Content Marketing

How to Succeed as a Small Business on Instagram

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Editor's Note: Matt Foster is a Content Strategist at Distinctly. Today he joins us to explain how a small business on Instagram can build their presence, and effectively engage with a diverse audience.

 

Since it was introduced in 2010, Instagram has become one of the most popular and widely used social media sites, competing with Twitter as a key platform for business users. So how can Instagram benefit you as a small business?

In December 2016, Instagram boasted over 600 million followers: a world of potential clients and customers for small businesses. This enormous market is often tapped by bigger brands looking to develop their social media marketing efforts, while smaller businesses sometimes assume it will not work for them; this simply is not true. In this article, we’ll show how to raise brand awareness and reach a larger customer base as a small business on Instagram. Let’s get started!

Target Your Content

After setting up an Instagram account, it’s time to post content. But where do you start? The key to success on Instagram is knowing the kind of content that will capture the attention of your audience. As a small business, it’s important that you know who your target users are, and tailor content to their interests. Begin by looking at your current customer base, and decide who they are in terms of age, location and gender. Once this information is clear, it’s easier to make an informed decision on content and hashtags.

Hashtags and trending topics are important on Instagram, and many will be relevant to you. When a hashtag relevant to your business blows up, it’s a great way to reach a wider audience beyond your followers. Adding hashtags to the content you post means it can be easily found, and posting content that is relevant to current trends can do the same. Both techniques are good ways to not only gain followers, but generate brand awareness in your target market.

Keeping your Instagram content related to your company brand is important, and this can be done by choosing a niche theme. When you have a theme, followers know what to expect, and will rely on you for similar posts down the road. It can take some experimentation to find something that is both unique and well-received, but once you’ve found something that works, you can focus on perfecting it.

A woodworking business based in Georgia, USA - Sons of Sawdust - reclaimed wood to create new products. By taking photos of their projects and posting them online, the company has created a popular online portfolio showcasing their work, and providing a behind-the-scenes demonstration of their processes. To make sure the right people see it, Sons of Sawdust uses relevant hashtags – #workshop, #oldwood, and #salvage, for example – so it will be found by a wide variety of users interested in woodworking.

A small business on Instagram

Engagement is Key

Being active and engaging your audience is vital to building a successful presence as a small business on Instagram. You can post great quality, relevant content, but if no one knows you have an online presence, you will struggle to grow it. Start by telling current customers that you have social media accounts by putting a link to your Instagram on your website, and advertise it on other mediums like Facebook and Twitter. Include all social media links in your email signatures to drive traffic.

Consistency is a tremendously important way to keep your audience engaged, so content should be uploaded on a frequent and regular basis. The more active a small business is on Instagram, the more engagement they will see in return.

There are optimum posting times for Instagram, so try to establish a routine and post when most of your audience is online. Social Insights and Iconosquare are tools that will help you find the best times to post for maximum engagement, and both use analytics to optimize for your unique follower-base.

Another way to gain a large Instagram presence is collaborating with another local business or organisation that has already established themselves on Instagram. Working together exposes you to a pre-existing audience, and expands your own base.

Instagram has become the social platform for influencer endorsements. Do research to identify an influencer who shares your product, service, or target audience on Instagram, and build the relationship through engaging, ultimately inquiring about them promoting your business.

You can approach and offer between $20 and $100 they will promote your product or brand to their followers. There are plenty of research tools you can use to target the right influences for the size of their following in set niches, although be aware this must be matched with high levels of engagement of their followers when they post content.
Alasdair Inglis – Marketing expert at We Are Grow

Be Unique and Stand Out

In order to create an engaging Instagram account, it is essential to stand out from the crowd. So where do you start in terms of generating unique content? Your business likely offers a product, service or experience that is sold to customers through a unique selling point (USP), and you can use this to attract followers.

The London Helicopter has special access to bird’s eye views of the London skyline every day. The company’s USP lies in offering an experience that many people want to see, and that very few get to see. As a visually oriented platform, Instagram is a perfect place for this company to showcase these experiences and share them with followers who are unlikely to forget the brand if they are ever on vacation.

The London Heli Instagram

Have a Consistent Style

As mentioned before, consistency is key to all forms of social media and Instagram is no exception. But while many companies remember to post consistently, they often neglect stylistic consistency. People follow a brand because they want to see more of whatever attracted them in the first place, so giving it to them is important.

A popular way of doing this is to concentrate on a branded color palette throughout your content. Oreo does this well by using the same house style and color scheme in each of their posts:

Oreo Instagram

Instagram is About More than Gaining Customers

While social media can absolutely help you to gain new customers, it isn’t just a quick way to boost your business and market your products. It also works to demonstrate excellent customer service, and the quality of people who work for your business.

There are many ways businesses and brands can benefit from this besides the acquisition of new customers:

Boosting Sales Among Existing Customers: Businesses who show great customer service on their social media accounts are likely to see a boost in sales and profits. Research by Aberdeen Group found that brands who are good at customer service benefit from an annual financial gain of 7.5%, against the typical 2.9%.

Creating Brand Advocates: Using social media turns your customers into brand advocates. If a customer has a good experience with a brand on social media, they are three times as likely to recommend that brand to a friend or family member. This is how word of mouth works in the digital age.

Creating a Positive Image: Social media platforms are a good way to show old and potential customers alike that you are interested in them, and this matters even if you aren’t getting direct sales from your content. 74% of shoppers list social platforms as a main influence on whether or not they made a purchase, so it is important for brands  to focus on customer care and maintaining a friendly, outgoing public image.

Like other social media platforms, Instagram gives your customers a space to interact with your company, a chance to retain old customers, and gain new ones. Using it effectively means appreciating the unique qualities of a visual medium, and being sincere in your efforts to build a positive image that your brand will be remembered for. Getting started isn't hard, and it's well worth it - hopefully the advice above will help you to build your presence on a platform that is teeming with opportunity.

Learn more with these related OMI classes:

B2B Social Visual Storytelling on Instagram, Pinterest & Tumblr

Creating and Curating Content People Love

Social Media Strategy for Business

Visit the Online Marketing Institute to browse over 400 classes in the digital and social media marketing space.

 


Infographic: Boost Your Social Media Presence Without Ads

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Editor's note: Belle Balace is a social media strategist with Visme. Today, she joins us to explain how companies can maintain a social media presence with limited resources. A version of this article first appeared on The Blog Herald.

 

While social media should never be an afterthought for online businesses, remaining active can be a struggle without the resources to maintain a paid manager, or launch paid ad campaigns.

Good news! There are ways to boost traffic to your site and increase your social media presence without paying a dime. By launching a social media employee advocacy program, you don't have to find new talents or overload your staff with extra responsibilities.

Social media employee advocacy reasonably assumes that almost everyone uses social media on a day-to-day basis, and if everyone in your company pitches in a little by sharing the latest content from your brand, you can boost your social media presence quickly and organically.

In this infographic, we’ll explain how it’s done.

Key takeaways:

  • Inform employees about the need for a social media presence and what it will do for your company.
  • Ask them to like or follow company pages across social media networks.
  • You or your company leader should take charge, and set the example by staying personally active in sharing brand content.
  • Have good content to share: interesting, informative, and not blatantly promotional. Everyone should feel good about it.
  • Start slow, and build over time. Less is more when employees do not feel coerced.
  • Incentivize social media sharing by issuing prizes to the most active employees.

Here’s the graphic. Enjoy!

Latest Visme Graphic

Learn more with these related OMI classes:

Social Media Strategy for Business

Creating and Curating Content People Love

Visit the Online Marketing Institute to browse over 400 classes in the digital and social media marketing space.

 


How Storyteller Marketing Can Build Your Brand

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Editor’s note: Josh R Jackson is contributing editor at BestMarketingDegrees.org, where an earlier version of this piece first appeared.

 

People would rather be told a story than be told what to do.

That’s why instead of shelling out for traditional advertisements that simply tell us what to buy, organizations from almost every industry have also been using storyteller marketing to frame their purpose, scope, and reach. This is showing rather than telling, and it just so happens that more industries than usual are using this method today, from automotive, to education, to online media, to manufacturing, to construction.

Why? Because good marketing is storytelling. In drafting a message, marketers intrinsically testify to a brand’s value for its audience. Simply put: every time a brand markets something to us, they are telling and selling us a story that is meant to persuade us that their brand is worth our time, money, and attention.

Brands also engage in storyteller marketing because the practice is one of the best, most surefire ways to build brand identity, and secure the trust of discriminating prospects.

So how can your brand harness the power of storyteller marketing? The answer is simple: understand and imitate the greatest minds in storyteller marketing history, and take a page out of their books.

Book 1: The Bill Gates Story

On January 3rd, 1996—over a year after the Internet was privatized—Bill Gates published a column on Microsoft’s website, decreeing “Content is King.” In what would only take a few short scrolls, Gates declared (in “Hear ye, Hear ye” fashion) that the Internet would soon become a boon to publishers everywhere, predicting that on the information superhighway, the value of “information and entertainment” would reign supreme, and that “Those who succeed [at monetizing its value] will propel the Internet forward as a marketplace of ideas, experiences, and products—a marketplace of content.”

What happened over the next 20 years bore out his prophecy. While the private Internet initially served as a two-dimensional billboard for advertisements that were based predominantly in brick-and-mortar businesses, it soon became a multi-dimensional space for the exchange of goods, services, and ideas: an online marketplace based on the concept of creating a global village where any transaction could take place.

The takeaway? Like Gates, pay attention to cultural trends that your brand can not only participate in, but drive. Write strong opinions that are based on the direction your brand is pushing the market, and work to ensure that your brand is consistently pushing the market in that direction—not just through marketing, but through investment and action.

The reason Bill Gates seemed to predict the future in 1996 is not because he was a prophet, but because he worked to tell and sell a story that many people at the time either believed or were already working to make a reality. Gates saw that the market was headed for the industry of communication and technology, and explained that direction in terms that anyone could understand. Then he worked tirelessly to ensure that story became a reality: Microsoft was an early adopter of the World Wide Web, and used the platform to build a website rich with content to promote both their products and their brand.

Book 2: The Content Marketing Story

A few years after Bill Gates’ declaration of the content monarchy, banner advertising gave way to paid content, while new and complex software became a hot commodity. Online businesses were starting to need people who could explain the purpose of their product, software, or service to those who weren’t tech-savvy. They started needing people to tell their stories, and they started needing a new medium with which to do it.

What they got initially was news coverage, like a CBS story from 2005 on a little startup called Facebook. Along with Google, Facebook quickly became one of the largest Internet companies in the world, and a medium that online brands would find indispensable for spreading their story.

Online businesses began to hire full-time, in-house brand managers to explain the value of their company. Creative role titles like Chief Storyteller, Explainer in Chief, and Content Manager were coined to refer to someone who tells a company story. It would be the job of these professional explainers to condense and simplify a company’s message into a few short sentences that were so easy to understand, even a five year old could get it.

The takeaway? Use every medium you can to tell your brand story. If budget permits, hire talent to accomplish this. That talent doesn’t have to be a seasoned storyteller with degrees in journalism, new media, and marketing—they just need to be a clear communicator.

The reason brands need this level of media engagement and talent is not only to earn a seat at the table. It is because, as communications guru Carmine Gallo has written, “no rhetorical tool is more effective than the story,” which means that working to spread a brand story with maximal talent carries a guaranteed return on investment.

Book 3: The Revolutionary Story

Five years after Facebook, four years after Twitter, and the same year as Instagram entered the scene, an industry had grown up that fed demand for creating and telling a brand’s story. By 2013, even small startups were grooming themselves to join the ranks of new media publishing companies that were participating in what has been called the “content marketing revolution”: the marketing movement in which storytellers have come to play the most important role, telling an informative story with every word, image, and video on this side of the screen.

As Alexander Jutkowitz tells it, this movement “signals more than a mere fad.” Indeed, it is a turn of the page to “a new chapter in the history of business communications,” the new chapter of “corporate enlightenment.”

The takeaway? Telling brand stories has become an art form. Do it in a way that places your brand firmly within the context of broader social, political, and ethical movements. Do it in a way that is artistically relevant.

The reason this type of marketing works is not because “all the cool kids are doing it.” If it were, all brands would be the same, and arguably none of them would be cool.

Storyteller marketing works because we’ve entered a new era of marketing history, and it’s become necessary for every brand to illustrate that it is different. A brand must prove itself to be more socially, politically, and ethically aware of its surroundings than its competitors are, or might have been in a previous day and age.

So What’s the Big Story?

The art of telling a brand story has become not only popular, but essential to surviving as a business in the twenty-first century.

The rest, as they say, is history.

How will you tell your brand’s story? Consider taking stock of your brand’s purpose, scope, and reach, and take a class on what makes for an effective storytelling strategy.

Learn more with these related OMI classes: 

Storytelling in the Digital Age

Best Digital Branding Practices for Small Businesses

Creating and Curating Content People Love

Visit the Online Marketing Institute to browse over 400 classes in the digital and social media marketing space.

 


Top 10 Ways to Boost Your Paid Traffic Conversion Rates

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So you’ve got your Google AdWords or other PPC advertising up and running, but now what? Unfortunately, the work is far from over if you want to achieve optimum results.

In fact, the hard slog begins as soon as your campaign goes live. By this we mean optimization. More specifically, conversion rate optimization (CRO). And when it comes to perfecting your paid traffic, there’s always room for improvement.

What is CRO and why is it so important?

So you might be getting the traffic, but what good is that if you’re not generating any decent leads yet? CRO is about changing things up on your site and applying different tactics to enhance the user experience, and ultimately turn visitors into customers. It’s an effective way to improve your conversion rate without having to increase your overall adspend.

Over to our proven top 10 CRO tips.

1. Match your message

It’s absolutely imperative your ads align with what’s marketed on your website. Be genuine and don’t make overzealous claims about your product or service that could mislead your visitors.

Make sure the landing page you’re sending them to has the content they’re looking for. High bounce rates can account for visitors clicking through from your ad, only to be presented with a landing page that doesn’t deliver the goods.

2. Optimizing your Landing Page?

bounce-rate

The readability and relevance of your landing page is another big factor that can determine whether your visitors stay or jump ship.

What kind of user experience are you creating for your visitors once they click through to your landing page? On a very basic level, landing page optimization can be boiled down to 2 key factors - matching intent and testing different ad sets.

Check out this class to learn more about optimizing your landing page to improve conversion.

3. Tweak your headline

As in other forms of advertising, your headline is the attention grabber. So take the time to refine your hook. Adding numbers to a headline is always a useful trigger, but make sure they are relevant.

4. Review your call to action (CTA)

Just as important as your headline is your CTA. Ensure you are clear and direct about the desired outcome. What is it that you want your visitors to do? The copy and design of your CTA can make a big difference to your conversions. If you have a text link CTA, consider using a button to make it stand out more. Creating a sense of urgency in your copy will also go a long way.

5. Add videos and images

The buzzword for 2016 was video and this still holds true. Including a video on your landing page is more likely to spur interest and engagement from your visitors than text. Among the different types of videos, Introductory, review and explainer videos tend to provide good results.

Don’t overlook image selection either. Choosing the right image can evoke the kind of emotions that will turn visitors into customers. On the flip side, the wrong image might send them off in the opposite direction. Never underestimate the power of an image!

6. The proof is in the social pudding

We all love a recommendation - it’s why word of mouth is so effective, followed closely by social proof. Including proof of your brand likes, shares, customer reviews, testimonials and product ratings will influence purchase decisions, and also build trust.

7. Speed up your site

It’s the little things that count. Site speed can make a huge difference, so you should at least check to ensure your website is running at its best. No one wants to visit a site that takes ages to load - who has time for that? You can lose dozens of prospective customers thanks to a few milliseconds of lag.

8. Show your scarcity

For e-commerce sites in particular, scarcity is a powerful tactic. Including the limited number of stock available for certain products will create a sense of urgency for a visitor, and instigate an immediate purchase response. Why would they want to miss out if there’s only “2 left in stock” or if you’re running a limited time deal?

9. Include contact information

Prominently including a phone number, email address or other means of contact on your homepage adds more credibility to your site. Just knowing they can talk to a real person if they need to makes visitors feel more comfortable and raises trust of your products/services.

10. Test it out & analyse

You won’t know what works best unless you test. Running A/B split tests on important variables like your landing page copy, sign up forms, color palette, images and CTA will help towards improving your conversions.

Heat maps are also a great way to understand what attracts your visitors’ attention, by clearly showing where their eyes are drawn on a page. Based on the data you receive from a heat map, you can add or remove details from your page accordingly.

We don’t suggest you start implementing all of these tactics at once; you may find that one small change will go a long way. This is where it’s handy to have a dedicated Google AdWords expert to advise you on best CRO strategy can be helpful. Whatever you do we hope these tips will help pave the way to higher conversion rates for your campaigns!

A version of this article first appeared on Paidtraffic

Want to learn more about any of the subjects mentioned above? Here are some relevant classes: Turn Website Visitors into Customers via Conversation OptimizationCreating and Curating Content People Love, Social PR

Visit the Online Marketing Institute to browse over 400 classes in the digital and social media marketing space. Ready to start learning? Sign up here!

 


10 Ways to Amplify Content Promotion Strategies

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Generating content is the first step in engaging your audience, but your job isnt quite done once the content is out there. In order to get the most out of your content, you need to understand how to market what you have. Employing content promotion strategies can help boost your reach. Here are 10 ways you can expose your content to more prospects.

1. Ask For Contributions from Top Influencers

By publishing content, you automatically leverage the attention of your existing audience, but tapping into a bigger influencers larger base can open up your content to a wider crowd. How do you do this? Simply cite and link to top influencers when applicable. When you mention these influencers, you have a good chance of getting them to share the content, thereby exposing it to their audience.

Related Class: Finding Influencers to Amplify Social Reach

2. Give Those Influencers Meaningful Incentives

If you hope for an influencer to share your content, you must be prepared to give something in return. Give influencers an incentive, whether its a promotion or a product review, or any other form of mutual exchange. In turn, they are much more likely to help build your audience by sharing content on their platform.

3. Engage Niche Communities

It would be great to achieve mass appeal across a wide range of audiences, but that’s not how you should focus your attention. Instead, focus on the smaller segments that your content appeals to most. You might have content that specifically appeals to online marketers or the tech community; if thats the case, seek out places where these people tend to gravitate, and stay active in those communities.

4. Using the Skyscraper Technique

One way to create content with a built-in audience is to use the skyscraper technique. The idea behind this method is to find the best content thats already published by your competitors and build on it. Any content can be improved on with better design and more in-depth material. This isn’t the same as plagiarism, or spinning: borrowing ideas and making them better isn’t stealing. It’s how all writers, artists, thinkers and innovators thrive.

5. Create Hero Content

Rather than focusing on quantity of content, work on bigger and better content. Concentrate on producing resources that can be marketed and promoted, and spend the effort getting it out to the community.

Related Class: Creating and Curating Content People Love

6. Use Native Advertising

content_promotion_strategies_2

Native advertising is paid content that fits into the standard structure of a site. Native advertising usually performs better than something like a banner ad, as long as it doesnt come off as pushy, or clash with the tone of your site.

7. Use Broken Links to Your Advantage

When you write powerful content, find other sites that have linked to similar articles, and identify those with broken links. You can use extensions to identify sites with broken links or broken redirects. Then, contact the staff to suggest your article as a replacement for the broken link or redirect. It may sound counter-intuitive, but it works. If they agree, that backlink will help your SEO for that particular page, thus improving the visibility in Google’s organic results for that article.

8. Buy Niche Property

If you are already a large Internet business, buying niche property is a viable option for you. While obviously an expensive prospect, acquiring an existing site that focuses on your market is a great way to quickly expand your platform and get your content out to the right audience.

9. Give Incentives to Sharers

Contests and access to exclusive content are both great ways to increase your audience’s engagement. If you provide them something in exchange for sharing your content, you can gain considerable growth directly from that incentive.

10. Use Snip.ly

Snip.ly is a tool for creating banners on the bottom of your content that links to other articles and resources on your site. This is a great way to keep site visitors around longer, which helps garner clicks and improve usability metrics.

Content promotion strategies can significantly boost your audience reach, which means more clicks, leads and sales. While I’ve touched on a number of these methods, don’t get overwhelmed: dedicating yourself to just one or a few can have a big impact.

Nick Rojas is a self-taught, serial entrepreneur who’s enjoyed success working with and consulting for startups. Using his journalism training, Nick writes for publications such as Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, and Yahoo. He concentrates on teaching small and medium-sized enterprises how best to manage their social media marketing and define their branding objectives.

Want to learn more about any of the subjects mentioned above? Here are some relevant classes: Finding Influencers to Amplify Social ReachContent Marketing Strategy for Social MediaCreating and Curating Content People Love

Visit the Online Marketing Institute to browse over 400 classes in the digital and social media marketing space. Ready to start learning? Sign up here here!

 


Content Strategy: To Outsource or Not to Outsource?

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Over 200 million people use ad blockers, and that number is continuing to rise. This means that traditional online advertising is less visible than ever. In fact, the day may come when old methods fall entirely out of use. On the other hand, content marketing costs 62% less than traditional advertising, generates three times as much traffic, and is still an excellent way to market your brand. But who is going to do all the work?

In some cases, you can execute a content strategy alone or internally. In other cases, outsourcing content writing will definitely serve you well. Take the time to learn when and how to pass content marketing tasks to someone else.

Relevant Class: Introduction to Content Marketing Strategy

First, Discover the Right Time to Outsource

Can you handle your content strategy execution alone? It is a lot of work, and the idea of delegating it to someone else is enticing. But consider carefully before making any decisions. Here are criteria to help assess what’s best for you:

Reasons you should consider outsourcing content writing:

  1. Your internal team is running short on time or simply does not have the necessary skills.
  2. You have the budget to hire a specialized content writer.
  3. You understand the difference between freelancers and agencies.
  4. The project you are working on does not require much personal interaction.
  5. You can find a content writer / marketer specializing in your niche.
  6. You are clear on the process a freelancer or agency will take to complete the required tasks.
  7. You have or will set measurable, attainable content marketing goals.
  8. Content will compliment your other marketing and advertising efforts.

Reasons you should wait to outsource:

  1. You are not clear on your content marketing goals.
  2. You do not have the budget to hire someone.
  3. Someone on your team can handle the workload.
  4. You do not know whether a freelancer or agency would be the best fit for your project.
  5. Your current project requires too much personal interaction to be worth your time.
  6. Content marketing will not work with your current marketing efforts (this is rare).
  7. You cannot find the right person, externally, for the job.
  8. Your team has plenty of time to complete the tasks, and can train for certain aspects.

Relevant Class: Creating and Curating Content People Love

Which of the above scenarios looks more like your current situation? If you have taken stock of the relevant factors and think it’s time to hire help, read on. If not, invest your energy preparing for the time when you will want to outsource: raise the funds, learn about agencies vs. freelancers, and have a plan for securing help when you need it.

Then, Learn How Outsourcing Content Strategy Works

You might think outsourcing your content creation is as easy as a quick google search, contact with a professional, and sending an outline of your parameters. After that, you may expect your content marketing to work miraculously on auto-pilot. Sadly, this is not the case. There is much more that goes into it. This is how to outsource for true success.

Step 1: Set Measurable, Attainable Goals

If you have not already set measurable, attainable goals for your content strategy, this should be done right away. The aim of a new strategy is critical for success. No matter who you choose to hire, there must be a way to know whether or not the plan is working. As you move forward with any content strategy, you should analyze to see what is working, what’s not working, and make adjustments accordingly. When it comes time to interview someone for the position, they should know your goals, so they can judge whether they are right for the job.

Step 2: Create a List of Blog Topics That Can be Written

As the manager of this project, in the beginning at least, it is your job to come up with potential topics to be written. Whether you are posting everything on your own blog or using the content as part of a backlinking strategy - like guest posting on authority blogs - the topics you choose should be relevant to your target audience, or provide SEO value.

Fortunately, there are helpful tools to make this process a breeze. Try these tools and services to come up with topic ideas quickly:

Step 3: Seek Out Specialized Talent

You can’t just hire any writer for your project. You need to have someone on board with experience in your niche. You don't want to hire someone specializing in law to work on an art blog. You don't want a naturopath writing on a blog designed to promote prescription medications. So although writing skills are important, they are secondary to specialized experience. If you're especially concerned about proper style, you can bring an editor to the project as well.

It’s difficult to say where your perfect freelancer or agency is hiding. Try looking on freelancer websites, check out the recommended agencies listed with your marketing platform, consider academic writing services, and/or post an ad on a job website. The more people you interview, the higher your chances of finding the right person for the job.

When it comes time to hire the right person, make sure that your current strategy, goals, topic ideas, and expectations are laid out up front. Choose a freelancer or agency that is experienced and confident in helping you execute your strategy, and check their work. You may want to add your own personal flair, or make changes to the final product until your new employee understands exactly how you want your articles.

Conclusion

Now you know when outsourcing content marketing is appropriate and how it works. If you’re ready, follow the steps above to start your journey towards content marketing success.

Janice Kersh is a freelance writer with vast experience in content marketing. In her spare time, she likes to cook, read sci-fi, and write in her blog - Janice Writing.

Want to learn more about any of the subjects mentioned above? Here are some relevant classes: Creating and Curating Content People LoveIntroduction to Content Marketing StrategyContent Marketing Implementation: Executing a Winning Content Program

Visit the Online Marketing Institute  to browse over 400 classes in the digital and social media marketing space. Ready to start learning? Sign up here here.

 


The Difference Between Inbound and Outbound Marketing

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Although the strict line that professional marketers have drawn between inbound and outbound marketing is disappearing over time, the difference between these strategies can almost be described as the difference between paid content marketing and display banner advertising. That description may be in the right ballpark, but it only lands us on first base.

There are a myriad of differences between inbound and outbound marketing (of which different conversion strategies are only a small part), differences which even celebrated thought leaders sometimes equate with the “old” and “new” dichotomy. This way of thinking rarely moves the ball forward for the rest of the marketing world.

When examined more closely, the relationship between inbound and outbound marketing is a bit more complicated, and that’s why we’ve dedicated this post to explaining the relationship between them in terms that marketers of all stripes are likely familiar with: Conversion Strategies, Target Audiences, and Offers. We recognize the ‘versus’ terminology that we employ to describe this relationship may seem to imply an opposition between them; it’s not meant to do that. It is more intended to set up a spectrum along which any marketer’s inbound or outbound tactics may fall, whether they are deployed for content strategy, an email marketing campaign, or the design of an advertisement—or perhaps most effectively, all three.

1. Conversion Strategy: Attraction versus Promotion

The motivational force behind attraction is a pull. The motivational force behind promotion is a push.

When marketers adopt inbound conversion strategies, such as content publication, they want to gently pull users and consumers in their direction, converting with an attractive offer. When they opt for outbound marketing strategies such as banner advertisements, they want to gently push users and consumers along a predefined path, converting with a promotional offer.

A standard inbound conversion strategy will more often reach for indirect methods of persuasion (like branded infographics or product placement) than a standard outbound conversion strategy, which will more often cut to the chase and make a direct offer. These outbound strategies might include “buy-one-get-one-free” promotions, discounts, and other types of financial incentives. The best marketers are often able to blend these two conversion strategies, perhaps opting first to gently push an outbound promotion to raise awareness of a free offer, and then placing additional, attractive information along the path toward accepting the original offer. This information can be designed to gently pull the user or consumer toward accepting an additional offer, and create enough loyalty to make them a paying customer. In fact, many successful software as a service (SaaS) companies, including LinkedInAncestry, and the popular buzzword search tool BuzzSumo, use this exact conversion funnel strategy to grow their customer bases.

2. Target Audience: Business-to-Business versus Business-to-Consumer

The art of targeted business messaging lies in the science of research. The art of targeted consumer messaging lies in the science of even more research.

Finding the right audience is one of the hardest parts of marketing. Die-hard proponents of inbound marketing strategies would probably tell us that’s why we should allow our ideal audience to find us, while die-hard advocates of outbound marketing strategy would probably tell us that’s why we construct ideal audience personas: to target those we suppose would be most interested in what we have to offer. The assumption underlying both suggestions is that business audiences will naturally gravitate toward subtle, inbound messaging since they are constantly looking to improve their business, whereas consumer audiences require a more robust, outbound message, since they are a more passive bunch.

But strategists who are dogmatic about either approach tend to miss the mark by overlooking the art and science of research—that is, listening rather than pushing new ads and pulling new leads. Some of the best marketing strategies are born from long stints of research and development, which culminate in the creation of the most relevant message reaching its most relevant audience. It’s often easier to research a business than it is to research a consumer. After all, there are fewer businesses on the planet than consumers, and consumers tend to change their preferences more frequently than businesses do. But taking the time to listen to an audience and shape our message around their proven needs and desires offers a much more lucrative payoff than leaving a trail of breadcrumbs or shouting into the void. As market research has shown, marketers for both business-to-business and business-to-consumer companies can make good use of Facebook analytics to discover and monitor new target markets.

Related Class: Facebook Advertising and Targeting

3. Offers: Education of User versus Sale to Consumer

An offer of educational information is perceived to be more valuable by users of services. A promotional sales offer is perceived to be more valuable by consumers of goods.

Value is more often determined in the eye of the consumer than in the eye of the supplier, at least in a free market. When it comes to goods and services online, the case is no different. But there is a difference in our marketing expectations for service providers and suppliers of goods. The expectation for marketers of services, particularly SaaS, is that they should adopt an inbound marketing strategy by publishing content like blogs and videos, whereas we expect marketers of goods to adopt an outbound marketing strategy by pushing online promotions such as discounts and free shipping.

The problem with these expectations is that they often force young SaaS companies and commercial online vendors to make uninteresting offers to users and consumers who want to see more than another marketing agency infographic or commercial website sign-up coupon. Some of the best and biggest companies have risen to the top because they balance educational information with promotional sales. The increasingly popular massive open online course (MOOC) providers like UdacityCoursera, and edX are excellent examples of what can happen when we hybridize user education with promotional sales, as their business is premised on offering a quality education for 1 percent, and sometimes 0% the cost of taking an equivalent college or university course. Imagine what could happen if more companies started flipping the script, and commercial websites like Amazon began offering courses in web sales, while marketing agencies began offering bundle deals on memberships with their company that included access to all their best content. Content entrepreneurs and educators at Online Marketing Institute are already doing this with the provision of corporate training courses and certifications, the former of which specifically prepare business teams to expand their inbound and outbound online marketing expertise, while the latter helps individuals gain expertise in online marketing on the whole

Such hybridity is the lifeblood of the marketing era we find ourselves in now, an era that demands innovation every day.

A version of this article first appeared on BestMarketingDegrees.org

Want to learn more about any of the subjects mentioned above? Here are some relevant classes: Top of the Funnel Tactics for Inbound Marketing, Facebook Advertising and TargetingContent Marketing Implementation: Executing a Winning Content Program

Visit the Online Marketing Institute  to browse over 400 classes in the digital and social media marketing space. Ready to start learning? Sign up here here.

 


How to Get More Traffic to Your Blog in the New Year

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For most of us, the new year is motivation to sort out our digital mess, clear the inbox and fix old bugs. I like starting a new year with the feeling of old stuff being sorted. This way I feel better prepared for new projects and challenges in the New Year.

As business owners and marketers, one of the things we tend to put off is sorting out our blogs. We’ve become accustomed to handling small inconveniences and bugs. Many of us can  barely find time to publish new content let alone find the time to research the  countless new plugins available or update old articles.

Well, I hate to break it on you, but getting all that technical staff in order is probably more important than publishing new content. Lack of security opens you up to the risk  of losing all your precious content. . Slow pages and broken links means lost readers and conversions. You need to start thinking about your blog performance now, so you can  start the new year with a better converting, more successful blog. So what to do to first?

Fear not, this checklist will take you through the complicated lists of plugins and tools, so  you can get right down to execution.

Step 1: Fix or remove broken links

One of the most widespread issues with a website of any age is broken links. Broken links present both SEO and usability issues. The more broken links your site has, the less trustworthy it looks both to a user and a web crawler. You may have no control over pages that go down over time (resulting in broken external links) but you are fully responsible for the links that you have on your pages, even older ones.

It's impossible to keep track of broken links and images, even if you have a smaller site. You need a reliable tool to handle this for you.

Netpeak Spider is an ideal solution for larger-scale websites. It's a desktop program, so you won't have compatibility issues with your browser. It’s also fast, and very flexible - you don't have to be an SEO expert to use it. Just run the tool regularly and fix new errors as they are found. Look for errors in red, those are the most important to eliminate.

netspeak

If you have a small blog, make sure to install the awesome Broken Link Checker WordPress plugin. It may slow your site down if you have too many pages, but it works great for blogs with under ~500 articles.

To avoid slow-downs and downtimes, you should disable automatic crawling to make sure it will run a new report on demand.

The plugin saves a ton of time by letting you remove broken links right from its dashboard.

linkchecker

Step 2: Keep an eye on your site security

Did you know that around 37,000 websites are hacked every day? It's no joke! Even with some security measures taken, you still run the risk of getting hacked. Huge sites, with multi-million dollar budgets like Yahoo! and LinkedIn are regularly hacked, and WordPress is not the most secure environment out there.

A proactive measure is submitting your website to  Google's Search Console. They have one of the largest databases of compromised websites, and they almost instantly know once a new site has been hacked. They will send you an email once they notice anything weird with your website so you can take measures on the spot.

Now that we have monitoring in order, make sure you have taken these steps:

  • Always update your WordPress version as soon as possible, and update your plugins as well.
  • Always install well-trusted plugins. Search Google before installing anything and only install from the wordpress.org website.
  • Never keep "admin" as a user. Come up with a different username for the blog administrator and use a powerful password (later versions of WordPress will generate a good one, so just go with it).
  • Use Login LockDown to limit login attempts.
  • Never login to your blog using public WiFi, never give anyone admin access unless you know and trust them, never give anyone permissions to upload anything to your blog (use standard contributor permissions for your site contributors).

Step 3: Make sure you address downtime timely

How often is your site down? According to these stats, even the most popular hosting providers have terrible uptime numbers. Your site may be down without you even realizing. Being offline is one of the worst thing that can happen to a digital entity. It means your website visitors have nowhere to click, no way to get in touch with you, and no way to engage.

Try Monitority to be notified whenever your  site is down. The tool is absolutely free and the moment your site goes down, your email is pinged so you can look into the problem right away. If you have a few sites to manage, give Pingdom a try. It has some cool analytics and monitoring reports you'll find useful. Pingdom also talks to the monitoring dashboard with Cyfe.

cyfe

Step 4. Find better keywords for your old content

Your content can be outstanding, and people may still not be able to find it. That means wasted effort. It's a new year coming, time to make the most of your old content so you’re ready to create new articles.

Try Serpstat to discover good keywords and optimize older articles. Just take a core term from your article, run it in Serpstat and set the competition filter between 0% and 3% to discover relevant phrases that may take you on top of Google's search results page.

results

Step 5. Try and push those search positions higher

There are tons of search queries that your site is already ranking for. You may be unaware of those because they rank below the fold and hence they are not sending too much traffic. However, these are often keywords that have huge potential.

Try Google's Search Console "Search Analytics" feature to show you which search queries are driving traffic to your blog. Make sure to check a box called "Position" (for some reason, it's unchecked by default). This way you'll see your page average position for each search query.

analytics

If the average position of a keyword is 5 or lower but it's driving traffic, this means two things:

  • It will send tons of visits if it's #1 or even #3.
  • It is not that hard to push it higher, without additional effort.

What to do with these keywords:

  • Discover which exact pages are ranking for the term.
  • Use this WordPress plugin to send more internal links to that page.

Usually, this quick exercise results in 2-3 higher positions and therefore better traffic.

Are you ready to take action? Hopefully this checklist will get you started. Happy New Year!

Want to learn more about any of the subjects mentioned above? Visit the Online Marketing Institute  to browse over 400 classes in the digital and social media marketing space. Ready to start learning? Sign up here.

 


5 Major Content Marketing Trends You Can Expect in 2017

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Ah, content marketing.

Influenced heavily by Google’s algorithms, content marketing has the undivided interest of entrepreneurs and internet marketers around the globe. Marketers know that using content for SEO is more affordable than traditional advertising, but improvements to search engine algorithms (and rapidly changing consumer demand) means it’s never been more difficult to stay in the limelight.

2017 will usher in a new, dense tangle of requirements for content marketers; but before we take a glimpse at the upcoming challenges, let’s take a moment to review what happened to content marketing in 2016:  

Content Marketing in 2016 Became:

  • Saturated. Statistics show that over 2 million blog posts are published daily, in addition to millions of YouTube videos, GIFs, infographics, and other types of written and visual content. Simply put, the amount of content online is cluttering the digital world.  
  • Focused on “Behind the Scenes” Strategies: The enormous amount of visual and written media released in 2016 made content marketing heavily dependent on “behind the scenes strategies” like promotion and outreach.
  • Ruled by Niches: Marketers today have two options: make your content visible, or allow it to become lost in the jungle. To make their way through the thicket of blogs, videos, and infographics, effective marketers used niche sites to zero in on their target audience.

With this background information in mind, let’s take a look at 5 content marketing trends you can expect in 2017:

1. Visual Content Will Become Crucial

We’ve already seen  the power that Facebook Video and YouTube Live hold. In 2017, this growing demand for visual media will skyrocket. A combination of live and staged videos will be used by brands that are openly embracing the inevitable change from written to visual media.

What to do:

Visual content is arguably one of the most time-consuming types of content creation.  Thanks to improvements in technology, creating branded videos and images isn’t as difficult as it once was.

Without a budget:

Startup companies and small businesses already have the tools they need to begin creating visual content: company cell phones and computers. Through a combination of social apps like Snapchat, and broadcasting sites like the ones listed below, your business can start building a visual content strategy that won’t stretch your budget.

A few (free) sites to consider include:

It's also a good idea to publish visual content on free sites like Instagram, Pinterest and Tumblr, which have a primarily visual focus, and massive audiences.

With a budget:

Brands with a small marketing budget should consider pairing the free solutions above with the work of a professional videographer, photographer, or media agency. Professionals like these can help to plan a unique visual content strategy that captures your brand’s unique personality. 

2. Shifting Focus to Data and Retention

Marketing is an industry driven by two factors: results and data. For content marketers, showing how a blog can drive return traffic and therefore sales is difficult - without the right tools, that is.

What to Do: If you’re not already using analytics tools to track your basic content marketing efforts, it’s time to get started. Many agencies use Google Analytics to track basic site data, then expand on that tool with diversified metric tracking tools like:

  • Bitly
  • Linkody
  • Cyfe
  • SEM Rush
  • Hubspot Marketing Automation
  • Ahrefs
  • Kissmetrics
  • CrazyEgg
  • Piwik
  • SimilarWeb
  • Moz OSE

Be sure to learn more about how data analytics can be leveraged to improve the quality of your website, and increase conversions.

3. Mobile Compatibility Will Be Key

These days, it’s rare to see millennials (even baby boomers!) without a cell phone clutched tightly in hand. Google has monitored the shift from computers to mobile phones closely; as a result, it’s rumored that the Goliath of search engines will make mobile users a  key focus in upcoming algorithm changes.

What to Do: If you don’t already have a responsive website, it’s time to invest in one. Content that is easy to read on mobile devices will be critical in 2017. Once a site is set up to support mobile, it’s time to craft content strategies that cater to mobile users. Mixing up content lengths and trying new formatting tricks are just two ways to optimize content for mobile use. A few other ideas include:

Integrating a mobile content strategy with mobile oriented PR and outreach can increase your exposure to audiences who primarily access the Web through mobile devices.

Remember: it’s likely that shorter-form content paired with minimal visual content will become more important as time goes on.

4. Distribution Will Rule

The internet is saturated with content – everything from plagiarized to carefully written articles can be found in just a few keystrokes. Because of the immense clutter, promotion of existing content will matter just as much as the quantity that’s produced.

What to do: Although there are hundreds of ways to promote content, social media and vertical content platforms will be essential in 2017.

Social platforms like Snapchat, Instagram, and Twitter will become marketing staples as we progress into the new year. To reach very specific audiences, vertical platforms are highly recommended. A few “mainstream” examples of these emerging platforms include:

Industry: Home & Garden

  • Houzz
  • Zillow
  • Better Homes & Gardens

Industry: Pop Culture

  • Pinterest
  • Snapchat
  • Instagram
  • StumbleUpon

Industry: Internet Marketing

  • Moz
  • Hubspot
  • Contently
  • SEMRush

5. Interactive Content Will Be a Hallmark of Content Leaders

In 2017, brands using interactive content (such as quizzes, questionnaires, and worksheets) will become the thought and trend leaders of the content marketing industry. A few brands already engaging in interactive content include Buzzfeed, The Content Marketing Institute, and Kissmetrics.

How to do it: Whether you want to code your own interactive content or use a site that builds them for you (like ThingLink), start producing  interactive content of the kind  listed below.

  • Quizzes / Polls / Surveys
  • Interactive E-books
  • Interactive White Papers
  • Calculators
  • Responsive Images
  • Games
  • Maps
  • Interactive Infographics

Conclusion

By mixing a variety of these interactive assets into your content marketing strategy, you can attract and retain site visitors in your target audience.

To stay competitive in 2017, online marketers will need to stay agile and adapt to emerging content marketing trends. Creating mobile-friendly content and websites will be essential to maintaining a competitive edge: once a site is optimized for mobile, build systems for creating and distributing visual content assets. After reviewing updated data on returning visitors and bounce rates, adjust your strategy to boost retention and conversions.

Angela Higbee is the director of the content marketing agency, Progressive Creativity. She spends most of her time doing business and reading; away from “the desk,” she can be found with family or exploring the Colorado outdoors with her dog.

Want to learn more about any of the subjects mentioned above? Here are some relevant classes: B2B Social Visual Storytelling on Instagram, Pinterest & TumblrLeveraging AnalyticsMobile PR & Content Marketing

Visit the Online Marketing Institute  to browse over 400 classes in the digital and social media marketing space. Ready to start learning? Sign up here here.

 


7 Ways to Make More Affiliate Income on Your Blog

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Are you looking for ways to increase  your affiliate income as a blogger? Then you’ve come to right place!

This article will review some very powerful strategies for you to market affiliate products that go beyond splash pages and simple blog posts.  We’ll start by outlining a quick list of 7 ideas, then go into more detail for each one.

Let’s get started!

How to Increase Your Affiliate Income – Quick List

Here are several ways to get more money from affiliate programs on your blog:

  1. Use Detailed Tutorials 
  2. Employ Facebook Ads 
  3. Utilize Your Email Lists
  4. Use Graphics & Banners
  5. Link Back 
  6. Become an Expert
  7. Get Promotions and Endorsements

Today, promoting affiliate programs is one of the most effective ways to earn a passive income from your blogging platform. If you choose to work with affiliate programs that you trust and promote them properly, you will find that it is easy to create a stable source of income over the long-term.

Use Detailed Tutorials

One of the best ways to earn good money from affiliates is to promote an affiliate product or program as part of your detailed tutorials. This will work well when you have pieces of long form content in which you can embed affiliate links. As long as the affiliate programs you’re a part of offer products relevant to your niche, it’s often easy to find natural ways of recommending them as part of an informational guide.

This strategy will allow you to benefit from both the initial promotion and the long-term traffic you will get from your blog’s rankings on Google. It is also effective because you won’t have to shove the product/service down your readers’ throats. All you need to do is recommend the product as a good choice for a process reviewed in the tutorial.

Employ Facebook Ads

If the content or tutorial on your blog is particularly high quality, consider driving traffic to it using Facebook Ads. If the affiliate product has a high payout price (above $50), then you are almost certain to earn good money even after paying Facebook’s advertising fees. You should be sure that your page is already converting and bringing in enough traffic before burning cash on it, just to be safe.

Make sure to track and test to be sure that you have a good understanding of your conversion rates and the reasons behind them. This will serve invaluably as you choose a target audience for paid advertisements, whether on Facebook, or somewhere else.

In 2016, social networks are the best place to advertise for almost any purpose. Consider learning more about promoting your blog through social media, and leveraging Facebook's world-wide audience to earn leads.

Utilize Your Email Lists

If you don’t already have an email list, you absolutely need to get one! Email lists are a fantastic tool for affiliate marketers, helping you to keep track of prospects, and stay in touch with people who have already benefited from your platform.

But assuming that you already have email lists, you should definitely use them to advertise your affiliate products, especially in relevant niches.  This strategy brings positive results because it is ongoing and automatic. This is an especially easy method to use for pre-branded products; using this method, there is no need to build an image in a lengthy blog post. All you need to do is send your email out to hundreds or even thousands of subscribers who have a potential interest, and you’re certain to convert sales. To make the most of your campaigns, make sure you understand key tactics for composing an attractive and compelling email.

Use Graphics & Banners

Never forget that a picture is worth a thousand words. Many affiliate programs will provide you with images that you can use to promote a product or service. Including these with your blog posts or featuring them prominently on your website can be even more effective than simply using links. Combining graphics with any of the methods above will only make them twice as effective!

Of course, you need to use common design sense. Generic banners posted in inconspicuous places or plastered indiscriminately across a page can be ugly and unattractive at best, and turn customers off at worst. Make sure that you design your page effectively when using this method!

Link Back

Once you’ve created tutorials or blog posts like the ones described above, create link backs on areas of your website with high sustainability to keep the traffic flowing in.  Find other places on the internet to include your link that are likely to be around for a long time.

For instance, within a high-quality guest post on an authoritative blog, ensure that you write an article that will naturally allow you to mention a post on your own blog with affiliate links. The blog owner is likely to allow this so long as your article is valuable, and constitutes more than a sales pitch for your affiliate programs.

Writing effective content is an art, and before sending queries off to influencers, make sure you know how to create and curate content people love.

Become an Expert

You should become an expert when it comes to using the affiliate products you wish to promote. The best affiliates become successful because readers turn to them as authorities on products or services that they promote.

One of the best ways to ramp up your affiliate income is producing high quality content that displays your expertise. This not only gives your readers a good idea of the impact the product had on your life, but also gives them a reason to trust you, and keep coming to your blog for useful information

Get Promotions and Endorsements 

Finally, ensure you get great promotions and endorsements from high value blogs and websites. Nothing will increase your affiliate income like an endorsement or mention from sites that are already trusted authorities with interested audiences. Getting mentioned on popular websites aligns you to them, which means you will end up tapping into highly-recognizable brands. 

Concluding Thoughts

The above tips and tricks will go a long way in improving your chances of earning more affiliate income from your blog. Each of these strategies will require some work on your part, such as creating content, promoting, networking with others in the industry, and analyzing your results. But the results are worth it! Give any of these tips a try, and enjoy the additional income from your blogging efforts. 

Want to learn more about any of the subjects mentioned above? Here are some relevant classes: Fundamentals of Facebook Marketing, Creating and Curating Content People Love, Email Marketing Tactics

Visit the Online Marketing Institute  to browse over 400 classes in the digital and social media marketing space. Ready to start learning? Sign up here here.