All posts in Content management

Circuit boardEvery webmaster has to be concerned with two main focuses: creating high-quality, compelling content and then delivering that content quickly and consistently to visitors. One way to achieve this is to use a content delivery network, or CDN. How will this help – and how can you choose the best option for your business/website?

A content delivery system is a network of web servers that are dispersed across multiple areas. Data copies are placed on the servers, which can respond to requests based on which server is closer in proximity. While data should move at the speed of light, it still takes longer for it to travel 3,000 kilometers than 20, so the CDN can help put a turbo-booster on your content. Many CDNs have a dozen or more servers, from Amsterdam to Los Angeles to London to Osaka, so they can be nimble and agile.

This is important because even small delays in load times can harm your conversion rate. When you eliminate the delays loading images, scripts, videos, stylesheets, and other elements, you can cut that time. Here are some tips for choosing your CDN:

  • Look for services that focus on content delivery and front-end optimisation (FEO). Front-end elements account for as much as 90 percent of users’ wait time, so it is important that your CDN be able to reduce this and increase speed. Techniques include minification, compression, versioning, and resource consolidation.
  • Consider setup times. This should be minimal, and the cost should be equally minimal.
  • Speaking of price, it will vary based on geography. But gone are the days when CDNs cost thousands. The first computer was purchased for $6800. Today, we can buy computers for £255. It is the same with CDNs. In fact, some, like Amazon CloudFront, charge based on use.
  • Does the CDN offer intelligent routing and redundant networks?
  • Is the content served from their edge servers or yours? The former can reduce bandwidth demands and speed up delivery.
  • Does the CDN offer reporting tools so you can track performance?
  • Some top CDNs to consider: Amazon CloudFront, MaxCDN, CloudFlare, Akamai, and EdgeCast.

CDNs can help you lighten your content load, improve user experience, and keep your content moving in an efficient and effective way.

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.

Stopwatch 1Speed is an essential component of a positive user experience, and a positive user experience is a crucial factor in your ranking. Google has an unfathomable amount of data to comb through and offer to searchers; they want to supply only the highest quality results. Your content, and how fast it loads, makes you more attractive in the eyes of search engines and users. One way that you can make your site speedier is to leverage browser caching. Here’s the why and how.

When a browser loads a webpage, it has to load all of the elements that go into that page – the images, the HTML and CSS files, JavaScript, etc. – so it can display it to the visitor properly. The more files, and the larger those files are, the longer it takes to load. Browser caching works by “remembering” these files, or storing them in the user’s browser.

A first visit will result in the page being loaded at the normal time; but after that, the browser stores the files, so when the user comes back, refreshes, or navigates to a different page within the site, load times are much quicker. The browser has to download less, and there are fewer requests made to the server.

This works wonderfully with static content, like your logo, which is not going to change, or at least not frequently. It can also work with more dynamic content as long as you set the proper expiry dates. So let’s look at that now:

To tell the browser to store elements locally, you set expiry dates on the desired files.

  • Go to your htaccess file. You can edit this file with Notepad or a text editor.
  • Determine which files you would like to cache and for how long. It could be days, it could be a year. It is recommended that you opt for at least a month, and up to one year with static content.
  • Add the following code to the top of your htaccess file:

## EXPIRES CACHING ##
<IfModule mod_expires.c>
ExpiresActive On
ExpiresByType image/jpg “access 1 year”
ExpiresByType image/jpeg “access 1 year”
ExpiresByType image/gif “access 1 year”
ExpiresByType image/png “access 1 year”
ExpiresByType text/css “access 1 month”
ExpiresByType text/html “access 1 month”
ExpiresByType application/pdf “access 1 month”
ExpiresByType text/x-javascript “access 1 month”
ExpiresByType application/x-shockwave-flash “access 1 month”
ExpiresByType image/x-icon “access 1 year”
ExpiresDefault “access 1 month”
</IfModule>
## EXPIRES CACHING ##

The expiry dates are examples; you should set them to your preferred time periods. For  instance, if you want an image to be cached for one month instead of one year, simply change:

ExpiresByType image/jpg “access 1 year”

to:

ExpiresByType image/jpg “access 1 month”

Now, just save and refresh, and you’re done.  You can find some more details on Google’s webmaster resource page.

Social Media is the addiction of our era, weather you use it for personal reasons or for business purposes. The good news is that, as opposed to many other offline addictions, using Social Media doesn’t affect your health (unless you tweet about a fire before your escape the building) and it can be rather beneficial for your bank account. If you can put it to its good use!

Social Media time managementThis being said, it is hard to imagine a business today that is not keen on increasing its web presence. And that means optimizing their content for search engines, posting, streaming, creating, updating and monitoring social media accounts, submitting social bookmarking profiles, following industry and competition news. And the list can go on forever.

But time is money. And time is becoming such a precious commodity, that we cannot afford to squander without serious consequences for the business. Social Media marketing is only part of your online marketing effort, and online marketing is only part of your overall marketing.

The question that rises is this: What is the optimum time you should allocate to Social Media, in order to achieve its maximum potential and still be able to focus on your core business?

The correct answer can be found only after you spend enough time (yes, time!) to effectively define your Social Media goals. Resist the temptation to run for the most popular on the web position! It takes way too much effort and it hardly brings benefits. Engage with your present and potential customers and you may have something going for you. Your consumer insights studies are some of your best allies here.

  • Schedule your social media. Allocate a number of hours weekly for all social media activities. Depending on your audience, it can be divided in a smaller number of hours everyday of the week or by selecting „activity” days, where you can spend alternatively an afternoon or a morning, to be able to engage within as many time zones as possible.
  • Develop your social date book. Implement and stick to a social media activity calendar. The biggest Social Media marketing sin is to set up pages and then abandon them. The second biggest is to update them irregularity. This is not cool with search engines and alienates your followers. You can use free online calendars, like Google Calendar, Yahoo! Calendar, or Mozilla Lightning to plan your activity and sync it with a larger team.
  • Disperse responsibilities. Build a team with specific tasks to implement your Social Media plan. In some cases, it is not only useful, but also necessary. For example, you need multiple employees to leverage a LinkedIn profile for B2B reasons.
  • Hire experts. On a long run, it can be cost-effective, and easier to handle than doing it all yourself. You need professionals in order to present yourself professionally and to ride the wave of the digital revolution. Experts can get you started by establishing a model for your staff to follow or you may want to hire them for long-term tasks, such as writing and editing your blogs for consistency.

 

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?

It was the single most anticipated event on the planet the day when Facebook announced the facelift of its newsfeed. Too long since the last one, was the main complaint, and way too many high-tech revolutions happened in between.

Indeed, the proliferation of smart phones and tablets made Facebook’s newsfeed quite passé, especially because of its sluggish scroll, which sometimes took an eternity to load. And then there was the increased quality of pictures and videos taken and uploaded with the new exciting gadgets, which clearly exceeded the old newsfeed’s capacity to display and refresh.

But not any more. From now on, your Facebook experience comes to reading a newspaper where the “breaking news” are revolving around your friends, family, lolcats, all those causes that you “liked” out of peer pressure and the spring collection of your favourite shoe brand. With large, vibrant pictures and movies that launch on the first click. Facebook wants to give you no excuse to go offline when you’re on the go.

 

Three commandments to get your news in the newsfeed

All this sounds like great news for the users. How about, though, for a business where you invested a lot of time and energy to adapt its online communication to the good old Facebook? Well, you have to invest some more time in adapting to the good new one. And the sooner you do it, the bigger the chances to win a “pole position” on your fans’ pages.

  • Post relevant updates!

Facebook is (in)famous for making a selection of updates that are displayed on a user’s page. For example, if a user hides or closes your content once, they will get no news from you, even if they stay fans and like your page. In order for them to get news from you, they should make the effort to go to your page and this might never happen. Make sure that your updates are liked and commented by as many people as possible and you will get to stay on their pages.

  • Have attractive pictures!

Since the newsfeed content is reported to have about 50% images, the best thing you can do is to deliver them. We mean the kind of images that people love to like: colourful, expressive, inspiring, appetising, sexy, or simply amusing. Whichever suits your brand best.

  • Upload interesting videos!

Be they funny or motivational, candid or educational, your goal is to have them shared by as many people as possible. And together with them, your brand name and good online reputation.

 


						
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