What Is a Creative Agency? What to Know Before You Hire One

Building a brand doesn’t happen overnight. It takes a lot of work to forge strong relationships with people—and much of that work is done through marketing. Unless you have a powerhouse internal team to help you tell your story, it’s likely you’ll need a little support in crafting and executing your marketing strategy. But searching for someone to help you do that can be confusing. There are all sorts of agencies out there, so how do you know whether you should hire a creative agency, a digital agency, or an ad agency?

Here, we’ll break down everything you need to know about creative agencies, helping you understand what they are, why they’re different, and how to find one.

So, What Is a Creative Agency?

A creative agency is a term for an agency that offers a variety of services that fall under the umbrella of marketing and advertising. Basically, if you need any type of creative strategy, work, or promotion, they can help you get it done.

While some creative agencies specialize in one thing more than another, they usually provide:

Strategy Services

  • Advertising strategy
  • Brand Strategy
  • Content Strategy
  • Marketing Strategy
  • Social Media Strategy

Measurement and Analysis

Content Creation (AKA “Creative”)

  • Annual Reports
  • Case Studies
  • Blogs & Articles
  • Branding
  • Copywriting
  • Copyediting
  • Content Planning & Publishing
  • Data visualization
  • Ebooks
  • Explainer Videos
  • Graphic Design
  • Infographics
  • Interactives
  • Animated Video
  • Motion Graphics
  • Presentations
  • White Papers
  • Video
  • Motion Graphics (or Animated Video)
  • Microcontent
  • Photography
  • Web Design & Development

Communications Services

  • Media Buys
  • Paid Placement
  • Sponsored Content
  • Influencer Marketing
  • PR

In short, a creative agency is a creative partner that will help your brand tell its story.

What Does a Creative Team Look Like?

A creative agency is comprised of a variety of experts who can support your brand’s strategy. In general, that includes a mix of the following:

  • Art Director
  • Creative Director
  • Brand and Content Strategists
  • Account Directors/Managers
  • Producers
  • Writers & Editors
  • Videographers
  • Web Designers & Developers
  • Graphic Designers
  • Content Distribution Specialists

Depending on its structure, some creative agencies also work with expert partners, such as a video production house.

What’s the Difference Between a Creative Agency and Other Agencies?

This is a common question. While some agencies may provide services that overlap with a creative agency, many agencies focus on one particular service or category, such as:

  • Design agency: An agency that offers design services for a variety of visual mediums, including print and digital.
  • Digital agency: The moniker typically reserved for an agency focused on digital marketing strategy, often focused on SEO and lead generation.
  • Advertising agency: An agency focused specifically on advertising (digital, TV, radio, print, etc.). It may or may not provide marketing services.
  • PR agency: An agency that offers promotional and content distribution services to maximize brand awareness.
  • SEO agency: An agency focused on various on-site and search marketing strategies and tactics to increase traffic and lead gen.
  • Social media agency: Specializes in social strategies and, oftentimes, the management of social media accounts.

A creative agency usually encompasses one or more of these services.

How Can a Creative Agency Help You?

There are many services a creative agency provides. Whether you need them to fill in the gaps in your marketing team or take the reigns entirely, a creative agency can help…

  • Craft strategy. If you don’t know what you’re doing, not sure if you’re doing the right thing, or not sure where to start, a creative agency can provide the guidance you need to achieve your marketing goals.
  • Support your existing strategy. If you know what you want to do but need help executing your strategy, a creative agency can provide that support, whether it’s content creation, media placement, editorial planning, or social media advertising.
  • Provide expert knowledge and resources. A good creative agency has experience and insight to help improve your results. They know what works, what doesn’t, where trends are moving, etc. They also have a larger network of content creators who can help you (even if they themselves don’t provide the services you’re looking for).

You can also find full-service creative agencies that specialize in your particular industry or offering, such as B2B tech or entertainment.

How Do You Know If You Need One?

Not everyone needs a creative agency, particularly if you have a solid operation or an in-house team that is capable of executing your marketing strategy. However, you might consider using a creative agency if you…

  • Don’t have the resources. Some brands find it difficult to execute their strategy due to limited means, accessibility, or availability. A creative agency can help support your strategy with the infrastructure you need.
  • Don’t have the knowledge. A creative agency is staffed by expert creators who have the skills and expertise to create all types of content—and, most importantly, adhere to best practices.
  • Don’t have the bandwidth. Your team may be bogged down with other projects, meaning your marketing projects are delayed or backburnered indefinitely. A creative agency can help you create consistent, quality content at scale.
  • Are struggling to get results. If your current strategy isn’t delivering the results you want, a creative agency can advise you on how to tweak, improve, or revise your strategy.

If you’re still not sure if an agency can help you, here’s how to figure out if you need one.

How Do You Find One?

Not all creative agencies are right for your needs. We recommend interviewing several to ensure they’re the right fit for your brand. To help you narrow it down, check out these 12 things to look for in a creative agency.

How Do You Get the Best Work From an Agency?

A good creative agency is focused on building a long-term relationship with your brand, functioning as a true creative partner and not just a gun for hire. To get the most from your agency, follow these tips to build a strong relationship with your agency, try these tactics to work together more effectively, and determine how you’ll split the workload up front.

Written by Katy French for Business2Community and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Featured image provided by Business2Community

Brand Storytelling: 5 Ways to Create a Customer-Centric Narrative

Narratives compel us. They’re familiar. They’re memorable (22 times more memorable than facts, according to one psychologist). So it’s no wonder that in an era of constant digital sharing and connection, companies who master brand storytelling are achieving – and maintaining – a global following. Businesses can engage with potential customers and make lasting impressions if they tell compelling stories about who they are and what they represent. But too often, brands focus their stories on promoting their products/services. They feign caring about world problems without real action. And they share text-heavy descriptions, facts and statistics with their audiences instead of more engaging, visual posts. For brand storytelling success, customers must be at the center of the narrative.

This doesn’t mean you can’t ever mention your products/services, but they should come secondary to the real, human element at the heart of your message. The customer should be the main character of your narrative because consumers want to do business with honest, empathetic companies. A Sprout Social survey revealed that honesty ranked highest among a list of behaviors consumers want from brands. What’s more, the most empathetic companies are among the most profitable in the world. One of the best ways to shift your focus to consumers – and boost engagement – is to harness the power of customer-led storytelling. When you showcase the consumer perspective, your audience will see themselves reflected in your story and feel more a part of your brand. Read more to find out how to create customer-centric storytelling.

Brand Storytelling: First things first

To start, iron out the basics of your anchor story to show why your brand exists and matters: its history, challenges, successes and values. With clear conflict, challenge and resolution, establish the story you want to tell, keeping it simple and consistent. Then, adapt your brand voice to tell that story with the customer, not the business itself, in the spotlight. Once you do, you will see more traffic to your channels as well as an increase in customer trust and loyalty. Here are some ways to get you there:

Hone your hashtag game

Create a few signature hashtags for your brand, and make those hashtags extremely visible. Invite customers to share and tag images of themselves on social media using your products or services. Place these invites in your product packaging or digital purchase communications, and remind customers purchasing in person, if possible. Use your website and social media channels to promote your hashtag. Offer incentives, competitions or prizes for customers who use it. Increased customer sharing will expand brand awareness and bring new customers.

Give up the reins for a bit

As carefully as you plan every aspect of your digital presence, turning one of your channels over to your customers for a brief time can be a scary but worthwhile practice. Let consumers take the lead to tell your story by hosting a social media takeover. This allows customers to share their thoughts, photos and opinions on your platform to a much broader audience than they’re accustomed to. You could invite influential customers to participate in a customer-led Q&A session, document an event from their perspective or share a day-in-the-life through photos and videos. Another way is to invite customers to write posts on your blog. There a plenty of options, but the key is to use outreach strategies offering a range of digital mediums for customers to help tell your story by sharing their own on your channels, with monitoring of course.

Feature visual case studies

Share customer successes by telling those stories – visually and from the customer’s perspective. People are interested in people, and these case studies are an excellent way to intrigue audiences with real people’s problems. And showcasing your products as an effective solution to those problems is an added bonus. The important thing to remember about this style of brand storytelling is that it must be focused on the customers, not the products, to achieve an authentic feel. Also, people process images 60,000 times faster than text, so tell these stories through a visually stimulating medium. Reach out to satisfied customers, who will likely be excited to share their stories on your platform.

Tap into your community

Consider the town or city where your business is based. Tune into what’s going on in your community, and look for what might connect to your company’s mission or products. Use brand storytelling to share stories about people and events in your community that relate to your brand. Sure, it’s a great idea to actually get involved and document any philanthropic work you do. But you should also feature the great work and stories of others, which will expand your reach and reinforce the values at the center of your business.

Share video reviews

Your customers have likely already published video reviews of your products/services. Find the most flattering ones and share them on your website and social media pages. If your business or products are new and reviews aren’t out there yet, create opportunities for user-generated reviews by encouraging your customers to upload honest feedback via video. Give them a platform for submitting or posting their reviews, and share the ones that best highlight your brand.

When you find ways to regularly publish user-generated stories, your brand storytelling strategy establishes an authentic, relevant voice among consumers. It would be foolish not to tap into such an accessible resource to demonstrate the value of your business. Your customers live the lifestyle your brand represents, and they trust their peers’ voices. Let them help you tell your story!

Written by Bonnie Harris for Business2Community and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Featured image provided by Oliver Dumoulin

Why These 5 Brands Succeed with Minimal Marketing

The marketing game has shifted a ton over the last century—and it’s undergone yet another dramatic revolution in just the last decade. With the rise of online platforms, shifting consumer values, and an increasingly cluttered media landscape, traditional methods of promotion have become less effective.

Most companies that want to make a name for themselves are shifting their approach, pursuing content marketing and engagement marketing to build relationships with people, yet some successful brands have forsaken these forms of marketing altogether.

This isn’t something most of us can get away with, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t something to be learned from these bold brands.

From cars to condiments, these impressive brands have created such a strong brand identity that fans naturally flock to them. No matter your industry, they may inspire you to rethink how you put your brand front and center.

1) Supreme

Fashion brand Supreme has firmly anchored itself as the ultimate tastemaker in the industry, cultivating an air of cool that has celebs and collectors lusting after their products. While the skatewear brand once advertised in its early days, it has evolved into a powerhouse that deals exclusively in street cred.

Their creative collaborations with high-profile brands (including Nike and Louis Vuitton) have made headlines, as have their novelties (including a Supreme-branded brick that now resells for $1,000). But it’s their restraint and exclusivity that has made them so popular. Everything from their products to their website is an expression of minimalism (FYI, their site doesn’t even have a metadescription), so it’s no surprise their marketing is practically non-existent, save for art film-esque clips and short announcements.

One of the “random” videos on their site, this short film shows the production of a Supreme-branded edition of the New York Post_._

Why They Succeed: Supreme thrives on buzz and an established relationship with their rabid fanbase. Their exclusivity and effortlessness is the hallmark of the brand, making people feel that any bit of new information or sneak peek of a collection is a huge gift.

2) Trader Joe’s

In marketing land, Trader Joe’s seems like a total anomaly. Their only marketing is their Fearless Flyer a simple, low-budget newsletter produced eight times a year, and they don’t have a social media presence.

What they do have is a strong brand experience, consistent throughout the store. Sampling is their largest “marketing” expense, the artwork and signage in their stores is handmade by artists, and their team members are friendly, cheerful, and personable. They don’t need to market who they are because they show you the minute you step into the store.

Fearless Flyler brand marketing magazine
. Business2Community

The February 2019 Fearless Flyer features product roundups and more.

Why They Succeed: They know exactly who their people are: well-educated shoppers who are intentional about their purchases and less likely to be swayed by traditional advertising. Thus, they focus on delivering on their brand promise: high-quality goods at affordable prices. As marketing costs money, it’s counterintuitive to jack up their prices to cover the costs.

3) Common Projects

Similar to Supreme, shoe brand Common Projects has built a cult following and major caché by approaching marketing the way they approach product creation: adopting a minimalist philosophy.

The brand was launched to serve a sneaker need: shoes that bridge the gap between athletic sneakers and dress shoes. Thus, they focus on clean lines, high quality, and a minimal aesthetic, which translates to their marketing as well. Their social presence is rarely updated, their business boasts just 5 employees, and they have no official HQ.

Common projects brands marketing
. Business2Community

The Common Projects website is pure minimalism.

Why They Succeed: They apply their philosophy to every aspect of their brand. Minimalism is not just their aesthetic; it’s a way of life. This understated, reserved approach to branding is one way they demonstrate their brand values, which highly resonates with their buyers—people with a penchant for style, quality, and efficiency.

4) Tesla

Most automobile companies are huge players in the ad game, but Tesla has taken a comparatively reserved approach. (In 2014 they spent $48.9 million on marketing, whereas General Motors spent $5.2 billion.)

For example, when they released a kids’ version of the electric Model S, they garnered buzz simply by retweeting customers’ home videos.

#MondayMotivation Idris Lay, a patient on our Rose Ward, has been taking a spin around the Royal Brompton Hospital after @TeslaOwnersUK surprised our paediatrics ward with a mini Tesla model. Read more Idris’ speedy ride around here https://t.co/fnPlyq28XG pic.twitter.com/Cbm1ymJefk

— RB&H Charity (@RBHCharity) February 11, 2019

Word of mouth and the ongoing antics of founder Elon Musk have created a brand full of intrigue and interest, leaving fans waiting to see what they’ll come up with next.

Why They Succeed: Tesla is largely focused on disrupting through innovation. Thus, they’re simply focused on creating the best product out there. Musk has said he’d rather put ad money into building a better product, and it shows, as their products speak for themselves.

5) Sriracha

How did this popular brand become one of the most popular condiments without ever spending on advertising? With a great recipe. Founder David Tran started off selling his homemade recipe in recycled baby bottle jars, networking with local markets and restaurants to get his product into the world.

Some 30 years later, the sauce has become a staple in the U.S. and around the world, thanks to word of mouth. Sriracha has never advertised and still has no social presence.

Why They Succeed: The brand has always let the product speak for itself. Even when Sriracha was sued by the city of Irwindale in 2013 after residents complained about the factory’s chili odors, Tran decided to invite the community into the factory to let them see the manufacturing process themselves.

After creating a filtration system for the odors, Sriracha began public tours, attracting 3,000 people a weekend. Most importantly, each person leaves with a small sample—always keeping the product in people’s hands.

Watch Master Sushi Chef Hiroyuki Terada’s tour of the factory.

How to Build Your Brand Through Marketing (Because You Have To)

We can’t all ditch our marketing efforts, but there are plenty of ways to build a strong community and connect with people to build a lasting brand—even using some of the tactics of these anomaly brands.

  1. Craft your brand strategy. Knowing who you are, what you’re trying to achieve, and how you’re going to do it is crucial to your brand success, whether or not your pursue traditional marketing channels. If you’ve never done one before, use our guide to craft a brand strategy.
  2. Know your voice. Whether it’s your website copy or Twitter feed, learn how to find and hone your brand voice in all communication.
  3. Share your brand story. Whether you’re telling the story of how your company was founded or offering a glimpse into your manufacturing process, there are plenty of ways to bring people into your brand story.
  4. Uncover the stories in your data. Proprietary data is one of the best sources of original content.
  5. Turn your culture into compelling content. Culture marketing is a fantastic way to peel back the curtain and showcase the people behind your brand.
  6. Lead with your beliefs. People want to support brands that share their same values.
  7. Build a strong brand identity. Your visual presence tells your brand story as much as your words do.

Written by Katy French for Business2Community and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Featured image provided by Erik Mclean

Content Promotion Strategies: How to Supercharge Your Content

There’s no doubt that content marketing is a powerful strategy. But what happens when the content you create doesn’t get the attention you want? That’s where content promotion strategies can help.

Content promotion is the use of additional strategies, both paid and unpaid, that get your content more exposure.

Think of it this way. Your content is like a flame. On its own, it will remain the same size or dwindle. But if you want to ignite that flame into a blazing fire, you need to feed and nurture it. So too with you content. Without promotion, your content may ignite but then quickly die out.

Why Your Brand Needs to Promote Content

Google any topic within your industry and see how many results appear. I’d bet that you’re confronted with a slew of content from nearly every brand in the industry.

That is what we call content shock — so much content has flooded the annals of the internet, that it’s often overwhelming.

Content Promotion
. Business2Community

How can your content breakthrough?

Enter content promotion. With a combination of free and paid promotion options, you can put the spotlight on your content, making it easier for your audience to find you and engage.

In one study, it was found that 47% of buyers engage with 3-5 pieces of content before engaging with a sales rep. So having content that your audience can find and engage with can be crucial to your overall B2B marketing strategy.

Promoting your content ensures that it reaches the right audience and moves them towards purchasing.

What strategies and tactics should you use to promote your content? Let’s examine the best ways — both paid and unpaid — to accomplish this.

1. Research Topics with Quora

Quora is an online platform where people post questions. Many times these questions ask about industry subjects. As an expert in your industry, you can use your knowledge to answer questions, while also exposing people to your brand.

Quora is also an excellent tool for content ideas.

People often ask questions there because they’ve failed to find answers elsewhere on the internet. This leaves a space that your brand can fill. Research what questions people ask on Quora and then create a blog post or other content that provides a satisfying answer. You can then link to your content in your Quora answer.

2. Leverage Newsjacking

Content Promotion (1)
. Business2Community

What is newsjacking? The practice of using a popular news story to amplify your B2B marketing and content strategy.

Let’s take a page from Market Watch’s book. Back in 2014, at the height of the fame of the hit TV series The Walking Dead, Market Watch published a post entitled 7 management lessons from “The Walking Dead”. This took a normally dry subject and infused life into it by relating it to a popular subject of everyday conversation.

Newsjacking can take many forms. As you create content, take the time to look at major events happening in the news. For example, this could include holidays, national events, or international news.

A word of caution is in order: When the story you newsjack is of a sobering nature (such as a natural disaster), treat it with the levity and delicacy it deserves. Otherwise, this strategy could backfire in a major way. If you have any reservations, don’t newsjack.

3. Create Content with an Influencer

Influencers are noted individuals who have become authorities within an industry — and who have a social following that matches. Is it effective? Very — as evidenced by the 94% of marketers who have used influencer marketing and believe it works.

Working together to create content gives each of you the opportunity to add your individual insights and benefit from sharing the content.

This kind of partnership gives you access to an influencer’s audience’s base and them to yours. Be aware that when you work with influencers, it has to be beneficial for both sides. This could mean monetary compensation for the partnership or some other arrangement. You’ll need to work out those details with each influencer.

4. Engage on Social Media

Social media has become an essential part of any B2B marketing strategy. Social media promotion can be done one of two ways — organically and through paid ads. At the moment, let’s focus on organically promoting your content on social media — and address paid promotion later in this post.

Promoting your content on social media is not without its challenges. Between complex network algorithms and human nature, it can be difficult to reach and capture the interest of your audience. But it’s not hopeless.

First, pay attention to the quality of your content. Don’t create content for content’s sake — take your time and make sure that your audience will find it valuable. Studies show that long-form content performs the best on social media, so put in extra work to make it as comprehensive as possible.

Another aspect of social media success is your profile. It’s no sense having amazing content if your profile doesn’t support it. An ideal social media profile includes high-quality images, all your information in the right place, and a company bio that showcases your company culture.

5. Plan an Event

Nothing excites audiences like an industry event. Whether it’s a conference, trade show, or an online event like a webinar, such an event gives you the chance to connect with your audience and amplify your content.

Your presence and participation at such an event leaves a major impression on your audience. It brings your brand to the top of attendees’ minds. Use this to your advantage by referencing key pieces of content throughout the event.

There are a number of avenues at such events where you would be in a position to promote your content. For example, you could…

  • Volunteer for a public speaking engagement
  • Incorporate event-related hashtags in your social posts
  • Participate in a podcast interview
  • Create and publish event-related content
  • Publish key takeaways from the event

6. Repurpose Your Content

Content Promotion (3)
. Business2Community

Think of repurposing content like doing a home renovation. It involves taking what you love and making it even better.

Take a piece of content that you and your audience savor — perhaps it’s a blog post that people have devoured or an infographic that has gotten a lot of shares on social media. Then take steps to improve on it.

Improving your content could be as simple as adding more information and changing the title to reach new audiences. You could also transform it completely into another asset, such as a checklist or a video.

Such repurposing bolsters your content marketing strategy and helps that content to pique the interest of new audiences.

7. Pay to Promote on Social

While organic social media is a valuable strategy — especially if you have the audience to back it up — paying to promote your content can give it the extra boost it needs to reach new audiences.

Content Promotion (4)
. Business2Community

Social ads aren’t just for gated content campaigns, such as an ebook you’re promoting. It can also be used to promote your blog posts, infographics, and videos. Learn all you can about your audience and use that data to target audiences likely to be the most interested in your content.

Social media promotion isn’t an exact science. A lot will depend on your specific industry and target audience. You may need to go back to the drawing board a few times before you get the right combination that resonates with your audience. But it’s definitely worth the effort.

As an added bonus, research shows that paid promotion on social networks like Facebook also boosts your content’s search engine ranking.

8. Use Search Engine Marketing

Who of us doesn’t use search engines like Google to find what we need? Our audiences do the exact same thing. While there are SEO strategies to help you land on Google organically, paid ads on Google Adwords can also give you an advantage.

Do your research to find out which keywords would be the most helpful for your brand. Choose a keyword that gets large search volume but also has fairly low competition. Those two factors will ensure that it’s the most effective but also won’t strain your wallet.

_ In review… _

8 Content Promotion Strategies You Need to Know
. Business2Community

Competition for content is fierce — but content promotion strategies like these can help your great content really hit the mark with your audience.

Written by Wendy Marx for Business2Community and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Featured image provided by Vinayak Sharma

The Dos and Don’ts of Social Media Marketing

Using social media for marketing purposes is a trend that isn’t going away anytime soon. In fact, year after year, global social ad spending is increasing: From 2014 to 2016, spending for social media marketing nearly doubled: from $16 billion in 2014 to $31 billion in 2016.

70% of people in North America use social media daily, and they are using social media more time each day than they spend watching television. This all means that using social media to market your company really is a worthwhile investment.

When done correctly, using various social media accounts can help you develop deeper personal relationships with your customers. It also can quickly spread the word about promotions, values, and deals, create a stronger brand persona, and increase brand engagement. But what does it mean to do social media “correctly?”

Using social media to promote your business is different than using your personal Facebook account to share pictures of your kids on the first day of school. It requires finesse, and a thorough understanding of what your customers are looking for. There are countless ways to use social media to connect with your audience; some better than others. Let’s explore some of the best (and worst) social media practices.

Do Remember the Best Times to Post

Just the timing of your posting can be an art in itself. Think about the people who you follow, or the people on your friends list who post everything they do, all day long.

Not always great, right? You want to be selective about what, when, and how frequently you post, so you aren’t inundating your followers with too many posts. Also, be sure you are posting when the most people will actually see your content.

There are varying recommendations on when is the best time to post to your company’s social media pages. Hootsuite says that between 9:00 and 12:00 AM early in the week is a great time to post. Hubspot suggests posting around 9:00 AM for Facebook and Twitter, and around 5:00 PM for Instagram. There’s lots of data out there suggesting when is the most effective time to post.

Do your research and then see what times work best for you. When do you get the best results from a post?

You don’t have to stick hard and fast to this rule. If you have breaking news, you should share it right away. And you can certainly post during a time of day that isn’t considered a “peak” time. Eventually, you’ll start to learn the best time to interact with your audience and have a better sense of when you have better results.

Don’t Ignore One (or Any) of Your Accounts

Have you started multiple accounts on multiple social media platforms to “keep up with the times?” If all you’ve done is start an account, but you haven’t done much of anything else with it, not only is it not serving your brand, it could actually harm your reputation.

For example, if a potential client attempts to contact your company with a question via an ignored social media account, you could leave them feeling abandoned and without an answer. Or, a visitor to your abandoned Instagram account may feel like you’re not approachable or not current.

If cyber tumbleweeds are rolling through the main street of your account, it’s doing nothing to positively represent your brand and may give your brand the appearance of inaction, inattention, or neglect. Not good.

Instead:

Only sign up for as many accounts as you can reliably handle, and when you post on one account, post something on all your accounts. Automation apps and software can help you do this.

Too busy for Twitter, or not interested in regularly posting videos or updates to Snapchat? That’s absolutely okay. If you have a good grasp on just one or two social media platforms, that’s great! Take on whatever it is you can manage well, and your followers and clients will see your social media accounts as an additional way to consistently interact with and learn about your brand.

Do Use Various Kinds of Media

Just like the way you don’t publish text-only blog posts (because that would be boring), you also want to vary the kinds of ways you are delivering information to your audience. With just a smartphone, a video editing app, and a YouTube account, you can create videos to share on your various social media platforms.

There are tools available all over the internet to create your own shareable infographics and even more information out there on how to make a great one. You can also share photos and short videos on Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, Twitter, and Facebook, or even “go live” to make an announcement, share information about a sale or promotion. In fact, 82% of people prefer a live stream from a brand to social posts, and 80% of people prefer a live video to a blog post.

Also, 62% of audiences are more likely to buy a product online after watching a video. You can’t ignore the fact that video, especially live streaming, is highly effective.

Think of it like creating a really delicious tossed salad: The more quality ingredients you include, the more interesting and delicious your salad can be. The more varied your posts, the more captivating they will be for your customers.

Don’t Ignore Comments or Questions

Social media is supposed to be just that: Social. Your followers and customers are going to want to use social media to engage with you. You will notice an influx of questions and comments in the hours, and even days, following a post, and you have to know how to handle them.

If you receive an overwhelming response from the community on one particular post, that can be stressful. Do you have to respond to every single comment? The answer is “no.” Replying to every comment is not only time consuming, but unnecessary. But there are times you should definitely respond.

Sometimes, followers will use your accounts to ask questions. And sometimes you may end up with a negative review. These questions and reviews are opportunities, and you can’t ignore them. Responding to a negative review or comment is a great way to engage with a dissatisfied customer and turn around their impression of your brand.

And answering questions engages with audience members who are looking for assistance, and lets them know that your company cares about helping their clients.

Instead:

Take a second to cool down before you respond to a negative comment – you can’t fight fire with fire. Search for the true intent or real frustration behind the words in their post, and thoughtfully, authentically respond to try and help right the situation.

You can even invite a dissatisfied client to contact you directly. This is a great opportunity to mend your working relationship, and model your outstanding customer service to any other followers who have noticed the negative comment.

Do Offer Solutions

One of the best ways to engage with your audience is to help them solve an existing problem. If you’ve done your research about your buyer persona, you probably already have a decent idea of the problems many of your customers are hoping to solve. So how can you solve them?

Your social media posts can be a great opportunity to present easy, clickable solutions to solve your audience’s problems.

Don’t Forget to Include Links

You must include links to a landing page, a blog page, a page to shop, a contact us page – or anything specific that will get your followers over to your website. Your goal on social media is to connect with your followers, but it’s also to convert followers to customers!

The best way to help them do that? Include links in your posts to your website so they know where to go, and so it’s easy to get there.

If a customer has to loop back to your bio or search for a link, you’ll lose them. One great way to make a link easy?

Try the “swipe up” feature on your Instagram story. Hubspot claims that Instagram stories have accounted for an increase of 10 additional minutes that people spend on the app. But this doesn’t mean anything if they can’t get to your website! If you have 10,000 or more followers already, adding a “swipe up” should be easy to do.

Don’t have quite that many followers yet? Here are a few ways to link via Instagram if they haven’t given you the magical “swipe up” feature just yet.

Do Make It (Somewhat) Personal

Your social media accounts are a great way for your followers and customers to get to know your company better. With this being said, you should consider your online tone of voice, and how it matches your brand’s mission.

Sparknotes is a great example of this. Because they cater to students, their social media posts involve a lot of fun and funny memes to increase engagement. Their posting style and sense of humor match that of their audience.

But why does this humor-based marketing work for them? Because it matches their “buyer persona,” and it’s authentic to Sparknotes and to their followers. If your company’s tone of voice doesn’t fit this style, it won’t ring true with your audience. Find what works for you: Empowering, motivational posts, humorous posts, news-based posts. Whatever it is that matches your brand, that what you should go with.

You can also use your social media accounts to introduce your audience to your team. Try an Instagram takeover from a dynamic employee during a promotion, or spotlight a team member’s exceptional work on your accounts. Let your customers in and let them get to know you.

Social media can be a fantastic tool that can further connect existing customers to your brand, and help you find new customers in the process -if you do it right. The main “Do?” Be authentic. We all spend so much time on social media that we can tell when a person or brand is trying too hard to create an online presence that isn’t authentic to who they are.

So if you use your social media accounts to show off your brand’s “true self,” and you’re smart about the kind of content you share, you can’t go wrong.

Written by Ashley Hill for Business2Community and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Featured image provided by NordWood Themes

3 Questions About Successful Content Marketing

Recently, a woman in a business forum I belong to asked three very important questions about content marketing. I answered them for her there, and then asked her permission to share the questions and my answers for you here because I think these are the kinds of universal questions many business owners have, but may struggle to articulate — or be afraid to ask.

1) How do you create a content strategy that is deep, meaningful and helpful that doesn’t add to the noise?

This requires some deep, meaningful soul searching. We’re looking for the intersection between

a) your brand values,
b) your customer’s values and
c) industry trends and data (eg: what’s popular and converting right now).

Finding THAT sweet spot is how you create content that transcends the noise and speaks to your exact person.

This is what I’m calling leadership marketing; leadership, because it requires stepping away from the template, the blueprint, the formula, the swipe file and creating something new. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel, but we do need to combine the different elements of marketing available to us in a unique way that finds the sweet spot for our business, our customers, and ourselves.

I have a three step process I lead people through to try to find that sweet spot that starts with understanding your big WHY as it relates to your business; trying to understand your customer’s wants, needs, and values; and examining your data to help locate that sweet spot for you.

All of this has to happen before we brainstorm topics, or choose which channels to focus on, or decide if you should start a podcast or stop doing video blogs… Identifying your leadership marketing sweet spot is the first and most important step.

2) How do you create multiple forms of content (text, audio, video) without burning out?

Repurpose, reuse, recycle. I refer to this as the “hub and spoke” model of content creation. Every time you create a big juicy “hub” piece of content (a blog post, a video, a podcast episode, etc.) there should be many smaller “spoke” pieces of content that you use on your different channels to direct people back to the main hub content.

To make this work easily, efficiently, and effectively, you’ve GOT to have a plan. The hub content has to be specifically chosen to have the most impact for your business and your clients right now, and then you have to have a plan for how you’re going to create all that spoke content.

For example, I met a woman recently who produces one video for her business each month on a topic that she chooses based on what she wants to sell. Then, her team takes that video and creates at least 30 pieces of “spoke” content from it: quote graphics for instagram, excerpts from the transcript for Facebook, video clips, tips, audio clips, still images, etc. Those pieces of spoke content go out to all her social media channels over the course of the month, and they all point back to the video, which in turn has a strong call to action to either get on her email list or buy her product.

The only way to make this sort of plan work is to have a strong Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for creating that spoke content and then, when you’re ready, you can outsource a lot of the associated tasks. Which brings us to…

3) How do you maintain an online presence without getting distracted from the core of the business (which is to transform people’s lives)?

This is really the crux of the issue, isn’t it? How do we balance the time and effort that goes into marketing our business with the time and effort that goes into actually doing the work, serving clients, transforming lives?

In some seasons of business, it’s tempting to spend all our time just serving clients, because that’s where the transformation happens. It’s satisfying to do the work in a way that marketing isn’t. There’s often a clear beginning and end point to the actual work we do, whereas marketing seems to go on forever.

Plus, when we’re flush with clients, marketing seems less important. It falls to the “important, but not urgent” quadrant of our to do list, and other tasks start winning out when we have to make a choice about how to spend our time.

But here’s the thing: if you don’t invest in your marketing, you won’t reach as many people as you could, which means you won’t be able to impact as many people as you might otherwise be capable of. The other reality is that if you’re not marketing when you’re busy, you won’t have the leads to tap when you’re not. (I’m speaking from experience!)

That means we have to find a way to prioritize marketing, even when it doesn’t feel urgent, even when it feels like a distraction from the real work — or we will find ourselves struggling in the future when the “real” work dries up.

The answer for most business owners is: you do it until you don’t have to. Meaning, you have to be the one to create the content until you are ready to invest in someone to do part (like a VA) or all of it for you (like my agency).

Depending on where you are in your business, you may need to create a minimum viable marketing plan, asking yourself, what is the minimum useful amount of marketing I can commit to in this stage of my business.

Once you are a bit further along in business, you can outsource some of the tasks to free you up to the things only you can do, like creating new thought leadership or shooting videos. Eventually, you may want to outsource the bulk of your content so that you can focus on serving clients, creating new product ideas, or just being the CEO.

It’s all a balancing act: time versus money. Whichever you have more of is the one you use to invest. When you’re just starting out, maybe you don’t have money to invest, so you must find a way to invest your time in doing your own marketing. As you grow, your time becomes more and more of a premium, and you can afford to invest some money in getting help.

But no matter where you are in your entrepreneurial journey, you cannot afford to ignore your marketing; you must find a way to invest in it — even minimally — if you hope to continue to grow.

Written by Lacy Boggs for Business2Community and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Featured image provided by Green Chameleon

Digital Marketing vs. Content Marketing: What You Need to Know

Modern marketing has undergone an evolution, and you’ve most likely come across common terminologies such as “digital marketing” and “content marketing.” Businesses use both types to share news, products and stories, and to promote their brand and engage with their audience. These marketing strategies often intermingle, and it can be confusing to know what the differences are between the two.

In this article, I’ll breakdown the components of both content marketing and digital marketing.

Digital Marketing vs. Content Marketing

Websites, blogging, and social media advertising are all part of digital marketing.

What is Digital Marketing?

The introduction of the personal computer ushered us into the digital age. More than four decades later, we have a plethora of digital devices at our fingertips. With that in mind, it shouldn’t be surprising that digital marketing covers a wide range of tools and tactics designed to create brand awareness and name recognition for brands.

Digital marketing includes:

  1. Websites
  2. Blogging
  3. Guest Blogging
  4. Search Engine Optimization
  5. Search Engine Marketing
  6. Social Media Marketing
  7. Social Media Advertising
  8. Other Online Advertising
  9. Email Marketing
  10. Video Marketing
  11. Influencer Marketing
  12. Infographic Creation & Promotion
  13. Podcasting
  14. Webinars
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Blogs can increase inbound marketing and SEO.

Websites, Blogging and SEO

Websites are one of the most popular ways to showcase products or services and create brand awareness for your target audience. For the consumer, a website is a vital source of information and helps them make decisions about purchasing your products and services; it also provides pertinent information or reviews.

A blog is a collection of written articles about products, services and other helpful and interesting information that’s related to your business; it is part of many websites. Blog articles are usually conversational in style, informative, and can describe a service, experience, or share tips, tricks and other insights. Both B2C and B2B marketing use blogging, and in Hubspot’s Marketing Statistics for 2018, research showed that 55% of marketers defined blogging as their most important inbound marketing channel.

Blogging can help a brand establish a successful digital marketing campaign in several ways. One of the long-term benefits is that it creates more written materials to support a brand, product or service. In return, this creates more indexed pages on a company’s website. Together, they boost visibility for search engine optimization, also known as SEO.

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SEO driven websites provide more data for search engines.

Search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing, use an algorithm to sort through all the information on the web. SEO helps them find and show the most relevant information on the searched topic. Websites that are SEO driven contain blogs or pages with researched keywords, titles with

keywords, links to relevant websites with high domain authorities, optimized pages for quick loading, and social sharing buttons.

Another tremendous benefit to blogging regularly is that it will help establish the principal(s) in your company as a thought leader. By sharing your expertise, you and your business can become the go-to resources for people seeking information in the subject areas you specialize in.

Guest blogging is another digital marketing method and benefits the owner of the blog as well as the guest blogger. As an example, a business might have the goal to increase their website traffic through blogging. Featuring an article by a guest blogger with expertise in a relevant area related to your organization gives the company’s target audience another resource to read, adding value and assisting the customer’s decision-making process. On the flip side, the guest blogger whose article appears on your company blog has a platform to share their skills or knowledge, and attract new followers.

Many companies will approach other blogs that write about industry-related topics and see if they can author an original post on that website. It’s another excellent way to gain visibility and also provides a backlink to your company website, which is great for your business’ search engine optimization.

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Search Engine Marketing uses targeted keywords on search engines like Google and Bing.

Search Engine Marketing

In addition to providing organic search results, search engines offer paid advertising called search engine marketing, or SEM. This advertising uses targeted keywords, and when a user inputs a search term into Google, Yahoo or Bing they will be usually be shown a relevant ad at the top of the results. Most online ads work on a pay-per-click basis, which means the advertiser is charged every time someone clicks on their advertisement.

Social Media Marketing

Wordstream states that social media marketing “Involves creating and sharing content on social media networks in order to achieve your marketing and branding goals.”

This type of digital marketing encompasses all the ways you can create social media campaigns with organic posts, images and videos on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn and Twitter.

The keys to success when it comes to organic (free) social media marketing include:

  • Posting a wide variety of content (graphics, videos, articles, memes, quotes, etc.) designed to appeal to your target audience
  • Following the 80/20 Rule (only posting 20% self-promotional content; the other 80%, designed to arouse interest, can be related to your company’s industry)
  • Posting consistently at optimal times of day
  • Posting frequently as appropriate per platform
  • Using hashtags strategically and as per best practices for each platform
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When advertising on social media, choose a platform based on your target audience.

Social Media Advertising

Besides organic posting options which are free, all the social media platforms have pay-per-click advertising options to fit a wide range of budgets, along with opportunities to boost content to further your company’s reach. They’re an incredibly valuable tactic to include in your digital marketing strategy.

Social media advertising specifically refers to paid ads posted on social media platforms including LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and YouTube. The platform chosen is based on the advertiser’s target audience.

Regardless of the chosen platform, the elements of a successful campaign include a strategy with a specific goal or mission, a researched target audience and appealing content. Once a campaign kicks off, reviewing the data and making adjustments to the ad creative and/or targeting will help keep a campaign on track.

The cost of search engine marketing and social media advertising varies by platform, and price models are based on the action the user takes. Common terms related to these digital marketing tactics are:

  • PPC – Pay Per Click
  • PPV – Pay Per View
  • CPV – Cost Per View
  • CPA – Cost Per Action
  • PPA – Pay Per Action
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While creating your digital marketing campaign review your audience demographics to refine your strategy.

Most social media platforms have specific requirements for the ad creative in regards to size of graphics, length of videos and text that can be included. When preparing to create an ad campaign, it’s important to not only keep these things in mind, but also consider where people who click on your ads will be directed. It’s strongly recommended that you create a unique, compelling landing page that includes information specifically related to your ad, as well as strong calls to action (CTAs).

Before you run your ads, it’s important to make sure your targeting is spot on. Targeting options vary from platform to platform, but they can include a wide range of demographics to choose from including age, gender, household income, geographic location, lifestyle factors, job titles and much more.

Depending on the platform you’re using, there may also be options like using a customer list to reach them with your ads, retargeting those that visited your website or focusing on users similar to those that already follow and engage with your brand.

Email, Video and Influencer Marketing

Research shows that email marketing is consistently one of the top choices for digital marketing and has a higher ROI when compared to other platforms. Why? An email list consists of subscribers who have signed up to receive news about your brand, service or product. MailChimp and Constant Contact are popular customer relationship management systems, and email marketing on those platforms is free or low-cost until a certain number of subscribers are reached, at which point the fees increase.

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Video and influencer marketing can significantly drive traffic to your website.

Video marketing is another useful tool and, “One study shows that potential customers are 85% more likely to buy a product after viewing a product video.” Users are very responsive to videos on multiple social media platforms. The most popular video platform is YouTube, which has more than a billion users and is actually the second most popular search engine right behind Google. Plus, “More than 500 million hours of videos are watched” each day. One of the keys to creating a successful video marketing campaign is to stay authentic to your brand and use SEO keywords.

Influencer marketing is a collaborative digital marketing style between the business or a brand and a person who has a strong connection to their target audience, hence an influencer. Instead of paying for advertising the influencer is paid to share an honest review of a product, service or destination. Followers trust their influencer, and the information they share can drive traffic to a business’ website.

Infographics, Podcasting and Webinars

Visuals can boost post engagement ‒ producing a 650% higher engagement rate, according to Inc. An infographic takes data and statistics and conveys them in a visually digestible format. Infographics can be shared on social media as well as in blog articles or elsewhere on a company’s website.

Podcasting allows businesses or brands to share content through digital audio files. An advantage of creating a podcast is that your audience can listen at a time of their choosing, and with devices like iPods and MP3 players they can tune in on the go. There are several ways to produce podcasts including various apps like Chirp, available in the Apple app store, or on internet hosting networks.

Webinars share educational content or expertise in a live streaming video that may include slideshow presentations and guest speakers. Viewers can sign in from anywhere in the world, and during the lecture, there are opportunities to interact with the host and ask questions.

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Content marketing focuses on creating content for a particular audience.

What is Content Marketing?

Content marketing fits under the umbrella of digital marketing, but it is different in that it refers to creating specific types of content to reach a particular target audience. The types of content you create can include blog articles, social media posts, graphics, podcasts and videos.

Before you go through the process of developing content, be sure to create a strategy using best practices. This includes defining and staying authentic to your brand’s voice, developing an editorial calendar, researching keywords and hashtags, learning to write for SEO, creating backlinks to your website and more.

Analyze Your Content & Digital Marketing Data

Whether you are using digital marketing or a more strategic content marketing tactic, it is crucial to analyze your metrics and make adjustments as needed. Without this step, you will never know what strategies are working.

Content or Digital Marketing: Which is Best For Your Business?

Determining what digital marketing and/or content marketing strategy and tactics are best for your business and your budget can be a challenge. If you need assistance, we love helping clients to build on their goals to create brand awareness through blogging, social media, emailing marketing and more!

Written by Lara Dunning for Business2Community and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Featured image provided by Campaign Creators

How Content Marketing Can Fuel Your Email Marketing

You run into a lot of marketing purists these days. Each one swears their preferred channel is the ultimate solution for driving traffic, engaging audiences, and boosting ROI. With so many digital marketing channels to choose from, it sometimes feels easier to focus your efforts on one single strategy and brush aside other platforms.

The truth is, your audience is probably spread out across multiple channels and platforms. Maybe they scroll through Facebook to catch up with friends before hopping over to Reddit. They might browse Instagram for a while when they need a palate cleanser between checking emails.

The people you want to reach have integrated their online browsing. If you haven’t integrated your marketing efforts, you’ll have a hard time relating and communicating with them.

In this post, we’ll explain why you should integrate your content marketing blog and email marketing efforts. We’ll also provide some content marketing examples and tips so you can develop a customized strategy for your brand.

What makes an amazing content marketing blog?

Every brand requires a unique content strategy to reach their specific goals. Some companies want more exposure and brand recognition, some want to make their company appealing to investors, and still, others want to get right down to selling products.

Regardless of your industry and business, your content efforts should accomplish a few specific tasks:

Content marketing shows up in the right place, at the right time.

The “right place” and “right time” will vary depending on where your audience spends their time. It could also depend on trending topics.

If you’re a lawyer, for instance, and there’s a big news story circulating that relates to civil rights, you’d want to quickly publish a thought-leadership blog and get it out to your audience as soon as possible.

To hit that sweet spot of getting your content where you want it when you want it there, you’ll need a thorough understanding of your audience. Or, if you’re just getting started, your ideal future audience.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Does your audience look for advice on Reddit?
  • Does your spend most of their time reading about industry news on LinkedIn?
  • How often does your audience check their email?
  • Which questions are they typing into their Google search bar?

This will help ensure that the right people see your content and will fall in love with your brand.

Content marketing should answer questions your readers are searching for.

You already know that you want to create a content marketing blog offering relevant and valuable information that resonates with your target audience. But how?

Here’s the answer: You need to answer questions your readers are searching for.

As you conduct your keyword research, think about the thought process of your ideal audience. Are they asking a specific question? Trying to learn more about a general topic? Searching for a product to purchase?

Once you’ve got this figured out, you can better anticipate what kind of content your audience wants to read.

For some inspiration, try the following.

  • Type your focus keyword into Google. Look at the suggested searches and questions Google provides based on user activity.
  • Staying on the first page, check out some of the top-ranking pieces. Do they contain outdated statistics? Are they missing anything important?
  • Browse the comment sections and Reddit communities on different blog posts relating to the topic you want to write about. Collect questions users have and answer them in your blog posts.

These tips will put you in your readers’ shoes so you can think three steps ahead.

Content marketing helps propel your brand’s story and demonstrates authority.

What are some qualities customers in your industry look for in a brand? Imagine you’re creating an online dating profile for your company. What would it say?

Maybe trustworthiness or transparency form an integral part of your brand’s values. Perhaps customers in your industry want to deal with real humans when they communicate or look for help. Maybe they need an absolute expert who can anticipate their needs.

Content marketing can express your core values and solidify your brand as an authority in your field.

7 ways to integrate your content marketing with email marketing for maximum effect

Email is the perfect platform to start expanding your content marketing efforts. Working hand-in-hand, your content marketing and email campaigns can fuel each other, increase sharing, and expand your reach.

These tips are the perfect place to start in order to give your content marketing a boost.

1. Segment your email subscriber list.

Breaking up your subscriber list into multiple segments based on location, age, gender, behavior, and interests is an excellent first step in integrating your email and content marketing. You can also form more advanced segments, such as separating your customers by the type of content they like, either by providing them with a preference center or through advanced analytics.

Smart segments will help you provide personalized content for your audience. That way, you know your audience only receives the content they actually want.

According to research, segmented emails deliver 760% more revenue than traditional campaigns. By segmenting your list, you can provide readers with extremely relevant blog posts, products, and other content most likely to resonate with them.

2. Send email surveys about subscribers’ content preferences.

If you’re unsure about what your subscribers want, just reach out and ask them. Sending out a welcome email is a great way to break the ice and start off on a good foot with new subscribers.

Ask new subscribers what type of content they’d like to receive. Have them choose how often to receive your emails and you’ll see a definite drop in your unsubscribes. This will help your readers feel in control of the relationship and help you provide them with relevant content.

This welcome email from Refined immediately asks the subscriber for her preferences to provide her with relevant content:

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3. Encourage subscribers to share your content on social media.

Sending out your content to your engaged email subscribers is crucial for getting your blog in front of as many eyes as possible.

The more people who see your post, the more likely it will get shared on various social channels. And when your subscribers—people who are already dedicated fans of your brand—share with their friends, these friends are more likely to join your list and become dedicated fans as well.

Integrate your efforts further by including social share buttons inside your email campaigns. Consider even sending an email that directly asks people to share your content with their friends.

4. Maintain a consistent brand voice throughout all your content.

Wouldn’t it be confusing if you received an email from a health food company filled with witty and comedic copy but when you clicked over to their blog, the tone switched to professional and dry? Something wouldn’t feel right.

If you truly want your message to resonate with readers, you need to ensure your brand’s voice remains consistent across platforms and throughout everything you create. Even though you might need to switch up your exact words to fit the platform you’re on, overall, your tone should feel similar from email to email, post to post, regardless of where your audience is coming from.

This means that your blog, website landing pages, and email copy need to sound like the same person wrote them.

5. Build brand loyalty and trust.

According to 2012 research, 77% of people preferred email marketing over other permission-based advertising methods like Facebook. Although the study is old, user trust in Facebook and social media has drastically declined and continues to plummet today.

Email marketing produces such great results because your subscribers have voluntarily provided you with their email addresses. They want to hear from you and they can choose to stop hearing from you at any time.

By communicating with transparency and keeping your subscriber list in the loop, you’ll build brand loyalty and trust. Plus, by setting expectations and sticking to them, you show that you respect your customers’ privacy.

6. Bulk-up your subscriber list.

Your blog is prime real estate for promoting your email marketing. If readers like what they see on your blog because you’ve provided valuable content, they will feel compelled to hand over their email address. If you constantly provide them with high-value content, they’ll assume you’ll only send high-value content to their inbox as well.

In order to capitalize on your reader’s interest, be sure to use special widgets and plugins to seamlessly merge subscribing to your email list into your blog pages and posts.

With the right data analysis, you can also track exactly where your subscribers join your list. Was it your article about healthy dog food that sparked their interest or posts suggesting hikes through upstate New York? This information will help you realize what content performs the best and promotes engagement. You’ll then be able to offer even more of your most powerful content.

In this example, Thrive Market casually includes a widget to sign up for their newsletter directly in their main blog page.

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7. A/B test different content topics.

Do you have a few super long-form pieces of cornerstone content? Maybe you just got a new product line you want to promote across various digital channels. If something performs well in an email with your most engaged followers, you can feel confident boosting the same content on Facebook and social media.

The average click-through rate for a Facebook ad is just 0.9% with an average cost-per-click of $1.72. While these figures are bleak, A/B testing content with your subscriber list first can help you get the most bang for your buck on social media.

Wrap up

Marketers today would be foolish to devote 100% of their time and effort to a single channel. Your audience has an integrated browsing strategy so you should also integrate your digital marketing strategy if you want to reach them.

Your content marketing blog posts and email campaigns make an excellent starting point. Merging your efforts here gives you the opportunity to develop a brand voice and create niche content before branching out to other channels.

Written by Lane Harbin for Business2Community and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Featured image provided by Mahkeo

If Likes No Longer Matter on Social Media, Then What Does?

You’ve probably heard the news: Instagram is in the process of removing like counts from posts in the Instagram feed).

At first blush, this might appear to be a massive change. They’re removing one of the most recognizable elements of social proof that’s ever existed. Likes are the way that we measure the world’s most popular posts, they’re a core element to engagement metrics, and they’re the easiest way to react to the people we follow.

It is a bold move, to be sure.

But it is an understandable one.

For I believe social media has already shifted away from the Like as the primary social currency. Yes, the era is of the like is ending, hastened by Instagram’s decision.

But the new era is already here.

And it will be defined by attention.

Keep reading to hear more about how user behaviors have changed and what marketers can do to adapt to the new environment of engagement and attention on social media. We’d love to hear your thoughts, too!


The New State of Social Media Engagement

How “liking” has evolved on social media

The “like” used to be very strong social currency.

We used it to measure popularity for, say, the top tweet of all-time or the number one Instagram post.

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We used it to measure the popularity of our own stuff, too, lumping likes together with comments and shares and clicks to form an overall engagement number. Influencers certainly put the like to good use, making it a key part to the appeal of their impact and scope. The more likes, you would assume, the more interest.

But it’s also possible that the like was never really the right solution from the start.

The core challenge with liking is that everyone uses it in a different way.

As Chris Taylor writes in Mashable:

The like button has acquired a panoply of meanings in the social realm. It can be used variously to mean yes, I agree, I hear you, sure, why not, I guess. It can be used as a bookmark. And that’s just scratching the surface; there are a whole bunch of other reasons, personal and political, why we might be giving you a heart or a thumbs-up.

To recap Chris’s list, a like can mean:

  1. “Yes, I agree”
  2. “I hear you”
  3. “Sure, why not”
  4. “I guess”
  5. Bookmark
  6. And many, many more

I’ve personally used the like to say “This is great” and “kthanksbye” and so many other random reactions. I’ve used it as a read-it-later reminder. I’ve even used it as a mechanic in automation recipes, sending liked posts to spreadsheets.

Likes have been co-opted by communities to mean different things in different contexts. For the most part this is healthy and normal. However, in some cases — for instance, when like-chasing affects mental well-being and self-worth — likes can be dangerous.


The New Engagement Metric: Attention

But moreso , likes have diminished in importance because our behaviors have changed.

We no longer need likes to signal that we are into someone’s content.

We have so many ways to signal engagement now:

  • Old standards: reshare, comment, click
  • Referral traffic that can be tracked throughout the customer journey
  • Shopping on Instagram, Pinterest, and other social sites
  • Following the brand
  • Deep-diving a feed
  • Checking out profiles and stories

And the list goes on and on.

This new era of attention is seen really clearly in the proliferation of Stories and in the way we talk about Stories analytics. When we talk about Stories, we gauge engagement with metrics like:

  • Reach
  • Completion Rate
  • Exits
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What we’re really measuring here is how well our content is resonating with our audience. Is it engaging? Is it worth watching? We’re also measuring the affinity of the brand; people are more likely to stay and watch a Story from someone they trust and enjoy.

We also have metrics like video watch time where we can see precisely how long people have stuck with our videos. In the past, a video might have received a like, which tells us very little about whether or not someone stuck with our content til the end. Now, we have stats like Audience retention (a core stat on YouTube) that shows you where exactly people drop off from your videos.

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Same goes for algorithms. Likes were definitely a signal of engaging content — but they were one signal of hundreds, maybe thousands. Algorithms take into account so many more data points when they calculate what to show next. Instagram and Facebook and Twitter and Pinterest, they can all assess how long we pause on certain posts, where we hover and what we click, even what our history of attention has looked like with a certain page or profile.

The like was a way to show we were aware of what was happening in our feeds (even if barely). Now, we have so many more ways to measure our attention.


What this means for marketers

The good news for marketers is that, while likes are fading into the background, your key stats have probably already shifted. You’re ahead of the curve.

(To be clear, your audience will still be able to like content on Instagram, and those like counts will be visible within your analytics. Just the like count in the feed is going away for now.)

When you think about successful social media content these days, you are already thinking of it beyond the lens of generic metrics like the number of likes you get. Yes, likes are a signal (one of many). But there is just so much more data available for social media managers now.

Your reporting dashboard will probably be unique for your brand. I bet it will include some combination of these attention metrics:

  • Completion rate for Stories
  • Video watch time and audience retention
  • Referral traffic and attribution
  • Engagement rate (total interactions divided by reach)

At the end of the day, when you use likes for measuring, what are you really measuring?

As we saw above, there are myriad ways that likes are used. You can guarantee that someone saw your post, yes; but beyond that, it’s a bit of a mystery.

What’s more actionable for your brand will be measuring attention. People give attention on social media in many different ways.

Now that we can measure so much of it, the era of attention has arrived for social media marketing.

Written by Kevan Lee for Business2Community and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Featured image provided by Kelly Sikkema

Why All Companies Need Paid Social

In the beginning, the coolest thing about social media was the ability to reach thousands of people, maybe even millions, for free with just one click. Fast forward to today, where everyone’s trying to make themselves heard on all platforms, creating so much noise that only about 10 percent of your audience ever sees your posts.

Why pay for something that was once a free and easy way to promote your brand? According to March’s Director of Social Strategy Amanda Fountain, it’s an effective way to cut through the noise on social and can be a cost-effective option if you implement smart strategies. Amanda ran through the basics, including different types of paid posts and the pros and cons of specific social platforms.

Q: What is the difference between organic and paid social media?

Organic posts are everything you publish on social feeds (without money behind it) as part of a regular content strategy. Meanwhile, paid posts are ones that you really want to amplify and have specific targeting and budget behind it, so the platform pushes it out to audiences. An organic post will always show up in your content feed; a paid post may or may not appear in your content feed.

Q: When is it worth putting money behind a post?

When you have a very specific goal attached to a post, putting money behind it is really helpful. You could be trying to get registrations for a webinar or driving people to a landing page for lead generation. Marketing-focused posts like these are looking for a specific action, so they need to work a little bit harder.

From the pure PR side where the goal is brand visibility, it’s harder and harder to combat newsfeed algorithm changes on social platforms. Putting a little spend behind posts counters these algorithms and ensures brand recognition by making sure you’re seen by people who already follow you and expanding reach to audiences that aren’t following you yet.

Q: Obviously social media channels become more and more saturated with time, but why is paid social more important now than it was five years ago?

Across all platforms, there’s just more content than there was five years ago. More people using social, more publishing, and more talking. There are 500 million Tweets posted per day. With that crazy volume, it’s hard for people to see it all. Most people aren’t looking at Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook every second of every day. That means if you post something once, there are thousands of other tweets posted in the same time span.

Q: What is a boosted post?

A boosted post is specific method for amplifying and promoting a post. “Boost” is actually a great name because it’s so descriptive of what happens. When you boost a post you’re just giving it an extra push to make sure it’s visible for anyone who is currently following you. You can add targeting to try to get within specific followers’ networks as well. It’s a great option to ensure your current audience sees your content.

Q: What is a dark post?

Dark posts are used for more specific goals. For example, if you have an event in Tokyo, everyone across the globe doesn’t need to see that event, because it’s not relevant to them. If you attach targeting to a dark post specific to Tokyo, only people in Tokyo will see it. The post doesn’t show up in your regular feed, which is good because it only appeals to one segment of your audience.

Dark posts are powerful for advertising purposes and AB testing, or split testing. Setting up an AB test allows you to work with algorithms to put different messages or images in front of your audience. Using dark posts this way allows you to constantly test content, without inundating the audience with four posts saying the same thing in slightly different ways in the regular content feed. Once you find which types of messages work well, you can more confidently craft organic posts.

Q: Among the top social platforms, is one more helpful than others?

All of the platforms have paid options but knowing which one is best to use depends on who the audience is. For example, with a young audience in the consumer space, Snapchat might actually be the way to go. Similar audiences are also on Instagram, where you can do ads as stories. There’s been an interesting shift lately as more business and tech companies are starting to get on these younger, trendier platforms with paid promotions as well.

What’s most helpful though is knowing where your audience is and meeting them there. Don’t avoid a platform because you think it’s not going to work or might be too expensive. If you know your audience is there, it’s almost always worth the cost to try it out.

Q: What are the top pros and cons of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn?

Facebook ’s targeting options are broad and there are a lot of options. This is good if you have specific demographic information about your audience—household income, age ranges, kids at home, interests, basically a deep-dive on everything about your audience’s entire life. But if you don’t know as much about them, either because it’s a wide variety of people, or what you know doesn’t align with the information Facebook gathers, it’s harder to target. For example, a consumer brand looking to reach moms will typically have an idea of the age range, some interests and household income. A company looking to reach IT managers may not know as much about their personal lives beyond an age bracket.

Twitter can be a wild card. You’re limited to targeting people based on how much information they’ve filled out on their profile and how they interact and engage on the platform. This is challenging because Twitter is a place where people are often loose or funny with descriptions of themselves. They might put “Beantown” as their location rather than Boston. There’s no targeting option for Beantown because that’s not a real location. You can’t get as granular, but it’s great if you’re looking for a broad audience with a broad interest.

LinkedIn is the most specific targeting based on seniority, title and groups, making it a great option for B2B. The flip is that it’s a little harder to target larger consumer groups. It can get expensive very quickly for anyone who is looking reach a broad audience, but it’s worth it to try for more niche and narrowly focused audiences.

Q: How do you measure the results of each campaign?

It’s tough. There’s always the question of “How does my campaign compare to the average?” But comparing to the “average” on each platform doesn’t make sense, because you would be comparing yourself to every company that has ever advertised on the platform. A company making a heart rate sensor wristband is going to have different results than a company who makes smart cars or mobile wallets. They’re not trying to go for the same audience, so trying to compare results can be disappointing. The better approach is to benchmark after your first social campaign and keep improving from there.

For action-oriented campaigns : If your initial campaign cost $100 per click, you need to ask, “Did that click actually convert to a lead worth $100?” If so, great job! You crushed that campaign and can try to do even better next time. But if you know it normally only costs $25 to get a lead, you need to adjust future campaigns.

For brand awareness campaigns : If you know Twitter normally gets 1,000 impressions, and adding spend now gets 4,000 impressions, that’s a great jump. Gaining, retaining and engaging more followers is also a big win.

Q: Do you think a social campaign could be successful without paid posts?

Every good social strategy should have a paid component, but you don’t need to put it behind every post. Save your paid budget for campaigns that need to make a bigger impact. Overall, social has moved to a quality over quantity approach. It’s not about posting everything; it’s about posting the right things for your audience. Adding money to promote makes sure your audience gets to see it in a noisy and crowded space.

Written by Elisabeth O’Donnell for Business2Community and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Featured image provided by Tim Bennett