Avoiding Social Media Clashes

Whether it’s inflammatory political posts and racy vacation photos on a personal wall, confrontations on business social media accounts or another form of online strife, social media clashes are a fact of internet life. Hardly a day goes by without reading about a business that has gotten in hot water online. But, you can keep social media scandals from becoming a problem at your organization by laying down some guidelines and preparing in advance.

1. Don’t push social media duties onto low level employees.

girl-with-a-pinwheel-1395989-mThere’s still a tendency in many companies to minimize the importance of social media. Often, social media is a job assigned to entry level employees or even to interns. But, your social media accounts are your business’s public face. Entrust them to savvy and level-headed people so that tensions can be dissolved and missteps avoided.

2. Have a clear social media policy.

Spell out expectations for behavior on social media. Have firm policies in place about using personal equipment for professional social media posts and vice versa. By making sure that everyone understands what you expect, you can avoid culture clashes and inappropriate posts.

3. Counsel employees on social media safety.

chains-993898-mDespite the wide adoption of social media, many people are still not up to speed on social media safety and etiquette. Many accounts are vulnerable to hacking. In other cases, people are not aware that what they share privately can be screen-capped and shared more publicly. Have workshops on social media privacy to help avoid embarrassing photos or posts from becoming connected with your company. Talk about how social media posts can live on far longer than people might like and how people should be careful what they post even on personal accounts.

4. Keep an ear to the ground.

Use social listening to find out what people inside and outside your company are saying about your brand. This way, if there is a controversy or an unhappy customer, you can respond quickly and make the situation a social media win instead of a social media gaffe. Social listening can also be effective when you are planning a promotion. By seeing what people are talking about and how they react to different news stories and brand promotions, you can increase your chances of a social promotion going well.

In the digital age, the lines between the public and private spheres can be blurred. And sometimes, this can lead to clashes between individual and company social presences and the company culture. But, by setting expectations, keeping up with best practices and addressing issues as they occur, you can bring your company culture and social presence together. By helping them align, you get happier employees and a stronger brand online.

Back to Basics: What Is Inbound Marketing?

New to inbound marketing? Or, have you been randomly creating content without quite knowing why it’s a requirement for inbound marketing?

Inbound and content marketing pull prospects toward you instead of having you and your firm relentlessly hunt them down. In this model, the customer is in control. They check out their options and only make contact with a seller when they are ready to buy. To ensure that your product is the one that they choose, you need to lead them through the buying phases with inbound methodology. The steps along the way:

Research

Before you write a single piece of content, know who you are writing to. Begin by identifying your best prospects. Learn demographic information like their age, income and other data. Study their online habits. It can help to create buyer personas, which are semi-fictional composite characters that represent people who may buy your brand.

Start developing a list of keywords your potential customers may search. This is a list of likely keywords that users search when they hit Google to look for products in your industry. It should be updated frequently. Include search popularity information as well as related keywords. Don’t necessarily worry about hitting every one. With Hummingbird’s semantic search, synonyms and near matches are likely to bring in traffic, as well.

SEO isn’t everything, but, search engines remain one of the best ways for your business to be found. By starting with the terms surfers use most, you can increase your chances of your content indexing high in the search results.

Creation

Over half of all purchases start with a search engine query. Ensure that your site comes up in the results by creating relevant, useful keyword-rich content.

Blogging is the quickest and most basic place to start. Create content that educates and answers prospects’ questions. You should also be posting to social networking platforms. This can include links to your content, as well as content designed specifically for your social media account.

As you branch out, your content should include a variety of types of media: blog posts, articles, infographics, photos, social media posts, ebooks and white papers are all potential examples. The right mix for your brand will depend on your product and your audience.

Engagement and Conversion

Once the prospect is on your site, it is important to capture some information to continue with the buyer’s journey. Put premium content behind forms so that you can capture contact information. The forms should be easy and painless to fill out; otherwise, impatient readers may bounce.

Entice visitors to sign up for email offers and updates. This makes it easy for you to keep in contact and nurture the lead. Email series and regular newsletters are both great options for keeping your business in prospects’ minds as they work toward a buying decision.

It frequently takes many touches to close a sale. Create content that addresses all stages of the buyers journey so that you can be there with them as they continue to research and narrow down their choices.

Closing

This is where your lead becomes a client. Create landing pages for offers that are clear, compelling and end with a precise call-to-action. Once a decision is made, make buying as friction-free and easy as possible.

Keep track of the details about your customers using good customer relationship management (CRM) software. This allows you to develop a better idea of who your buyers are, which allows you to make content that is more personalized and directly addresses their needs.

Delight

Do everything in your power to ensure that your customer is happy. Check in with customer satisfaction surveys. Monitor social media so that you can respond quickly when a customer posts there with an issue or a gripe. Delighting your customers doesn’t just bring them back. It makes them advocates on your behalf, bringing you new prospects you may not have encountered without them. By always delivering an excellent product and service, you turn happy customers into advocates and champions of your brand.

DON’T Automate Everything

Do not automate

We’ve all heard the mantra: automate everything! And, automation is awesome. Marketing automation allows you to send informative email drip campaigns to prospects with little extra effort. It makes it easy to keep up with client anniversaries, birthdays, and even things like local weather in your client’s part of the world.

But, there’s a lot that still requires a human touch. A few places automated tools are almost guaranteed to steer you wrong:

ticked-checkbox-1280927-mSpelling and Grammar Checks

Automated tools can do some interesting things. They can, of course, identify most misspellings. Many can help you spot passive text or other issues. But, they are no replacement for manual proofreading. They won’t catch homonyms. They’ll give false positives for grammar issues or miss them altogether. And, if you are writing in a niche that’s heavy in technical jargon, a lot of the words you use won’t be in most spell check dictionaries at all.

twitterDMsNew Follower Greetings

How many automated DMs do you get from people you follow on Twitter? How many do you open? And, even if you do open them, how many times do you take the sender up on the inevitable invitation to visit their Facebook or LinkedIn? I mean, you just started following them on Twitter. What makes anyone think that you automatically want to traipse all across the web listening to everything they have to say? Or, even worse, immediately go to trying to sell them a service?

Instead, how about a simple, personal hello? Take a look at a new follower’s profile and find something specific to note in your response.

If you do need to automate, at least offer something instead of asking something from this person who has already been kind enough to increase your number of Twitter followers by one. Offer a four or five word bio, then ask them something about themselves. This way, you’re starting a conversation instead of turning them off.

Ad Bids

There are plenty of tools to automate your PPC bids. But, left unchecked, you can find that campaigns either get little reach or take a hefty chunk out of your advertising budget. There are a ton of analytic tools available. Use them to test ads and tweak your parameters based on performance. Over time, you’ll find that you are getting much better qualified clicks and making your budget go much farther.

Ad Targeting

Many marketers consider it a slam dunk: the prospect posts about a kayak trip and all of the ads he sees are suddenly about outdoor water sports. But, a recent study suggests that, rather than finding this serendipitous, modern surfers merely find it creepy. And, some targeting is incredibly tone deaf. I’ve seen Facebook friends who’ve complained of ads for counseling after confiding in a friend about depression, or weight loss ads after they’ve made a joke about eating the whole pie after dinner. Not cool, marketers.

Automation’s awesome. But, it’s not everything. Good thing, too, since a totally automated internet would put people like us out of a job. So, while we’re still a viable part of the online economy, take some time to do more by hand and get selective with what you automate.

Should You Be Worried About the Content Glut?

If you’ve been following content marketing trends, you’ve probably seen a lot of hand-wringing about an overabundance of content online. And, superficially, it can seem like we are on the precipice of some sort of content apocalypse, where your content will get lost in the torrents of new material being pumped out onto the ‘net every day. But, when you examine the issue more closely, you can see that there isn’t really as much to worry about as you might think.

A few reasons it doesn’t matter:

Most Content Is Pretty Ephemeral

While there are a lot of pieces of content that continue to perform well for months or even years after they’re posted, they are the exception, not the rule. In general, a surfer is not going to click through pages and pages of blog posts. So, adding fresh posts is a strategy that makes sense.

No one worries that there have been too many issues of specific magazines. Publishers understand that the newly released content is going to get eyes and that older stuff will lose relevance.

Things Change

No matter what industry you are in, technologies, laws and trends are going to change. So, someone’s five-year-old “How to Find the Most Efficient Thermostat” article will be sorely out of date. Creating or commissioning new content means being able to provide your surfers with the most up-to-date information.

Your Content Should Reflect the Voice of Your Brand

If you are creating content that is identical to what’s offered on other sites in your industry, then the content glut is a problem for you. But, you can set yourself apart by ensuring that what appears on your site, your social media pages and in your other offerings reflects your brand. Is your voice conversational? Authoritative? Do you deal with a young demographic, or are you more popular with the Baby Boomers? The content materials you create should fit the look and feel of your site.

Your Content Should Be Personalized to Your Audience

So a hundred insurance agencies have published blog posts about life insurance. So what? If you deal with local customers, agencies in the other 49 states are not your competition. Emphasize that by localizing content. Now that you’ve narrowed it down, you can get to work differentiating yourself from those in your market. This can be accomplished, in part, by speaking directly to the audience you want and the audience you have. If you work in an area with high flood risk, for instance, address that on your blog. If your local area has a large elderly population, write with their concerns in mind.

With today’s empowered consumers, content marketing is not going away. To ensure that you continue to reap the benefits, make sure that your content is personalized to your audience and your area, up to date and useful to the customers you want to attract.

 

Quick Cheats for Quality Content

You need a continuous flow of quality content to compete. But, sometimes producing something fresh can feel like a chore. Are you pressed for time or coming up short on content marketing ideas? Try out these tips to shake out something new:

1. Update an old post.

renewChange is the only constant, no matter what industry you are in. Look at some of your old posts to see which ones contain out of date information. When you find one that is ready for an update, add new information. Explain how things have changed. This can be especially valuable if you’ve recommended things in the past that are no longer considered best practices or if you’ve referred to a service that no longer exists (Google Authorship, we still miss you). Then, repost as a new entry.

2. Do a round-up of posts from your industry.

round upSet up Google alerts for keywords that are relevant to your industry. You can set them up to arrive daily or weekly. Scan through and pick out the posts that you feel offer the best information for your prospects and make a top five or top ten list. Provide a brief summary, along with why you feel the post is worth reading. If you do this once a month, that’s subject matter for 12 posts a year that you have handled. When you link a colleague’s post, always let them know. Chances are good that they will either tweet about it or return the favor, bringing you more traffic.

3. Showcase a best-of of your own content.

showcaseThis should also be a regular feature on your site. Offer these posts, depending on how often you publish, either once a week or once a month. You can determine your best-of list based on highest traffic, most shares or most comments. Not only do you get new content, you get more love for the content that you already have.

4. Hire someone.

Yes, this still means work, but, it’ll be someone else doing it. People who run SMBs often have trouble letting go of the reins and delegating to others. If you can let go and let someone else handle just four blog posts a month, that adds up to a lot of time that you can dedicate to the core functions of your business.

Content creation is time-intensive. And, there are no short-cuts that can work every time. But, by putting these hacks into action every now and then, you can squeeze out more quality content and grow your business site.

3 Simple Keys to App Store Optimization

A mobile app can be an effective channel for marketing your brand, as well as a way to add a stream of passive revenue. But, with over 2 million apps listed in the major app stores, it can be difficult to stand out. A few ways to ensure that your app gets seen:

1. Use a keyword-rich title.

KISSmetrics discovered that apps that had keywords in their titles had 10.3% more downloads than those that did not. For the best results, use the relevant keyword that potential customers use most often when looking for apps like yours. Research well before choosing. Changing the name of your app can hurt your ASO. Also, as your app gains fans, you’ll want people to be able to find it through word of mouth.

2. Higher ratings equal higher results.

The more ratings your app has, the higher it will show up in the app store results. The success you have getting those ratings will depend a lot on how you ask. In your app, it is pretty standard to ask users to rate your app after a certain number of days. But, you can get a more enthusiastic rating by asking “Love the app?” with Yes and No options below. Yes can lead to a request for ratings; no can lead to a comment form so you can help resolve your customer’s issues. Also, pay attention to the comments left by users in reviews. By addressing issues and improving your app, you can earn a higher spot in the app store results.

3. To get lots of downloads, have lots of downloads.

When you create an app, let people know. Talk to current customers. Tweet about it. Put a link on your site. Ask friends and family for downloads and reviews. While research seems to indicate that more competitive keywords require more downloads to get higher results, every bit can help.

Are You Getting Reputation Management Wrong?

It seems that you can’t go a week without reading about a public scandal related to a company’s online advertising, social media presence or customer service. These are not just small businesses; big names that include McDonalds, Starbucks, JP Morgan, Comcast and others are all on the list of those who have made massive flubs online. It is possible that the errors come down to not understanding the realities of the digital age, including:

1. Digital media is a conversation.

If your company is continually blaring out one-sided promotional messages, you will not get much traction. In your blogs, address what customers want. On social media, start conversations. Ask questions. Answer questions. Online, everybody has the ability to contribute, and customers will expect you to understand that.

2. Companies don’t get to choose how people respond.

Sterling customer service and quality products are more important than ever. If your customer service is poor, expect that fact to be shared on blogs, Yelp, Facebook and even, if you are very unlucky, documented with video that is uploaded and reposted all over Youtube. You are always in public now.

3. But, consumers do expect you to talk back to them.

70% of consumers expect brands to respond to complaints on Twitter within an hour. While this can be intimidating, it doesn’t have to be. If your product is good and your customer service is on-key, you can turn each of these individual interactions into power PR for your brand.

Is the next big thing in marketing… “anti-marketing”?

Read this. Or don't.

All day every day, we are bombarded by promotional messages. When you head to a ballgame or concert, chances are you’re going to a place with a name like Staples Center, St. Pete Times Forum or, gods help us, the 1-800-ASK-GARY Amphitheater. We consume free content online, but only because our every action is sold to marketers who direct ever more personalized advertising in our directions.

As a result, we’ve become pretty much blind to all of the overt marketing messages we face every day. According to marketing juggernauts HubSpot, the average person sees over 1,700 banner ads every month, but, they’re more likely to complete Navy Seal training than they are to click one. And, when you wind up on a page with tossed together, heavily promotional “localized” content, you probably hit the back button before you’ve read a couple of lines.

The digital marketing world is obsessed with quick conversions. Because you can access data instantly, you want to see those numbers change in front of your eyes. But, successful marketing is more like growing a tree than planting bamboo. To win the long game, your content marketing needs to be divorced from any ambitions to get immediate conversions. The winners of the content game will:

1. Forget the promotional message. Did you open your eyes this morning and think, “gee, I’d really love to increase my HVAC guy’s marketing ROI.” Because, why would you? All those details are important to him but have nothing to do with your life. (Unless you’re also his marketing pro. In that case, carry on.) Your customers are no different. They spend their time thinking about their own personal concerns. Your latest promo or your growth into a new market isn’t really of concern to them.

2. Provide content that is actual useful and interesting to your audience. This one should be a no-brainer. If you sell suitcases, commission content about travel. Lawncare companies can talk about how to recognize common lawn pests. Think about the questions that your potential customers have and do your best to answer them in a friendly and helpful way.

3. Don’t worry about giving away too much. A lot of people doing marketing online feel that their content should position their product as the answer to customers’ needs. But, this can be a self-defeating approach. First, it’s often disingenuous. While your product is an answer, there’s obviously some self-interest at play when you suggest it as the sole solution. Instead, don’t be afraid to give options, including potential competitors and DIY choices. In many cases, people will discover that the process is more involved or time consuming than they’d thought and decide to hire a pro (you) after all.

4. Be consistent, but don’t pile it on. If you commission too much content, a few different outcomes are possible: you’ll wind up overspending and never getting the full value from the content on your site. The content will be poorly optimized for your needs and won’t get read by surfers. Or, if you economize, it will be poor quality and serve no purpose beyond a temporary search engine ranking bump. Content producers often find that their best-performing posts continue to deliver leads months or even years after they’re posted. Do your best to make every post quality, even if it means posting less.

When you calm down and stop worrying about instant conversions, you open up the door for longer, more satisfying customer relationships. Take the slow way, and you’ll have better content that converts well over time, and less of a chance of turning prospects off.

 

Why DIY Marketing Isn’t Right for Most SMBs

The ease of setting up blogs, social media pages and websites can sometimes be deceiving. Single click installs mean that you can have a WordPress blog on your site in minutes. As a result, a lot of small business owners feel that they should go it alone and write their own authoritative site blog. However, there are a number of reasons that you should hand this duty off to a dedicated, professional copywriter instead. The top three:

  • Outsourcing makes sense. To succeed, you need to concentrate on the core functions of your business. In this age of DIY options like WordPress and Blogger, a lot of people try to do everything themselves. You wind up overworked and stressed, and unable to do any one task as well as you should.
  • You’re too good at your job. All day long, you navigate the complicated waters of your profession with ease due to your skill and experience. Complex jargon and industry terminology is a second language that you speak with fluent ease. Unfortunately, your customers do not have that level of understanding. It can be easy to forget that what you know like the back of your hand is new to your customers. I can break down complex technical, legal, medical and other jargon and translate it into terms that the layman can easily understand.
  • You are too close to your product. It’s hard to separate yourself from the business that you have worked so hard to build. Blogs, articles and other content always need to be written with an eye toward the needs and desires of your customers. I have the skill and the perspective to talk directly to your customers about what they want from your product.

One of the key qualities of successful entrepreneurs is knowing when to delegate. By hiring qualified bloggers and social media pros, you can have them take care of your online marketing while you concentrate on the core tasks that make your business a success.