We want to increase our number of clients” is the perfect example of fuzzy goal. Does it mean that one more client would do? Or maybe ten thousand? The correct formulation would be, for instance: “We want to increase our number of clients by 20%”. Thank you, this is much clearer!

When it comes to Social Media objectives, things get even more complicated. Contrary to popular belief, Social Media does not have self-standing objectives. Remember! Being popular on web is not a business objective.

Social Media activities offer support to other business functions of the company, which already have their own goals. So you just have to plug in!

Voilà!

 

Basically, your task is to translate into company revenues your recently acquired, let’s say, ten thousand followers on Facebook. If 20% of them make an acquisition on your website, than you contributed to the sales objectives. If the customer support costs are reduced by 20% because more clients benefit from largely broadcasted online support, then you’re doing great here.

With LinkedIn, you can help the HR team to hire top professionals without having to pay a fortune in head-hunters fee’s. Checking out your competitors’ Social Media pages can give you instant access to valuable business intelligence. For Marketing and PR, Social Media input is the most obvious: instant direct dissemination and online reputation management. The golden rule stays the same:

Marketing golden rule

2.    Measuring the true cost of Social Media

You know there is no such thing as a free lunch, right? Then you know very well that Social Media, even if it runs on free online platforms, is not really free. In fact, there are a lot of costs involved.

Time. Ask yourself how much time you spend on Social Media. Is it worth it? Do you find yourself spending many hours every day posting updates, making comments, responding to messages, checking out competition and answering everyone’s comment and remarks? Try to find equilibrium between giving followers a close, personalised approach and managing your time efficiently. Put a time limit on every activity and stick to it, no matter what!

Time management

Human resources. If your company is bigger, you need to grow and manage a team of communication specialists. That means your department has to budget salaries for these people, taxes, benefits, and whatever HR costs it may imply.

Specialists. Whether you do it for a single project or for ongoing support, you most likely benefit from the input of SEO specialised agencies, web designers, advertising professionals and all those people that can make you look good online. Some of them may have substantial fees. However, nowadays competition is quite tough, which gives you a good hand to negotiate costs in your favour. And since they are good at what they’re doing, the return can be generous.

Equipment. There are countless gadgets that are launched ever so often, and you have to keep up with the technology, right? Laptops, tablets, smart phones … who can work without them? And they don’t come cheap. To these, you can add, of course, connection fees.

Productions costs. There has been a rampant increase in the visual content on Social Media in the last few years. Quite frankly, if you don’t have good quality photos, video, presentations, animations, applications and other such visual materials, your message gets washed out in the see of colourfulness and effervescence that Social Media has become.

Subscription web tools. In order to monitor and manage your workload, you probably use several web tools that offer a free or paid version. You may want to upgrade your HubSpot, Batchbook, Earlyimpact, MailChimp, HootSuite, NetVibes, or any other solution you embraced, to the Pro version. They usually offer valuable analytics for a reasonable fee and they help tremendously with time management.

 

3.    Measuring the effect of your campaign

Remember, if you can’t count it, it’s fuzzy. That’s why, when it comes to measuring performance, business professionals use the Key Performance Indicators, or KPI’s. Basically, it relates to hitting a specific target and it depends, naturally, on what you want to measure. Clicks, visits, fans, likes, followers, tweets, registrations to webinars, newsletter subscriptions, they are all potential Social Media KPIs.

Key Performance Indicator

So, as a direct consequence of our first two recommendations, you know by now that you should measure only what is relevant to your activity objectives. Otherwise, there are so many internet measuring tools out there, that you can spend the rest of your life measuring things that are neither critical, nor relevant to your campaign.

Let’s say your company sells shoes. And the Sales goal is to increase the volume by 20%. That translates into selling 1,000 pairs of shoes from the Spring – Summer ‘13 collection, known as “La Vampe”.

What would be the Social Media KPIs in regards to the sales objectives, for the period?

For example, something like this:

  • 10 000 likes on Facebook on the “La Vampe” fan page
  • 500 re-Pins of the shoes picture on Pinterest
  • 10 000 new click-throughs of links leading to “La Vampe” web content
  • 100 redeemed discount codes for “La Vampe” on the eStore.

It is important that you establish before you begin a Social Media campaign what data you want to track. It is equally important to have the means to correctly correlate it with the respective sales statistics. Now, this could be quite tricky if you don’t have access to data, which, depending on the company, can fall under the task of Sales, IT or Accounting departments.

In order to establish your Social Media activity contribution to Sales, here are some important numbers you should be able to track:

  • transactions per month
  • new customers
  • number of customers returns
  • amount spent per transaction
  • use of promo codes, vouchers
  • data from the same period in the past, to compare against.

Sales represent the most tangible business function, therefore the most obvious one to measure. But don’t let other functions, such as HR, Customer Support, Marketing & PR, go off your radar. Your activity can have a positive impact and you want to add it to your achievements. Make sure you collect and compare data from these departments and measure the difference your campaign makes.

 

Can you think of anything else I may have missed when measuring the effect of a social media campaign?

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