social media marketing

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

A Simple Guide To Marketing On Reddit

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Everyone knows that social media marketing can be an incredibly powerful, and these days necessary, marketing tool. Most marketers gravitate to Facebook because it is easy to understand. The slightly more tech savvy will be engaged in twitter or maybe Pintrest. But very few marketers will dive into marketing on Reddit, and they are missing a world of opportunity.

Reddit can be a scary place for a marketer:

  • It doesn’t have a beautiful and slick UI like most of its social media brethren. In fact, it’s more like the craigslist of social media.
  • It’s divided into thousands upon thousands of subreddits. More are added every day.
  • Its users are made up of some of the most tech-savvy and skeptical people on the internet.

Although it’s ugly, incredibly divided, and its users are unforgiving, in my opinion, Reddit is one of the best places a marketer can be today. If you identify where your market is and speak to them in a genuine and honest voice, they can be some of the greatest influencers out there. If you’re interested in capitalizing on one of the best social media outlets in existence, here is my quick and dirty guide to help you do so:

  1. Identify your relevant subreddits

If you are thinking that you are just going to post a link to your blog or website and be on the front page of Reddit, you are sorely mistaken. Trying to land something on the front page is a waste of time. Instead, spend a good amount of time and find out where your incredibly active subreddits are. There is practically one for everything. The people that frequent these subreddits will be incredibly passionate about whatever it is that the subreddit is about.

  1. Become a part of the community

You’ve heard us say this a hundred times before but I am going to say it again. It is called SOCIAL media for a reason. You need to actively participate in the community to have success there. You may have thought you identified your perfect subreddit, but once you get active in it you may find out that is has an entirely different tone than what you thought it would have. Start out by commenting on threads and answering questions. Gradually work your way into posting links.

  1. Have something to say

Once you feel like you have become part of the community, don’t just start throwing up links to your website every day. People will sniff that self-serving type of stuff out super quick. You need to have something to say, and it needs to be good. After spending some time on the subreddit you should have a pretty good idea of what kinds of things people are really interested in. Take those interesting ideas and write something about it on your blog, or post something about it on the subreddit giving advice or asking questions. Don’t just start submitting links to your shop page or company website every other day to generate traffic.

Being successful on reddit, really just boils down to a few things; find the right people, be genuine, and don’t abuse it. As I said before, these are some of the most savvy people on the internet, if they sense one thing off about who you are and what you are doing you won’t get anywhere. However, if you’re smart about it and become a genuine person in their community, it will be one of your best audiences out there.

30 Minute Social Media Strategy

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I am constantly meeting people who are trying to use social media to help grow their business. The trouble is, they aren’t doing such a good job of it. Why? Time they claim. I get it, most small business owners are stretched extremely thin. But time shouldn’t be a barrier to doing social media well. As with anything else, if you go in with a plan your chances of success are much greater. If you follow these rules, tools, and to-do’s, time won’t be a barrier to being successful on social media. I promise.

The Rules:

  1. Don’t post the same content across all platforms – Why? Because you are giving your fans a reason NOT to follow you on all platforms.
  2. Don’t use social media as a megaphone – A lot, and I mean A LOT of people get this wrong. They think that social media is merely an advertising channel and they use it as such.
  3. Interact – This is the whole point. Get social. Go ahead, see other people. Experience new things. SHARE those experiences. Talk WITH people, not AT people.
  4. Take advantage of tools and aids to help you be effective – There are so many good resources out there to help you manage, curate, and communicate via social media. Make your life easier.

The Tools:

  1. Hootsuite – Meet your new best friend. If there is any one tool that will help you manage your social media in less than 30 minutes a day, it’s this one.  Make sure you use Hootsuite’s stream ability to monitor any keyword, search term, or list that pertains to you. It will make retweeting and mentioning a snap later. Schedule out your posts in advance, monitor topics, and stay efficient.
  2. Feedly.com & Scoop.it – Set up an account and set up monitoring on things that relate to your brand on social media.
  3. Google Alerts – Determine search terms that are similar to the terms you set up on Feedly or scoop.it and use Google alerts to monitor the web for them.

The Platforms:

The sheer amount of different social media platforms can be overwhelming but the important thing to remember is that not every platform is for every business or individual. There is no written rule that says every business has to have a Twitter account, or Pinterest account, or Facebook account, etc. Take a minute to think about the content your audience wants and choose the best medium to deliver it to them through. Especially if there is one person taking this on, don’t manage more than 3-4 platforms and don’t forget the first rule, keep each platform’s content unique to the others. Here is a list of some of the major platforms you may want to consider.

  1. Twitter: Perhaps one of the most engaging platforms running today, Twitter can take a lot of work but can pay off in dividends when running right. A lot of people don’t get on Twitter because they don’t think they have anything to say, but they are thinking of it in the wrong way. Instead of thinking you have to have something to say, think about sharing. Share things you find interesting. Pretty soon you will find you have a lot to say. Daily Tasks – Tweet something. Retweet something. Mention someone. Follow someone. Hashtag something.
  2. Facebook: A good Facebook presence has the most up to date information to your business possible. Especially if you don’t have a website you are proud of, use Facebook to keep your community up to date on what is happening with you or your company. Share events, give insight on new products or variations to existing ones and build your audience. Daily Tasks – Post something. Like something. Respond to each comment.
  3. LinkedIn: Get connected with like-minded individuals through groups. While individuals in your network may include long-term business connections or people you just met briefly over coffee, groups are a targeted audience that has similar interests, and essentially help filter the noise. Start small and join just a couple groups where you can monitor discussions. Set up alerts to get notifications when discussions are posted, take 5 minutes to review, and respond when you can provide knowledgeable insight on a subject matter. You can also make it a goal to post your own discussion topics, maybe once a month, so that you’re actively engaging with the community. And if you’re not participating in discussions, allocate those 5 minutes to share good content that you’ve written or read. It’s a less crowded space in terms of social platforms and stands a better chance of standing out. Daily Tasks – Share something. Connect with someone. Add to a discussion (or start a new one, don’t do this one day though).
  4. Pinterest:  The great thing about Pinterest is you don’t have to be a great photographer to use it well, you simply need to curate your content well. If Pinterest is a good fit for your business, the power of engagement can be incredible. For a deeper look at Pinterest, check out Pinterest for business. Daily Tasks – Pin something.
  5. Instagram: Although most social media platforms have some visual element to it, Instagram is almost purely visual. Though they make it easy to make your photos look amazing, not everyone always has amazing things to photograph. If you don’t have a visual product, i.e. if you are not constantly creating something try to find another approach. For instance, Instagram can be a great way to give a behind the scenes glimpse into your company culture. For more information on Instagram download our Instagram guide. Daily Tasks – Photograph something. Respond to comments.
  6. Google+: Although to some it may seem like Google+ is the social platform being shoved down everyone’s throats by Google, it can actually have a ton of benefit for your social media presence. For more information on how to get the best of Google+ download our guide.Daily Tasks: Post something. Add someone to your circles.
  7. YouTube: When thinking of social media platforms, YouTube isn’t often one to comes to peoples mind, but it is, in fact, a social media platform, and an incredibly powerful one at that. If you are taking the time to upload things to YouTube, make sure you have your own channel and monitor it well. Video may be a lot of work but can pay off dividends. Daily Tasks – Respond to comments. Weekly to Biweekly Tasks – Post a video.

The To-Dos:

*30/30 is an app that my colleague Nathaniel Seevers recommended to me. It has proven to be one of the best tools to keep myself on task for something like this. If you really want to stick to 30-minute social media management, this app is invaluable.

Sunday

This is Hootsuite day, and if you can spare the time you should block off an hour, but if you can’t it can definitely still be done in 30 minutes.

10 Minutes – To review what your Feedly, scoop.it and google alerts have caught for the week. See which articles pertain well to you or your product and pick a few to share throughout the week. While your skimming or reading through the articles, jot down lines straight from the text that you find compelling. That way when it comes time to share, you have an easy quote from the content itself. Also, this is where if you can take that extra time, do so. Use up to 40 minutes if you can spare it.

5 Minutes (per platform) – Take 5 minutes for each platform to schedule out your posts throughout the week. Use the content you just curated from the feeder services and shoot for 3 posts per platform, also schedule out posts about upcoming events or product information that your social community would find interesting.

Monday – Friday –

Your tasks throughout the week should really be focused on interaction, i.e. directly interacting with others and responding to people who are interacting with you. This is where your streams in Hootsuite become super important. Make sure you have them set up to monitor things like the name of your product or service, subjects and things that apply to your product or service, or anything else your community would talk about and be interested in.

7.5 – 10 Minutes (per platform) – Ideally you should be interacting in real time as things happen, but if you don’t have the means, block off your 30 minutes and divide the time up equally. Look at your streams and use it as a guide to interacting with people. Also, use this time to add more posts to be scheduled as things come up with your business throughout the week. For specifics, see the daily tasks under each platform.

Saturday – Social media never really take a day off, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. Unless you have a special event, are responding to someone directly, or find something you just have to share at that moment take Saturday off and let the time you don’t use carry over to Sunday.

 

In conclusion, social media can be easily managed by anyone who is willing to prepare, use the right tools, and be diligent about daily management. Is there any other trick you know about to help with social media strategy? Share with us in the comments!

Photo Credit: Robbie Howellcc

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.

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Utilizing User-Generated Content in Your Content Strategy

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Your content marketing plan likely includes a combination of a blog, eBooks, whitepapers, video content, social media, and possibly a few other mediums, but one of the most compelling forms of content is created by your consumers. It’s emotional, passionate and powerful. Businesses have a huge opportunity to leverage user-generated content, and here are a few brands seeing success with this strategy:

BaubleBar

BaubleBar’s Co-Founder Daniella Yacobovsky recently spoke at National Retail Federation’s annual Retail’s BIG Show and shared how incorporating user-generated content is a highly effective tactic for BaubleBar. The brand currently integrates selfie snapshots on their website with the customers sporting their various sparkly baubles in a shoppable slideshow. Customers simply share their pic on Instagram or Twitter using the hashtag #BaubleBar or upload it directly to the website. According to Yacobovsky, “A third of site visitors engage with it and the conversion rate for those who do is 2.5 times higher than those who don’t.”

What’s great about this approach is that it gives the consumer a realistic view of how the product might look on them and inspiration for how to style the accessory. Much more compelling than just seeing the product on a white background, and consumers are able to relate more by seeing it on an everyday person rather than a model. And giving the consumer even more reason to share, the brand also selects three of their favorites every month to win $100.

I’ve mentioned before the value Pinterest can provide for businesses, and BaubleBar is no exception here. What’s interesting is though, the brand realized that “pins posted by others drove 10 times more traffic than BaubleBar’s own Pinterest content, so to encourage shoppers to pin, they redesigned and emphasized the “Pin it” button on product pages.” Instead of just thinking about your Pinterest strategy as a separate entity, think about how you can make it useful in the shopping experience and integrate into your website. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve visited websites and pinned items to my style board to serve as a virtual reminder, and essentially a trail of crumbs to where I can buy the product when I’m ready.

Juicy Couture

To promote its new sports apparel product line, Juicy Couture has engaged with the photo-sharing platform, Snaps to get consumers involved. Snaps is similar to Instagram but allows consumers to edit and add graphic content to their photos. The app has a two-fold purpose for the Juicy Couture brand: to allow consumers to add Juicy graphic elements related to fitness and working out, and share with friends and family, as well as try on Juicy Couture Sports product to see how it looks on them via their mobile device.

The method is effective in branding the images beyond just a hashtag connection and gives the consumer the chance to virtually try on a product, but the user-generated content has potential greater than just the selfie.

Warby Parker

I’ve praised Warby Parker in previous posts for their genius marketing efforts, and this may not be the last. The online eyewear brand with a home try-on program wholeheartedly believes in word-of-mouth marketing has found a way to incorporate user-generated content. The brand encourages consumers to use their social network to help in the selection process of their perfect frame by posting a pic of themselves wearing the various options on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook.  Warby Parker’s Co-founder and Co-CEO, David Gilboa, says, “Customers who post photos of themselves in frames are buying at twice the rate as those who don’t.”

It doesn’t have to be just about promoting the product when it comes to utilizing user-generated content, it can also benefit promoting the overall brand.

Nike

While I may be a marketer, I’m no stranger to my own contribution to providing user-generated content. In 2013 sports apparel brand, Nike carried out one of the most creative initiatives which I was lucky enough to be able to participate in, which resulted in a community of individuals sharing content like you wouldn’t believe…all for a great cause. Nike organized a Women’s 10k event to raise funds for The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, oh and did I mention it was all virtual? Given the fact that there was no specific destination for this event to take place, you might think the participation would be low. Think again though.

So how did it work? Everyone had to register and pay the $40 entry fee. Each runner had to commit to running a 10k distance (6.3 miles) over a 2-day period (March 9th or 10th) whenever and wherever they chose—trail, track, road or gym—using the Nike running app to record their efforts. In true race fashion, each runner received a technical race shirt (Nike branded of course), with a blank space for runners to write in the various reasons why they run…for fun, for a cause, for those who can’t, just to name a few. Runners were then encouraged to share their route and run using the hashtag #letsturnitup.

Participants professed great satisfaction with running for a worthy cause, and over the course of the two days, runners logged 29,524 miles on the Nike running app, and filled Nike’s Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter news feed full of stories of individuals and groups participating in the run. Not to mention, raised almost $50,000 for LLS.

Many runners had never used the Nike running app and were exposed to a new run tracking method, at the same time feeling the reward of accomplishment. And while the event may have been virtual, that day connected thousands of individuals through social media. Well done, Nike.

While the brands I mentioned may have big marketing budgets, small brands and entrepreneurs can successfully utilize user-generated content without a significant investment, but with a sound strategy.

Photo Credit: The Real Estreya

Pinterest for Your Business

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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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How to Enhance Your Digital Marketing in 2014

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Digital marketing done right has the potential to provide a great return on investment to help build your audience online and increase customer engagement. Maybe your digital marketing is performing the way you think it should or maybe you know there’s a better way to do what you’re doing, but just not sure how to do it. Regardless, there’s always room for improvement (for us too), and we’ve identified some ways that you can enhance your digital marketing efforts in 2014.

Nathaniel Seevers

Want to immediately improve your marketing in 2014? Tighten up your mobile presence. 50% of people use mobile as their primary Internet resource. Imagine that. If half of your market is using mobile as their only means to access the Internet and your site isn’t built to engage and convert on smartphones and tablets…

Oh, and there are plenty more compelling mobile stats where that came from. Check out more here from Digital Buzz.

Though we recommend responsive sites as the way to go, you don’t have to blow up your current site to prepare for mobile. If you already have great content and user-friendly navigation on your desktop version consider tools like bMobilzed to adapt your site to a mobile-friendly version. There’s no reason to make it difficult for people to connect with you online.

Colin Smith

It’s a new year, and with that comes new trends. Content marketing is on the rise, and knowing what content to post to which social media outlet allows companies to communicate directly with their target audience, as well as other businesses. By now, a vast majority of companies use social media giants such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ to post their content and broaden their outreach.

2014 will present more opportunities to use a wider range of social media sites for marketing purposes. Smaller platforms such as Instagram, Pinterest, Vine and even Snapchat provide companies with a way to show, not just tell. When used correctly, these smaller platforms can really elevate your online and mobile presence and keep your brand a step ahead of competitors.

Gretchen Ardizzone

One of the ways you can enhance your digital marketing this year starts with first making an assessment of what you’re currently doing—what are your strengths and weaknesses, and where are the opportunities. After you’ve identified those, it’s important to compare against the goals you have set to achieve this year. By doing this you may realize a potential gap in your ability to reach these goals. I’ve worked for companies in the past that have clearly defined what they want to achieve online, but the reality is that department didn’t have the manpower or expertise to reach these goals. That’s ok. One option is working with an outside resource to fulfill the needs to accomplish your goals. Yeah, that may seem like a plug for our services, but it’s really not. This is simply is why companies like Shout Out exist. To serve as a digital marketing partner or an extension of your existing team. Teams like ours can help you plan and execute individual initiatives, or serve as a team of experts to implement an entire digital marketing strategy.

Marsh Williams

Learn the difference between sales and marketing. So many firms use sales and marketing as interchangeable words when it comes to sending out messages that will hopefully generate new business, but they are very different and your expectations should be set accordingly.

Marketing is about establishing your organization within the target audience. It is about giving them a sense of your organization and establishing “pre-sales” knowledge. In this sense ,marketing takes time and has to be done with the regularity of a drumbeat. Marketing efforts take months or years and should have expectations set accordingly.

Plan a marketing calendar, even if you only try one avenue such as blogging, or social media, just pick one area and learn to use it effectively in 2014. You will be surprised by what you find at the bend of a year.

Shannon Blair

One way to enhance your digital marketing efforts in 2014 is to focus on and enhance who you are as a company. Examine the digital marketing work you do and with that – the work you want to do more of in the New Year. One way to do this in an efficient way is to follow your measurements and metrics. By pulling data from various aspects of your digital marketing you can analyze and enhance the parts that you want to do more of. If you haven’t done so already, give Google Analytics a try!

Photo Credit: wenzday01

Ways to Wrap Up the Year

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It’s the end of the year, now what do you do? For each individual what we choose to do can vary greatly. No particular approach is right, but each one can help you either learn from the days of past or plan for the days ahead. Here are some ways we plan to wrap up the year:

Nathaniel Seevers

Though the happenings of the previous year are never wiped clean away, the start of a new year can be a great mental and emotional checkpoint. Both personal and business, there’s value in reflection and building goals around the positive – around improvement and around reward.

This year I’m asking myself these questions:

If I could only pick one, what is one particular area I want to focus on improving next year?
And how. Can steps be mapped out to get there? Then I would ask the same question for our business

How can I get better at disconnecting?
Hard work is rewarding. I love the work we do. I love being busy. But as our resident runner, Gretchen, will tell you, a sprint isn’t sustainable over the long journey. Part of being productive and being our best is understanding how to recharge and what drives the creative process. For me, that means time to disconnect from email and social media, from surfing the internet. I’m working on building more times like that into my weeks for next year.

Luke Pierce

Unless you are ridiculously lucky, I am sure that everyone reading this has faced some sort of adversity over the past year. We all come across misfortune now and again, but that is just part of life. The best thing you can do after a situation like that is to learn from it. The trouble is most people don’t take the time to really think about it and commit to change.

To wrap up my year, I am going to take some time to think about the worst things that happened this past year and how I handled it, probably with a nice glass of bourbon. I hope to not just learn from the past, but I hope to actually change it. They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over. My point is that learning something new is pointless unless you put it into action. Learning is good, changing is better. I suggest you change and usher in a new modus operandi for the new year.

Gretchen Ardizzone

For me wrapping up the year means planning to start the next on the right foot…literally. As Nathaniel mentioned, I’m a runner. This time of year I reflect on the races I ran, the goals I set, challenges experienced, accomplishments made and what it took to get there. And then, I plan to do it all over again. Setting new goals, searching for new courses, and establishing my training. To keep myself organized I even use an excel sheet to track the whole process.

Sometimes by the end of the year, you’re exhausted and all you want to do is decompress (or hang up your running shoes), but getting organized is a great way to successfully start out the new year with a clear focus. For digital marketing one of the best tools I recommend is an editorial content calendar. It can be helpful to plan article and blog post topics, campaigns, ebooks, as well as scheduling social media content. This also relieves the stress of knowing who is doing what and when. You can assign who is writing the content when you plan to publish, and where you plan to distribute. There are a variety of resources you can use like WordPress Calendar or CoSchedule, or even managing through Google Docs or downloading a free excel template can make the process easy. Browse around and see what works best for you!

Marsh Williams

The end of the year is always a special time for me. I really look forward to it for a number of reasons. First, it’s more time to spend with my family and friends which is a very precious thing. Secondly, it’s a time to be thankful, reflect and rest.

Regardless of how any given year goes, there is always so much to be thankful for; people met, lessons learned, successes, and even my failures. Stepping back and looking at things in perspective is a great exercise, a great time to reflect on what happened, what surprised me and what I’d like to change going forward.

Lastly, the end of the year is a time to rest. A time to get ready for the new year ahead, and a time to set work aside for other priorities. We’ve embraced this at Shout Out to the point where we are closed for the full week between Christmas and the New Year.

I hope you have time to rest also and get ready for the incredible things to come on 2014.

 

photo credit: allerleirau
modified by Shout Out Studio

Great Marketing in 140 Characters or Less

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Twitter is something special. We all know that now. There are many elements that contribute to its uniqueness and influential status. Twitter helps connect people and movements, it eases the spread of radical ideas, and it creates a forum for the world to debate on. But one of the core ideas of Twitter is what gives it relevancy in today’s overly indulgent world; it’s tricky and thought-provoking 140 character limit. The character limit forces everyone to think about what they are saying and how they are saying it. It makes everyone pause to determine if what they are saying truly gets to the heart of the message they are trying to convey.

At Shout Out we often ask ourselves how we can help people and their businesses. That conversation almost always leads us to think about what great marketing really is, and more often than not, it gets a little long-winded. Today we thought we would take a moment to think about what we really think great marketing is, and then say it with gusto à la Twitter style.

Gretchen Ardizzone

“Great marketing is storytelling with confidence. It’s real, engaging and ever-changing.”

Luke Pierce

“Great marketing is creating passion, emotion, a deep sense of loyalty, and a tremendous desire to share and spread those feelings.”

Shannon Blair

“Great marketing is having pride in what your company can do, with the confidence and knowledge to do it.”

Nathaniel Seevers

“Great marketing is listening and understanding before speaking. It’s a two-way street. It’s dialogue.”

Marsh Williams

“Great marketing is getting the person you are “speaking with” to want more. Always give them just enough to make the decision to want more.”

Top 5 Small Business Marketing Tools

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We have a running joke here at Shout Out that EVERY time we have a meeting somebody suggests a new internet tool that I haven’t heard about yet. There are so many tools out there that it will make your head spin. For instance, the following list of marketing tools can hardly even be considered the tip of the iceberg. *Note please scroll through to the end for the Top 5

Marketing Tools

For social media there is:

Hootsuite

SproutSocial

Engagor

RaffleCopter

For Website Analysis there is:

SEM Rush

SiteBeam

SEO Quake

Optimizely

*Click through to see more tools and the top 5.

read more

Content Marketing

Content Marketing Matters of the Moment

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When you spend your days working as a marketing consultant and content creator, you can only imagine the number of articles, tweets, blog posts, white papers, newsletters, email communications… (need I go on) read on a daily basis. For some, it could be overwhelming, but for me, it’s what I live for and love… scouring for good content, thought-provoking ideas, and inspiring marketing. So with that said here’s my list of Top 5 Content Marketing Matters of the Moment. This is what’s been on my mind…

1. How Much Personalization is Too Much?

A little while back I read a HubSpot article addressing the question, “How much personalization do you want as a marketer and a consumer?” The subject still lingers with me as I watch the industry continue down a path of personalized content. Through advances in technology and with the use of analytics, online experiences are more customized than ever. My music lists are curated based on previous listening sessions, news content is tailored to what I was reading last, ads are targeted at the products I’ve browsed, but the devil’s advocate in me can’t help but wonder when does it all remove the fun of discovery? Will I ever get back to being a blank slate consumer where I freely decide what is for me?

2. Content Marketing Applies to You Too

Many brands get confused and think, “Oh content marketing is for someone else. What stories do we have to tell?” Sometimes that takes a little bit of an effort to discover for some brands more so than others. We often spend time with our partners talking about what their buyers and consumers want to know in order to determine what type of content is relevant. And other times we just simply ask! One category that hasn’t fully embraced content marketing opportunities is the restaurant category. The whole aspect of food is social and shared. Granted for some brands it may not be appropriate, but without a doubt some of the best content marketers out there are food service brands like Chipotle, and my personal favorites Sweetgreen and Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams. What makes them so successful with content marketing? A compelling brand story at the heart of it all. Spend time crafting that and you’ve got something to share.

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Admirable Brand Marketing

Admirable Brand Marketing

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We spend a lot of our time helping brands increase their marketing effectiveness, but yesterday we sat back and took a moment to appreciate those who are doing it right. Here are a few brands, big and small, we admire for thinking holistically when it comes to marketing and telling their story.

Gretchen Ardizzone—Warby Parker

When thinking about admirable brand marketing, for me, it’s got to be Warby. I watched this brand go from undercover indie to mainstream cool, all while managing to maintain their authentic, genuine, do-good attitude. Warby Parker launched in 2010 with its home try-on program and a mission to offer boutique-style glasses at affordable prices.

What makes it admirable is what they’re marketing is bigger than just eyewear. The brand evokes a physical representation of literacy. Heck, the name was even born from two character’s names, Zagg Parker and Warby Pepper, from writer Jack Kerouac’s journal. read more

Finding Your Company Voice

Finding Your Company Voice

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Is It Hanks?

If you had to choose a public figure or celebrity who most represented the company you work for, who would it be? The team at Shout Out Studio once asked themselves this very same question.

As a new member of the team, I am still getting a feel for who we are and how we talk about ourselves as a company. During my first internal marketing meeting, I asked if there was a simple statement or question we could ask to make sure we’re staying true to our brand and consistent in our tone-of-voice. Someone suggested, “Who is our brand?” Immediately I heard them respond, “Tom Hanks.”

At first, I thought of it as foolish being of the same vein as middle school games such as M.A.S.H. and that fortune telling the game that uses a folded up piece of paper with numbers on the outside. However, the more they explained why Tom Hanks represented our brand, I found my perception of the exercise swaying towards relevancy.

Now, I wasn’t there for the original conversation, which I can only imagine consisted of intense debate about how Tom’s performance was better in Big than in A League of Their Own, or how the best movie of his career was hands down Saving Private Ryan rather than Forest Gump, but I know that they discerned two important characteristics of Mr. Hanks and the characters he plays; he is genuine and helpful.

For one reading this, these specific characteristics shouldn’t matter; rather it is the simplicity of the statement that is most important. The group narrowed it down to two specific characteristics, and like any good design, there is beauty in simplicity. Don’t get caught up in how silly the exercise feels or the subject matter. Focus on the simple direction and the insight it gives to the company’s brand identity.

Tom Hanks represents Shout Out Studio’s most valued characteristics of our brand voice, thus giving us one simple question to ask before we send a tweet, write a blog post or give advice to a client. Is it Hanks?

So, if you find yourself asking, how do we go about finding your company voice? You just might find this exercise will provide clarity and consistency to your brand and communications.

Photo credit: Howard Lake

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Using Instagram’s New Tagging Feature For Marketing

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Could the new tagging feature improve Instagram for marketing?

You know how Insty is already thebomb.com for creative and visual interaction with fans of your company? Well party people, it just got turned up a notch.

Put down those not-so entertaining pics of cats, food and #selfiesunday’s. Instagram has a new secret treasure they have unlocked:

The new tagging feature.

Put simply, this new feature is a quick and easy way to store fan photos of your company. Before this feature, you received a notification when someone mentioned you in a photo and you had to repost/regram every photo onto your own Instagram for your followers to see it. Who has time for that?

If you haven’t stumbled upon it already simply click on the profile button bottom right, then the icon on the far right in the bar under your bio. read more

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Basics for Getting the Most from LinkedIn

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Building a Solid LinkedIn Foundation

Just because you have a presence on LinkedIn doesn’t mean it’s doing things for you. LinkedIn is considered the world’s largest audience of influential, affluent professionals in one place, and they are gaining one new member every two seconds. Use this almighty information to your advantage. Here are straightforward, but often overlooked, basics for getting the most from LinkedIn.

4 kick-ass things you should be doing on LinkedIn?

Share Information.

You find a cool new tool that helps your business and you keep it all to yourself. Well, that’s selfish. Share it! And don’t do that ultra-mega social media blast unless it is earth-shattering information. Pick what info you are going to share on which social network.

Why? Because each platform could mean a different type of audience for you. An awesome Ryan Gosling meme will be loved and shared on Facebook but on Linkedin, that’s not what your audience is looking for. And don’t just share your own articles, curate great info your connections and groups can use. read more

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