Archive | December, 2013

Is it Time to Hire a SMMM? Facebook Changes Point to “Yes”!

30 Dec

For the people who track these things, the number of fans reached by an organic Facebook Post has been steadily declining. A study published by Ignite Social Media reported that the organic reach of pages had fallen by 44% on average – with some pages showing an 88% decline.

While Facebook is not forcing people to pay for ads, a spokesman for Facebook told AdAge: “We’re getting to a place where because more people are sharing more things, the best way to get your stuff seen if you’re a business is to pay for it.”

While it is disappointing for those who have tried to capitalize on the free part of Social Media Marketing, it is not that surprising. As the largest social media platform, most companies have figured out that Facebook is THE place to be if they want to attract the attention of potential customers. Facebook attracts a very large and diverse audience, many of whom are eager to learn more about their favorite brands and learn more about those they are not as familiar with. If you think about it, it would be impossible to add every piece of information shared on a Facebook Page to everyone who liked the page or knows someone who likes a page.

While not all posts in the Newsfeed will be paid advertisements, Facebook has admitted that they will be looking for “quality” content. How they will assess this quality is not clear, but more newsworthy and interesting posts may win out.
The best strategy, moving forward, may be to regularly publish valuable, original content that does not only hawk your brand, but adds value to your readers. However, those who are serious about Facebook Marketing should also consider allocating a portion of their marketing budget to paid Facebook advertising, including ads in the Newsfeed, and promoting the most interesting or important posts. Also, encourage your Page’s fans to share your content. Shared posts from person to person are not affected by Facebook’s new algorithm. Finally, it might be time to hire a Social Media Manager, who understands how Facebook Marketing works and can monitor and tweak the Page to get the most value from it.

The potential audience delivered by Facebook is just too large to be ignored. And, according to research from Forrester and Wildfire, people are more likely to purchase and recommend brands if they are socially engaged with them.

Taking a Break! Happy Holidays!

23 Dec

I’ll be taking a break from blogging this week to prepare for the holiday 🙂  Hoping you and your have the merriest of merry’s!  This season is a time to reflect on whatever you believe in and is a magical time of year!  Enjoy this special time with family, friends and those you love ❤

 

Eight-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon wrote a letter to the editor of New York’sSun, and the quick response was printed as an unsigned editorial Sept. 21, 1897. The work of veteran newsman Francis Pharcellus Church has since become history’s most reprinted newspaper editorial, appearing in part or whole in dozens of languages in books, movies, and other editorials, and on posters and stamps.
“DEAR EDITOR: I am 8 years old.
“Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.
“Papa says, ‘If you see it in THE SUN it’s so.’
“Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?

“VIRGINIA O’HANLON.
“115 WEST NINETY-FIFTH STREET.”

VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You may tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, VIRGINIA, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

What to Know Before You Hire an SEO Firm!

16 Dec

You’ve got a problem. You’ve been tasked with hiring an search engine optimization (SEO) firm to provide various online marketing services to your company. You went out and did a search on Google for “[your geographic location] + seo” and got a list of 300+ SEO firms. You start contacting the firms starting with the one at the top, since it seems reasonable that the guy at the top must know what he’s doing. But as you contact the firms they all tell you the same things, or as one reader put it in a comment on one of my previous blogs, “SEO is surely the greatest con ever. Can anyone here tell me how every would-be Internet Marketer on the planet can promise every client to get them onto the first page of Google natural search?” The easy answer is that some can deliver while others can’t. But if that’s the case, how do you figure out which SEO firm to hire?

First, let’s clear up some misconceptions about SEO firms.

A nice-looking website does not a good SEO firm make. If you’re looking to hire an SEO firm that can also take care of designing your new website, then yes, you should probably consider how good their own website looks. But if you’re only looking for top-notch SEO, some of the best firms have websites that are second-rate at best.

  • The SEO firm that ranks first in your geographic area is not necessarily the one you should work with. I’m going to let you in on a secret. My own firm almost always shows up first in Google for “utah seo,” and has for most of the past 10 years, but it’s not because we’re the best SEO firm in Utah. I’m not saying we’re not the best SEO firm in Utah, but if we are that’s not why our website ranks high, because a lot of our competitors are doing a better job of SEO on their own websites than we are doing on ours. Why does our website continue to rank #1 for “utah seo?” Sure, we have some decent content on the site, we’ve got the code right for the most part, and we have some good inbound links, but mostly it’s because we were one of the first SEO firms in Utah and it’s an old domain that’s been in use since 1996. Google puts a lot of weight on those two factors, and fortunately for us, it’s hard for anyone else to compete without a time machine.
  • The best “SEO firm” for you might not be much of a firm. Bigger is not better. Less sometimes, but not always, is more. The right SEO firm for you might have one or two employees working from a basement. Or it might be the SEO firm with 500 employees. Don’t write either one off automatically.
  • All SEO firms are scam operations. This statement is 100% false, in that it’s only 95% true. Or as the late Rex E. Lee put it in a statement about lawyers but which applies equally well to SEO firms, “It’s a shame that an entire profession should be maligned because of two or three hundred thousand bad apples.” Yes, you’re right to be careful about the firm you hire. Too many people hire a firm, only to leave a year or two later and wonder “Did I just throw all that money away on nothing?”

Now, on to the meat–how do you hire the right SEO firm?

  1. Decide what you need. Do you need link removal, reputation management, a one time SEO audit, ongoing SEO, link building, PPC management, retargeting, content marketing, or one of the other 20 services SEO firms frequently offer? If you’re not sure what you need, start by figuring out the job to be done. Do you want to grow sales by 20% over the next 12 months, or leads by 50% over the next six months? Is your goal increased rankings, or do you just need the boss to know that someone is working on SEO and then you can check this bothersome item off your to-do list? Have a goal in mind by which you will measure the success of your engagement with your SEO firm, and make that goal the center of your communication with them. If you can’t measure how successful your SEO efforts are, you’re less likely to be successful with them.
  2. Get multiple consultations, but keep it secret.Once you know what you want, sit down with an SEO firm, in person or by phone or email, that seems reasonably qualified and ask them to help you figure out what you need to do. Most SEO firms will gladly offer a free consultation because they know by doing so they have a chance to impress you and win your business. This time will also help you to know if you like the firm and the people you’ll be working with. By the end of the consultation, which may take a few days if the SEO firm needs to go and do research on your website and industry, you should received a proposal with the services you need and pricing for them. Then, unless you’re in a time crunch and love the first firm you’ve met with, go do the same thing with one or two other firms to have a basis for comparison. But don’t advertise this. When you tell an SEO firm “I’m shopping around,” or “I’m talking to other firms,” this doesn’t always make them compete harder for your business, it may make them compete less. This is especially true of some of the best SEO firms, where clients are fighting to work with them rather than the SEO firm fighting to work with that client.
  3. Get case studies and references. The #1 question you want answered from an SEO firm is “Are you going to help me get my job done?” When you go climbing in the Himalayas you want an experienced Sherpa. Without being able to see the future, the best way an SEO firm can answer this question is to show you that they’ve gotten the job done for other clients just like you. If you run a self storage company, and you talk to an SEO firm that has done work with 10 other self storage companies, and they’ve all had good results, then that’s a reasonably good predictor they’ll be successful working with your company. If your company is unique and you need a generalist SEO firm rather than one that focuses exclusively on your industry, get case studies and references from SEO firms that have at least done work for clients with similar business models and similar “jobs to be done” as yours.
  4. Make the firm tell you stories. A good SEO firm executes tactically. A great SEO firm does that, but is highly creative as well, and creative people tell good stories. Stories also allow you to get a truer vision of what the SEO firm is all about. Case studies and references are like looking up someone’s LinkedIn profile. You should do that before hiring an employee, but you wouldn’t hire someone based exclusively on their LinkedIn profile. You’d also want to hear them tell you stories about their background, experience, and successes and failures. This is part of why video interviews from companies like HireVue are taking off. Ask the SEO firm how they were founded, what their best client experience was, what their worst client experience was and how they handled it, and how they’ve improved over the years. Even if you have made up your mind after following the first three tips, as you listen to stories you may completely change your opinion.

Setting clear goals, getting multiple bids, examining predictors of the future, and listening to stories–that’s how you ensure you’ll hire the right SEO firm. Are there exceptions? Sure. At my own firm we’re terrible at producing formal case studies. We’re busy doing the work that produces results for our clients, and although we know we should have the case studies, somehow they don’t make it to the highest priority. And I know of some firms that I wouldn’t hire myself nor recommend to anyone else, and yet they have great looking case studies. In both cases listening to stories is a way to better see the reality behind the company.

Have you hired an SEO firm? How did you make sure you found the right one?

Social Media Simplified: Using Video for Social Media Marketing

9 Dec

If you’re thinking about adding videos to your social media marketing plan, you’re already on the right track. The popularity of videos in the social media mix is on the rise, with no signs of slowing down. In fact, it has been predicted that video will be one of the top trends of 2014 in the world of social media marketing, thanks to applications such as Vine, Instagram Video and Snapchat. From increasing your brand awareness to boosting engagement, here are some ways video can help your social media strategy.

  • Show off your work. Are you a contractor who gave a kitchen a beautiful makeover?  Does your retail store have an awesome holiday light display? Did your event planning company create stunning centerpieces for a wedding? A quick video gives followers an in-depth look at your talent.
  • Share your new product. Does your bakery have a new gluten-free muffin? Perhaps your jewelry store is offering a limited edition holiday collection. Showcase your latest additions with a teaser video that’s sure to catch the eyes of potential shoppers.
  • Give a mini tour. One of the best practices for businesses using social media is to show followers the “inner workings” of your organization.  Show your audience what it’s really like behind the scenes!
  • Showcase promotions. Does your business have a special deal you want to share? Spread the word with a quick, creative video. Bonus: create a promotion to offer solely to those who follow you on social media. This provides an incentive for customers to stay connected with you online!
  • Show off your customers. Ask any business: There’s nothing like a happy customer. After all, you wouldn’t be around for long without them!  Did a customer rave about their phenomenal dinner at your restaurant, or create their dream kitchen using your appliances? Ask them to give a quick testimonial to share with your followers.
  • Give back. Giving back to community is an important piece of having a business. Whether your business is sponsoring a community event or collecting donations for a local charity, video is a fantastic way to give a visually appealing insight into your involvement and to help spread the word.

These quick tips are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the virtually endless amount of ways to incorporate videos into your social media marketing efforts. Keep in mind that there are many different video platforms to choose from. This ranges from 6-second looping videos on Vine to 15-minute YouTube videos, so determine which video platform is the best fit for your business before taking the plunge.  No matter which platform (or platforms) you choose, always keep this in mind when creating your content: What is it that you want your audience to learn about your business? Take this into consideration for all your social media endeavors, and you will be well on your way to having a stellar social media strategy!

Social Media Marketing Myths!

1 Dec

There is no shortage of advice about the role social media marketing should play in a company’s overall marketing plan. Unfortunately, that advice is often all over the map.

While a number of years has passed since companies first began venturing out into the unexplored territory of social media, mixed messages continue to flourish, leaving business owners wondering where to focus marketing resources.

One end of the spectrum proclaims there is no return on investment for a business tapping into social media. The other extreme school of thought dictates your business has no future if it doesn’t have an engaging profile on every available social media network.

The result is that both over-inflating and underestimating social media’s potential impact on your business means you are not as likely to make a sound investment of resources to gain a reasonable return on your investment.

One message does appear to be clear: an estimated 35 percent of businesses use social media. If yours is not one of them—or, if you are not using social media to its optimal advantage—consider that an estimated one out of every three of your competitors is probably doing so. How can you afford to miss the marketing opportunities offered by a strong social media presence?

But sorting the social media marketing fact from fiction can seem an insurmountable task for small- and medium-sized business owners already over-tasked with leading their companies. If you are one of them, here are some of the most common myths about social media marketing—along with suggested strategies for turning these myths to your advantage.

Myth: Your customer demographic isn’t using social media.

This myth should be easy to bust, yet it persists. According to digital marketing resource Digital Marketing Ramblings, best statistical estimates as of November 2013 find Facebook with 1.19 billion active users, YouTube boasting its own 1 billion users, Twitter with 215 million active users, and Google+ garnering 300 million active users. In addition, Instagram has attracted about 150 million users while Pinterest claims 70 million.

Digital media research company eMarketer estimates that in total, social media reaches nearly one in four people around the globe. Maybe you could have made the argument back in 1993 that your customers weren’t on social media, but this is one easy myth to bust 20 years later.

Strategy: Social media marketing should be one out of several components of your company’s overall marketing plan. That means even if you are still concerned that your customers aren’t on social media, you can continue to reach them by phone, direct mail, print advertising or other means. Fretting that your targeted demographics are not tweeting, posting, or uploading is time and energy wasted. Remember, too, that your existing customer base should not be your only concern. If you are convinced your current clients are permanently offline, consider the opportunity to target a brand new demographic.

Myth: A staff member needs to be dedicated to social media to get results.

Sure, Katy Perry may make it seem like the only way to take advantage of a social media site like Twitter is to devote hour after hour to the task. All that devotion may generate a whole lot of conversation, but with so much time involved, you aren’t likely to get a reasonable return on your investment.

Strategy: Instead, use aggregators like Hootsuite to make posting simpler on Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites. Then, with the time you save, use Twitter as part of a more concerted marketing effort by hosting a tweet chat. A tweet chat is a kind of live Twitter event, moderated to focus on a number of aspects of one general topic. A hashtag is used to filter all the chatter. Hosting a tweet chat provides your company with the opportunity to build its brand in ways that can’t be accomplished through posts alone.

Myth: Social media can take the place of your website.

Because use of social media is a newer marketing tool than launching a website, there is some confusion over whether social media marketing can take the place of a company website. The answer is, no. The longer answer is, social media may be comparatively new, but email still remains a very powerful tool in your arsenal.

Strategy: Yes, you can capture email addresses via social media. However, a company website offers opportunity to use a simple form to do the same thing, likely with less effort or complexity.There are some things that your website does best for your company and other things  you may be able to better accomplish with social media. Just as you didn’t do away with all your other marketing tools back when your company launched its first email campaign, you can’t expect social media to take the place of all your other marketing efforts. Put together a marketing plan that recognizes the right tools for the job and you’ll get the most out of your social media efforts.

Myth: There is no way to measure a social media campaign’s return on investment (ROI).

This is perhaps the myth that seems to outlive and outlast all others. Part of the problem is that there are a lot of social media experts and consultants who may be extremely knowledgeable about social media networks, but they know very little about marketing or measuring return on investment for businesses.

Strategy: In reality, there are a number of ways to track social media’s impact on your business. The metrics for your social media program are not much different from the metrics of other marketing efforts. There are quantitative metrics, which are the many data-driven measurements, such as page views, unique visits, demographics and the like. Then there are qualitative metrics. Unlike quantitative metrics, qualitative metrics have an emotional element. If you are serious about the impact, there are several companies competent in providing an in-depth analysis of these metrics.

But your most important metric should be your ROI metrics. You can arrive at this measurement by tracking the percentage of visitors from social media channels who follow a link to your site and are then converted from prospect to customer or client.

In doing so, you will need to create landing pages designed specifically around your company’s social media campaign, with Google Analytics or similar application installed so you can track traffic and conversions. All social media programs should drive visitors to this landing page of your site where you have the opportunity to convert them from prospects to paying clients or customers.

While your ROI metric is very useful, it still provides only a snapshot of social media’s true influence on your company’s bottom line. Even more important  is your customer lifetime value or CLV. This is the amount of revenue a customer from your social media marketing program will bring to your business over the entire course of their time with your company’s brand. Typically, companies budget about 10 percent of CLV as the amount they are willing to invest to acquire their next customer. In this way, you can compare the CLV of your social media marketing efforts to other marketing efforts in validating your social media investment.

Engage, Drive, and Convert

When it comes to social media, the phrase “engage your customer” always seems to be at the forefront. However, just engaging prospective customers is only part of the story. It does not mean you have successfully driven them back to your site and converted them to paying customers. Treat your social media marketing efforts as you would other marketing programs. Plan carefully, budget adequately, and analyze your results.