Digital Strategy

 


Perfecting Digital Content Strategy for Real Estate Professionals

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Editor's Note: Sundeep Kapur, Industry Training Director at The Online Marketing Institute, is an educator and digital evangelist who has helped brands define and implement powerfully effective digital strategies. He joins us today to discuss how realtors can improve their content strategy to gain the interest of prospects. Don't forget to join our upcoming webinar to learn more.

 

Nowadays, the search to buy or sell property tends to begin on the Internet. A few words typed into the search box can yield so many pages of "useful” results. But given the piles of information returned by search engines, what can you do to make sure your brand reaches those who may be looking for it?

For real estate professionals, this struggle is an important aspect of maintaining an online presence. When every other part of your brand is properly tailored for prospects, being found and seen is the deciding factor in the formation of new business relationships.

Here are seven considerations that can increase the visibility of your content to potential clients, and keep them coming back to your company for more:

1. Getting Attention

Attracting interested visitors begins with your ability to grab and keep their attention. Headlines, formatting and image usage can influence the behavior of readers, and raise sign-up rates for relevant offers. What keeps a consumer engaged are the following factors –

  • Is your content relevant to what they want– is the information useful or important?
  • Is your content engaging – is it interesting to the seeker of information, and does it invite questions or offer food for thought?
  • Is the information you provide up to date?

2. Using Multimedia Content

A message can be delivered by words, pictures, and video. Supplementing text with images is a good idea, because overly wordy or difficult articles often prompt visitors to look elsewhere for the information they want.

Adding powerful images or infographics help to keep readers engaged. Top it off by using video to deliver a summarizing conversational snippet. Focusing on a multimedia content strategy will draw in more readers, and aid them in retaining information.

3. The Right Length

Studies have proven time and time again that Internet readers click away from articles that are too long or too short. Avoid “walls of text” without any breaks, and steer clear of making redundant or unnecessary points. Be especially wary of paragraph size: what looks small on a desktop computer can look exponentially larger on a mobile device.  

The sweet spot for an article is three to five paragraphs of useful information broken up by one to three pictures. You can also add a 30 – 60 second video to further personalize your message and keep readers interested.

4. Maintaining a Presence

Your digital channel strategy should prominently include your website and social media. Maintaining an active account on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter will not only give prospects an opportunity to learn more about your brand and keep up with the latest content, but gives them an extra channel to ask questions or express concerns.

Those you seek and serve will also appreciate content published to YouTube, Instagram, and Pinterest. Bear in mind that these visually oriented websites have different purposes: YouTube is a good place to publish ‘edutainment’, or content that is both educational and entertaining. Instagram is for “oh-wow” moments, and Pinterest is where people look for tips, mainly in the form of condensed infographics.

5. An Appealing Structure

Your communication style should incorporate a proven five-step formula.

  1. A powerful and intelligent headline will grab attention instantly, and make your content stand out.
  2. Discuss features of your product, services or solution - these are important, distinctive qualities that could be listed on a package.
  3. Describe the function of these features, or the purpose that they are meant to serve.
  4. Explain the benefit of your value proposition. This is where features and functions become practical: how will they help your prospects’ lives?
  5. Finally, use a call to action to motivate a decision in your readers to sign-up, buy, or get more information.

6. Thinking About Psychology

Consumer behavior is driven by three simple attributes that you should understand if you want to communicate with them effectively. These are need, value, or aspiration. A need is a basic necessity that has to be fulfilled. Value is a deal that the consumer finds valuable, but might forgo if they are not motivated to act immediately. Aspiration is what the consumer dreams about in abstract terms.

These categories often crop up in the buying cycle, and they’re useful for thinking about how to market yourself and your services - what might be a need for one consumer could be an investment value for another and completely aspirational for someone else.

Integrating Better Content

As the above tips should demonstrate, increasing the value of your brand for web searchers isn’t rocket science. A little digital pixie dust can help your content rise to the top. This includes making sure that the content you create is relevant to the seeker, that you use the right words to optimize your content, and that through effective calls to action you are able to generate engagement and user feedback.

To help you create personalized digital magic for your brand, the Online Marketing Institute is hosting a webinar on November 16th. Register for free to learn more about key digital channels including social media, search, email, mobile, and the power of interactive multimedia content. Our approach to learning will focus on ideal practices to help you become digitally visible, assist with engagement (from attracting to qualifying), and getting the buyer/seller to interact with you.

 


A Realtor’s Guide to Digital Selling: Leveraging The Web to Find Buyers

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Editor's Note: Sundeep Kapur is the OMI Training Industry Director, digital consultant and successful real estate agent. To celebrate our new Real Estate learning series and upcoming webinar, he joins us today to discuss how realtors can use the power of the web to boost their business.

How can you leverage the power of digital media to attract buyers to your property listings? As a real estate professional, you already work hard to connect buyers with sellers - earning their business is even harder, and your time is limited. The digital storefront, on the other hand, is always open. Buyers peruse online listings 24/7, and sellers are always looking for the best way to make an impression. Both buyers and sellers are looking for three things:

  1. A trustworthy brand
  2. Relevant advice
  3. Easy access to information

Starting with your profile, here are some ideas that can enhance your digital presence to address clients’ needs, and win their business:

Profile Do’s

Build and maintain a website that clearly identifies your value proposition – think of it as a digital business card that tells the consumer:

  • Who you are
  • Your expertise
  • The area(s) that you serve.

Your site needs content that can engage readers – think useful, important, and entertaining.

Leverage social media channels to describe yourself – good platforms include LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. A LinkedIn profile should provide a succinct overview of who you are as a business, your experience, and your value proposition. A good Facebook presence is similar, but expands to include content like images and articles - being a Facebook brand constitutes a balance of professionalism and personality.. Twitter is also a great way to be found online - tweet useful information, follow people relevant to your business, and learn the art of tagging (#hashtag) key content.

The content you share doesn’t have to be original, and you may have little time to create it - but consider curating and publishing relevant articles that your prospective clients will find useful. Mix up your content with text, pictures, and even video: good multimedia content goes a long way to keep people engaged, and raises your visibility in the digital world.

Collect leads by offering something of value, and using a form on your website called a lead form to capture the contact information of prospective clients. Your value or incentive could include valuable information on buying or selling; the lead form you create should be as simple as possible – contact information, area of interest, and permission to get in touch via digital channels (allowing them to opt into your messaging).

Email leads as soon as possible, and use your messages to learn more about their needs. Keep emails short, and include a short survey (one or two questions) that will allow them to share additional information about their requirements. If it makes sense, send out two to three messages spaced at regular intervals, each containing information that builds on the last.

Because so many consumers now use smartphones, your strategy to connect with them should be “smarter.” Ensure that the content you share is brief and your website is responsive. Just because the consumer has a phone with them at all times does not mean that it is okay to message them excessively. Make every interaction simple, engaging, and useful.

Stay in touch with those you serve by providing a useful amount of information on a regular basis. Determining frequency can be a challenge, but an ideal goal is to ensure that every question asked on your digital channels is responded to within a day. This encourages prospects and clients to ask questions, and reduces your posting burden.

What Drives Success

Successful digital brands ensure that the information they share is current, that they have conversations to nurture a relationship with the consumer, and that they are timely in responding. Being responsive does not mean that you have to monitor your digital assets around the clock: a well-defined strategy of organizing the right information, automating responses to frequently asked questions and adding a personal touch goes a long way in driving digital success.

Consumers seek approachable brands that inspire confidence and earn trust. You build confidence by providing relevant information and showcasing your thought leadership. Trust comes from good customer experiences and (digital) word of mouth. Being approachable comes from a combination of a number of factors, including your ability to respond quickly and personably.

Listings abound and buyers are out there looking. As a real estate professional you work hard to connect the buyer and seller. You are busy, and there are so many hands to shake/contacts to make.

  • How can you leverage the power of digital to attract buyers to your listing?
  • How do you get sellers to list with you?
  • How do you answer their questions/concerns 24x7?
  • How do you bring them in/convert them?
  • How do you nurture these relationships forever?

To find answers to these questions and to learn more about using the web to boost your real estate business, join us for a FREE webinar on digital best practices and dramatically increase your success.

 


Automation vs Personalization in Your Marketing Campaigns

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Editor's Note: Dario Supan is a content marketer and editor at Point Visible. Today he joins us to discuss the twin paradigms of automation and personalization, and how to balance them in your marketing campaigns.

 

With advances in technology and especially in Artificial Intelligence, marketers today are faced with an ever-increasing list of tools and algorithms that exist to speed up daily operations. The goal of this article isn’t to argue whether automation is required; it's usually obvious to anyone that has ever worked on a larger marketing campaign that some level of automation must be employed.

But there is a question worth asking: should marketers automate everything they can, just because they have the ability to do so? This practice tends to come with a compromise - the more automated your campaigns, the less personal they become. As a result, the level of automation you should use depends on how personal you want your campaigns to be.

Automation in Marketing

Automation has made its way into the marketing world because it brings a tremendous number of benefits. Not only is automation a chance to free up internal resources and minimize costs, but it’s also a highly effective method for preventing human error. Furthermore, consumers want automation: a recent report by research company Forrester confirms that many consumers want self-service options available to them, so that they do not need to interact or engage with a brand if they don't have to.

There are also many ways in which automated marketing processes can benefit a business. Perhaps the most obvious advantage comes in the form of big data and predictive analysis, utilizing information captured from consumers and prospective customers to predict spending habits, interests, and future needs. With automation, this sort of analysis is without question quicker and more accurate than depending on human guesses.

Similarly, lead nurturing can also benefit from automation. A prime example includes email marketing campaigns where information and offers are sent automatically to a predefined list. Automation in marketing is so advantageous that email marketing firm Emailmonday reports half of all companies now make use of automated marketing in one form or another.

Automation Limitations

While there are many areas of marketing in which automation can be beneficial, there are issues surrounding the notion of fully automated processes. It is important to consider the idea of marketing evolution, and how processes that are effective in one context may fail to work well in another.

By default, automation results in a loss of personalization. Automation means you're working with scripted responses to resonate with individuals on a deeper level, using technology that is unable to deviate from linear, programmed processes. This doesn't always work out.

Interestingly, although many consumers are seeking self-service options in some areas, they are also looking for personalization in others. Adweek reports that more than half of all consumers want a customized experience.

The reason?

Customized experiences make customers feel valued, and may result in improved brand loyalty.

Personalization in Marketing

There are specific areas of marketing where fully automated processes are limited in their overall impact, including social media management and outreach campaigns.

Social Media Management

Let’s dive a little deeper into social media, because it's a large part of marketing nowadays. There are many tools that can be used to automate everything that happens on your social media pages from tracking, scheduling, and publishing your content, to automated message responses. 

One real-world example to look at is Oreo, who sent an automated Twitter reply to a user with an offensive username; a username which was then quickly plastered across Oreo’s feed. This was a silly and probably costly mistake which could have easily been avoided through human action.

Getting it right, on the other hand, is Smart Car USA, who made headlines for correcting a Twitter user who claimed that a single bird poop would total a Smart Car. Smart provided a detailed mathematical response showing the actual number of birds required to wreck a car, and the original poster confirmed that Smart did a great job.

Human Limits

As we can see, “human touch” can never be replaced. However, as your business grows, you obviously can’t reply to everyone. Sooner or later, you will have to use some sort of automation. 

As using tools to automate parts of your processes is unavoidable, the real dilemma is what level of automation you should use.

Take scheduling and promoting posts on social media for example: do you want to use the same featured image across all social channels? Are you reaching out to everyone with the same message? Are you sharing posts at the same time of day?

You can automate the whole process and not make a single change, but this may have a negative impact on your engagement levels and CTR as your target audience often consists of different groups of people that have different interests and needs.

How far should you take personalization then? Answering this question really depends on the niche you are in, your brand authority, quality of content and so on.

Luckily, this is where A/B testing can help tremendouslyTake some time to test how personalization affects the metrics you are focused on, and adjust your workflow to meet the preferences of your audience.

Outreach Campaigns

Moving onto outreach campaigns, it is essential to remember that this form of marketing relies almost entirely upon human interaction, rather than automation.

Smart Insights highlights this fact with their published outreach email open rate statistics. As anticipated, outreach emails addressed to both a first and last name are statistically more likely to be opened than those addressed to the first name only or last name only, showing the power of personalization within this specific area of marketing.

Chances are, you're using some of the available outreach tools already; finding opportunities and managing a high volume of email traffic is close to impossible without one.

The fastest (and laziest) approach is just to make a list of blogs/people you want to contact, and reach out to everyone with the same message.

Or you can put some effort in, and personalize your outreach template with things like:

  • Name of the person you are reaching out too
  • Name of the blog you want to be featured on
  • Adjusting the topics/areas you can cover depending on the content they usually cover
  • Adjusting the pitch if you know for sure they are accepting guest contributions
  • Adjusting the tone depending on the level of the authority the site you are reaching out to has
  • Referring to some of their previous work you liked
  • Scheduling the time of day when the pitch is going to be sent

What it comes down to is this: do you want to send 100 generic pitches in 20 minutes or 20 personalized ones in an hour?

You are still using a tool to automate your outreach efforts, but you are also in control of the level of personalization that will be included. The second approach can often end up being more time-efficient, especially when you want to connect with high-authority sites.

Remember not to take this too far. Researching every site to find a post you can refer to often isn’t worth your time but many other things on the list are.

Again, test and update your workflow according to the results you are getting. There is no perfect recipe that works for across every niche.

Finding the Right Balance

There are arguably some areas of marketing where personalization isn’t required, and by steering clear of available automated processes, businesses could be preventing themselves from further growth and development opportunities.

In terms of prediction and data analysis, technology is often the preferred choice. However, in terms of B2C interactions, some degree of personalization is essential. It’s all about finding the right balance and learning how automated processes and personalization can both be used together to create the most effective and efficient marketing strategy.

Businesses may want to think of automation and personalization as two parts of the same unit, rather than as separate and distinct aspects. Automation can be very beneficial in learning what a customer wants; it’s a support system that enables us to offer the best personalized marketing through all stages of the sales funnel.

At the end of the day, to find the best solution, testing is key. All the research and statistics provided by companies and firms won't help you to meet the unique needs of your own audience - but understanding the general rule will help to find the specific one.

Learn more with these related OMI classes:

Marketing Automation Strategy for Full Lifecycle Management

Social Media Strategy for Business

Testing, Behavioral Analytics & Metrics Best Practices

 

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

 

 


12 Tips for Creating Shareable Social Media Content

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Editor's Note: Rachel Bartee is an experienced content writer, and joins us today to discuss several content creation tips that will encourage social media followers to like and share.

 

Content creation is a vital element in contemporary marketing strategies. However, while nearly 90% of all companies engage in content marketing on some level, few manage to produce contagious content that Internet users share. Without this level of engagement, content can hardly fulfill its true purpose.

Fortunately, there are many ways to create interesting content that is more likely to spread across social media, and in this article I will present you with practical tips for doing so. But first, let’s talk about what goes on behind the scenes of social media sharing -

What Motivates Users to Share Content?

There is a science behind what motivates users to share digital content. Researchers have discovered a number of psychological triggers that inspire people to engage in online activities, and here are some of the most important ones:

  • Social Approval: People love to express their attitudes and receive affirmative feedback from their circle of friends and acquaintances. Sharing content is a way to express one's personality to a group.
  • Communication: Humans are social beings. We all want to nurture relationships with other people, and digital content enables us to do this more easily and frequently.
  • Support Ideas: Social media is often used to signal support for ideas, political views and personal beliefs; in this is way, users connect with a greater, altruistic good.
  • Entertainment: At the end of the day, plenty of people use social media to wind down. Entertaining content includes humor, memes, videos, music, and more.

It can be difficult to segment the way people interact online, since these categories can and frequently do overlap. However, thinking about these basic motivations is still a useful starting point for developing content that will motivate users to get involved. With that being said, here are:

12 Tips to Make Your Social Media Content More Shareable

1. Create High-Quality Content

This seems like the most obvious point, and it is, but it's also forgotten too often. There are no shortcuts: shareable content is always high-quality content. If you focus on superficial topics and don’t invest enough time into research or content creation, you cannot expect your followers to become interested and engaged. This is one reason why longform content is doing better than ever.

Content development can take time and effort, so if you need professional help, here are some simple resources I have used in the past:

  • Blog Title Generator: This tool will show you the list of the most relevant topics in any given niche.
  • Headline Analyzer: Headline is the first thing that your readers notice and you have to come up with a catchy and intriguing solution. Headline Analyzer will tell you if you’ve succeeded.
  • Essaysontime: If you decide that serious content creation is out of your reach, you can always ask for help from this expert writing service.

2. Use Smart Structuring

Internet users read very quickly, and nothing will turn them off more than a "wall of text". Format your content intelligently by using numbered lists, bullet points and headers to easily highlight key information points.

3. Add Value to Users' Lives

Informative content is good, but if your readers and clients can’t put your words in practice then they will not benefit from what you publish. A primary goal of content is to solve users' problems and show how to overcome them; this will not only build brand loyalty, but it will keep them coming back for more. As long as the content you create is genuinely helpful, it's also certain to be passed around.

4. Keep Your Audience in Mind

Before ever creating or sharing content, think about your audience: ask yourself if it's something they would like to see and share with their friends. Once you have some ideas, you can even poll your audience to generate comments and perhaps initiate debate. This not only creates engagement, but gives you special insight into what they want.

5. Create Infographics

Infographics are informative but easy to understand. And because they come in the form of images, they are convenient for the majority of Internet users who mostly share visual content on social media. Using tools like Piktochart, you don’t even need the knowledge of a graphic designer to create a reasonably high quality infographic. The most important thing is to use your business expertise and data to create something your audience will find valuable.

6. Trigger Emotions

Some of the most successful marketing campaigns went viral because they sparked strong emotional reactions among users. A lot of studies have proven that emotions like happiness, anger, or sorrow have the power to engage people and make them share digital content. Do you remember the #ItCanWait campaign? Study how AT&T used narrative, art and user engagement to skyrocket this public safety campaign. Be careful not to co-opt causes that are unrelated to your business, since insincerity can backfire. But when you see an opportunity to contribute, do it well.

7. Remember the good old times

Talking about emotions, never forget nostalgia. Users universally enjoy content that hearkens back to old memories, and if you analyze your audience precisely, you can get an easy target for what will appeal to them. Consider this 90s themed commercial by Microsoft, aimed at Millennials to promote its Internet Explorer web browser (and be sure to notice the tremendously positive response it elicited):

8. Offer Incentives

People love free stuff. It’s a fact that you can occasionally use to boost interest in your products or services. Frequently social media pages will offer a giveaway based on a random drawing, and to enter the drawing users are simply asked to share, like, or follow a page. This can create a big ripple effect that more than compensates for the investment in a reward.

9. Exploit Trendy Topics

Staying up to date with trendy topics is obligatory for all marketers. You should always follow the latest industry news, and use them to create shareable content when appropriate. Consider how this Norwegian Airlines commercial provoked positive reactions by responding to celebrity news surrounding Brad Pitt.

10. Organize Contests

Contests are a great way to engage your audience and inspire them to share your content. Users love to compete and they usually do it with their friends and colleagues, which is the main sharing motive for them. All it takes is a nice idea and a little bit of budget to launch the contest – just take a look at the KFC football challenge.

11. Be Funny

Your business is serious but your content doesn’t have to be. On the contrary, funny posts, images, and videos grab the users’ attention and promise you a fair portion of shares, so don’t run away from it.   

12. Use video content

Video is quickly becoming the dominant form of online content, and some studies even say that video content will make up 80% of all Internet traffic by 2018. As a result, you have to embrace video as part of your content strategy. This is also why Twitter – once known as the photo-sharing network – added video to its portfolio. This kind of content has a big potential to go viral, just like this Nike video did.

About the Author: Rachel Bartee is a content writer and a marketing consultant from Davenport. She is content-oriented and knows how to put words into action. She feels passionate about travelling and inspired by her morning yoga. Reach her on Facebook or Twitter.

Learn more with these related OMI classes:

Introduction to Content Marketing Strategy

8 Steps to Discovering and Creating Content Your Audience Will Love

B2B Social Visual Storytelling on Instagram, Pinterest & Tumblr

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

 

 

 


Why Your Next Marketing Hire Should Be A Chatbot

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Editor's Note: Josh R Jackson is a contributing editor at BestMarketingDegrees.org. To compliment the new Emerging Media classes in our updated catalog, he joins us today to explain the way chatbots are changing CRM, and how companies can benefit.

 

Because the chatbot is associated with a long history of frustrating and sometimes humorous responses to human questions, many Internet users roll their eyes when they hear the word chatbot.

And while some searchers ignore chatbox pop-ups habitually, many users fight the urge to close a window or end a phone call when they know a chatbot is on the other side.  

Nowadays, some of those users are pleasantly surprised to find that chatbot technology has come a long way in only a few short years. In fact, marketing teams might go so far as to say that chatbot technology has matured into the full-fledged industry called conversational commerce.

Why?

Because conversational commerce technology has emerged from its novelty phase when chatbots like Microsoft's Office Assistant and AIM's SmarterChild were cutting edge, and now it's —and it's riding a new wave of interest.

Source: Google Trends

In no small part, this chatbot renaissance is due to the proliferation and popularity of messaging apps which - along with brand name chatbots and personal assistants like Google Now and Amazon Alexa - have seen the marketing and AI potential of chatbots grow immensely.

Source: BI Intelligence

In addition, the modern marketing team's demand for 24/7 brand messaging and the ability to deliver a message when no one's available to take a call has worked double time to generate big waves of chatbot interest in platforms like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp.

Source: Google Trends

This means that the modern marketing team's demand for constant messaging has made the online environment ripe for innovation in chatbot marketing technology.

And while the most obvious function of chatbots may be in the realm of customer relationship management (i.e., attraction and retention of customers) the role of chatbots is expanding to include other realms for innovation in marketing: most notably, corporate productivity.

Here's why your marketing team's next hire should be a chatbot.

Big Customer Service Potential

Customer service, and specifically customer retention, is arguably the biggest, best, and most time-tested reason to invest in chatbot technology for your marketing team.

Over the years, customers have grown begrudgingly accustomed to going through the menu-items listed by interactive voice response systems (IVR), the ancient ancestors of the chatbot, that direct customers to the appropriate party via telephone keypad.

Source: Rob Guilfoyle, CEO Abe AI (LinkedIn)

Ask almost any customer what they think of interactive voice response, however, and you'll find that it's not a very good tool for retaining customers, much less maintaining customer satisfaction.

Today, free-flowing chatbot technology enables customers to interact with an AI system that - like a real employee - creates a conversational experience and learns a customer's preferences. Fostering such a natural language exchange rather than forcing a rote, numerical interaction is much more likely to meet modern consumer expectations, which increasingly depend on our ability to query interfaces like we would Google.

This is why adopting chatbot technologies early, and especially those that can handle customers' natural language queries, is likely to pay off in the long run—or in the words of Rob Guilfoyle, CEO of Abe AI, "likely [to] see quick and demonstrable ROI by getting ahead of the adoption curve."

Even Bigger Corporate Productivity Potential

Perhaps for the obvious reason that chatbots can avoid the complications that arise from human error, chatbot technologies have the potential not only to revolutionize the way we think about corporate productivity (i.e., as a means to the end of "the bottom line"), but also the very fabric of corporate productivity itself.

After all, if chatbots can take care of all our customers' service needs, could it become more productive for marketing teams to channel their energy into higher order, less tangible concerns, like accomplishing acts of social good? Could productivity become less defined as a measure of quantity than of quality?

Barring immediate answers to immaterial questions such as these, the prospect of a non-human future where someday, somehow, chatbots could replace human marketers is both frightening and exciting.

This prospect is frightening because chatbots really are beginning to spell a monumental change in the marketing profession for customer relationship managers. It is exciting because chatbots have the potential to more easily automate a processes that annoys customers at the same time as they develop more productive relationships with them.

All that is to say, good chatbots with good AI will make good customers, giving users and consumers the cutting-edge experience they crave with a company that is future-oriented.

And what better way to retain customers than to impress on them that you always have their interests (and their future) in mind?

Need more reasons why your marketing team's next hire should be a chatbot? Take OMI's newest classes on Emerging Media to see how chatbots are changing online marketing.

 


3 Ways Virtual Reality is Changing Brand Messaging

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Editor's Note: Josh R Jackson is a contributing editor at BestMarketingDegrees.org. To complement the brand new Emerging Media classes in our updated catalog, he joins us to discuss three ways the Virtual Reality is changing brand messaging today.

Right now, virtual reality is on its way to become the most disruptive trend in the media marketplace.

How do we know this? Because in 2016, virtual reality became the first and foremost emerging technology on Gartner's Hype Cycle, meaning it has passed the point of no return and reached the slope of viability. This is the same slope surpassed by innovative technologies like ephemeral messaging (Snapchat), which became one of the most popular marketing tools to emerge in the last five years.

So what does all of this mean?

In short, we can conclude that the immersive media experience called virtual reality is about to become a marketing technology that's not only viable for heavy hitters like Google and Facebook, but also sustainable, productive, and accessible for mainstream audiences.

And when virtual reality reaches this point, it will fundamentally alter the way marketers distribute and target brand messaging.

Just think about the possibility of a VR platform that could offer a more engaging social networking experience than Facebook!

But reaching the next phase in Gartner's Hype Cycle can be a long and arduous process, especially if new questions arise about expanding scales and climbing costs. In other words, it's still too early to say who's ahead in the race for peak VR productivity - innovators and investors will have to take a backseat to the free market, and patiently watch what happens.

In the meantime, mass market potential for virtual reality and immersive media has approached its most lucrative phase. Now is the time for marketers to use every spare second they have to observe key developments in the VR marketplace.

This is all the more true given that VR has already begun to change brand messaging as we speak.

Here are the three biggest ways virtual reality is doing that -

1. Virtual Reality is Changing How Marketers Sell Experience

Because virtual reality is a rich media format that sells an immersive experience, the technology is already revolutionizing the marketplace for experiential marketing.

Most theme parks have already caught onto this use of virtual reality, as many now furnish VR headsets to enhance their guests' experience.

Source: Mirror Online (2017)

SeaWorld, for instance, recently installed wraparound headsets to give riders of their Kraken roller coaster an experience they will never forget.

When the practice of selling people an experience has become the secret ingredient for tapping consumer markets—and particularly the Millennial consumer market that is so large, expansive, and accepting of new technologies—marketers cannot afford to underestimate the power that virtual reality has to reach new levels of engagement with global audiences.

The question is whether or not this method of delivery for virtual reality can be sustained and scaled to fit smaller media for less cost, but still deliver an unforgettable experience.

Right now, interactive designers and VR enthusiasts are at work bridging that gap with headsets that can browse the entire Internet in 3D.

When you consider the possibility of being able to see every video on the web in three dimensions, you open up a new world of possibilities for thinking about engagement with brand messaging -

That brings us to our second point -

2. Virtual Reality Is Disrupting How Marketers Track Attention and Engagement

When the practice of using a mouse or smartphone declines in the face of VR adoption, what happens to metrics like click rate? How do we measure user attention span and engagement with brand messaging if people aren't using their hands to interact with applications?

Part of the answer may lie in the startup potential of an emerging technology called Virtual Reality Eye Tracking.

Source: DTG Technology Readiness Levels (2016)

According to a method used by world militaries to measure an emerging technology's usability—the Technology Readiness Level (TRL)—Virtual Reality Eye Tracking has reached its full potential: enabling full gameplay for disabled persons.

As a result, it has become possible to measure engagement in virtual reality simply by tracking where a user is looking at a screen, and the technology which makes this possible is more than halfway to mass marketability.

What this could mean for brand messengers is that VR headsets have the potential to render taps and clicks obsolete in the near and distant future, especially if eye recognition technology becomes viable for larger screens.

It also means that attention—arguably the most important metric for determining user interest—is well on its way to becoming the next big metric for measuring a brand's success at attracting and retaining an audience.

3. Virtual Reality Is Disrupting How Marketers Sponsor Social Good

What if I told you that VR revenues are much more likely to come from markets of professionals who are undergoing vocational training for careers in computer science, engineering, and medicine rather than movies and passive forms of entertainment?

Source: Oculus - VR for Good

Of course, virtual reality is good for gaming - Eye Tracking technology can testify to that fact. But because this feature is primarily being developed so that disabled and handicapped users can play games without the use of their hands, the technology can also be thought of as virtual reality that sponsors a social good.

There are many developing uses for virtual reality technology that might accomplish something similar. For example, Oculus sponsors a challenge for aspiring filmmakers in high school to use 360-degree video technology to produce content that can inspire a change in their communities. Medical doctors and interactive designers are currently at work on developing applications for virtual reality that provide pain relief to children.

Today's marketers can likely think of many applications for this type of content as the viewer market for it grows. There already are opportunities for 360-degree video ads (and ad networks) that might be used to convey brand messaging that is socially moving. The next question for online marketers might be how can we use virtual reality for brand messaging to tell even more compelling stories than we are already telling?

Conclusion

However you look at it, virtual reality is on the cusp of changing the brand messaging landscape for marketers everywhere. Will you be one of the pioneers creating change, or a reactionary on the sidelines?

To learn how you can be one of the pioneers, take OMI's newest classes on Emerging Media.

 


Infographic: How to Start a Business Blog

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Editor's Note: Wanda Carlson is a business writer and graphic designer who contributes to WebsiteSetup. Today, she joins us to share an original graphic that concisely explains how to build and maintain a blog for your company.

 

As a business maintaining or striving to maintain an online presence, there is almost nothing better you can do than to keep a blog. According to the 2016 Content Preferences Survey by Demand Gen, about 47% of buyers read 3 to 5 pieces of content before initiating a purchase. Consequently, by failing to adequately focus on content, businesses can forfeit up to half of their potential revenue!

It's worth considering why businesses make this mistake. One answer could be the sheer number of good, productive marketing strategies for an online business. These include maintaining an active social media presence, an email list, or targeted advertising campaigns.

Depending on the company and product, any one of these strategies may be well worth pursuing. But one thing tends to remain constant from business to business: a single strategy should not be pursued at the expense of everything else. Online marketing is no different; publishing original content on a blog is not only a great way to earn and convert inbound traffic all on its own, but complements social media and email marketing activities very nicely.

Infographic Summary

In the following infographic, we will explain the basic steps you should know to create and maintain a business blog. Here are a few key takeaways:

  • There are numerous blogging platforms, and depending on your needs, you may decide to choose something specialized to an industry. However, after many years, WordPress remains the strongest multi-purpose platform on the web. Not only is it fast, easily customized and free, but has a large support community that can help if you run into any issues.
  • Craft diverse and genuinely valuable (rather than salesy) content for your blog on a regular schedule, in a voice that comes naturally to you and reflects your brand identity, with a carefully considered audience in mind
  • Be engaged with your own audience, and other influencers in your community to build authority and backlinks. Integrate content into your other marketing strategies by sending blog posts to social media, or to email subscribers.
  • Stay relevant by paying attention to important trends, and bring search engine traffic to your blog by optimizing content for SEO.

With that, here's the infographic - feel free to save and share with colleagues or friends!

Learn more with these related OMI classes:

Expressing the Brand Through Content Marketing

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 Google Analytics Can Build Your Web Presence

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Editor's Note: April Davis is a content producer at Webfirm, and joins us today to explain how Google Analytics can boost your online presence, and how to get started.

Have you ever heard the phrase, "a billboard in the middle of a desert?" It sounds like a ridiculous idea. Nobody would put a billboard in a desert because there's nobody in the desert to see it.

However, many businesses create "billboards in the desert" when they build a website and do nothing to bring visitors in.

One reason new webmasters face this problem is because they don't understand the tools bundled with their own website. This failure is especially true for Web analytics; while it may seem like a website is doing its job whether a human is paying attention or not, nothing is really that simple.

No digital marketing strategy is complete without effective reporting, because without transparency, how do you know what’s working and what’s not?

This is where tools like Google Analytics come in.   

What is Google Analytics?

Google Analytics is a free tool from Google that allows you to measure - among many other variables - your website traffic. At first glance, this might not seem overly important or impressive. However, data from Google Analytics can help answer a number of key questions for website owners, including:

  • How many people are visiting the website
  • Where these visitors are located geographically
  • Whether the site is effectively converting mobile customers
  • What digital marketing tactics are driving the most web traffic (for example, PPC campaigns or social media marketing)
  • Which web pages attract the most visitors
  • How many web visitors have converted into an actual lead or sale
  • What digital channels users are coming from
  • Whether the website is fast enough, or takes too long to load
  • If it has a blog, the type of content that brings in the most visitors?

In answering these questions, website owners are able to establish what does and doesn’t work, and what they can do to improve the effectiveness of both their website design and their digital marketing strategy.

There are a lot of online tools and content from Google that can help you to understand Google Analytics, but to really learn the ins and outs of this effective web analytics tool and similar applications, a Web Analytics Certification can prove invaluable.

How Can You Use Google Analytics Data to Improve Your Business's Online Presence?  

So now that we know how important Google Analytics is in determining the objective of a website and targeting SEO efforts into the most effective channels, what are the benefits of applying it in everyday settings?

At its most basic level, Google Analytics provides the empirical data you need to make smart business decisions. You wouldn’t buy a car without doing research, so why would you invest in an AdWords campaign without first knowing which channels your web visitors are coming from?

When you dig a little deeper, you’ll quickly realize that Google Analytics comes with a host of other benefits.   

Tracking the Movement of Your Users

Google Analytics allows you to track exactly what people are doing when they visit your website. For instance, you can see what pages they visit, how long they stay there and the total bounce rate. You’ll also be able to see how they navigate through your site.

This will help you understand what pages on your site that visitors engage with the most, and which ones they’re not really interested in. This consequently means that once again, you can shift your attention to what’s not working and fix whatever makes them lose interest. It might be that the bulk of your visitors are coming from mobile devices and your site isn’t mobile optimized, or it might mean the content on your website isn’t appealing to your target audience.

In addition to these points, Google Analytics’ data will also provide insights into the usability of your site and whether it’s quick to load and easy to navigate, or whether it’s taking too long to load and is difficult to navigate.

Gauging Your Target Audience Perception

What’s your target audience?

Let’s say you’re a wedding dress designer who is targeting women between the ages of 25-35. You’re also targeting women within your local area. You can determine the accuracy of your target audience perception by using the audience reports that can be found within Google Analytics. These reports include everything from user locations and age, to gender and even interests.

After looking at these metrics, you might realize that your target audience is actually a little different from what you thought it was. For example, you might have a lot of mature-aged brides in their 40s shopping for your gowns, or perhaps you have customers from outside your local area who are interested in your designs.

Thanks to Google Analytics, you’ll be able to learn as much as you possibly can about your target audience, so you can ensure your ads and campaigns encompass the interests of your audience, while also making sure you’re targeting the correct locations, devices and etc.  

Better Allocation of Your Budget

Naturally enough, one of the biggest interests when it comes to analyzing website performance is determining how good return on investment (ROI) is. But how do you determine this, and how can you better allocate your budget to improve your ROI?

With Google Analytics, of course!

You’ll already be on track to improving your budget allocation when you nail steps listed in this article, but there are also reports available through Google Analytics that will offer you a percentage increase/decrease on your budget that’s dependent on the specific model of attribution you choose to use.

Once again, understanding your audience will also influence your budget allocation, as you might realise you need to be targeting users from different areas or with different interests.

How Can You Get Started with Google Analytics?

Getting started is easy; as there are no initial start-up costs and you can get started easily from the Google Analytics website. All you need to sign up is an existing or new Gmail account, and of course, a website to track. Then, you simply follow the provided steps.

For more in depth information on getting started with Google Analytics, consider a certification in Web Analytics. Our professionally guided classes will teach you everything you need to know to raise boost sales and raise ROI.

 

 

 


The 4-Step Content Marketing Strategy for Growth-Hacking Conversions

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Editor's Note: Josh R Jackson is a contributing editor at BestMarketingDegrees.org. To complement the brand new classes in our updated catalog, he joins us to discuss a growth hacking strategy that content marketers can use to boost their conversion rates.

 

There are thousands of workable content marketing strategies, but a select few have higher-than-average conversion rates. These content strategies fall under the category of growth-hacking strategies, which include ways of enhancing leads and conversions in a very short period of time.

One of these content strategies is the four-step process outlined below, which I’ve personally seen increase conversion rates for nearly a dozen affiliate marketing websites focused on growth hacking. Let's dive in!

1. Research and Develop Consumer Insight

Every business has indicators of success, or success signals. These success signals range from the number of leads generated by a single blog post (obvious), to a single click through to a landing page (less obvious).

Growth hackers and conversion-oriented content strategists research and develop consumer insights by harnessing the power of data to narrow down exactly what these success signals tell us about our users. Their methods might include conducting polls, surveys, and interviews—each of which can be achieved with ease on social media—as well as implementing user tests or following the trail of web analytics wherever it goes, which can require some buy-in.

(Source: Inflow)

All of these methods can and should be used to pinpoint exactly what your business is doing that is working to convert casual users into customers, and what your site is doing that isn’t working to convert casual users into customers.

Pro-Tip: Use at least two different methods to test your insights into what’s driving users to convert.

2. Publish Information Most Relevant to Incoming Traffic

One easy success signal we haven’t mentioned is incoming traffic to your website.

Most businesses know that if users perform a search and click through to our website, then we’re doing something right in terms of relevance.

But content strategists and growth hackers also know that a steady stream of traffic doesn’t always spell a steady stream of conversions. They also know that the right kind of traffic does.

So what’s the right kind of traffic? Organic search traffic.

Organic search traffic is drawn to your website because you publish some of the most relevant information pertaining to a certain set of keywords, whether that information appears in an advertisement, a search result, or both.

Now having the most relevant information available on a certain set of keywords also means publishing content well and publishing ads often, both of which should focus on repeating the set of keywords that best draws your organic search traffic.

Pro-Tip: Match your calls-to-action with the keywords that incoming traffic is searching before they are referred to you. That means if users who search “content marketing strategy” are coming to you, you should probably include a call-to-action that says “Get Our Content Marketing Strategy” on a landing page.

3. Appeal to Authority for Credibility

If content strategists want to enhance the pagerank for their content on Google (or any of the Internet’s most popular search engines), they need credibility.

What most people underestimate is how long the path to earning credibility usually is. Even sites that start with a bona fide audience or brand name can lose public interest quickly if the content doesn’t measure up to that audience’s expectations. This is why earning credibility is arguably the most difficult step to surmount in this four-step process: it requires knowing how to build relationships and play the long game, fast.

Growth hackers and content marketing strategists know that in order to gain credibility, they must efficiently use each and every piece of content they publish to build trust and establish relationships with authorities in their industry.

The most surefire way to build trust and establish relationships is to curate content that appeals to authority. Publish content you want those big names to read. Build a network of company reviews, logos, and backlinks that connects your brand with some of the biggest and brightest names in industry. Then watch your conversions start to grow.

This takes time, patience, and maintenance, but it will pay large dividends if you persist.

Pro-Tip: Post company email addresses with a person’s name attached to them on your contact or support pages. Doing so enhances transparency, trust, and ultimately credibility.

4. Offer an Option with Calls-To-Action

Think about the last time someone asked you to do something. Now think about whether or not you were happy to do it. If you were, chances are the person gave you an option, and you chose to do what they asked because you felt it wasn’t too much to ask, especially if the other option didn’t sound as good.

If you didn’t choose to do what they asked, then chances are they offered you too many options when too much was at stake, and you felt the offer was too much to ask, which may have forced you into a state of so-called “analysis paralysis,” or worse, to simply ignore the offer in the first place.

So why do people prefer fewer options to more? According to two studies by the same two researchers, giving people fewer options increases their likelihood of making a decision to buy something.

That means it is a virtue in sales to provide consumers with a simple choice.

The same can be said for the content marketing and conversion strategies of growth hackers.

Growth hackers know that less is more, as well as how to avoid overwhelming users with too much information and too many options. One of the best ways to do this is giving users a choice on your call-to-action pages, even if that choice is as simple as a Sign-Up or Login button. Allowing users to choose between two versions of free content (e.g., Free Trial and a Study) is also a great way to increase conversion rates and gain some insight about what your users prefer.

Pro-Tip: Remove the navigation bar from CTA landing pages. Doing so has been shown to increase conversion rates by as much as 16% for Free Trial offers and 28% for Demo offers.

Is the conversion rate for your content marketing strategy optimized? To learn more about how you can implement a content marketing strategy that optimizes your conversion rates with consumer insights, credibility, and calls-to-action, join OMI's newest classes on Content Marketing Consumer Insights and Content Marketing Channels.

For ten days, access to our new courses is completely free.