Sometimes marketers think of great ideas…sometimes they think of bad ideas. Most of them have same goals however…get you to do something. If you come across a marketer that doesn’t want to talk about goals you should talk to someone else! One thing is for certain, the way we do marketing has changed DRAMATICALLY! Take a look at this infographic from Hubspot. What type of marketing are you most responsive to as a consumer? Do you even know?
I had the opportunity to attend the Inbound Marketing Summit 2011 in Boston this year along with Donny and Josh, and one of the biggest takeaways from a developer’s standpoint is that the best way to enhance user and customer experience with the websites and applications we develop is to add elements of personalization – this creates a “sticky” experience that keeps folks coming back for more over time. So what is a personalized experience?
If you’ve been keeping up with our blog there’s a good chance you’ve had a chance to use either Amazon.com or Netflix.com – two websites that are very well optimized to provide a personalized user experience. When you first visit either of those websites your experience is fairly bland. Let’s take Netflix for example, this is what you see the first time you visit:
It’s a fairly boring user experience. You see what the Netflix service is, how it works and they have a great call to action to get visitors signed up for a free trial. Other than that though, the website offers no input as to how they recommend using their service – they’re leaving that bit up to you. What’s cool about Netflix is that it learns over time and adapts to your tastes in movies, so that once you’ve been using the service for a while your user experience changes to something like this instead:
As you can see Netflix shows me my most-recently watched content as well as similar content that I might also enjoy, and they’ve even lined up some recommendations in one of my favorite genres so I never have to hunt for new stuff to watch. They do this by watching my habits over time and building a personalized profile for me that makes using their product a heck of a lot more fun and a whole lot easier. I never get to the point where I feel like I’ve run out of things to watch on Netflix because they’re constantly honing my customer profile to show me more of what I like! Amazon.com works in much the same way. Over time they keep track of the products you like to browse and purchase and will show you recommendations for different products to try. Essentially they’re just making it a lot easier to continue using their service so they ensure you stick around to give them repeat business.
Another cool way to add personalization into a website in my opinion is by using Facebook Connect. Facebook Connect is an API that lets developers utilize a Facebook user’s account info to make a more personalized web experience for them. What that means is that a web developer can build your website such that visitors can use their Facebook login to access your website also (or, let’s be honest, get logged in automatically since most people are accessing Facebook all day anyways). After that it’s incredibly easy to pull in “like” data and other information to make it easier for people to share your products and content with their Facebook friends. Check out some of the cool things Spotify, a new on-demand music streaming service is doing with Facebook Connect to make sharing playlists with Facebook users a breeze.
So that’s my main takeaway from #IMS11 – personalization! I can’t wait to start creating more personalized customer experiences moving forward that help keep visitors coming back for more.
One of the most-important aspects of succeeding with a social media strategy is to stick with it. Posting a tweet or two per week isn’t going to cut it. On the other hand, it’s also important to set time aside to devote to your social media accounts. The problem with that is you’ll generate a whole bunch of activity in a short amount of time, and if your followers aren’t paying attention during your scheduled time there’s a good chance they’ll miss your Twitter updates entirely. So, how can you keep your Twitter account active without spending your entire day posting tweets?
Scheduling tweets isn’t a new idea. Hootsuite has been doing it for quite some time. However, what caught my eye about Buffer is its simplicity. All you have to do is create an account which takes a second, link your Twitter account which will take up second #2, and then type in your tweets. That’s it. You don’t even have to worry about scheduling them, that’s all done by Buffer from the get-go, so they’ll figure out when to randomly post your tweets (though you can go back and modify their initial settings to your own preference). With Buffer you can finally set aside a time to plan out your Twitter updates for the day or even week, just by adding tweets to your Buffer.
There are also some cool features with Buffer that makes tweeting a lot easier, including web browser plugins that can let you add a tweet from any web page you come across during the day. This happens to me all of the time – I’m at work researching things for a project and I come across something cool that I don’t have time to post to Twitter at that instance. I try to make a mental note to revisit the news story or article later, but 9 times out of 10 I forget. With a browser plugin like Buffer for Chrome you’re just a click away from adding a tweet to your Buffer with the current page’s web address packed into a neat short URL.
The folks behind Buffer have also created mobile applications for iOS and Android so you can build your buffer on the go, and even a badge you can place on your blog or website so visitors can quickly tweet your content by adding it to their own buffers. All of these features are designed well and simply, so unlike the Hootsuite dashboard which can be quite intimidating if you’re not sure what you’re doing, you’ll be finding your way around Buffer in no time.
There is one final feature that I really like that will make Twitter very easy to use if you’re just starting out, whether you’re posting to your personal Twitter account or the account you created for your small business, and it’s called Suggest A Tweet. When you’re just starting off with Twitter a lot of times folks aren’t really sure what to post, or maybe they don’t have any content to post or anything significant to say, but they don’t want their Twitter feed to be stagnant. If you ever run into that issue with Buffer, you can use their Suggest A Tweet feature that will automatically come up with a new tweet for you to post all on its own! You can of course modify the tweet before sending it to your buffer if you so choose, but it’s a perfect way to overcome Twitter writer’s block. Try out Buffer right now by heading over to bufferapp.com, and let me know what you think in the comments!
Have you started a video campaign yet? We’ll admit it, creating video is probably the most intimidating form of inbound marketing for the un-initiated. With that said it’s also one of the most rewarding! YouTube has long been the king when it comes to web video, but now with Facebook moving up the ranks you have even more incentive to get started with a video campaign for your small business and its service or product.
It goes without saying that Facebook is the top dog in the social media game right now. It has been for a while, and although there are challengers in the market like Google Plus it will retain the crown for quite a while, if for no other reason than the huge amount of people already signed up. Did you know that Facebook is also the #1 photo-sharing site in the US? With 51.5 million estimated users uploading and viewing video, plus millions more sharing photos now’s the perfect time to reach out to prospect customers with creative media campaigns.
The best part about Facebook’s rise in popularity from a content-creation point of view is that if you’re already using YouTube as a marketing avenue it’s very easy to get started on Facebook by reposting content. Many video editing tools like Apple’s iMovie come with the ability to upload straight to Facebook (as well as YouTube), so you’re just a button click away from broadcasting to your Facebook audience from your business page.
It really doesn’t take a whole lot of time or money to get started with a video campaign that will engage your audience while at the same time promoting your small business. If you have a modern smart phone with video capabilities or an inexpensive video camera like the Flip, you can record, edit and share your creation from the same device. When creating your first video keep in mind that video length does matter, and in the web world shorter is better! If you post videos that clock in around the 30 second mark there’s a much better chance that your viewer will stay tuned for the entire duration.
If you have questions about about the benefits of web video marketing feel free to get in touch with me and I’ll give you the rundown!
Inbound marketing is still a new term, especially around Western NY and Northern PA. We have given inbound marketing seminars for many of the local businesses, most of which are aware of Twitter, try and use Facebook, talked about SEO…but beyond that their inbound marketing efforts are lackluster. The one area that is very hard for these businesses to grasp is knowledge sharing.
Businesses are almost instantly opposed to knowledge sharing because they think we are trying to get them to tell their competitors their deepest, darkest secrets. Some of them don’t even want their competitors to know what type of sales they are offering. Quick news flash: If your competitors want to know what sales you are offering they can find out! Usually if you have a sale, it’s published somewhere. The bottom line is we aren’t recommending you give proprietary information, business secrets, or the latest office gossip away. We are telling you to share. Why?
Make your competition jealous and build trust with your customers and clients. What you share may not be the most earth shattering information ever, but you are making it easy for them to find, which is key. IMPORTANT: Just sharing someone else’s thoughts is not enough. Add your opinion if you are sharing as a blog post. A quick paragraph with your thoughts will go a long way. If you are able to create your own knowledge sharing content as well as adding opinions and thoughts to others, if you are consistent people will begin looking to you for the answers. Don’t have time to write blog posts? Look at Quora to start answering industry questions. Quora is to knowledge sharing as Twitter is to blogging…at least in my opinion.
If you are sharing good knowledge that people need, you are creating link bait for your website and you will start building links. If you aren’t already aware, inbound links to your website will significantly help your SEO efforts. Keep in mind, people will share good information, not useless content. And yes, we promote content creation to improve your SEO footprint and build links…knowledge sharing and content creation go hand-in-hand. But it doesn’t have to be pure content…consider an infographic. They have been a hot trend for the past year or two, and they don’t seem to be slowing down. There are even infographics about infographics!
Share your knowledge however you are able to share it. Obviously it takes less time to write a blog post than creating a visually stunning infographic, but the important thing is what type of knowledge it contains. If you are still speculating whether or not you can be successful sharing knowledge, take a look at Hubspot. They are probably the biggest success story when it comes to this. They blog and hold webinars teaching people how to be inbound marketers without giving away so much information that they won’t be able to sell their software. We think that this type of sharing can be done for nearly every indsustry…we’d like to hear about what you are doing to share knowledge. Share in the comments!
Need more ideas for Inbound Marketing? Get a hold of us!
Recently, Josh and I have had the opportunity to give our seminar on Inbound Marketing principles in various areas of Northwest Pennsylvania. As a web marketing firm, it is very motivating to see all of the small businesses in our area so interested in using the web and it’s abundant marketing resources to grow their businesses. It is also very frustrating that the most common problem is that there is a clear lack of understanding on where to start.
The leading issue we hear from most small business owners or executives is that they are not sure what they should be sharing through social media, how often they should be sharing it, and how it converts to sales. I can certainly understand the apprehension and relate to the hesitation in jumping into Twitter, Facebook, and the other social platforms. No one wants to invest in a black box in hopes of seeing a return.
The best thing to do in getting started with social media is sign up for Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn personally and for your business. At the very least reserve your brands’ name so that your competitor doesn’t steal twitter.com/yourcompany.
Next, find some companies, people, teams, and organizations that are actively using twitter/facebook, and follow/like them. You will be amazed at how much you can learn by simply watching what others are doing in social media.
I recommend following the same brands on twitter and facebook. This way, you see how they differentiate their message between the platforms.
Here’re some links to some major brands’ twitter and facebook pages, as well as ours:
If you haven’t attended one of our Inbound Marketing Seminars, please feel free to contact us to see when the next one in your area is. It will shed light on many aspects of social media, seo, email marketing and lead generation. We would also be happy to put together a plan for your business on how you can effectively use social media.
Video is probably the most under-utilized media when it comes to small businesses attempting to reach new customers online, however it might be the most compelling route to take from a consumer’s standpoint. There’s no better way to highlight a product or service than with video, and although there is a little more work involved than with writing a blog post or recording an audio podcast, ultimately your potential return is huge. Of course everyone knows about the power of websites like YouTube, but there are some other great free video sharing services that add even more functionality that you might not have considered! In this blog post I’m going to run down a few of my favorites, including what makes each of them attractive from a small business standpoint.
As always it’s important to remember that if you try to connect to your audience via social media, video, blogging or in any other way, content is king. You might not have the budget or knowhow to shock your audience with insane production value, but if your content shares useful or compelling information that makes folks want to come back over time you’re heading in the right direction . So then, let’s start off with the 800 pound gorilla in the room: YouTube.
Nine times out of ten the best place for a beginner to start sharing their video is on YouTube. This primarily has to do with Google’s acquisition of YouTube which nets you some nifty search-friendly functionality right out of the gate, such as your YouTube videos being featured alongside Google’s normal search results when someone types in a keyword.
Additionally, it turns out Google owns not one but two popular search engines as YouTube itself has actually become the second largest search tool used by web users with 2 billion views everyday. If you’re not convinced about the popular of web video sharing sites, that’s up over 50% since 2009! That’s not all though – YouTube offers some handy channel customization tools which let you skin your video homepage to match your business’s existing brand, much like you would a Twitter homepage. On top of it all, YouTube is working on rolling out a new live video streaming service much like UStream.TV which will let you broadcast events live to your followers. With all of those features at the low, low price of free who wouldn’t want to get their Steven Spielberg on?
With all of the positives about YouTube, why would anyone choose Vimeo? The number one reason is that they don’t limit the length of videos out of the game like YouTube does. It also provides more customization issues when it comes to the video player and has a generally cleaner user interface overall.
It has also been cited that Vimeo holds a certain share of brand quality that YouTube doesn’t have – if you put your videos on YouTube you will undoubtedly be seen alongside some silly or unusual content. Because Vimeo hasn’t seen the huge amount of success YouTube has, and because it’s been so widely adopted by people creating intriguing content in the tech community, there’s a little less of the “cruft” you’d find on more popular sites. I’ve read folks refer to YouTube as the web’s video playground whereas Vimeo is for folks serious about things like varying video resolutions. To support this, Vimeo offers a paid version of the service called Vimeo Plus which upgrades video storage space, removes advertising from your uploads and gives priority upload speeds (among other nice features).
Viddler is probably the most interesting of these three web services. Right out of the box they advertise their service as the video platform for folks looking to grow their online brand. They let you track and analyze views and embeds of your video, and even have cool features like being able to embed your own logo overlay on your video, which when clicked links back to your website directly (not a Viddler site).
My absolute favorite feature of Viddler is the ability to comment on videos. I’m not talking about a list of comments below the video – these comments appear right in the video itself at a given point chosen by a commenter or the video uploader. Say someone were to make a video of themselves skateboarding, and 30 seconds in they take a spill to the ground. They could have comments overlaid on the video appear at the 30 second mark. You can even overlay another video on top of the video to further incite a discussion. It’s cool technology that’s a great way to engage with your audience!
If you’re truly serious about maximizing the potency of your brand online through web video I’d say Viddler is the route to go. The good news is that there’s nothing wrong with uploading your videos to more than one service, and since all 3 of the ones I mentioned today have free accounts available you should try them all out!
This probably comes as no surprise, but as the title indicates, most marketers are increasing the social media spending this year according to Effie Worldwide and Mashable. More specifically, 70% of the marketers surveyed intend to increase their social media investment by 10% or more.
For marketers, Facebook Likes were at the top of their lists followed by growing their mobile presence. On the mobile theme, 80% of the marketers surveyed indicated that they were planning on doing an iPad application or iPad advertising.
The poll cited 4 major US brands as being the “top-dogs” in social media effectiveness including:
Ford, as you may recall even launched a vehicle, the new Ford Explorer through social media. I have previously written about Starbucks and Josh has touched on the Old Spice campaign. One of the greatest ways to see what’s effective is to analyze the success stories.
The study also showed that roughly half of the responders said that they rely on a marketing/web firm with help from an internal team to handle social media outreach. The remaining 50% varied between fully handling social media in house and fully using an agency.
The mix-model jives well with our opinion of the best structure for social media involvement by small businesses. As marketers, we can help set the direction, create the tools, and educate on effective use of social media. To truly keep it personal, we feel that it’s vital for brands to commit their own resources to social media involvement.
If you are planning to increase your focus on social media, we can help to ensure you start on the right foot, and that you start with a measurable framework focused on growing your business and brand.
We work with quite a variety of businesses in terms size and sophistication. Some have invested appropriately in their web marketing and continue to hone the marketing channel, while others are playing catchup and trying to stretch their budget as far as possible. In both cases, we continue to encourage our clients and prospects to think big, even if they don’t have the budget for it yet.
We are a small business too, so we certainly understand that endless budgets don’t exist. We also understand that settling is not a good solution either. With web marketing, you can start with the basics and evolve your presence over time. It’s important though to continually budget for and plan growth.
We had the opportunity to meet with the owners of a very niche business this afternoon that was looking to establish their first website. The 2 owners are also the only 2 employees of the business. Both have other jobs, families that they are raising, and no outside investment to rely on. They have grown their small business over the past year and are ready to get started marketing online to reach new markets.
Having just finished their first year in business, they are budget conscious, much like any small business. Although they are budget conscious, they are future-minded. This was something that they brought to the table, not something we pushed on them. In fact, they had been planning this project for the past year. They had an entire binder with ideas and examples of what they want.
We spent the first part of the meeting talking about their current needs, and then we spent a great deal of time talking about where their web marketing could go after that. Again, not something we pushed, but something driven by them. This was a pleasant and very welcomed surprise. They knew where they wanted to start, but had their eyes on the future.
This prospect would like ecommerce for their new site but is also considering starting off using eBay. That is a perfectly reasonable consideration. What was great about the discussion around eBay is that they looked at it as a means to grow into a full ecommerce site of their own.
They also understood the importance of making sure they integrate social media and email marketing up front, even if they move forward with an eBay store for the time being. Having the marketing components established from the beginning will make the launch of their future endeavors much more fruitful.
Overall, the key to this story is that they have been keeping their eyes on the prize for the past year, and will continue to as their business evolves. Thinking forward in web marketing is vital. Don’t settle and stay in one place. Keep growing. The businesses that succeed with online marketing do so because they are persistent and have more than a one-project plan. They have a multi-year plan to perfect their efforts.
One of our newest brand marketing initiatives here at protocol 80 is podcasting, and although the idea of creating a podcast can seem intimidating to a novice, having started from scratch and gotten a podcast rolling I’d have to say it’s much easier than most folks assume. There are plenty of free services available that make the process a lot easier, and if done right it can be pretty fun! As a result, I decided to throw together a quick set of tips for any small business looking for a new way to reach prospect clients.
So first off, what the heck is it? A podcast is simply a bit of recorded audio or video that is made available to people for subscription. Have you ever seen that little orange icon to the left that lets you subscribe to news feeds? Podcasting uses the same technology (RSS) to make it possible for people to subscribe to an audio or video feed. When a new episode of a podcast is created it is automatically delivered to subscribers just as if it were a news story on your blog.
One misleading part of podcasting is its name. Podcasts don’t have to be played on iPods or Apple specific devices or hardware. People can listen in on their Windows computers, third-party MP3 players, phones and just about any other device capable of playing audio files! You also don’t have to be listed on iTunes to have a podcast, though it does help to attract new listeners and gain feedback about your podcast’s content or quality.
You need a topic that you’re passionate about. If you’re talking about a topic that’s boring to you, there’s a good chance that you’ll dread sitting down to record on a weekly or daily basis. Hopefully you’ve already begun a blog for your small business – in that case you have your topic chosen already! Just discuss the same sort of subject matter as you write about. Podcasting is a great way to show that you’re a thought leader in your business’s industry.
Secondly, and this is probably the most-important element you need to bring to the table, you need commitment. It’s just like blogging – the more often you write (or in podcasting’s case, record) the more effective it is). Having a topic in mind that you WANT to talk about goes a long way in getting there, but it’s also helpful to setup a schedule as to what time you record. Block some time off every week and be sure to show up on-time. Admittedly, the protocol 80 over coffee podcast has hit some bumps in this road, but as I stated we’re new to this too!
This is fairly obvious. You’ll need a microphone attached to some sort of device that’s capable of recording audio. The easiest way to start off is to use a USB headset or your computer’s built-in microphone if it has one. If the podcast starts to take off and you’re noticing a return on your time spent then by all means step up to a higher-quality mic, but when you’re new to the game just use whatever you have available.
There are a lot of free programs available for both Mac and PC that make recording and editing your podcast very easy. On the Mac I’d recommend starting out with GarageBand, a free audio program that comes installed on all apple computers dating back to 2004. On the Windows side of things I’d recommend starting out with a free program called Audacity. Both are very easy to use and made with the beginner in mind. Simply record your audio and then select bits you want to cut out or add your theme music and you’re done.
Probably the most involved part of creating your podcast is finding somewhere to host it. The good news here is that there are some free services that’ll get you started. Right now we’re using a website called Podomatic that has free hosting up to a limit. The cool thing about Podomatic is that they’ll automatically create a feed for your podcast so that it can be submitted to iTunes, and they even provide some basic analytics so you can track how many listeners you’re reaching out to. Another example service that offers free hosting is PodBean, though I haven’t had experience with them specifically I’m sure they offer many of the same features. Take a look at both and see what works for your needs (or do a google search for ‘free podcast hosting,’ there are plenty of services available)!
Like I said above, we’re new to podcasting too, but from listening to other podcasts and working on our own I’ve come up with some helpful hints that might make the process a bit easier.
I cannot stress how important this is. Try to block off an hour every week to sit down and record your podcast. If you stick to the schedule it’ll become second-nature before you know it!
If you have listened to more than one episode of our podcast you’ll know that we follow the same format every episode. First we discuss the news posts each of us posted to the blog for that week, then we have a quick break for promotion (more on that shortly) and then finally we wrap things up with some rapid-fire news headlines that caught our respective eyes from that week. The reason we went that way is that we can do a little bit of self-promotion, like telling folks where they can follow us throughout the week and in-between podcasts, but give the listener a reason to stick around after that promotion. This is also known as a “tease.”
Another good idea is to think about how long you’d like each episode to be. Will your podcast be relatively short, say 15 to 20 minutes, or will it be closer to an hour? When you think about your format or content for a specific episode keep that length in mind – you don’t always have to hit it on the dot but it’s a good idea to give the listener a consistent experience. You don’t necessarily have to follow the same format we use but it’s good to have one cohesive guideline by which mosts of your episodes adhere.
As I mentioned above, it’s always a good idea to expose the listener to some opportunities from which they can follow up and learn more about your company, product or service. You don’t have to be long-winded about it, but make sure you tell them the name of your business and say the address to your website, blog or social networking services if at all possible. It’s also a great idea to ask listeners to use these means of communication to provide feedback on the show, such as what they’d like to hear you speak about in future episodes!
Remember – this isn’t a conference or sales call! People are tuning in not just to learn a bit about your subject but also to be entertained to a certain degree. Try a casual approach to recording, whether that means joking around or discuss simple topics like the weather and your interests outside of your primary topic. This helps the listener get to know a little more about you and create a connection that will bring them back for follow-up listens. Most importantly, it helps you to have fun while you’re recording, and hopefully you’ll look forward to your designated podcasting time everytime you sit down to record an episode.
So those are my quick tips for starting your very own podcast. It’s very cheap (if not completely free) to get started and yet another great way to connect with current and prospect customers. If you’re considering starting a podcast or if you have one already please let us know all about it in the comments below!
Switch to our mobile site