SEO is dead. SEO is alive and well. SEO is evolving. Which philosophy is your marketing approach based on? Look up “Search Engine Optmization” and you’re bound to find any number of blogs debating whether traditional modes of boosting your visibility through search engines have disappeared completely, changed fundamentally or retained some of their tactical value.
No matter who you believe, one this is certain: there is a lot of anxiety over the best way to approach web visibility and search engine ranking in 2014. Marketers shouldn’t be surprised though. Big changes have been brewing for over a year, with search engine giants like Google looking for a more intuitive and efficient approach to delivering results to users.
One of the developments that’s stirring up controversy amongst SEO experts is last year’s release of Google Hummingbird. Hummingbird is an updated algorithm that employs features like conversational search to make searching for information easier and more like everyday speech. Important features like PageRank, which haven’t been officially discontinued, are receding to the background and might eventually stop being a part of the equation.
Does this mean you should abandon old approaches to SEO? If you’re used to rattling off a bunch of keywords in the attempt to capture the attention of Google’s algorithm, then yes. Part of Google’s strategy has been to create search methods that exclude gibberish from content farms, which used to produce high ranking material that failed to truly satisfy a searcher’s query.
What can you do to secure a space at the top of search engine rankings? Without altering the actual architecture of your site, there is still a lot you can do by simply being a better blogger. Establish yourself as an authority on your topic and make your platform an important voice for your industry. Google’s approach to delivering results favors quality sites that contain links to other healthy sites. Make sure that each post is like a resource bank that redirects people to more quality content. If you’re already focused on creating the best content for your readers, this should really take care of itself!
A good approach to SEO in 2014 goes hand in hand with good writing. Counting keywords may not be as important as it used to be, and this might comes as a relief to many. Step outside the prescribed formula of meeting keyword quotas so you can really say what you mean with your writing. If you’re avidly blogging about your business, keywords should naturally occur without too much hand wringing about whether it’s “enough.”
Most of all, remember that making sure you’re easy to find online is just part of your overall marketing approach--a piece of a dynamic puzzle. Your offpage efforts to direct traffic (either in real life or through social media) to your homepage shouldn’t be ignored in the pursuit of chasing keywords.
Keep an eye on search engine trends, but don’t don’t be a slave to rigid schemes. As companies like Google move to more organic ways of delivering results, great content will float to the top and irrelevant junk will sink to the bottom. Where you end up has less to do with a single rubric for success and more to do with creating a page that users love to visit for its great material.
Let’s face it. When it comes to drafting New Year’s resolutions, we’ve all been guilty of biting off more than we can chew. It’s hard not to be a little overzealous when it comes to setting goals; a new year always seems full of limitless possibilities. But lofty propositions won’t get you anywhere without a plan. If you’re resolving to improve your social strategy in 2014, it’s important to break that proposition down into bite size pieces. Here are some recommendations for realistic propositions that’ll boost your approach to social media in 2014.
Delve Into a New Platform
Are you stuck on Facebook and Twitter? While these two platforms remain an important cornerstone of a solid social media strategy, you could be limiting your reach by refusing to branch out. We recommend exploring visually-driven platforms like Instagram, Pinterest and Tumblr, so you can stay ahead of the game on an important trend: the continuing rise of “social visual” across the web. Curious about the social platforms that best suit your customers? Check out this study from the Pew Internet and American Life Project, featuring detailed information about key demographics and the social media platforms they’re most engaged with.
Revise Your Social Media Policy
As you move into 2014, it’s a great time to take a look back at your social media strategy for the year. What were some of the major pitfalls? What were your great successes? Gather key players to have a post-mortem that takes an honest look at your overall approach, then get ready to revise your social media policy. Do you have multiple dedicated users taking on social or are you relying on a single social media manager to get things done? Don’t be afraid to adopt a new set of guidelines around the way your company uses social media. Remember, it should be a direct reflection of your brand’s identity. If you’re looking for a little inspiration, NPR has a great template here.
Set Goals for Engagement
One of the most important metrics you can track has less to do with the habits of your followers and more to do with the kind of content you’re producing. This year, resolve to measure how much of your own content is an earnest attempt to find out more about your followers, answer their questions and sustain engagement. As you start tracking what you publish, you might discover that too many of your posts are treating social media as a one-way street, instead of a place to generate conversation online.
Launch a Social-Media Driven Campaign
Social media campaigns like promotions, contests and giveaways are an excellent way to drum up excitement if you find yourself in a creative rut. Don’t be scared to try them out! This year, try creating a campaign that’s driven by social media instead of traditional marketing approaches. It’s a great way to reward loyal followers and pick up some new fans in the process. You could host a weekly trivia on Twitter, create a photo contest on Instagram, or run a promotion on Facebook. Just be sure to cover yourself for any liability by planning ahead and always stating rules and regulations upfront!
Setting goals is always easy. It’s following through that’s the hardest part! What are you most excited to try out this year to grow your social media strategy? How do you create benchmarks along the way to hold yourself accountable and make sure you’re on the right track? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Running a small-to-medium-sized business (whether it’s on your own or with a few other partners) means facing many uphill challenges on a daily basis, not the least of which is deciding where to spend your money. When it comes to an overall marketing plan, it can sometimes feel like you can’t get anywhere without some major moolah. But don’t forget that a little ingenuity can go a long way, even if you’re strapped for cash. Here's a little holiday gift just for you: some exciting free (or cheap!) tools to help you get organized, boost your social strategy and enhance your marketing approach without breaking the bank.
When it comes to brainstorming, building big picture of tasks that need to get done and breaking down goals into smaller jobs, nothing beats a good old-fashioned to-do list. The creators of WorkFlowy have created an online tool that takes to-do lists to the next logical level by making them "zoomable." You can zoom all the way out to get a comprehensive look of everything that’s on your list, or focus in to get down to nitty gritty details.
Photo editing programs like Photoshop are great, but they’re expensive and require a huge investment in time to master. Creating original visual content for your newsfeed is important though, so being able to quickly throw some text on an image or create a collage can come in handy. Pixlr lets you do that and more from the comfort of your browser window. Looking for an alternative? PicMonkey is another great choice.
If you’re still sending important documents and images through email as attachments, do yourself a favor and start using Dropbox. We’ve all had an instance of digging back from old messages to rescue a misplaced attachment only to find that it’s almost impossible to locate again. Dropbox takes the guesswork out of finding important marketing materials like images. It also allows for quick and easy sharing across hard drives and cloud storage. Looking for other ways to share important information through cloud storage? Get on Google Drive
So you’re carefully keeping track of important analytics on platforms like Facebook and Twitter. That’s great! But what about Instagram, a growing visual and social platform that young people are flocking to? If Instagram is already an important part of your social strategy, make sure that you’re using a program like Statigram to capture relevant analytics about your followership.
Looking to take a pulse of the web? Upworthy is a great site for checking out emerging trends and viral videos. While it’s not a golden goose for producing your own viral content, it can lead the way towards discovering which way conversations on the web are shifting. Check it out regularly for inspiration.What free (or cheap) online tools are up your sleeve? Which tools have you ditched in the last year in favor of new ones? Share your ideas in the comments below.
A couple of weeks ago, it seemed like the year in pop music was all wrapped up, ready to be committed to the annals of history forevermore. Then, out of the blue (ivy?), an album everyone was waiting for but no one actually expected mysteriously materialized on iTunes with zero promotion. It was the album drop felt around the world: a self-titled album from Beyonce Knowles featuring fourteen songs and seventeen videos that fans could enjoy all at once.
It’s hard to imagine how anyone, even a superstar like Beyonce, could pull off a move like this in a world without social media. Consider this: all that Beyonce needed to announce the release of the best kept secret in the music industry was a single Instagram post. The rest took care of itself. That single post didn’t just nearly crash iTunes, it almost took down the rest of the web with it as well! Check out this animated map showing how quickly the announcement sent social networks ablaze with chatter.
Ok, so most of us will never reach the heights of a star like Beyonce (try as we might) but that doesn’t mean we can’t glean something from her maverick marketing approach. Here are three takeaways you can use to improve your own social strategy.
Let Your Fans Show They’re Crazy in Love
One of the most brilliant things about Beyonce’s plan (besides the fact that she was able to keep such a massive undertaking completely secret for so long in an era of constant surveillance and information leaks) is the way she leveraged her built-in fan base. Every bee in her “Beyhive” played an important part in getting the message out--and, when called upon by their queen, they did not disappoint.
Who Run the World? Visual Media
Dropping an album with accompanying visual media for every song is a move that really taps into the way consumers experience entertainment today. From mobile screens, to tablets and desktops, visual social media is an unstoppable trend.
Sharknado, Imma Let You Finish
Sharkando, you had a great run, but it looks like Beyonce and her surprise album have taken your title for 2013’s buzziest social media topic. Beyonce’s social takeover is further proof that if you can dominate interactive channels like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, you hold the world’s attention.
Teasing is Good, but a Great Surprise is Irreplaceable
We’ve written about the art of the tease on social media before, but sometimes it pays to keep your secrets as close to your chest for as long as you can. In an era where nearly everything gets spoiled thanks to overzealous fans and prying bloggers, there’s nothing more surprising than an actual surprise. Working on a big project? Rolling it out slowly is one way to go, but dropping it all at once in all its glory might have an even bigger impact.
Are you basking in the halo of Queen Bey yet? How else do you think this clever move has upended traditional expectations about marketing and harnessing the power of social media? Share your reactions in the comments below!
With only two weeks left until Christmas, we’re racing towards one of the most important days of the holiday season. One refrain echoes through the minds of most business owners: There isn’t enough time! If you’re still personally handling your social media, it’s easy to see why this season can seem unmanageable. Here are four reasons why Social Sonar could be the best gift you give yourself this year.
Open Up Time so You Can Tackle Other Projects
How many ideas and grand schemes for your business do you have slowly cooking on the back burner? Maybe they’ve been simmering there for the better part of the year without the chance of growing to fruition because you haven’t had the time to really flesh them out. If you’re dreaming of launching new ideas in 2014, the clock is ticking. There’s no time like the present to get preparations underway. Letting someone else take the reins of your social media efforts can open up time for you to work on the projects that you’re really passionate about. Who knows--that idea you’ve been toying with could be what takes your business to the next level in the upcoming year.
Take a Break, You Deserve It!
As a business owner, you pour yourself into your work every day. For entrepreneurs and sole proprietors, it’s hard to draw the line that determines where your business ends and your personal life begins. The balancing act is even trickier right now because the holidays present great business opportunities but are also full of social gatherings that you don’t want to miss out on. Taking one thing off your plate during the holidays can open up opportunities to spend time with the people that matter. Don’t miss out on important opportunities to connect with friends and family because you’re knee-deep in tweets and Facebook comments. We’ll handle your social media efforts so that you can celebrate with the people closest to you.
Coordinate Marketing Efforts
Is your marketing department working overtime during the holidays? This time of year can seem like a race to reach customers, which can leave members of your communications team feeling overwhelmed. Having a dedicated user that works with your marketing team to carry out your social media strategy takes some of the stress off of you. That way, you can keep an eye on the bigger marketing picture and know that your social strategy is working in close conjunction with it.
Who doesn’t love a good deal? The last few months of the year are a prime time to roll out deals for customers craving a good sale. Are you using your social networks to make the most of online shopping? An online store is only part of a winning equation. Your fans may not be checking your website regularly, so it’s important to drive traffic there through social media. Loyal followers make for strong brand advocates. If fans love a deal they see on Twitter or on Facebook, they can easily share it with friends and family, too.
Who’s responsible for your social strategy this holiday season? Let the pros handle it so you can enjoy feasting with family and friends! The only downside? You won’t have any excuses for showing up to that potluck without a good dish!
Jolly Old St. Nick may be a luddite of sorts (as far as we know, he still employs an old-fashion sleigh and a generous dose of magic to get most of his work done) but that doesn’t mean he can’t teach you a thing or two about how to use social media. Here are some tips, straight from Santa’s Workshop, to help you out in the final stretch towards Christmas.
It Takes a (Christmas) Village
Santa doesn’t do it all on his own. He has an entire workshop of elves working full time to help him out. In the same way, it’s important to get everyone on your team thinking about the ways they can maximize your business’s presence on social networks. Customer service representatives can field incoming questions, while marketing associates can be on hand at events live-tweeting or uploading pictures to Instagram. As long as all efforts are connected to an overarching strategy led by a dedicated user, there’s no reason to fear too many cooks in the kitchen. Assign one person to be the dedicated user. They'll be responsible for filtering content and making sure the overall message is cohesive while the other elves work away.
It Doesn’t Pay to be Naughty
A good social media strategy is all about transparency, but when you’re being honest and open, it can be hard to conceal your flaws. In an age where your customers know more about you than ever before, it pays to be nice--not naughty. Throwing an epic tantrum online every time something doesn’t go your way is a sure ticket to getting coal in your stocking.
He Sees You When You’re Sleeping, He Knows When You’re Awake
Okay, so that particular line has always struck us as more than a little bit creepy, but it does shine a light on an important aspect of your social strategy: monitoring. If you’ve built a strong online presence on your social networks throughout the year, don’t be surprised to see an uptick of traffic during the holiday season. That’s because more people are doing online shopping than ever before. Just take a look at this year’s blockbuster Cyber Monday sales. The holidays are an essential time to keep a closer eye on your social networks because customers expect you to answer questions about things like shipped packages and special deals. Ignoring questions on social media is a sure way to encourage customers to move on.
Keep an Open Ear
You can walk into any mall in America and find an attentive Santa carefully listening, poised to grant holiday wishes as best he can. Listen to what your customers are saying on social media. Do they wish you had special holiday hours so they can sneak in some holiday shopping? Are they hungry for end-of-the-year deals? Like Santa, you may not be able to fulfill every Christmas list, but by carefully listening to your customers, you’ll have a better idea of what they really want from you.
The biggest lesson of all? Keep things jolly. It’s the holiday season, after all. It’s a time of year to make sure your customers know you’re grateful for them, so be generous and create special coupons, in-store events and exclusive deals to give something back! Only Santa Claus can go around the world in one night and grant everyone’s wishes, but that doesn’t mean you can’t contribute to making the holiday season special for the people who support your business all year round.
Are you setting the table for a big feast today? You might be getting ready to celebrate Thanksgiving, Hanukkah or both (Thanksgivukkah?), and that means after a day of cooking, greeting relatives and trying not to spoil your supper, you’ve got one thing on your mind: food.
Food is on our minds, too, and it’s not just because of the holiday season (although that certainly has our stomach growling in anticipation). Last week, culinary queen Martha Stewart’s food pics went viral, and not for the right reasons. Her shots are unsavory to say the least--a far cry from the perfectly presented dishes we typically associate with her brand. We love Martha, but posting pictures like these is most definitely a bad thing.
So where did Martha go wrong? Her strategy of sharing personal pics of food isn’t a bad one. In fact, from celebrities to the average consumer, sharing pictures of food online is a persistent trend in social media. Scroll through your newsfeed on any given day and you’re bound to catch a glimpse of a fancy home-cooked dinner spread, last Sunday’s epic brunch or a pastry so delectable it has to be seen to be believed.
From a marketing perspective, getting social with food can be a great idea. For food-related businesses that haven’t shied away from using the web to grow their brand, social media has been a tremendous boon. Just look at the way tech-savvy food trucks have flourished with the help of social tools. Food pics have become such an integral part of a business’s online presence that Yelp has even created visual menus based on user submissions.
Martha’s issue is really a matter of execution. The impulse to share food pics is great, but for a big brand that’s synonymous with lifestyle, good eating and perfecting homemade meals, the visual content has to be up to snuff. While the images she shared from her personal Twitter account provide some insight into her personal life, they’re also disconnected from the rest of her brand. That’s the kind of dissonance that fans and followers will readily point out on social media because, let’s face it, it’s kind of funny. People love to take down celebrities, especially if a big part of their persona is built around an image of staunch perfectionism.
What else can we learn from Martha’s mishap? The interest around her food pics reveals how far a consumer’s impressions of a brand can extend into the realm of social media. Why did so many people balk at her tweets? They’re expecting the same kind of content that they see on television or in cookbooks. Martha’s case also shows that when a person is their brand, as is the case with Martha Stewart, a personal Twitter feed reads as officially as anything else her company might produce.
What would you do differently if you were in Martha’s shoes? Is this a case of curating content more wisely? Or taking the time to explore what goes into creating great food photography through mobile devices? Share your ideas in the comments below.
Albert Einstein once said, “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” We don’t know if Einstein ever envisioned a world of digital information dominated by social media, but he may as well have been talking about marketing in the era of Facebook and Twitter. If you’re not embracing all the marketing tools the web has to offer, you may be playing it too safe. If the idea of making mistakes has you shying away from social media, check out these four common pitfalls.
Trying to be Everywhere at Once
Are you on every social media platform imaginable? It’s a good idea to have a presence on multiple networks, but don’t spread yourself too thin by thinking that you have to be everywhere at once! Instead, think about your target demographic and then discover which platforms your target audience is using the most. This article from Nonprofit Quarterly offers a great breakdown of some statistics surrounding social media and the types of users that can be found on each network. If you know information about your target audience, such as age or income, you can zero in on the social channels that these users are most likely to be engaging through.
Jumping In Without a Plan
Just like any other aspect of your overall marketing plan, your social media strategy needs to follow a plan. Social media is an incredible dynamic tool. Different organizations and businesses will harness its power in the way that best suits their needs. Before you start publishing and engaging with fans, ask yourself, “What can I do through social media that I’m not already achieving through other marketing approaches?” Some of your goals might include growing awareness around your brand, providing round-the-clock customer service online, or boosting revenue from your online store during the holiday season. Check out this list of the 12 Most Attainable Goals on Social Media to get the ball rolling.
Being a Broadcaster
Many marketers accustomed to traditional forms of communication may easily slip into this common pitfall. The old dynamic of publishing as a one-way street doesn’t work with digital marketing, so look for opportunities to improve engagement whenever you can. Using social media is as much about creating a space for customers to talk about you (and to you) as it is about you broadcasting information them. As part of your social media plan, you might consider setting some ground rules around how much of your content constitutes broadcasting and how much of it is geared towards maximizing engagement.
Measuring Too Much or Too Little
We’re living in an era where many decisions are built on big data, and many social networks have built-in tools that can give you great insight into the habits of your fans. Learning that most of your Facebook followers are from out of state might make you change the way you approach your business. Monitoring the type of content that garners the most engagement might also shape the kind of information you publish and ultimately help you grow your online following. But getting too bogged down with numbers can be detrimental to your overall strategy. On the other hand, tracking and logging every “like” and “retweet” is unlikely to yield any gains. Focus on tracking the outcomes that are most closely linked to your overall marketing goals and you’ll find it easier to parse out useful data from the white noise.Are you a veteran when it comes to using social media to grow your business? Or are you just starting to dip your toes in the water? In either case, there is always something to learn! Share your own stories of pitfalls you’ve encountered below.
We’ve all spent more time on Buzzfeed than we’d like to admit. Time traveling celebrities, seemingly endless parades of GIFs, more lists than you’ll ever know what to do with and lots of cats all contribute to Buzzfeed’s reputation as major timesuck. But if you think that Buzzfeed is just a place where critical thinking goes to die, it might be time to take a closer look. Here’s how Buzzfeed can inspire you to take your blogging to the next level.
We love lists. We love them so much we’re writing one right now. Suffering from writer’s block? Think of a topic that can easily be explained as a list. For example, “7 Reasons Why You Should Make Hotel Reservations With Us Before Thanksgiving.” Readers may not always have time for a lengthy essay, so it pays to keep things pithy. If you announce upfront that readers can get a lot of information in a quick way, you're more likely to get some clicks.
There is an undeniable appeal to Buzzfeed’s headlines. If you’ve avoided Buzzfeed before, it's a case study in creating the kinds of headlines that readers just can’t refuse. A prime example is “8 Facts You’re Better Off Not Knowing.” Do you feel temptation sinking in? Don't worry, so do we!
Buzzfeed is very visually driven, with short bits of text, multiple pictures and concise captions doing most of the talking. It’s a formula that works well for a generation of consumers that absorbs media quickly and then moves on. At the same time, Buzzfeed recognizes that readers might be looking for something more substantial from time to time. Longform articles satisfy a craving for more robust content that goes in depth. Mix it up on your blog to keep things varied. Not every post needs to be a comprehensive look at the topic of the day, but every blog post can’t be a handful of cat pics either!
At every turn, Buzzfeed provides its readers with opportunities to readily share content. Do you have clearly marked links on your own websites that help readers share your latest blog entries over Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr? If you make it easy for your readers to republish your work you’re more likely to see it reach new fans.
Know Your Audience
Do you know why your audience follows your blog? Buzzfeed knows its audience really well. Just check out this headline: 29 Things That are Way More Important Than Work Right Now. That’s the kind of content any serious procrastinator can really get behind! Are your readers active learners? Are they looking to be entertained while they’re sitting idle? Each demographic has different demands.
Do you find yourself drawn into Buzzfeed more often than you’d like to admit? Think back to some of the headlines that you just couldn’t resist. What keywords drew you there? Now, step back and remember that those powers of persuasion are also available to you. Don’t be afraid to put them into practice next time you step up to the keyboard.
Is it Halloween Eve or just change in general that has you spooked about the latest updates to creating promotions on Facebook? There’s no need to be scared! We’re here to walk you through it and help you find out how the new rules could benefit your business! But first...
Why Should I Care About Promotions?
Customers love promotions, and business owners can benefit greatly from them, too. Facing a dry spell on your Facebook page? Boost traffic and engagement by creating a special promotion. Looking to celebrate a milestone event in your business's history? Let your customers in on the celebration by creating a special giveaway. Gearing up for a big holiday season? Boost revenue with promotions that encourage your customers to choose you over your competitors.
How has Facebook Changed its Rules for Running Promotions?
1. You don't need an app for that. One day, your children's children will speak of a time when you needed to run Facebook promotions through apps. As they jump on their hoverboards to go to school, they’ll wonder how small business owners ever managed.
Facebook is moving past their apps requirement and will allow small businesses to run promotions directly from their pages. No separate apps required!
2. Rock the vote or rock the like? Running promotions directly from your own page lets you use “likes” as votes. You can also collect votes by having your followers message your business’s page, “like” a featured post or comment on a featured post.
3. Don’t tag if you’re not “it.” Although there are new and flexible ways to vote, don’t misuse the tag feature in order to collect votes. For instance, you shouldn’t ask followers to enter a contest by tagging themselves in pictures where they don’t actually appear.
4. It’s not personal; it’s promotional. As before, you shouldn’t run promotions for your own personal timeline. If you are running a promotion for your business, make sure that you are doing from your business’s Facebook page and not your personal profile.
5. Don’t dare to share. Sure, sharing is caring, but in this case it’s better not to dare to ruffle the feathers of the powers that be at Facebook, who won't take kindly to your breaking of this rule: Sharing content is great, but don’t encourage users to enter contests by sharing links to your promotion. As a general rule, keep things limited to your business page (see above).
6. You make the rules. When you roll out a promotion, the rules should be explicit and clear. If you forget to include something or make the rules broad enough that you end up with more winners than anticipated, the buck stops with you!
7. Don’t forget the small print. Every Facebook promotion needs to include a clause where you release Facebook of all responsibility and explicitly state that Facebook is not directly administering or supporting your promotion in any way.
Facebook Pages and scroll down to the “promotions” section. Don’t forget to check out this news update about running promotions as well.
Are you excited about running promotions through your Facebook page? Will the new rules encourage you to get in on the game just in time for the holidays? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.