Month: March 2014

Using Instagram to Build Brand Awareness


Social media users in 2014 know that if an endless litany of Candy Crush invites, political sloganeering, and viral video after viral video is what they’re after, Facebook stands ready to deliver. For those who just want to take a few minutes to peer into the lives of their family and friends—or to make some new connections in a more relaxed and intimate setting—Instagram is increasingly the social platform of choice. That’s not really a dig at Facebook, but it should come as no surprise that this former “niche” platform is taking more and more users’ social media time.

Your brand should be there, too. There’s an old saying about show business, that just showing up is half the challenge; if you want consumers and clients to remember your brand, then a big part of the struggle is to just be present where they’re present—which means being present on Instagram. And if you can actually take the time to optimize your presence for building strong, positive brand awareness—well, that’s even better.

Encouraging Engagement

Many brands are active in sharing photos on Instagram—product photos, behind-the-scenes shots, and so on—and that’s certainly an important part of Instagram brand building. Important though it is, you’re not really using Instagram as effectively as you could be unless you’re actively fostering user engagement. To put it another way: any brand can share photos of its own products, but the real test is whether you can persuade your followers to do likewise.

Here’s a compelling case study. Last year, Ford used Instagram to create a Europe-wide social media campaign, celebrating its new Fiesta vehicle. The company encouraged its Instagram followers to upload images featuring the vehicle, tagged with the #Fiestagram hashtag. The best images were celebrated in online galleries and even on digital billboards in major European cities; the very best entries won brand new Fiestas.

Ford encouraged its followers to really engage with the brand, and to become brand ambassadors in their own right. The result: 16,000 photo submissions, 120,000 new Instagram followers, and hundreds of thousands of visitors to those online galleries—all in just about a month and a half.

Part of the Story

To put all of this another way, social media marketing is all about storytelling—telling the story of your brand. Sales pitches don’t really work on social channels, least of all on Instagram; you need to have a strong narrative thrust in order for your efforts to bear fruit. The sweet spot is when you can not only tell the story of your brand, but also feature your customers in leading roles.

Related Class: How to Use Visual Storytelling to Build Your Brand

Clothing company Free People is excellent at this. The company places a heavy focus on Instagram, essentially turning its customers into fashion models by encouraging them to upload photos of themselves wearing Free People clothing. These photos are featured on the site in virtual galleries, and other users can “like” or comment on the outfit combinations that they like the best.

This is not only a great way to foster involvement—because who doesn’t want the opportunity to shine as a real, honest-to-goodness fashion model?—but it has the added bonus of showing off the sheer array of clothing combinations Free People’s lineup allows. For those who may not want to model themselves, the Instagram account offers some creative, helpful fashion suggestions. Win-win.

Call to Action

A final point to make about Instagram brand building is that here—as ever—your best efforts may offer little return unless you adorn them with a strong call to action. On the Starbucks Instagram account, the company offers a simple prompt: “Tag your coffee photos with #Starbucks.” In doing so, the company has encouraged customers to submit countless whimsical, creative, or simply beautiful images of their daily lives, with Starbucks products somehow worked into the frame—an elegant and effective way to engage users and boost brand awareness.

That’s the secret to smart Instagram use: to build awareness for your brand, you have to call on your customers to show how your brand means something in their lives.

To take advantage of Instagram and other social networks to grow your business's social media reach, view Jason Kane's Online Marketing Class, "Fundamentals of the Tier 2 Social Platforms: Tumblr, StumbleUpon, Quora & Instagram" in the eLearning library today.


Amanda E. Clark is the president and editor-in-chief of Grammar Chic, Inc., a full-service professional writing and editing company. A published ghostwriter, Amanda is currently under contract with literary agencies in Malibu, California, and Dublin, Ireland. Her company specializes in brand management, content marketing, social media strategy and professional resume writing. Amanda invites you to visit Grammar Chic online at and


5 Tips From Mass Mutual‘s Customer Experience Transformation


While MassMutual Retirement Services now has many customers who opt in to access content for retirement and financial planning…it wasn’t always this way.

MassMutual, an industry leader, was humble enough to realize that it needed insights regarding customers’ expectations for meaningful digital engagement. The company used the insights from Voice of Customer (VoC) relationship research conducted by ERDM as the basis for a complete revamp of its customer engagement strategies.

Related Class: Engagement Strategies: The Digital Customer Experience Case Study

As a result of its new initiatives, MassMutual experienced triple digit results. Here are five tips you can use to rethink your customer engagement strategies.

1. If you haven’t significantly updated your customer engagement strategies within the past 12 months, you're out of sync with the changing needs of your customers. MassMutual realized that today’s generation of customers has much higher expectations for the relevance and value of communications than previous generations of customers.

Per Kris Gates, VP of customer experience marketing at MassMutual's Retirement Services Division, “We learned that our customers now want communications driven by their individual preferences and interests. Based on VoC research learnings, we created an online, humorous, “down to earth” webisode series to address customer concerns and confusion.”

Gates adds, “Subscribers opted in to be alerted to new episodes. We used the rollout of these new educational webisodes to measure the difference in response between mass emails to an entire list versus preference-driven offers to those who had opted in. Results from customers who opted in to receive information versus the mass email population: 94 percent higher open rates, 1,062 percent higher video views, 100 percent deliverability, and Zero unsubscribes”

2. Engage customers in a relevant social media community. The MassMutual “Smart View” video series has a direct tie-in to social media. Videos referenced the MassMutual RetireSmart Facebook page, which enabled customers to have a multichannel engagement experience. This multichannel involvement helped customers become a part of a community rather than just be email recipients or video viewers.

3. Listening and responding to customers are now essential. MassMutual listened and responded by creating unique programs to address customer needs. Per VoC research findings, consumers:

  • Have shifted from being passive recipients of “push” marketing to selecting companies that engage, listen to, and act on input from customers and prospects.
  • Expect frictionless, high-value engagement across every medium in the multichannel mix. Engage with your messages across multiple media to ensure message and brand consistency across all your media.

4. Create content that delivers significant value to your specific audience. MassMutual developed a content strategy built around “value building” education. The company created educational content that taught customers about complex products, but in a humorous and nontraditional way.

5. Promote your content across all elements of your media mix. MassMutual promoted the webisodes across multichannel communications to encourage engagement. For example, it offered customers the opportunity to connect with the SmartView YouTube webisodes by including schedule information in e-newsletters.

Related Class: Metrics-Drive Demand Gen in a Multichannel World

In summary, when it comes to successful customer engagement you need to start with the premise that customer needs and expectations have profoundly changed. Be humble. Gain an in-depth understanding of what your customers truly expect from you.

Then, use the five tips above to create strategies that engage customers in a relevant, multichannel experience with your brand.

To see more real brand examples that demonstrate how to effectively create engaging destinations for your customers, view the Online Marketing Institute class, Building Digital Destinations & Customer Experience, today!


Why Should I Learn Social Media When I Already Use It?


Social media is easy, right? You just set up an account on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and all the other social media platforms, start posting and you’re away – wrong!

You can’t simply read a few articles about being a lawyer, accountant or business professional and become an expert, so why is social media any different? So many people think that gaining certificates or learning social media courses isn’t necessary – well, that’s a slap in the face for the social media industry and the professionals within. In fact, it’s an insult to the entire concept of education.

Let’s explore why learning social media helps to complement on-the-job experience.


Whether you’re a marketing professional or business owner, you must avoid making mistakes at all costs. While it’s true that people learn by making mistakes, it should be noted that making mistakes on social media negatively impacts your customers and business. Why would you risk gambling with your clients’ businesses by refusing to learn about social media? That’s just arrogant and dangerous.

Mistakes can be prevented and decision-making improved if people take the time to learn about social media from accrediting bodies and companies. Trial and error isn’t an effective or advisable method of decision-making.

Timeless Fundamentals of Social Media

Social media isn’t a stand-alone discipline; it incorporates SEO, content marketing, lead generation, sales, HR, customer service, advertising, marketing integration and so much more. To understand the multi-functional use of social media, one must first learn the fundamentals.

Related Class: 5 Fundamentals of Integrating Social Into All Digital Efforts

The most common complaint about learning social media is that the design of courses can’t keep up with the rapidly changing pace of social media. Yes, platforms change, new ones appear and older ones evolve, but there remains a set of fundamentals that can stand the test of time.

Social media is a place to connect and engage with human beings. Building relationships and being social is the key to success on social media. Once you’ve formed relationships with your target audience, the concept of sharing relevant and useful information will always be an area of importance regardless of how fast social media changes.

Analyzing your social media activity and customer responses requires the use of on-site or third-party tools, making the concept of testing and measuring timeless. New tools and apps are constantly being created; you don’t need to know them all – simply how they should be used and the benefits they reap.

The fact that social media changes so frequently should encourage educators to provide fresh material so they can’t be accused of being static or out of date.


I spent the first 30 years of my life with a somewhat anti-academic approach to work and my career until I realized that I couldn’t gain the experience I needed without the necessary skills and knowledge to succeed. It’s a classic example of the chicken and egg – how can you gain experience unless your skills are in demand?

Of course, you need experience to prove you can apply what you’ve learned, but you need to learn first.

OMI’s Social Media Certificate program is built to specifically address these needs for the business professional and marketer. Upon completion, you will be well-rounded in your knowledge of all social media, understand the baseline principles that drive success on any platform, and have the skills to impact ROI. Most importantly, you’ll learn to develop a strong underlying strategy to focus your time, efforts, and budget—so social media doesn’t turn into a chaotic free-for-all. Enroll in the Social Media Certificate program today!


How Do You Spell Video S-U-C-C-E-S-S? Focus on All Parts of the Equation


Success is a nebulous word. One person’s success is another person’s failure. In order to attain it, you first have to define it. That advanced defining should be the first step, but instead it is often the vital missing step.

Before you create that great, engaging video content and then set about distributing and sharing it, start with your goals and target audience. From there you’ll be able to determine what to measure - and how it should be measured.

  • What is it, exactly, you want your video content to accomplish and whom are you targeting?
  • Will your video truly be of interest to your audience?
  • Are you seeking out high view counts or deeper engagement with your identified audience?
  • Do you want an immediate response or are you trying to change brand perception over a longer timeline?

Pedigree recently launched a series of videos to promote its new campaign “See What Good Food Can Do.” The campaign is an interesting mix of brand awareness combined with a specific call to action, with distribution across YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and live events at the Sundance Film Festival.





The objectives:

  • Promote shelter dog adoption
  • Share Pedigree’s mission to provide all dogs with access to the professional nutrition that is often found only in premium diet
  • Highlight the impact Pedigree has made in the lives of countless shelter dogs
  • Connect with shelter dog adopters/advocates and those interested in adopting

Before creating its content and developing its distribution channels, Pedigree decided how it would measure its success.

Related Class: How to Create an Integrated Multi-screen Video Strategy

What would you measure if this was your campaign?

Do you measure by high view counts?

Gaining many views has value in that you know your video is being exposed to a large number of people and those numbers can assist with your SEO ranking, but…a high view count doesn’t necessarily translate to engagement. Did the consumer watch the entire video or just the first few seconds? Did she “like” it without watching it?

Do you measure by deep engagement?

With your specific audience, success may be attained through increased numbers of comments, or time watched, rather than by views or likes or follows. The numbers may be smaller, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t successful – quality over quantity.

Do you measure by shares?

Perhaps you want to connect with “evangelists” – those individuals who will do more than like or click through, but will share, repost and blog about your campaign, too. Again, numbers might be lower in this category, but this one comes with a ripple effect. One share often begets another.

The tools available for measuring are evolving on a daily basis and there are plenty to choose from: YouTube Analytics, Google AdWords, StumbleUpon, Virool, LinkedIn and Vimeo, just to name a few. As with establishing your definition of success in advance, you’ll want to determine the measuring tool in advance. Choose one that measures what you want to evaluate, rather than one that provides what it thinks you should want to evaluate.

At the end of the day, remember that you have to set the standards you want to achieve in advance and then create that amazing content, promotion and distribution. Then measure before, during and after your campaign so you can monitor your progress and adjust course if necessary.

Now you’re talking SUCCESS.

To learn how to tell a story that will start conversations and build relationships with customers, view Denise Roberts McKee Online Marketing Institute class, Story Telling in the Digital Age.


SEO for Start-Ups: 3 Powerful Tips for Driving SEO Traffic Early On


According to CBInsights’ latest seed investing report, only 40 percent of seeded companies go on to raise follow-on round of financing. Sixty percent enter the dead pool. Hence, growing a company efficiently and effectively becomes critical in creating a sustainable business, which would eventually make the company a two marshmallow company”!

“Two marshmallow companies” are companies that invest in long-term strategy and growth versus short-term quick gains. The “two marshmallow” citation relates perfectly with your SEO strategy and the way you think and strategize long-term sustainable traffic growth. So, how can startups get their SEO strategy right from the get-go? Here are some key points to keep in mind while planning your SEO strategy.

#1: Build SEO accessible sites – from the beginning

This is a common pitfall for a number of start-ups because the site wasn't developed with SEO in mind. The homepage is hosted on subfolders (e.g.,, the URLs are non-SEO friendly (e.g., and there are a host of duplicate content issues. Building an accessible site is the foundation of great SEO.

Source: SEOMoz

It’s important to build an accessible site both for users as well as for search engines. Search engines distribute PageRank or Link Equity for every page that they crawl – if there are a number of duplicate pages on a website or if pages are buried too deep within the site structure, the PageRank for those pages gets diluted, which in turn affects the strength of all pages. To understand how this works, let’s take the example below:


Let’s assume a website as PageRank 8 – when search engines crawl this website, it distributes ~85 percent of the link equity onto the linked pages. If within the website you were to have duplicate pages, this would dilute the PageRank proportionately.

In the above example, due to adding a duplicate page “D” onto the site architecture, the overall link equity being passed is reduced from that level onwards.

#2: Deciding with data to drive ROI

Getting an analytics platform and Google Webmaster in place and keeping a close eye on key performance indicators is critical to growing your startup efficiently. Here are a couple of key performance indicators that I would recommend all marketers track (at least) on a monthly basis:

1. SEO visits: non-branded, branded and “not provided”

  • Branded: Keywords that contain your brand name.
  • Non-Branded: Everything else.
  • Not Provided: The notoriously cryptic segment of keywords created to confuse marketers!
  • With Google encrypting all SEO data, it’s become tougher to analyze segments of traffic within analytics. We recommend using Google Webmaster Search Query Data to understand how your brand vs. non-brand keyword segments are performing.

Related Class: How to Target and Implement the Right Keywords

2. SEO average order value, conversion rate and eCPC

  • Tracking and comparing the above metric with other channels and marketing programs is imperative in making decisions around which campaigns are driving a higher ROI and which aren’t. This helps you decide the areas where you should be doubling down!
  • It’s important to get a comparative view of PPC vs. SEO eCPCs to understand which channels are working best for you and drive the highest ROI.

3. SEO number of landing pages driving traffic

  • This is an important post-SEO project indicator of how well the projects are working for you. Keeping a track on these metrics helps analyze if your deeper pages are being indexed, ranked and driving traffic.

Related Class: Mobile Search Trends and Best Practices 

#3: Hire an Agency vs. In-House

All startups face two common challenges: a) resource constraint and/or b) budget constraint. Due to these two challenges, it becomes difficult to set up a team that just concentrates on all the various elements of SEO – keyword research/data mining, content, platform architecture and link development. Hence, SEO often get de-prioritized.

Getting off the ground with the help of an SEO consultant or agency helps in getting that early start.

The illustration below explains the various stages of a start-up along with areas of SEO you will want to focus on.


Lastly, just to iterate how important it is to devise your SEO strategy early on and continue to invest in it - if done right early on, it can be a competitive game-changer!

To develop a strong understanding of SEO, including tools, strategies and best practices and apply these proven methods to organically and continuously determine the most relevant keyword phrases for your site, enroll in the Online Marketing Institute Search Engine Optimization certification program today!


5 Steps to Creating an Internal Blogging Program


In today’s digitally-focused, buyer-driven world, you need a company blog. Your blog is a great resource for both generating leads and increasing thought leadership and awareness. But how do you get all of the content you need to post blogs on a consistent basis? This question comes up time and time again when I speak to other marketers about optimizing and growing their blogs.

At Marketo, our blog is a critical element of our content marketing strategy and we post at least one blog per day during the week. When I first began managing the blog, coming up with five blog posts a week was hard. I simply didn’t have the content. So as a result, I spent countless nights feverishly writing blog posts to make sure I hit our target post number.

There had to be a better way to reach the number of posts we needed! The answer was to develop an internal blogging program to evangelize and incentivize blog contribution across the organization. To build a company of content creators was a true sea change, a real cultural shift, as employees hadn’t historically contributed. At Marketo, our program has been highly successful. We have over 30 regular blog contributors now, our traffic has steadily increased and our social shares are up 86 percent since program launch.

Related Class: How to Leverage Business Blogging for Traffic Leads and Sales

So, how can you create an internal blogging program for your own organization? Read on to learn best practices that can help you succeed:

  • Understand and address internal barriers to success. You need to ask yourself, why aren’t people contributing to your blog currently? Is it that people don’t have time? Maybe your teams are afraid of writing? Or is it overall lack of interest in contributing? Understanding what hinders participation in the first place can help you make your program more relevant.
  • Incentivize blog contribution. Get your teams excited by gamifying your blog program. Align incentives to blogging milestones. As an example, when someone writes and publishes three blog posts she gets X, and then when she gets to seven blog posts she gets Y. If you have the budget to do so, put some enticing prizes behind your program like Fitbits, iPads and more. If you don’t have a budget, no worries - what about company swag like t-shirts, branded beach towels and so on.
  • Develop formalized guidelines. Don’t leave anything up to chance. Develop formalized guidelines and publish them. You want to cover blog post length requirements, post topic suggestions, SEO guidelines, formatting guidelines, social media guidelines and the submission process. Answer all of the potential questions a contributor may have.
  • Provide training and expert resources. One of the big barriers to blogging is that not everyone is comfortable with writing. Offer a handful of formalized training sessions to cover your program and basic best practices on blogging. Another option is offering one-on-one blogging consultations for interested participants - you can help with writing and ideation. 
  • Meet with internal stakeholders. You need to get all of your executives on board in order for the program to work. If you can get their buy-in, you can get the buy-in of their teams. So evangelize your program! Create a list of the key teams you want to blog and meet with team leaders. Tell them about your program and ask for their help, and then determine a meeting cadence for check-ins to see if their teams are participating. 

Helping to incite a cultural change is tough, but doable. The key to a successful blog is diversity of content and a consistent content frequency. By developing a formalized blogging program you can incentivize your teams to contribute and before you know it, your program will gain momentum.

For additional marketing insights from Marketo's Dayna Rothman, enroll today to view her Online Marketing Institute class,  Creating Content that Converts: Lean Content Marketing for Lead Generation to learn how you can create engaging content that converts with less time and resources than you ever thought possible.


5 Ineffective Actions Most Sales Executives Are Taking On LinkedIn


As LinkedIn gives sales professionals direct access to targeted decision-makers and influencers, it can be and should be one of the most powerful tools in their arsenal. However, many sales professionals complain that they are not getting an ROI from their LinkedIn efforts. They are making many connections, but they are generating very little leads and sales.

There are many reasons for why this is happening, including:

  • Poor targeting; they are connecting with anyone that comes their way.
  • Having a resume-based LinkedIn profile that does not pique their interest further since it’s not case study driven.
  • Only spending 15 to 30 minutes per day on LinkedIn. This does not give you time to make meaningful connections, build a community of key decision-makers who have an interest in your area of expertise, nourish relationships, or engage in conversations.
  • Taking the five actions listed below.

Ineffective LinkedIn Action #1: Email Scraping

Inside one of the LinkedIn groups that I belong to, the CEO of a high-tech industry business development firm mentioned he’s using software that scrolls through LinkedIn and extracts the contact information of people who represent his ideal target market. He’s then transporting the information with one click of the mouse to his Salesforce CRM where his sales team can send personal emails introducing his services. Sounds good in theory, right?

However, he is “cold emailing” out of the blue.

Instead of taking the time to build and maintain relationships with key decision-makers by providing value where they want to opt in for more information and enter his CRM, the CEO is forcing prospects into their funnel. These prospects he’s entering into his database are not even marketing qualified, as they have not shown any interest or need.

Ineffective LinkedIn Action #2: Trying to  Sell Too Soon

Once a connection is made on LinkedIn, or once a prospect joins a LinkedIn community, many sales executives try messaging the prospect with a quick description of their products and/or solutions. They then suggest a phone call to discuss how their company can help their new connection. Most of the time, these messages are ignored. In fact, one sales executive I recently spoke to mentioned that he may get two responses for every 100 to 150 emails he sends.

Prospects on LinkedIn don’t want to be sold to overtly. In fact, a recent LinkedIn report for the technology industry shows that 75 percent of IT buyers would be willing to connect with a vendor, but they are hesitant because they don’t want to be inundated with marketing and sales pitches. They want to be educated. They want relevant content that will help them with their challenges so they can make smarter business decisions. Focus first on establishing a relationship and demonstrating your thought leadership and relevance, then on moving prospects down your sales funnel.

Related Class: LinkedIn Marketing Engagement Strategies 

Ineffective LinkedIn Action #3: Using LinkedIn Groups as a Place to Distribute Your Newsfeed  

Many sales executives are taking advantage of LinkedIn groups. They’re useful for prospecting, but also as a place to get wide exposure with targeted audiences, as you can easily share content. However, they’re sharing content in an ineffective manner.

Before working with my LinkedIn marketing firm, a CEO of a software firm for the recruiting industry had his sales team post content at least three to four times a week, sometimes more. But they were generating very little traffic and leads from LinkedIn.

The sales team was not creating relevant, thought-provoking discussions that had context and standalone value. They were simply sharing the first couple lines of the blog post and a link, so there was no engagement. Their links were getting lost in the deluge of wall-to-wall newsfeed-like posts, press releases, and promotional content.

By creating real conversations and earning the right to get their prospects’ attention by sharing valuable insights before linking to the CEO’s blog, we increased traffic by 3,620 percent in six weeks.

Ineffective LinkedIn Action #4: Becoming Too Much of a Resource                   

Many social media experts tell you to share other people’s content 80 percent of the time and your content 20 percent. On LinkedIn, I think it should be reversed. Most sales executives are so focused on curating and sharing other people’s content that they are becoming known as a resource. But, prospects invest in thought leaders. You’re able to put content directly in front of key decision-makers – yet you are sharing industry news and other people’s content. Our clients are sharing their case studies and thought leadership information and getting 11.5 times more engagement.

Ineffective LinkedIn Action #5: Focusing Too Much on Gated Content

As I mentioned several times throughout this article, your prospects on LinkedIn want a value-added relationship with potential vendors. But they don’t want to jump through hoops and break down gates to get the information that can help them with their business decision. They want you to act like the rest of their network (their peers and established experts) by having a point of view and freely sharing valuable content.

As a marketer myself, I know the importance of landing pages and getting prospects to sign up for white papers, webinars, and other offerings. But you need to prove to decision-makers that they’ll want to enter the next stage of the relationship.

Now that you know what’s not working on LinkedIn, fix your actions. Then, let me know if you start generating more leads and sales using LinkedIn.

Watch author Kristina Jaramillo's Online Marketing Institute featured class, Optimizing LinkedIn Marketing Efforts for Lead Generation to learn more about how to increase the ROI from your LinkedIn marketing efforts today!


Predicting the Digital Marketing Future: Learn from the Analog Past


Marketers have historically worked to get noticed in the marketplace – it’s the nature of their role on the team. Identifying that next big thing, before the competition, can mean the difference between being a market leader or a never-was.

Advancements in technology over the years have helped marketers reach more customers in pursuit of market share, and as each new media arrives it makes its predecessor old.

Identifying the right technology is half of the formula; knowing when to adopt is the other. Too early and nobody gets it. Too late and nobody cares. Remember the guy with the first fax machine? He couldn’t wait for the second guy to buy one.

History has shown advancements in technology dramatically impact outbound marketing – marketing messages that are broadcast, aka “multiplied,” to reach more consumers. It also teaches what we can continue to expect in the digital future.

The Technology of Print 

When Gutenberg invented the printing press in 1450, suddenly one message could be multiplied, replacing verbal communications and the need to tell that one story over and over again. Even though print was new and innovative, adoption was slow because the masses didn’t have access to the technology or didn’t know how to use it (most consumers could not access books or read). Not until the technology became widespread and easily accessible did print reach critical mass.

Three hundred years later (1730), print magazines emerged as the first public media, enabling businesses to promote themselves within a collection of content. Repurposed print advertising emerged as poster advertising in 1839 and adapted to smaller public spaces with high traffic and frequency, yet larger billboard advertising wasn’t available for rent for another 30 years (1867). Over time models emerged that demonstrated opportunity meeting application, generating profitability (ROI).

New Media

In 1878, Bell invented a “new” type of media called the telephone, connecting two people over a wire from a distance. Radio connected one-to-many (40 years later, in 1920) over a greater distance with an antenna. Six years later, in 1926, television transmitted sound with moving pictures.

Like print, radio created a marketing vehicle for business via sponsored content (1922), yet the first television advertising didn’t debut until 1941 – nearly 20 years later. New models for new media came faster than print, although it was nearly a century before telemarketing emerged as a strategic use of the telephone in 1970. 

From Analog to Digital

In 1972, 500 years after its invention, print was declared dead for the first time. Television – the newest new media – was named the culprit.

A year later (1973), digital was born with the mobile (handheld) phone and people began connecting on the move. Eight years later (1981), personal computers helped marketers manage consumer data on a PC, and within three years, we all began to create digital content (1984) on a Mac. Technology multiplied – again – to provide more for the masses via desktop publishing (1985) and SMS messaging (1990) on the millions of increasingly functional phones. The same scale came to television in 1990 as satellite brought more content to a larger audience on-demand.

Enter the Internet

In 1989, Berners-Lee invented the Internet. Only two years after academia adapted this new media (1992), marketing interjected spam messages (1994) within their message board content. Internet directories created to catalog content (1994) initiated search engine marketing strategies (1995) to influence the listing order provided to “users.” 

User-generated content was self-published (like empowered desktop publishers) by consumers in 1998 with their own opinions and agendas (aka bloggers), and the customer began sharing information, engaging brands in new ways, and creating value for other customers asking, “What’s in it for me?”

With this, media and technology shifted to inbound marketing –bringing the consumer to the brands – at an incredible speed.

  • 2003: Social media emerged to provide a community of different types of users.
  • 2005: Search engines personalized results based on preferences.
  • 2006: E-commerce expanded the marketplace.
  • 2007: Mobile advanced with increased bandwidth for music and video.
  • 2008: Apps extended the functionality of handheld communications.
  • 2010: Email marketing reached 90 percent spam.
  • 2011: Social sharing enabled customers to provide ratings and feedback.
  • 2012: Geo-targeting placed ads based on customer location.
  • 2013: Augmented reality supplemented the customer experience.


History shows we can only expect this rate to increase. Technology is already developing faster than consumers can adopt, and the costs to utilize them all – analog and digital – are more than a business can invest. Decisions must be made about which channels to utilize and how much is enough to reach your target markets. 

As marketers work to make sense of their digital future, here are the things we know from our analog past.

Lessons From Print

  • No matter how interesting or unique, until a technology becomes widespread and accessible, it will not become a media communications channel.
  • One media will divide into more media, and content can adapt to any container.
  • Over time, models will emerge that demonstrate best practices and ROI.

Lessons From New Media

  • “New” media is subjective – there’s always something new.
  • The evolution of a new technology into a new media channel takes time.
  • Timing is everything.

Lessons From Digital

  • The consumer is mobile and accessible.
  • The consumer’s data is readily available to make informed decisions and to deliver targeted messaging.

Lessons From the Internet

  • The time needed to exploit a channel for marketing communication has been reduced dramatically.
  • Most accommodate a business presence and are designed to include a marketing opportunity.
  • Earned media is not paid media: don’t get the two confused.

Remember, fortune favors the brave. The future of marketing belongs to the same people who have owned it to this point: the visionaries, the innovators, and the early adopters. The ones who can learn from the past and analyze the present are best prepared to anticipate “what comes next” before the rest of the crowd.

To stay current and on top of "what comes next", subscribe to Online Marketing Institute's award-winning eLearning Library, which offers hundreds of digital marketing classes to choose from.



Adjusting Your SEO Strategy For A Post-Hummingbird World


What Is Hummingbird?

While Google makes small tweaks to its algorithm up to 500 times per year, Hummingbird marks the first time in 15 years that Google has completely replaced the entire base of its search algorithm. While only 10 percent of searches were impacted by the Panda update, and 3 percent by Penguin, Hummingbird impacted 90 percent of searches. So why didn’t webmasters know about the Hummingbird update until a month after its launch? According to Matt Cutts, despite the large number of searches impacted, the impact to users is not yet as noticeable as previous updates.

Why Did Google's Search Algorithm Change?

Over the past few years, the web has become increasingly centered on mobile and conversational search. To better serve searchers, Google came up with Hummingbird to reflect this new behavior on the web. The two main goals of Hummingbird are speed and accuracy, hence the reason behind the algorithm’s name.

Google strives to provide prompt search results and also shows preference to sites that will deliver a similar experience. Therefore, Google has placed speed as a top priority in order to minimize the time to serve results and find new content. The speed aspect of the Hummingbird update will not have a direct impact on a site’s rankings, but it does reinforce Google’s continued focus on providing a faster user experience. As far as the accuracy aspect of Hummingbird, rather than only matching certain keywords to pages in its index, Google is now placing a stronger concentration on interpreting the intent behind a user query. This emphasis on intent behind a web page will likely mean a more diverse set of search results that rewards quality content on potentially less authoritative sites for queries that were previously dominated by large sites.

Post-Hummingbird SEO Strategies

With Hummingbird’s emphasis on speed and accuracy, the main focus for optimization efforts should be on efficiency – across the board. Does this mean you need to change all of your previous SEO strategies? No, but you do need to refine them.

Although Hummingbird is only the beginning of user-experience-focused algorithm improvements, Google’s understanding of the intent behind a query will only continue to grow. This places an increased importance on clearly showing how a page's content clearly answers the question asked by users' search queries. Keep in mind the idea of explaining a “concept,” rather than focusing solely on keywords. Creating content that provides value, such as providing a thorough overview of a topic, answering a question, providing tips or solving a problem, will have longevity. Further, concentrating on user needs helps to create evergreen content with ongoing relevancy that will, over time, gain authority.

With Hummingbird’s focus on improving long-tail queries and conversational search, keyword rankings shouldn’t be directly impacted for sites that produce high-quality unique content.  Beyond content, general on-site search engine optimization best practices still apply, but priorities must shift from targeting isolated keywords to targeting complete concepts, optimizing Title Tags, Heading Tags, URLs, Body Text and Images. For example, instead of The North Face – Fleece Outerwear Warmth Ratings, you might instead want to use How warm are Fleece Jackets from The North Face, and Comparing Fleece Jackets – The North Face. Focusing on concepts and intent will ensure Google recognizes what your web page has to offer.

Strategically, you should be thinking about how you will create content that fully addresses each phase of a consumer's buying process, by answering their questions and providing expert content they can't find anywhere else. Creating authority in a post-Hummingbird world is all about better addressing the context of user queries. Google searches for this context in the content of the current page, as well as the links to and from that page, so it's important to consider how your content will link together, and optimize those internally as well as externally. As an example, The North Face might create a content section that covers the Benefits of Performance Outerwear for Sports, linked from a section on Outdoor Sports, linking to a section comparing types of Performance Outerwear. In developing this content, it’s covered three stages of the buying process (Stimulus, Information Search and Consideration) while also creating contextual relevance for each individual section.

Related Class: How to Use Search to Maximize Your Content Marketing 

The Hummingbird update is tailored to an increasingly mobile audience of people on the go – those who conversationally search for something and expect prompt results. With nearly half of all searches originating from mobile devices, a well-optimized mobile site is essential. The best way to ensure a successful mobile experience is to use responsive design.

Rather than having separate desktop and mobile sites, responsive design allows the same content to simply be reformatted to fit the appropriate screen. Responsively designed websites serve the same HTML on the same URLs to 100 percent of users, but utilize device/screen size detection and flexible CSS to change how the page is rendered. Responsive design is perhaps the most future-proof mobile experience strategy, as it can accommodate a diverse set of devices and screen sizes now and in the future, while reducing reliance on redirects and consolidating resources that need to be downloaded by Google and end users. Responsive design enables a website to work as efficiently on mobile as it does on desktop, which is extremely important for gaining the most organic search traffic possible.

In terms of off-site optimization, links continue to be an important ranking factor, post-Hummingbird. The good news is that if you are creating authoritative, thorough content, links should be easier to gain, as other sites will be more likely to link your site as either a source or a useful reference. It's also important to consider how your social media presence is aiding you in building SEO authority. Use your social media channels to build credibility for your brand, and connect with influencers, who are likely to read and share your content. While it's always important to optimize your presence on Google+ and Facebook, you should also look for other niche social channels that reach your target audience. Although social media platform optimization cannot take the place of link building, Google does prefer authoritative brands and considers brand mentions in social media, especially on Google+, to be positive signals of this authority.

Efficiency is the main takeaway for post-Hummingbird strategies. A site that thoroughly covers relevant concepts and provides valuable content to searches will have a higher likelihood of appearing for search queries. In addition, full integration into the social media atmosphere will ensure customer engagement, further establishing brand authority. A site tailored to the customer will help Google understand the site’s intent and trustworthiness. Once Google finds your site relevant and important, you’ve struck SEO gold.

In association with leading research firms and industry associations, the Online Marketing Institute has developed in-depth, advanced SEO certification program, geared specifically toward marketing and Internet professionals who wish to expand their organic presence, quality scores, and relevant traffic. Enroll today!


B2B Marketers: The Millennials Are Taking Over, Are You Ready?


By now, you are likely well aware that Millennials (aka Generation Y, age 18-32 today) hold the keys to your company’s future. Many of them are already customers, vendors, and up-and-coming sales rock stars (even though many avoid writing complete sentences or care to use the shift key). By 2025, they’ll also make up 75 percent of your workforce, and businesses will be vying for their creativity and fresh thinking. Why wait to move forward and bring them into your fold? How can you win over the “best and brightest” of these rising stars now? What are the best platforms and strategies for reaching this social and mobile generation? 

This isn’t just interesting food for thought - it’s serious business for big B2B industries like manufacturing, which is responsible for $1.9 trillion of the U.S. gross domestic product. A recent® Industry Market Barometer® (IMB) survey of more than 1,000 American manufacturers shows a troubling trend: they’re not working hard or fast enough to attract Generation Y. These companies are dominated by 45- to 65-year-olds, many of whom are ready to hang it up. Yet, they have very few Gen Y staff to succeed them, and they don’t see this changing soon. The results show a serious disconnect - manufacturers acknowledge there is a problem, but are not taking sufficient action to tackle it. Hundreds of thousands of jobs are going begging in manufacturing, and many could be filled by this important group.

Manufacturing needs a brand makeover to capture and hold the interest of this key demographic. Indeed, three-quarters of the survey respondents say that negative perceptions of the manufacturing profession are preventing younger people from joining them. At a time when additive manufacturing, robotics, and other advances are making manufacturing a hot technology sector, many Americans still view these jobs as “dirty, rote, grease under their fingernails” positions.

Today’s digital and mobile platforms and strategies offer manufacturers - and other B2B marketers - abundant opportunities to inject the “cool factor” into their industries. Social media, blogs, video, and mobile all support this objective.

Related Class: Building a Social Media Strategy for the Manufacturer

These are the channels where Gen-Yers work and live, and just “showing up” improves B2B marketers’ chances of reaching promising new talent. The magic really starts when marketers leverage them all and strategically link them together, using compelling and informational content to engage and interact with young people by sharing stories, perspectives, and more.

In the manufacturing industry, much of the content that appeals to these individuals will be visual. Want to make over a “dirty, stodgy” image? YouTube is the perfect channel for showing a gleaming manufacturing plant, with 3-D prototypes being printed, engineers operating complex machinery, and robots handling assembly work (with lots of sparks flying, of course). Want to show that a day in the life of a manufacturer means innovating new technologies? Post compelling video interviews that showcase some of your younger stars.

Visual also means pictures and graphics. Engineers, for instance, are starting to share interesting images, infographics, drawings, and more on Pinterest. Instagram is bleeding into the commercial space, too, and presents a fun way to humanize a B2B company and connect with people visually.

You never know where you’re going to meet just the right talent, and that’s why engaging across social media platforms is so important. Todd Berg, president and CEO of Liftomatic, which makes drum- and barrel-handling equipment, was thrilled to land a speaking engagement at the University of Wisconsin because of his Facebook presence. He saw this as an opportunity to get students excited about Liftomatic and the innovation associated with manufacturing.

Accessibility should extend to mobile platforms, too. By 2015, tablets will outnumber desktop computers, and companies need to be ready for them. Your website should be optimized for viewing on smartphones, which are permanently attached to Millennials. Consider developing apps that will make prospective employees’ and customers’ jobs easier, as well.

And back to your content - which today represents your brand, whether you are recruiting talent or customers. Remember that content that “attracts by educating” and is fundamental to helping, engaging, and influencing people. Quality, unique content is key to reinforcing you as the “go-to” company in your space. B2B marketers who use digital content like a magnet, and in all the right places, will be the winners in the race to engage Generation Y, positioning their companies for a more successful future. 

For techniques and tools to help you create great content to deliver on your B2B content strategy, view Online Marketing Institute's class, How to Create Content for B2B Marketing.