Six social media mistakes to avoid

Since we last posted this article, we have discovered another major mistake that companies make.  The mistake is inconsistency with social posting.  Companies need to post content on a regular, consistent basis.  This needs to be done for a couple of reasons:

Keeping your audience engaged

If you are not posting regularly, you are not giving your followers a reason to come back to your social page…or your website.  Get your content out there regularly.  Here are social posting frequencies that we have seen perform the best:

  • Twitter – at least twice per day.
  • Facebook – daily.
  • LinkedIn – twice per week

Sending algorithmic signals to the search engines

The search engines regularly monitor social media.  They use social listening to determine which user accounts are active, how well the content produced is engaging with the audience and whether the social media activity is leading to visits to the company’s websites.

The bottom line is that if you regularly post engaging content that is relevant to your audience, it’s going to help your company succeed with your marketing objectives.

Social media can be a great tool for reaching target audiences. Thus, many companies create accounts on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other platforms to try and reach these potential customers. Just because everyone seems to be using social media doesn’t mean it is not difficult to navigate. Often mistakes can be made. Here are some to be aware of and avoid. 
Not having a strategy
The exchange between Alice and The Cheshire Cat in Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland” can be a lesson for marketers:

 “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”

“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.

“I don’t much care where–” said Alice.

“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.

If you jump into social media without having a plan, you will likely get somewhere, it is just a matter of where you will be.
Leah Neaderthal, president of Growthwork Solutions and founder of FamilyBridge says, “Random acts of social media happen when someone says, ‘We need to do social media!’ and then puts in time and effort for a week before fizzling out. Take the time to plan a basic strategy that enables you to have a consistent social media presence for the long term.”
Not dedicating resources
In order to reap benefits from social media, you have engage with users on a consistent basis. You need to promote content, share information and monitor conversations. All this takes time. Unfortunately, many people underestimate the time it takes and improperly plan their resources (whether in-house or contracted).
When asked by BusinessCollective.com to name the number one problem owners can make with social media, John Berkowitz, co-founder of Yodle, a company that helps local businesses with marketing says, “Too many business owners jump into social media without a plan or the resources to maintain an active and productive conversation within their community of customers, prospects and employees. Social media is not a ‘set it and forget it’ medium. It’s better to not participate than to participate poorly or passively.”
Creating too many accounts
Because they are there, many companies make the mistake of creating accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, Instagram, Vimeo, LinkedIn, Google+, Slideshare, Vine and Snapchat. Ask yourself if you have time to dedicate to all these accounts. Also ask yourself if you will be presenting your company and promoting your brand well on all these platforms. You don’t want to appear as if you don’t know what you are doing. Further, you don’t want to start up an account full force only to abandon it. Remember, you are trying to build a following and get users to trust you. You can’t develop that relationship if it is done badly or stopped mid-stream.
Focusing too much on your brand
Many businesses may be inclined to continually send out a message to those they believe will buy from them. The Content Marketing Institute says smart marketers understand that traditional marketing and it’s becoming less effective by the minute. Use social media to attract and retain customers by consistently pointing to valuable content. You want to provide something to people who may never buy anything from you, but want to read what is presented and then share the content with others. Marketing experts often remind that you’ve “got to give to get.” No one likes a hard sell.
Incorrectly using hashtags
Using hashtags in social media helps create visibility for your brand. Using keywords and jumping into trending topics can help immensely with your social media efforts. However, you don’t want to over use hashtags. Make sure your hashtags are most relevant to your overall strategy. Then, follow the best practices of Twitter and use no more than two hashtags per Tweet.  Remember, overusing a hashtag devalues its strength.
Forgetting the social part of social media
While it is important to point to quality content, people who engage with social media expect that companies will be responsive. Social media is the place to build relationships. The way to do this is to be proactive with your target audience. Thus, when you create a social media account, spend an equal amount of time responding to questions, thanking users for their comments and reposts as you do posting your own items. Doing so helps builds trust and intimacy between you and your audience.
Kyle Clayton, co-founder of Set Jet, a membership-based private jet charter, states he boosted his sales by 49 percent (https://businesscollective.com/11-social-media-mistakes-business-owners-make/) in one year by having effective social media. “Jump in the stream, talk to people, and provide content. Being social and interesting, while providing useful content based on your business, will get you results.”
Taking time to know what you want from social media, how you will use it and how you will be involved are basics that help every business. Sure, social media is an art as well as a science, but having a plan and going toward goals will make the effort more successful.
If you have a content marketing program, or are planning one, download our ebook:  100 mistakes businesses make when starting, optimizing and scaling content marketing programs.  Learn from the mistakes of hundreds of other companies.  100 mistakes walks you through common and uncommon challenges that they faced with their content marketing programs.

Does Tempesta Media write Tweets?

Tempesta Media is happy to develop a variety of different types of content. One of the formats that we offer is social media in the form of tweets that can be utilized for your twitter.
For Twitter posts, there are several different ways you can go about this:
  • Order bundles of tweets: These tweets include links to relevant articles in your industry and the text to use alongside the post. Companies typically use the tweets and schedule them within their twitter account using something like BufferHubspot or Hootsuite.
  • Order tweets along with each individual content order: When ordering a blog article, you can also order a hook or snippet for the blog article, which can be used when promoting the blog article across social media channels. In this case, the tweet will be a short summary of the article to promote it on Twitter.

Enjoy all the time it would take to find relevant articles to share or to develop a witty post to promote your new article.

Content formats that are effective and relevant to education

Most businesses understand by now that content is king. Unfortunately, however, most businesses do not have quite the same understanding about what makes content good and how to promote that content across platforms where their target audience will find it.
This is especially true in the education industry, which is struggling with declining enrollment numbers and fierce competition. Research shows that many people these days skim, rather than read, content. If this is true, then how can education institutions attract and retain interest throughout the buying cycle?
The answer lies in creating effective and relevant content formats that are properly distributed to a target audience. Here are three strategies institutions can employ to achieve this goal:

Recognize the powerful effect of improved content and web writing

Studies have found that only 16 percent of people read website content word for word. Instead, most people skim until they find words and sentences that are intriguing.
This means that education institutions must use “scannable text,” such as meaningful keywords, subheadings and bulleted lists that make it easy for readers to scan and consume content.
For example, this is one way to write a sentence about new school courses:
Our university now offers five new courses: the science of sustainability, the future of AI, gaming technology, live video marketing and augmented reality in healthcare.
Or it could be written:
Our university now offers five new courses:

  • The science of sustainability.
  • The future of AI.
  • Gaming technology.
  • Live video marketing.
  • Augmented reality in health care.

Notice how the second example jumps off the page more because it includes bullet points, and each course has its own line, providing clarity and making the content more readable?

Understand how concise text and objective language can make every word count

Scannable text is not the only way to make content for education institutions readable and therefore more likely to reach a target audience. Using concise text and objective language is an effective way of communicating information without resorting to promotional content that can turn off many readers.
Promotional content that uses words like “the hottest course on campus,” or “the best faculty in the world” is often seen as boastful instead of useful. Readers expect a business to make these claims, but unless they are substantiated with evidence like actual rankings and ratings, they mean little. Instead, education institutions should make sure that their content is filled with text and language that sticks to the point without exaggeration.
For example, instead of a sentence like this one: Our university has the best faculty in the country and the most diverse student body possible…
A sentence like this one might be better: Sixty-six percent of our faculty have doctorate degrees, which ranks fifth nationally, and 55% of our student body is from another country.
The goal with any piece of content is readability, so sticking to objective language and concise text makes every word count and offers readers a more harmonious experience.

Understand why and how to capitalize on social media marketing

Education institutions must not simply create content for their websites, but must also distribute that content on social media platforms where their audiences gather.
There are several ways that schools can use social media marketing, including:

  • Promote culture, curriculum and campus activities – Platforms such as Twitter and Facebook are ideal outlets for schools to brand their “product.” Whether it is posting pictures of a campus activity, showing students applying knowledge in real-life settings, or highlighting a specific program that received accolades, social media is a powerful way to reach prospects.
  • Promote research activities – Schools can use social media to promote new research that has gained attention, and spotlight faculty and students who have gained recognition for their research work.
  • Engage donors to raise money – Schools can create social media campaigns such as donor match challenges for alumni and live streaming of fundraising events to engage existing and prospective donors. Columbia’s 2012 Giving Day Campaign, which relied heavily on social media promotion, raised $7.8 million in one day.

Create and distribute

Education institutions that create quality content that is concise and informative, and distribute that content on social media platforms where their target audience gathers will maximize their marketing toward prospects.
If you need help creating a content marketing plan, please contact us today.

How to get people to read your content

Content marketing continues to grow as a key online marketing strategy. Content marketing, however, is so much more than the ability to produce good content on a consistent basis.
You can produce some of the best content to ever grace the internet – but without a sound strategy to optimize, distribute and amplify that content, your hard work won’t amount to much.
People continue to clutter the world wide web with a cacophony of information and opinions. To rise above and truly be heard, you need great content paired with a solid distribution strategy.
In this e-guide, we will walk you through the basics of optimizing text, effectively distributing content using different platforms and ensuring people actually read what you write!
Specifically, we will cover:

  • Optimizing content for mobile and emerging technologies such as voice search.
  • Ensuring that your content is readable and adheres to search engine optimization (SEO) best practices.
  • Content distribution basics, including how to use different online content distribution channels.
  • How to measure the success of your content optimization and distribution efforts.

Optimizing content: Four basic elements

The term “optimize” can be quite subjective. Optimizing online content can mean a lot of different things, especially when you throw in the variables of what your business is trying to achieve with its online content.
At its core, online content is produced to be viewed – which means we can very easily boil down the optimization term to a few key elements that every piece of your content needs to possess. Overall:

  • Your content must be informative. The content must explain something that readers didn’t otherwise know or consider. It must either fulfill a need or provoke a need that the reader did not know they had.
  • Your content must be trustworthy. Your content should be somewhat objective by utilizing trustworthy sources within your industry, presenting information or opinions from your readers themselves or relying on data from established sources.
  • Your content must be authoritative. Balance objectivity with thoughts and opinions from your company and its people, whom you are trying to establish as the ones who best know how to help your readers.
  • Your content must be helpful. Give away knowledge and information for free. Show that you are willing to share your goods and empower your readers – and when they’re really stuck, they will turn to you for help.

Optimizing content for readability

One misspelled word. An improperly placed comma. A REALLY long run-on sentence. Nothing breaks down the quality of your content quite like a lack of readability. Here’s how to keep a small mistake from turning into a BIG content problem:

  • Proofread for grammar and spelling. Sloppy grammar and misspelled words adds up to zero credibility. Go over your copy with a fine-toothed proofreading comb. Then go over it again. Have others proofread it, too. Multiple sets of eyes on your content are better than just one.
  • Keep your content focused. Don’t go off on tangents in your copy. Consider how every sentence brings your reader closer to your call to action. Use active, powerful verbs, and keep sentences short. If a word or sentence doesn’t move them forward, scrap it.
  • Remember your target audience. What’s their average reading level? What do they appreciate? Keep the text as simple as possible to meet their needs.
  • Format for the web. Bold headings and bulleted lists help search engines to better scan your content for terms that help you to rank higher in relevant searches. These can also help prospects to find you.

Optimizing content for mobile

A site that renders properly across multiple mobile devices is absolutely crucial to business success. More than half of internet traffic comes from mobile devices, and that amount is only expected to rise. If you’re not paying attention to how the readers whom you want like to access online information, start now: it will help you to increase readership.
Optimizing content for mobile goes even deeper than that:
Mix up your content length. Longer articles are important for SEO because it indicates that you have a lot of great authoritative information to share on your preferred subject matter. However, mobile users won’t necessarily want to read your 2,000-word opus while they’re waiting at the doctor’s office. Instead, give readers quick-hit pieces as well as long-form information to give them what they need right away, and entice them to return later for the longer reads. No matter the content length, use brief paragraphs, subheaders and bullets to make the content scannable.
Let users scroll. When optimizing for mobile, people want to swipe up – not click and click through multiple pages to get what they need.
Let them browse ancillary materials in one spot. Try not to link to long articles and PDFs within your content. Compile this type of information into a link list at the end.
Create awesome headlines. Your headlines themselves should tell a story, reveal the benefit of reading upfront and tug at a person’s heartstrings.

Search engine optimization

SEO goes beyond the words in your blog posts. It also goes beyond the scenes, into your HTML code and your content management system to help your content to get found more quickly by people more likely to convert into leads.

SEO for text

  • Check your title tags. Make sure that your page and post titles are properly configured.
  • Include meta descriptions and keywords. Ensure that your content’s meta descriptions first exist and properly describe what a user would find on that page should they visit.
  • Clean up URLs. Get rid of unnecessary characters and ensure that your URLs follow a logical path of organization. The way that you name the pages in your website hierarchy is crucial to helping readers to get what they need as quickly as possible.
  • Use keywords, but not too many! Search engines can tell when you’re overstuffing content with key search terms to get clicks. Write with keywords the same way you’d use the words in natural conversation.
  • Strategically write headings and subheadings. Your headings and subheadings are assigned special code in your HTML (h1, h2, et cetera). It’s typically what a search engine will scan first, so make sure they’re concise yet descriptive enough to get your point across.

SEO for images

When used with care, images will help readers better understand your content. Whenever possible:

  • Use original images. Use stock photos as a last resort.
  • Name images properly. Put your keyword in the file name so that search engines will know what your image is about without looking at it.
  • Reduce file size. Faster load times are important for image SEO. Don’t make images too small, but ensure that the file size will load quickly while keeping the image clear and properly sized on the page.
  • Use alt text and title tags. Use alt test to create a long-form description of your image to further help search engines to judge your content relevance.

SEO for videos

Whether they are embedded on your website or listed on YouTube, make sure that you are properly optimizing video content for maximum visibility:

  • Include relevant keywords in your video title. This helps your video to rank higher.
  • Write a clear video description. Your viewers should immediately understand what they’re going to get out of watching your video.
  • Include links to your website. Let viewers know in the description where they can go for more information or for a transcript of the video.

Optimizing for voice search

Remember how we said mobile accounts for at least half of all online traffic? More and more, people are using voice search technology to ask Siri, Alexa or Cortana how to do something, find something and get something.
Remember: Voice search is conversational. So, too, should your keywords. Use long-tail keywords to optimize voice search. Think about what one of your users would ask about, in plain terms, to stumble upon your website or blog online.
As more people continue to incorporate this technology into daily life, our keywords will need to evolve to suit people, not search engines.

Content distribution

Your content is distributed in three key ways:
Owned media describes the distribution channels that your company owns or rents – its website, social media accounts, e-newsletters, et cetera.
Paid media describes any paid means of distribution: search engine marketing, boosted social media posts and ads, ads, media placements, et cetera.
Earned media is achieved when people view your content – either by owned or paid means – and decide to endorse it by sharing it with their own followers. Earned media includes links to your content in blog posts, social shares and republishing of your content by other channels without your paying them to do so. Earned media means that your content is useful and relevant to others. To get more earned media, you need to optimize and promote your content via owned and paid means.

Optimizing for social media

Your social media posts should be optimized accordingly based on the social platform you are using. Overall, however, you can employ these key tactics:

  • A/B test your headlines. Distribute articles with different social media headlines day to day – even over the course of one day – to see how they perform.
  • Use images. Optimize images with proper tags and size them to effectively adhere to the social ad platforms that you are using.
  • Use hashtags. Including relevant hashtags in your social media posts help to increase post visibility.
  • Optimize post length. Remember your platforms. For example, keep it short and sweet for Twitter, but if it makes sense, your Facebook posts can be a little longer.

Content distribution 101

To effectively distribute your content, you must know:

  • How often to post
  • The best time to post
  • The content types that do best on each platform
  • How to effectively repurpose content
  • How to establish an effective mix of free and paid distribution channels

How often you post will depend on how much content you can create. Whether you post once per week or once every hour, the key here is consistency. Establish a precedent for your audience, and then stick to it.
The best time to post will depend on how active your audience is on different social platforms. For example, Facebook users tend to be active in the evening.
Different social platforms prioritize content differently. For example, live video on Facebook tends to get great exposure, and links with images on Twitter are clicked more often.
Repurposing content needs to begin at the source. Your source piece of content can be a blog post with an image, the contents of which become an infographic, a Facebook poll, an Instagram story or a YouTube video.

Content distribution tools

There are a number of content distribution tools that can help to do the work of placing content in front of the right audiences for maximum exposure and traffic. These distribution tools may be a wise investment for your business if you need to outsource this task.
Examples of content distribution tools include SimpleReach, Xink, Outbrain and Wisestamp.
These tools will place your content on relevant websites based in parameters you set, in exchange for a fee. You can pay per click or pay based on how the content performs where it is placed.

Measuring success

How do you know if your content marketing efforts are successful? Here are ways to measure content performance:

  • Site traffic increase/decrease
  • Bounce rate
  • Time spent on page
  • Social shares
  • Increase in site traffic from inbound links
  • Organic search rank
  • Leads generated (by filling out a form, subscribing to a newsletter, etc.)

What if I don’t see results?

Content marketing is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s not uncommon to not see significant returns for at least a year. The key is to make sure that your key performance indicators are remaining steady and not going down. Over time, you will begin to see changes in site traffic and lead generation that will justify the investment in content.

How to position the right content on the right social media channel

With so many social media sites and apps vying for an audience, how can businesses find the right channel to introduce and assign their content? Likewise, how can companies discover which sites will drive traffic, increase conversion rates, and improve search rankings? These questions are particularly challenging for start-ups with limited staff and resources.
A presence on different platforms will target different specific markets and create different brand associations. Developing a social media strategy as part of a company’s overall marketing plan is just good business. But the best reason to become actively involved in social media is that the competition is using it. In fact, nearly 91 percent of brands use more than one social media platform.
In order of popularity defined by the number of users, Facebook takes first place. YouTube, Twitter, Reddit, Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr, LinkedIn, Yahoo! Answers, and Yelp follow behind respectively.

Determining a platform for your company

Each social media site offers something different from the others. One site that works well for one company or service provider may not work at all for another. The trick, then, is for a company to determine which site(s) will be the most beneficial for its specific industry. From there, a company must craft a compelling social media strategy. A company should implement a strategy that drives a message home and ensures its key messages are being heard by the right audience.
Linking social media channels to a marketing strategy is essential to achieve marketing goals, including lead generation and brand awareness. When choosing an appropriate channel or expanding to an unfamiliar platform, it can help to refer to Pew Research Center data. This data outlines key demographics for several social media platforms. For instance, it may be vital for one company to understand that women dominate Pinterest or that 30 percent of all adults online under 50 years of age use Twitter.

Social media influences purchasing decisions

The communications department must consider multiple factors when choosing a social media platform. Demographic data is a vital part of the process. Social media demographics will make sure that you are targeting the right people at the right time. Age, income level, gender, and education all impact which platform will drive the most traffic and generate the most revenue.
Companies must also understand that purchasing decisions are influenced in part by social media. Ten years ago, social media was all about audience engagement. However, today, it focuses on personalization and commerce. Most major platforms now invest in advertising solutions to entice marketers. These platforms assure improved APIs (a set of protocols or tools used to build software applications) and personalized marketing campaigns. It’s easy to understand why almost 46 percent of social media users turn to social media when making a purchase.

Which platform conveys what message?

So, which platform meets the needs of a specific business or service provider? And what channels are competitors using?

Facebook

Facebook is the most popular social media platform on the Internet. When Facebook was launched in 2004, consumers between the ages of 18 and 24 were the largest audience, but, today, women and men between the ages of 25-54 make up 32 percent and 29 percent of Facebook users, respectively. If a company prefers to target a younger audience, Facebook may not be the platform for it. That said, if a company targets a slightly older market, Facebook is a wise choice. Nearly 44 percent of visitors log on several times a day. Facebook users also rely a great deal on likes by friends. It impacts their decision about a product or service and purchasing merchandise. Facebook also allows publishers to target a specific market by likes and demographic data.

Instagram

With 500 million users, Instagram is one of the best platforms for product videos or photos. However, the platform recently changed its algorithm. Now companies have less control over who views their posts. Another drawback is that Instagram doesn’t allow clickable links to a company’s site. However, most marketers will agree that Instagram is great for visual brand-building. Especially if product photos are essential to gaining customers.

Pinterest

If females are the main demographic of a company, Pinterest is the best social media platform for its marketing plan. Especially if food, decor, fashion, gift ideas, or jewelry are part of a company’s product line. It should be noted that Pinterest users log in more often around the holidays, so allocating marketing funds for these times is a smart idea.

LinkedIn

Service providers, non-profit organizations and businesses all belong on LinkedIn. This platform will help companies establish themselves as a trusted brand or influencer in its industry. Additionally, a company can create awareness, optimize its search ranking in Google and post content to generate leads. LinkedIn can expose a company’s brand to more than 300 million users. It is the third most used social media platform among businesses. What’s more, LinkedIn claims that 95 percent of users are college graduates. 43 percent of these grads earn six figures or more.

YouTube

YouTube is the world’s second-largest search engine with over 3 billion searches each month. (Keep in mind that YouTube is owned by Google). There are now more than one billion subscribers on YouTube, and the number is growing. Therefore, companies and start-ups that implement a video campaign as part of the marketing strategy can captivate an audience and ensure a steady increase in website traffic. A company can attract and retain an audience by using audiovisual media to stage a product or service. YouTube is available in 175 countries and in 61 languages, so the exposure potential is enormous.

Twitter

Tweets are only limited to 140 characters (soon to be increased to 280 for a handful of select users). However, companies can tweet to send a message to large numbers of people – fast. This social platform demonstrates that a company is current and up-to-date with the latest trends in social media. Companies can also quickly stay on top of their market segment. They can see what people are saying about a particular product or service and keep an eye on the competition. Twitter is great for networking and refining a company’s brand and is many companies’ favorite tool for engaging with customers.

How many channels can a company manage?

For start-ups and companies with limited resources and time to devote to posting content on social media, the best advice is to be awesome on a few rather than sub-par on many. Most marketers will agree that trying to be all things to all people is a waste of time and does not work, so focusing on one or two social media platforms popular with a company’s ideal audience is a wise investment.
Content marketing on social media in the form of videos, posts, or blogs does not explicitly promote a company’s brand, but it can stimulate interest in a product or service. The right content on the right channel has the power to establish or reinforce a connection with an audience that few other marketing tools can offer. Good content on the right channel has an especially resilient effect as quality content persuades users to click, explore and continue reading.
Companies must also have a reason, or objective, to be on social media: gaining followers, promoting a new product or increasing brand awareness. A company should consider customizing its content to nudge readers into the next level, whether that be buying a product, attending an event, or subscribing to a newsletter. If a company chooses more than one platform, it is also best to tailor content to each platform. For example, displaying a photo of a new product would catch the attention of Instagram or Pinterest users but may not entice LinkedIn users to visit a company’s website. The best advice is to set goals, devise a social media strategy, and let that dictate the decisions made when choosing a social media platform.

Why the right content on the right channel is very important

If content is a star, context is a superstar. Developing the right content is the very best way to market a product today. It is also true that providing value to consumers via social media platforms gives companies a way to engage and retain a client base. However, even the greatest content will come up short if placed on the wrong channel(s). A company must consider its ideal audience when choosing a platform. Then, the company must broadcast on the platform best suited to the company’s needs. When you understand your customers – who they are and what they want – you can optimize your content and fine-tune your targeting strategy.
For more information about how to put the right content on the right channel, trust the experts at Tempesta Media. The range of services and technologies they provide help digital agencies produce quality content for their clients.

4 ways to tap into the power of social proof for content marketing

The human mind is hard wired to act on social impulses. Here are some you may recognize:

  • When your friends are talking about a new gadget, you want to learn more about it.
  • You avoid places with no one inside when you and your partner are deciding where to eat.
  • When you are looking for a service provider, such as a plumber or a pest control company, you ask for recommendations from your family and friends.
  • You choose a service provider that claims to have served hundreds of thousands of clients over a smaller business.

Psychologists and sociologists call the phenomenon of letting others influence a person’s decision-making process social proof, or informational social influence. In essence, social proof can be summed up as “following the crowd.”

Why does social proof in content marketing matter?

It matters a lot. For years, psychologists have understood the impact peer pressure has on our actions, but only recently have people linked it with content marketing.
Social proof is the marketing tactic for allaying customer fears and concerns. If content marketing’s purpose is to build the foundation for word of mouth marketing, social proof’s role is to use content to make your brand more trustworthy and deserving of your target market’s money. Below we’ll discuss a few ways to do just that.

Make testimonials more visible

Testimonials are an old tactic all marketers are familiar with, so much so that most sites have entire landing pages dedicated to testimonials. But what they may not realize is that people do not really visit the ‘Testimonials’ page on a website.
For testimonials to count, they need more visibility.
Place banner ads beside blog posts and in between paragraphs so people will see them as they read content. They can also be integrated in product pages, the home page, and other landing pages with ‘buy’ buttons.
Then look at the conversions generated by these ads and compare them with both your testimonials page and homepage. Did it work? If not, work on the content of your testimonials.

Make testimonials results-oriented

A testimonial that reads, “Company X saved my business! Thanks Company X!” is pure fluff and tells the reader nothing.
Instead, write testimonials through the following angles:

  • What exactly did you do for the customer?
  • What results did your service/produce generate?
  • Did your product/service offer great value for money?

Anybody can say he or she was happy with your service or product. What is more interesting is quantifying a customer’s results with hard data:

  • Did your product generate savings? How much? What percentage?
  • Did your product save your customers’ time? How many hours?

The more specific your testimonials are, the more trustworthy they appear to readers.

Tap influencer reach and power

Influencers come in all shapes and sizes. They can be celebrities, industry experts, and other personalities in your niche.

  • Experts – A guest blog post or even a mention from an industry expert can do wonders for your reputation and authority. For example, if you operate an ad agency, you can do an interview with a high-profile client to discuss your services.
  • CelebritiesCelebrity endorsements are as old as advertising itself, but getting a celebrity who is actually relevant to your industry can still work.

Reach out to someone your customers trust, someone whose ‘thumbs up’ can improve your image dramatically.

Add a client portfolio

Having a line of client logos at the bottom of your homepage may seem like a dated strategy, but it is so simple and easy to add that there is really no harm in using it to build your credibility.
Before you add a carousel of logos to your homepage, however, be sure to first ask permission from your clients. You need to make sure the clients you feature want to be associated with your brand after their experience with your company’s products or services.
You can also feature logos of publishers and media outlets that featured your content to show the coverage your brand received from the media.

The Upshot

Ultimately, social proof is all about leveraging the power of influence. Fortunately, there are several kinds of content, be it text, images, or videos, that you can leverage to reach out to your target market and highlight the experiences your customers have with your products and services.
When consumers are in doubt, they turn other people’s actions and buying habits for guidance on who to trust. Your job is to make the process easier, crafting content that builds confidence and establishes your brand as being worth their time and money.

To follow back or not to follow back? That is the question

Twitter is a very useful tool for marketers. Using social media to connect with customers and prospective customers is a way to build trust with your following. However, a typical business can quickly accumulate hundreds and then thousands of followers. You want to engage with these users, but should you follow back every account that follows you?
What’s the right ratio?
If you have a couple million followers, is it acceptable to only follow back a few hundred? For example, this is the case with @WhiteHouse. Ashton Kutcher (@aplusk), famous for challenging others to top his number of Twitter followers, has more than 17 million followers, but follows fewer than 1,000 accounts. Even Katy Perry (@katyperry), who is currently ranked number one for most Twitter followers (with more than 83 million) only follows fewer than 200 accounts.
Neal Schaffer, founder and editor-in-chief of Maximize Social Business, states that the “never-ending question of quality verses quantity of Twitter followers is similar to the argument of how many people you should connect with on LinkedIn or ‘friend’ on any other social networking site.”
The difference between Twitter accounts and other social media is that the more people who follow you means you have a better chance at viral marketing. “Wouldn’t you rather have 2,000 Followers vs. 200 Followers?,” asks Schaffer. He then goes on to try and figure out the best followers to following ratio and believes the healthiest ratio is “100 Following to 100 Followers = 1.0 Ratio” because it “tells new people that if they follow you chances are you will follow them back.”
Have a plan
Before you began using social media, you likely had a plan regarding the platforms you would use, what you would post and when. It makes sense to also have a plan in place regarding followers. Before you get a large number of followers on your Twitter account, know what steps you will take for various accounts that follow you.
One policy you might consider is if the account is real and relevant to your business, then decide to take the time to follow back. For others, you may just want to thank them for following.
Why or why not?
You don’t want to make any of your followers feel badly. That’s how you lose them. When someone decides to cut back on the number of people they follow, if you’re not following them back or if you haven’t been relevant to them, they will likely unfollow you.
On March 21, 2012, American Express tweeted a tip to small businesses: “Make sure you ‘follow’ customers who follow you, to foster dialogue & show appreciation.” However, Sheena Medina, community manager at Fast Company, notes that following everyone who follows you “does nothing but fill your stream with noise.” She recommends that businesses, “Don’t fall into the trap of something I call a ‘courtesy’ follow-that is, following someone that has followed you out of a desire to appear grateful.”
How to decide
When you create your plan for Twitter, here are some things to keep in mind about who to follow (even if they aren’t immediately following you back):

  • Your competition
  • Larger companies in your industry
  • Trendsetters in your industry
  • Industry leaders
  • Local and/or national media

When these types of accounts do begin to follow you, be sure that you are also following them back.
Of course, you don’t want to diminish the value of your account by following all the same kinds of accounts your competition does. You want your account (and ultimately, your brand) to be of value to others who follow you. In order to separate yourself from the pack, be clear about your goals and marketing strategy. Then, when accounts begin to follow you, reciprocate “follows” by asking some of these questions:

  • Is the content of this follower relevant to my business?
  • Do they have valuable content for me or my followers?
  • Are they part of my industry?
  • Are they consistent with their message?
  • Are they regularly active?
  • Do they have a good following?
  • Are their followers real or does it look like a spam account?

If you, like Chris Brogan, CEO of Owner Media Group, consider connecting with another account on social media to be the same as an endorsement, then it is necessary to filter and manage followers before deciding to follow them back.
Brogan reminds, “Your reputation is one of the biggest assets you have, especially in this online space. Endorsing someone in any fashion is a withdrawal from your own reputational store with others. Meaning, if you vouch for someone and that person turns out to be not as respectable or reliable or civil as you originally thought, and this is all experienced by others in your various circles, your reputation (potentially) takes a hit for the other person’s efforts.”
If you have a content marketing program, or are planning one, download our ebook:  100 mistakes businesses make when starting, optimizing and scaling content marketing programs.  Learn from the mistakes of hundreds of other companies.  100 mistakes walks you through common and uncommon challenges that they faced with their content marketing programs.

Social media strategy: Make it personal

Dale Carnegie, author of one of the first best-selling self-help books published, “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” taught, “Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” While his advice came long before social media, this insight remains true and reminds marketers that personalized content is important in this digital age for social media strategy.

Real world example

How important is personalized content? Take the example of Coca-Cola, one of the most recognized brands in the world. Soda sales were slumping. Then, in 2015, the brand personalized its labels with 250 popular names as part of its “Share a Coke” campaign. In doing so, the company “reversed a decade-long decline in U.S. Coke consumption,” according to the Wall Street Journal.

Compelling statistics

The concept that one size fits all no longer works for content marketing. Today’s consumers are beginning to expect some degree of personalized marketing. The numbers don’t lie and there are many that support this concept.
According to research by Janrain, 74 percent of consumers get frustrated when website content appears that has nothing to do with their interests.
“These results align perfectly with additional market research indicating that consumers have reached the tipping point when it comes to being shown content that isn’t relevant to them,” said Larry Drebes, CEO of Janrain. “It’s a wake up call for brands to fix this problem or risk losing customers and prospects.”
Research by Econsultancy in association with Monetate found that marketers see an average sales increase of 20 percent when personalizing content. Additionally, 61 percent of consumers state they feel better about a company that delivers custom content, and are more likely to buy, according to a Demand Metric study.

Connecting

Online personalizing delivers for businesses when a better customer experience is available. Personalized content builds trust and creates relationships. On websites, you can create this personal appeal when you provide relevant content for your target audience.
In social media, there is the ability to be more high touch with users. Social media provides the opportunity to directly answer questions and engage the audience. While it is possible to program automated responses, consumers know when they are dealing with a robot. Personal interaction with an actual person on the other end goes a long way in building a true relationship. Such activity in social media is more likely to be well-received and the experience shared with friends. In fact, about 71 percent of consumers respond according to the feedback and recommendation of social users regarding a particular brand.

Getting personal

Every social media platform is different, and we should approach each platform according to their unique ways to interact with audiences. Additionally, marketers should always keep in mind the user base of each social media platform. For example, the way you approach and engage users on Pinterest differs greatly from the way you interact with Facebook users. Take time to understand each platform.
That said, there are some overarching ways to increase personalized interactions on social media, including integration, interaction, sharing and using big data.
When you integrate your social media with other marketing, you create a seamless experience for users. According to SteamFeed, using social media can increase website traffic by 60 percent. Additionally, 93 percent of shoppers will make buying decisions based on social media influences.
Interacting with users directly such as thanking, mentioning and tagging them lets them know you are there for them.  Consider conducting polls and asking their opinions. Your audience will then know you care about what they think.

Reaching out to followers

In addition to thanking users who follow you or like your content, consider sharing posts or retweeting their relevant content. You develop authority when you post your own content. However, you can become a trusted curator when you share information others have put on social media. Adding your voice to their content gives it value and you develop relationships with those who have similar views.
Jonathan Lakin, CEO of Intent HQ, says,“People are becoming more savvy and selective about what they share on social networks, which only makes the data being made available much richer for true personalization and creating a tailored online experience.” He also notes that when users know why they are sharing their social data and what they will get in return, they are more open to the idea.
Reach out to your followers on social media and gather information that allows you to get more personal. Information such as birthdates, location and specific “likes” permits you to send an appropriate greeting or be more direct in your messages. But remember, the user needs to be clear on what they will get in return, including a coupon, discount or other exclusive offer. Don’t risk ruining the relationship by not following up on your end of the deal.
If you have a content marketing program, or are planning one, download our ebook:  100 mistakes businesses make when starting, optimizing and scaling content marketing programs.  Learn from the mistakes of hundreds of other companies.  100 mistakes walks you through common and uncommon challenges that they faced with their content marketing programs.

Best Pinterest practices for your business

Pinterest is not often top of mind for business owners. However, with more than 100 million active users and a 111 percent growth, it is a social media platform that should not be ignored.
And if you are seeking organic traffic, search engines are just so yesterday. Today, Pinterest is the second highest referrer of traffic to websites. Only Facebook can send more traffic your way. Businesses who have wondered about incorporating Pinterest in their social media strategy should give it a good look to see if it can work for you.
The basics
Like Facebook, there is a separation between personal and business accounts on Pinterest. Be sure to read the guidelines as well as the Acceptable Use and etiquette policies. In addition to rules about promoting your presence on Pinterest, you will be reminded:

  • Don’t promote spam, “such as asking participants to comment repeatedly.”
  • Don’t “run a sweepstakes where each pin, repin, or like represents an entry [or] ask pinners to vote with a repin or like.”
  • Don’t run contests, sweepstakes or promotions “too often.”
  • Don’t “suggest that Pinterest sponsors or endorses” your business.

The allure of Pinterest
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. According to the Social Science Research Network, 65 percent of people process information based on what is seen. The 3M Corporation states that the brain processes visual information 60,000 faster than text. Thus, visual content marketing is vital for business today.
A comScore study found that approximately 71 percent of Pinterest users in are women and the average user spends 1 hour and 17 minutes on the website.
In their book, “Pinterest for Business,” authors Jess Loren and Edward Swinderski note that these statistics can help you pinpoint your audience. “Having just the right image can potentially bring in the right kind of people you want to talk to,” they say. Additionally, they remind that images have long been directly linked to the ability to entice consumers to purchase. There is a science behind the allure of Pinterest and an emotional tie to imagery drives that.
What to pin
While Pinterest is not the social media platform for every business – and frankly not every social media platform works well for every business all the time any way – product-based businesses do best on Pinterest. Because users actively look for products (and price tags) on Pinterest, many people are ready to buy. Including that price tag is important. Pins with price tags get 36 percent more Likes than those that do not have the tag.
You will want to keep your users interested with frequent and consistent photo posts or, in this case, pins. As with all other social media, if you want to raise your engagement, it is necessary to do some research in order to understand your target audience as well as how to reach them using your overall marketing strategy.
Get a feel for what your audience pins (and repins) and what types of boards they are most interested in. This will help you create boards that your audience will want to follow and share with their friends and followers.
Also, keep on top of trending pins and boards. A study by the University of Minnesota and Georgia Tech found that the most popular topic for both men and women was “food and drink.” Women’s other interests include crafts, home décor and fashion. Men looked at pins about photography, art, design and home décor.
Boards help segment and target your audience. Optimize your boards by being creative with what you pin. This can include:

  • Product images
  • Photo contests
  • Infographics
  • Client testimonials
  • Inspirational images
  • Educational information
  • Company facts or figures
  • Celebrity endorsements
  • Employee expertise

This diverse content will help you build your brand. Think visually and focus on the story you are trying to convey with your images.
Be sure to include pin descriptions with your images. Hashtags and relevant keywords will help your pin to be found in searches. Keeping in mind that Pinterest drives traffic to your website, always include a link users can click to get them exactly where you want them to go.
Also, use the Pinterest Business Center to find tools to tie together your website and blog with Pinterest. The Pin It Button can be embedded in your website so content is easily one-click pinnable. The Pit It Bookmarklet embedded into your browser makes it easy to pin from the web.
Once you take some time to learn what Pinterest is about, you can take steps to develop a strategy that may work well for you.
If you have a content marketing program, or are planning one, download our ebook:  100 mistakes businesses make when starting, optimizing and scaling content marketing programs.  Learn from the mistakes of hundreds of other companies.  100 mistakes walks you through common and uncommon challenges that they faced with their content marketing programs.

Tips for using Instagram for business

If you’re not yet using Instagram for your business, it might just be time to get moving.
Growing rapidly over the past two years, Instagram has more than 300 million monthly users. And even if you don’t think your customers are looking for you on Instagram, they probably are. Iconosquare’s 2015 Instagram study showed that 70 percent of Instagram users report having looked up a brand. Additionally, 62 percent of users follow a brand just because they like it, not in an effort to win prizes.
And if you are hoping to grab mobile users, Instagram is how you can get them. It is one of the top 10 most popular smartphone apps and is growing twice as fast as almost every other competitor.
The good news is that you don’t have to have a purely visual business in order to make this social media platform work for you.
What photos would we share?
Visual companies, such as those that sell merchandise, restaurants and hair and nail salons, seem to have an endless number of images they can post on Instagram to promote their business. You recognize this fact and then wonder what your accounting firm or insurance company could possibly take a picture of.
One of the biggest misconceptions about Instagram is that these kinds of companies don’t have a place on the platform. However, a picture still is worth a thousand words and you can say a lot about your company. Take a moment to go back to your overall marketing strategy and then get creative.
Do you give to the community and do volunteer work? Snap photos and share those experiences. Make sure the photos are authentic and convey your brand identity. This helps showcase your business within the community. These kinds of photos engage people emotionally. That, in turn, helps build trust as well as an overall understanding about what your business stands for.
Further a message about your company culture by sharing photos of employee or business achievements. Take pictures at local award ceremonies or other celebrations and post them.
Also consider sharing photos of your employees on the job. For example, if yours is a mail order business and the bulk of your employees work in the warehouse filling orders, show the forklifts, the packing and shipping. Allowing your customers to witness the nuts and bolts behind what they receive in the mail helps put a face on your brand.
Once you’ve got it, tag it
Simply posting images is not enough. You want to be found. This can be accomplished by using appropriate hashtags on your posts.
Max Woolf, a software QA engineer in the San Francisco area, did some research to figure out whether there was a correlation between hashtags and the number of Likes a post received. After analyzing more than 120,000 Instagram photos, he found that the more hashtags an Instagram photo has, the more Likes it ultimately receives because the image had a greater reach. More people were able to find it and Like it.
Engagement can vary, but research by Track Maven found that big brands receive an average of 37 Likes and comments for every 1,000 followers they have.
While Woolf found that the majority of Instagram photos have approximately five hashtags, he found a number of abusers who used the maximum of 30 tags per image. While you don’t want to be a spammer, those with 30 hashtags averaged approximately three times as many Likes as photos with only a few tags. Woolf’s advice about loading up your post with many hashtags: “You won’t be guaranteed to gets lots of Likes, but the odds will greatly be in your favor.”
Remember, no links
While hashtags are extremely important on Instagram, links to web pages are not. Instagram is great for brand exposure, but not for getting customers to your website. The only place you are able to place a link is in your profile. URLs placed inside captions or photo comments will not work and will be unsuccessful if you are trying to direct people to a specific website. Thus, connecting your Instagram with other social media accounts such as Twitter and Facebook helps keep customers fully engaged.
Be consistent
As with all other social media, if you are going to decide to do it, commit to it. Create an editorial calendar and map everything back to your overall marketing strategy. Post on a frequent and regular basis.
Timing is everything when it comes to social media. SumAll’s research found that the best time to post on Instagram was weekdays between 5 and 6 p.m. and Mondays at 8 p.m.
While there is no exact formula for success for every business, it’s important to keep an eye on your metrics. Monitor best post times for your images. See what images get the most response. In time, you will see what works well and best engages your target audience.
If you have a content marketing program, or are planning one, download our ebook:  100 mistakes businesses make when starting, optimizing and scaling content marketing programs.  Learn from the mistakes of hundreds of other companies.  100 mistakes walks you through common and uncommon challenges that they faced with their content marketing programs.

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