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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
Every day, more and more small businesses are embracing social media as a new and necessary part of both smart marketing and good branding. Of course, I’m glad to see this. But so often we see rather sad Facebook pages, inactive Twitter accounts, neglected social platforms. The road to weak marketing is paved with good intentions, as they say (they say that, right?).
Social media marketing can take time, money and strategic thinking – three things that many small businesses don’t really anticipate or properly allot for in their schedules or budgets. But getting off on the right foot can make a world of difference in the life of your social media networks. Starting off strong – with consistency and a smart strategy – will set you up for success, even when you’re too busy or your social media intern bails mid-week.
3 Steps For a Strong Start
Once you’ve thought hard and decided which social networks are best for your business (more on that here from social expert Kevin Popovic), get started with these 4 steps. You’ll build a sturdy basis for future reputation building and user engagement on whichever networks you choose.
1. Be Consistent and Thorough in the Essentials
When you’re setting up your social media pages, there’s a lot to add. Photos, copy, hours, location details, etc. It’s important that you set the standard by being very consistent across all networks. If, for example, people call your business Downtown Hardware, but the full name is really Downtown Hardware & Tools, make sure you use that full title for all your social pages and accounts. Or if you have a few different logos that you use, choose one that will work for Facebook, Twitter, and your other pages. Customers and users should be able to recognize you right away, and different names or logos will just confuse them.
Each social network gives you different ways to list your information, but try to use the same copy wherever possible. So your About section for Facebook should match your LinkedIn summary, and your Google+ About as well. Have an extra-short blurb for networks like Twitter and Instagram that don’t allow you much space. Try to use the same handle wherever you can, so users can easily tag you in their posts.
The last part of this critical setup is being sure to include ALL the information you’re allowed to enter – this means hours of operations, contact information, location details, etc. Customers so often now turn to a Facebook or Google+ page to find out if you’re open when they’re on the go, and you want everything to be within reach even on a mobile device.
2. Boost or Promote to Build an Audience
Of course, you should ask your family, friends and customers to share and invite other users to like your Facebook page, follow you on Twitter, etc. But this will only get you so far – for many brick-and-mortar businesses, it can be hard to even break the 100 followers mark this way. Even if you’re generating great content that people want to read, it isn’t going to reach anyone if your audience is very limited.
When we interviewed social branding expert Jason Falls a few months ago, he said the #1 worst mistake that small businesses make is assuming that social media is free. It does require an investment, and investing a little money to boost your posts or promote your page will help you build the audience you need to make an impression on social media. No one can engage with your posts or retweet your tweets until they know you exist!
Whether you decide to boost posts or promote your Facebook page, both are very inexpensive for the improved reach you get. For many businesses, Facebook boosting or even Facebook ads can have a much better ROI than standard PPC or digital advertising. Recently after I posted something on Facebook, the app suggested that I boost to reach more people. Check out that increase for only $5!
This is helpful since it will grow the number of people you reach with your great content (you have great content, right?), but also important for building your reputation. It has to be said that a Facebook page with 47 fans and no reviews is just not a good sign when consumers are browsing for a company to do business with, or even just a restaurant for dinner. They’ll look for more established places to spend their money. Spend some money upfront so you can make more in the long run!
3. Stay on Top of Your Channels with a Steady Schedule
Create a regular schedule for all your social platforms, and stick to it even when things get busy. Again, if consumers search for you and see a stale social page that isn’t regularly updated, they won’t think much of your business. If social media is for reputation building, you want to create the impression of a current, vibrant business, with lots of customer interaction.
Using a social media management app or tool (Hootsuite, Edgar, etc.) can be a great way to keep track of all your social, and allows you to schedule posts long in advance so you don’t have to worry about checking and posting every day when you’re busy with other things.
Sharing regularly doesn’t mean you have to produce tons of your own content. Subscribe to RSS feeds, Google Alerts, or relevant newsletters to learn about interesting news or information that you can share with your followers. Adding your own funny or thoughtful commentary when posting will help newsy posts fit in with your brand and voice.
Despite the overwhelming move toward social marketing and social businesses, there are still many small businesses that fail to understand the importance of social media, and even refuse to use it as part of their marketing strategy. Plenty of business owners continue to treat social media as if it were a thing just for kids, or at best a waste of time. Perhaps the truth behind those attitudes is really just that they are overwhelmed by the idea of starting a social media presence. But really, the reason why business owners decide to ignore social media is irrelevant. The fact that they choose to avoid it means that they are doing nothing but hurting themselves.
More traditional methods of marketing still have their place in the marketing mix, like television and radio ads, print ads, and even pay per click ads. However, what customers and clients are looking for in every business, big or small, is a strong online presence. They want to see the type of content a business shares on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. They want to see how well a business interacts with others. In some cases, they want to see how influential a business owner is within their niche (depending on the niche, of course – this is less of a concern for local businesses).
Building Reputation Through Social
Why do potential clients and customers care about these things? Because that is how trust is built today. If someone notices that a company has a warm online presence, and a great reputation, that individual will be a lot more inclined to do business with that company, over one that only uses PPC ads or traditional methods of marketing.
I will provide a short case study to illustrate this. A local Japanese restaurant invested in print ads, as well as online PPC ads. They did see a moderate ROI, but not as much as they had hoped. The owner of the restaurant wanted to find a way to drive in more business, and sought advice from a marketing consultant. The consultant strongly suggested that the restaurant incorporate social media into its marketing plan. The restaurant owner listened, and hired a social media manager.
Once the platforms were set up and ready to go for the restaurant, interactive content was then sent out on a daily basis. Local fans and followers were attracted by the top-shelf content that the restaurant shared. Whenever a fan commented on a post, the owner always made sure to write a public reply. In a very short time, the Japanese restaurant had tripled its sales and developed a great online reputation.
Handling Social Complaints
Negative comments did pop up occasionally, but the restaurant owner immediately replied in a professional and helpful manner. He even offered to give free appetizers. Most social media users will not be turned off if they see an occasional negative comment – what they care about is how these comments are handled. That is a big part of establishing trust between potential customers or clients and the business.
Print, radio, television and PPC ads will not create the online presence that a business needs in this day and age. Social media is that crucial piece to the marketing puzzle, providing a place to build reputation, branding and interaction. If businesses continue to neglect social media in 2015 and beyond, they’re choosing to leave a lot of money on the table for their competitors.
Want to learn more about establishing a strong social media presence for your business? Check out OMI's Social Media Marketing Fast Track for a crash course in getting started, and developing the engagement and branding that users want to see from your business.
Networking. Love it or hate it, you've got to do it. The days of social media as a fad have long passed.
If you don’t have time to network, you don’t have time to market. And you’re out of business. Period. People can't do business with invisible providers.
This isn't to say you can't network in person. You can, and you should. Just as the best advertising campaigns include both online and print components, your personal networking strategy must include elements of online and offline activities.
Why do so many continue to ignore networking? Perhaps networking means work. Take this morning, for example. I spent about an hour going through my Who's Viewed Your Profile section, as I do every day. It took longer today because I've been out sick. Could I have spent my usual 5 minutes? Sure. But I understand the many deep benefits of this activity, and I want to reap those satisfying rewards.
Not long ago, networking was a much weightier affair, taking place completely offline. At minimum, one had to schedule the time, get dressed up, leave the office, drive to a location, spend awkward hours among strangers, drive home, and then "follow up" via snail mail to those who had proffered their business cards.
Today, you can accomplish all of this and more: better and easier than ever, across a wider geographic area if you like, and in your favorite slippers, if you so choose.
So why is it that people still have "no time" for networking?
Like most things in life, networking online is much easier when you have a schedule of tasks before you and you stay on top of those tasks. The key to successful online networking is maintenance.
Here are a few daily and weekly tasks to get you started:
Daily LinkedIn Networking Tasks
1. Invite 5 valuable professionals to join your network. Not people just like you! Stretch a little. Look for people from whom you might gain new business or who can provide introductions to those who have a need for your services. 5 connects x 5 days = 25 x 4 wks = 100 x 50 wks = 5000 new connects per year. Painless.
Note: LinkedIn caps each member's lifetime invitations at 3000, so you'll need to work those Introductions and use other tools to reach this goal. Consider groups, since you can invite group members to join you and it doesn't count towards your 3,000.
2. Respond to and accept most invitations sent to you. Remember that 3,000 lifetime cap! Better to get invited than to invite. Get personal. Write a few (brief!) sentences about who you are, what you do or how your offer can solve a problem for that individual.
3. Check out Who’s Viewed Your Profile and connect with at least 2 new people. To see the full picture of who’s looking at you, you’ll need a Premium account. $23 and change per month, that’s less than $1 a day to get free leads daily. Tell me again why you aren’t already doing this?
4. Post one status update on the Home page, preferably in the morning, between 8 and 10 a.m. This requires some thinking and planning ahead to cut down on the time needed to post. Use Google Alerts or a similar tool to get content in your area of expertise delivered to your inbox.
5. Support others. Read through status updates on your Home page and like or comment on relevant ones. Social is as much about supporting others as it is promoting yourself.
This list of daily activities – a mere 15 minutes’ worth of tasks even if you don't work quickly – assumes you have already crafted a profile and optimized the you-know-what out of it, especially the headline and Summary. If you haven’t yet optimized your profile, do this first. If you can’t, or don’t know how to promote yourself properly, get help from someone who can. (And please...write your summary in 1st person. No one wants to interact with your cardboard cutout!)
Assuming your profile is well done, and you’re on track with the daily activities, what's next?
Weekly & Biweekly LinkedIn Activities
1. Publish via the Publishing Platform – if you can manage this once a week, even better. Novels not required. Just get out there on some interesting topics.
2. Post in your groups. While you can join up to 50, this is too many to manage well. Choose just 5 or so and post in these regularly. Once a week is great; more often is better. Feel free to change up your group selection periodically. And be sure to support the efforts of your fellow group members too. Did you know you can connect to group members for no reason other than sharing membership in the group? It’s the ultimate in effortless network expansion.
3. Peruse Your Connections (Connections tab > Keep in Touch). Congratulate those who received promotions, are having birthdays or celebrating a work anniversary. Not everyone! Just a handful of people to whom you are connected or want to be. It’s simply good business to keep your name out there, without asking for anything in return.
4. Run an Advanced Search using job titles as keywords. Reach out to key players. A conversation can begin with something as simple as "Hi - I see we have some similarities in our work, and I'd be honored to connect with you." You can then save those searches (up to 5), and LinkedIn will alert you whenever someone new enters the circle, so you can reach out and start the cycle over again. Child’s play!
We're now up to about 2 hours out of your whole week. Surely, you can find this time.
Granted, these activities only begin to tap a complete list of things you should be doing on LinkedIn to gain visibility. But here’s the point many miss, to their detriment: Once you get going, it’s like a giant snowball rolling downhill. Before you know it, you’re making less and less effort to get more and more connected to people who can get you where you want to go.
And every bit of that is free exposure…except for the $25 or so you might spend for that Premium access. So get to work!
Want to learn more about LinkedIn networking from Victoria? Check out her OMI classes for more tips and actionable advice!
No business, whether small and local or huge and international, can skip social media these days. But take heart – engaging in social media does not necessarily mean that your business needs to get Pinterest/LinkedIn/Instagram/Snapchat/Tumblr, or whatever the kids are doing these days. As far as we’re concerned, keeping your social media streamlined and effective is the new black.
It can be tempting to expand your online reach by adding new social platforms to your list, but most businesses simply don’t have the time and staff to maintain fresh content on multiple channels. Spreading your content too thin or reproducing it identically on 10 different platforms isn’t a recipe for success, whether you’re looking to increase brand awareness or boost sales. For small businesses, I’d personally suggest Facebook as a starting point, and Twitter if you’re up for a few tweets a day.
The good news is that there are better ways to expand your reach and impressions online than picking up more social media channels. No doubt you already know that networking with industry leaders, organizations and other companies is good business, but have you tried leveraging it to improve your social media strategy? It’s an opportunity worth exploring for a huge range of businesses, from brick-and-mortar retailers to online service providers.
Connecting The Dots Online
Generally speaking, networking is about building mutually beneficial relationships and connections. Building these connections through social media, and with an eye to specific social media benefits, can be as simple as a retweet or Facebook share. Connecting with businesses that share an audience with you (in terms of locality, personal interests, buyer profiles, etc.) can help you introduce new people to your brand, and do the same for those brands or organizations you connect with. It’s a win-win.
The first step in this process is making sure that you’re socially connected to those businesses and organizations that you already have relationships with. Are you following all of them on Twitter? Have you Liked their Facebook Page (as your Page, of course)? Because those actions come with notifications for the recipient, they’ll likely notice your activity and Like or follow you in return.
Explore Community Resources
The next step is building relationships that are purely social, by connecting with social media accounts that relate to your industry, your audience’s interests, your community, etc. Don’t just consider businesses in this category – there are often Pages that serve topical content based on specific audiences or interests.
In real life (i.e. not just on social media), organizations exist that promote and share businesses like yours – are you networking with them? Does your city’s Chamber of Commerce have a Facebook Page? Is your local small business organization on Twitter? Where I live, there’s a countywide tourism council that generates high-quality content based on what local businesses and non-profits are doing in the area, like seasonal events or restaurant renovations. The tourism council also shares posts, photos and videos from local businesses on their Facebook Page. Networking with an organization like that can help you reach a brand new audience of interested locals and out-of-towners.
Make Yourself Share-Worthy
Since most marketers who operate social media channels are at least aware of the 80/20 rule – even if we don’t always stick to it – there are a lot of brands looking for content to share socially that isn’t their own. Their audiences want to see more than self-promotion, and your content could be something that fits in to fill that need. Connecting socially and generating great content is the one-two punch for getting your business out in front of new eyeballs.
But getting shared across social media platforms doesn’t just have to be about content; there are many reasons your posts, tweets, or business news might be relevant to other audiences. The easiest way to get started is to share the posts or tweets of others you’ve connected with, if it’s relevant to your fans or followers based on interests, location, etc. Social media networking often has a strong you-scratch-my-back-I’ll-scratch-yours ethos, so sharing proactively (only interesting, relevant things, of course) can really pay off down the road.
Be a Social (Media) Member of the Community
If you’re a brick-and-mortar business, or even an online business that offers services to a specific area, you are automatically part of a local community, with all the built-in networks and neighbors that entails. If you establish them, your relationships with organizations, other businesses and people in your area can be mutually beneficial to you on any social platform.
How this works in practice depends a lot on the community your business is a part of. The type of community varies a lot from place to place – I’m personally in a kale-centric liberal college town area – and the feel of your community will dictate what sort of events, topics and content are sharable. Family friendly local events are a great place to start when you want to expand your social media posts beyond self-promotion, since almost any type of business can expect to have some parents in their audience.
The above post is by a bank in my area that really brands itself as super-local and community oriented, so promoting a free town event is a no-brainer for them. And since they actually posted that event by sharing it from another local business’s Page (a radio station in town), they’re building up some local networking currency as well. Perhaps the next time the bank holds a community event (most recently a pet adoption drive!), the radio station might share it with their fans.
Building new relationships and relying on the ones you already have in your community – whether that’s your industry, your online niche, or a geographic location – is always going to be a smart business practice. If you then optimize that networking in the social media sphere as well, you can reap more quantifiable benefits (new eyeballs on your stuff) online. Both purely digital companies and brick-and-mortar businesses can take advantage of this. It’s not an overnight process – but reach out and connect, and somewhere down the road social media cross-pollination could be a big boost to your reach and reputation.
So you want to get started but you feel like there’s so much you aren’t sure of. How do you uncover the hidden treasure that is social media? Do some reading on the topic, starting here, and you’ll be on your way in no time. It’s not as hard as you may think.
1. GOALS. Establish your social media goals. What do you hope to accomplish with social media: are you looking for awareness, loyalty, sales, customer service opps? Whatever you decide, this will drive your presence online. Your goals help you determine the type of content you post to promote the behaviors you want to see, and also help you determine the places where you should have a presence. Here’s an example. Let’s say you want to post content that will be shared. In that case, the goal is customer engagement as measured by shares. Or let’s say your goal is to drive traffic to your website. In that case you would be including links to pages on your site, and you’d measure clicks on that link.
2. AUDIENCE. Next you need to figure out where your audience is: where do they like to go online? I heard a great way to do that last night from Brad Farris at Anchor Advisors:
Compile a Twitter list of your ideal customers and follow them
Capture all of their tweets for 10 or so days
Sort out all of their tweets that have links
Visit all of those links and identify if there are common sites, or types of sites, among the group.
3. EDITORIAL CALENDAR. Develop an editorial calendar to keep topics you want to write about organized. This will also help you remember that specific keywords are important in order for your posts to gain traction with the search engines. There are many templates that you can find on the Internet, but what’s most important is that the calendar has what you need. My calendar is very simple. I keep an Excel spreadsheet that has dates down the left hand side and the following categories across the top: Author, Title, Status (ie, written, published), 3-5 Keywords or Tags, Category (general topic of the post), and Notes. I have a separate tab for each site I post to (Blog, Facebook, LinkedIn etc.). This will also help ensure you are posting with sufficient frequency. If you have nothing of interest to post, it’s best not to post anything that hour/day/week.
4. MAKE SURE THAT YOUR CONTENT IS RELEVANT TO YOUR AUDIENCE. Give your customers and prospects a reason to return to your site. Interesting and useful content is a way to do that. Also, remember that some content does not necessarily translate well to different social media sites, so make sure you are creating your pieces with a specific posting destination in mind.
5. ANALYTICS AND MONITORING. Set up analytics and monitoring. From the start, you’ll want to understand what is happening with the content on all of your sites. Use analytics to determine if you are meeting your goals and to drive further engagement. You can track what’s been successful and replicate it to drive future success. Make sure you monitor all of your sites to hear what your customers and prospects are saying and to answer any questions being directed to you. Monitoring can help you nip a problem in the bud (see point 6 below). There are many sources for social media monitoring that also include analytics. Some examples include: Hootsuite, Salesforce, Meltwater, and Brandwatch, and there are many others. Google Analytics is of course widely used as well on the analytics side, so read about how you can use it. Read reviews, sit through some product demos, and determine what would work best for you.
6. SOCIAL MEDIA POLICY. It’s important to have a social media policy for your employees. This policy should be a part of your overall employee policy document and cover things like: code of conduct for your company, roles and responsibilities of employees who will be posting, who can post on behalf of the company, company policies such as the treatment of confidential information, external laws if appropriate, and best practices for online behavior. You’ll want a lawyer to review your policy to make sure all is good. Here’s an example of a well-written social media policy by Coca Cola: (source: Andy Sernovitz).
7. NEGATIVE COMMENTS. Be prepared to hear negative comments from customers. Sooner or later, everyone gets them. The key is to have a plan for dealing with them. I’ve already posted about Handling Trolls here. Not only should you yourself have a plan for dealing with these comments but you should also make sure your management is forewarned. You don’t want an upset CEO calling you because they read something negative and want you to remove the comment immediately. Negative comments are to be expected. The trick is to handle them well and quickly, so that they will have little importance and visibility. And removing the comments is really a last resort option, as you don’t want your readers to doubt the honesty of the site.
Don’t be afraid to try new things. Monitor your results and over time you’ll figure out what works best for you. You’ll learn things from your customers you’ve never even considered. Talk about a treasure trove of information!
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