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What next for social media? Five big predictions

April 22, 2014 by Guest Blogger

What next for social media? Five big predictions/Social Media word and Icon cloud{{}}Some common themes came out of the recent New York social media show in February. Here are my top five predictions based on what I learned there:

Quality not quantity

You can reach too many people. Surely the holy grail of social media or any form of digital marketing is as wide a reach as possible, right? No, says Jonah Peretti, ceo and co-founder of Buzzfeed.

Peretti’s message was that if your content is in front of the wrong people it could actually be damaging. No-one wants a “so what?” response. This boils down to audience research and targeting content. He also stressed the importance of taking time to get your content right — the quizzes on Buzzfeed that are so popular right now actually evolved over six years of experimentation and tweaking.

Quality content is also fundamental to the trend-setting Gen Y audience, the 20-somethings who embrace new platforms and bring them to the fore. Markham Nolan, managing editor of the Gen Y global social news network Vocativ.com, pointed out that one of the biggest misconceptions about this demographic is that they prefer “shallow or simple content”.

Vanity metrics

A much-used phrase throughout the week — vanity metrics describes the idea of getting as many Facebook likes, Twitter followers or +1s as possible. For many Facebook social users, there’s a competition to see who can get the most friends. It’s the same with Twitter followers. And it is the same story for many brands. But do you really know who 90% of those people are?

The focus has shifted and it comes back to quality not quantity. The emphasis is now on top quality content targeted at the right audience who will engage with it, the aim being to build a lasting relationship that’s going to translate into brand advocacy or loyalty.

Get optimised for mobile

If your site is not mobile-optimised, then you are missing out on a serious amount of traffic generated not only by unique visits but social media shares too.

Adam Ostrow, chief strategy officer at Mashable, revealed that 45% of the site’s users view it on mobile. “And that number is growing. The article page is the new homepage — 75-80% of our traffic comes from articles that have been shared on social.”

Video, video, video

According to HubSpot, posts with the word “video” in them are shared 30% more on Facebook than posts that do not. And this is set to increase. Buzzfeed has just set up its own production studio in Los Angeles to make its own entertainment videos — where one goes, others will follow.

Dark sharing

Jonah Peretti suggested that messaging apps would be the future of social media as early adopters who once flocked to Facebook and other more visible platforms get sick of sharing their lives openly and opt instead for private messaging, or “dark sharing” between closed groups. Mark Zuckerberg’s acquisition of WhatsApp suggests that he thinks so too.

Angela Everitt is writing on behalf of content marketing agency, Southerly.

LinkedIn bids farewell to 'products and services'

April 16, 2014 by Guest Blogger

LinkedIn bids farewell to 'products and services'/Time for Change on transparent wipe board{{}}As of 14 April, LinkedIn has removed its products and services feature from Company Pages. With well over one million pages being lost — complete with the wording and recommendations that went with them — businesses are wondering how they can promote their products and services on LinkedIn now.

The Products and Services tab may have disappeared but businesses now have two options to promote their products and services on LinkedIn:

  • Share information via company updates on your main company page;
  • Create a new Showcase Page.

What’s a Showcase Page I hear you ask…

These pages are a relatively new feature and essentially work as an extension of your Company Page with the aim of highlighting a brand or business and the products and services that you offer. The pages consist of a cover photo, a quick description of what the page is showcasing, a sample list of page followers and, of course, the actual page updates.

The main difference, however, is that people are able to use this page to follow aspects of your business they find most interesting. LinkedIn says: “Showcase Pages allow you to extend your Company Page presence by creating a dedicated page for prominent products and services. A Showcase Page should be used for building long-term relationships with members who want to follow specific aspects of your business, and not for short-term marketing campaigns.”

As the majority of space on this page is taken up by page updates, LinkedIn says you must: “ensure that you have a plan for maintaining an active presence” before you set up a Showcase Page. If you have little to say, you’ll soon find your Showcase Page looking bleak and barren.

So what’s the fuss about?

Posting real-time company updates about your products and services on your main Company Page is a sensible suggestion, but these can be quickly disappear from people’s newsfeeds as new content arrives and the same will happen on your Company Page.

Many firms prefer a more permanent place to highlight products and services. And the products and services section had been well-used by businesses, with some even paying external consultants to create these sections for them.  

So how did LinkedIn justify this decision to remove all the hard-earned product and services recommendations and wording? It said: “we do this to ensure that we’re creating a platform where companies can deliver timely, engaging content to our members. Sometimes, this means we need to remove a feature to focus on areas of the product that most benefit both companies and our members.”

Before jumping feet first into a new Showcase Page, ensure that you have enough content and create a plan. In the meantime, posting regular company updates will help but in the long term, this is less than ideal. With regards to your product recommendations, if you’re a page administrator, you can download these to ensure they are not lost forever. You can also request a copy of them from LinkedIn.

Social networking sites are always evolving and should never be solely relied on to showcase your business. So it’s vital that your company website remains the principal shop window for your products and services.

Emma Pauw is social media writer at We Talk Social.

How to drive traffic with fresh and enticing web content

April 15, 2014 by Guest Blogger

How to drive traffic with fresh and enticing web content/Hand with Time For New Content{{}}Keeping your website updated is important for encouraging traffic that brings in business. If your team has got in the habit of adding to the business website regularly, you’re on the right track. A website that’s continually updated will pull better results from search engines and it demonstrates to customers that your business is doing well.

It’s also worth trying to come up with “evergreen” content. Evergreen content doesn’t become outdated or irrelevant. Rather, it always reads and appears as relevant whether it’s viewed the day you upload it or three years later. While all content that’s fresh and enticing doesn’t have to be evergreen, this kind of long-life content is very useful.

Here are the six “musts do’s” of fresh web content

1. Blog weekly

 Blog about new products, share a tutorial with your subscribers or write about what’s going on in your business. It’s not necessary to blog daily, but add one or two blog posts per week to keep visitors coming back for more.

2. Incorporate a news section

What are people talking about in your industry? Is there an event coming up or a new product launch? Fresh content includes news that’s current. To keep it evergreen, use dates instead of time frames. For example, say “on May 29th, 2014” instead of “in a few weeks”.

3. Include client testimonials

Current client testimonials show potential customers that your business is thriving and clients are happy with your services or products. Seek testimonials from satisfied customers, add them to a specific page and intersperse them amongst relevant product or service information. One of the best ways to convert a would-be customer is to provide them with previous customer reviews.

4. Get to know your audience

Know your customers and subscribers to provide content that is relevant and enticing. If you understand your demographics, you’ll be able to focus on your niche market to cater to the specific needs, personalities and interests of your customer base.

5. Provide updates

Update your readers on past stories or news items, especially if they elicited a large number of “likes” or shares. There’s nothing wrong with flying on the coat-tails of a previously popular post if you have a fresh update to add.

6. Link content to current events

Tap into the interest in current events — national or local — through your blog; and promote products and services that customers would find useful in relation to those events.

The foundation of fresh web content

All the fresh content tips in the world won’t amount to anything if they’re being applied to a website that is clunky to navigate and unpleasant to look at. Before adding a blog to your business website or hiring a professional writer to create content, ensure that your website is attractive to viewers and easy to use. Avoid cramming too much onto one page or overwhelming the viewer’s senses with music or flashing pictures. Keep your website clean so viewers can easily focus on the fresh content you’ve created for them.

Mary Ylisela is part of the writing team at TouchpointDigital.co.uk.

Five things to look for in a marketing agency

April 14, 2014 by Guest Blogger

Five things to look for in a marketing agency/Team Meeting in Creative Office{{}}When you are looking for a marketing agency, you may feel apprehensive about handing over such an important part of your business to a third party. However, there are some things to look for when choosing an agency that should ease your concerns.

Here are five simple things that you should expect an agency to be using to give you the best service and earn your trust in those vital early stages.

Managing social media with HootSuite

HootSuite is a well-known tool for social media management. It allows your agency to schedule updates for social media pages across multiple channels, to monitor their reach and engagement and ensure your social media activity runs smoothly. As a client, you can become a “super admin” on HootSuite, which means all updates go through you before publishing.

HootSuite Pro includes a range of reporting tools and can be integrated with Google Analytics, so definitely look for an agency that takes this approach to get the most out of social media.

Using Call Tracking in analytics

As a small firm, you’ll be looking for an agency that reports a full picture of your return on investment. You don’t want to be investing in marketing services that are not cost effective — so your agency should be advising you on where to shift your budget.

For a full ROI picture, your agency should be offering call tracking. It’s an affordable option for businesses of any size. By placing trackable phone numbers across your different marketing campaigns, you’re able to track enquiries and conversions that result from online and offline media, and analyse them alongside clicks — giving a truer picture of your marketing success.

Simplifying Google Analytics with dashboards

The marketing world is full of data, most of which you probably don’t need to know. Your agency should understand that not everyone is an analytics expert, so they need to deliver results in a clear and digestible way.

Ask about Google Analytics dashboards. These are fully customisable reports, so they don’t swamp you with unnecessary data. They display only the information that is relevant to your goals, whether that’s clicks, time on site, conversions or simply profit.

Keeping you in the loop

CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software should be at the heart of every project. We use Basecamp, which gives transparency to a project every step of the way. It allows the agency to lay out the process beforehand, set up tasks and assign them to team members, establish milestones and keep a paper trail of communication with you.

Don’t let your content go unnoticed

If you have an audience, turn that into a readership. Every marketing agency should offer an email strategy for sending out regular newsletters with links back to your content. They say that great content shares itself, but go with an agency that gives it that extra push.

MailChimp makes it easy to import your existing contacts to a mailing list and push your content to the right people. It’s capable of split testing designs, and sending follow up emails to those that engage. The reports give clear insights into how the campaigns are performing and help you keep track of conversations, so you don’t miss out on capturing customers.

Every agency should be using these industry-standard tools to build a long and profitable agency-client relationship.

Rob Newhouse is writing on behalf of Mediahawk. It has produced a downloadable guide to call tracking.

Going international - an entrepreneur's guide

April 10, 2014 by Marc Duke

Export stamp{{}}Passport — check; tickets — check; insurance/meerkat toy — check; business lounge card — check. There comes a time when your business is ready to go international. Your idea is great and it’s going global. Revenues will increase and so will your air miles balance. All sounding good so far…

Let’s face it, anything ecommerce-related potentially has a global market as soon as the web pages are loaded, right? Yes, theoretically, but this blog is for those of a B2B persuasion and if you think merely having a website will result in huge global sales, please read on.

Trade delegations

A few years ago I met a trade delegation (a great way to reduce the risk of international expansion) from an Estonian incubator. There were about ten companies and the leader of the incubator and they met with a number of local tech hubs and other useful people, so the entrepreneurs could evaluate if the UK was a place to do business and more importantly if there were people they could trust to do business with.

The problem with expanding into more than one country is cost. As soon as you set up somewhere you are incurring costs before generating revenue. An office, a phone line, a new set of web pages, a sales person and so on... While you might like the idea of global expansion, if you don’t get a firm grip on costs it could kill your company.

You can get stats to show how big a new market is and how much revenue it will generate for your business, but that’s all theory and the reality is you need people on the ground who know how to get things done. The trick is to find the right people for this.

Get networking

As always, use your network and approach any organisations that help entrepreneurs and businesses to trade abroad. Government bodies such as the UKTI and British Chambers of Commerce are a good place to start. Don’t ignore social media to get things rolling. LinkedIn groups can be a good place to start to get some quick wins. Attending international trade shows can also accelerate international expansion by giving you access to new contacts.

Once you have the people in place, you need to provide them with a lot of support, detailed instructions and listen well to exactly what they can deliver. I have some brilliant “door openers” for US businesses looking to expand into the UK/Europe but the companies have got to trust them and let them work their magic.

The risk here is letting go and trusting someone else with your baby — sorry, business. You can’t be in two places at once and you need other people in the team who can help you build the business.

Must dash as my taxi is here to take me to the airport.

Marc Duke is a marketing consultant.

 

Five ways to improve your direct marketing in the social sphere

April 10, 2014 by John Keating

Five ways to improve your direct marketing in the social sphere/Social Networking concept{{}}You may think that that social media and direct marketing are two completely different beasts, but I beg to differ.

Engaging with an individual via social media is about as “direct” as it gets in direct marketing. Direct marketing aims to connect marketers to customers and social media allows us to do this in real time with real conversations.

As we all know, selling is increasingly a two-way process with your potential customers more often than not being the instigator of a relationship. No longer do we have the preacher and congregation scenario whereby sellers preach their wares to a voiceless audience. 

Our customers now have a voice and they are using it. 

The key to success is to harness the power of this voice using social media to help spread positive news and reacting quickly to any negative conversations to convert the naysayers.

So how can small businesses improve direct marketing using social media?

  1. Firstly, do your marketing communications enable easy social sharing? If not, why not? Make sure that you include relevant sharing buttons such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ and so on. This is a no-brainer; let your brand champions do some of the hard work by allowing them to share and like your content.
  2. The social sphere offers an almost unlimited potential audience, so make the most of it. If you build an online following, real time interaction will allow you to forge lasting relationships as you can appeal to buyers as a human being and not a faceless business. You can then take them offline (don’t forget to ask permission) and into a lead nurturing programme.
  3. Integrate social into your marketing campaigns by using offer-based incentives via Facebook, Twitter and so on. This will allow you to find out where your audience hangs out online and enable you to engage with them further on the platform of their choice.
  4. Use your social platforms to try out new content approaches and then, when you know what works, you can add the most successful content to your email marketing.
  5. Powerful marketing campaigns using Facebook can be created where offline or purchased marketing data can be matched to Facebook to offer up ads to individuals you already have intelligence on or even to your existing customers. This can work for both B2B and B2C audiences by creating a human to human approach. The possibilities are endless — you could place a thank you advert as a nice gesture, for example.

So there you have it, social media and direct marketing do not have to be quarrelling siblings; they can work together in perfect harmony to increase the influence and effectiveness of your campaigns.

John Keating is an expert contributor to Marketing Donut and director at Databroker.

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