social

First | Prev | Page 2 / 3 | Next | Last

Businesses Say They Want Brand Awareness - They Need More

Posted by

Brand awareness is one of those nebulous terms we marketers like to throw around. But what does it actually mean? Brand awareness is simply a measure of how many people could pick your brand out of a lineup or say "oh yeah, I've heard of them!" In a perfect world, brand awareness is rigorously measured using market research, customer surveys and a variety of other tools to find out just who knows you. Unfortunately, most small business owners I know don't live in a perfect world. However, they still want brand awareness.

According to our 2012 Small Business Social Media Survey, the number one goal small businesses have for social media is to increase brand awareness. This is a consistent trend in each of the last three years in which we've conducted our survey.

For this question, respondents were allowed to select all applicable answers so we can see the full range of social activities. In a close race for second place among desired social media outcomes are client contact, finding clients, demonstrating expertise and driving web traffic. As small business owners look for affordable ways to market their companies, social media seems to fill the void.

                         

While many small businesses are using social media, I worry most still aren't using the tools to their fullest potential. As we mentioned, good brand awareness marketing should involve a heavy measurement piece that explains just what's working and what isn't. But since they rarely have the tools to truly measure brand awareness we think business owners should demand more from their social media.

 
I often tell business owners that marketing is like another employee. You would never hire an employee and then not hold him/her accountable for results. You need to do the same with your marketing. And it has never been easier. From the standpoint of measurable results, social media is a marketer's dream. It is easy to draw a pretty straight line from a specific post to traffic to your website and submissions to your conversion form. Yet the majority of companies in our study are not following through the process from contact to conversion.
 
                       

Most of the companies in the study track connections (78%) and web traffic (76%) which is a loose indicator of awareness, but not interest or willingness to buy. The more valuable measures, the elements which require interest and action are mentioned has as often: email subscriptions (42%), form downloads (33%) or RSS subscriptions (14%).

As you build your social medial plan think about the actions you will take, but if you are going to invest the time make sure you get the results you want.
 


About the author:

Lorraine BallAs Creative Director of Roundpeg, an Indianapolis-based marketing firm, Lorraine is typically at the center of the managed chaos that makes the agency run. With more than thirty years as a marketing professional (lie, tell her she doesn’t look that old) Lorraine keeps Roundpeg popping with a never-ending stream of new ideas.

A native New Yorker, Lorraine is a Hoosier by choice, and is committed to fostering growth and entrepreneurship in her adopted city. Recognized by the Indianapolis Business Journal as one of the Most Influential Women in Indianapolis, she is an active member of the local Indianapolis business community.

When not at Roundpeg, Lorraine can be found sharing what she knows in seminars and presentations around the country. She has a BA from Queens College, City University of NY, and an MBA from the University of Texas at Dallas.

link
| comments (0)

Link Buying & Gaming the System

Posted by

So, here we are, a little over a year removed from the JC Penny link buying debacle, and another major SEO player has gotten caught with their hand in the cookie jar.  I won’t go into detail about the latest case of blatant link buying, as you can find the details somewhere else, but I feel like the issue is worth revisiting.

Cash Under the Table
The Equivalent of Buying Links

The Link Buying Problem

In case you’re unfamiliar with the tactic, some SEO companies out there purchase links on their client’s behalf to help boost rankings.  This black hat tactic has been around since the dawn of Google, since they were the first search engine to put such an emphasis on a website’s link profile.  It used to work as simple as more links = higher rank.  Since then, the algorithm has changed dramatically, now focusing more on content, social, sharing, quality, page load speed, etc, but links are still a factor. 

Google has always stated that buying links is against their rules.  Here is the actual language from their site:

Buying or selling links that pass PageRank is in violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines and can negatively impact a site’s ranking in search results.

Not all paid links violate our guidelines. Buying and selling links is a normal part of the economy of the web when done for advertising purposes, and not for manipulation of search results. Links purchased for advertising should be designated as such.

However, as long as links are a factor in the ranking algorithm, companies and SEO firms are going to do anything possible to gain more of them.

How to Avoid Being the Next News Story

If you want to stay on Google’s good side, content marketing is the way to go.  Creating great, unique, relevant, & sharable content will allow your site to gain traffic and rankings.  The best part about this, the links will come naturally if you’re good at creating content.  Your site will begin ranking for hundreds and thousands of terms if you’re good at creating content.  Your site can break free of the “Keyword Jail Cell”, as I like to call it, and truly become a marketing tool.  Best of all, you don’t have to worry about changes in Google’s algorithm – content will always be king.

No SEO Should Have ThisIf you can’t take care of content marketing with in-house staff and you truly want results from your Internet marketing, then you can hire out some help.  One last word of advice, however, is to make sure whomever you choose to help you knows that you’re strictly against paying for links.  Sure it may work in the short term, but Google, and other watchdogs, are getting awfully good at noticing suspicious activity.  SEO firms these days should talk to you about your business goals, content creation, social strategy and overall marketing plans…not technical SEO.  If you can’t understand what they are going to do for you, don’t break out your checkbook.

Remember, Google's always trying level the playing field.  No company should have an ace up their sleeve.  If a tactic sounds fishy, it probably is. 

link
| comments (0)

Zen and the Art of Marketing Maintenance

Posted by

Maintenance is a topic that has been on my mind quite a bit lately. Maintenance of my lawn, house, vehicles, finances, children, diet, relationships, hair, and clothing are just a few of the things that must be maintained on a regular basis. Marketpath also requires regular maintenance of our finances, infrastructure, culture, client relationships, custom software, and much more. The key to success is maintaining items in small doses on a regular basis (i.e. performing small tasks here and there). The more consistent I am with regular maintenance, the more likely major problems won't appear. Failure to maintain each item in my life leads to neglect, which leads to me having to spend a lot more time and a lot more money which leads to great frustration.

Website marketing requires regular maintenancePart of the reason I've been contemplating the importance of maintenance is that I've been reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (yes, I stole the title for this post) - a philosophical novel that blends an attempt to define "Quality" and the importance of regular maintenance of our environment and our individual self.

Website marketing isn't all that different than anything else in our life. At Marketpath, we maintain our relationships with our customers and audience via our blogs, email blasts, social platforms, webinars, phone calls, and in-person meetings. I'm always pushing the importance of touch points and, if regularly maintained with good quality content, those touch points will result in a future sale or referral. Failure to regularly maintain  those touch points leads to a complete fall off of our audience engagement and an evaporation of sales and referrals.

Most marketers maintain a giant calendar with all the activity planned over the next few months. This is obviously important for the big items (trade shows and campaigns) but it is also import for the smaller, more easily maintained activities like blogging, social engagement, email sends, phone calls, etc. While these tasks may become slightly mundane or monotonous, they are still very important collectively over time.

If you fail to keep up your house it will fall into disrepair. Bringing it back to a normal state then requires more money, more time, and more frustration. Neglecting your website marketing efforts by not keeping a consistent schedule and constantly tweaking your message to keep your audience engaged will cause your marketing to fall into disrepair just as well. Then rebuilding the level of engagement you once had, or almost achieved, will require more time, more money, and more frustration. Keep it human, keep it consistent, and keep it meaningful.

link
| comments (0)

Which Social Network Is Right For My Business?

Posted by

As a small business owner, you’ve probably asked yourself this question.  With so many social networks out there, and more joining the list every day, it can be downright intimidating to choose the right one(s) and get started.  This post will focus on the big 5 – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and the relative newcomer and everyone’s favorite right now, Pinterest.

Facebook

FacebookWithout a doubt the largest social network on the web, with something like a gazillion users, a major motion picture detailing its rise, and now a $100 Billion IPO, everyone in the world has heard of Facebook.  So, as a business owner, you think more eyeballs = better ROI…right?  Well, maybe not.  Typically, Facebook is utilized by individuals connecting with friends and colleagues.  This mindset of person-to-person, casual interaction, limits the effectiveness of most B2B efforts on Facebook.  B2C companies on the other hand have more success with this, as it’s not uncommon for Facebook users to Like their favorite consumer brands…it’s basically a status symbol.   Millions of people Like Coca-Cola, BMW or their favorite handbag brand, not their HR Company or their web development company.

Twitter

TwitterTwitter has grown exponentially since its inception.  Users share ideas, links and images 140 characters at a time.  While the majority of tweets are utter nonsense or completely useless, B2B and B2C companies have found success here.  Connecting with thought leaders within an industry, interacting with competitors or customers, and giving clients the ability to gain instant feedback have all helped Twitter become a necessary part of a content marketing strategy.  The time it takes to run and monitor a twitter account can be pretty nominal with the right tools (and the right company to set it up for you), so it’s a good bet for any business.  Remember, twitter shouldn’t be used as a 1 way megaphone…nobody will care.  Share useful articles, talk about others, and participate in conversations.

LinkedIn

LinkedInWithout a doubt, LinkedIn is strictly a B2B social network.  Professionals use LinkedIn to connect on a business level with colleagues, clients, and people they have worked with.  Because users are in a business mindset when they are on the network, B2B efforts can be effective and useful.  The important point to remember here is that you’re not selling while you’re on this network.  Answer questions, solve problems, become the expert in a group of people and your efforts should be rewarded.

Google+

Google+Google+ is Google’s social network.  Depending on which articles you read, it is either dying or thriving.  It’s hard to say what the network will become, but it is important you keep an eye on it.  Google is using data it gathers from the network and plugging it into its search algorithm to help craft search engine results pages.  The more you share on Google+, the better the odds of ranking for particular terms…or at least that’s what it looks like so far.  All signs point to the fact we'll see more and more integration in the future, so it is probably wise to set up your account now. 

Pinterest

PinterestTaking the Internet by storm, Pinterest exploded onto the social networking scene due to its visual nature and simplicity.  The user base has grown extremely quickly, so one again may fall into the “more eyeballs = more leads” mentality.  Before you go jumping into Pinterest though, make sure you have a clear strategy and understanding of what is typically successful here.  Highly visual elements dominate, so your content may need overhauled to fit.  There have been stories of B2B and B2C success here, but the majority of those all revolve around certain industries.  Arts and crafts, recipes, fashion, and home décor are among the top items here, so tread lightly if you’re outside of those industries.

A few key things to remember about getting into social media:

  • Be consistent with your updates and conversations
  • Be real
  • Likes and retweets don’t pay the bills, conversions do…Can you get your followers to take action?

What are your tips for success on these networks?  Join the discussion below.

link
| comments (5)

What is Content Marketing and Why is it Important?

Posted by

 

Traditional outbound marketing and advertising have taken a backseat to “Content Marketing.”  Instead of buying ads, banners, and search rankings, companies all over the web are turning to this relatively new form of attracting and gaining clients and customers.   

     Content marketing is the creation of unique content for use in
     blog posts, 
videos, white papers, images (infographics), how-to guides,
     case studies, to gain more leads and acquire more customers.

If the content is unique and interesting, the message can spread across the web quickly.  Users and search engines alike have begun to pick up on this trend, bringing their purchasing power or rankings with it, respectively.  Here are a few tips to help you get started:

Dedicate the Time

Just seeing the words “unique content” might make small to medium sized business owners & marketers cringe.  Creating something that is unique and interesting is the most difficult task of the entire process, so don’t try to skip over it.  It is important that your message is clear, concise and entertaining.

Repurpose Content

Once you have content to market, repurpose it in many different forms.  Often times a blog post can be turned into a short video.  Add more data to the blog post and turn it into a case study.  Take that case study and make it visual, via an infographic.  The same topic can be used throughout multiple channels, minimizing the time it takes to create new topics and content. 

Share it

What good is shareable content if nobody can find it in the first place?  None.  Don’t make the mistake of putting up a blog post and expecting people to get there.  Create an email newsletter and/or tweet out links to it.  Have a video?  Put it on YouTube and share it across your social channels.  Have an interesting infographic or image?  Pinterest and Facebook should be your targets. 

So, why is it important?

With the ever evolving search engine algorithms valuing different tactics, having unique and interesting content has always remained important.  Now more than ever Google is focusing on bringing these content creating websites to the top of their rankings.

More content equals more visitors which usually equals more leads (assuming your website isn’t a complete dumpster fire for conversions).   



link
| comments (1)

Are SaaS Content Management Systems Right for SMBs?

Posted by

 

We’ve covered this topic a bit before on our blog, but recent data that has come to light makes it worth revisiting.  The question is, being a small to medium sized business (SMB), is it time to take a hard look at software-as-a-service (SaaS) for your content management needs?  The short answer – yes.  The longer answer – SaaS CMS platforms have come a long way over the years and provide companies with flexibility and reliability that installed or open-source systems lack. 

Its Time For SaaS

It's Time to Consider SaaS CMS

According to CMSWire, it is estimated that 34% of SMBs will become first time adopters, or switch their CMS platforms, to SaaS systems.  This is a massive amount of companies that are looking to tap into the benefits of SaaS CMS platforms that are all willing to pay upwards of $500/month. 

A Few of these benefits include:

No Extra Strain on IT Staff

By tapping into the SaaS model, your IT department can unload tasks associated with web hosting, updates, server patches, product patches, and security flaws to the provider.  With SaaS, any problems that arise are on the shoulders of the provider to fix.

No Worries About Versioning

Ever worry that the outdated version of WordPress that your site is running has a security flaw?  How about that widget that you installed that stopped working with the latest update to your installed system?  With SaaS, these problems are a thing of the past, as updates are rolled out automatically and you don’t have to worry about versioning conflicts.

Easier Budgeting

Open Source or Installed options can often times lead to unexpected bills and hourly charges for updates/fixes.  With SaaS, the monthly expense that you agreed to pay covers all of this.  No longer do you have to worry about budget wrecking invoices.

SMBs are always looking for ways to compete with the “big boys” that have seemingly unlimited resources.  Over the past few years, the adoption of the SaaS model within email marketing, CRM, and social communications (among other verticals) has been huge.  SaaS Content Management systems can (and do) provide the same flexibility, freedom, and power to the SMB market that these early adopted verticals have already shown.

If you’re in the market for a new website content management system, you owe it to yourself to take a serious look at a SaaS platform.     



link
| comments (0)

How Much SEO is Too Much SEO?

Posted by

 

Google’s Matt Cutts let the cat out of the bag at SXSW this year and explained that Google would be rolling out a change to their algorithm that actually penalized overly optimized websites.  While he didn’t say what Google was considering “overly optimized”, there has been some speculation as to what it could be.

Matt Cutts

"Stop trying to game the system...write better stuff"

First things first – Too Much Onsite SEO

This will actually be a pretty common find once Google rolls out the change.  For years, people have been taught to put their top priority keywords in the title tags of the pages.  This wasn’t (and still isn’t) a “spammy” tactic, so hopefully the penalty here won’t be too harsh.  The thought process here, however, is that a title tag that is full of keywords isn’t exactly conversational, and therefore hurts the overall usability of the site.  For instance, which one of these sounds better to a searcher:

Website Content Management & eCommerce System | Marketpath CMS

OR

Marketpath CMS – The Easiest Damn Content Management System Available

Personally, I’d click through on #2, and I’d be willing to bet I’m not the only one.  However, traditional onsite SEO (at least the past 5 years of it) would laugh at that title tag.  Using words like “the” “damn” and “available” would be an amateur mistake.  These words are filler words that don’t help my keyword strategy.

Other onsite items to review once the change goes live are things like internal links that all utilize the same anchor text, page structure that doesn’t make sense other than to create more places for keywords, and snippets of text that appeal more to search engines rather than users.

Next – Too Much Offsite SEO

If you’ve contracted with an external search engine optimization firm, there is a good chance that they have built links to your site to boost rankings.  While there has already been a decrease in the importance of links in the overall ranking algorithm, sites with unnatural link profiles may be penalized even further with this update.  I’d be willing to guess that 999 times out of 1000, sites with unnatural link profiles have contracted out and bought links (either directly or indirectly), which is technically against the Google Terms of Service, so it’s only fair to get penalized. 

The thought process here is a natural one.  Google’s goal is to deliver the most relevant content for a search query.  The most relevant content isn’t always delivered because other, less relevant sites may be optimized to rank better.  Removing links from the algorithm and replacing them with other signals might help Google finally achieve what they are trying to do – rank content based on quality, not technical SEO.

Whether or not you agree that sites that are overly optimized should be penalized (we’ve had that argument internally), the change is coming.  The best thing you can do at this moment for your site’s well-being hasn’t changed, however.  Keep an eye on the changes as they are rolled out, read some blogs about those changes, and modify your strategy accordingly.  The heart of your strategy will remain constant, focusing on good content creation and marketing

 

link
| comments (0)

What Are Your Customers Searching For?

Posted by

 

I just finished up with a sales meeting and demo of our product.  The potential customer knows they need help (which is a great first step), but even better, one thing was said that made me note they are ahead of the game when it comes to understanding why they need help (going beyond the usual “we need more traffic” statement).  The company admitted they had no idea what their prospects called their products.  Of course they use their industry lingo, but how many different terms could be used to describe their product,  Judging by how many different synonyms he rattled off in a matter of seconds, I'd say quite a few.

Potato vs. Spud 
You say Potato, I say spud, or tuberous crop, or...get it?

It’s a problem that a lot of companies have…too much technical jargon.  Too much industrial speak.  So, how do you fix it?  Here are a few tips:

Utilize the Google Keyword tool

This tool will allow you to type in what you think people are searching for and present you with a list of other ideas to consider.  Don’t get too hung up on the numerical values here, as this is Google’s “data” that is being displayed.  Their goal is to entice you to purchase these terms via Adwords, so just realize that higher numbers (global search volume and local search volume) are a good thing.

Ask Your Existing Customers

Your existing customer base can give you invaluable information as to what they call your products.  Find out exactly what they refer to them as and begin to build your keyword lists from there.  If you’re in an industry that services many different verticals, make sure you survey someone from each specific niche…this will help tremendously.

Analytics Data

If your site is already equipped with Google Analytics, or some other platform, check out the “Keywords” section of how your visitors have found your site.  Skip over any branded terms, and begin to dig a bit deeper.  Find the terms that only sent 2, 3 or 10 visitors over the month.  There is a good chance that these are appropriate terms, your site just might not be optimized for them quite yet.

Now that you have a bit better idea of how to find out what your customers call your product, now what?  Well, it’s time to build specific content around the new terms.  It’s up to you or your marketing department to decide whether these new phrases warrant static pages on your site, or if they are good blog fodder.  Put that content management system to use and begin adding the revised content to your site. 

 

link
| comments (0)

6 Blog Topics You Can Use Today

Posted by

Writers block? Perhaps this can help you find an easy topic for your next blog post. Six topics that might provide a jackhammer to get through the blockage.

1) What does your organization do best?

Every one has a core competency and strength. What is yours? Why are you the best at it? Avoid being overly blatant, though. Instead provide some examples of why you are the best and let your audience come this conclusion by themselves. Don't tell them. That just gets annoying. It might be fine for a rush hour radio commercial but not in a blog where people have purposefully visited because they want to learn more.

2) Write a mini case study about a recently successful project

​Surely you have recent projects or customer experiences that lead to a very successful project completion, order fulfillment, or successful fund raising. Whatever it is that makes your constituents happy can provide for a nice mini case study highlighting how it worked, who was involved, what went right, and why the customer had a permanent grin for the day or week.

3) Write about something that went wrong

​We all make mistakes and collectively, as an organization of people, we make mistakes. Tell your audience about one of those, how it happened, and what you did to fix it that potentially made that customer a lifelong customer. I would avoid telling the story about when you burned down the customer's house and enrolled them in the Jelly of the Month club to make up. It's probably best to keep the mistake a little lighter than that.

4) Highlight one aspect of your service

Pick one part of your service process and explain why it is important to the process as a whole. Even if you're in retail you have a service process. An example might be the process you use to stock shelves. What makes it complex? How does it change? Who performs the work? Or, if you are a strict service business, discuss how one small piece is critical and becomes the building block for the rest.

5) Write about an employee that has been a big contributor and made a difference

​Businesses and not-for-profits are full of people and these people are the difference between success and failure. Spend a little time to gloat over one of them. Why do they have an impact? How have they helped? Are they part of a bigger team that cumulatively and frequently performs outstanding work? This not only makes the face of your business more personable and human, it can also be a mini morale booster.

6) Write about your organization's history

​Perhaps you have an about us page that covers this but those are usually the mundane, boring textbook style histories that  are better used for a sleeping agent. Your story probably has more drama and emotion in it. You can talk about how you almost went bankrupt because you overstocked widgets and the widget industry bottomed out immediately afterward. Or maybe there was one particular client that made all the difference in your early success. How did you or the founder get the idea to start the business or organization? How many people worked there after one year? Two? Three? Ten? Tell a story, not an uninteresting, emotionless narrative.

 

There you go - six easy topics to write about. If you haven't noticed, I keep mentioning to be real. Don't skip  the juicy details because you think it might scare customers away - except the really flagrant events like burning a house down. Add some flavor to your stories and explain how you've become a better company because of them. That might just be interesting enough to read!

link
| comments (0)

Is Pinterest Really Useful for Business?

Posted by

 

Pinterest for Business?Everyone’s new favorite social network, Pinterest, has been creating front page news for a few months now.  The site has had an explosion of users and has garnered attention because of it.  And just as anyone who follows this sort of thing closely could predict, with the explosion of users came the marketing expert’s advice on how to use it for business.  There are hundreds of blog posts titled “X ways to use Pinterest for business” and “X has crazy, stupid success on Pinterest, and your business could too!”  Before you go jumping onto the bandwagon, there are a few important things to note.

Pinterest Links are No-Follow

Any links that are created from images are given a no-follow tag.  If you’re not familiar, no-follow tags tell search engine bots to give no value to the site that is being linked, ultimately rendering the link useless for helping with SEO.  So, if you were planning on pinning a bunch of pictures of your products back to a page on your site, just to help with search rankings, spare yourself the trouble…it won’t help. 

Pinterest is all About Being Visual

People aren’t pinning and sharing business related marketing messages, so just sharing what you already have isn’t going to help.  Things that get pinned over and over again are clever images.  Trying to shoehorn your product or services into images may not be the easiest thing in the world, so proceed with caution.

Some Topics Get Shared/Pinned Way More than Others

At the moment, the majority of Pinterest users are women.  I hadn’t heard of the site until my girlfriend refused to give up the laptop for even one minute a few months ago.  She was hooked, and she wasn’t the only one.  My Facebook news feed filled up with content being shared from Pinterest…which was all being shared by women.  The only men that I know that utilize Pinterest can be classified as the “extremely plugged-in” type.   So, with the user-base being predominately women to begin with, it seems that some topics spread much more than others.  Initially, crafting ideas, recipes, fashion, decorating, animals, and funny quotes have dominated people's boards (just look at the homepage and see).  Not saying that every board is the same, or that everyone has the same interests, but these topics seem to be the highest topics of interest on Pinterest (say that 10x fast).  This may change in the future, but it is something to be aware of, if you’re trying to insert your business into people online lives.

I’m not saying that there is zero benefit for brands that utilize Pinterest.  Obviously, sharing content or interesting topics can help boost your brands identity and ultimately the bottom line.  There are some success stories of some businesses utilizing Pinterest to the fullest, but my warning is to proceed with caution.  For every “Look what Zappos did on Twitter” story, there are thousands who spend countless hours to receive nothing in return. 

My general rule of thumb – don’t just join these sites because everyone else is.  Have a plan, analyze the data, and amend accordingly.  Also, have some realistic metrics in place.  None of these extremely popular sites (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest) become this popular because of businesses joining.  People want to connect with people, so proceed with caution

 

link
| comments (0)
First | Prev | Page 2 / 3 | Next | Last