Social Media

The VCR Is Dead, But Video Is Fast Forwarding

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The last remaining VCR manufacturer ended production last month, signaling the end of the Be Kind, Rewind Era.

To be honest, news that VCRs were still on assembly lines past the century mark is shocking, especially with the rise in digital video viewers. Even more remarkable are the advances we are seeing this year with virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), underscored by the massive Pokémon Go audience.

It seems pretty clear that our methods of delivering video content have changed drastically. What hasn’t shifted over time is our fascination with video itself.

A Look at Video Today

Adults in the U.S. now consume 99 minutes of digital video each and every day. That’s 38 more minutes than just a year ago.

To date, live streaming video is available on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter – with Instagram and Snapchat releasing their own versions of collected videos from live events. Two million VR headsets will be sold by the end of this year. Though, to be fair, this medium isn’t expected to go mainstream for another six to eight years. In technology, that feels like a lifetime.
Augmented reality, however, soared past virtual reality this year with the introduction of Pokémon Go. This location-based mobile app blends the real world and the fictional world for some insanely impressive video gaming. Some are concluding the gloss is fading, but 9.5 million users can’t be wrong…right?

From live streaming to virtual and augmented reality, I think it’s fair to say we’re not in Kansas anymore.

Where Video is Headed

Digital video natives are leading the way, tapping into cord cutter audiences that abandoned cable television for online and streaming programs.

Tastemade, the fifth-largest video publisher on Facebook and born from a tiny YouTube channel, now amasses triple the number of viewers as The Food Network. Apple announced recently it’s working on augmented reality behind the curtain, calling it a “core technology.” Amazon is working on original VR and AR content, because of course they are.

The VCR has left the building, but I predict we are only at the beginning of the future.

New video technologies are gaining traction, reshaping not only how we watch videos but also how we become a part of them.

This article was originally posted on the Reach Analytics blog.

 


The 9 Best Tools To Help Improve Your Content Writing Skills

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Content writing is unlike any other business skill. In most areas you can go off once a year to get a refresher course. But if you’re a content writer, you know this is not the case, as content writing is constantly changing from day to day. If you want to stay ahead of the curve, then you have to find the right tools to help you stay there. Every single day you have to teach the old dog new tricks.

That is where these 9 awesome online tools come in. Every one of them will help you and your employees take their content writing to the next level and put your content on the map.

Ideator

 

 

Starting off this list with a bang we have the Ideator from the clever people at Content Forest. You can’t write good content without knowing what people want to read about. You also can’t run any sort of curation without knowing what is out there on the internet. Ideator lets you track what content is going viral and which on which social media networks it is most popular. You can search in specific niche interest areas to identify your audience and you can choose topics based on what is trending from minute to minute. Before you ever start blogging this is where you need to go to decide what to write about.

Daily Page

For some of you content writing is only a part of your job. It might not even be your favorite part of your job. Daily Page helps you to get into a writing routine, producing at least one page of content every single day. First thing in the morning it will prompt you with a topic, and you have the rest of the day to write that post. At the end of the day, you decide whether or not you want to share it. If you are just getting started in the content writing world and want to hone your skills, then Daily Page might be just the right tool for you.

X-Essays

 

Sometimes there just isn’t enough time in the day to get everything that you need done. On days like that you can turn to X-Essays writing services. They can turn out content at a high speed on any topic and they can do it for a lot less than you might think. Their content is all custom written and plagiarism free so it is safe to insert it in amongst your own content freely. The bottom line is this, to run a content based business successfully you need the raw material to keep up momentum. Boom Essays can give you that.

Ideaflip

This is one of those tools that you never even knew existed, but once you try it, your won’t be able to live without it. Ideaflip is a brainstorming program that lives in the cloud. You and your employees can access it from anywhere in the world using any device. It eliminates the need for endless meetings to discuss every single idea and instead creates a risk-free environment for everyone to pitch their content and blend their ideas into the best final products imaginable. The bright simple design makes everything easy to understand, you can import your own content directly into the application and the “brain-map” design makes every connection between ideas crystal clear. You are going to kick yourself for not using it sooner.

Power Thesaurus

Everyone who has passed high school English knows what a Thesaurus is. When you are trying to brighten up your writing and eliminate repetition of your favorite phrases and words you open that little fat book and start looking. What makes Power Thesaurus different is that it is alive. While the old thesaurus was a fixed list of words and most of the websites that offer thesaurus services are much the same Power Thesaurus crowd sources its responses. Synonyms for words are listed in order of how many times they have been voted up by users. This lets you find out not just which words you can use in place of others, it also lets you find out which words are the most popular replacements for others. Power Thesaurus reflects the English language as it is now, not how it was decades ago when the first thesaurus was written.

Sniply

Sniply is a neat little tool that lets you link from your content back to your website in the form of an unobtrusive little pop-up call to action. As well as driving a lot of readers back to your site it also allows you to track where your site visitors are coming from and modify your marketing strategies accordingly. This tool turns every guest post that your bloggers produce into another stream of readers heading to your site.

Rated Writing


This service is all about generating copy for you to use where you see fit. Where they differ from other companies is that they have a ton of experience in writing search engine optimized material for websites. All of the content that they generate is custom written for you to your specifications with a lot of back and forth communication to make sure that it is exactly what you are looking for. Combined with Ideaflip this can completely change your whole business. With a guarantee of unique content you don’t have to worry about finding the exact same information anywhere else on the internet and have to deal with the ensuing headaches.

Keyword Tool

So you are writing content but nobody is ever seeing it. All those hours of work are going to waste and your business is no better off than it would have been if you had done nothing. That is why you need Keyword Tool. It gives you the data direct about which long-tailed keywords are going to drive readers to your content. You can use it for Search Engine Optimization while writing your content and you can use it when you are planning out the online advertising campaign that is going to make your brand into a household name. Huge bonus, it is 99% effective and free while every other Keyword Tool out there charges you.

 

Uber Suggest

Where Keyword Tool stops, Uber Suggest begins. It finds the keywords that Google Keyword Planner hasn’t even thought of yet. The strange little idiosyncratic phrases that the right group of people put into their searches that will drive them directly to the your content. It is incredibly easy to use, clearly explained and even offers the option of downloading a spreadsheet of your keywords as a CSV file to use later.

Putting it all together

The unpleasant truth is that content writing is never going to get any easier, there is more and more competition for views every single day and there are only so many eyes out there looking at screens. Your competitors will be using everything at their disposal to keep those eyes pointed their way. Using tools like these can help you ensure your content is what people see first and what they will want to share with others.

Mary Walton is a professional editor and online tutor, currently living in Santa Monica. She's starting educational blog Simple Grad to share her thoughts on education and writing. Follow Mary on Twitter and Linkedin!

 


Avoid PR Disasters with the Perfect Social Media Policy

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Belgrade - May 07, 2014 Facebook, Twitter And Other Popular Soci

Do your employees know which countries giraffes reside in? Have they ever heard of the Challenger disaster? While these questions may seem pointless and completely unrelated to social media, they have actually been the cause of several PR disasters. During the 2014 World Cup Championship, Delta Air Lines congratulated Team USA on their victory over Ghana by tweeting a picture of the Statue of Liberty for the U.S. and a giraffe for Ghana. Twitter users quickly pointed out that there are no giraffes in Ghana.

That was a relatively minor slip up compared to a month later, when American Apparel posted a picture of the space shuttle Challenger explosion on their Tumblr. According to their official apology, their social media manager was born after the disaster and was unaware of it.

This doesn’t mean that all of your marketers should receive history and geography lessons. The dozens of other PR disasters that happen on social media every year occur for any number of reasons. What it does mean is that your organization needs a social media policy to prevent PR mistakes and to mitigate the damage if any potentially harmful messages are released.

Preventing Social PR Disasters

The best way to prevent social media blunders is to only allow company messages to come from one person and one social media account. Unfortunately, that’s not the best way to receive any real engagement on your social channels.

Social media messages that are shared by employees reach 561% further than those shared by official company channels.

Using employee social advocacy safely and successfully requires that you and your employees have a clear understanding of what messages are encouraged and which should be avoided.

Build a Strategy and Social Media Policy to Guide Your Employee Advocacy

If you have a social media strategy, share it with your employees. Giving them an understanding of what your social goals and positioning are will show them how their networks can best support the brand. In addition to strategy, a clear social media policy should also define what employees can and cannot do online.

Establish Guidelines for Posting

Avoid sending your employees a 50-page document of Social Media Don’ts. Your guidelines should encourage sharing! Make your guidelines simple and based on common sense. Most of the information will be better communicated through training, but it will be valuable to have an official document in case any incidents occur.

Train Your Employees on Social Media

53% of salespeople say they’d like social media training. Despite this fact, 93% of them have received no formal training from their company.

Look to Dell for an example of an excellent social media training program. Over the past 5 years, Dell’s Social Media and Community University has trained over 15,000 of their employees on social media best practices. The benefits they’ve seen extend to all areas of their business:

  • Sales via social media has seen a 69% year-over-year increase.
  • With 4,000 customer service cases a week on social media, they hold a 98% first-time resolution rate.
  • 89% increase in the number of external hires coming from employee social referrals.

Provide Employees with Social Media Content to Share

Supplying employees with suggested social media content is another way to increase advocacy while also controlling the messages being sent out. You can send out regular post suggestions or for certain salespeople and brand advocates you can post on their behalf through a social media lead generation tool like Socedo. This is particularly valuable for sales reps who need to regularly share messages to leads in a timely and relevant manner.

Responding to Social PR Disasters

No matter how well trained and informed your employees are, eventually a social media crisis will strike your company. However, that doesn’t need to spell disaster for your brand. Many companies have been applauded for how well they handled a PR disaster.

Two companies that prove this fact are DiGiorno and Entenmann’s. Both companies received backlash after unintentionally leveraging trending hashtags that were related to sensitive issues. Entenmann’s tweeted using the #NotGuilty hashtag related to the Casey Anthony murder verdict while DiGiorno used the #WhyIStayed hashtag related to domestic violence.

Entenmann’s responded by avoiding Twitter for years until they had lived down the crisis. On the other side, DiGiorno personally responded to offended Twitter users and went to great lengths to own their mistake.

Because of their response, DiGiorno was able to limit the damage done to their brand and continue to use Twitter as a valuable channel.

Create a Social Media PR Disaster Plan

In addition to your social media policy, you should have a formal plan in place that defines what a social media crisis means to your brand and what actions you will take in the event of one. Some incidents may require personal apologies to every offended customer, like in DiGiorno’s example. Some incidents may require you to put out a press release or issue a formal statement. Understanding what is required in various situations and having the resources in place to respond quickly will greatly reduce the damage a social media PR incident can have on your brand.

Monitor Your Online Reputation

Responding to PR disasters and regular customer complaints in a timely manner requires that you actually know about them. While users reference brands on Twitter all the time, less than 3% directly @mention the brand when they do. Monitoring real-time keywords can help you identify potential disasters the moment they occur so your response can be quick and effective.

Social media PR disasters happen. However, if you create clear guidelines so you and your employees can be authentic and communicate with honesty, you can limit the potential for major incidents and limit the damage they will have on your brand.

This article was originally featured on Duct Tape Marketing Network 

Teena ThachTeena Thach is Socedo’s social media and marketing specialist. Socedo is a demand generation system that empowers marketers to discover, engage with and qualify prospects through social media to generate revenue at scale.

 


 


Three Emerging Social Channels You Must Keep An Eye On In 2016

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There are few digital realms that captivate more people these days than social. The social space is an evocative one. Social media can be rather personal.  This makes it fundamentally intriguing, allowing people to peek behind the curtains of our lives - or rather, our companies lives. Whether we portray an authentic image is up to us, but -  that notion of transparency is why our customers love to visit us in our ‘social homes.’ They walk through our social doorways to get to know the product more deeply, see how human our organizations are (or aren’t), and interact with whatever useful and free content we’re happily providing. And, as the age old psychological phenomenon reveals, proximity breeds affection and attention, so it behooves us to to build social homes wherever the customer might wander. The same side of that coin a mantra worth repeating: as marketers -  we must always, always watch new and emerging channels. New and emerging channels are likely where our audiences are - or in the least, exploring. Their actions, interactions, engagement, disengagement, can give us incredibly useful information on what our potential customers are - and aren't interested in, and of course, where the eyeballs are, at any given moment. 

With that, here are a few emerging social channels to watch in 2016.

Hyper: Instagram and reddit got married, and had a baby...meet hyper.

With Hyper, user post images directly to areas that interest them.  Others who have previously subscribed to that interest area, will get notified. Users provide instant feedback in the the form of up votes and down votes. Hyper still feels a little shaky where UX is concerned but -  by taking some of the most popular features from other highly successful social media forums (photo heavy, hashtags, voting, and geographic tagging), hyper may be poised for a ton of growth and eyeballs in 2016.

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Blab: Live streaming - that doesn’t suck.

Blab is simple, intuitive, and provides a higher sense of engagement than Google hangouts in that it is outfitted with a panel for live chat on the left, and a panel to tweet on the right. The medium also limits guests to 3 people, with an option for one of those seat to be left open for a “call in” during the blab. This cultivates a sense of exclusivity, unlike Google hangouts, where you can host up to 10 video participants. And unlike Facebook mentions, Meerkat and Periscope, Blab is not limited to mobile only. Further, it’s easy recording feature has made it relatively popular tool for use in podcasts, after shows, interviews etc. Blab’s versatility, simplicity, built in live chat and social integrations, might just be enough to position them as a leader in live streaming in 2016.

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photo cred: https://blab.im/about

Peach: Making social media … more addictive?


Crafted by the creator of Vine, Dan Hoffman, peach is a new app that some are claiming might be ‘the one to take on the giants’, (read:Facebook, Twitter). For those who enjoy social media (most of us) peach is intriguing in that is ups your potential ‘social creativity’ by acting as your social media assistant, pulling images, gifs, songs, moods, emoji etc., based on “magic” words typed by the user. Still, it’s lack of timeline and inability to follow those who aren’t friends, leaves me questioning its’ realistic lifespan.

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Over 90% of Companies Lack Digital Skills – And What You Can Do About It

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What is the digital talent gap?

According to a study done by Capgemini Consulting in conjunction with MIT Center for Digital Business, they uncovered some staggering stats that will help us understand the phenomenon.

  • Over 90% of companies lack digital skills
  • 77% of companies considered ‘missing digital skills’ as a key hurdle to digital transformation
  • 87% of companies believe a digital transformation is a competitive opportunity
  • Only 47% of companies are investing in developing digital skills
  • Only 4% of companies are ensuring their training efforts are aligned with their overall digital strategy
  • Companies are spending no more than 20% of their training budget on digital
  • Only 30% of organizations mentioned HR as being actively involved in skills development

Companies across the globe felt the biggest holes in digital skill sets across their organization in the following areas: social media, mobile, internal social networks, process automation and analysis.

According to the same 2013 study, the below skills are most relevant for the digital age:

  • Big data analytics
  • Social media
  • Mobile devices
  • Cloud

To get a bit more granular, skills in this area range from light tech to heavy tech-centric skills. Light tech skills in the digital age include things like social media management, brand building online, online community management, virtual (webinar, presentation, etc.) facilitation, writing for different digital mediums, marketing automation tools management, customer service and public relations. Heavy tech skills in the digital age include things like user interface design, mobile device management, mobile device security, data analysis, app management and design, and much more.

The second half of the puzzle lies in corporations needs to match tech skills with business acumen. The true value of digital skills are born when they are combined with a deep understanding of the business. This is leading to an increased need for employees who have both technical skills plus business and leadership abilities.

So - what can companies do to ‘plug the skills gap?’

Let’s first take a look at what some companies are currently doing. Google partnered with P&G to implement an employee exchange program to help teach their employees how to sell things online. They focused on digital and search marketing to help bring their e-commerce into the 21st century. Nike partnered with Techstars in an incubator program to create new products.

Upskilling employees is an ideal way to empower those who already know your business, with the digital skills needed to close the gap in your organization.

And, this upskilling does not need to be ‘Google-sized.’ Small and medium sized business have options. There are ways to invest in current employees that don’t require you to be P&G or Nike.

Organizations, like ours - offer affordable options for digital and online training for companies of all sizes. We’ve been training teams since 2007 and have supported corporate teams as large as 10,000 employees, and as small as 10. We offer fully customized eLearning programs with the added benefit of leveraging over 400 + hours of existing high quality content taught by Digital Marketing thought leaders, authors, and leading practitioners.

We begin with an assessment to test employee’s digital knowledge to help us build a program to fill your skills gap and augment your employee strengths. We’ll then help design a custom based learning pathway comprised of classes that fit your organization's’ particular skill(s) gap. We also offer LMS integration, marketing support, reporting dashboards, and robust user role access to support any size organization.

We’d love to help you empower your team. Visit our Corporate Training Page or send us an inquiry.

 

 


Top 10 Digital Marketing Trends For 2016

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Tis’ the season for lists! Christmas lists, lengthy grocery lists for holiday gatherings, itineraries for holiday travel. If you’re a marketer, surely you’re poised for the onslaught of ‘2016 trends to watch,’ lists, popping up all over our favorite blogs, periodicals, and websites; Top digital marketing trends to watch in 2016, 5 Marketing tactics that will make or break your company in 2016, 7 Digital marketing tactics you need to master in 2016. So, to ease your burden, we’ve read most of them for you - and prepared a snap-shot of the most popular from the list of lists. Here are the Top 10 digital trends and tactics to plan for in 2016.

 

1) Social Media - From Ugly Duckling to Swan

With a number of alliances between Google and big social media players (read: Facebook and Twitter) it’s no wonder marketers are starting to head the social call. The product of these marriages will increase the importance of a company's social media presence. Bloomberg was quoted saying, “[tweets] will start to be visible in Google’s search results as soon as they are posted.” It doesn’t seem likely that Google will slow down forging more partnerships with leading social platforms. The result? Allowing social results to influence search engine results!

Next, if you haven’t experienced the upgraded targeting ad features on Facebook, take the time to get acquainted now. The retargeting and integrations within Facebook Ad’s manager are powerful data driven features that have marketers excited. Serve ads based on retargeting, custom lists, actions, behaviors, page visits ... the list goes on.

Lastly, social media has become one of the number one place customers go to thank (or complain). The highly transparent and public nature of social media makes users feel like they’ve ‘cut to the front of the line’. If you’re not hearing their complaints (or accolades) and acting accordingly, you can be certain other people are.

So what should you do? Tweet. Be active, transparent, human and timely across social channels. Allow people to know what you’re up to - build brand trust and intrigue. Invest in your Facebook content and strategies, and get social listening tools so your customer service team can be a part of (and control of) the ‘social goings on’ of your company.

Recommended class: Using Social Media to Create Engagement by Kevin Popovic - Founder of Ideahaus

 

2) Now You See It, Now You Don’t - The Rise of Ephemeral Marketing

Sometimes termed ‘temporary social media’ - Snapchat is leading the way in ephemeral marketing. Snapchat is useful for generating excitement around a new product or feature, or driving specific marketing actions, such as promos or discounts. Many companies (Food Network, Vice, BuzzFeed, Mashable, Cosmo, ESPN, to name a few) are capitalizing on the younger generation, aka millennials, who flock to Snapchat where they can consume content that feels ‘straight to the point’ and, where they can access ‘limited access content’, that is content with an expiration date - read as: exclusive.

 

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Recommended class: Trending Social Apps: Pinterest, Vine and Snapchat  by Kelsey Jones owner of MoxieDot

 

3) Content Remains King

Think content is only used to strengthen SERs? While that is absolutely one of the key reasons you should be creating regular, original, relevant, brand enhancing and engaging quality content, check out these statistics that tell a compelling story about the other important roles content plays.

  • 90% of customers find custom content useful while 78% believe that companies with custom content are interested in building positive relationships
  • Content marketing costs less than traditional marketing, 62% less per lead, to be exact

Content builds brand trust and loyalty, and helps define you as an expert in your field. If you don’t yet have brand advocates upping your credibility, you’ll have to be the one to do that - and one of the best ways you can accomplish this is with content. In 2016, if you don’t have the budget or resources to create a robust brand advocacy strategy, think about getting influencers on board to help tell your story. It comes down to this, if you’re not doing it, your competitors are, and as content and consumption becomes a larger part of the buyer's journey, if you’re not making noise with your content, you’re getting drowned out by the noise of others.

Recommended class: Content Marketing for Social Media by Neal Schaffer, Founder of Maximize Social Business

 

4) Location Based Marketing Technology

Location based marketing is particularly important if your company regularly hosts events. Through the use of fancy tech (Radio Frequency Identification - RFID) marketers can utilize wearables, applications, or even cards with a unique RFID identifier, to amplify social sharing by creating a seamless and integrated consumption and sharing experience.

Although a lot of the freshest and coolest location based marketing is geared towards events, location based marketing isn’t just for event marketers. Other location based services and technologies have been created to locate nearby devices that can detect prospects at the time of engagement with a particular product or retail establishment.

 

Minority Report? Anyone?

 

5) Relationship Marketing

This boils down to creating loyalists (brand advocates) instead of focusing on quick, short-term sales and aquisition. The focus is on long lasting customer relationships. Those companies that do this well are the envy of many, having created an ecosystem where customers are creating brand awareness that feels organic, authentic and credible.

Coca-Cola kills it when it comes to relationship marketing. This is one of my favorites (of hundreds) of relationship campaigns they’ve run all over the world.

Coca-Cola caps as currency - genius. Not to mention, this one’s a real tear jerker.

Recommended class: Improve Relationship Marketing Using Social Media by Brian Basilico, owner of B2B Interactive Marketing, Inc.  

 

6) Marketing Automation

Marketing automation has become increasingly necessary as more and more companies are understanding the importance of content and leveraging content as a leading tactic for led gen. Automation tools make it easier to manage everything from blogging to the customer/prospect lifecycle. Curious about what tools are out there? Check out this list of The Top 50 Marketing Automation Tools and Apps.

Recommended Class: Marketing Automation Best Practices for Success by Carlos Hidalgo


7) Virtual Reality

Virtual reality will emerge, and has the potential to change the way we tell stories. Obviously we expect 3D to take off first in the game industry, however, the benefits this tech add to the customer journey are intriguing. Imagine taking your next car out for a test drive or taking a tour of a potential vacation home, without leaving the comfort of your own living room? As personalization continues to be top priority, savvy marketers will find ways to bring their products and stories to life. Whether this will be a massive game changer remains to be seen, but with billions of dollars of funding around, it surely will be entertaining to watch it all unfold.

 

8) Wearables and the Internet of Things

What has felt like a slow and steady burn for wearable tech popularity in 2015, will likely continue into 2016. What this means for marketers is even more opportunity for targeted marketing, data and behavior driven marketing. It also means you may be making marketing choices based on the day-to-day behaviors of your potential consumers. Wearables will also change the way people share content, so the whole social landscape will shift accordingly, plus more wearable tech means less dependence on RFID’s or ibeacons for geo-location marketing efforts.

 

9) Video or Bust

Did you know that YouTube is the second largest search engine after Google? The number of searches on YouTube tops Bing, Y!, Ask.com, and AOL combined. YouTube also boasts an audience reach of more US adults ages 18-34 than any other cable network. Makes you squirm a little thinking about all the search you’re missing out on - doesn’t it? Live streaming takes video to a new level entirely. With ephemeral marketing gaining popularity, anyone with a smartphone can capture ‘exclusive’ content. In 2016 make sure you’re exploring snapchat, periscope, and Facebook and seeing where you can incorporate live streaming into your marketing strategies as well as planning for a YouTube presence if you don’t already have one. Check out this article for examples of these 8 brands live stream video for innovative marketing.

 

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10) Optimized for Mobile

At this point, mobile and responsive websites should be a no brainer. For the past few years, we’ve been sprinting towards mobile dominating desktop, and we’ve passed it. Mobile has officially passed desktop browsing. What does this mean for you? In 2016, a mobile-optimized site will be an acceptable placeholder for an app, but not for long. An app can (read: should) do everything your website can do, just in a more accessible, intuitive and convenient way. Not to mention, an app is both touch screen (read: less barriers to clicks) and is a advertisement/reminder of your product that goes with your user everywhere they go. Talk about location based marketing 😉 2016 is the year to create a plan and market strategy for your app, get familiar with the latest app indexing best practices, and get an app to market, that for all intents and purposes, could replace your website.

 

Which trends and strategies do you think will dominate 2016? We’d love to hear from you. Don’t forget to share!

 

Happy Holidays!

 

 


Small-Budget Marketing Ideas for the Holiday Season

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Thanksgiving and Christmas will be upon us in no time and every self-respecting business will be sending out letters, greeting cards, emails or logo-stamped gifts. Direct marketing is one of the most fascinating branches of marketing. From the days of yore, it has made people talk, share and take action. With so many messages thrown at people throughout the day, direct marketing provides one of the least risky – and anticipated and accepted, if a bit interruptive – ways to connect with customers. I love creative mailers that come through my door. Some are thoughtful, some are clever, and some are downright cheeky. However, one common point amongst all these mailers is they are all prohibitively expensive for small businesses.

This is where small budget ideas come in. These ideas make it possible for small businesses to connect with their customers in surprisingly affordable and effective ways.

Holiday Vines

Vine set the precedent in making hastily-shot amateur videos all the rage. With Instagram and Periscope only confirming that video-clip marketing is here to stay, small businesses have an amazing opportunity to post a series of Vines leading up to Christmas and New Year. All you have to do is grab your smartphone and look around for cute and quirky opportunities to make a video.

Check out this cute and funny Vine made with zero dollars’ investment:

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Embed Vine: https://vine.co/v/OgIwBEnLKPv

Take a look at the other videos on Christmas Channel – the channel that hosts the above video for more amazing ideas.

Top Tips

  • Share your Vines on other social platforms, especially Twitter and Facebook.
  • Embed links to your Vines on product pages on your website, blog posts, and email.
  • Make a series of Vines on a particular theme. For instance, think Harvey Nichols’ famous “I Spent it On Myself” commercial, break the idea into smaller videos – and you have a series!
  • Scour the app store for video editing apps that come with tons of effects to make your videos funny, creative and cool. Use these liberally.

Holiday Emails

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Inboxes are invariably flooded with the same old “formulaically creative” emails during holiday times. So the chances of your email being read are infinitely small.

But with a little proactive and out-of-the-box (we desperately need a more out-of-the-box word for out-of-the-box) thinking, you can ensure your holiday emails are read.

Top Tips

  • First things first – stop being stingy when it comes to photos. Say goodbye to the ubiquitous boring vector backgrounds and illustrations, and invest in high quality pictures; or better yet, hire a good photographer. Yes, this still counts as “small-budget.” You can borrow creative “ideas” instead of “images” – Pinterest is an excellent source of inspiration.
  • If you are short on time, try online email creators. They are intuitive and easy to use, and you are done in minutes. Plus they come with a lot of beautiful, seasonal templates and forms, so you can create highly engaging emails with designer-like finesse. Most likely, your email marketing suite has such features too.
  • Don’t leave it for too late – start emailing at least weeks in advance.
  • Include creatively modified photos of your staff for more personalized email greetings. Other than being great for employees’ morale, it also lends a face and identity to your company.

3 merry christmas

Web Banners

Turn the banners on your homepage and category pages into online billboards. The banner or slider on your homepage is the first thing your visitors notice, so it makes sense to create one specifically for holiday season. Personalized card and gift item retailer FunkyPigeon.com is known for putting out banners with timely messages relevant to upcoming events, days or seasons.

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More effective than just banners are entire landing pages with customized elements, each of which appeals to customers’ holiday moods. You can do this (without much coding) using DIY ecommerce platforms such as Spaces, which allows you to create product pages or even single-page websites with mobile-optimized, easy-to-A/B-test banners that give you more room for creativity while showcasing your merchandise.

If all your DIY or in-house efforts fail, you can always fall back on community-powered design marketplaces like 99Designs to not only get yourself a customized banner but pick and choose from dozens of entries submitted by the community.

Content

In perfecting your means, don’t forget your message. Content marketing still remains the #1 small-budget marketing medium. Done right on your email and social media, and especially on your blog, content allows you to drive traffic to your business.

However, you need to start early. Create indirect branded content (including infographics) on holiday themes, such as:

  • X Things You Can Fill in That Dog Christmas Stocking (for a pet food company)
  • X Original Setups to Capture Awesome Christmas Selfies (for a camera or smartphone company)
  • Why Santa Is Going To Pay Us an Extended Visit This Year (for anyone to share their annual success stories)

Send teasers through emails and share them on social networks from at least a month before, while there is still ample chance for them to be read.

Smart Gifts

5 success kid meme

Though content and email marketing have proven to be highly effective ways of marketing, it is always a good idea to send out physical gifts during holidays.

But you need to think beyond personalized pens to logo-engraved mugs – there never seems to be a shortfall of such boring “corporate” gifts.

And what’s more, these gifts are just that – gifts. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could take on the festivities with more smart (read eco-friendly) and creative ideas for direct marketing (without the overwhelming expenses, of course)?

So here’s a thoughtful gift idea for which clients and customers will remember you for a long time:

Costing just around $2, plantable paper can make awesome gifts to help your customers stay focused on their goals. Simply send a letter with the plantable or seed paper (with your own custom messages such as “Hope our association grows stronger by the day!”) that explains the concept of your gift and how to use it, and you are done!

Plantable papers are available in the U.S., Canada, Europe, Australia and many other countries, so it shouldn’t be difficult to get hold of it.

6 plantable paper

The best part about such gifts is you can follow up with timely cross-sells or reports and cement your relationship in the process.

Over to You

The new truth of marketing is that no single channel is enough these days. You cannot say with conviction that you’ll be successful just by milking a channel you’re good at, whether it’s email, social or television ads. You need to create a multi-channel marketing mix with all the ingredients perfectly mixed together to create awesome holiday season campaigns.

With mega-sale days just round the corner, don’t waste much time – start experimenting with as many guerilla-budget campaigns as you can. Like, now!

 


US Ad Blocking Grows by 48%

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Ad blocking is on the rise - in a monstrous way. According to The 2015 Ad Blocking Report produced in partnership by Adobe and PageFair, US ad blocking grew by 48% to reach 45 million active users in 12 months up to June 2015, and by 41% globally.

Ad blocking is a technology being employed by consumers to block ads before they are loaded by the web browser. The result is a quickly rendered page and a serene and uninterrupted consumption experience. Proponents of the technology advocate that it enables a more efficient customer experience, pushes marketers to target appropriately, and gives consumers the power they deserve when experiencing the web. In a cyber world saturated with irrelevance, it’s no wonder an overwhelming 73% of consumers are more likely to engage with ads when they are personally relevant.

Opponents, on the other hand, say that supporting ad blockers disrupts the very fabric of the web, a place where we can communicate - for free. Adoption of ad blockers may result in an internet that is less crowded by ads, but also in a cyberspace where only the largest publishers can pay for, and deliver ads uninterrupted, without user consent. Ads fuel a place in which high quality content produced by experts can be published free to the consumer. Without it, publishers are more likely to put their great content behind subscription walls. According to The Ad Blocking Report, $22 Billion dollars will be lost to online publishers in 2015.

While revenue loss will be devastating for publishers and consumers alike, it seems that the current “crisis” is an amalgamation of advertising practices gone stale, one’s that have been in need of serious disruption for some time. The ad status quo (serving as many ads as possible as often as possible to as many people as possible) isn’t acceptable any longer, and ad blocking is a tool that has given consumers a voice.

Speaking on consumer preferences, consumers tend to be more displeased when served ads on mobile that they haven’t subscribed to. The reasons for this are still unclear, but it’s safe to speculate that our mobile devices have far less real estate and therefore ads seem far more intrusive. It’s interesting to note that while 38% of all web browsing happens on mobile, that only a very small percentage of people are using ad blockers on their mobile devices. However, it’s unlikely for those stats to stay the same. More likely, ad blocking on mobile will become mainstream as Apple has recently allowed iOs9 developers to make apps with ad blocking software.

In order to preserve the richness of the web, this trend must be seen as an opportunity for advertisers to reorganize their thinking and embrace targeting technology they’ve been slow to adopt.

 


The Rise of Social Commerce in 2015: The Year of Shopping Socially

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We’ve long heard that social media is not the best way to drive sales; in terms of ROI, social is just email marketing’s less successful cousin. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t growing in leaps and bounds, earning larger portions of referral traffic, new leads and total sales figures. Referrals alone from social media sites increased almost 200% from 2014 to 2015. The rise of social commerce over the last few years has brought us to a time when social media platforms are finally fully embracing the Buy button.

social commerce

Polyvore

Last week, Yahoo announced an agreement to acquire Polyvore, which bills itself as ‘the world’s largest style community.’ What does that really mean? Polyvore is a social commerce site driven by user-generated content – collages of products curated into ‘sets.’ Think Pinterest but with a lot more buying (and selling), and a more specific market (personal style and home décor mainly).

While Polyvore is much smaller than Pinterest, it boasts a community of very qualified leads if you’re in the right business. The average shopping basket of Polyvore users comes in at about $200 according to the site – they’re there to browse and shop, which is more than we can say for other popular social networks. Polyvore claims that their typical users are “twice as likely to have shopped online in the last 30 days than the average online consumer.” Brands can also push sales on the social commerce site by paying to promote items or trends in a pay-per-click model.

social commerce Polyvore

Beyond the sales boost, smart businesses can get a lot more out of Polyvore when it comes to branding. It’s easy for retailers to interact with users on Polyvore, driving engagement through likes, follows and comments. Top followers for a retailer can even serve as readymade brand advocates and social influencers. Some brands even use the site as a way to test out new trends and see what’s popular in different target markets, essentially crowdsourcing for their next campaign (check out this Digiday article on Neiman Marcus for an example).

Facebook

We’ve all seen ads and promoted posts for retailers in our Facebook feeds for quite a while, but the social media powerhouse is ramping up for even more social selling. In June, Facebook released its first shoppable ads with Buy buttons, allowing users to complete the order process without leaving the site.

In the second half of July, Facebook doubled down by launching mini ecommerce shops within a brand’s Facebook page, accessible through a ‘shop’ tab next to the ‘about’ section. It’s still beta testing with help from ecommerce platform Shopify.

social commerce on Facebook

While it really remains to be seen what sales effect these additions will have for retailers who buy into social commerce, Facebook is already the most significant driver of ecommerce traffic amongst social sites. 53% of shoppers ages 18-34 say that they use Facebook to stay informed about online shopping opportunities. And with 50% of total social referrals coming from Facebook (and 64% of social revenue), ecommerce retailers can’t afford to ignore the social network, even if it will never drive the sales of email marketing or retargeting.

Pinterest and Instagram

Business Insider’s new social commerce report says that Pinterest drives 16% of social revenue despite having a comparably small audience (6.5 times smaller than Twitter). And that’s before the rollout of Buyable Pins, announced in June, which allows pinners to buy the products they like directly within the Pinterest API, desktop or mobile.

social commerce

Instagram doesn’t currently hold much sway in the social commerce world, most likely because photos posted don’t allow for links out. It’s not an ideal platform for driving social referrals; I follow brands like H&M on Instagram, but when I see a product I like, my only option is to open a browser and search for it, and more than once I’ve come up empty-handed. What a missed opportunity! Most businesses that use Instagram are counting on it as a branding platform and not a sales driver. This might change now that new Instagram Ads are making it possible to add buttons like “Shop Now” and “Learn More.

Want to learn more about using social commerce to boost your bottom line? Check out this class: Transitioning from Social Media to Social Business.