Category Archives: Marketing

A Behind-the-Scenes Look into HubSpot's Newest Content Marketing Strategy (Part 1 of 3)

This post is a part of Made @ HubSpot, an internal thought leadership series through which we extract lessons from experiments conducted by our very own HubSpotters.

How do customers discover new products nowadays? Despite there being many ways of becoming aware of a product, there is a simple route to considering it for purchase.

If you’re like me, you do it every time you’re looking to buy or try something new:

You turn to your friends (and in many cases, Google) and ask, “What are the best X products?”

If you’re using Google, your query looks something like this:

  • Best form builder
  • “Best fitness tracker”
  • “Best business scanner app
  • “Best restaurants in Dublin”
  • “Best bars in Boston”

Although sometimes, you drop the qualifier (the “best” of) and simply search for a broad transactional category:

  • Marketing automation software”
  • “Hotels in Tallinn”
  • “Language learning apps

surround sound strategy hubspot best form builder

Sometimes, these exploratory keywords exist in relation to an existing solution:

  • “Canva alternatives”
  • “Mailchimp competitors”
  • “Ahrefs vs SEMRush”

surround sound strategy hubspot best canva alternatives

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As marketers, we know search queries like these are important for two main reasons.

  1. The customer journey — the one we write about at HubSpot quite a bit — includes a Consideration stage, where customers attempt to educate themselves about the available solutions on the market, and perhaps the pros and cons of each.
  2. We have some good ol’ quantitative data about how much search volume these keywords get and what the estimated CPC is for bottom funnel search terms.

Take, for example, a term like “form builder.”

surround sound strategy hubspot form builder ahrefs

It has a high volume and high CPC. This means it’s both a high traffic and high intent keyword. That’s relatively rare but certainly a sweet spot.

Same goes for a term like “best red wine.” I Googled it and took the top ranking URL and put it into Ahrefs. Here’s the data:

surround sound strategy hubspot best red wine ahrefs

One can assume this blog post has a pretty solid ROI.

Without even looking at any data, you know how you can tell these keywords are high value? Just look at any website that monetizes via affiliate partnerships.

Examples like adamenfroy.com, ryrob.com and GrowthMarketingPro come to mind, where the majority of their content follows this format.

surround sound strategy hubspot growthmarketingpro

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Now, I’m not breaking any news to marketers with more than a few years experience — of course it’s important to find business critical keywords like this. It’s important to build out product pages for decision-level keywords, architect a pillar and cluster content strategy, build some links, and try to rank for these terms.

What I am saying is that just ranking your page isn’t enough. Rather, you want to appear everywhere a customer is searching when they seek out products like yours. You want your brand to turn on surround sound.

How People Discover (and Buy) New Stuff

Imagine you’re at a proverbial cocktail party, and you want to know what your fellow companions have been reading lately. You ask the group, “What have you been reading? What should I read next?”

surround sound strategy hubspot

A few years ago, at least one person in the group would pipe up and say, “Sapiens. You have to read Sapiens.”

surround sound strategy hubspot

Now, if only one friend out of your whole group recommends that you read Sapiens, it’s probably not going to stand out above the noise (depending on how much you like your friend, I suppose). The book is now on your radar, but it’s no more or no less prominent than any other book you’ve heard about.

surround sound strategy hubspot

Now, imagine everybody else in the group suddenly chimes in and agrees, “Yes! You need to read Sapiens. Best book I’ve ever read.” It’d be like a chorus effect (one might even say a “surround sound” effect).

surround sound strategy hubspot

In this case, if you’re not at least a little bit curious about reading Sapiens, then you’re insane. It’s highly probable, if you respect your friends, trust their suggestions, and have the money to buy it, you’ll buy Sapiens and check it out.

surround sound strategy hubspot

Our proverbial cocktail party represents a myriad of different influences in the real world. These include podcasts, newspaper articles, book bibliographies, and, yes, friend suggestions as well.

surround sound strategy hubspot

With this in mind, we can say that “Surround Sound” strategy means:

“The more frequently someone hears about your product from multiple sources, the more likely they are to buy your product.”

Note: I’m borrowing this idea from Tim Ferriss when he talks about product launches: “Especially on the first few days of your launch, you want people to see your project everywhere – on blogs, Facebook, Twitter…everywhere.”

This is not a new idea in marketingget lots of people to talk about you favorably, preferably around the same time. In the next section, I’ll cover more of the theory from advertising as well as search on why this works (and how it can work for many different channels and companies).

I eventually bought Sapiens, by the way, because this CRO guru and fellow Austinite raved about it on Facebook and at happy hours enough times:

surround sound strategy hubspot sapiens

Think about the last book you read, TV series you watched, or new piece of consumer tech you purchased. I bet it followed a similar trajectory (recent examples that come to mind are Sapiens, Tiger King, Game of Thrones, and the Oura Ring — at least in the circles I run in.)

People Comparison Shop (and Frequency Matters)

We’ve walked through my anecdotal journey to purchasing and enjoying Sapiens. Now, here’s the data that backs this up on a broader spectrum.

First off, in advertising, it’s common wisdom that repetition is a variable by which you can predict the success of a campaign. Media buyers traditionally look at two things:

  • Reach (who you are targeting)
  • Frequency (how often they see/hear your ad)

As it turns out, frequency of messaging leads to higher levels of awareness and purchase intent. The more you hear or see an ad, the more likely it is to be effective.

surround sound strategy hubspot awareness and intent increases with exposure

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Clearly there are nuances here; it’s not always the case that the effectiveness of a campaign increases linearly with each additional exposure (it’s almost never that case, actually). But it’s a good rule of thumb and a simple heuristic when thinking about capturing your target audience’s attention.

The other fact I want to point out is about comparison shopping. Anecdotally, you know you visit multiple websites before making a purchase. It’s absolutely unsurprising, then, that there’s data to back this up.

Research says that, on average, consumers visit three websites before making a purchase. The same study tells us that the more websites a consumer visits, the more money they are likely to spend.

Google is also putting out some cool research on the customer journey nowadays, and again, it’s unsurprising in its winding and comparative shape:

surround sound strategy hubspot car buying process

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So, we’ve got three pieces of data:

  1. Product or service-related keywords with high traffic and high intent exist (at least for most categories)
  2. People view many different sites before they purchase or try a product
  3. The more frequently someone hears about a product from multiple sources, the more likely they are to buy it.

Put all of these together, and the thesis is quite clear: appear on all of the search results for one of these keywords.

The Surround Sound Strategy for Search Engine Optimization

If you’re selling a consumer product, like a book, maybe your potential customers read a few magazines and a few podcasts. You can easily find this data using Google Surveys (or analyzing your own personas’ preferences like I outlined here) and finding predictive clusters of different publications people consume.

When you find which publications people consume, you craft a plan of attack, and near your launch, you find a way to appear in all of them. This creates a surround sound effect.

The search keywords that correspond to HubSpot products tend to have pretty good search volume, and content marketing is a pretty big channel for us.

So the surround sound, for us, means that when someone searches a product-related keyword (e.g. “best help desk software” or “best live chat software”), they see this:

surround sound strategy hubspot

There are two reasons for this:

  1. We can capture more click-through rate and conversions for the same amount of search traffic.
  2. Being on multiple lists has second order conversion rate effects because comparison shoppers trust that we are a top solution. (This is the surround sound effect!)

For the first one, it’s a matter of what percentage of searchers click on the first, second, or third (or more) URLs on a given search engine results page (SERP). If we can appear on more of the results, we can get more traffic back to our product page, and we can convert more searchers into product users.

I’m not the only person to have noticed this cumulative effect of owning multiple search results. Nick Eubanks wrote about the “SERP Monopoly” strategy and explains that the more spots you can occupy on page #1 of a given SERP, the more clicks you get, the more traffic you get, and the more revenue you get:

surround sound strategy hubspot ranking CTR traffic

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This means that, with each additional mention, we get a linear average increase in click-through rate to our site (which translates directly to portal signups, and thus, revenue). Keep in mind these numbers are averages, and if you have good brand recognition, titles, or meta description, you can increase your click-through rate from the SERP.

surround sound strategy hubspot serp spots

If the goal of appearing on all of the results doesn’t seem feasible or appealing, imagine the inverse: What if you appear on none of the results? You’re not in the conversation.

Appearing on one result is like one friend piping up and saying you should read Sapiens when you ask a group of people what to read next. Appearing on all results is like everyone in the group telling you to read Sapiens because it’s the best book ever.

Qualitatively, SERP domination seems like a worthy goal.

How to Build Your Own Surround Sound Strategy

Follow this approach to create your own Surround Sound Strategy:

  1. Research your buyer’s journey.
  2. Map influential touchpoints.
  3. Find a way to appear on all of them.

surround sound strategy hubspot getting started

When I write it out in steps like that, it can seem a bit banal and perhaps vague. Research the buyer’s journey? How do you do that?

First, get to know your target customers and how they make purchasing decisions. Then, tactically figure out how to appear in those places (could be ads, could be SEO, PR, guest blogging, affiliate, influencer marketing, etc. — it all depends on the specific situation).

To illustrate this in action, in our case, we want to appear on all the URLs that rank for high intent product keywords (again, things like “form builder”). Virtually all of these SERPs have some combination of three page types:

  • Product pages
  • Listicles
  • Review sites/forums

So, the playbook is to rank the product page (not easy to do, obviously), get mentioned on all the listicles that rank, and get featured (prominently) on all review sites.

It’s important to track this over time, as well. We always keep an eye on our SERP real estate (doing so through a cool tool we built in R and host via Shiny). We can pull any keyword and see how much of the SERP we occupy, and then we can see a table for which URLs rank and if we appear on that page:

surround sound strategy hubspot

As you can see, the strategy is simple; the execution is where you break a sweat.

Note: Stay tuned for the follow-up blog post where we outline our execution and results.

Conclusion

The Surround Sound Strategy is a predictable and obvious play, given our parameters:

  • We understand our customer and where they seek advice or influence on product purchase decisions
  • We map out this customer journey and find the most influential and high impact touchpoints
  • We seek to appear favorably in all of these places.

Where some of your marketing activities will fall into a more experimental bucket, the Surround Sound approach can be likened to the low volatility assets in a financial portfolio. Execute strongly, and the ROI will be stable and predictable throughout time.

This article walked through the theory of this strategy. Stay tuned for Parts 2 and 3 that will dive into our results as well as the technical details on how we built internal tools to help us accomplish these feats.

The 18 Website Basics Every Site Needs (+ Checklist for Website Building)

When learning how to design a website, you’ll likely keep hearing about all the different elements your site needs. Website basics are the foundational, or required, components of a website. From a content management system to a sitemap and lead magnets, there’s a lot involved. So to help, we’re here to make it easy by…

The post The 18 Website Basics Every Site Needs (+ Checklist for Website Building) appeared first on Fit Small Business.

5 Experiences That Define Strong Customer Service

Customer expectations are actions and types of behavior that people anticipate when dealing with a business. What do customers want from customer service? Well, they’ve always expected fair prices and good quality of services and products. However, modern customers have much higher expectations because advanced technology enables businesses to personalize their services.

Customer expectations change in both B2C and B2B segments. According to research, 76% of consumers note that it’s easier than ever to switch brands in order to find customer experience that meets their expectations. The level of competition in various industries constantly grows because customers have many options to choose from. The strong competition encourages companies from different niches to use artificial intelligence, cloud, and mobile technologies to provide valuable, personalized, and seamless customer experience.

The Importance of Delivering Great Customer Service

Your customer service has a significant impact on both your leads and existing customers. 62% of consumers note that they always share their negative customer experiences with friends and relatives. Besides, unsatisfied customers share their experiences with three times as many people as customers who are satisfied with customer service.

Word of mouth and social media can have a huge impact on your sales. As much as 68% of consumers say that positive reviews make them more likely to purchase products or services, and 93% of consumers look for online reviews to determine whether or not they want to use products or services of a certain brand.

Poor customer experience can damage your sales and your reputation, while good customer experience can boost your sales and increase loyalty. 86% of American customers note that they are willing to pay more for great customer experience. Therefore, if you want to withstand competition, it’s not enough to provide high-quality services or products. You should understand what your customers expect and provide better customer service than other brands from your niche.

What Your Customers Expect

  1. They want to be treated like humans, not numbers

Brands should try to establish an authentic personal connection with their audiences. They should put a lot of effort into providing the necessary information and assistance, personalize customer journeys, and understand your customers’ unique needs and preferences. Thanks to AI and other technologies, brands can use personalization in different areas, making sure that their customers are not treated like numbers.

If you want your customers to recommend your brand to others and to return to you in the future, you should establish a personal connection with them. 70% of consumers say that understanding of their needs is one of the key factors that influence their loyalty, and most of them are looking for personalized customer care when choosing brands.

  1. Customers want consistency

Most companies have several departments that interact with customers, including sales, marketing, and customer support teams. Given that customers are looking for a seamless experience, you should make sure to establish effective communication between departments. You should make sure that your customers get a consistent customer experience at every stage of their buyer’s journey, no matter what challenges you need to overcome.

75% of consumers expect a consistent customer experience across different channels, and they will likely choose another brand if they don’t get it. More and more customers expect businesses to use their data to provide a consistent experience. They want you to anticipate their needs and to offer relevant suggestions even before they contact you, no matter what channels they choose for it.

  1. Customers want you to be proactive

You won’t be able to provide an outstanding customer experience without feedback from your customers. However, not all customers are willing to share their feedback, especially if they are satisfied with your service. The best solution is to choose a proactive approach and use surveys, directly asking your customers for feedback. Even if they decide not to complete your survey, they will see that you care about them and that their opinion is important to you.

To obtain valuable feedback, you should design your surveys carefully, choosing the right style and tone of writing, and taking into account the specifics of your audience. For instance, you can visit writing services review websites to find professional writers to communicate your intentions via the right touch.

4. Customers expect immediate responses

Given that businesses now can communicate with their potential and existing customers via many different channels, customers expect immediate responses. According to research, 64% of B2C customers and 80% of B2B customers expect companies to interact with them in real-time. Given that younger generations of consumers are used to fast and efficient communication on social media and messengers, quick responses certainly should be one of your priorities. For instance, one of the possible ways to ensure real-time communication is to use chatbots.

5. Customers are willing to share personal data to get better service

To meet your audience’s customer service expectations, you should clearly understand what customers want. For instance, if you want to provide personalized customer experience, you might need to use AI, and AI algorithms need data on your customers’ behavior and preferences. Fortunately, 61% of millennials are willing to share their personal data if it helps them receive a personalized customer experience. 58% of consumers are also ready to share their personal data to get personalized product recommendations.

Of course, the situation is different when it comes to older generations of consumers. However, it makes sense to expect more people to be willing to share their information in the future because more and more internet users are getting used to the fact that companies collect their data.

Wrapping Up

If you want your business to withstand competition and grow, you should make sure to provide outstanding customer service. Consumers will quickly switch to another brand if you fail to meet their expectations, and they will share their negative experiences with others. In contrast, if you manage to provide great customer service, you will get more loyal customers and boost your sales. We hope that our list of the top five customer expectations will help you put your efforts in the right direction, helping your customers get exactly what they expect.

The post 5 Experiences That Define Strong Customer Service appeared first on The Wise Marketer – Featured News on Customer Loyalty and Reward Programs.

How to Learn Social Media Marketing: 39 Resources for Beginners

Social media is no longer an optional marketing channel — it’s a necessary one.

But that doesn’t mean results are a given. When it comes to social media, you’ll either have a lot of success interacting with your customers, or you’ll see little results — and that depends on the level of effort you put into it.

For every business that has found success in social media marketing, there are at least two more spinning their social wheels with no tangible results. It’s time to change that trend.

For many, social media is simply a place to post links to content they’ve created in hopes that thousands will see it, click through, and share with their followers. So they have profiles on every network, and every network looks exactly the same; line after line of self-promotion.

This is not going to bring results. In fact, Facebook‘s algorithm now penalizes link-based content, and Instagram has made it all-but-impossible to share a link.

Half-heartedly sharing your content on social media is not social media marketing. It’s spamming.

Social marketing is a lot of work, and it takes time listening and responding. After all, it’s social, and anything social takes an investment of effort and skill.

To hone these skills, check out these resources that will help you develop the skills needed to be effective on social media. (You may want to bookmark this post so you can easily refer to it again later.) Click the links below to jump to each section of resources in this article:

How to Learn Social Media Marketing: 40 Free Resources

Social Media Marketing Blogs

Social marketing is a science involving special communication skills. And the landscape changes constantly.

One of the best ways to develop your social media prowess and to stay up-to-date is to follow experts in the field. These blogs are always fresh with actionable information you can use to improve your marketing:

1. Social Media Explorer

SME is both a strategic services agency and a blog with a bevy of social media and marketing experts. The SME blog is consistently considered one of the most insightful in the industry, and several of its authors have written popular books on several aspects of digital and social marketing.

2. Scott Monty

Monty is a marketing guru who covers a ton of subjects. However, his social media articles are always eye-opening. If you haven’t heard of him yet, check out his “this week in digital” posts — these will keep you up-to-date with all the news on social, and every other aspect of digital marketing as well.

3. Social Media Examiner

Not to be confused with Social Media Explorer, the Examiner is one of the top blogs in the world for social media. Its social media reports are filled with all the important data social marketers want, and the blog posts are filled with valuable tips, as well. If I had to pick just one social media blog to follow, this is the one I would choose.

4. HubSpot Marketing Blog

Right here on the HubSpot Marketing Blog, you can find breaking news and actionable how-to guides on every social network there is.

Social Media Publishing Templates

5. Social Media Content Calendar Template

Before you load your social media content into a publishing tool (HubSpot has one, when you’re ready for it), you’ll want to organize it all in an offline calendar. The free template linked above allows you to sort your social media content in a spreadsheet that’s designed to help you track the day, time, and social media channel on which everything you create is being promoted.

6. Social Media Calendar Templates

This social media template helps you track your social media campaigns not just by social network, but by how much engagement they get, which holidays they’re aligned with, and which ones have paid promotion behind them.

7. Airtable’s Content Calendar

Once you’ve organized your social media calendar into a spreadsheet — like the one linked to #6, above — you might also want to load this content into a project management platform so you can track its progress in real time. Airtable is one such platform to help you do that, and it comes with a content calendar format so you don’t have to shoehorn the platform around your business.

8. Social Media Image Templates

It’s well-known that visuals get more engagement on social media than just text. Get your designs off on the right foot with this collection of social media image templates.

9. Instagram Templates for Business

Instagram is the most image-focused social network out there, and because of that, not just any image will reach your audience. To cut through the crowds, use this collection of Instagram templates to create brand-aligned posts that resonate with your audience.

Social Media Marketing Ebooks

These ebooks will provide deeper information on specific networks and topics.

10. How to Use Instagram for Business

This step-by-step guide explains the reasons to create a business Instagram account and how to execute on Instagram to drive results.

11. A Visual Guide to Creating the Perfect LinkedIn Company Page

If you’re building a company page for the first time, or trying to upgrade your page, this guide will show you exactly how to do everything from crafting an engaging company description to creating an eye-catching banner image.

12. How to Attract Customers with Facebook

This multi-page ebook will show you how to use Facebook to drive real business results for your organization.

13. How to Get More Twitter Followers

HubSpot partnered with the experts at Twitter to provide actionable tips for social media managers starting new accounts to build a following, and fast.

14. The Beginner’s Guide to Social Media

Here’s an amazing guide from Moz. The 12 chapters in this book are filled with valuable information that every marketer absolutely needs to know. Bookmark this guide, you’ll refer to it more than once.

15. How to Create High-Quality Videos for Social Media

Like images, videos drive a ton of engagement on social media. And although the idea of shooting a quality video for your social channels sounds daunting, it’s actually easier than you think. Grab the free guide above to learn how to quickly turn your office into a production studio.

Social Media Marketing Courses

16. Developing an End-to-End Instagram Marketing Strategy for Your Business

This free course in the HubSpot Academy will teach you how to stand up an Instagram marketing strategy in just 95 minutes. The course consists of 3 lessons, 13 videos, and 3 quizzes.

17. Putting Social Media to Work for Your Coaching Business

Even consultants need consultants to learn how to, well, be a consultant. The free Udemy course linked above will teach you how to use social media to market your business as a coach or consultant in your industry.

18. Developing an End-to-End Facebook Marketing Strategy

Opposite the Instagram marketing course linked in #16, above, take this hour-long course to learn the basics of Facebook marketing.

19. Social Media Influencer Course

You’ve probably heard of influencer marketing — it’s particularly common in the context of social media. Take this course by Captevrix to learn how to work with an Influencer who resonates with your audience to promote your brand.

Social Media Marketing Videos

Videos are my second favorite medium to learn, behind books. Being able to glean from the brightest minds on any subject as if you’re face-to-face is powerful. These videos will give you valuable insights, just how to do social media, but you’ll get insights into the why and what as well.

20. The #AskGaryVee Show

You can’t talk about social media without talking about the speaker, author, and social expert Gary Vaynerchuk. On the Gary Vee Show, he takes questions from his audience and answers them as only he can. If you have a burning question on social media marketing, send it to him.

21. TED Talks: Social Media Marketing

If you aren’t in love with TED, you might want to check your pulse. This is a playlist of videos from TED Talks on social media. There may not be that much actionable advice in these videos, but if you want to become an expert on social media, these videos will give you insight into the deeper subject like “the hidden influence of social networks.”

22. Learn Social Media Marketing

If you’re really new to social media, and you want to learn through a structured lesson experience, consider Lynda’s massive library on social marketing courses.

23. Free Social Media Certification

HubSpot Academy has a breadth of video courses across inbound and digital marketing. Their free social media course is an eight-step video curriculum that teaches you the fundamentals of managing a social media campaign for your business. It also earns you a fresh Social Media Certification.

Social Media Podcasts

If you like to learn while you chill, work out, or commute to and from work, podcasts are one of the best ways to do it. And these podcasts will help you develop your social media expertise.

24. Social Media Marketing Podcast

Michael Stelzner, from Social Media Examiner, brings you success stories and expert interviews from leading social media marketing pros.

25. The Social Toolkit

If you like to stay up-to-date on digital tools, apps, and software for social media marketing, this is the podcast for you.

26. The Social Pros Podcast

Every episode of the Social Pros Podcast shines the light on real pros doing real work for real companies. You’ll get insights from Jay Baer of Convince and Convert when you tune in.

Slideshows & Infographics About Social Media

If you’re a visual learner, these slide decks and infographics provide great ways to learn social media.

27. The B2B Social Media Palette

This SlideShare walks you through the channels and tools you’ll need to be most effective at B2B social media marketing. Sometimes, success can be found by using the right tools and channels for the right audience.

28. The Complete Guide to the Best Times to Post on Social Media

Timing is very important when it comes to social media. Post it the wrong time, and your update can go completely unnoticed because of the flood of updates in your audience’s feeds. Being able to master the timing of social media is critical to effective marketing.

29. 58 Social Media Tips for Content Marketers

This slideshow is from the folks at Content Marketing Institute. This deck shows the proper methods for promoting your content over social media. This is a must-read for any social marketer who wants to use those channels to promote content.

30. The Best and Worst Times to Post on Social Media

Again, timing is everything. This infographic lays out the best and worst times to post on each major network. You should save this infographic for referencing when you schedule your social media posts.

Social Media Marketing Books

Books are my favorite way to learn. Many experts agree that if you read a book a week, on your area of expertise, for 5 years, you will have the equivalent of a Ph.D. on the subject. That may or may not be true, but reading books from the experts definitely doesn’t make you a worse marketer. Here are some books to get you started.

31. The B2B Social Media Book

This book covers the specific application of social marketing to B2B companies, to leverage social media to drive leads and revenue.

32. The Art of Social Media: Power Tips for Power Users

You’ve got to read this book by the legendary former Chief Evangelist of Apple, Guy Kawasaki. He’s one of the pioneers of social and content marketing, and this book is filled with expert advice from one of the best.

33. The Tao of Twitter

This book is supposed to be for busy marketers who need to get the basics of Twitter down quickly. It shows you how to connect and start creating meaningful connections in less than two hours.

34. The Ultimate Guide to Facebook Advertising

Facebook is one of the most effective advertising and PPC platforms available. You can target a plethora of metrics, allowing you to drill down and advertise to a very specific audience. This book will show you how to optimize your Facebook ads.

35. Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World

Gary Vaynerchuk gives insight into how he uses a conversational, reactionary approach to engaging his audience. He gives concrete, visual examples of great social marketing, as well as not-so-great ones.

36. The New Rules of Marketing and PR

David Meerman Scott’s book on digital marketing is an international bestseller, and worth every penny. Some argue that it should be required reading for any marketer — and in this marketer’s opinion, “Just read it.”

37. Likeable Social Media

Dave Kerpen claims the secret to viral social marketing is to be likable. When someone likes you, they’ll recommend you. But being likable on social networks is easier said than done. This book will help you crack that code.

38. Social Media Marketing for Dummies

One of my mentors taught me to read children’s books on a subject if I just couldn’t grasp a concept. That principle gave way to movements like “Explain It Like I’m 5.” And, sometimes you just need it broken down like you’re, well, less than an expert on the topic, to put it gently. If that’s you, this book is valuable. Go ahead and buy it — we won’t call you dummy.

39. Contagious: Why Things Catch On

This book by Jonah Berger provides a strong foundation to understand how content goes viral — and how to create ideas on social media that are so catchy, your audience won’t be able to help but click them.

Now that you’ve reviewed the top social media marketing resources, it’s time to create your action plan for getting out there and actually doing it.

1. Go where your customers are.

You don’t have to be on every network. It’s a common mistake when starting out to overextend across platforms. If you’re running short on marketing resources, identify which platform (or two) your audience is most likely to be found and then double-down on creating meaningful content and experiences on that platform. You can always expand your efforts into different platforms later.

2. Be helpful. Period.

Audiences watch TV to be entertained, get informed, or unwind, not to view commercials. The same is true for social media users. Chances are, if you do nothing except promote yourself, you won’t get far with social media because signing into social media is not indicative that they’re ready to be sold to.

So how do you meet audiences on their turf in a way that’s earns you meaningful awareness and engagement? The 80/20 Rule.

This “rule” states that successful social media marketing means providing something for the audience 80% of the time and promoting your brand 20% of the time. If your audience is hungry for your content, they’re much more willing to also accept promotional messaging as long as it’s not too overwhelming or obtrusive.

3. Set realistic and measurable goals.

If you begin your social media marketing efforts with no destination in mind, you may find yourself floundering. Get clear on what you need from your efforts so that you can set goals and measure your progress towards them.

For example, you might be using social media to increase your brand awareness, which means you’d look at your posts’ reach and how your audience is growing. On the other hand, if you want to drive traffic from your website, you might measure click-throughs.

It’s important also to begin with a benchmark so that you can set realistic goals. Shooting for the moon is nice, but you’ll also want to measure against achievable milestones to gauge performance and make accurate (within reason) predictions for strategic planning.

4. Maximize your existing resources.

Sit down and decide on a publishing schedule that is appropriate for the network you’ve chosen and the resources you have for content creation. Creating content can be arduous, even if you choose just one or two platforms, so it’s important not to overtax your resources. Instead, consider ways that you can utilize, adapt, and repurpose existing content to make your resources stretch even further.

5. Have conversations.

Don’t forget the “social” in “social media.” Social media marketing isn’t about broadcasting; it’s about communicating. By interacting with your audience online, you can increase brand awareness by increasing engagement. In addition, this engagement tends to be more memorable and delightful than non-personalized interactions.

6. Listen to your audience.

Customer feedback, direct mentions of your brand, and even industry chatter can all inform your social strategy. By listening to the conversations your audience has on social media, you can come up with new ideas for content based on real-time industry trends, shifting your social media marketing strategy to fit their needs. Social listening tools such as HubSpot and Sprout Social can streamline this process and lead to amazing insights.

7. Don’t get trapped by #followback loops.

You may notice trends such as #followfridays as you’re establishing your platform. It may be tempting to participate, but these follow chains can often lead to a large audience of unengaged followers who aren’t interested in your brand. This isn’t an ideal way to grow. The best thing you can do is check out these follow trains and see if there are any individuals that you or your business wants to follow based on their perspectives rather than simply as a reciprocal act of increasing numbers.

8. Focus on quality, not quantity.

This tip can be applied to so many things in the social media space:

  • Quality, not quantity, of followers
  • Quality, not quantity, of posts you create
  • Quality, not quantity, of promotions

The fact of the matter is, even though it may seem like slow growth over time, quality matters on social media and will drive more meaningful results and better ROI, which is the foundation of successful social media marketing.

9. Never copy/paste the same message into every social profile.

If you’re on multiple platforms, it’s best to adhere to best practices for that specific platform. While it may be tempting to create the same message and promote the same way to save time, this can actually hurt the experience for social media users. Each platform has different native browsing behavior, image thumbnail formats, character counts, best practices for hashtags, and more. For optimal experience (and performance), understand what works best on each social media channel and tailor your messaging to fit.

10. Never stop learning.

No matter how many social networks you set out to master, or how long you work in the social marketing field, there is one secret that will ensure you’re successful: Never stop learning.

Social media constantly changes, so it’s impossible to master this topic with a once-and-done approach; it requires continual education.

The list above is massive, I know, and there’s no way to consume all these resources in the next week. But if you set yourself to learning every day, every week, every month, every year, you’ll eventually be the one writing the books that help others learn social marketing.

It all begins with learning.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in April 2019 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

Why Digital Transformation Is Crucial for Marketing and Sales Alignment

Any time we look to change the status quo, there will be roadblocks, hurdles, and growing pains. But when it comes to aligning internal organizations in marketing and sales (and customer service), the struggle can pay off hugely. But no organization and no leadership should be looking to make these changes and shift internal processes without looking to how it can be done most effectively and efficiently – that’s a no-brainer. This is why digital transformation is not only critical for successful marketing and sales alignment, but it should in fact be a primary focus – then the alignment will come more easily.

Digital transformation means better customer insights

At last month’s Adobe Experience Maker’s Live virtual event, Chris Parkin, Senior Director at Adobe walked us through “Redefining the Future with Digital Transformation”. In his presentation, he showed us how Adobe is adapting through new digital technologies and approaches, and how other Adobe customers are as well.

In his first point, he showed how digital transformation allows for a “deeper understanding of the customer,” discussing that in doing so, we can identify “specific customers and audience segments, understand behavior, and anticipate actions.” This, in turn, allows us to “use data to generate actionable insights and improve customer outcomes.”

So what does this mean in terms of marketing and sales alignment? Well for starters, we can better track customer journeys from (MQLs) to SQLs to SALs. This allows us to see patterns, and then make predictions which can help us to do more aligned activities from how we build website/digital sales funnels and email marketing campaigns, to how we can more accurately identify the activities that lead to conversions through all stages of the journey. 

This makes the handoff of a prospect between marketing and sales seamless. When we have the tools to measure what our prospects and customers are doing, what they may need, and what their intentions are, we can more accurately service them and allocate resources and time from the appropriate department in ways that aren’t putting our teams into the competition. Instead, real-time digital touchpoints and customer insights can help us to foster a more solid partnership as we work together towards common goals in conversions. 

Digital transformation means accurate content delivery

Another theme throughout the Experience Maker’s Live event was content. Now, more than ever, content is at the center of how you service prospects and customers, showcase your company’s knowledge and insights, and motivate stronger customer relationships and trust.

But it’s not enough to just produce content. You may have a hypothesis about what your customers may want and need, but most importantly, digital transformation allows you to not only know for sure what your customers are looking for, but it helps you deliver that content exactly when they need it. 

In Chris’ second point, he discussed “Agile Communications” for modern businesses, which underscores the need to “increase proactive, personalized and timely communications aligned to customer and employee context” which is based on segment, need, and location, to name a few. The results? “Increase employee engagement and customer retention.” 

Especially in our current economy and with the limitations we are facing, digital delivery of highly relevant and personalized content can make or break your success with a prospect or customer, and this accounts for all stages of the customer journey. It’s not just marketing’s job to create digital assets for lead generation and nurturing for sales, when sales need to increasingly provide accurate content to help customers all the way through the decision making process. 

Digital tools like Marketo Engage help marketing and sales teams track the content that has been shared with prospects and customers. They also help establish clear next steps, answer questions in a timely way, and provide exceptional service even before the purchase has been made. This again allows for alignment internally in ways that see all employees in customer-centric roles supporting each other in enabling the customer through useful, relevant, and timely content. 

Digital transformation means creating new ways of working

You’ve likely heard the term “unprecedented times” so much recently that you’re sick of it. But it is one of the best ways to describe what we’re collectively going through: A widespread fundamental shift in not only how we do business, but how we work. Most of us are learning as we go, adapting on the fly, and finding out through rapid trial and error what works and what doesn’t. And while we’re busy finding the new norm in our own work lives, our customers are experiencing the same. The companies that embrace digital transformation, are the ones who are continuing to succeed.

In another of Chris’ points, he described the “new ways of working” in which we must “leverage remote collaboration, workflows, and meeting platforms.” He also said we need to “use common tools to democratize data, content publishing and leverage AI for scale.”

When it comes to marketing and sales alignment, this becomes blatantly apparent. Collaboration is imperative for success, and gatekeeping, while it may have happened before, cannot stand. Organizations who are able to efficiently move all operations online can see an increase in communication channels when the usual in-person, informal channels are unavailable. But perhaps this is a good thing. We can see how digital transformation of marketing and sales alignment allows for a more tightly run ship: less information slips through the cracks, accountability is more difficult to run from, and unified systems and tools ensures everyone is on the same page. 

While digital transformation is nothing new, our current time has forced many of us to speed up adoption in ways we could have never anticipated. But rather than fear the change, or struggle to adapt, we should look to how it actually enables us to achieve important internal milestones, especially when it comes to marketing and sales alignment. 

The post Why Digital Transformation Is Crucial for Marketing and Sales Alignment appeared first on Marketo Marketing Blog – Best Practices and Thought Leadership.

How to Make a Forum Website in 6 Simple Steps

Forums are a great way to build an engaged community. Whether you’re looking to make a forum site like Reddit or Tripadvisor, or simply add a forum to an existing website, the good news is that it’s easy to learn how to make a forum website. To start, get web hosting and a domain, then…

The post How to Make a Forum Website in 6 Simple Steps appeared first on Fit Small Business.

What Even Is An SEO? (Can We Please Stop Talking About HTML)

Hi friends, it’s me Dan. Your friendly SEO curmudgeon in training.

Recently the SEO community (cough cough, SEO Twitter) has been caught up in a veritable tizzy about knowing HTML. Beyond the obvious epistemological considerations, I think there is a real ontological question raised by the primacy of HTML as a programming language in the SEOs toolkit.

So I ask you:

What even is an SEO, and can you even be one if you reject the fundamental nature of HTML?

Spoilers, yes and I do.

Let’s start up front, HTML is a front end web development language. If you don’t do front end work, things like HTML don’t really mean much to you. Here is a spoiler for you; not all SEO roles involve front end auditing. I guess I can see why this is a little controversial, as the traditional conception of SEO is based around this idea of an SEO freelancer jill-of-all-trades. However, this doesn’t make much sense as a way to organize modern SEO functions. First of all, because teams are cool, and collaboration is cool. Even if your teams have 10x SEOs (think mythical 10x engineer) the idea of a freelancer centric model of SEO feels very dated. I think Local SEO Guide CEO Andrew Shotland (sound trumpets) is the perfect person to get a quote from here. Andrew has been in the SEO game a long time and here is what he has to say about how it has changed over time:

In some ways, how I help our clients succeed at SEO hasn’t changed since I started doing this strange form of marketing almost fifteen(!) years ago. The advice we are delivering to clients this week could easily be in an audit from 2005. But whereas in 2005 you only needed one guy behind the curtain turning the knobs, these days there is a entire team of Oompa Loompas, and they all are really good at turning their specific knobs, and the don’t need to be masters at every other knob.

Nowhere is this shift in how SEO is organized more clear then the difference between how successful in-house teams work and how SEO agencies generally work. More and more in-house marketing and SEO teams have analytics and data roles and are becoming cross functional. A lot of the work they are doing is to integrate SEO more fully into their internal business intelligence systems. That is often a full time data role, and some of the most cutting edge enterprise SEO orgs have multiple full time team members with analyst-type pokemon skill sets. But don’t take my word for it just look at this job posting Adobe has for an SEO Insights Manager. Nowhere in there is HTML, but Python/R/SQL are def core to this job. I reached out to enterprise SEO badass Jackie Chu (Senior Manager SEO; Uber) to get her thoughts:

Funnily the core charter of my team (Intelligence) is to build bespoke tooling for the SEO team, so I’m no longer in the day to day “traditional SEO activities” around ideating new page types or localization. The majority of my day is spent cleaning up data, feverishly checking Kibana, QAing dashboards and working on setting requirements for the future of tooling for the team. We’re currently hiring for another headcount, but outside of this person my team will mostly be supported by adtech product and engineering to see the bespoke tooling and warehousing of the underlying datasets to fruition.

At other companies like Square and Dropbox, it was pretty standard to get at least partial Analyst support for business exercises like forecasting and reporting, and also for measuring A/B tests, experiments, and the impact of traditional SEO efforts like optimizing page templates or link building. Most of these companies use their own internal data warehouses, and while you inevitably need baseline SQL skills most SEOs won’t be able to pull the data with the same rigor and speed as someone who is in the tables day in and day out. It’s also great to have hard numbers provided by an unbiased 3rd party to use to get resourcing in the future and quantify your contribution to the company’s bottom line. After some successes my old colleague, Chris Yee, even secured data science hours to build bespoke SEO research tools. The pilot was so successful that the Data Science lead later went on to another company and immediately added an SEO-dedicated headcount to his team.

I think when you work in enterprise, you want to break down the walls of SEO being seen as something only the “SEO team” does. Whether your peer’s skillset is Analytics or Engineering, If their success metric is growth realized organically on the website, then they’re part of the SEO team.

I saw Jackie give a talk entitled “Soft SEO: How to Win Friends and Influence Leadership” and I think it’s one of the best SEO talks I have seen recently. Everyone should bug her on Twitter to put the slides online.

This isn’t just relegated to in-house teams. We have 3 backend/analyst roles ourself. While they all “know” html it is totally irrelevant to their day-to-day work (except for Sam who owns our Puppeteer instance.) And it’s not just us. Orgs like Merkle, SEER etc all have dedicated analytics teams that are exclusively data roles. Python/R/SQL are all more useful across these roles than superficial knowledge of HTML. These are the very normal and very traditional tools of the trade for data analysts.

Before you are like “but that isn’t SEO!!”.

Now we are firmly back at the ontological question of the day; What even is an SEO?

Just to be totally transparent, I’m going to just flat out reject definitions related to “what is an SEO” that marginalizes team members across our organization. And that is exactly what people are saying when they say HTML (or insert X skill here) is critical to be an SEO. For some roles HTML or general front end auditing skills are not critical. Some examples of these roles that we have in our org are:

  • Technical Development
  • Data Analysis
  • Linkbuilding
  • Content Optimization
  • Content Production
  • Project Management

In fact, in a not so funny quirk, linkbuilding and technical development/data analysis overlap with us in terms of leadership which should tell you that linkbuilding is super technical, and the most core function of SEO (getting links) is 100% detached from front end auditing. Here, they count as real SEOs.

None of the SEO work we do as an org would be able to happen without being able to integrate people with non-front end skill sets into our SEO flow. For more about this, and how this has led to a huge empowerment of people and teams across our org, I highly recommend you check out my talk at VirtuaCon on going from Automation Zero to Hero. Andrew is going to be giving an updated version of this talk at Whitespark’s Local Search Summit next week. In fact, just yesterday I had a call with Tealium in order to work on integrating some client data into our Google Big Query stack so we can use it to do analysis. No HTML required.

Alright, I’ve said basically everything I have wanted to say here so let’s bring it home. SEO is a rapidly diversifying role/function and needing to know how to do everything doesn’t equate being able to do everything well. To succeed in SEO moving forward the discipline needs to throw off the shackles of its past and embrace new ways of thinking.

Oh, and we are hiring. So if this sounds like an interesting place to work you may want to apply.

The post What Even Is An SEO? (Can We Please Stop Talking About HTML) appeared first on Local SEO Guide.

What’s the Impact of Data Privacy Regulation on Loyalty Marketing?

[Editor’s Note: The management, care and use of PII (Personally identifiable information) is bubbling to the top of legislative agendas across the world due to the evolving data privacy regulation standards known as GDPR, or General Data Protection Regulation. GDPR has set a bar for compliance in Europe and influenced business concerns in the US. Australia is also active in forging legislation to protect all data that could be used to identify a specific individual. In this discussion for loyalty marketing, there are both threats and opportunities regarding privacy regulations. Our Managing Editor, Bill Hanifin, published this article in Forbes with his thoughts on how data privacy regulations will impact Loyalty Marketing and how the industry can take a leadership position to set future standards. Let us know your thoughts on this topic.]

The acronyms for the latest data privacy regulations have become part of the marketer’s lexicon. “How will GDPR affect our business?” and “Can we still operate our loyalty program in California post-CCPA?” are typical of the conversations heard in the halls (or now more likely on the Zoom calls) of every customer-facing business.

Consumer-facing brands in the U.S. are contending with a growing array of consumer privacy laws. There has been no creation of a federal standard for data privacy; instead, the states are walking a path to create statutes that treat consumer privacy through their respective lenses, and California passed the most comprehensive law to date with the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). Other states will follow in the creation of their own statutes, but for now, all eyes are on California as a proxy for the rest of the U.S.

It was just over two years ago, in May 2018, when the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) became effective in the U.S. We haven’t heard as much about GDPR over the past year as CCPA drew the spotlight away from the European standard. If you have been watching this space closely, you may have noticed that just last month, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) issued a ruling that invalidated something known as the Privacy Shield, an international standard in place between the U.S. and EU governing the transfer of personal data between the regions.

The data privacy regulations coming from Europe are designed to manage the transfer of EU citizen data out of the EU to the U.S. For once, marketers are not all to blame for drawing the ire of consumer privacy advocates: The ruling in what is known as “Schrems II” cited the principal concern to be the handling of consumer data by the U.S. National Security Agency.

How did we get to this point, and how can you prepare your business for what is to come next?

We have worked with many companies that have data that is incomplete and lacks marketing utility. It’s fascinating that business practices for managing consumer data show big gaps between the current status of data management to full potential while concerns over the protection and management of the data are skyrocketing. Maybe it makes sense because since the 1980s, brands have demonstrated a high proficiency at collecting data but haven’t done a great job at managing that data to serve customers better. The Delphi Report, an annual report published by the Wise Marketer, posed the question of why loyalty programs fail in its 2019 edition. The No. 1 reason on the list was poor use of data.

This should not come as a total surprise. As a frequent flyer program member for decades, I’m still receiving offers for golf vacations. Golf is a great game, but I don’t play it. Why does this practice continue? Because the airline has never taken time to query me and better understand my preferences for hobbies and lifestyle.

Loyalty programs are opt-in and permission based. Proper disclosures should make it clear to members what data is being collected and how it will be managed. However, several years ago my company aggregated over 10,000 emails sent by brands to members of their loyalty programs and discovered that less than 1% were asking any questions of their members. No wonder they know so little about us! 

There is an increasing tension that makes it challenging to create a stellar customer experience while being in full compliance with privacy laws. Human beings resist uncertainty. We want transparency. And what we have today is an online experience that effectively alerts us to the fact that we are being tracked but doesn’t inform us fully about how we are being protected or give us full information about our rights.

Retargeting of ads online is still a hit-and-miss prospect, and the constant reminders upon clicking on most websites that “we use cookies to deliver a personalized experience” don’t build confidence with consumers. We become numb to the messages and banners as they appear whether we are visiting a site for the first time or the tenth. 

And while we experience confusion as consumers, we know that big business is racing forward to collect even more data about us. For those people who use location services, Google now sends a timeline of our movements each month. Facebook and Google are under scrutiny by governmental bodies around the world. The result is legislation created to protect the consumer when it seems business is unable or unwilling to do the same.

To my surprise, a close examination shows the key tenets of CCPA are not unreasonable. The statute provides that consumers have a right to notice, access, opt out, deletion, and equal services and pay. Probably most consumers would desire these basic rights, so where is the threat to loyalty marketers?

The threat is capsulized in the statement that says a retailer is not allowed to offer a financial incentive unless it can show how its financial incentives do not discriminate. That is as ambiguous as it is dangerous for future customer marketing efforts. Without the initiative of private business, regulators will make their own interpretation of the fairness of the value exchange between business and consumer.

Marketers should be thinking of creating an industry group to address data privacy and security. We are the ones who tout how valuable data is and that brands can reap great rewards in the form of incremental profitability if they leverage customer data correctly. Why, then, doesn’t the collective data-driven marketing industry proactively take steps to create standards that provide comfort to consumers through transparency?

The momentum of the regulatory interests has been firmly established and will continue to gain pace. Would you rather be waiting for that to happen, hoping the impact is not disastrous, or be proactive in creating industry standards for the management of loyalty program data?

This article was originally published in Forbes.

The post What’s the Impact of Data Privacy Regulation on Loyalty Marketing? appeared first on The Wise Marketer – Featured News on Customer Loyalty and Reward Programs.

8 Common Instagram Marketing Mistakes to Avoid in 2020

Since coming into existence in 2010, Instagram has given brands the opportunity to engage with their audience and tell their story through the power of visuals.

The Facebook-owned app was one of the fastest growing major social networks in 2014, and is now home to more than 1 billion users.

Along with growing its user base, Instagram has expanded its features as well. In the last five years alone, it’s embraced business accounts, live video, and advertising, but it’s also become a leading platform for social media stories

In addition to the network’s impressive growth, users are also highly engaged with the platform. Each day, half of all users use the app and spend an average of 21 minutes on the app. Top brands have quickly realized the potential Instagram presents.

But, while a number of brands have absolutely thrived on the platform, many still struggle to grow their audiences there. This is because a number of seemingly small mistakes could impact your whole strategy on the fast-paced platform.

Whether you’re considering joining, are new to the network, or feel like your Instagram game is lacking, learning about some of the most common Instagram mistakes can help you avoid them and build an effective social strategy.

In this post, we’ve gathered a list of eight mistakes brands make on the platform, backed by data and HubSpot’s own social media team.

The Most Common Mistakes Brands Make on Instagram

1. Brands don’t take time to plan out an Instagram strategy.

Instagram offers brands a means of telling their story through photographs, video clips, live video, and Stories, but with all of the features on the app, it can be tempted to create content for every possible post and hope that it’s engaging.

When used strategically Instagram is ideal for showcasing products being used in real-life situations, showing the progress of something through photos over time (such as the construction of a vehicle, the making of a new record, showing a new office space from empty to furnished and functional, or a new or favorite recipe from ingredients to the plated final product), or even answering frequently asked questions through short video clips or Instagram Live.

Yes, the possibilities are near limitless on Instagram, but like any other form of digital marketing, you’ll want to define goals early on and create a strategy to help you reach them.

Whether you’re on Instagram to increase brand awareness, showcase a new product line, or add a human element to your brand, each piece of content you publish on the platform should be adding value and help you attain goals.

Who’s doing it right? Quest Nutrition

Quest Nutrition is a nutrition company popular amongst the low carb and fitness crowds. They create nutritional food and drink products to help people reach their own health and fitness goals. According to TOTEMS Analytics, Quest Nutrition grows in follower count by roughly 15k / month. There’s no questioning how well of a job they do connecting with their audience and their lifestyles.

Furthermore, they’re making it work in a somewhat surprising fashion, through video.

Instagram introduced a 15-second video component to their platform back in June of 2013, and the adoption and engagement rates have been lesser than photo content. However, Quest Nutrition has found a way to make it work, driving far more engagement with video content, according to PicStats.

Here’s an example of Quest Nutrition creating a “how-to” video with one of their products, all while sticking to their #CheatClean (health and wellness) message and strategy.

2. Brands focus on production quality rather than audience value.

Because major brands might post high-resolution photos and video content on Instagram, smaller brands might get the impression that you need a fancy camera or a studio to succeed on Instagram. This is far from the truth, according to HubSpot’s Social Media Manager Kelly Hendrickson:

“Quality is more than the video equipment you use to film or the design software you use to create. Quality is about providing value,” Hendrickson explains.

When you don’t focus on creating content that your audience enjoys or values, they might be less likely to like it, share it, or keep following you. 

Take a second to think about how Instagram works. Users typically scroll through a single column of photos, quickly glancing at photos and skimming captions, only slowing down and stopping when something catches their eyes or piques their interest.

Other times they’re exploring content via hashtags, tapping quickly through Instagram Stories, or scrolling through a 3-column search layout until a photo or video stands out.

The more focus you put on the quality and value of the content you’re publishing on Instagram, the more likely users will be to slow down, stop at, and engage with your account and content.

Hendrickson suggests asking yourself, “What can your audience get from your brand’s Instagram account that they can’t get anywhere else? How are you improving their experience on the platform? How are you identifying with them?”

Who’s doing it right? Taco Bell

Taco Bell is no stranger to effectively utilizing social media. By summer of 2020, they had well over 1.4 million followers over a thousand posts with well over that amount of engagements.  

And while you might not typically group fast food and photography, Taco Bell has always made it work and taken full advantage of Instagram’s highly-engaged user base.

The fast-food chain does an extraordinary job leveraging vibrant colors in their photos and creates a laidback, entertaining feel through photo and video captions.

Taco Bell’s posts and Stories, which often contain delectable images of food are eye-catching, relevant, engaging, and make you crave their products. On top of showing images of their most hunger-inducing meals, Taco Bell also regularly highlights images of customers eating their products in daily life.

Here’s just one example where Taco Bell highlighted a recent graduate eating a wrap:

 

3. Brands don’t determine a posting frequency that’s right for them.

While a number of studies in the last decade hinted that posting more often each day would create more engagement, newer research has debunked the theory that you must post as much as possible to be successful on the current Instagram platform. 

As part of your Instagram strategy, post frequency should be addressed and studied, but you should take more than engagement into account. For example, if posting a lot doesn’t get you high engagements, but still takes time away from your overall social media strategy, you might want to post less. On the other hand, if you’re a large company that has the resources to post more highly engaging content each day, that might be a tactic you should continue.

Ultimately, you’ll want to look for a happy medium between quantity and quality, ensuring one isn’t sacrificed for the other. If you determine that you’re able to post quality content 15 times-per-day, it’s important you stick to a similar posting schedule for a bit and pivot if your engagement numbers change. 

Who’s doing it right? MAC Cosmetics

MAC Cosmetics is a cosmetics manufacturer founded in 1984 in Toronto, Canada. According to TOTEMS Analytics, MAC Cosmetics grows in follower count on Instagram by roughly 231k / month. A post on Instagram earns the cosmetics manufacturer an impressive 34k likes and 300+ comments on average according to PicStats.

MAC Cosmetics is close to hitting 3 million followers and that’s due in part to their frequent and consistent posting schedule. It’s uncommon to go a day without seeing several quality posts from the brand.

Again, it’s worth noting that the brand isn’t sacrificing quality, as you’ll see in the examples below.

 

 

4. Brands purchase followers or engagements.

If you’re even slightly considering buying followers or engagements, stop. For years, the network has been cracking down on fake and spam accounts, and they’re taking them out in massive numbers.

“Social media companies are savvy. Whether it be Twitter purging bots or TikTok shadow banning users, social media companies can sniff out fakes pretty quickly. And here’s the thing, so can you audience,” Hendrickson reveals. 

“A high purchased follower account won’t meet your brand’s goal of being on Instagram in the first place,” Hendrickson explains. “In fact, it can harm them. Do those purchased followers help your genuine audience build an affinity for your brand? Does it make them look to your brand for value? Does it make them trust you?”

“In the end, all these purchases end up doing, is having your audience ask why the likes are so low on a post when you have so many followers,” Hendrickson points out. 

So, what should you do instead? Focus on real engagement, like the accounts noted in this post. 

Who’s doing it right? Nike

Nike is a multinational corporation known for their footwear, apparel, sporting equipment, and services. The brand is often referenced for their innovative marketing strategies, and they’ve earned an impressive Instagram audience with a whopping 120 million followers

Nike’s attention to quality, compelling and influential messages, and an ability to create genuine connections with their audience through photo and video is what’s earned them one of the most dominant presences on the social network.

The high-quality photos, captivating captions, utilization of location tagging, and branded hashtags are working well for the brand as you’ll see below.

5. Brands focus on gaining — but not retaining — followers.

Instagram users are engaged and they’re consuming and enjoying branded content at impressive rates. The social network continues to give brands huge opportunities for growth. However, an engaged following today doesn’t guarantee an engaged following tomorrow. How you interact with and leverage your Instagram following can mean the difference between flourishing and flopping on the social network.

One of the simplest and most effective ways to offset the additional resources needed to create a successful Instagram presence can be found within your audience. Instagram is the perfect platform for promoting user-generated content (UGC), probably more so than any other social network. Whether you’re running a photo contest or are encouraging the use of a branded hashtag, Instagram is the perfect platform for building real relationships with real people.

Give your followers the opportunity to spread your message, share your content, use your hashtags, and serve as advocates to your brand.

Who’s doing it right? BarkBox

BarkBox is a monthly surprise package for dogs that includes toys, treats, and goodies. The company donates 10% of their profits to dogs in need and has already rescued 800 puppies. 

The brand has one of the funniest, most entertaining accounts on Instagram. They feature some of the most popular dogs of Instagram on their account, which has helped them promote engagement, grow their following, and promote branded hashtags. They’ve also created a VIP program that helps them earn business return via Instagram.

There’s a reason BarkBox is raking in 15k likes and 1k comments average on each post.

Try not to laugh (volume recommended).

 

 

 

6. Brands are overly promotional.

Is there anything more unflattering than brands posting nothing but promotional content on their social networks? Buy this, sale on this, big savings, free shipping!

Overly promotional posts come across as selfish, lazy, and depending on timing, potentially distasteful. While there’s certainly a time and a place to be promotional, brands succeeding on Instagram are the ones delivering powerful and meaningful messages, visually presenting their culture, sharing quality photos and videos, and engaging with their audience.

In addition, it’s no secret Instagram is a Facebook-owned entity. If you remember, Facebook made a News Feed update back in November of 2014 announcing significant drops in organic reach for promotional posts.

Don’t be tacky on Instagram.

Who’s doing it right? Ben & Jerry’s

Ben & Jerry’s is a dairy company known for their delicious ice cream, and more recently, their mouth-watering Instagram feed.  The chain’s Instagram account has over 1.5 million followers.

Instead of posting pictures of ice cream every day (which would most likely still work for them), Ben & Jerry’s regularly shares fans’ photos on their page. What better way to get people excited about taking pictures with your product than sharing them publicly for the world to see? It’s worked well for the brand that on average scoops 20k likes-per-post according to PicStats.

Below is an example of user-generated content shared by Ben & Jerry’s, along with a video post delivering a very powerful message while utilizing their product.

 

 

7. Brands use as many hashtags as they can think of. 

Similar to other social networks, hashtags play an important role in the discovery process on Instagram. While, lesser-known brands or brands with low follower counts can use popular but relevant hashtags to optimize their posts, using too many can make your brand look spammy, desperate, or out of touch.

While past research once suggested that brands should use 11 or more of Instagram’s 30 allotted hashtags for each post, Sprout Social now suggests that less is more. According to the social media software company, using two to five relevant hashtags in a post can yield more engagements that using 10 or more. 

Many brands take a "less is more" approach to Instagram hashtags

Image Source

In terms of relevancy, brands should also be sure to avoid misusing hashtags in an attempt to increase exposure. This is a surefire way to lose credibility and come off as lazy on a network that was built on authenticity and quality.

Who’s doing it right? GoPro

GoPro is the creator of the “world’s most versatile camera,” a favorite amongst extreme athletes, amateur photographers, and pets around the world. According to TOTEM Analytics, GoPro grows in follower count on Instagram by roughly 221k / month and is one of the most popular brands on the network.

With 4.3m followers, GoPro could probably eliminate hashtags completely without sacrificing engagement. The brand chooses to leverage the discovery mechanism and it’s just one of the reasons they’ve created such a memorable Instagram presence.

Below is a GoPro post that gets a couple things right in the hashtag category. For starters, they’re utilizing more than one hashtag. More importantly, they’re utilizing hashtags that are relevant to the photo.

8. Brands avoid Instagram completely.

If you’re still questioning whether or not Instagram has a place in your social media marketing strategy, you’re not alone.

Despite all the opportunities Instagram provides, smart marketers still will approach any new social media platform with caution. They’ll ask themselves questions like, “Do I have enough time to manage another social network?,” “Is it worth joining Instagram if my business or offerings aren’t visually friendly?,” or “Do I have the right resources to create quality photos and videos?”

The truth is, the questions above are absolutely worth asking — especially if your brand has a limited budget or social team. However, you shouldn’t let these fears hinder your social strategy too much, especially when the social platform’s history is as long and successful as Instagram’s.

As the fastest growing major social network with one of the most engaged audiences, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to overlook Instagram’s value.

As we mentioned above, in less than six years, the platform’s grown to a whopping 1 billion users, while hosting millions of active businesses and influencers who regularly spread awareness about products. 

In 2020, it’s safe to say that Instagram is worth considering.

Who’s doing it right? General Electric

General Electric is a power and water, oil and gas, energy management, aviation, healthcare, transportation, and capital corporation. While they may not be the first brand that comes to mind when you think Instagram, General Electric has been known for leveraging social media to connect with their audience.

The brand does an incredible job bringing their core values to life through photo and video on Instagram. In addition, they’ve found a way to take an otherwise very serious subject matter and make it educational, interesting, and exciting.

Working around the clock to build, power, move, and cure the world is the theme they showcase throughout photos and videos like the following:

 

A Mistake-Free Instagram Marketing Strategy

In recent years, Instagram’s gone from a social network known for selfies and food pictures to a platform brands are leveraging to deliver meaningful messages, tell stories, and engage with people on a human to human level.

We’ll continue to hear about, read about, speak about, and experience firsthand the opportunity Instagram presents to brands and marketers as network continues to grow.

Brands getting the most out of the network are the ones posting quality content on a consistent basis, and are doing so with a purpose. Even brands that aren’t thought of as visually friendly are leveraging the network and seeing it work.

The Instagram community is genuinely interested in connecting with these brands; so much so that they’ve expressed interest in learning more about brands and products after they’ve been inspired by what they’re posting.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in March 2015 but was updated in August 2020 for comprehensiveness and freshness. 

 

The 5 Kinds of Digital Marketing Collateral You Should Be Creating

It goes without saying, but your marketing materials shouldn’t be limited to conventional outbound advertisements — particularly if your business is B2B. Sure, capturing attention is part of the battle, but what happens when a prospect visits your website and sees nothing but some product descriptions and a pricing page?

There has to be more there. You need to have some material to show that you can walk the walk. One kind of content that helps get you there is known as marketing collateral, and it can come in a variety of shapes and sizes.

Here, we’ll get a more in-depth understanding of the concept and go over the five most important marketing collateral formats you can use to help establish legitimacy and supplement your sales efforts.

At its core, marketing collateral is a way to let prospects know that you know what you’re talking about. It’s not supposed to be as flashy as conventional advertisements. In creating marketing collateral, your first priority generally isn’t to capture attention — it’s to retain and enhance it.

In most cases, the prospects who are looking at your marketing collateral are curious about your company, but they might not be intimately familiar with you or your offering. Well-crafted marketing collateral can put them at ease. It can help build the kind of trust necessary to start and sustain a customer relationship.

Marketing collateral tends to be educational in some capacity. When done right, the informative nature of the format lets you separate yourself from the competition by letting you showcase an extensive understanding of your industry that others in your space might not be projecting.

If all of your marketing materials are solely dedicated to talking up your product or service, you’re selling yourself short. When prospects are deciding to buy, they’re not just considering what’s for sale — they’re considering your company as a whole.

They want to know they’ll be taken care of by a competent, capable, knowledgeable organization that they can rely on to address any issues and concerns they might have as they arise. Creating thoughtful marketing collateral is one way to help that cause.

1. Blog Posts

Producing good marketing collateral is often a matter of consistently providing value to your audience. One of the better forums to create and promote the kind of material that does that on an ongoing basis is a well-maintained company blog.

It allows you constantly to supplement your sales efforts with helpful insight and audience engagement — driving traffic to your website and generating leads through actionable advice, expertise, and entertainment.

Like any other kind of effective marketing collateral, good blog posts can project authority in your industry. You want to show you’re staying abreast of industry trends and understand the nuances of your space — constantly churning out high-quality, helpful content can help that cause and put your prospects at ease.

2. Ebooks

Ebooks are similar to blog posts in that they should project industry authority through engagement, but they tend to be longer, more in-depth, and less snackable than typical blog content. This type of marketing collateral generally attracts prospects with a vested interest in your industry. Here are some examples from HubSpot.

Image Source: HubSpot

In some ways, an Ebook could be likened to an extended blog post or a few blog posts strung together. Like blog content, an Ebook generally contains accessible language and directly actionable advice.

In many cases, Ebooks are downloadable and can only be accessed in exchange for a prospect’s contact information — making them a powerful vehicle for lead generation.

No matter where your company stands, you likely have the resources and knowhow to channel your industry-specific knowledge into a thoughtful Ebook. Remember, your marketing collateral should be designed to build trust with prospects and customers.

If you can put out Ebooks to reliably bolster their knowledge of your industry, you can convince them they’re in good hands when they buy your product or service.

3. Case Studies

Case studies are offering-specific documents that detail how specific customers saw success as a result of leveraging your product or service. This format is different from the previous two in that it’s never product-agnostic. Here’s an example from HubSpot:

marketing collateral case study

Image Source: HubSpot

Every case study is made in collaboration with a satisfied customer. It’s a form of cross-promotion that shows what your product or service is like in practice — a roadmap that lets prospects imagine what you could do for their business.

Like almost every other example on this list, case studies are educational. They provide a more thorough explanation of how your product or service works through an active example. It’s also another avenue for building trust.

If you can point to reputable customers who are willing to vouch for your business in extensive detail, you can bolster your company’s reputation as a solid, knowledgeable organization with a product or service that delivers results.

4. Testimonials

Testimonials are essentially condensed, snackable case studies. Many — if not most — prospects don’t have the time or interest to delve into a full-on case study. If you want to reach them, you’re going to have to provide quick-hitting content that they can glance over passively. Testimonials can do just that.

Here’s an example of one from HubSpot:

marketing collateral testimonial

Image Source: HubSpot

This testimonial follows the format’s best practice. It’s visually engaging, clearly establishes who provided the quote, and references specific benefits — a solid example of an appropriately informative, easily digestible piece of marketing collateral. Ultimately, a good testimonial helps project the company’s legitimacy while inspiring potential customers to further explore the product it’s promoting.

5. White Papers

A white paper is a persuasive, authoritative, in-depth report on a specific topic. Generally, one of these documents will raise a problem and present a solution to it.

It’s typically more technical and less accessible than an Ebook. It’s meant to draw a crowd more intimately involved with or interested in your industry — an audience that might naturally run into the issue at the core of the document.

White papers shouldn’t be product pitches. It’s best practice to keep them objective and educational. That being said, the topics you choose need to be relevant to your company or space.

This kind of collateral also needs to be thoroughly researched, thoughtfully formatted, polished, and written in a serious tone. That means no flashy language or cute gimmicks. Here are some examples of topics from HubSpot’s Not Another State of Marketing Report.

marketing collateral whitepaper

Image Source: HubSpot

As I keep mentioning, every format listed in this article is tailored to project authority to some extent — the white paper is the purest example of that trend. It’s a technical document that’s meant to demonstrate technical knowledge to a crowd with technical prowess.

Well-crafted marketing collateral can give you a leg up on your competition. Not only is it an excellent vehicle for lead generation, but it can also offer your business an element of authority and trustworthiness to make potential customers more comfortable and inclined to buy from you. If your company isn’t producing it, consider trying out one of the formats listed above.

3 Components of an Experience Maker | Why It Matters for Modern Businesses

Adobe’s recent Experience Maker’s Live two-day online event was insightful, thoughtful, and informative, just as I predicted. While I knew what kind of high-quality content I could expect from one of their events, I headed into the virtual conference with one pressing question: what exactly is an experience maker?

It didn’t take long before the question was answered. 

The short answer is that an experience maker is a new breed of leader – one who is flexible, puts customers at the center, and is helpful in the most creative ways possible. It’s a crucial outlook on leadership in modern business, especially for those who are looking to improve customer experiences, digitize business processes, and create better internal alignment. 

Let’s look closer at what are Adobe’s big three components of what defines an Experience Maker, as told by Marissa Dacay, Sr. Director, Global Enterprise Marketing at Adobe, and why these qualities are crucial for modern business.

An Experience Maker Is Empathetic

One of the major themes throughout the two-day event was that times have changed drastically, and things will never be the same again. While the message appears foreboding, the truth is, it’s an opportunity – if we can navigate it correctly. In Marissa’s opening statement she explained that these elements are used in ways that are “setting resilient businesses from the rest of the pack.”

One of the biggest, and most important, aspects of an Experience Maker is empathy. Empathy for customers, empathy for colleagues and employees, and empathy for yourself. Knowing that each of these stakeholders is navigating uncertainty and could be struggling with entirely new problems means that you need to care about, and respond to these problems. 

This means rethinking the customer journey, rethinking customer experiences, rethinking content and how you can be helpful and supportive of prospects and customers, and to your own teams. Empathy means “understanding that feelings influence decisions and trust,” and using that in your business decision making.

While initially, some panic meant that companies cut B2B solutions contracts in anticipation of dwindling revenue, many businesses who have leadership and customer-facing employees who are empathetic, are seeing their customer base double down and remain loyal as they’re being helped to weather the storm. As Marissa described it, as modern leaders, “we are not here to merely sell, we’re here to help.”

An Experience Maker Is Adaptable

Another important theme from the EML virtual conference is that if businesses haven’t already begun their digital transformation, it may not be too late, but they will certainly face a bigger uphill battle. The reason primarily being the ability to be adaptable to anything that may come your way. 

Companies and their leaders who focus on digital-first experiences, customer support, and internal collaboration and communication are the ones who have most easily been able to pivot in terms of their position and offerings or adapt internal processes to remote work and new customer journeys. Marissa explained that in these times, there is “power in the pivot. Scenario planning is shifting, and b2b especially needs more late-stage content” for the customer. Experience makers now need to be asking themselves questions like, “how do you get a product demo into virtual content?”

With manual processes, and slow-moving internal organizations, you may have greater difficulty in making this pivot – but all is not lost. Now we’ve seen that our global economy can shift in an instant, and the Experience Makers will help their businesses to be prepared for anything in the future. 

This mentality of “come what may” and ability to be flexible and adapt very quickly, ensures that businesses have the grit to make it out the other side of this trying time, and any others that will inevitably occur in the future.

An Experience Maker Is Inclusive

While audience segmentation and targeting is an important part of marketing and sales, when it comes to modern business, leaders must strive for inclusion

This means a few different things: inclusiveness in the broader sense means making sure employees, customers, and other stakeholders alike feel listened to, and that there is content, solutions, and experiences that speak to their needs. As Marissa put it, “your customers are living in a different world and their needs have changed. You must understand your customer in real-time.”

It also means that leaders and businesses must strive to reach higher levels of self-awareness when it comes to their greater role in society, as difficult topics in diversity and equality must be faced head-on. As consumers and employees alike seek to align themselves with companies and individuals who embody important values, experience makers need to be diligent in their self-education, growth, and inclusion in all aspects of the business. 

When drilled down further, we can see that modern businesses need to be continually inclusive in the customer journey. Experience makers then must both proactively anticipate needs in a fully holistic manner and also be able to quickly adapt when a gap in inclusivity is discovered. This means ensuring that customers are able to find and access useful, helpful, and robust information at all stages of their buying journey, before and after purchase. Here is where inclusiveness is also pertinent to internal alignment and establishing flexible, customer-centric processes. 

When it comes to leadership in modern businesses, we are being tested in ways we have never encountered before. But true experience makers can take the hand we’ve been dealt and leverage it for new opportunities that put customers at the center, encouraging relationships, better business models and internal processes, and more satisfaction inside and outside organizations. Leaders now, more than ever, need to be empathetic, adaptable, and inclusive, and then an uncertain future becomes much easier to take on. 

The post 3 Components of an Experience Maker | Why It Matters for Modern Businesses appeared first on Marketo Marketing Blog – Best Practices and Thought Leadership.

5 Best WordPress SEO Plugins to Get Your Site to Rank in Google

One of the best ways to get traffic to your website is by getting found in search engines, such as Google. Granted, if you’ve ever tried to rank highly in Google, then you’ll know this takes time (and a lot of work). Luckily, there are search engine optimization (SEO) plugins to help make it easy…

The post 5 Best WordPress SEO Plugins to Get Your Site to Rank in Google appeared first on Fit Small Business.

Update to Aggregate Lighthouse Reporter

Hey everyone!

It’s been a hot minute since I posted so just wanted to quickly come in here and share an update we made to a free tool.

A while back we released a tool that would allow you to aggregate Lighthouse reports by template and visualize and report on assets across sites and at the template/page level in Google Data Studio. Sounds pretty cool right? You can read about it here and check out the GitHub repo here.

Shortly after that Google released their Core Web Vitals and included them in a release of Lighthouse. So here we are. We have updated our repo to include Lighthouse 6.0 (this is a copy of our production repo so it will automatically update.)

That means you can get all these beautiful visualizations of Core Web Vitals and a few other new things:


You can check out an example report to play around with here (sorry, not sorry Waste Management). And in case you missed it the first time the GitHub repo is at the big button below 👇

Check it out on GitHub

The post Update to Aggregate Lighthouse Reporter appeared first on Local SEO Guide.

Walmart Challenges Amazon Prime With New Walmart+ Membership Program

A new player in the era of Amazon Prime

Walmart continues to entrench itself further into the home delivery and subscription category, doubling down on its efforts to take on global behemoth Amazon. The latest play from the retail giant comes in the form of “Walmart+”, a membership program announced on Tuesday September 1st. The program will be fully inducted by September 15th, and will boast a 15-day free trial period for curious customers.

The service, which was actually expected for activation in March but was delayed by COVID-19, blends existing Walmart offerings such as Scan & Go and Walmart Pay with competitive features like unlimited and free same-day-delivery, gas discounts, and frictionless in-store experiences.

Even though the expected early spring launch has been delayed, the timing of this program feels perfectly aligned with current customer complexities and promises to satiate the broad needs of countless shoppers. “Life feels more complicated than ever,” says Janey Whiteside, Walmart’s Chief Customer Officer. “Walmart+ is designed to make it easier, giving customers an option to not have to sacrifice on cost or convenience. We know shopping should fit customers’ needs, not the other way around. We have always been a champion for the right item at the right price, but now it’s more than that. We have the right shopping solutions at the right time, too.”

Members of Walmart’s year-old “Delivery Unlimited” program, introduced in 1,400 of its physical locations, will automatically be enrolled into Walmart+. They will keep free delivery benefits, and the cost structure should remain the same at $98 annually or $12.95 a month (there is, however, a minimum order size of $35 to qualify for delivery benefits). But even these users will benefit from significant upgrades, allowing them to scan their items as they shop, pay with Walmart Pay for quick touch-free payments, and take advantage of 5 cent gas discounts.

Unanswered questions

While the program looks promising, a few specificities could benefit from a closer examination of the competitive landscape as well as further Walmart Plus details:

  • Will the September 15th launch date be enough to tackle Amazon’s playbook head on? “Walmart clearly wants to get the program off the ground sooner [rather] than later in order to make hay in advance of the Christmas shopping season,” says retail consultant Carol Spieckerman, as reported by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. “The pressure is on from a timing standpoint.”
  • What will be the market availability breakdown? This is an especially important consideration given that demand may be more significant in sparse rural geographies with more limited access to brick-and-mortar shopping.
  • What other roles will technology integrations play as the program steams ahead? As noted by pymnts.com, the role of Instacart is left up in the air.
  • Will additional loyalty strategies, discounts, or special offerings be built into the program? At the time of writing, no special discounts, rewards or deals have been announced aside from the 15-day free trial for new members, and there may be an unanswered opportunity for loyalty beyond the basic membership.

On the plus side for Walmart

Walmart Plus is taking on Amazon Prime in a basic sense. The convenient cadence of unlimited free delivery and quick-turnaround online shopping is no longer a luxury these days, but a commercial staple that many customers can’t live without. But in another sense, Walmart+ can offer a path-to-purchase hierarchy beyond even what Amazon Prime has primed audiences to expect: a sophisticated, yet familiar in-store experience augmented with mobile technology and in-tune with the latest shopper demands. COVID-19 has changed the landscape far beyond mere technological whims like contactless payments. The reality is that the pandemic has further fragmented preferences and divided customers on habits and behaviors. The vendors which can offer the most options inside an ecosystem which remains united and seamless will resonate the most inside these contemporary complexities — and Walmart+ seems to be a firm step into the future.

The post Walmart Challenges Amazon Prime With New Walmart+ Membership Program appeared first on The Wise Marketer – Featured News on Customer Loyalty and Reward Programs.

Everything Our Paid Team Learned From Attempting a Reddit Advertising Strategy

With a ranking as one of the top ten most popular sites on the internet, Reddit is undoubtedly an intriguing channel for advertising purposes.

However, the site can often seem intimidating, and perhaps even too random to create a cohesive advertising strategy. Plus, since its primary purpose is to expose viewers to the top-trending content of the moment, Reddit users are notoriously anti-marketing.

Regardless of its challenges, its potential advantages proved too good an opportunity to pass up. At HubSpot, we decided to implement a strategy to see for ourselves whether Reddit can serve as a promising channel for the future.

Here, learn what our team figured out about advertising on Reddit, and whether it’s worth the attempt for your own company. Plus, we’ve provided a step-by-step tutorial on how you can advertise on Reddit if you determine it’s a valuable option for your own company. 

The Strategy Behind Reddit Advertising

1. Identify subreddit topics which are well-aligned with your target audience.

To investigate the benefits of advertising on Reddit, I first spoke with Josh Chang, a Senior Marketing Manager at HubSpot. He told me HubSpot’s initial strategy on Reddit involved highly targeted campaigns on specific subreddits, including r/entrepreneur and r/sales.

“The goal of the campaign,” Chang explained, “was to drive awareness and conversion for our products. In terms of results, we saw cost-per-acquisition similar to what we’ve achieved on Facebook in North America, although we did notice a lower activation rate from Reddit — suggesting lower-quality conversions.”

If you’re interested in testing out a campaign for yourself, then, you’ll want to start by identifying subreddits which can likely help foster genuine connections between your brand and your ideal audience. Consider topics your target audience is most interested in, and make a list. Then, narrow your list by investigating how many subscribers each subreddit topic has, whether it’s relatively active, and whether self-promotion or sharing content is allowed on the subreddit topic.

Chang told me, “One of the main things we learned was targeting subreddits specifically was much more effective than broader interest targeting. However, this strategy requires a lot of research, and getting to know which subreddits are most relevant to your audience.”

Additionally, Chang said, “We noticed tailoring our ad creative for individual subreddits helped improve our conversion rates.”

2. Begin engaging with your subreddit communities.

Once you’ve cultivated a list of subreddits that are likely of interest to your target audience, it’s time to start engaging with those subreddit communities.

However, it’s critical you don’t begin by promoting your own content.

To build a level of trust and authentic connection, begin by upvoting other submissions you find interesting and that align well with your brand. Next, share valuable content — but not your own. Instead, post interesting content produced by other media outlets or blogs that you believe will be useful to your subreddit community.

It’s vital you genuinely use the Reddit platform as an opportunity to get to know your target audience before you offer them your own content. Not only will this show your community you’re not simply joining the site to self-promote, but it will also help you tailor your content more accurately down-the-road.

3. Begin promoting your own content, paid or otherwise, on the subreddit platforms.

At this point, you might consider simply posting valuable content from your company that you feel will benefit your community — for free.

However, you might alternatively try spending money on a paid sponsored post, which essentially guarantees your post will be pinned to the top of the subreddit. Here’s what a sponsored post looks like, for context:

In many ways, this post looks similar to all other Reddit content. However, there’s a blue “Promoted” tag in the top left, signifying it’s a paid ad.

In HubSpot’s case, we decided to test out the power of paid advertising on the site. However, it’s still critical you follow the steps listed above to cultivate authentic relationships with your subreddit communities.

Think of it this way — if I begin engaging with a brand on one of the subreddit groups I’ve joined, and notice they typically post helpful content (including content from other publications), then I’m much more likely to take notice when they pay for a sponsored post. If they appear out of nowhere, I have no sense of brand awareness and probably won’t trust the advertisement.

Reddit Advertising Cost

As of right now, the minimum daily spend for an ad on Reddit is $5.

Additionally, Reddit FAQ states, “The Reddit Ads platform uses a second price auction based system, which means you pay a cent higher than the next highest bidder. Because we are using an auction based system, there is a risk of 20% over-delivery when setting up an individual campaign.”

However, as of January 2019, Reddit changed their pricing model from CPM (cost-per-impression) bidding to CPC (cost-per-click). The CPC model will likely make it easier for brands to track conversion or traffic goals, and could result in changes in prices over time.

Advertising on Reddit: Worth it?

When I asked Chang whether he felt advertising on Reddit is a worthwhile investment, he offered a candid response, admitting HubSpot has temporarily halted its efforts on Reddit.

“We saw promising results,” Chang told me, “But because we were targeting specific subreddits, it wasn’t crazy volume that could really move the needle. However, we have on our docket to re-test Reddit to see if we can improve performance and scalability in the future.”

It’s important to note, there have been success stories — Findlay Hats, for instance, drove $28,000 in sales from one viral Reddit post.

However, most brands see better results simply by relying on Reddit for community engagement and brand awareness. Alex Berman found one of his free, unpromoted videos got 25,000 views when it hit the top of a subreddit — but, when he put $250 behind his Reddit posts, he acquired zero leads.

1. Make a company profile.

You’ll want to ensure you’re running advertising campaigns on your company profile, not your personal Reddit account.

Along with evoking a sense of professionalism, a company Reddit profile is necessary since users can click on your account and see other content you’ve viewed and upvoted — so you want to ensure that content aligns well with your brand. Additionally, when responding to comments on your ad, you’ll want to be able to respond from a company profile, not a personal one.

To set up a profile, go to https://ssl.reddit.com/login and fill out the Sign Up form, shown below:

advertise-on-reddit-step-one

2. Set up an advertising account.

To start advertising on Reddit, you’ll need to set up an advertising account. To do this, go to ads.reddit.com and fill out the necessary fields:

advertise-on-reddit-step-two

Once you’ve inputted your information and selected “Sign Up”, you’ll see an advertising dashboard, as shown below:

advertise-on-reddit-step-three

Before you can begin advertising on Reddit, you’ll want to add your billing information by clicking the drop-down menu on your username and selecting “Billing”:

advertise-on-reddit-step-four

Additionally, if multiple people on your team will be involved in advertising on Reddit, ensure you add users by clicking “Manage permissions” underneath your username, and then adding their emails and permission level (including “Analyst”, “Creator”, and “Administrator”):

advertise-on-reddit-step-five

Once you’ve clicked the blue “Invite” button, your colleagues should receive an email with next steps.

3. Find your audience on subreddits.

It’s important to note, you don’t want to spend money advertising on the homepage of Reddit. Reddit users visit the homepage to browse popular posts and trending news, so it’s too big of an audience for you to target your ideal persona.

Instead, you’ll want to explore subreddits to find your ideal Reddit audience. For instance, let’s say you sell e-commerce software. To find an interested audience, then, you’ll want to explore retail-related subreddits, such as r/retail (8.2K members), r/AskRetail (4.5K members), or even r/retailmemes (733 members).

Make a list of subreddits that might fit your audience, and then spend some time perusing the content that already exists on that subreddit. Does it seem to match content your customer would be interested in? Additionally, does it look like the subreddit community could be filled with high-intent prospects (like a retail advice subreddit), or is it too superficial for your needs (like retail memes)?

To help you find your audience, try a tool like RedditList to sort through various reddit communities and find the ones of highest value for you.

4. Ensure the subreddit(s) you find have enough page views.

This is important enough to warrant its own section: you can’t necessarily advertise on any subreddit you want. Once you make your list of potential subreddits, you’ll need to ensure it has enough page views to be eligible for advertising.

To figure out whether a subreddit has enough page views, consider that one Reddit advertising campaign has a minimum spend of $5, and it costs $0.75 per thousand page views. Additionally, you can purchase up to three months out.

With those requirements, you’ll need roughly 6,700 page views over three months to achieve the $5 minimum spend.

To figure out how many page views you’re likely to receive on a subreddit, take a look at how many users are currently on the subreddit. For instance, you can see at 2 p.m. on a Monday, there are roughly 2K users on the r/marketing subreddit:

advertise-on-reddit-step-six

Dividing 6,700 by 90, you’ll note you need roughly 74 viewers per day on a subreddit to reach the minimum requirement — r/marketing, then, is way over the daily required page views, but there are other smaller subreddits with only 5-10 users per day, which could make it more difficult for you to reach minimum spend. Plus, you want to choose subreddits that enable you to have the highest reach possible.

5. Set up your campaign.

Once you’ve chosen your subreddits, it’s now time to set up your campaign. In your account, start by clicking on “Dashboard” in the top left of your screen, and then select “Create Campaign”.

advertise-on-reddit-step-seven

Next, you’ll need to create a name for your campaign, a funding instrument, and a campaign objective:

advertise-on-reddit-step-eight

After you click “Continue”, you’ll need to narrow down your audience — including interests, communities, and device type — your budget, and your bid (the maximum price you’re willing to pay per 1,000 impressions). Additionally, you’ll need to figure out a schedule for your ad, including what time(s) of day you want it to appear, and when you want your campaign to end.

advertise-on-reddit-step-nine

Once you click “Continue” again, you’ll be able to add third-party trackers to distinguish how many unique web page visits or social media viewers you’ve gained from your Reddit advertisement.

Here, you’ll also either create a new post or upload an existing advertisement that you might’ve designed for another platform. Feel free to take a look at Reddit’s internal advertising resources — including Reddit’s Advertising Help page — to learn best practices when designing an ad for Reddit.

Once you’re happy with the creative assets, click “Review”:

advertise-on-reddit-step-ten

Once you’ve reviewed all the information regarding your campaign and have determined it’s accurate, click the blue “Submit” button to submit your advertisement for consideration. You’ll get an email once your ad is live.

6. Analyze your campaign performance to improve over time.

Once your campaign is up-and-running, you’ll want to track its performance. You can monitor within the Reddit advertising dashboard itself, as well as through third-party tools like Google Analytics. Additionally, ensure you’re taking the time to respond to any comments left on your ad.

As with any advertising campaign you run, you’ll want to use analytics on this campaign to iterate and improve for the next one.

Ultimately, it’s worth considering using Reddit as a platform for sharing content for the sake of helpfulness and audience engagement, rather than as a cost-effective advertising strategy.

Where and How Often Do Consumers Watch Live Video? [New Data]

By 2027, the live video market is expected to surpass $184 billion. And brands are taking notice.

By the end of 2018, marketers were using live video as part of their social media strategy. Since then, this number has likely grown as brands continue to use a number of online platforms to stream virtual events, Q&As, and other content that their audiences will value.

Although brands are jumping on the live video bandwagon, you might still wonder if live video is really worth investing in. After all, creating any video costs your company time and money. Additionally, measuring the ROI of a live video can be tricky.

Before you decide to implement live video planning and production into your strategy, you’ll need to learn more about this content’s consumers, how often they watch this content, and which platforms they primarily use to stream it.

Learning about your prospective audience’s live video behaviors will allow you to consider a strategy that offers them valuable content while meeting them on the platforms they’re already on.

To give you insight on how often and where general internet users watch live video, I conducted a survey of more than 400 people using Lucid software. In the survey, I asked two questions: “How often do you watch live videos?” and “Where do you watch live video most often?”

How Often Consumers Watch Live

When I asked consumers how often they were watching live video, I didn’t expect a large percentage to say they were consuming it more than once or twice weekly. As a marketer and social media user, I was expecting that only a few people would regularly stop everything and devote time to watching streams on fast-paced online platforms.

However, when I looked at the results, I was surprised by how frequently consumers were actually watching live videos.

According to the data, 57% of those surveyed watch live video at least three times per week, while only seven percent said they never watch live video.

Data Source

While the result above is fascinating to think about, you should keep in mind that this is just a survey of one small group of consumers rather than a representation of the global internet user population. Additionally, just because our pool of consumers regularly watches live content, this doesn’t necessarily mean they’re watching branded content.

Although you should take this result with a grain of salt, the data above, combined with mounting research that shows how live video is growing, signifies that this format might be more than just a trend. .

Although you should consider your budget, audience, and the time involved in a live video strategy before your create or plan content, this result indicates that you might want to keep this tactic on your radar.

Where Consumers Watch Live Video

Now that you know live video is capable of generating solid viewership, you might be wondering where the best place to stream your first video actually is.

You’ll want to pick a platform with a high user base, but you’ll also want to make sure that the site you choose has an audience that aligns with the audience you want to engage with..

When you start by picking the best platform for your brand and audience, you can learn what it takes to be engaging on this site, and adapt your content from there.

But, simply choosing a platform can be easier said than done.

At the moment, almost all of the top social media platforms — including Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Reddit, and now even TikTok — have live streaming features. Additionally, emerging platforms like Twitch.tv have gained notoriety for primarily hosting live content.

To help you identify a few platforms worth looking into, I asked the same Lucid participants. “Where do you watch live videos most often?”

While the results about how often consumers watched live video surprised me, I wasn’t as shocked when I discovered where they were watching their content.

The platforms with the biggest audiences, and the most mature live streaming tools, took the lead. These platforms were YouTube (48%), Facebook (20%), and Instagram (13%).

most popular live video platforms

Data Source

One thing that did surprise me was that fewer people were viewing live videos on Twitter. Although the platform isn’t primarily known for live streaming, Twitter’s company was one of the first to invest in it with the 2015 acquisition of Periscope.

Although some platforms were less popular than others in this poll, you shouldn’t necessarily rule them out. For example, if your most engaged audience is already on Twitter, or your followers love your B2B content on LinkedIn, you could consider testing those platforms first since you might already have a great sense of what those audiences will engage with.

Or, if you’re selling a B2C product, you might want to focus on the bigger, broader networks like Facebook or YouTube since they have a large range of audience demographics.

As you plan your next live video event, here’s a look at what other brands are doing on popular live video platforms.

The Top 3 Platforms Consumers Use to Stream Live Video

1. YouTube

As the world’s second-largest search engine, YouTube’s more than 2 billion-person user base is incredibly broad. This means that almost anyone will log on to YouTube and search its content for a number of different reasons.

Aside from being one of the oldest and biggest online platforms out there, YouTube’s also offered a live stream feature, called YouTube Live, since 2011.

YouTube Live allows users to broadcast live content to viewers. With this live video feature, you can share unfiltered moments, as well as allow the audience to participate with real-time comments and reactions. Live videos on YouTube are recorded, appear on profiles and feeds like any other video upload, and can be watched even after the stream has ended.

Below is a great example of a live video launched by Adobe as part of its Sketch Party series. During each Sketch Party stream, Adobe films a graphic designer sketching or designing something with Creative Cloud software, such as Adobe Illustrator. While the artist is sketching something visibly on screen, they read comments and answer questions from viewers.

 

This stream allows Adobe to engage with audiences, highlight the raw talent of graphic artists, and show off how its software works at the same time.

2. Facebook

Today, more than one-quarter of videos uploaded to Facebook are live. This, plus the fact that one in five of the consumers we polled watch videos on Facebook Live most often, show that this platform might be incredibly useful for live video strategies.

Like YouTube, Facebook has the benefit of having a giant global audience that represents different ages, interests, and cultural backgrounds. While this broad audience has allowed B2B and B2C brands to effectively grow audiences on the platform, many companies have also developed successful Facebook Live tactics, too.

In the branded Facebook Live example below, a clothing store called By Alexa Rae Boutique highlights some of the clothing products that can be purchased from the store’s website.

The video is formatted like a show you’d see on the Home Shopping Network as the host shows each clothing item to the camera, explains the perks of each, and notes when items are close to sold out to encourage urgency

3. Instagram

According to our survey above, 13% of people say they watch live video on Instagram most often, making it the third most popular live platform among the group we surveyed.

Instagram has been rising in popularity for years, especially to millennial and Gen Z audiences. The success of the overall app is due in part to Stories, live video, and IGTV.

Instagram’s Live feature allows you to film streams that show up in your following’s Stories feed for 24 hours before disappearing.

Stories navigation bar on Instagram mobile app

These videos are often filmed vertically, but have similar features as YouTube Live. For instance, those recording live video are able to see and respond to questions from viewers.

Before putting time and effort into creating an Instagram Live video, it’s important to keep a few things in mind.

First of all, although Instagram will show followers that you’re live through the Stories feed and via app notifications, the live symbol — as shown above — can be very subtle and easy to miss. This is unlike Facebook, which might prioritize a live video on your followers’ News Feeds.

Another thing to note is that your content will disappear within 24 hours. However, you can send your pre-recorded streams to the IGTV tab of your profile when you’re done with them. Although these videos would no longer be live, presenting them on IGTV might get them more additional views after they’ve aired.

Non-verified users can post a video between 10 seconds and 15 minutes to IGTV, while users who are verified or have more than 10,000 followers can publish videos or streams up to one hour long to this tab.

At this point, a number of brands have already gone live on Instagram and later added this content to their IGTV tab. Below is just one example of a live post that was later shared on IGTV. In the video, a representative from Providence, R.I.-based Bolt Coffee walks viewers through how to brew iced coffee with the brand’s products:

Other Platforms for Live Video Streaming

Twitter

While Twitter allows you to connect with friends on its social network, many use the platform to follow news, trends, and topical discussions. This is why a large portion of the live videos you’ll see include news coverage, video of current events, or someone discussing a hot trend.

Despite much of the live video being dedicated to news or trends, some brands have experimented with streaming content on Twitter. One example of a brand that’s done this is Coinbase — a platform for storing and selling cryptocurrency. In a recent live stream, Coinbas’s CEO did an AMA — or Ask Me Anything — session where he answered questions submitted live by users.

Although Twitter owns Periscope, a live video streaming app, you can go live directly through the Twitter app. To do this, tap the “Compose” button, then tap the “Upload” icon which looks like a camera. Once you’re in camera mode, you can toggle from “Capture” to “Live” mode.

how to go live on twtter app

If you want to add a second video box where other Twitter users can stream with you at the same time, tap the symbol with two smiley faces in the upper right hand corner to invite guests.

Before you go live on Twitter, you should keep in mind that the platform doesn’t center around live video. While it algorithmically might show your content in a followers’ feed, Twitter does not have a specific home for past-recorded live videos like Facebook Live or YouTube Live does. This means that to see your video after it’s streamed, users will have to go to your profile or search for it.

You should also note whether one of the other platforms above might be better suited for your audience targets. While Twitter does have a large audience, consumers — such as those who took our survey — might think of Twitter as more of a general social media network rather than a live video platform.

Reddit

While Reddit was later to the game by launching live video in 2019, brands have still leveraged it quite a bit to engage with the platform’s niche communities, or subreddits.

One way brands have leveraged live streaming is by hosting live AMAs with celebrities, company leaders, or thought leaders. The AMA format originally started as text-based discussion threads in subreddits. For example, to promote Microsoft and his non-profit organizations, Bill Gates has published a number of threads in technology-related subreddits that asked his fans to ask him anything. From there, fans added their questions and he tried to answer as many as possible.

Since live video launched on Reddit, brands have re-formatted traditional AMAs into video streams. For example, Audi recently posted a series of live streams called “Think Faster.” In each live stream, celebrities sped around in one of Audi’s newest cars while answering Redditor questions. Here’s a screenshot from one of the events which featured actress, Olivia Munn.

Reddit branded live AMA stream

Twitch.tv

Twitch is one of the newest platforms on this list. However, the live-streaming site has notably gone viral as video gamers have been using it to stream their sessions.

But Twitch isn’t just for gamers anymore. At this point, a number of marketers and brands have identified ways to leverage the platform.

One major brand that won a Clio for its Twitch-based campaign was the fast-food chain, Wendy’s. In 2019, a mission set in the popular video game Fortnite, told players to harvest beef and place it in freezers of nearby restaurants to collect coins.

Because Wendy’s claims to sell, “Fresh, Never Frozen Beef,” its marketing team decided to launch a nine-hour Twitch stream where a Fortnite avatar dressed like Wendy ran around the video game attempting to destroy freezers. As a Fortnite player, you could join Wendy and help her smash the appliance.

According to the Clio sizzle reel, the Wendy’s stream began to go viral as more people logged in to watch and post in the comment thread. Gamers also began to start attacking freezers to help Wendy’s avatar.

Building a Live Video Strategy

Although live video might seem like a great opportunity to engage with your audience, it still could cost time and money to plan and produce. Like any marketing strategy, you’ll want to research the tactic before diving into it.

As you determine if live video is right for you, and identify the platforms you’ll experiment on first, it’s important to lay out what goals you’ll want to achieve with the content.

For example, if you’re interested in pulling in views or awareness from broader, more general audiences, YouTube or Facebook might be the perfect live platforms for you. Or, if you’re interested in pulling in a younger audience, you might want to consider Instagram, which has a slightly younger audience.

To help you learn more about the live video platforms and strategies out there, check out this list of live video stats.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in June 2020 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

What Are WordPress Widgets: The Beginner’s Guide

WordPress widgets are blocks of content you can use to add extra features to areas of your site such as the sidebar, header, and footer. While they may sound technical to web design beginners, widgets make it very easy to customize a site’s design without any coding skills. To find your widgets, go to “Appearance”…

The post What Are WordPress Widgets: The Beginner’s Guide appeared first on Fit Small Business.

How Do Private Equity Investors Really Impact the Retail Industry?

Myth-busting this uneasy relationship with Private Equity’s Tom Trkla, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Brookwood Financial Partners LLC

The retail landscape has experienced a continuum of constant change for the past several years, earning the term “Retail Apocalypse” its own Wikipedia page. The future of brick and mortar retail seemed to hinge on whether they could survive the loss of market share to large e-commerce retailers and navigate their relationships with Private Equity.

By late 2019, consumer preferences had clearly changed as consumers exhibited a preference to shop from the comfort of their homes, at any time they liked. Choice, convenience, and control were the defining terms of the new “digital” customer.

The market conditions in play for retailers at the outset of 2020 continued to favor the shift to online retail and the steady pattern of retail bankruptcies served as the most obvious symptom of a systemic problem. The sudden impact of the Covid-19 pandemic shuttered brick and mortar retail in early March and accentuated the pain points of the entire retail industry.

A rocky few years in retail

There were 23 retail bankruptcies in 2019, up from 17 in 2018. The trend continued in 2020, with 14 firms filing for bankruptcy as of early June. Brands as varied as Barney’s, Charming Charlies, Payless Shoes Pier 1, True Religion, and Modell’s were impacted ahead of the COVID-19 outbreak. Since that time additional big names J. Crew, Nieman Marcus, J.C. Penney, and Tuesday Morning have filed.

Pre-Covid-19, critical industry voices targeted the impact of private equity investors on the retail industry. The easy, headline-grabbing story to create is that private equity invested in and took management control of many retailers and saddled the business with enormous debt to fund what used to be described as a leveraged buyout. Combining the burden of debt service with hefty management fees and incentive compensation structures skewed in favor of the investors, and it would seem logical to conclude that the cause and effect relationship of private equity was at the root of many publicized bankruptcies.

It’s too easy to blame private equity for retail failures

But there is always another side to the story and that is what interested us in this topic. In some cases, private equity may have contributed to the hastening of the demise of some retailers in which they invested, but they shouldn’t be saddled with all the blame. My years in commercial bank lending remind me that both parties agreed to the financial agreements in place, with eyes wide open. One of the most uncomfortable conversations to have with a borrower when they are complaining about terms of a deal is to remind them “you signed the papers, didn’t you?” That said, doesn’t the retailer and its management team share responsibility with their private equity investors in its operating performance and eventual results?

The methodologies the private equity firms bring to growing retailers are intended to make operational improvements and ultimately help them grab market share vital to their success. Be as skeptical as you wish, but we should assume good intent on the part of private equity firms when the investment is made.

Researching this topic without bias, we discovered many voices, often the loudest, citing the role of private equity firms as they help with the struggles of retailers. However, the unavoidable truth is that many retailers were experiencing difficulty prior to the start of 2020, spawned through poorly defined brands, subpar inventory management, and the pressure of increasing rent, operational costs, and rising wages, all of which were accentuated by online competition. The introduction of Covid-19 into these already unstable circumstances didn’t directly trigger more bankruptcies but accentuated the continuation of a trend established over recent years.

Myth-busting: Private Equity and its Impact on Retail

Others have documented the role of private equity as is should play out, with key factors influencing a successful partnership. Experience in the sector is important and finding a firm that not only understands your brand, but the business you are in is a key to a successful partnership. As a retailer, we found that you should seek out a partner who can help you identify and build branding around what you want to be known for in the market. Whether it’s service, price, convenience, or a combination of the three, a private equity firm with seasoned executives on the team can help you find the best answers to these questions.

To better understand the perspectives of this conversation from the point of view from a private equity firm, we talked with Tom Trkla, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Brookwood Financial Partners, LLC (Brookwood). The company was focused as a private equity real estate company for over 20 years and smartly sold their entire real estate portfolio leading up the crash of 2008.

In 2015, Brookwood formed Yesway, a convenience store chain that has grown significantly through acquisition over the past 5 years and is now the #14 convenience store chain in the US based on locations. Mr. Trkla serves as the CEO of Yesway. The relationship between Brookwood and Yesway has been accretive to Yesway’s growth and financial results, in all senses of that word. Our brief interview with Mr. Trkla follows here:

Wise Marketer (WM): How did Brookwood make the initial decision to invest in the convenience and fuel channel and what can you share about your approach to that investment?

Tom Trkla (TT): The convenience retailing business had the right set of “skeletal bones” to support steady future growth. Historically, it has proven to be recession resistant and is a part of the daily life of many consumers and as has been proven during the pandemic, it is an essential business. At the worst, many convenience retailers experienced declines in inside store sales of between 10 – 25% and fuel volumes dropped by about 40%, but those numbers have rebounded dramatically since the early days of the pandemic. Sales in specific product categories (cigs, beer, lottery, and grocery items) have been strong and increasing.  Over the past four years, Brookwood has invested over $450 Million in equity in Yesway. As we were growing the company, we adopted a strategy of equity before debt for the health of the business and our recent acquisition of the Allsup’s brand in Texas last November was the first time we employed debt in any meaningful way.  

WM: Are the criticisms that private equity firms have taken relative to the fortunes of brick and mortar retail fair? Where did some of these relationships go wrong?

TT: There are well publicized statistics about there being over 1.3 million jobs lost by retailers with private equity as partners. There are a myriad of reasons that contribute to the losses, and in many cases the fundamental business had problems before the investment was made.   To be sure, there have been instances in which private equity firms charged the retail companies in which they invested exorbitant “consulting “ or “administrative” fees, saddled the companies with too much debt, and also paid themselves special dividends, which resulted in decreased equity and increased risk in the business.  In addition, most private equity funds have terms of seven to ten years and investment periods of only a couple of years.  With so much money raised in the past decades by private equity firms, there is intense pressure to get the money out. While these factors have contributed to private equity’s maligned reputation when it comes to investing in retailers, I believe that the most significant reason that so many of the investments private equity has made in the retail sector have failed is that they simply made bad business decisions, primarily due to their inability to properly understand and anticipate the impact of Amazon and other online retailers. 

WM: How has Brookwood done it differently?

TT: We take the approach that we are operators, not just investors or bankers. We look at the long term and resist the oft seen short term profit myopia. And, as I mentioned, we do not over lever the businesses in which we invest – as evidenced by our equity first approach in Yesway. Also, we will not pay the high multiples that have been characteristic of high profile acquisitions in the convenience industry over recent years.

WM: If you take a look into the future, what do you think will influence growth and success in convenience retail in the near term?

TT: A continuing focus on transforming the customer experience and embracing new technologies will be critical to continued success in convenience retailing. We are on a path to adding more speed and convenience to that experience in our Yesway and Allsup’s stores and the COVID-19 pandemic has certainly accelerated interest as an industry in creating a touchless purchasing experiences, online ordering, and curbside pickup. As an industry, we can learn a lot from other forms of retail as well. There will always be a bifurcation among convenience retailers in their adoption of technology. Some are more fearful of tech than others. Amazon Go is inspirational, but not for everyone. Considering adding something in the physical realm like a drive-thru could be another innovation helpful to future growth.

It is clear that labeling private equity firms as the villain in the current retail “apocalypse” is unfair. Then again, a broad label rarely paints an accurate picture of a situation. Each private equity firm has its unique perspective on investment and partnership, and Brookwood’s partnership with Yesway is a case worthy of study for any retailer considering outside investment. There are a host of meaningful benefits that private equity firms can provide beyond capital itself to make a significant impact on the retail industry.

The post How Do Private Equity Investors Really Impact the Retail Industry? appeared first on The Wise Marketer – Featured News on Customer Loyalty and Reward Programs.

8 Innovative & Inspiring Examples of Augmented Reality in Marketing

For now, augmented reality (AR) is still largely a novelty — AR’s newness alone contributes to its ability to surpass print, online, and television advertisements in terms of shock-factor. As The Drum reports, AR can capture people’s attention for over 85 seconds, increase interaction rates by 20 percent, and improve click-through rates to purchase by 33 percent.

Right now, people will stop and look at AR-inspired experiences, regardless of the campaign’s overall quality. But as more companies incorporate AR into their marketing strategies, and as AR technology becomes more ubiquitous, you’ll need to produce more thoughtful campaigns to impress your audience. Eventually, AR will become mainstream, and its prevalence in the industry will make it harder to compete.Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, has said that AR will one day be as important in our everyday lives as “eating three meals a day.” So, the question is — how can your marketing strategy effectively capture an audience’s attention, once AR has become commonplace?

Here, we’ll look at eight companies that use AR in innovative and inspiring ways. These examples should be all the inspiration you need to brainstorm and execute a brilliant long-term AR marketing strategy.

Augmented Reality Examples

Augmented Reality for Product Marketing

1. Home Depot

Decorating a home isn’t easy — how do you know if you’ll actually like the yellow paint that looks beautiful online, but might be too bright in your bathroom? What if that coffee table doesn’t fit in your living room like you’d hoped?

In 2015, Home Depot released their Project Color app, which uses patent technology to show users what a paint color will look like in their home. The AR technology takes into account lighting, objects, and shadows in the room, so you can see how that yellow shade will look in real life. If you don’t trust your own judgment, you can also share images from the app on social media, to get a friend’s opinion.

In 2017, Home Depot took it a step further — now, you can also use their app to check out how objects like patio furniture, faucets, and other products look in your home.

Home Depot isn’t the only home furniture store to use AR to create value for their users — Lowe’s and Ikea have similar AR technology built into their apps.

2. Timberland

If you’re anything like me, the idea of trying on items in the dressing room can sometimes deter you from shopping at all. More than once, I’ve said, “I’ll buy it, try it on at home, and return it if I don’t like it,” just to avoid the hassle of carrying a pile of clothes into a dressing room line.

In the interest of convenience and comfortability, Timberland created a virtual fitting room in Moktow Gallery in 2014. Using Kinect motion sensing technology, Timberland’s virtual fitting room allowed shoppers to see an image of their face, and a similarly-sized model body, in different outfits.

If you’re going to use AR, you’ll want to brainstorm unique ways to help your customers avoid an otherwise burdensome process. While fitting rooms might not be the end of the world (first-world problems?), Timberland stands out as a helpful brand by offering customers a fun and useful alternative.

3. Sephora

There’s a reason many women don’t buy makeup products online — it’s impossible to know if you’ll like the lip color or foundation coverage if you don’t try it on, in-store.

Sephora understands this struggle, and created an augmented reality experience, Virtual Artist App, with ModiFace to ensure Sephora app users can see how makeup products will look on their face via their phone’s camera. Users can also find out which tools or products they’ll need to apply certain products.

Additionally, Modiface’s augmented reality technology can show users the effects of months of skincare on their skin — a visual they won’t find in-store.

Bridget Dolan, Sephora’s head of innovation, appreciates the necessity of a long-term AR strategy. “When it comes to augmented and virtual reality, it can only be successful if it’s truly useful,” Bridget told Glossy. “We weren’t interested in just buzzy. A lot of things like technical accuracy and timing had to come together, and there was a time last year when, during testing, we hit a tipping point.”

Sephora’s use of augmented reality isn’t just helpful for users — it also drives sales by appealing to Sephora’s more tech-savvy consumers, and encouraging those consumers to become brand ambassadors by recording and sharing their augmented reality experiences online.

4. AMC Theaters

Delivering a message when and where your audience wants to receive it is a critical component of a successful marketing strategy. This is especially true when it comes to AR.

AMC Theaters, understanding their audience is most interested in upcoming movie trailers when they’re at the movies, incorporated AR technology into their AMC app. When a user sees a movie poster in a theatre, they can open the AMC app on their phone, scan the poster, and receive relevant information, including a cast list and a trailer.

If they’re interested in the movie after scanning, they can also purchase a ticket immediately, within the app.

Ultimately, AMC Theatres is providing optimal convenience with their use of AR — while a user can YouTube a trailer or Google a review, there’s an added incentive to check the movie out and purchase a ticket when the user can do it all in one place.

5. Taco Bell

There are two big reasons you’d visit a Taco Bell in 2012 — to try their new Doritos taco shell, or to play with their augmented-reality packaging.

Taco Bell placed an AR feature on each Locos Tacos box and soda cup for their Doritos shell campaign. When a user scanned the box with the Taco Bell app, they could see product-related Twitter and Facebook content on their phones.

By connecting their users with live social media content, Taco Bell successfully used AR to cultivate a stronger sense of community. They also showcased their brand as a major player in innovation, particularly in the fast-food industry.

6. StubHub

Augmented reality enables you to both visualize and interact with a space — two critical functions when choosing how much you’re willing to pay for a stadium seat.

For Super Bowl LII, StubHub introduced an AR feature on their mobile app that allowed ticket buyers to see a virtual 3D model of the U.S. Bank Stadium, as well as nearby parking garages and concession stands. This enabled potential buyers to visualize their full experience before purchasing, and minimized the risk of paying for a subpar seat.

StubHub’s reliance on AR solved for a common customer problem — as StubHub CTO Matt Swann points out, “We’re solving for real pain points, not just tech for the sake of tech. For a lot of people, it’s not an event you just show up for, it’s kind of a bucket list item.”

Particularly for out-of-towners, the ability to virtually compare different seat locations adds a level of comfort for hesitant buyers.

Back in 2016, the company also introduced a “virtual view” option on their app, letting ticket buyers preview their view from their seats before purchasing. The results were tremendous — StubHub saw app engagement more than double within one year.

AR and Experiential Marketing

7. Netflix

To market season two of the Netflix original series Stranger Things, the streaming company launched a series of AR/VR lenses on Snapchat. With the lens shown in the video below, users could record videos of themselves walking through one of the houses seen in the show, as monsters called Demigorgons pop out of the wall. 

Aside from this lens, which is incredibly immersive for a mobile app, Netflix has also leveraged AR filters to promote its content.  The video below highlights just a few that were featured on apps like Facebook and Snapchat. 

8. Pepsi

In 2014, Pepsi installed AR technology in a London bus shelter, making it appear as if a lion, UFOs, flying saucers, and other objects were headed straight for Londoners.

The production showcased Pepsi’s playful personality and provided the audience with an exceptional experience. Afterwards, a video of the bus shelter’s AR technology attracted over six million views on YouTube — making it one of YouTube’s most viewed advertising campaigns.

Pepsi’s campaign highlights the effectiveness of AR when a company truly knows their audience. Pepsi didn’t need to use AR to advertise their products — instead, they trusted their consumers to appreciate the surreal experience and naturally share the story with friends, creating buzz around their brand as a result.

The State of AR in Marketing

While a number of brands still can’t access AR quite yet, marketers can still take a note from how these brands creatively implemented a new technology into their content marketing strategies. 

Ultimately, as the media landscape changes and technology gets more advanced, marketers at business of different sizes might have more opportunities to implement technology. And, when they do, they’ll need to think creatively and innovatively about how they invest in it. 

To learn more about AR in marketing, check out this ultimate guide. If you want to dive deeper into virtual reality, you might enjoy this list of examples.

 

Why Content Is at the Center of Modern Customer Journeys

The Experience Makers Live virtual conference held by Adobe this summer was packed with interesting and informative keynotes and breakout sessions on a variety of topics related to modern business and marketing and sales. But there was one major theme that seemed to be the red thread, and became the point that really stuck with me: in a Covid-19 world, content and customer journeys are more important than ever. 

While so many businesses are finding ways to pivot their offerings, services, and even business models to adapt to how consumers are currently limited, those who are becoming more innovative in their content and how they engage customers throughout the customer journey are the ones who are still surviving – and even thriving – during these turbulent times. 

We know that content is king, but why is it especially so important for a modern customer journey? Let’s take a look. 

In-person events and meetings are no longer happening

When we think about a basic sales and marketing process in high-touch businesses, many of the final consideration and decision stage activities are done person-to-person between sales and a prospect. This may mean presentations, product demos, and contract negotiations are in-person, on location. But with some markets completely eliminating the possibilities for in-person meetings, and others strongly advising against it, we need to find ways to quickly adapt to being 100% online and virtual, while still keeping the same high-quality level of service that makes prospects buy.

Even in consumer-facing industries, much of the awareness and consideration stages of the customer journey happen online, though the last leg of decision making may happen in-store or with the help of a salesperson or account manager. As Gary Specter, Vice-President of Global Commercial Business at Adobe mentioned in his opening keynote, “new customers came online and loyalty has increased – showing the importance of relationships over transactions.”

Businesses of all types have had to find new, creative ways to continue to engage customers as they get to the point where they are ready to make a decision, but sales aren’t physically there to convince and convert. This is where new forms of content are taking center stage.

Without the “high-touch” activities of high touch sales, we’ve had to get creative. Product demos are now being presented via video tutorials created by marketing and/or product teams, and sales presentations are done through webcasts and video conferencing. Landing pages and even micro-sites are being deployed for more self-service information discovery and education to happen so that prospects can make informed decisions without requiring the help of a salesperson. 

All of this comes down to building more robust content strategies that take into account that every part of the customer journey is now happening digitally. When we create digital assets that replace old sales methods, we create more scalable opportunities for engaging prospects and customers in new ways. 

Content is the best way to be helpful, relevant, informative, and timely

When it comes down to it, content is the best way to convey to your audiences just how great your business and products or services are. But the greatest advantage of content, and marketing tools like Marketo Engage, is that the right content can be delivered to the right audiences at the right time. Now, the tempo of content delivery is at an all-time high, and the subject of that content is shifting. As Gary Specter says, the businesses who are succeeding now have “erred on the side of over-communicating.”

In Adobe Senior Director Chris Parkin’s presentation, “Redefining the Future with Digital Transformation,” he made the point that agile communications are non-negotiable for businesses in the future. His advice: “Create proactive, personalized, and timely communications aligned to customer and employee content (segment, need, location),” giving the example of how Adobe has become more helpful in their engagement strategies, saying they “rapidly pivoted customer messaging from products to authentic ways Adobe could help accelerate digital transformation and help our customers be more resilient and prepared for emergencies.” 

Without altering content delivery, businesses who push products rather than solutions may falter in appearing sensitive, relevant or helpful enough to buyers. In times of crisis or uncertainty, the businesses who show how they can help and support their customers navigate and adapt together will be the ones to succeed. Content is the best way to show and tell audiences at every stage of the customer journey how you plan to do this. 

The importance of content isn’t new, but the types of content we deploy and how we are utilizing it throughout the customer journey is changing forever. If there’s one thing I learned from Experience Makers Live, it’s that adapting to how customers are now wanting and needing to be engaged comes down to creating new forms of content that speak to how we can help them succeed in the long term. 

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