Digital marketing

You are What You Tweet - Social Media for Restaurants

You are What You Tweet

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Today, social media’s impact on restaurants is more significant than ever. Whether that impact is positive or negative depends on how a restaurant executes a social media strategy. If done right, social media can have massive marketing power at a minimal cost.

But just creating social media accounts and aimlessly pushing out self-promoting content is not enough. These basic social media marketing tips will help increase your restaurant’s reach and engagement and get more people in your door.

Know Your Audience

Before creating a social plan, you first have to define your restaurant’s audience. Age, gender, location, and interests are just a few of many qualities you may want to consider. Once you establish the audience, the next thing to do is determine on which platforms that audience is active. These platforms are where you’ll start.

Taco Bell, whose target market is 18-34 year-olds, knows that 71% of Snapchat users are between 18-34 years old. So, naturally, that’s where their social media efforts are focused. They post daily on Snapchat, and only about one or twice a week on Facebook and Twitter.

Once you know your audience and what platforms they’re on, the next step is speaking their language. Taco Bell does this by using phrases made popular by millennials and Generation Z like “it’s lit” and “extra.” But this can backfire if you’re not careful. Being genuine is key on social media. Avoid posting anything that seems unnatural to you because if it seems forced to you, it probably seems forced to your audience too.

Word of Mouth Marketing 

The restaurant industry has always relied heavily on word-of-mouth marketing. Organic word-of-mouth is when a friend goes to a restaurant and raves to you about how amazing their experience at that restaurant was. Next time you’re looking for a place to eat, you may consider this restaurant based on your friends’ recommendation.

Social media word-of-mouth is the same idea. Except instead of personal recommendations, people may look to tweets or Facebook reviews. In fact, 84% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.

You can’t afford to ignore feedback on social media. If your restaurant receives a negative review, it’s crucial to respond as soon as possible by acknowledging the problem, apologizing, and offering an incentive to get them back in your door. This builds credibility and trust with that specific reviewer, and with everyone else who visits your review page.

Addressing positive feedback is also helpful. A customer that goes out of the way to share a good review is a customer you want to keep. Responding to their feedback is the cherry on top of their experience that can turn a one time reviewer into a lifetime brand advocate.

Share Valuable Content

Valuable content, whether it’s informative, engaging, or entertaining, gives customers an incentive to follow your restaurant and keeps them continually coming back for more.

You should share anything that may affect your audience’s ability to visit your restaurant, such as construction in the area, holiday hours, special events, and more. This kind of communication helps customers feel involved and ultimately can establish customer loyalty.

“Behind-the-scenes” content is also a valuable tool. This could include employee spotlights, a “sneak peek” at new menu items, and other back-of-house happenings. When you pull back the curtain, you’re creating a sense of inclusivity and developing an emotional connection with your customers. Having this kind of relationship with customers is invaluable to a restaurants success.

Encourage User-Generated Content (UGC)

With more than 260 million posts tagged #food on Instagram, food pictures are undoubtedly one of the most popular types of content on Instagram. There’s a good chance your customers are posting about your restaurant with or without your interaction.

To capitalize on these posts, many restaurants implement campaigns encouraging customers to use a hashtag unique to their restaurant. To further incentivize customers to share, restaurants often make it a competition, offering SWAG or gift cards to the most creative post.

Not only can user-generated posts take some content building responsibilities off your shoulders, but it also acts as a valuable endorsement, since consumers value peer opinions more so than a brand’s cleverly written sales pitch.

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What Small Business Can Learn from Big Brands in Digital Marketing

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Editor’s Note: Shout Out Studio has partnered with students from Miami University (Oxford, Ohio) to mentor, research and write a series of blog posts for shoutoutstudio.com. The authors are members of student-led group, East Bridge Consultancy, an affiliate of Alpha Kappa Psi, a professional business fraternity.

By: Grant Smith & Kristian Jennes

With the release of new technologies such as augmented reality over the years (or months) and the proven business usability of social networking platforms, the landscape of marketing strategies has evolved from cold selling to the use of digital channels. This new method provides a new experience for the customer, while contributing meaningful insights for organizations to utilize. A study done by Adobe interviewed a large group of marketing professionals from all facets to gain an understanding on best practices. One finding: Sixty-six percent of all marketers think companies won’t succeed unless they have a digital marketing approach. While larger organizations have multi million dollar budgets to invest in a digital strategy, small businesses feel left behind. There are many lessons that small businesses can learn from larger brands that can be implemented on a smaller scale to generate compelling content for consumers.

Although virtual reality is the more mainstream of the two, augmented reality has been embraced by the masses this past year with Pokémon Go, a mobile application which let’s users see characters in their own reality through their phone. This comeback of the 1990’s cartoon game shows businesses consumers are ready for the AR experience. In fact, over the past year, make up, furniture, and drug store organizations have heavily invested in AR to provide their customers with a new channel to view products. Walgreens has a mobile app called ‘Aisle411’ which immerses customers in new promotions and usually unseen products/deals while walking around the store. IKEA introduced an application that allows buyers to see what a certain piece of furniture would look like in their home. Sephora (cosmetics) now allows customers to see how a certain style of make-up would look on their faces simply by using their front facing camera. Within 8 weeks of the launch, Sephora’s application was bought over 1.6 million times.

Of course, larger brands like Walgreens have the resources to fund augmented reality style marketing strategies. But what about the small town brick and mortar shops- how can AR be utilized without breaking the bank? What they can learn from this craze is this: consumers are ready for a shopping experience that incorporates exploration through different channels other than walk in’s. Simple changes to websites such as including products that are not on the shelves or at a particular location can spark more time on your website and increased awareness of your brand. Augmented reality use by larger brands will also bring a vast amount of insights of consumer trends. Although actual augmented reality applications for organizations require heavy investments, the results and teachings that can be captured online are always free for small businesses to utilize.

Implementing a strong digital marketing strategy is crucial to any successful business, but in today’s cluttered online marketplace, providing consumers with an unforgettable experience can vault a company to the top of its industry. WestJet took the experience a step further, by blending a digital sharing element that guaranteed a large scope and huge awareness for years to come. By posting a video of employees granting passenger wishes, WestJet created a viral sensation that has racked up 41+ million views to date. The combination of an experience shared on a digital platform maximized reach while resonating emotionally with viewers, showing the value of taking a mixed approach to marketing.

Small businesses have not missed this trend and have already begun to take advantage of experiential marketing. One of the biggest ways that small businesses are capitalizing on this trend is by partnering with other small, local companies to provide consumers with a joint event that promotes both businesses and gives consumers a destination that will help the brand resonate with them. A common pairing is often micro breweries with local restaurants, both huge startup trends in large cities that a young demographic will flock to for live music, drink specials, or other events. Companies are utilizing their social media platforms as well as websites to help promote these experiences and gain brand awareness in the community.

One of the biggest hurdles faced in digital marketing is finding a way to resonate with consumers, while reaching the widest range of consumers as possible. When used effectively, contests can be a great way to address this challenge. Dove held an extremely successful contest that instructed users to post a picture of their friend with why their friend “represents real beauty” by filling in two reasons why they find them beautiful alongside their name.  This user generated content not only built the brand’s goodwill, but was free marketing material posted on millions of Facebook walls for viewers to see.

While larger brands often use Facebook as the host for their contests, small business often don’t have the name recognition or following to get these types of promotions to go viral. However, one good way for small business to take advantage of this tactic is to sponsor contests for local sports teams or at large local events. This demonstrates community involvement, spreads brand awareness, and allows consumers to connect on a more personal level. While this takes a much more experiential approach, it can be promoted and marketed using social media and web platforms, blending the two marketing plans into one actionable strategy.
Adobe’s research on digital marketing presented another eye opening result: ‘less than half (48%) of professionals who consider themselves primarily digital marketers feel highly proficient in digital marketing.’ Although the digital strategy has shown success, it is a task that consists of significant resources, time, and constant change. Small businesses cannot be intimidated by this fact, with a clear direction for obtainable goals,consistent strategy, and the desire to constantly learn about consumers trends, one can implement a meaningful marketing campaign that models those of big businesses. While a new technology such as augmented reality can add value to an organization, it is unrealistic for smaller firms to have the ability to research and develop something this expensive and time consuming. Instead, small businesses can position themselves to learn. By gaining insight, one can change the layout of their store, add trending products to their shelves, and provide features on the their website catered to consumer needs while being cost effective. One of the most important aspects of digital marketing is sending a consistent message to consumers, regardless of how they are viewing content.  This means that a small company needs to ensure that mobile applications, web pages, and social media accounts are offering the same features, same information, and same usability. To grow a small organization into one with resources to fund large scale digital marketing strategies, owners/managers must stay up to date on trends and take advantage of the strong customer relationships that a small organization can establish. By truly understanding the target market one can decide which digital strategy to model.

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5 Basics for Marketing on Snapchat

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100 million. That’s just shy of the number of people that watch the Super Bowl every year. That’s also about one third of the total United States population. 100 million is approximately how many people use Snapchat every single day. Think that sounds like a lot? Now think about seven billion. That’s how many views videos get on Snapchat on a daily basis, with 76 percent of Snapchat’s users are in the Millennial age group.

Visualizing these numbers isn’t what’s important; tapping into them is what matters. With this kind of potential, Snapchat has transformed from simply being valuable for personal use to being a huge opportunity for small and large businesses targeting Millennials.

The Snapchat conversation shouldn’t make you feel out of date. Take a walk through the basics and learn a few strategies your company can utilize through the app.

So you want to try it out. But how does it really work?

To strip it down to the fundamentals, Snapchat allows users to share pictures and videos instantly. The videos and pictures can only be taken through the app and not imported. Once you’ve taken the picture or video you have a couple choices: Post it to your “snap story” where it will remain for 24 hours as a part of a temporary album, or send it to one of your friends. Snap stories can be viewed multiple times by any of your contacts over the course of those 24 hours. The snap story is the more useful feature for brands. If you do choose to send a photo to someone in your contacts, they can view it once before it is gone.

Before posting or sending a picture, feel free to enhance it. It’s encouraged. Swipe right to select a color filter or geofilter. Your geofilter options appear based on where you are and what’s going on around you, but I’ll elaborate on those later on. There’s also the option to include the time, date and details like the current temp. Tap the screen and a text bar will pop up, and if you press the “T” in the top right corner, you can change the style of the text. There’s also a crayon button in the top corner that allows you to get artistic with your picture or video. Just slide your finger along the color spectrum that pops up to choose your paint.

Now that you know the basics, let’s get down to business. Here are five strategies for marketing through the app.

1. Show Transparency 

The rise of social media has fueled the demand for instant information and transparency, and Snapchat is the perfect synergy of those two desires. On Snapchat, you can post more frequently without overwhelming your audience in comparison to an app like Instagram. The pictures aren’t supposed to be premium quality because the concept relies on unscripted and authentic content since the only way to take photos or videos is through the app. People’s desire for raw information paired with the nature of the app makes Snapchat a great way to publish behind the scenes content.

Sports teams are some of the best examples of this concept in action. They use Snapchat to show footage on the bench in practice, on the bus before a game or in the locker room after a game. It relays the personality of the team and its athletes on a more personal level than a formal, produced interview. It makes sense why fans are interested; they feel involved, and the lower-quality handheld video feels intimate. This concept can work the same way for your business. Use Snapchat to tease products or services that are coming soon, and show followers the quirks of your company. Is a product finished but there are a few days before the launch? Fun, team-building day planned? Why not show it off on Snapchat? People are curious about the brands they support, and Snapchat feels like honest communication.

This personal relationship can be developed with more than just behind the scenes content. Snapchat is prime for live event streaming as well. For example, Victoria’s Secret used it before, during and after their fashion show to not only further inform people watching the show, but also to remind their followers to tune in.

Do you have a yearly corporate dinner or host an annual event? Show people where you are and what you’re doing. It gives a firsthand perspective and, if the event is open to the public, people are encouraged to join (virtually) because you will be posting live. Think of your Snapchat story as a digital way to replace live tweeting and target Millennials.

2. Provide Easy Engagement

Just like the social media apps you might be more familiar with like Twitter and Facebook, Snapchat is great because it’s easy for users to engage with your company. If you post a video or picture, followers can view, screenshot or reply directly to you. This is advantageous when it comes to things like contests. For one of our clients, we utilized Snapchat to encourage their audience to add and reply in order to win prizes. These efforts received more engagement than both of our Instagram and Twitter contests. If email campaigns aren’t stimulating the type of engagement you’re looking for, then offering a promo code on your snap story might be an ideal alternative to test.

3. Reveal Tutorials

Showing people how to use your product not only reveals its potential benefits, but also helps prevent any confusion. Snapchat offers businesses the ability to showcase their products and services with a much more casual explanation method. Facebook has been bombarded with how-to cooking videos as of late, and people are big on the simple, quick explanations.

Millennials aren’t as in love with Facebook as they used to be, so if you want an avenue to give them a tutorial, try using Snapchat instead. This can be valuable for all types of products – show people how to put together an outfit with your spring styles, how to make the perfect presentation using your software, style their hair using your extra-hold gel, etc.

4. Connect Through Influencer Outreach

Referral from a friend is a good way to start a new relationship. Utilizing popular and trusted people in your field to gain the interest and eventually trust of potential customers can be a great way to generate business. On Twitter, a retweet from an influencer is nice, but Snapchat takes this relationship to a whole new level. Try a “Snapchat takeover.” This means someone significant to your brand or target demographic runs your account for a period of time. Sour Patch Kids saw a huge growth through utilizing social media influencer Logan Paul for a five-day takeover.

They were able to generate an identity for themselves and wedge into a new niche in a short amount of time because of the instantaneous nature of the app. When you dive into your influencer outreach, it’s worth it to think about someone you can utilize for a Snapchat takeover to create a connection and help grow your audience. The organic nature of the app allows users to really get to know the personality of your company in a short period of time.

5. Advertise Through Geofilters

After taking a photo or video through the app, you can swipe right to add a color filter or a geofilter. Right now at the Shout Out office near downtown in Columbus, Ohio, my options are three different Columbus filters that show a small graphic that adds ‘Columbus’ written in different styles and colors at the top or bottom of the picture. These filters aren’t limited to stating the name of the area though. Companies like JPMorgan are putting their brand name on these geofilters and making them available to people in a specific area.

This allows you to associate your company with an area or an event, and everyone who posts a picture with your filter is organically promoting your brand. Snapchat also provides analytics for your filter, so you can see how many times it was viewed and used.

All of these campaign methods on Snapchat have similar goals: increasing engagement, recognition and interest. With so many Millennials using Snapchat and a very real need for brands to be transparent, this is a natural way to connect with your audience. Not only will the app give your followers the ability see what your up to, but Snapchat’s newest update pushes users to watch all of their friend’s snap stories. In fact, it’s harder to not watch a friend’s snap story than it is to watch it.

It’s not about being hip anymore – Snapchat is the best way to move from brand awareness to building a connection with Millennials.

10 Most Important Parts of a Homepage

The 10 Most Important Parts Of a Homepage

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Your homepage: the front window of your business where you get to put what you do on display. The perfect setting to put your best foot forward. The first, and possibly only, impression on a potential customer or client. With so much at stake, you want to be as prepared as possible by leaving no detail unattended to. That’s what makes these the 10 most important parts of a homepage.

1) Headline

Have a single sentence clearly stating what your site has to offer. Get your viewers attention with something that has a little personality to it and leaves a unique impression. People are more likely to read this than your actual copy, so make it count.

2) Sub-Headline

This is your chance to further describe whatever it was that you previously stated in your headline. Elaborate a little more to maintain your viewer’s interest and prompt them to continue exploring.

3) Primary CTA’s

Guide your audience with a well positioned Calls-to-Action above the fold. These CTA’s should take the user to your main objective. If you’re an E-Commerce site take them to your ‘Shop’ page. If you’re selling a service, take them to the page with your differentiating factor.

4) Visual Support

Most people are visual learners, meaning seeing truly is believing. Beautiful, professional photography will be the best way to show off your products, service, or team. Try to restrict stock photography, though there is some worth using, and be sure to show your personality.

5) Benefits

What sets your company or product apart? A few key points highlighted on the homepage make for quick associations the viewer will hold with them as they peruse the rest of your beautiful site.

6) Navigation

Speaking of perusing, make sure your visitors have a clear navigation to guide them. Nobody likes hanging out somewhere where they keep getting lost with no clear way home. Keep it simple, easy to find, and readily available. If possible, include a search bar so if they want to find something specific, they can.

7) Logo

Like we said earlier, most people are visual. A logo gives people something unique they can instantly associate with your company, and the pleasant experience they (hopefully) had while visiting your site. Even if it was brief. Be sure to keep your branding consistent as well to further encourage association.

8) Contact Information

Make it easy for people to get in touch with your company. If you have a brick and mortar location, be sure to include that.

9) Social Media Logos

Give the visitor a way to connect with the company and see it’s personality a little more. Only feature buttons for social platforms that you’re active on, there’s nothing less engaging than a dead social media outlet.

10) Actionable Elements

Videos, downloads, blog posts, animations and other visual elements that involve user engagement will encourage a longer stay and more exploration.

A good homepage won’t look the same for every company in every field, and that’s a great thing. Just be sure you get you point across and give people an ample opportunity to know what you’re about, how to engage with you, and how to buy your product or service if they so choose. If you’re able to do all of that without someone leaving your homepage than I’d say you’ve done a good job.

How User Experience Can Affect Pagerank

How User Experience Affects Page Rank

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This year marks a shift for what factors in on-page optimization are most affective for search engine rank. Some of the items have been closing in from a distance for a few years now, but 2015 has allowed them to take shape. Google (and Bing and Yahoo) are taking a more holistic approach to how your pages and sites are ranked. Investing in their user experience has become increasingly important, if not the most important factor, for making sure your potential clients, customers, and audiences can find you.

What factors indicate a user’s experience?

  • Site speed – Users want a snappy site. The top ranked sites load in 2 seconds or less, and most users will leave after 3 seconds. Tools like GTMetrix can help you analyze how quick your site is loading, and what factors may be slowing it down. Upgrading server technology, using a CDN, and optimizing images are just a few of the ways to increase response time.
  • Security –  If you have an e-commerce site, or are exchanging sensitive information, installing an SSL certificate is a necessity. Adding encryption will help gain your clients and customers trust and confidence.
  • Responsive – No surprise, but mobile usage is on the rise. Search engines not only rank pages optimized for mobile higher, but decreases the rank for any page that is not responsive.
  • Topics – Users are no longer just searching for keywords. Were they ever? They want answers and solutions. Providing that information to your audience is a great way to see your rank increased. Things like proof and relevant terms have becoming increasingly evident on top ranked sites.
  • Images and Videos – Content that includes original images and video is more dynamic and more likely to be shared via social media. Don’t miss this opportunity to make an impact.
  • Readability – Font size matters. Sites that used consistent font size across their pages were ranked higher. Information structured using bullet and number lists also help users digest information.
  • Interactive elements – Top ranked sites also use buttons, graphics, and streamlined navigation to help guide their audience and structure their content.
  • Contact – Including a Contact and About page signals to search engines that you are authentic and interested in engaging your audience, clients, and customers.
  • Time – Bounce rates and time spent on a site are indicative to search engines to the relevance and usefulness of your content. Longer visits mean higher ranking. High Bounce rates can lower rank.
  • Social signals – Social signals continue to be important. Facebook being the biggest indicator followed by Google+. Backlinks from social media are considered trusted links and highly prioritized by search engines.
  • Ads – Including too many ads, or having ads above the fold of your site can now hurt your rank.

Thoughts on these new trends? It seems a departure from SEO strategies of the past. Keywords and URLS continue to lose their punch while qualified content and social media continue to gain steam. I appreciate the twist. I like it because it allows sites who take care of their audience and users to rank higher than companies who have just learned how to play the page rank game.

 

Page rank data from search metrics

Benefits of Outsourcing Your Social Media

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Social media is beyond mainstream, and many businesses today realize the benefits the various communication platforms can provide to reaching their business goals. The reality though is that as social media becomes larger landscape and more sophisticated over time, succeeding in the social realm can be tough…and it might require some additional expertise. So, if you find yourself in this place, here’s a look at a few reasons why it might benefit you to outsource your social media.

Communicating Your Brand Message

Sure, you know your brand best, but do you know how to effectively communicate it? Whether you’re a brand new startup just getting your feet wet or you’ve been in the industry for decades, believe it or not, it can be a challenge to communicate who you are as a brand and identify what’s your tone-of-voice. If you expect your audience to connect with you, this is an extremely important point of communication. Every update, post, or image should be something that represents the attributes of your brand, and should feel authentic as if you were talking to someone in person. If you haven’t established a voice, having a team to help you identify this voice and keep it consistent can be extremely valuable. Some of the best brands (small and large) are seamlessly managed by outside resources because they’ve been able to embrace the brand’s unique style of communication and flawlessly engage with their audience.

Socially Active Experts

Social media is an ever-evolving form of online communication, and there’s no reason to expect it to slow down anytime soon. Marketers managing social media have to stay on top of new trends and platform innovations. Whether it’s a new algorithm update, click to buy feature, advertising enhancements, etc., … it’s difficult to stay abreast of the social media environment unless you’re living it every day. Having a team of individuals, who can assess the environment, test new platforms, understand the opportunities and debunk the fleeting pop-up of platforms ultimately can save you a whole lot of time and provide focus.

Scaling as You Grow

As you grow, so should your audience, and with that comes more activity and the need for more engagement. And while you may be able to get things off the ground initially, as you continue to grow and see success, tending to social media may not be feasible. Let’s be honest, you still have a day job. Having dedicated individuals, who are there when your customers ask questions, have a customer complaint, or just want to sing the praise of your brand, could establish a new customer relationship, strengthen an existing, or renew a fading one.

Putting Money Where It Matters

Some platforms require a little extra power to get off the ground, to expose your brand to new audiences, or frankly just to stay visible, and sometimes it costs a little to get your voice heard. The unfortunate part is if you’re not familiar with the platform, you could be tossing money in the wind with no return on investment or your time. Those who manage social media day-to-day actively should understand where your time and dollars are best spent, be able to establish ideal budgets, and project anticipated results based on your desired goals.

Analysis of Activity

If you haven’t benchmarked social media goals (followers, reach, engagement, impressions, etc), how do you know if you’re succeeding or failing? Yes, every platform has available analytics, but if you don’t understand what the data is telling you, then how can you be sure that you’re getting the most out of your efforts. If you see engagement declining or impressions increasing, a social media team should be able to pinpoint what has resulted in a decrease or increase, and determine the appropriate actions to respond accordingly.

 

Bottom line don’t be afraid to ask for (outside) help. If you’re not sure how to approach social media or keep on top of it, consider asking a team with social media expertise to evaluate your current performance. You might just find that outsourcing your social media could be a real benefit to your brand and your customers.

Marketing vs. Digital Marketing

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A few weeks ago one of our clients asked us to comment on why they had not been able to cross the marketing/digital marketing divide on their own. Certainly a provocative question and one that really required some thought on our part.

This particular client has a very productive marketing department delivering traditional marketing activity: conferences, press releases, pr placement; however, they just felt they had never been able to capitalize on the power and promise of digital marketing.

Here’s how we responded to our client’s question…

It’s easy to look at marketing and digital marketing and assume they are the same. Most companies with a marketing department treat social media and other digital communications efforts as just another distribution outlet for the content they are already producing.

This is the genesis of the problem.

Traditional marketing is about creating a presence in the marketplace, establishing knowledge of an organization within the market, building awareness of products and services as well as the company’s value proposition. All great efforts that are absolutely required as part of an overall marketing equation.

Digital marketing is about creating an engaged audience and there are significant differences between the two.

First, mindset. Engaging an audience means thinking about information that has value for them. What questions do they have that you can address? What are they already talking about and how can you make a contribution to the conversation? In simple terms it means putting aside what you want to tell them and giving priority to what they want to know or how you can help.

When you go to a party or event, who is the person everyone wants to speak with? It’s the person who engages in conversation, who listens before sharing information, and who is as interested in your point of view as you are in his. That approach to digital marketing works. Every single time you add content to your website, post on social media or send out an email marketing piece ask: does anyone care about this? Will people see this as valuable and be more informed as a result of taking their time to read it?

The second difference of digital marketing is the ability to target an audience with precision heretofore unavailable. For example when posting an article on LinkedIn, you can target individuals by industry, job title, seniority level, and geography. On Facebook, you can target people down to the level of who they follow, their demographic information and even a zip code.

A third differentiating factor is the ability to measure your success with a high level of precision. Once you’ve established systems and set up the right tools you will know — down to an individual respondent — how many people are following you, how many people actually read or respond to your message and the types of success your efforts lead to over time. We developed a standard digital marketing dashboard that allows us to track all digital marketing efforts on a month-over-month basis to see our results.

Certainly we do not advocate abandoning traditional marketing, but we do recommend that digital marketing, with its additional capabilities and benefits, be treated as a separate discipline requiring dedicated staff, tools, and processes to generate the maximum benefit for your organization.

Podcasts and the Art of Storytelling

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Storytelling is the oldest and most effective method humans have to pass along knowledge. It’s how we’ve developed cultural values and passed history from generation to generation. We are wired to remember it.

This is why learning how to tell your story is just as important as what it is you have to say. If your delivery is boring, cluttered, or disorganized people start to lose interest. Think of it as a dinner party. The people who take control of the conversation and demand the most attention are those who are the best at telling stories. They may not have the best stories at the table, but their ability to make what they’re saying interesting and entertaining is what wins over the crowd.

While there are endless outlets for your brand to tell it’s story, only one format has brought back the classic type of storytelling. Oral storytelling is an intimate and traditional relationship between the storyteller and audience. It’s been around for as long as we’ve used language to communicate. Although it is unlikely you will be speaking to your audience in close quarters, huddled tightly, it still offers an important lesson. The best way to experience the oral tradition of storytelling without interrupting your daily life is by listening to podcasts.

Podcasts have been around for a good while now, but as of recently there have emerged clear victors when it comes to storytelling. They offer lessons in effectively finding your voice, style, and feel to best reach your audience. They’re also great ways to spend long roadtrips or long days at the good ol’ 9-5. Here are some great podcasts to get you started:

Serial: If you managed to make it the past 6 months without hearing about Serial, then I’m genuinely impressed. After its release last October, Serial set a new presidence of what radio-journalism could be. It follows a reporter’s investigation of a murder from 1999. Without giving too much away, it’s a gripping series that reached the top of the charts.

Longform: A Q&A format podcast that focuses on the creative process of writers and journalists. It’s an in-depth and intimate look at a professional storyteller’s processes–both grounding and relieving (hint: everyone struggles sometimes). That being said, it’s always inspiring to hear people in love with their craft and career.

Radiolab: Taking a complex and philosophical subject matter and creating an interesting and understandable radio show is no easy task, but Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich do just that. Their series of podcasts use storytelling to explain or examine broad and sweeping subjects, such as time. Another great part of the show is the production value, which adds to their stories without being distracting.

The Truth: You can’t handle the truth! The Truth is an entertaining Fiction podcast utilizing the tagline “Movie for your ears.” Between improvised dialogue, interesting production, and captivating story lines, The Truth is definitely worth a listen. Also, I don’t apologize for the A Few Good Men reference. Worth it.

99% Invisible: One of my favorites, 99% Invisible hosted by Roman Mars focuses on art, design and architecture. Each episode examines a specific example of design, dicussing it in depth with professionals, experts, or those directly influenced by the matter at hand.

While this is just a short list, there are tons of great podcasts. Each has it’s own story, and they all tell it in an incredibly unique way. It might come in handy when telling your own story someday.

Keep Organized With These Small Business Marketing Extensions

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Marketing for a small business can get hectic, time-consuming, and unorganized. Between the hundreds of accounts, sites, and content resources used everyday, it is easy to get overwhelmed. Luckily there are plenty of browser extensions that can be added to your web browser to help keep your efforts clutter-free. Here are some great extensions that the Shout Out team uses to stay sane:

Awesome Screenshot:

Screen capturing is nothing new, but Awesome Screenshot is the most versatile and capable screenshot tool I have come across. It allows you to capture either a selected area, the directly visible area, or the entire web page. After you have selected your screenshot, you can annotate it in a variety of ways, and even censor sensitive information. The final benefit of Awesome Screenshot is it gives you the option to email, share the url, or save the image. Showing edits needed on site pages, individual posts or photos has never been easier.

 

Hootlet:

If you’re in charge of social media for your small business, there is a good chance you are no stranger to HootSuite. Hootlet is their browser extension which helps you save time and effort. You can post to multiple social media profiles at once, schedule your posts, and find targeted content all without leaving your browser window.

bitly:

bitly is a link shortening/ branding extension that does so much more. After you create custom bitlinks, you can then manage and review their performance from the analytics and reporting from bitly. It keeps your social sharing looking clean, and helps you track click-throughs.

 

riffle:

Riffle is the Twitter dashboard you’ve been looking for, assuming you were looking for a Twitter dashboard. Get a Twitter profile’s vitals, influence assessments, top shares, usage and it’s activity rate all in a single dashboard. It’s a great way to learn about your followers or potential influencers.

Pocket:

Save the content you find for later with Pocket. This nifty extension will save, categorize and sync content so you can access it later, from any device. Pocket is a great way to curate articles, videos, or photos to share from your brand’s social media accounts.

MozBar:

The MozBar browser extension provides free SEO metrics and data. You can search keywords, locations and individual search engines. MozBar also lets you analyze on-page elements with their Analyze Page overlay. It provides you with a break down of social shares and metrics. Save time on SEO research by adding MozBar to your extension arsenal.

Other useful extensions that will save you time and effort:

Check My Links:

As the name suggests, this extension is a link checker that scours through your page or post and will make sure all your links are working. Once it’s done it will highlight working links in green, and it highlights the broken links with red. This is a great time-saver, especially when you’ve been editing content for an entire day.

RiteTag:

It can be hard to know which hashtags to use on your social media posts. RiteTag takes the guessing out of it by grading your hashtags on a three point scale. Updates shared through RiteTag are also monitored for click-throughs, replies, retweets, favorites, and follows.

Check out the extensions above and let us know what you think! We’d love to hear of any extensions you use that have simplified your daily workload.

Do Companies Really Need Social Media?

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A few months ago my brother and I were out to dinner talking about work and the topic of social media came up. In the discussion, he said, “Our company would never use social media because we don’t need it.” I stared at him for a few seconds… wheels turning, gears grinding, ready to give him my full on social-media-rules-all speech when abruptly, I stopped. He said, “Tell me… why would we need it?” Truth is, I couldn’t answer him. It took me a few days to come to the realization that I couldn’t answer him because he was right, his company doesn’t need it. They won’t ever need it.

Before you judge me too harshly, answer me this: Name one company that absolutely needs social media, one that can’t live without it. Social media isn’t a need. It’s a want. It’s a benefit. It’s an asset to you, your company, and your brand. Social media is a modern luxury that is helping brands around the world to create brand equity in the minds of their consumers.

Just now, Coca-Cola is running their “Share a Coke” campaign that is absolutely killing it. It’s personal and it’s fun. All over social media “Laurens” and “Jessicas” are posting photos with their Cokes, Diet-Cokes, and Coke Zeros. The couple below has even leveraged the popularity of the Coke campaign to add a little something special to their big announcement. This shows that Coca-Cola doesn’t need social media to kill it. It helps them kill it. Simple as that.

 

 

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How Long Does It Take To Create A Successful AdWords Campaign?

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Great (AdWords) Expectations

Paid traffic can be a great thing, but if you are starting a campaign from scratch often there are a few problems. Some marketers sell it to their clients as the end-all be-all solution, and others managing their campaigns themselves usually have a grand vision of their success with the platform. Which usually creates some ridiculously high expectations, and when those expectations aren’t met people usually get frustrated and give up. So how long does it take to create a successful AdWords campaign?

The trick to starting a successful AdWords campaign is to never set expectations so high that they can’t be achieved. If expectations are managed from the beginning everyone involved can feel good about it. Here are some of my tips for managing expectations:

  1. Think of your opening budget as R&D cost, not advertising cost. Consider this money cost of doing business. It’s gone. Don’t expect a return on it.
  2. It’s going to take AT LEAST a month before you will see your campaign start to take shape in the way you want. This opening month is all about gathering information and making adjustments often.
  3. Don’t set goals until AFTER your first week. It’s okay to set goals at the beginning, but honestly you will have no idea if those goals are realistic or not until after your campaign starts running for at least a week. After the first week, set your goals and re-evaluate at the end of every following week.
  4. Track your progress. Whether you are managing it yourself or especially if you are managing it for clients. To see your progress from week to week will help you know what changes you made that are having a positive impact on your campaign and it will let your clients know that progress is being made.

As I said before, AdWords and other paid search options can be an amazing form of traffic for your business, but when you are starting a brand new campaign stay grounded. Keep your expectations reasonable and give it time. Success will follow.

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Website Woes: What Not to Do

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Whether you’ve just launched your website, looking to redesign, or perfectly content with it’s current performance, it still requires continual maintenance and should evolve over time. Sometimes though, best intentions can actually be bad practices. We’ve compiled our list of website woes to guide you on what NOT to do.

Colin Smith

Don’t over-complicate your website. While keeping up with trends in web design and user experience are positive and keep your site looking fresh, it can easily be overdone. Trying to include too much can lead to clutter, confusion and chaos. Make sure your site is easy to use, looks up to date, and delivers your content in a clear manner. This will keep your visitors happy, and they will be more likely to stick around or visit again. You’ll also be happier in the long run, and avoid a month’s worth of headaches if something goes wrong.

Gretchen Ardizzone

Designing for desktop only. You’ve heard us say before that if you think your visitors are only using a traditional desktop for viewing your site, you need to reconsider. 50% of people use mobile as their primary Internet resource. I can tell you personally, the experience of trying to purchase a product from an eCommerce site that is not mobile compatible is painful. And if you’re driving traffic from a social media source (Facebook, Instagram, etc.) often viewed on mobile, your visitor is going to expect a seamless transition from the platform to your website.  You don’t need to go to the extent of developing an App, but at least consider making your site responsive to mobile and tablet users.

Also, make your message clear on your homepage. Think of it as a cover to a book. You wouldn’t want multiple titles to confuse the reader what the book is really about would you? You may have the flexibility to communicate a couple messages with a call to action on your homepage, but don’t go overboard. If you’re presenting ten different messages all speaking to the visitor at the same level, something important is bound to get overlooked. Prioritize your key messages and have those drive traffic further into the site.

Lastly, it’s easy to think everything is working fine on your site until someone tells you otherwise, but put yourself in their shoes, navigate your site, test buttons, links, and forms every once in a while to make sure things are working as they should be. It’s not every day that someone will take the time to tell you something is wrong, they may just walk away in frustration. Spot the problem before they do.

Luke Pierce

You know what really grinds my gears? Moving chat boxes. When I am a first time visitor to a site and I have to play “hit the tiny little ‘x’ to close the chat box moving target game” I immediately get annoyed and often times leave the site right away. Don’t get me wrong, live chat can be great. I love how useful live chat can be when I actually have some questions to ask, but when your chat box is moving back and forth across the screen blocking my view of the content I actually want to read it drives me nuts.

Instead, utilize a tab that can easily be clicked upon to open a chat dialog or place it somewhere else in the site that is easily accessed. Just don’t force your chat feature on every visitor. Focus on creating great content that gets people excited to talk to someone first. When someone wants to chat, make it easy for them to do so and they will.

Shannon Blair

Please, I’m begging you people, STOP asking me for my email address and other information before you even let me see what you can offer me. There is a rather well-known website that offers you good products (clothing, home decorations, health items, etc) for good prices and the one thing that drives me absolutely insane is that every time I go there I have to log in to see what they offer. I understand the need for information but there is a time and place to ask for such things. Acting like a private club isn’t going to get you far in the online world, and it is definitely not going to help you gain an audience.

Photo Credit: MarcDubois

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How To Find Your Blog Writing Confidence – Part 2

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Part one of this post I wrote last year, and I discussed finding your blog writing swagger. After over year of contributing to our blog I’d like to add build upon finding that swagger. When I first started writing for Shout Out Studio I struggled to find the confidence to sit down and write down my thoughts. Now, I find my confidence in other ways:

1) Read. Write. Plan. Repeat.

These steps, in this order, might not work for everyone but if you haven’t tried it – now is your time. It’s important for me to do these three things on a regular basis to stay inspired to share my opinions in the digital marketing world. How can you write if you aren’t inspired? Pick up that book that everyone has been telling you to read and take an afternoon to get started – it will be beneficial in the long run for you, and your blog.

2) Climb out of that suffocating, inspiration trap, that you call your office. White and beige don’t rev-up my inspiration. I’m writing this blog from my back porch for a couple of reasons: First, because its 52 degrees outside and I think that means summer is close. Second, because it’s new, fresh, and my mindset is inspired by it.

3) You should never let yourself get to the point where you feel pushed to write a blog post (in a bad way). Be pushed by inspiration, motivation, and maybe too much caffeine. However, don’t be pushed by time, pressure, and the need to keep up. Reading, writing, then planning throughout your week will allow you to stay ahead of that time crunch, which can also crunch your writing. Keep in mind there is a difference between time and goals when it comes to blogging. You can control goals, you can’t control time.

4) I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again…keep your voice genuine. You’ve heard that when you communicate via online mediums it’s important to keep your voice – funny, informative, cool, classy, trendy – whatever it is, keep it. Don’t be afraid to add some sarcasm in your posts, if that’s who you are. More often than not, being true to who you are will gain more real listeners than a large mass of followers. Quality over quantity.

Have other tips for finding your blog writing confidence? Share them with us in the comments section below.

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AdWords Certification Tips

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Recently I had the pleasure of going through Google’s certification process for AdWords. I passed. However, it wasn’t the easiest thing in the world to do. It’s not that the material is hard to grasp or that the test itself is difficult. No, the main problem I found with the AdWords certification process is sifting through the seemingly endless amount of information in the study guides and figuring out what Google really wants you to know. I spent the better part of three weeks reading through the study guides that Google provides, reading books on AdWords, and using a paid online resource for question banks and mock exams to prepare for both the fundamentals exam and the advanced search exam. The truth is I could probably have done it in half the time if I knew some of the things I know now. I want to now share with you some of the insights I gained while going through this process in the hopes it may be able to help you become certified quicker and more efficiently.

Skim through the Google Study Guides

If I had tried to pass the exams just by reading the study guides, I am almost positive that I would have failed. It’s true that ALL of the information you need to pass the test lay within these study guides. However, they are mind numbingly boring and very hard to decipher what the big take-aways are from each entry. I read these word for word, sometimes literally falling asleep at my computer, and when I was done I struggled to look back on what I read and say what it was that I actually learned and retained.

If I were to do it over again, I would skim through each section and try to pull out the main ideas (which I said is already hard) if I can. But I definitely wouldn’t read it word for word. To take notes, I wrote down things in a spiral notebook and took screen shots of things in the study guides for reference later. I suggest doing something along these lines. Oh, and you will probably read lots of other people out there telling you to not only read every word but to watch every video too. Don’t bother. Everything covered in the videos are covered in the text, and most of it is useless.

Don’t buy any AdWords books… yet.

I bought a copy of Perry Marshall’s Ultimate Guide to Google AdWords and spent a few days reading that cover to cover. While it is a great book for someone starting out in AdWords and contains some great advice, books like these aren’t going to help you pass the exam. In fact, they are just going to serve as a distraction to you if your main goal is to get certified as quickly as possible. Hold off on buying a book like this until after your certification.

Pony up for iPass Exam (and jump right in!)

iPass Exam is the paid resource I used to study. While the English is a little off at times, some questions are extremely poorly worded, and you have to pay for it, the service does a pretty good job of delivering exactly what you need to know for the exam. In fact, I am fairly certain that if I had just jumped in and started studying off of this, I could have passed the exams just as easily as I did with all the extra studying I did. Make sure you are good about writing down the answer to every question you get wrong. Then go back and test yourself on it again. If you are passing the practice exams on iPass you are probably ready for the real test.

The real test is not as hard as the practice tests you may be taking

I was getting low 80%’s on my practice tests. I got 96% on both the fundamentals exam and the advanced search exam (no big deal). In the real test, there are a lot of questions addressing the same topics, and the questions are worded so you can VERY easily eliminate two or three answers from each question. Overall, the test really isn’t that hard.

With all that said, keep in mind you still need to put some time in to study. If you don’t pass the first time, you’ll have to wait 7 days before you can take the exam again so just put in the study time the first time. Take plenty of notes from questions you miss off of practice exams and question banks and utilize the screen shot to capture pictures of tables and guidelines that Google provides off the study guides. Overall, don’t stress. It’s way more manageable than the study guides make the test out to be.

 

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Favorite Offline Marketing Tactics

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While we may be in the business of digital marketing, we still believe in marketing methods offline. Combining a strong digital marketing strategy with your offline marketing efforts is the best way to have a cohesive strategy in obtaining new customers and communicating with existing ones. Here are a few of our favorite offline marketing tactics.

Colin Smith

A great way to market your brand and build your image is through networking. Online networking has so many platforms to choose from, giving you a variety of ways to connect and engage with customers. But when it comes to offline marketing, it is entirely up to you and your team. That being said, there are still plenty of chances for you to attract the same types of potential clients as you could online. Attending trade shows, industry events, and other gatherings present opportunities where you can hand out business cards, have conversations, and build relationships that will benefit your company.

It may seem old-fashioned, but a person-to-person interaction is still a very valuable way to build your business. You get to represent your brand and make a good impression first-hand. Another upside is you can be selective with who you reach out to, and only spend your time with the potential customers that you would want to work with.

Gretchen Ardizzone

While saying thank you may be more of a courteous business principal than a marketing tactic, the two words hold great power in showing your customers your appreciation. And when delivered personally the message is even more profound.

I recently became a new pet parent, and found myself in need of all the essentials to care of my new member of the family. I brought my dog, Gizmo, with me on the trip to the local pet retailer to acquire the necessary items. The staff was extremely helpful recommending the appropriate items while also doting on my adorable pup.

A week later I received a card in the mail from the retailer saying thank you and congratulations on the new addition to the family. Each store associate personally signed the card and had a genuine message about how great it was to meet Gizmo. Even the associates who weren’t there that day signed saying they couldn’t wait to meet him. It was such an unexpected surprise. Their service alone was enough to leave me a satisfied customer, but the card in the mail was such a delight…marketing at its best!

Shannon Blair

One of the best things to do for yourself or your company in the marketing field is to unplug. Remove yourself from the computer and be in the moment. Reach out to shake a hand instead of send and emails. One of the most refreshing marketing tactics I’ve seen lately are the ones that are taken offline and stepping out from behind the keyboard. Whatever happened to that tactic? Honestly, we need it back.

Photo Credit: Truthout.org

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Overcoming Your Online Marketing Fears

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We’re all familiar with the famous quote, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” made by Franklin D. Roosevelt in his 1933 inaugural speech. Well although times have changed much since then, the emotion of fear still has the power to paralyze our advancement, and the online world of marketing is no exception. Our team got to thinking about some of our own fears and those that others have shared with us, and how to overcome them. Here’s our advice for overcoming your online marketing fears:

Marsh Williams

My very first career was in broadcasting and at one point when I was faced with what I thought was an insurmountable problem, my mentor told me, “The worst decision you can make is to do nothing.” His theory was that even a bad decision moves you forward; it shows you your going the wrong way so you can turn around.

I’ve carried that around for a very long time and it really is at the heart of many online marketing decisions. No matter what we all like to think, there is a still a lot to be learned in this area and things change every year. In that environment, there are no absolutes, no matter what the experts/pundits might tell us. There is still a lot left to learn in The Undiscovered Country (Cha-ching, Star Trek reference out of the way).

While there are some best practices and a lot of things that we know will work, there is still so much to uncover. If you’ve got an idea, try it. Start small, see what can be learned and then analyze the results. That’s how we approach almost everything we do. It keeps the mistakes small and turns successes into math problems that can be scaled up when needed.

The best advice, try things all the time. Learn and try them again with refinements. It beats doing nothing and will always point in the right direction.

Nathaniel Seevers

Blogging is such a big word these days. Hundreds of thousands of people every day take to their keyboards to provide insights, prose, and expertise on every subject imaginable. Everyone has an opinion. Everywhere. All the time. All day long.

It can be scary to put yourself out there for review. To be read and critiqued or even worse, maybe to not be read at all.

When I wrote my first post ages ago I toiled over every syllable and sentence. I double checked links and ultimately when published I still found a damn typo. I remember thinking I was safer writing fiction than trying to be useful. My fear was being misunderstood or misguiding someone who might read my attempt at being helpful.

None of that matters.

To quell the fear we have to be ok with making mistakes. In fact, we have to revel in them at first as they become steps for our improvement. Not everyone is going to agree with our perspective every time. Just as Marsh stated above, doing nothing doesn’t help. As Zig Zigler once said, “You don’t have to be GREAT to START, But you have to START to be GREAT….”

There are few things more powerful than conquering the fear of being vulnerable and being ok with the fact that your voice might be different.

Luke Pierce

Sometimes I get overwhelmed by the vastness of the internet. There are countless ways in which you can try to choose to interact with someone and I, like many people, have this tremendous feeling of necessity to try to tackle them all. When I realize I can’t possibly do them all that feeling then leads to helplessness, and pretty soon nothing of merit gets done in the way of connectedness for the brand.

It’s a fear that many people have about not having enough time to do everything or the expertise to execute everything, but the fact is you DON’T have to do EVERYTHING. The best way to overcome this fear is to start small. Realize that you can’t be everywhere and do everything. Take some time and figure out the ONE or TWO things that you can manage and will help you connect best with your audience. Whether it be blogging, a social media outlet, a site redesign, ad words campaign, or involvement in preexisting communities. If you start small by doing one thing really well, you can build on that in the future to try and tackle the vastness of the web one step at a time.

Gretchen Ardizzone

Striving for perfection is a daunting task in general but when you think in terms of the online world where there always seems to be a trail or trace of history, it can be tempting to want to pontificate the nuances and dwell on details. I’m not suggesting you skip spell check or just go rogue in relation to having a process for putting content out there, but understand it doesn’t have to be 100% perfect all the time.

The first time I had to to be on camera for a video recording, I was so focused on trying to make my points and say it perfect, that I forgot about just having a casual conversation and conveying what I needed to say. The fear of not being perfect can be stifling to your efforts, and sometimes end up changing the context of what you’re actually trying to say. Your marketing messages should come across in a natural way, and not as though they’ve been crafted and re-drafted a million times until they reach no resemblance to your brand.

Colin Smith

Digital Marketing can seem like a daunting task if you are new to it, a lot seems like The Land Unknown. With all that goes into digital marketing, where do you start? What I found to be the most help, is asking questions. A lot of them. It’s the best way to get the answers, without finding out the hard way. As with anything you are new to, someone knows how to help. It will also help you feel more confident as you take on more. In this case, it’s ok to dip your toes in before diving into the pool.

Shannon Blair

Finding and remaining who you are online is an honest fear of mine. For companies, it’s hard to find 0r even keep your voice in the online world. As individuals, it’s challenge to be yourself. How do you overcome it? You strive to be your own person (or company) every. single. day. You can so easily get swept up in being just like the guy next to you when you are online. Yet, being yourself is your own competitive advantage, and most people don’t realize it. Embrace who you are as a company and an individual.

Have any online marketing fears you’ve been able to overcome? Leave us a comment, we’d love to hear your success story.

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Content That Adds Real Value

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As marketers and bloggers, we try to keep up on all of the marketing articles floating out there for consumption. For a while it was really good, it was the golden age of marketing materials. But in our opinion, that time has passed. And lately, we just feel like the same crap is being circulated around the circles we follow. There are a hundred “10 Things You Need To Know About X” articles out there for everyone with honestly curated content with real-world experience examples. Trust us, were guilty of it sometimes too (see Top 5 Small Business Marketing Tools) but we want to take a little time to step back, breathe deep, and think about the things we really want to read from here on out.

Marsh Williams

If you’ve followed us at all you know how passionate we are about helping small business people take advantage of the Internet to grow their businesses, and usually, the first thing we have to do in a client situation is debunk the myth that there is some silver-bullet software solution that will fix everything. Despite what the various marketing and sales teams will tell you, there isn’t.

Although tools are sold based on capabilities, it’s the everyday understanding and uses that makes them valuable. Small business owners seldom have time to deal with theory, they want results and that means actionable direction. A step-by-step guide to an outcome is always going to be more valuable than a statement about theoretical marketing or sales strategies.

As an example, marketing automation solutions are often sold by touting their capabilities; generating more customers, delivering focused content, lead nurturing, etc. But, the real question for many organizations is how do I do that. How do I use these tools on a day-to-day basis to grow my business and delivery revenue to the bottom line? The answer is show me, lead me, give me step-by-step directions based on desired outcomes, not high-level theory. That’s adding value where it is needed in the small business world. Give me something to do that will actually help grow my business, not something that I have to figure out before I can even begin to apply it.

In providing content that leads to the desired outcome value is delivered…that’s where the real focus of content creation can come through.

Shannon Blair

We all know that content with Top Tens and 3 “How To’s” are informative and straight to the point but they often lack inspiration. I often sit down to seek out great content that I can share in the social media world… I mean great things gotta be passed on, right? But I have to tell you it can become tiresome when the content to be found every day is a repeat of last weeks old content about how great Twitter is for small businesses (we get it, people, Twitter rocks our socks too). The content I want to see more of is content based on inspiration. When I say content based on inspiration I mean an article that is perfectly written with not only a clearly defined purpose but with clarity that the author was motivated and moved by something, the really good stuff. This is the content that the marketing and digital world could use more of. There is nothing worse than a day chalked full of boring unoriginal content – come on people, get inspired!

Luke Pierce

I have been trying to grow my Twitter presence lately, and in doing so I have started to follow a lot of well known digital marketers out there. And now I have started to unfollow them. I was so sick of constantly having my twitter feed polluted with links to the same articles on the same subjects written the same way. All day every day. I liked to read that stuff when I first got into the digital marketing business, but frankly, I’m sick of it now. The problem I see now is that there is so much information on theory out there, but minimal amounts of information on the practice.

The marketing articles I really want to see now are the ones chronicling practice, not theory. Give me some transparency. I want to see exactly what people are doing, what worked, what didn’t work and how they are going to try and correct it. Tell me your failures, brag about your successes, and be innovative, not repetitive. Let me see the way others grow. In the future, I want to see way more well-documented case studies, analytics on specific campaigns, and crazy ideas put into practice. Digital marketing is not my religion, I don’t have to take things on faith. Give me cold hard facts.

Gretchen Ardizzone

I read a lot of content that is written from an authoritative, expert point of view, but what resonates with me most, and what I’d like to see more of, is content written from personal experience. It’s one of the guiding principles in many of our own posts. We’ve written about exercises in finding your company voice, why blogging matters, and how to conduct a blogger outreach program, just to name a few. Each of these we wrote from a personal perspective with total transparency.

It’s about positioning content so you’re not just talking the talk, but walking the walk. Writing from a personal experience perspective makes the content more relatable to the audience, and can be a great way to be able to express potential pitfalls that can be avoided based on your experience—what to do and what not to do.

Nathaniel Seevers

It’d be great to see less of all of it actually. Not just fewer sales pitch paragraphs at the end of blog posts, though that one is way, way up there, but less in general. Less focus on quantity and more focus on quality. From that; more stories. More background. More details.

2014 will usher in stronger movements toward reducing the noise and disconnecting. So when you, me, any of us put out content it better be damn worth the precious time someone spends to read it. Readers won’t be asking for more they’ll be purging blogs from their feeds so content has to stick.

There’s no hard and fast rule that says you need to put out a blog post every day to be relevant. We’re in the midst of a blog writing challenge right now as a company – all through January. But quality comes first and we planned our actions accordingly. We’d rather lose than not be useful to our readers.

 Tell us about the content you want to see in 2014.

 Note: This post was written in one hour as part of the HubSpot 30-Day Blog Challenge.

Building a Successful eCommerce Site – Part 3

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In parts one and two of Building a Successful eCommerce site, we talked about location and design, respectively. Those two aspects of eCommerce sites and brick and mortar stores are fundamental to success throughout the life of the business, but even if both those aspects are stellar the business may not succeed long enough to matter. Enter promotion.

First off, don’t confuse promotion for marketing. Marketing is something you should be engaging in at all times, through the life of the business to build and reinforce your brand. Promotion is a specific marketing campaign, in this case, geared towards promoting your new eCommerce site. It’s one of those “all bourbon is whiskey but not all whiskey is bourbon” kind of things.

Business owners often understand the need to promote their new brick and mortar store but for some reason believe that the internet is a magical place that people instinctively know to flock to their new site. There are some familiar ways that people promote new brick and mortar stores like hanging a sign, doing a PR outreach to local publications, and hosted events. Each one of those promotional tactics has an eCommerce equivalent that is easy to do.

 Signage = Electronic ad space or splash page

A Nordstrom Rack recently opened in Columbus. Everyone knew it was coming months in advance because Nordstrom bought significant amounts of ad space on billboards and park benches downtown and elsewhere (some of which are still up). It sparked high levels of anticipation and word-of-mouth marketing. The same thing can be done online. Do your research to find out where people would be excited to hear about your store. Check specific facebook (or other social media) groups, search terms applicable to your product or service, and popular blogs.

Since most ads on the internet are pay-per-click you need to give them somewhere to go. That is going to be your splash page. It’s the equivalent of hanging your banner on the fence outside your brick and mortar store that is containing the construction going on. Make sure your splash page has some information about an opening and a place to opt for an e-mail communication.

 PR Outreach = Blogger & eMagazine Campaign

A press release is often sent out to local print publications about an upcoming brick and mortar store generating curiosity and buzz in the local community. On the web, you want to focus on bloggers, podcasters, and eMagazines to do much of the same thing. Reach out to them and offer a sample of an early product. See what it take to be a part of their content. Keep in mind most bloggers and magazines plan their content out very far in advance so you may not get in right away but planting that seed for a traffic pop down the line could pay off dividends for you.

 Parties & Events = Social Media Contests or Give Aways

Brick and mortar stores usually have some sort of grand kick-off party, sale, or giveaway. It is a great way to open your store to big crowds and generate word of mouth. These things usually include an offer of some kind although it doesn’t have to. Restaurants do it with practice nights where they give away free food to friends and family. Some stores offer big savings to their first customers. You can achieve the same thing with eCommerce stores with a focus on social media. Try doing a social media contest. Raffle Copter can be a great tool. Or maybe put an opening day discount code and share it on some Facebook ads. Social media can be a very powerful tool, but if you are waiting until opening day to start building your audience you have planned very poorly.

Building a successful eCommerce shop is a complex undertaking but the rewards for doing it right are infinite. If most people approach their eCommerce shop with the same considerations as building a brick and mortar store; good location, great design, and efficient promotion the chances of success are in your favor.

Photo Credit: jurvetson cc

dictionary

Digital Marketing Terms Defined

880 461 Colin Smith

If you’re new to digital marketing, you may find yourself in a world full of unfamiliar acronyms and jargon. It can seem intimidating, confusing, and even exclusionary. But, most of the time it’s a way for marketers to communicate with each other in the most efficient way possible. Knowing some of what it means can help you as your company enters a digital marketing venture. Below is a list of commonly used terms you will come across in digital marketing, and what they mean. By familiarizing yourself with these terms, you can feel confident moving forward with your companies marketing goals.

B2B:

Business to Business refers to business interactions that occur between two businesses. It is the way goods or services are exchanged between two companies. This is usually part of the development or manufacturing of one company’s consumer goods.

B2C:

Business to Consumer is similar to B2B. A business to consumer transaction is when a consumer buys a final product or service from a company for use.

CTA:

A Call to Action is a something on your company’s website that grabs the attention of a viewer and invites them to view another part of your site. It can be something like a banner or button, such as a “Learn More”  button at the end of a paragraph, inviting the viewer to continue reading. In other words, it is a lead or a prompt.

Bounce Rate:

This is the percentage of people who visit one page on your site but leave it without visiting any other page. It is better to retain a viewer’s attention and get them interested enough to visit more of your site.

Blog:

A blog is what you are currently reading. For a business, it is a chance to self-promote. You can put out original content, create site traffic, and grab the attention of potential clients. It’s a good way to interact with your audience by starting a conversation.

Brand: 

In marketing, a brand does not just refer to your logo or tagline. It is identifying what you want the target audiences’ perception of your company to be, and how your company’s voice reflects that image.

ROI:

Return on Investment basically comes down to getting the biggest bang for your buck. You want to see results, and developing a strategy geared towards providing ROI (Return on Investment) is the first place to start.

SEO: 

Search Engine Optimization is the visibility of your site in a search engine’s “natural,”  or unpaid, results. The better your site’s SEO is, the more views it will get from this “organic”  traffic.

SEM:

Search Engine Marketing is the promotion and SEO development to increase site visibility.

UX:

UX is an acronym for User Experience. In terms of digital marketing, this is the experience your visitors will have when they visit your site. User experience takes into account the actions you’d like the user to take and the information you’d like them to obtain. The more they enjoy that experience, the more likely they are to spend time looking at what you have to offer.

While this is not a complete list, it can give you a better understanding of what’s being discussed in digital marketing. In the fast-changing culture of the Internet, and therefore digital marketing, it is nice to have a base of reference to lean back on.

Photo Credit: MrPhilDog

Pinterest for Your Business

842 452 Gretchen Ardizzone

There’s no denying there’s a visual aspect to digital marketing especially when it comes to social media—heck look at Instagram, which is virtually an image-based medium with little content. In the last couple years, Pinterest has definitely matured with an audience of 70 million users. From a medium that was once ruled by consumer pinning preferences to a place where brands have pinpointed the opportunity that lies within.

Pinterest has managed to influence many aspects of the online world. You may have even noticed big brands like a natural food market, Whole Foods, and luxury shoe brand, Jimmy Choo has adopted a Pinterest-like visual style to their website design. Most recently during the holiday season Target even created a Pinterest-powered online storefront with the beta launch of the Target Awesome Shop.

So it’s clear that brands understand that consumers like to visualize product, but let’s get back to the real question, how can you make the best use of Pinterest for your business?  Here are some suggested approaches to make Pinterest interesting to your followers:

Not Just Pinning Product

Some brands find Pinterest an anomaly and believe it’s no place for their brand. But if you think out-of-the-box and consider your strategy you might realize it’s a better fit than you think. Don’t be focused on just pinning your product. Pin things that represent your brand, inspire you or even give your followers a behind the scenes perspective into how you make the magic work. One brand who uses their pins to showcase their brand personality is Ben & Jerry’s. You’ll find boards like The People Behind the Pints, The Factory, The Flavor Graveyard, and Fan Photos, which gives recognition to the fantastic brand lovers of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. They even have a history board to serve as a visual timeline for the brand. The key is developing boards that represent your brand accurately and utilize an authentic brand voice.

Create a Guest Pinboard

Create endorsement for your brand and gain traction with your followers with an expert contributor. Piperlime’s Guest Editor, New York-based fashionista, Olivia Palermo, also serves as a guest contributor to the brand’s Pinterest profile with her own board of picks. It’s a great way to engage your audience through a like-minded point of view, but also potentially leverage interest from the guest’s followers too. At the same time explore what opportunities are out there for your brand to pose as a guest pinner for other brands. Whole Foods serves as a guest pinboard contributor for eCommerce site Etsy’s Pinterest board.

Engage with a Creative Campaign

If you’re looking to create awareness about a new product launch or seasonal product, creating a Pinterest campaign might be a great strategy for you. GUESS saw great success with their “Color Me Inspired Contest.” The brand invited pinners to create boards around spring colors that inspired them. The boards were judged by popular style bloggers and winning pinners received color-coated denim from the GUESS spring collection. Another brand who has found value in the campaign model is Michaels. In an effort to build awareness around their new upscale line of frames, “the Platinum Collection from Studio Décor,” the brand launched a “pin it to win it” contest. Little activity was required of the pinners. They simply had to re-pin a frame from Michaels “Frame” board to one of their own boards with a pre-crafted description about the frame, and they were entered to win. The end result was an increase of 86% of followers of the Frame board during the length of the contest.

Pinterest On & Offline

We know that consumers use multiple channels in the shopping process and while they may start by exploring pins online, the actual purchase may end up taking place in-store. Consider how you can bring the Pinterest activity into your in-store experience. Nordstrom was one of the first brands to really make a move with this. The high-end retail brand started to identify the most pinned products online with hangtags featured on racks in-store. We know consumers love recommended products, in fact, we know they’re more likely to select a product that has been recommended than not.

Watch for New Features

In the last six months, Pinterest has launched several new initiatives like Place Pins, which allows pinners to explore pins in a map-like visual. This creates a huge opportunity for small businesses to utilize and put themselves on the map, literally. Not to mention the integration of advertising, and also the recent purchase of VisualGraph, which will allow Pinterest to suggest more relevant content or ads. For example, if you’re always pinning pointed flats (the hot spring trend), it’ll show more of those items instead of high-heel stilettos.

The key is to keep your eye on this social media platform and determine what new elements add opportunities for your brand to engage with the consumer. Monitor others who are doing it well, learn from them and see how you can make it work for yourself. At the same time, you can also use analytics to measure your pinning presence. Check out these recommended tools from Social Media Examiner.

Photo Credit: mkhmarketing

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