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Pinterest has achieved phenomenal growth in the last few years, but many businesses persist in believing it to be just a place for foodies to get new gluten-free recipes, thrifty parents to get ideas for budget-friendly birthday parties, or for crafty folks to get their newest idea. It’s great, they think, for individuals but not for our businesses. But consider this, Pinterest refers more people to websites than Yahoo. Admittedly, Yahoo is no Google, but this is a powerful reminder that there is an opportunity to be had. If you’re not pinning, maybe you should be.

Pinterest is the fourth largest traffic source in the world. It often referrs more people than Google+, Bing, and LinkedIn. Most of its users are women (some put the number as high as 80 percent) and most are between ages 24 and 34. Half have children. If these hit your target demographics, it might be smart to build a Pinterest presence for yours business. Here are some other statistics:

  • Pins with price tags get 36 percent more likes than those without.
  • 69 percent of users have found at least one item they have purchased or wanted to purchase.
  • Average users spend 1 hour and 17 minutes on the site.

That last stat is particularly remarkable. Over one hour – most sites are lucky if users stay for a few minutes. What the duration of the stay tells us is that users are engaged. They are being pulled in by great content, and they don’t have to “bounce” because they are finding information, comparisons, prices, and products that meet their needs.

If you think that Pinterest is of importance and value to your target audience, create an account. Here are some tips to help create a presence:

  • Set up a business account for a more professional, credible appearance. This will help boost consumer confidence in your brand.
  • Use Pinterest Analytics. In keeping with its status as a major traffic source, Pinterest offers Analytics. Track how many people are viewing and pinning from your website. You can also see the most popular “repinned” items to help you optimise your efforts and create better pins.
  • Think about hosting a contest. These are popular and can help highlight your content and your website. Make sure to read Pinterest’s Terms of Service before you start.
  • Be visual. Use images (that you create or that you have secured rights to) and infographics to appeal to Pinterest’s visual nature.
  • Know your audience. Pin only what you think they’ll be interested in. Doing some research is a great way to start. Not only should you get a sense of your “user personas,” you should look at what your competition is doing as well.
  • Take advantage of tools. There are now a variety of helpful tools to build and maintain a positive Pinterest presence. These include: Shopinterest (to set up shop in minutes); Repinly (info on top pins and boards); Pinstamatic (appealing boards); Pinpuff (measure influence); and Piqora (analytics and pin scheduling).
  • Spend an hour or so yourself pinning, repinning, and gathering information on what works, what doesn’t , what your business can do, and how you can reach your audience.

Does Pinterest make sense for your business? Are you already there?

 

Paper Chain In The DarkProducing quality, relevant content is an ongoing task for website owners, bloggers, and businesses. In addition to producing our own written, video, and image content, we can employ additional methods to ensure we give our audiences the material they want and need. Curating is one way to do this, as is using the words, images, and thoughts of our audiences themselves. Leveraging user generated content (UGC) can be an effective technique to enhance our websites.

The UK’s Guardian has recently launched a digital platform which enables users to upload video, photos, and text content to its journalists via apps or the website. They call this “GuardianWitness,” and they’ve leveraged it to allow up-to-the-minute, man-on-the-street coverage of major news events. This is just one example of brands leveraging UGC. Retail-based and service-based brands can also benefit: Brisk Ice Tea, for instance, crowdsourced a special edition label to fans of the beverage, using Instagram for help. The potential is enormous; how can you encourage and use UGC effectively?

  • Let users know you want their words, pictures, etc. Solicit user feedback, reviews, and ratings. Make it easy for your customers to leave feedback and share their experience via social media. Sharing buttons, review buttons, and/or a “Most Recent Reviews” sections on your website can be invaluable.
  • Give them something back. UGC is a favor from your audience to you – now give them something in return.  A gift card, free product, free sample, free shipping, and other perks are fairly inexpensive for you, and your users’ content may help draw in additional visitors (and customers!). This makes it a smart investment.  If a free sample doesn’t work for your business or site, why not feature a user each week or month? Post the content prominently on your site.
  • Create hashtags and ask your audience to tweet or post to Instragram. Lulumon did this with #sweatlife, and yoga-enthusiasts posted 40,000 pics of themselves in various yoga poses – and in Lulumon clothing. People like to feel a part of the community, and at the same time, they’re creating great content for you.
  • Ask loyal customers to be your testers. Give them a free product in exchange for a thorough review of said product. Amazon does this with its wildly popular Vine program, and the mega-retailer’s UGC is an indispensable part of its online brand.
  • Get current on the laws and restrictions surrounding UGC. If, for instance, a user modifies a copyrighted video or image, it can violate copyright laws and you might be complicit in displaying that content. Also, you’ll want to make sure your contests conform to the rules of the social platforms they appear on and winners should sign an agreement that their content can be used by your brand.

UGC can be an integral, vibrant part of your content creation strategy. Have you used UGC? If so, how?

 

Questionnaire 2Website audit should be a regular event for any webmaster or business owner. You need to get a look under the hood and see what could be improved, and, no matter how good you are, there are usually errors present and elements that can be fixed. But what about your social media presence? Many of us neglect to conduct an audit of this essential part of our marketing and branding strategies. Why should you do a social media audit, and how do you go about it?

Taking the time to assess your social media strategy and performance is critical in helping you stand out from competitors, improve visibility, engage your audience, and create fresh, relevant content. It will help you target a strategy that will work for your brand goals and reach consumers more effectively and efficiently.

Start by asking yourself a series of questions about why you are in social media:

  • What are you hoping to accomplish?
  • Which goals or strategies do social media help you achieve?
  • What is our target audience interested in? What are their wants/needs, and are we fulfilling them with our social media presence?
  • Are we in the right place? Is our audience on Facebook or will Twitter be a better use of our focus? You do not have to be everywhere; you have to be where your audience is.

You can use analytics programs to track your engagement. Facebook, for instance, offers Insights to let you track your page’s performance, and Twitter recently unrolled their own “Analytics” tool. Take advantage and see what the numbers are telling you.

Go through each of your social accounts and check for the basics: is the “About” information complete? Do you have your address, phone number, and hours (critical if you are a local business)? Do you have a good profile picture, avatar, or logo?

You want to check to make sure that the nuts and bolts of your presence are in place, and then you can move on to integration. Do you make it easy for a Facebook visitor, for instance, to navigate to your website? On your website, do you have social sharing buttons? Do you make it easy to share content? Ideally, you want a cohesive, seamless online presence.

Checking in with your social media presence every quarter or so is good practice because you stay connected and can spot issues early on. Improvement is always possible, but you need an audit first.

Google rolled out a hashtags feature in June as a way to help Google+ users’ content is tagged and categorised. The hashtag is already a common site on Twitter and, more recently, Facebook, and Google is not only leveraging their ubiquity and usefulness, they’re adding their own twist. What are the benefits of Google+ hashtags, and how you can use them effectively?

As mentioned, hashtags are a useful way to organise your content. In addition:

  • They can help your results become more visible in Google+.
  • It is easy to assign appropriate hashtags to content.
  • You can explore related hashtags and posts.
  • You can expand your reach in your niche and attract new leads.
  • They can include targeted keywords.

Using hashtags properly is essential. Some tips:

  • Use a clear, concise phrase.  #contentmarketing or #contentstrategies. They phrase must be completely relevant so people find the information they need.
  • Use the expandable list of hashtag suggestions to find the right fit for your post and to ensure content is properly categorised.
  • The first 3 hashtags are critical because they appear at the top and affect which searches bring visitors to your posts.  They will also appear at the top of your posts. Choose these carefully.
  • Create and use your own hashtag as well so visitors will associate you with your content and with excellence and credibility! #johnsmith or #seoguy
  • Optimise your content for the “Best of” Stream with catchy titles, images, and relevant hashtags.
  • Check out the competition in the “Best of” Stream to see if, perhaps, you’re choosing the right hashtags or if you need to up your game and make your content stand out more for busy visitors.
  • Check for trending topics that are relevant to your business or brand and wade into a conversation.
  • Google will add hashtags it thinks are relevant. You can keep these or go to your Google+ account to opt out.

Hashtags are everywhere. You can use them strategically to highlight your content and extend your reach. Behind the hashtag, though, there has to be solid, relevant content. Without this, nothing else matters. #contentcreation

You spend time carefully crafting blog posts, researching and writing whitepapers, creating awe-inspiring infographics, and then you send them out into the big internet world to fend for themselves. We’re missing something here: nurturing that content and helping it work for you. Some experts recommend that, for every hour you spend creating content, you spend an hour promoting it. What is the best way to do that?

  • Hit the usual suspects. Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Reddit, Delicious, Digg, and LinkedIn are great first stops. Presenting your content to a targeted audience – such as your LinkedIn group for professionals in your industry – helps your content hit the mark and demonstrate its relevance.
  • Use hashtags when you do share socially. This categorises your content, making it easier for people to find.
  • Make it easy for people. Instead of them coming to you, go to them. Create an automated email newsletter featuring your best/most recent articles or posts. Services like Nourish and Paper.li allow you to turn your RSS feed into a powerful tool.
  • Create a subscriber Circle. You can then invite people to become part of your Circle and be notified automatically when you have new content to share.
  • Take the time to thank people who share, like, or otherwise engage with your content. This can turn a one-time commenter into a repeat visitor. Content is all about connecting; you are reaching out, so when someone returns the favor, capitalise on it.
  • Promote your content offline. If you’re in a client meeting, for instance, and the individual has a lot of questions about a specific technical aspect of what you do, you can say, “I’ll email you a link to an article I’ve written about that.” You can also do the same when following up with clients or associates.

Don’t abandon content that you’ve worked so hard to create. Work to seed it and nurture an audience for it. It does take time, but that is time that will help you build stronger visibility and better relationships within your specific area of expertise.

 

If you’re Liked, followed, and pinned enough, thinking about one more social media platform is likely to make you feel, well, anti-social. Google+, though, is not one more social media platform. Searchmetrics has studied tens of thousands of search terms and has concluded that “Google+ has the highest correlated effect on Google UK’s search rankings.” It is a very important place to see and be seen. The connections and engagement is part of it, but having a strong Google+ presence can also give you stronger rankings. How can you + your Google+ profile

Here are some Google+ best practices:

  • Create. As with your website, blog, and other media platforms, you need to focus on creating and posting fresh, relevant content frequently. Daily or, at the least, weekly updates help keep you current and in your audience’s eye.
  • They say that Facebook helps you connect with people you know; Google+ helps you connect with people you want to know. You do not need to “know” someone in order to add him/her to your circle. When you do, basic etiquette rules apply: stay on topic, be respectful, participate, ask and answer questions, and be a member of this little community.
  • Cross promote your content. One blog post doesn’t have to be just one blog post: you can leverage it and promote it via Google+, Facebook, Twitter, or even Pinterest, if applicable. Point your audience towards your website. Also good for your search visibility.
  • Use hashtags (sparingly! Too many is irritating – and it looks spammy). They are helpful tools, though, for organizing content and getting ideas for people to connect with.
  • Build your own community. LinkedIn Groups allow professionals to talk about important issues, ask questions, find and give answers. Start your own targeted community and invite associates in to get the ball moving.
  • Don’t always be the star of the show. Comment on other people’s content, share it, ask them questions, etc. You’re there to learn too.
  • Use the same name across your platforms so people can find you easily and efficiently. Also, enable AuthorRank!

These are just a few tips to get you started. The most helpful, though, is to just go in and say hi. Explore and start using Google+ as part of your overall social and content marketing strategy.

different is greatA new study by Ascend has discovered that half of companies struggling with search engine optimisation have not taken steps to fully integrate SEO and social media. SEO cannot be a siloed approach; it has to encompass CRO, content marketing, branding, social, mobile…SEO is a pixel in the overall picture. The bottom line is that businesses that integrate SEO with social media are more successful than those that do not.

Quickly, here are some major findings from the survey:

  • 38% of those who identified themselves as “successful” with SEO were heavily integrating their tactics with social media techniques.
  • 50% who identified themselves as “unsuccessful” with SEO were not integrating social media at all.
  • 60% of companies said they had “limited integration.”
  • 24% responded that they did not integrate at all.
  • 16% said they had “extensive integration” of social and SEO.
  • Nearly half said that creating original content was the most effective SEO tactic.

So, this of course begs the question: how do we integrate SEO and social media? This is important because some experts believe that in the very near future, SMI – search marketing integration – will be a must for first page rankings.

  • Get social – within reason. Sometimes Twitter does not make sense for your business. Sometimes it’s not wise to have a Facebook page. What you need to determine is if these platforms will help you advance your objectives and reach your specific audience. If you are not already there, LinkedIn is an almost universal must for business, as is Google+. YouTube is another one that is tremendously flexible for professionals. In addition to valuable backlinks, Google counts +1s, likes, and retweets in its ranking algorithms. Social indicators are like beacons to Google, so you have to be somewhere.
  • Link from these platforms to your website.
  • Make it easy for people to share your content with social sharing buttons.
  • When you do establish a social platform, be choosy as to who you follow. It’s not a contest: the business with the most friends, fans, or followers doesn’t win. As Google refines its algorithms, the quality of those you follow will be more important. Target influencers.
  • Quality content can be leveraged via social platforms. With LinkedIn, for instance, you can be active in groups and establish a position as a thought leader in your niche. You can use your other media profiles, such as Google+ or Twitter to refer readers to your LinkedIn group content or to your website. You can create an entire encyclopedia of you that is interlinked and connected. Fans and friends can easily navigate to new information, and new prospects can more easily find you.
  • To that end, use Google authorship! It is a crime that more businesses and individuals are not leveraging this tool. It is too easy to neglect – and it’s free! You can instantly gain credibility and visibility.
  • Don’t forget to track your efforts. Using Google Analytics, determine which keywords are the big traffic-getters and those that are the biggest converters. Create content that targets those keywords organically. Remember, SEO rules apply! Don’t over-optimise or write for Google. Write for your audience, but include a few targeted keywords to help them find you.
  • Likewise, use different analytics, such as Facebook Insights, to determine which types of posts are most popular and which drive visitors to your website. Capitalise on that knowledge with posts that engage visitors.

The good news is that there are several things you can do right now (like sign up for LinkedIn and get your Google authorship tags set up!) that can help you integrate SEO and social media. Doing so will help you compete in the increasingly social world.

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.

 

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.

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