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How To Choose The Right Content Marketing Agency

By | Content Marketing | No Comments

Some of the more common questions we’re asked during the sales process are “how do I know that I’m choosing the right content marketing agency?” or “what makes a good content marketing agency?”. Because the idea of content marketing is so new to businesses large and small, I wanted to create a follow up post to one created by Shannon this summer called 7 Elements of Choosing a Content Marketing Agency.

This post should act as a guide and a resource to develop better questions to ask as you go through the discovery and consideration stages of the decision making process.

Subject Matter Expertise

When looking to engage with a content marketing agency, one thing you need to be sure of is that they can write for your industry. Creating good content is hard enough without adding in a technical element that might be foreign to general writers. Keep in mind that it’s okay if your agency outsources content to subject matter experts who know your vertical; you just need to make sure that someone who knows your industry is producing your content from the very beginning.

Practice What They Preach

One of the biggest signs that you’re engaging with a winning agency is that they practice what they preach! Take a look at their blog. Do they provide consistent resources that actually provide value to their readers? What do they offer their audience in terms of premium content like eBooks, guides, white papers, and videos?

Provide Thought Leadership

Any content marketing agency worth their weight provides thought leadership in several different areas. First, they seek opportunities to provide their expertise to industry publications. Second, they are invited to speak and participate at different events and conferences. You shouldn’t worry too much about agencies getting published in Forbes, Huffington Post, Inc.com or any other national publication. Truth be told, anyone can pay a writer can get their content onto those websites. That’s our one, dirty little secret to share with you in this guide. Welcome to the new age of online PR. 🙂 Instead, look for consistency in publishing content that speaks to their audience.

Provide Case Studies & Client References

Before deciding on an agency to go with, you need to make two specific requests. First, you need to request case studies. Some agencies don’t publish full case studies on their website (like us) due to agreements with current clients not to publicly share their data, but can share them privately.

Second, you need to request 2-3 introductions to clients who would be willing to talk with you on the phone to discuss their experience. It’s best if the clients are somewhat related to your vertical, but they don’t have to be.

Here are some questions you might consider asking:

  • Overall, how has your experience been?
  • Has the agency delivered on promises made during the sales process?
  • How is the quality of the content they are producing?
  • How is the quality of the customers they are generating?
  • How is their communication and reporting?
  • Do they treat you as a client or as a partner?
  • Do they work as though they are part of your internal team?
  • Do they think outside the box?
  • Do you believe they have your best interest in mind?
  • Would you recommend them to a friend, family member, or colleague?

Have Clearly Defined Roadmaps & Success Metrics

One area where agencies tend to really struggle is in identifying success metrics for your unique business needs and mapping a plan that will help you get from point A to point B. The content marketing agency you choose should have a very good idea, before you close the deal, of what your business does and how you generate revenue. They should be able to provide you with some KPIs that are unique to your business. You should also request some sample client roadmaps that they’ve created so you can see how they operate on a weekly and monthly basis.

Provide Thorough Reporting

Along the lines of roadmaps and success metrics, your agency should be providing thorough reporting to you on a regular basis. Reports should include what’s being worked on, what’s scheduled, and any road blocks that they need your help in overcoming. Reports should also include your unique success metrics and how far along they are to meeting/exceeding your goals. At minimum reports should be delivered once per month. A good agency will deliver twice per month and hold in-person meetings or calls on a regular basis.

Have A Strategy For Each Channel

A good content marketing agency knows that content should fuel all other channels and create demand for a product or service. When engaging in content marketing, your agency should know how to leverage their content to improve your SEO, create more effective PPC campaigns, and skyrocket your social media presence and engagement.

A good agency knows that different channels require a different approach; you cannot take the same content and submit it to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Instagram and see success. Your audience is conditioned to use each channel differently and requires a unique strategy to reach and engage with them.

It’s also worthwhile to note that you don’t have to attack all channels at once. In fact, a good agency will pick a few channels and focus on getting them right before moving on to additional ones. 

Use Marketing Automation/Lead Nurturing To Convert More Prospects To Customers

Agencies that really understand content marketing know that not all leads coming through a website or any other channel, online or offline, are created equal. Every prospect is in a different part of the decision making process and require different touch points to move them through the funnel. When choosing a content marketing agency, make sure they understand and deploy a strategy for nurturing leads through a marketing automation platform. The platform used is irrelevant, but they should be able to make recommendations based on the stage your business is in.

 

Understand The Buyer Journey, The Sales Funnel, & How To Move Prospects Through It

If you can find an agency that understands how buyers make decisions, how they move through the sales funnel, and how to encourage prospects to take next steps, grab them and never let go. A lot of content marketing agencies just want to build and market content and don’t take the time to map the buyer journey and individual pieces of content to each step. Doing so will not only help you convert more prospects into customers, but also will help position you as an industry leader.

Build An Audience, Not Borrow One

Good content marketing agencies are interested in building you an audience, not borrowing one. If you think back to the days or MySpace, what happened when they shut down their services? Brands lost all that they invested in borrowing an audience on their platform. What happens if the four hundred thousand followers you have on Facebook disappear tomorrow? Smart marketers work to tap an audience, bring them to your “playground” and work to turn them into an owned audience that can be engaged with on your terms.

Sensitive To Your Brand

Every business is unique and every brand is unique as well. Agencies that understand this and know how to work with brand teams to make their lives easier is a huge win. You should look for an agency that has checklists and a process for creating content that’s in-line with your brand and can easily be reviewed by someone internally without sucking a lot of bandwidth.

Interested In Using/Repurposing Already Existing Content

Money is a sensitive topic, even in the business world. Many content marketing agencies want to get in and start producing content day one. Good agencies take a full inventory of all the content owned by a business and determine what can be reused/repurposed for other uses. This process can save businesses thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours that can be invested in other initiatives.

Make It Easy To Work With Them

Flexibility is huge when it comes to working with an agency. A good content marketing agency should be able to plug into your systems and processes without skipping a beat. Be wary of any agency forcing you to operate in a certain way in order to do business with them.

Ask For Data Up Front

You know the old adage — you don’t know where you’re going until you know where you’ve been? The same applies to any form of marketing. Unless your potential agency understands where you are currently at, they cannot effectively put together a plan of action, scope of work, or accurate pricing to deliver the results you are looking for. You should plan on providing access to, or at the least, providing PDF exports of your analytics data, webmaster tools data, and lead generation data. Be wary if your agency doesn’t ask for this fairly early in the process.

View You As A Partner, Not Just Another Client

Solid marketing agencies view and treat you like you’re a long-term partner, not just another client. Pay attention to the words they use in referring to your potential engagement. Do they refer to you as a client or a partner? Do they send contracts or agreements?

Integrate With In-House Teams

Along the same lines as above, you will want to find an agency that integrates with your in-house team. Some agencies want to come in and run the show. This usually ends poorly. Good agencies understand that there are always going to be strengths and weaknesses inside of organizations and if they can plug the holes and make weaknesses, strengths, they are likely a good agency to do business with.

They’re Not Cheap

Good marketing — online or offline — requires a significant investment. Creating valuable content that drives brand awareness and gets a prospect to take action is expensive. There’s no way around it. One of the first things you should ask agencies is what their minimum retainer is. If it’s under $3,000 – $4,000 per month for a minimum of 6-12 months, they are going to have a really hard time producing results for you.

If you have a smaller budget than that, ask the potential agency where they feel you would be best to invest it. Good agencies will provide answers like, “hire an intern to help with x, y, or z”, “invest in a redesign of the website”, invest in conversion optimization to turn more if your visitors into leads”, or “invest in a marketing automation solution to convert more of your leads into paying customers”. These are the agencies that really have your best interests in mind and don’t just want your money.

I hope this was helpful for you in your quest to find the perfect agency. In the next couple of weeks we will be turning this into a downloadable guide/worksheet, so make sure you check back. We will also send it out via email, so make sure you subscribe to our newsletter.

If you have any follow up questions please fill out the form on our contact us page and either I or a member of our team will be in touch.

 

Must-Know Social Media Hacks: A Cheat Sheet for Boosting Conversion Rates

By | Blog, Conversion, Social Media | No Comments

If you’ve stayed up to date with any news for the past few years, then you shouldn’t be surprised that social media is becoming a huge strategy for companies to engage their customer bases and build brand loyalty.

You probably interact with several brands yourself, whether it’s by “liking” their posts on Facebook or by tweeting them to try to coax a response on Twitter.

Keep in mind, though, that engagement is only half the battle. To run a successful marketing program, you need to develop a strong conversion optimization strategy.

the_conversion_funnel_600

Let’s start with a basic definition

Conversion optimization is the process of transforming new website visitors into customers – and the process of transforming first-time buyers into repeat customers.

Social media is critical to this process. People aren’t always ready to buy when they first visit your website – and even after a great first impression, they’re likely to forget about your brand. Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest can help you maintain a connection with prospective customers.

Consider the following analogy

The conversion process is like making a new friend at a friend’s party. You both make a great first impression and decide that you need to hang out or spend time together again – but you run out of time.

After that, you keep running into one another at the grocery store and coffee shops. The exchange is always positive, and you’re always happy to see one another. Eventually, you both realize that you need to put something on the calendar sooner rather than later.

Now let’s get back to the business world. Social media platforms can help you replicate and amplify the dynamic of making a new friend or meeting a potential client.

At the end of the day, “conversion” is just a fancy way of saying “connection.” Here are some invaluable tips for developing a conversion-meets-social media strategy that will work for your company:

1. Get serious about Facebook

I mean, really serious. In a 2012 Edison Research/Arbitron study on social networking habits, 79 percent of consumers said they prefer to connect with brands or products on Facebook. So why wouldn’t you meet them where they’re already hanging out?

People follow the brands they love because they want to know what those brands are doing, when the company is having a sale, and what other new products they have on the way.

So the question is: if you’re a company looking to boost your conversions, how can you leverage Facebook? You see, it’s pretty simple. Facebook users are influenced by their friends. From their own newsfeed, they can see what their friends like and every move they make.

More importantly, because Facebook is visually appealing, there are countless ways to engage your fans through giveaways, photo contests, promotions and paid advertisements.

Find ways to engage your users and then encourage them to share what they’re doing by asking questions and telling them how to engage. From a psychological perspective, make sure that the connection to your brand (and products) are strong. Facebook sharing can turn online promotions into powerful drivers of conversion, which means sales.

2. Encourage Your Fans to Share Socially

To dovetail off of point #1, let’s talk about the power of sharing.

With just one click, users and brands can publicize important on-site events. When your customers buy (or are just about to buy) a brand new sweater, think about how they might be feeling – excited, happy, and ready to spread the word about their great find.

Why not include a “share this” on Facebook and Twitter after the checkout process? Or what about incorporating a “Pin it” button on your company’s product pages?

Most likely, your business already has a “thank you for shopping” page with an email confirmation. Build more excitement by adding share features there as well. You can even implement share buttons on your product page – chances are that your customers will enjoy sharing items they care about.

Here is an example from the product page at J Crew Factory – notice how the retailer incorporates sharing into the overall transaction process:

JCrew sharing

J Crew Sharing

Not convinced? Turn to the data for guidance:

In the Adobe 2013 Digital Marketing Optimization Survey,  Adobe found that social shar­ing increases con­ver­sion rates, with 2 in 5 com­pa­nies respond­ing that it is “very effective.”

Because customers are much more likely to try a new product or service based on a shared recommendation, help encourage your customers to do so. Include it in their confirmation screen after they have made a purchase, and include it in the confirmation email you send to them.

The bottom line is that you can leverage social sharing to increase conversions through the strategic placement of sharing icons. So, think about where you place these seemingly minimal icons – make sure they’re visible at key transaction moments.

3. Think Mobile. Think Responsive.

Did you know Nielsen found that 95% of tablet shoppers and 72% of smartphone shoppers who make a purchase with their device do it at home? This means that even if there is a computer around, there is a good chance that your customer will be browsing the Internet, Facebook and emails on a tablet or mobile device.

If this isn’t compelling enough, a recent Google study found that 61% of mobile users who have a bad browsing experience will move on from your site to a competitors site.

You need to pay attention to your mobile strategy immediately. Get started with the following checklist:

  • Optimize your mobile site’s load times. If it doesn’t load quickly, you’ll lose your customer, and they will move on to your competitor’s site.
  • Have large, mobile-friendly buttons that are easy for big fingers. Have you ever tried clicking a tiny button on a mobile site and you miss it? If you hate this, then your customers do too! Make it easy for them. They want to buy your stuff, so help them out!
  • Minimize the amount of scrolling a customer has to do. No one likes to scroll.
  • Make sure it is easy to access your business contact information. A lot of times users are simply going to your site to figure out where you are or how to get in touch. Keep it simple and accessible.
  • “Click to call” access to phone the business.
  • Include links to your company’s social media profiles.

So what do these tips have to do with social media?

The short answer: everything.

Of Facebook’s nearly one billion strong users, approximately 200 million are mobile only.

Social media should be heavily emphasized in your website’s mobile design.

If you’re investing the resources in revamping your product or homepages, make sure that Facebook is a part of your strategy. You can even make social media a requirement for logging into your website:

Hipmunk App Login Screen

4. Use Analytics

Plan, act, measure, repeat. This workflow underscores the golden rule of marketing – that data should guide your every decision.

Rely on tools like Google Analytics, KISSmetrics, and Mixpanel to track conversions and understand how social media influences your overall conversion strategy. Be relentlessly focused on results, but make sure you’re investigating performance thoroughly.

A common mistake that marketers make is to treat social media as a direct sales channel. Do not fall into this trap. Audiences go through a series of steps before they ultimately convert into leads or buyers. Make sure you’re monitoring this full engagement spectrum before making a judgment call about whether something succeeded or failed.

Kiss Metric User Profile

Photo Credit: KISSmetrics

Your analytics package will answer the question “what.” Make sure that you also dive into the “why” behind the outcomes you’re observing.

A good example is the 2013 UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper survey. UPS joined forces with comScore to find out what consumers really want during their online shopping experience by surveying over 3,000 online shoppers. Of the 88 percent who said they have abandoned a shopping cart, 44 percent said they did so because the delivery time took too long.

So, what does this mean? It means that by shortening your shipping time, there is a great likelihood that your customer will actually buy your products. But you wouldn’t have known this without doing some research. Similarly, your own analytics will tell you key details about your customers.

When you segment traffic sources by social media, don’t assume that a long pageview time means that visitors are engaged, for instance. Customers might actually be confused – unable to find the information that they want.

Summary

Conversion optimization and social media marketing go hand in hand. A retweet or a Facebook like is a good way to maintain a connection with your potential customers, but it only goes so far. It’s time to start taking social media seriously, measuring what you’re doing, and improving on what you find.

STRYDE | Dear Facebook, You're Gross

Dear Facebook, You’re Gross

By | Social Media | No Comments

“In hindsight,” wrote Kramer, “the research benefits of the paper may not have justified all of this anxiety.”

jimmy-fallon-ew

Allow me to preface this with the following:

I have never had any inkling of an issue with my privacy being “infringed” upon. Do I mind retargeted ads? No way. Do I mind firms collecting my data among countless others as we go about our normal lives? Absolutely not. I firmly believe this ultimately serves consumers by giving them what they truly want.

I willingly give my personal information to Facebook. That willingness is under the assumption that, yes, you will be watched. Deal with it.

Now, what I (and any reasonable person) does not assume, is that their emotions will be purposefully and intentionally altered for Facebook’s research benefit.

The Problem: Mood Manipulation

By now, you’re probably aware of Facebook’s experiment on nearly 700,000 users in 2012. You’re also probably aware of the backlash they received from users and media outlets alike. If you need a bit more background information, The Atlantic published a fabulous, comprehensive article explaining the study, ethics, and psychological issues. For your convenience, listed below are two great quotes from the original study.

“The experiments took place for 1 wk (January 11–18, 2012). Participants were randomly selected based on their User ID, resulting in a total of ∼155,000 participants per condition who posted at least one status update during the experimental period.”

Facebook must have found something TOTALLY groundbreaking, right?

“Although these data provide, to our knowledge, some of the first experimental evidence to support the controversial claims that emotions can spread throughout a network, the effect sizes from the manipulations are small.”

The Apology

Sadly, what the network can’t measure is how these people actually felt. How this impacted their emotions and actions in the real world. The authors of the study from Facebook assure that the impact of their manipulation was slight:

“[A]t the end of the day, the actual impact on people in the experiment was the minimal amount to statistically detect it…”

So, it was barely noticeable, right? Anyone with a basic knowledge of statistics understands that if your data IS statistically significant, that’s a pretty big deal. Facebook actions cross the line. This is worlds away from combing your posts to serve you ads or collecting the date of when you changed your relationship status to plot alongside millions of other data points. Facebook is recklessly manipulating users for the sake of “science.” I reached out to the point of contact for this article to confirm that none of the users knowingly participated in the study. He did not reply. However, Facebook has released statements, on Facebook of course, regarding the questions surrounding the experiment:

“[O]ur goal was never to upset anyone. I can understand why some people have concerns about it, and my coauthors and I are very sorry for the way the paper described the research and any anxiety it caused.” – Adam D. I. Kramer, Facebook Core Data Science Team member.

You pesky, pesky terms and agreements. These kinds of inclusions in terms and agreements that seem to be out of line to a reasonable person aren’t illegal, yet. Bottom line is that Facebook has done nothing illegal. I’m not going into semantics here with the difference between illegal and unethical. We know that distinction.

Gross, Reckless, and Desperate

This experiment was reckless and gross. But, it also reeks of desperation. Desperation from a company struggling to prove value to shareholders. Was this bit of buzz worth the absolutely negative response from users and press alike?

Top 50 Social Media Experts

By | Social Media | 6 Comments

Top50SMsAfter digging through the depths of our brains and the Internet, we have successfully compiled 100 total Content Marketing and SEO superstars. Now, we complete the trifecta of digital marketing leaders with the Top 50 Social Media Experts. To create this list, we looked at Twitter followers, frequency and quality of interactions in the social realm, breadth and depth of experience, as well as impact on the industry as a whole. By no means is this list exhaustive and it is listed in alphabetical order. Also, you’ll probably want to find these experts on Twitter. Click on the link names in each experts description, or save the time and subscribe our Top 50 Social Media-ers list on Twitter.

1. Amy Porterfield, Social Media Strategist

Amy Porterfield is an accomplished Social Media Strategist specializing in the ever changing world of Facebook Marketing. Since co-writing Facebook for Dummies, Porterfield has lead numerous webinars and conducts a training program at FBInfluence.com.

2. Andrea Vahl, Social Media Consultant and Speaker

If you’re looking for a true Social Media super hero, look no further than Andrea Vahl. She even has an alter ego by the name of Grandma Mary. Through either persona, Vahl helps small businesses understand and leverage the power of Social Media.

3. Brian Carter, Social Media Strategist, Author, and Speaker

Beyond being a seasoned Social Marketing expert, Brian Carter is the “most entertaining presenter in Internet Marketing.” Carter penned several international bestsellers and has helped Microsoft, Universal Studios, and The U.S. Army develop strategies around search and social.

4. Bryan Kramer, Social Business Strategist and CEO of PureMatter

Bryan Kramer and his agency, PureMatter, have been distinguished as one of Silicon Valley’s fastest growing private companies by the Silicon Valley Business Journal. Recently, he authored the best selling book, Human to Human #H2H.

5. Chris Brogan, Publisher and CEO of Owner Magazine

Chris Brogan’s Owner Magazine helps individuals improve their worth through capabilities and connections. With 7 New York Times Bestsellers and counting, Brogan is a highly souht-after keynote speaker.

6. Cliff RavenscraftPodcast Producer, Consultant, and Coach

The Podcast Answer Man, or Cliff Ravenscraft, helps individuals and businesses launch and increase subscribers to podcasts. Ravenscraft’s site provides solutions, advice, and tutorials needed to succeed.

7. Cynthia Sanchez, Pinterest Blogger, Podcaster, Social Media Creative and Trainer at Oh So Pinteresting 

While a career shift from radiation oncology nurse to professional blogger might not seem like logical progression, Cynthia Sanchez has taken her medical knowledge and applied the same practices in the social media realm. Sanchez’s nursing skills in empathy grant her a unique and effective approach to social media marketing.

8. Dave Kerpen, Author, Founder and CEO of Likeable Local

Dave Kerpan boasts an impressive resume, including founder and CEO of Likeable Local, cofounder and Chariman of Likeable media, author, and keynote speaker. But, perhaps the most memorable portion is him holding the position of #1 LinkedIn Influencer of all time in page views. Which places him ahead of Bill Gates and President Barack Obama.

9. Dennis Yu, Co-Founder and CEO of BlitzMetrics

Dennis Yu is an entrepreneur, speaker, and an expert in social media advertising and marketing. Yu and his team at BlitzMetrics build social media dashboards for major brands, media, and retail companies.

10. Donna Moritz, Social Media and Visual Marketing Strategist

Based in Queensland, Australia, Donna Moritz is passionate about word of mount marketing and content strategy. Moritz’s blog Socially Sorted is a two-time finalist for Social Media Examiner’s Top 10 Social Media Blogs in 2013 and 2014.

11. Doug Karr, Blogger, Author, Speaker, and Founder of DK New Media

Douglas Karr assists marketing tech companies build their online presence and authority. Karr is another unique keynote speaker with a humorous and outspoken style.

12. Ekaterina Walter, Co-Founder and CMO of Branderati

Social Media is all about connections and Ekaterina Walter is a “super-connector.” Walter is a social media trailblazer and author of the Wall Street Journal bestseller “Think Like Zuck: The Five Business Secrets of Facebook’s Improbably Brilliant CEO Mark Zuckerberg.”

13. Gary Vaynerchuck, Co-Founder of VaynerMedia

Five years ago, Gary Vaynerchuck and his brother launched VaynerMedia. The agency was and remains to be a rare breed, helping Fortune 500 companies find their social voices and build their digital brands through content and story-telling.

14. Gini Dietrich, CEO of Arment Dietrich

Gina Dietrich leads the team at Arment Dietrich, a integrated marketing communications firm located in Chicago. Dietrich is also an author and co-author of several books, and blogger at Spin Sucks.

15. James Wedmore, Video Marketing Advocate

James Wedmore’s skills couldn’t be more in demand with rise in popularity of video marketing. His mission is simple: show business owners how to create and execute effective video marketing campaigns without spending a lot of time or money.

16. Jamie Turner, Author, Speaker, and CEO of The 60 Second Marketer

A true authority of marketing, Jamie Turner has helped organizations including AT&T, CNN, Motorola, Cartoon Network, and The Coca-Cola Company grow revenues with unique marketing strategies.

17. Jason Falls, VP of Digital Strategy at CafePress and Founder of Social Media Explorer

Jason Falls expertise in Social Media knows no bounds. From speaker, educator, strategy, to consultation, Falls does it all. Most notably is Falls work on Jim Beam’s “The Remake” video contest, which won a 2009 SAMMY Award for best cross media campaign.

18. Jason Keath, CEO of Social Fresh

Jason Keith and the team at Social Fresh are some of the smartest voices in online marketing. Keith is a frequent social media speaker, as well as a consultant and analyst.

19. Jason Miller, Senior Content Marketing Manager at LinkedIn

When Jason Miller isn’t busy leading the content marketing and social efforts for LinkedIn Marketing Solutions, he moonlights as a rock ‘n roll photographer. Miller seamlessly blends his talents for online content and photography on his site Rocknrollcocktail.com.

20. Jay Baer, Marketing Speaker, Coach, and Author

Attempting to summarize Jay Baer’s experience here would be a futile effort. Legendary speaker, New York Times best selling author, and most of all, a success story.

21. Jeff Bullas, Social Media Marketing Blogger, Strategist, and Speaker

Jeff Bullas’ blog is dedicated to all things Social Media Marketing. He works with companies and executives to optimize their online presence with digital and social media marketing.

22. Jeff Rohrs, Vice President of Marketing at ExactTarget

An attorney turned professional marketer, Jeff Rohrs acts as a steward for ExactTarget’s thought leadership. Rohrs speaks at numerous industry events about the evolution of the digital marketing world.

23. Joel CommEntrepreneur, Speaker, Author, and Consultant

Joel Comm holds over 18 years of experience in Internet business. It is Comm’s knowledge and personable nature that makes him a sought after speaker, and a New York Times best-selling author.

24. John Jantsch, Consultant, Speaker, and Creator of Duct Tape Marketing

John Jantsch is not only a Social Media expert, but has been touted as the “World’s Most Practical Small Business Expert” for consistently driving results through proven small business marketing ideas and strategies. If you are even mildly involved in the online marketing world, you’re probably already following him and Twitter.

25. John Lee Dumas, Founder of EntrepreneurOnFire

Even though John Lee Dumas claims to have only recently become an entrepreneur, his entrepreneurial spirit was in him for many years. To say that Dumas’ experience is varied is an understatement with time spent as an Officer in the US Army to real estate. However, his venture into podcasting has shown him his true passion.

26. Jolina Pettice, Director of Client Accounts at TopRank

Jolina Pettice has years of experience in managing search, content, and social media marketing for Fortune 500 companies. Pettice continues to contribute to TopRank, where she has been for over 7 years.

27. Kim Garst, Co-Founder and CEO of Boom! Social

Kim Garst’s tenacity took her from barely being able to cut and paste, to becoming a true online authority. Garst says that social media really choose her, and not the other way around. A true testament to her passion for the industry.

28. Larry Benet, Chief Connector of Sang Events

Yet another super-connector, Larry Benet built his great success by harnessing the power of connectivity for businesses, professional speakers, authors, and thought leaders. Larry Benet Consulting, his firm, provides training and personal introductions to high-value contacts around the globe. Benet has essentially created a private social network for the elite minds of the business world.

29. Laura Fitton, Inbound Marketing Evangelist for Hubspot

Laura Fitton is a trail blazer in the world of Twitter. After co-authoring Twitter for Dummies, Fitton convinced Guy Kawasaki and thousands of executives that Twitter would have real business value. What foresight! Beyond being an inbound marketing evangelist, Fitton is a sought-after keynote speaker with unique insights.

30. Lewis HowesLifestyle Entrepreneur

Lewis Howes is no stranger to dreaming big, encountering setbacks, and blowing them away. After getting injured playing professional football, Howes began to feed his hunger for business, marketing, and adding value to influential people. Howes has transformed himself into an internet marketing guru, and helps his clients become the same.

31. Lou Mongello, Host of WDW Radio Show Disney Podcast

It all started when Lou Mongello first experienced Walt Disney World during its grand opening in October of 1971. In the decades since, Mongello has attended the park hundreds of times and makes his career as a Disney author, publisher, historian, and trusted source. Why is he on the social media list? Mongello’s Podcast has been awarded Best Travel Podcast 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013.

32. Mari Smith, Top Social Media Influencer, Author, and Speaker

Mari Smith has been deeply immersed in social media since 2007. Smith is one of the world’s leading social media strategists and widely recognized as the top Facebook marketing expert in the WORLD!

33. Melanie Duncan, Founder of Entrepreneuress Academy

A serious serial entrepreneur, Melanie Duncan has been starting successful online business since graduating college. However, her true passion lies in teaching others how to create success and freedom in their lives through the power of internet marketing and social media.

34. Michael Brito, Group Director of Media & Engagement at W2O Group

Michael Brito is the author of “Your Brand: The Next Media Company,” which details how a social business strategy enables better content, smarter marketing, and deeper customer relationships. As Group Director at W2O Group, Brito helps clients with content, brand, and social business initiatives.

35. Michael HyattAuthor and Online Marketing Expert

Two of the eight books authored by Michael Hyatt have landed on the New York Times best-seller list, reinforcing his stance as a respected author and online marketing expert. Hyatt’s personal blog focuses on “intentional leadership,” which helps leaders leverage their influence.

36. Michael Stelzner, Founder and CEO of Social Media Examiner

Michael Stelzer is the man behind the curtain at some of the most popular social media events, including Social Media Marketing World and Social Media Success Summit. In addition, Stelzer is the author of several books and a valued voice in the social media industry.

37. Nichole Kelly, CEO of Social Media Explorer

We often speak of Social Media pioneers, and Nichole Kelly deserves this title. Kelly innovated the marketing industry by measuring social media results to core business objectives: sales, revenue, and costs. She is clearly a sought after speaker and accomplished author.

38. Pam Moore, Founder and CEO of Marketing Nutz

Pam Moore is a woman of many hats, she actively participates in speaking, training, custom workshops, in addition to her agency work. Moore is constantly recognized for her achievements and is included on Forbe’s Top 5 Women Influencers in Social Media as well as the Top 10 Influencers in Social Media.

39. Pat Flynn, Owner of Flynndustries LCC

Pat Flynn’s honesty and transparency is palpable throughout the entirety of his blog, Smart Passive Income. Flynn doesn’t consider himself an online “marketing guru” and never offers any paid consultations. This makes him an even more trusted source for real-world and tested information about online marketing as a whole.

40. Reg Saddler, Managing Partner at Difference Theory LLC

Reg Saddler keeps a low profile. Across all of his social outlets his description reads the following: “Just a guy who loves Social Media, Tech, Business and News. Want to know what our company does: The 1st Rule of Fightclub: you don’t talk about Fightclub.” All you need to know about Saddler is that he is consistently among the top most influential on Twitter and is owning Google+ like nobody’s business.

41. Robert Scoble, Blogger, Evangelist, and Start-up Liaison Officer for Rackspace

You’ve most likely read, and are reading, Robert Scoble’s blog Scobleizer. His blog came to peak popularity while Scoble was acting as a technology evangelist for Microsoft.

42. Scott Monty, Global Digital Communications Lead at Ford Motor Company

Ranked by Forbes as one of the top 10 influencers in social media, Scott Monty has been called “an unstoppable force of nature.” The Boston native has a not-so-secret love for Sherlock Holmes, documented on the site ihearofsherlock.

43. Scott Stratten, President of UnMarketing

Scott Stratten’s term “Un-Markeing” is all about positioning yourself as a trusted expert in front of your target market, so when they have the need, they choose you. That’s the ultimate goal of social media, isn’t it?

44. Simon Mainwaring, CEO of We First Inc

We First began as a book authored by Simon Mainwaring. In it, he addresses fears of the world and fears of technology and business. The silver lining that Mainwaring provides is Social Media, which connects us in ways that can build a better business and a better world.

45. Stephanie Sammons, CEO at Wired Advisor

Stephanie Sammons recognizes that we are in the midst of a personal digital media revolution. Sammons goal is to guide people to achieve exactly what she did, building your own brand, business, career, and life on your own terms.

46. Steve Farber, Author and President of Extreme Leadership Inc

With a personality that’s part strategist, part social commentator, and full of energy, Steve Farber inspires leadership on all organizational levels. Farber is devoted to the cultivation of Extreme Leaders in not only the business industry, but also in non-profits and education.

47. Steven Farnsworth, Chief Digital Strategist at Jolt Digital Marketing

Steve Farnsworth, or @Steveology as you more likely know him, aides companies in building customer communities that foster brand loyalty. His blog, @Steveology, shares Farnsworth’s unique and valuable insight on B2B content marketing, inbound marketing, and social media.

48. Ted Rubin, CMO of Brand Innovators

Ted Rubin’s success can most likely be attributed to his belief that the key to continued success for ANY brand is identifying with the customer. Rubin acknowledges that the most powerful portion of social media is the ability to listen to your customers and adjust your message.

49. Todd Wheatland, Head of Strategy at King Content

Todd Wheatland is an author and sought-after speaker in marketing, social media, and HR. In 2014 alone, Wheatland plans of speaking at events in over 10 countries across the globe. Talk about being social!

50. Viveka von Rosen, LinkedIn Expert, Speaker, and Trainer

Viveka von Rosen is known internationally as THE LinkedIn Expert. When Rosen isn’t authoring books on LinkedIn Marketing, she’s speaking to business owners, corporations, legal firms, and associations on the benefits of social media marketing.

We really hope you’ve enjoyed our Top 50 posts. Our aim is to spread the reach of these great minds, and to have you show us more. So please, share in the comments or Tweet at us with who should be added to the list!

Social Media and Being Genuine

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Hands are making indecision signalsIf you scrape the surface of Twitter, you’ll find countless articles with the with headlines proclaiming “7 Social Tips You Need!” and “If You’re Not Doing *This* You’re Failing At Social!” Overwhelming right? Even worse, after reading these articles rarely does anyone come away away with any sense of relief, or, “Wow, that was so helpful and enlightening!”

Content, consistency, relevance, interest- all of these things are spoken of ad nauseum. And for good reason, as you do need be aware of these elements when carrying out your social strategy. But too often people do not seek to convey a sense of being genuine: speaking in simple and transparent terms. People are smart and if you’re a phony, customers will let you know by tuning out your message. Really, the best social media advice one can receive is the same advice my mom has been giving me for years: just be yourself, honey!

Okay, “be genuine.” It is easier said than done. Furthermore, it’s certainly a concept you need to FEEL out (important because so much of marketing is inspiring feelings in your audience). However, there are a few things that almost always come across as disingenuous:

  • Not interacting with followers through comments, questions, mentions, etc.
  • Relying solely on scheduled posts
  • Posting the same exact content over and over again
  • “Always Be Closing” mentality

Being genuine is a tactic that all firms, of any size, can accomplish. And oftentimes it is even unintentional. Harper Perennial, the New York publishing company, executes its social with a hilarious level of “genuinity”. It has over 40k Twitter followers, yet still interacts on a real and personal level.

On a smaller scale, the Pittsburgh hot dog shop Franktuary is another stellar example of authentic interaction. The good people at Franktuary engage consistently on Facebook and Twitter. All of which is done with a friendly and somewhat irreverent tone.

Essentially, social media is a 24/7 networking event with the typical cast of characters. One person works the room effortlessly, begins conversations with everyone and never once seems like they’re selling themselves. Another feels terribly awkward and stands up against the wall. While another particularly abrasive individual is pushing into conversations and relentlessly pitching themselves. Clearly you don’t want to be the wallflower, so avoiding those disingenuous actions will help you from becoming the infomercial pitch man on the other end of the spectrum.

Facebook Video Ads Mean One Thing: Get Your Audience To Your Blog Now

By | Social Media | One Comment

If Facebook wasn’t annoying enough with sponsored posts, invasive ads, and a confusing Edgerank that doesn’t let your message get to your fans, then it might be annoying now. Facebook plans to sell TV-style commercials on its site for as much as $2.5 million a day, according to Bloomberg.

So if that really happens, you might be forced to watch advertisements before you continue seeing what some of your friends are eating for lunch. This just adds to the low satisfaction Facebook users have with the social site compared to Twitter, Pinterest and Google+.

Why this is bad for social media marketers

If people even become more dissatisfied with Facebook, they’ll quit it at some level. If they quit Facebook, or even if they don’t check it as much, they will see less and less of you. If you’ve built a large Facebook following, you could potentially lose a significant portion of that audience.

And this could really happen over night. If you don’t think so, consider MySpace, Digg, RSS feeds, etc. Even competing social media sites, like Instagram and Pinterest have stolen Facebook users’ time. People are spending less time on Facebook when they are also going to these other sites.

When you depend solely on third-party platforms to interact and build an audience, you are at their mercy. You want to do everything to protect and keep your audience and followers, and you can never depend on someone else to do that for you.

Build a blog. Keep your audience

To keep your audience, build your blog, get more subscribers and build an email list.

This is the only way to keep your online audience engaged with your brand for the long term. If you depend on a social media site, eventually you’ll lose them.

“Facebook is awesome and all, but you’re beholden to the powers that be at Facebook, and your content is only seen by your fans some of the time (EdgeRank). With the blog you own the real estate. 100% of visitors to your blog will see your content. You control the entire experience. You can (should) share your blog content on FB, twitter, etc, but the blog is where it all starts,” said Dave Bascom, Fit CEO.

Aside from keeping your audience, a blog is a much better place to engage your audience anyway. They aren’t distracted by everything else going on in the social media world. You have call to actions within one click, and can provide customers and potential customers a unique experience that can build your business.

The Ultimate List of Social Media Marketing Tools

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social media

Today’s post, the second in our series of “lists of tools” posts, is going to talk about the best of the best social media marketing tools. Social media marketing is heating up, especially when combined with SEO and content marketing strategies, therefore, we thought it would be good to put together this killer list. In this post we are going to address tools specific to marketing on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, and Google+. Let’s start with Facebook.

Facebook Marketing Tools

Canva – Canva allows everyone (not just the graphic designers) to create beautiful graphics to share through Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and more. Users have access to a large library of professionally designed templates to use in their designs or to use as inspiration.

Facebook for Business – Facebook for Business is their page and ad platform that allows small and large business to build an audience and engage with them on a regular basis.

AdParlor – AdParlor is a full service managed Facebook advertising solution for buying Facebook Ads.

Marin Software – Marin Software is a Facebook Ad management and optimization tool for companies with larger ad spends.

Qwaya – Owaya is also a Facebook Ad management tool that helps you optimize your ads and lower your spend while improving your ROI.

Post Planner – Post Planner is a tool to help you keep content running through your feed at all times of the day which results in more reach, more likes, more leads, and more customers for your business.

OfferPop – Offer Pop is an third party platform that helps you build and launch Facebook apps in a matter of minutes.

WP4FB – WP4FB is similar to Offer Pop, except it is run on the WordPress platform. In a nutshell, WP4FB allows you to create highly professional, extremely viral, custom Facebook Fan Page Tabs and build an audience.

LinkedIn Marketing Tools

LinkedIn Ads – LinkedIn Ads are just what they sound like… LinkedIn’s ad platform and are a great way for businesses to connected with individuals meeting the exact criteria of their buyer personas.

LinkedIn Partner Messages – LinkedIn Partner Messages allow advertisers to deliver targeted messages to potential partners and clients through the InMail messaging platform.

Twitter Marketing Tools

Twitter Ads – Twitter Ads is Twitter’s ad platform that allows you to promote your Twitter account to gain more followers or promote a specific tweet to gain more retweets.

TwitterFeed – TwitterFeed is a fun little tool to help keep your update stream full of great content. You can set up TwitterFeed to pull the RSS feed of specific blogs and serve that content through your stream.

Sponsored Tweets – Sponsored Tweets is a similar platform like Twitter Ads, however, they only allow you to promote tweets to gain more visibility.

YouTube Marketing Tools

YouTube Video Targeting – From the name, I’m sure you’ve already guessed that this is YouTube’s ad platform. This is one of my favorite social media marketing tools as it allows you to target your ads to views of specific videos. You can also target your ads to geographic location, demographics, languages, categories and others.

One Load – One Load is more of a video marketing tool in general, but it’s super cool. One load lets you upload and distribute your videos to several video platforms, including YouTube, to help you get more visibility for your video and business.

Pinterest Marketing Tools

PinLeauge – PinLeauge is a marketing platform for Pinterest marketers that help you attract more followers and grow faster on Pinterst. They also offer a pretty awesome analytics platform for Pinterest as well.

Piqora – Piquora allows you to easily customize, deploy, and track Pinterest contests and sweepstakes. It also allows you to engage with your followers, uncover their favorite content, while driving continued impressions.

Pinstamatic – Pinstamatic helps you create great Pinterest boards in just a few minutes without much effort or any editing tools.

Google+ Marketing Tools

dlvr.it – Deliver It allows you to push your blog content to Google+ and other social platforms without having to login and update your page every time you post.

Circle Count – Circle Count helps you better understand Google+ and how certain people engage with content on their platform.

Find People On Plus – Find People On Plus helps you locate people with similar interests as you or your business and connect with them.

Wow! That’s quite the list. Am I missing any? If so, please feel free to share your favorite social media marketing tools in the comments section below.

Image courtesy of iCrossing