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From Kickstarter to eCommerce – 10 Things You Absolutely, Positively Have to Get Right

By | eCommerce | No Comments

You’ve put countless hours, and probably a lot of blood, sweat and tears, into your product. And maybe like GoldieBlox, you’ve showed it to investors and retailers in your industry, and they shut you down. But like this company, you believed in your product’s value and didn’t want to give up on your dream or throw away all your hard work. So you turned to Kickstarter, and one morning you woke up to find you were one of its more than 117,000 successfully funded projects.

But… what do you do now?

Well like many inventors or entrepreneurs in your situation do (or should do), it’s time to start your own ecommerce store. And if you want to get orders and grow fast, then you better do these 10 things—and you better do them right.

1. Pick the right platform.

There are dozens of ecommerce platforms out there for you to choose. But, not all platforms are created equal. Most of our clients run on Shopify, BigCommerce and WooCommerce, and we’ve found that clients on these platforms tend to outperform their counterparts running on different platforms. Just remember there’s no one-size-fits-all platform. Determine what features you need and then do your homework, and if you need to, ask platforms all your questions to ensure you choose the right one for your business.

2. Make sure your website is user-friendly and easy to navigate.

[Screenshot taken from wrightwoodfurniture.com]

The design of your site plays a crucial role in attracting and retaining customers, and getting them to buy your product. And while the colors, fonts and images you use are important, far too many sites these days are beautiful, but a total disaster to use. A well-designed, easy-to-navigate site makes it easy for consumers to find what they’re looking for and motivates them to check out more pages on your site. So make sure your products, contact information and about us pages are easy to find, since 86%, 64% and 52% of website visitors, respectively, want to see those pages once on the homepage of a site.

3. Have your website up and functional before your Kickstarter campaign ends.

You can only put so much information about your brand and product on your Kickstarter campaign page. On your own website, you can tell your full story and provide more information that gets people better engaging with you. Some backers will find you on Kickstarter but want to know more, and if you don’t have a website, how can they? Plus, your website will live long after your Kickstarter campaign ends, so launch your website before to capture as much attention and as many leads you can, while also building an email list.

4. Use professional product shots.

[Screenshot taken from nike.com]

Everyone with an iPhone these days thinks they’re a “professional photographer”—but what someone should tell them is they aren’t. Great shots sell. So do yourself a huge favor and take professional product shots to put on your product pages and help you stand out above your competition. And if you have the budget, you might also consider using product videos to show consumers how to properly use your product.

5. Optimize your website.

An ecommerce website is a website, meaning you have to ensure it’s optimized. A common SEO error ecommerce websites make is not optimizing their product pages. Each of your pages should be optimized for consumer demand and keywords searched when making headlines, title pages and product descriptions. When doing SEO for your website, start out focusing on long tail keywords for the first 3-6 months, and then work in head keywords where it makes sense.

6. Have a solid content strategy based off your customers.

No customers, no money. And customers today don’t just go online and buy a product; they first do their research. They want their questions answered and pain points addressed, and they’re going online to find someone who’s going to do that. So figure out what your customers’ pain points, questions and decision making process looks like and produce useful, entertaining content to address each of them. I promise that having a solid content marketing strategy will help you generate higher sales.

7. Carve out an influencer budget.

Industry influencers have already built a loyal, engaging following. So utilize what they’ve already got by finding ones relevant to your brand and customers and then developing a working relationship with them. But developing this relationship usually comes at a small price. You’ll need a combination of cash, product and the ability to produce affiliate links and coupon codes to attract heavy hitters who can really help drive demand to your ecommerce site.

8. Get and put up customer reviews on your website.

[Screenshot taken from xdorialife.com]

People hate to be sold by businesses, but they love to be sold by other people. In fact, 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, and 72% of consumers trust businesses that have positive reviews. If you want to earn consumers’ trust—and their money—then in the early days of your business, make sure to collect reviews from every customer you can. And if you have the budget, consider using video testimonials.

9. Pick one social channel and hit it hard.

It’s tempting to want to try and dominate all social channels. But you’ll quickly find yourself out of time and energy trying to post new things and respond to comments on every channel. Do yourself a favor and pick one or two that best fit with your product and target audience, and do it better than anyone else on said platform.

10. Tap into communities.

There are so many different communities you can play in to get visibility for your brand. Chances are there are at least half a dozen forums where you can establish yourself as an active member—answering questions, asking questions, providing useful industry information, etc.—and once you’ve done that, then you can start to promote your products within those communities.

Now that you know these 10 things you need to do, find out the 10 ecommerce marketing tactics that desperately need your attention.

Identifying Platforms for Higher Education Digital Marketing Efforts

Digital Marketing for Universities: Platform Identification

By | Digital Marketing for Universities | No Comments

In an earlier post in this series, we went over all you need to know about goal setting and strategy within your higher education institution. Now, we’re going to provide a list of platforms to help you reach those goals you’ve hopefully set.

Your goals will slightly vary compared to other institutions, but every institution is sure to have goals centered on recruitment and retention, and using more content, emotive stories, various forms of mixed media and social media to help you reach your goals. And the following are platforms your institution should be implementing if you aren’t already.

Social Media Platforms

Today’s teens and young adults are online several hours each day. They do their banking, shopping and researching online, but they more so use their connected devices to communicate with their friends. Social media use continues to grow amongst high school and college students. Social media is where students are, and it’s where you need to be.

Facebook

Facebook is the most used platform in higher education; and for good reason since a 2014 survey revealed approximately 87 percent of high school students use Facebook. It’s by far the most used social media site for American teenagers. Facebook allows you to post photos and videos, as well as links to content you’ve written or that’s relevant to your prospective and current students. But even better, it’s a great tool to keep engaged with your alumni, which Ohio State University discovered after launching their Facebook page and saw that the most interactive and engaged members of their Facebook audience were alumni.

Twitter

Twitter is another top platform. Prospective students use Twitter as part of their researching methods to decide which higher education school they’ll attend. Help prospective students choose your school by posting links to your content on your Twitter account, interacting with them when they ask your school questions or make a statement about you and tag you in their tweet or use one of your hashtags. Twitter is also a great platform to reach everyone in your school’s diverse audience, bringing together future, current and former students using creative hashtags.

YouTube

Video is one of the most consumed forms of content. Your prospective students can watch hours of videos a day; some may even be up-and-coming YouTube stars. Most likely, as they scroll through their Facebook newsfeed, they’ll pass statuses and other wordy updates, but if they see a video, they’ll stop to watch. You can use YouTube to showcase school events, interview faculty and even to teach classes using webinars.

Hootsuite

If you’re going to effectively engage with your future, current and former students, you need a tool to manage all your social media accounts. Hootsuite is a great platform to keep all your social media efforts organized. With Hootsuite’s Enterprise feature, you’ll have access to unlimited social profiles and enhanced analytics. You can easily and securely send updates via various social media platforms, listen to the online chatter about your institution and collaborate your efforts with multiple team members. Hootsuite even provides a Higher Education Social Media Toolkit to help you get started with your social strategy.

Content Management Platforms

Maintaining your website (looking for how you can get more out of it, having the right content on it and reflecting your school’s best assets in a unique way) isn’t an easy task. It’s demanding, but with a good content management platform, you can alleviate some of that demand and stress.

OmniUpdate Campus

OmniUpdate Campus is used by more than 700 higher education institutions around the world that use this solution to manage their school’s website. This system, specifically designed for higher education institutions, has an array of first-rate features, including an easy content publisher, extension modules and helpful tools and gadgets to make your everyday site tasks easier. With its functionality and extensibility, OmniUpdate Campus can be your perfect solution in the content management sphere.

Hannon Hill

Founded back in 2001, Hannon Hill was one of the originators in the CMS solutions in the education sphere. Like other CMS platforms, you can expect quality features, like content publishing and editing, workflow management, personalized administration dashboards and scheduled publishing. But, one thing setting Hannon Hill apart, and that it prides itself on, is going above and beyond with its customer support. They encourage you to contact them as often as you want with problems and questions you have, and they don’t give you limitations on who you can talk to in terms of platform support.

Web Analytics Platforms

Understanding and being able to view all your web analytics is vital to tracking and measuring the progress of your institution’s digital marketing goals. From admissions information requests to your blog to your engagement goals with your website content, you’ll quickly see what’s working and what’s not with the right analytics tool. There are several platforms at your disposal, so we’ll present the facts and let you choose which one is best for your situation.

Google Analytics

Google Analytics offers a free version, as well as a premium version that costs $150,000 a year. That yearly cost may not be in your budget, and if it isn’t, it’s OK. The free version still provides plenty of data and tracking capabilities. With Google Analytics you get real-time data, tracking APIs, campaign measurement, Adwords integration, multi-channel reporting, mobile tracking, video measurement, custom reporting and more. With the premium version, you of course get more bells and whistles, such as more support services and integration options.

Kissmetrics

Another analytics option is Kissmetrics. This web tool offers people tracking, unlimited reports, user segmentation, a mobile app and a dedicated learning center. With Kissmetrics, which gives you four pricing options, you’re able to properly engage with your audience and accurately analyze which of your goals and actions are working and not working from the beginning across all devices.

In order to efficiently reach your goals, you need to the right tools to help you do so—we know from personal experience. The return on investment is high when you leverage these platforms, so use them and look to see a happy and productive year of attaining all your digital marketing goals.

Choosing an Agency: Requirement 1

Choosing the Right Agency: Subject Matter Expertise

By | Content Marketing | No Comments

Content marketing isn’t a new term. It’s been around for years. But even so, you’d be surprised at how many companies we’ve met and talked to that don’t understand what it takes to examine and choose a quality content marketing agency.

We don’t want you to be one of those companies lost in the dark when it comes to choosing the right agency for your business—and you don’t have to be. We’ve come up with everything you need to know, from specific qualities to look for to the right questions to ask, and organized everything nicely into a blog post series to make the selection process a little easier on you.

A must-have quality on your radar, and the topic of this first post, is subject matter expertise.

First and foremost, a content marketing agency should be able to write for your specific industry. If a certain agency doesn’t know how to navigate through your vertical, then they’re obviously not the right fit for your business.

An agency can’t create quality content with the right verbiage unless they have a thorough understanding of your industry. Besides knowing correct terms to use, they need to understand the challenges your customers face, common questions your customers want answered and your competition. This is why subject matter expertise is so critical and the first quality on our list of things to look for. Creating good content that really resonates with a target audience is already a difficult task, but throw in the technical components of your industry and it can be a near impossible task for writers with little to no experience in your industry. Without thorough knowledge of your industry, an agency isn’t going to be able to generate a constant stream of valuable content.

You’re not paying an agency to learn what your business does; that should be done on its own time. And if an agency doesn’t have experienced writers within your respective industry, they might have subject matter experts within your vertical they can outsource to. Some agencies outsource content, and that’s totally fine. Don’t let that worry you if that’s what they plan to do (unless the content comes back horrible then you have a problem). All you need to worry about is that from the get-go, someone knowledgeable with your industry is creating quality content for your brand.

So, how do you gauge a content marketing agency’s subject matter expertise? You ask them questions. The following are good ones to ask:

  • Do you have experience working in my industry?
  • How do your writers get up to speed on my industry?
  • Do you ever have to outsource content for certain industries? If you would with mine, how do you find quality freelance writers?

Besides these questions, also ask an agency if any of their writers are journalists. If they answer yes, you can rest assured that your content is in pretty good hands. Journalists are taught to research, interview, provide the facts and be good storytellers. While an agency’s journalism-trained writers may not know everything about your industry, they’ll know who and what to ask to produce well-written, educational and valuable pieces of content.

Another way to assess a potential agency’s subject matter expertise is following them on social media. LinkedIn and Twitter are two good places to start. Review the content they post and the responses they make to comments on their posts or any online discussions they take part in to determine whether they have knowledge in your industry and to find out if they’re a respected agency.

If the agencies you have in mind will allow it, also ask to speak to some of their clients and see some case studies. Being able to talk to any clients is a great way to accurately find out the agency’s subject matter expertise for those clients’ respective industries. Ask how clients feel overall about the agency’s performance, why they first chose them and how they are or aren’t meeting their expectations. Talking to any client, even if it’s just one, can only help you in making your decision.

As you can see, subject matter expertise is a must-have quality of a good content marketing agency.

Make sure you check back for the next post in our series to find out another quality to look for and questions to ask as you search for the best-fit content marketing agency for your business.

If you can’t wait, download our free eBook on Choosing the Right Agency. It even includes a free scorecard and sample questions to ask!

STRYDE | What Social Commerce Trends Can We Expect To See In 2015? 1

What Social Commerce Trends Can We Expect To See In 2015?

By | Business | No Comments

It’s rare to see a consumer purchase a product or service directly from a Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc., post, today. It’s also hard to track the impact social channels have on the path to purchase due to the fact that social media is seen as the marketing channel that builds awareness, consideration, and intent early in the customer journey.  Social media is rarely a channel that helps consumers during the final purchase.

But that could drastically change in the near future. In 2015, social commerce in the U.S. is expected to garner $14 billion in sales and represent 5% of all online retail revenue for the year. Social networking sites understand this trend and are making changes to make it even easier to purchase directly from within their platform.

Social Commerce Today

Social commerce is when a commercial transaction happens due to social interaction, i.e. a friend of yours posts how much they like these new running shoes they recently bought. They provide a link on Facebook, which you then click on and proceed to buy the same pair of shoes. Look familiar?

social commerce

Other examples of social commerce include:

Social Sharing of Content:

An individual likes a product or service so they share it with their friends on social networking sites. This content leads traffic back to the site that results in sales or transactions.

Advocate Marketing:

Also called incentive social sharing, this is where consumers are rewarded (typically with an affiliate commission) for sharing a link to a product or service. Obviously, this can come across as less authentic than sharing things because they are excited about their recent purchase. However, this still has an impact similar to the running shoes example above.

Customer Reviews:

Consumers trust their friends’ opinions and recommendations more than a brand’s recommendation, so brands that encourage and get customers to share reviews of their products or services socially have the potential to generate sales.

Social Commerce Possibilities For 2015

In 2015 social media will become a bigger marketing channel for a lot of industries since customers will have the option to do more than simply share content or recommend products to their friends.

While social commerce is not news for some social platforms, 2015 will be the year social commerce sees a big impact in direct sales from social channels. Part of the reason for this growth is the increasing use of mobile devices.

Twitter Commerce

Twitter is one platform that’s been rolling out its social commerce plans. In the early part of 2014, Twitter partnered with Stripe, a company providing all the back-end payment processing for Twitter. Twitter, and other social networks, haven’t wanted to store users’ credit card details, so Stripe is taking on the challenge. You can view and buy a product directly within your Twitter feed by simply clicking a “Buy” button that will appear alongside an image of the item that’s for sale. Twitter’s head of commerce Nathan Hubbard told The Verge in an interview, “Anything with a perishable component, temporal nature, or limited supply, is going to thrive on Twitter. Given the speed at which word can spread across our network, it feels like an opportunity to create a new kind of sales.”

Image Source: The Verge

Image Source: The Verge

Snapchat Commerce

Another platform making strides with social commerce is Snapchat. Snapchat partnered with Square to deliver a transfer system it’s calling SquareCash. With this system, users can register their debit cards and then transfer and receive money — which is being called Snapchash — to and from their friends on Snapchat. While it’s currently a free service, Snapchat plans are to allow its users to buy products from its platform.

Facebook Commerce

This summer, Facebook shared a mobile screen of what its “Buy” button is going to look like. A suggested post will show up in your newsfeed with a product or service and an image of that product or service, which you can buy right then and there by simply clicking the “Buy” button in the post. I imagine Facebook will be rolling this out in 2015 after they figure out the payment and privacy details.

Image Source: Facebook

Image Source: Facebook

Ubokia Commerce

A lesser known site, Ubokia, currently works with Pinterest. This site provides a “Want It” button, which you can add as a bookmark in your web browser bar. It keeps track of all the items you really “want” that you see on Pinterest. Maybe in 2015 this will change to a “Buy It Now” button?

Fancy Commerce

This site has already beat Pinterest and Ubokia to the punch. Fancy, which you can get on your computer, phone, or tablet, lets you find, collect, and buy all the things you “fancy” that have been curated by its global community. It makes it easier for users because they can do everything they need to in one place.

Image source: Fancy Blog

Image source: Fancy Blog

Image source: Fancy Blog

Image source: Fancy Blog

Social media may not be the biggest marketing channel when it comes to getting consumers to purchase a product or service right from the site — for now. But you can guarantee that starting this year, social commerce is going to be bigger and more profitable than ever before.

20 of My Very Most Favorite Content Marketing Blog Posts of 2014

By | Content Marketing | One Comment

thumbs upI absolutely hate to read. All of my childhood friends knew me as the guy who never read a book for english class and somehow got amazing grades. I really don’t hate to read… I just hate to read books. I love to read web content. Ebooks, whitepapers, blog posts… you name it! You can ask any of our team members here at Stryde how many late night emails they get from me telling them they have to check out this post I just read or that post I’ve had open in my browser for weeks.

Because the web is littered with absolute garbage from companies who don’t quite get online marketing and awful SEO firms trying to manipulate search engine rankings, I’ve gone back through my 2014 team emails and tweets this last week and pulled a list of my favorite posts from 2014.

I hope you enjoy reading each of them as much as I have! Here’s to 2015, more companies adopting the content marketing mindset, and crazy awesome business growth!

How Content Strategy & Content Marketing Are Separate But Connected – Robert Rose @ CMI

This post reminds us (or maybe is telling you something you didn’t realize before) that content strategy and content marketing are related, but are two very different practices. We learn how they are different and that we need a solid content strategy within our company’s approach of content marketing.

Prove Your Commitment To Achieving Content Marketing ROI – Arnie Kuenn @ CMI

You know as a content marketer that content marketing is a valuable asset to your marketing plan, but your executives might not always feel the same. Tracking the right KPIs, like consumption metrics and lead-generation metrics, provide the evidence you need to prove the ROI from your content marketing efforts to your executives.

Make Your Demand Generation More Effective With These 3 Processes – Jay Hidalgo @ CMI

Most companies know they need to better focus on their buyers to achieve better results, but they don’t know how to do it. Jay tells us how to make our demand generation more effective through three specific sub-processes: develop a buyer persona, define the buying process, and develop a content framework.

SEO For Content Marketing: How Do Links Impact Google Website Rankings? – Andy Crestodina @ Curata

When you create a page on your site, you always have to think about search engine optimization because search is a great supplier of traffic for your site and its content. This article tells you how links impact Google’s search engine rankings, and offers four ways you can generate those links into your content marketing efforts.

Content Marketing Best Practices Report: Creating A Culture of Content – Lee Odden @ Top Rank

Lee gives his synopsis and opinion on the report, The Culture of Content. He says businesses need to create a culture of content, tells why it’s important and how to do so, and claims that taking your content beyond marketing is what’s going to drive success across all your business functions in the next year.

Content Marketing 101: A Huge Collection of Tips & Tricks – Nicole Miller @ Buffer

In this post, you’re given content marketing tips from a team at Atomic Reach, i.e. what content marketing is, how to write for your target audience, etc. They also provide a list of 34 must-read content marketing blogs that every content marketer or aspiring content marketer should follow.

25 Ways To Create Shareable Content – Gini Dietrich @ Convince & Convert

You need a sturdy content development process in place to create fresh, useful, and interesting content your audience wants to read and share. This post provides a list of 25 things that will help you better create more shareable content.

The Paid Social Distribution Playbook – Amanda Walgrove @ Contently

Paid content distribution gets your content in front of more eyes and the right eyes. Inside this blog post are four social platforms your company should test to discover which one or ones work best with increasing your distribution and growing your audience.

Should You Repost Your Blog Content On Other Websites? A Data-Driven Answer – Neil Patel @ QuickSprout

Neil from KISSmetrics learned from experience the dangers of wrongly reposting content on other sites. He says reposting your content to more authoritative sites isn’t going to create more traffic for you site, but he does offer tips on how to correctly repost and not get penalized for doing so.

Everything You Need To Know About Middle-of-Funnel Content In Under 500 Words – Anne Murphy @ Kapost

Reading this blog post doesn’t just define middle-of-funnel content for you. It also gives you marketers’ goals and objectives with this type of content, the key elements of this content, and four examples of companies that create great middle-of-funnel content.

How Can The Value of Top-of-Funnel Channels Be Measured – Rand Fishkin @ Moz

In this Whiteboard Friday post, Rand discusses the value of top-of-funnel demand creation, and how you can measure and prove the value behind top-of-funnel channels and tactics used.

10 Content Marketing Trends Every Leader Need To Know For 2015 – John Hall @ Inc

After talking with experts about what they think the content marketing landscape is going to be like for the upcoming year, John compiled a list of the top 10 content marketing trends those experts expect to see in 2015. Knowing these will help you gear up for this next year in the content marketing world.

3 Key Components To Building Social Media Campaigns That Drive Results – Greg Shuey @ Social Media Today

If you want to be able to handle the teenager that social media now is and achieve your desired social media campaign results, you must follow the three necessary components provided in this guide. It’s also pointed out that unless you continually create great content, you can’t have a successful social media campaign.

The 6 Steps To Perfectly Optimizing Any Content – Neil Patel @ Marketing Land

When you’re optimizing content, don’t think of it as a technical task that necessitates a certain number of keywords or other SEO practices. Instead, Neil states that other factors, like building trust and creating quality, are more important and influential when optimizing your content. He lists the six steps you need to achieve the optimized content you want in this post.

How To Promote Your Blog Without Letting The Rest of Your Blogging Slide – Darren Rowse @ ProBlogger

Growing traffic to your blog isn’t going to happen overnight. It takes time and effort on your part trying to grow your site’s traffic, and that time and effort, according to Darren, involves networking, guest posting, and crafting high-quality content for your blog. It’s going to take some patience and juggling, but it can be done.

Five Ways SEO Still Dictates Content Marketing Success – Christine Warner @ Relevance

This author nailed it on the head when she said, “Quality and SEO should be equal players in developing content strategy.” She provides 5 SEO tactics that will ensure you create content that resounds with your audience and with the search engines.

You’ve Heard of Big Data But What Is Big Content? – Michael Brenner @ Relevance

Ever heard of Big Content? If you haven’t, this is a great read for you. You learn what Big Content is, and are given the author’s thoughts and opinions on the subject.

Establishing Your Blog As A Learning Center For Content Marketing Success – Arnie Kuenn @ Relevance

In this blog post, you’re reminded that your company’s blog isn’t a place to self-promote and sell your products or services. Your blog should help your audience find the answers to their questions; it should be a learning center they want to visit often.

The Step-by-Step Guide To Facebook Content Promotion – Zach Etten @ Vertical Measures

Facebook is a valuable marketing channel your business should be using if you don’t already. This article provides the required steps to help you get started using Facebook to better promote your content.

The Difference Between Curation & Simply Collecting – Bryant Wood @ Right Intel

Several of today’s brands believe they’re curating content when actually they’re just collecting content. Read this insightful article to find out the difference between the two, and to learn how you can start creating content and why it’s what you should be doing.

STRYDE | Stryde's Top 15 Blog Posts of 2014

Stryde’s Top 15 Blog Posts of 2014

By | Digital Marketing | No Comments

These last 12 months have proven to be a successful and productive year for Stryde. We’ve taken our knowledge and meshed it together with other industry experts, information and resources to create several useful and insightful marketing posts throughout this past year. Just in case you missed one, below is a list of Stryde’s top performing posts of 2014.

  1. Top 50 Social Media Experts

In this post we provide you with 50 digital marketing leaders we think have earned the status of social media expert. Learn who they are, what they do and why they’re considered experts.

  1. Top 50 SEO Experts

This top 50 list is like the abovementioned post, except we highlight who we think are the industry’s top SEO experts. We even listed these experts in alphabetical order for your convenience.

  1. Top 50 Content Marketing Experts

This was the first blog post of our top 50 posts for this year. It’s loaded with big names and really smart content marketers you’ll want to learn about and follow on Twitter.

  1. Understanding The Different Types Of Anchor Text & How To Use Them

Readers loved this post so much it made last year’s list and this year’s list — and it’s from 2012! That must mean it’s a good one. This informative post tells you what anchor text is and how to use 4 types of anchor text.

  1. Dear Facebook, You’re Gross

In this post, one of our writers gives her take on Facebook’s mood manipulation study from 2012.

  1. The Ultimate List Of SEO Tools

This was another popular post of ours, appearing on this year’s list and last year’s list. Learn what SEO tools digital marketers should use in terms of keyword research, SEO analysis and link building.

  1. How To Use Google Keyword Tool & Google Trends For Keyword Research

Another reader favorite from 2013 and 2014, this blog post reviews 2 useful tools that help you find keyword opportunities and how you can use them for your business.

  1. Bullet Proof Link Building Strategies For 2013 — The Experts Weight In (Part 1) 

In this post, you hear what some of the digital marketing’s brightest marketers thought top link building strategies would be.

  1. Ten Books Every Digital Marketer MUST Read

This may have been written last year, but it was good then and is still good now — so good it climbed its way into last year’s and this year’s top Stryde posts. Discover what books you should read to help you become the best digital marketer and asset to your company.

  1. How To Structure Writing To Evoke Emotion

Besides showing 2 great GIFs, this post reminds writers that great stories make people feel something, and tells you how to evoke that kind of writing when constructing your blog posts.

  1. Five Things You MUST Do To Have A Successful, Thriving Online Business

Another 2013 and 2014 list topper, you learn what the 5 components are to run a successful, thriving online business from this post.

  1. How To Effectively Perform Link Prospecting & Outreach via Buzzstream

When you read this Stryde blog post, you find out resources that help you learn what BuzzStream is and how to correctly use this fantastic platform.

  1. Crucial Questions You Should Ask Your SEO Clients Before Doing Business With Them

This blog post was written 2 years ago, but it’s still very much relevant for you today. We provide you with 10 essential questions you must ask your SEO clients before committing to work with them.

  1. 15 Tips To Tweet: Insights From Digital Marketing Thought Leaders 

We reached out to some digital marketing experts and have provided you with their favorite industry advice inside this post.

  1. Top 10 Social Media Experts You Should Be Following On Twitter

In this post we tell you about 10 social media experts you should be following and engaging with on Twitter. Give them a follow and subscribe to each of their blogs — you can learn a lot from each of these thought leaders.

We had such a fun time — and learned a great deal ourselves — creating and providing these and many other online marketing posts for you this past year. Here’s to a bigger, and even better, 2015 filled with tons of valuable blog content!

What the 2014 B2B Demand Generation Benchmark Report Tells Us

By | Business, Digital Marketing, Industry News | No Comments

Last year I wrote a post recapping the findings from Software Advice’s 2013 Online B2B Buyer Behavior Report. This year marketing technology advisor Software Advice is at it again, but this time around they put together a 2014 B2B Demand Generation Benchmark Report.

Demand generation, which I’m sure most of you already know, is using targeted marketing programs to help drive more awareness of and interest in your company’s products or services. In this report, Software Advice surveyed 200 B2B marketing professionals, mostly senior-level marketers, and discovered what channels, offers, content types and technologies they used to power their demand gen programs, as well as which ones worked the most effectively for them. Three key takeaways stood out from this report:

  1. The best channels that brought in large numbers of high-quality leads were trade shows, referral marketing and in-house email marketing.
  2. Videos were the most used content type, used by 92% of those surveyed, and videos produced a large quantity of leads.
  3. 79% of the B2B marketers use at least 11 marketing software applications, and 97% use email marketing software.

Best Channels for Generating Leads

The B2B marketers surveyed were asked to rate channels based on the relative quantity and quality of leads generated by said channels. Trade shows and events were picked as generating the most leads and the best leads, which Michele Linn, content development director at CMI, credited to in-person events being meaningful and powerful today when basically everything we do is online.

SA graph

Other channels that did well were search engine advertising, in-house email marketing and TV, radio and print advertisements. If you want to run programs that focus on quantity, these are options you should look into if you aren’t already doing them. But steer clear of direct mail and display advertising, as these 2 finished last.

While trade shows and events brought in large amounts of promising leads, they were also picked as being the channels that had a high cost-per-lead. Low-cost channels included in-house email marketing, organic search and social media. Social media marketing, the campaigns and programs excluding ads, made the top of the list at being the lowest cost-per-lead.

Content Types and Number of Leads They Produce

Next, the marketers were asked to rank content types by their effectiveness with demand generation and lead generation. Of all surveyed, 92% said video was the most commonly used content type for demand gen programs. Videos ranked just ahead of surveys, white papers and case studies.

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Videos and surveys also ranked as the top-2 ways for generating the most quantity of leads. Videos have been most thought of as content that helps brands build trust with their consumers and is used to simply entertain them. But as this report shows, companies must be producing more actionable videos that are generating more and more quality leads.

Rounding out the list of content types given, e-books and case studies finished at the bottom.

Software Applications Used for Demand Generation Efforts

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Software Advice then provided 11 software systems and asked the marketers to select which ones they used to assist with their demand gen efforts. Almost all surveyed, 97%, use email marketing software. Following closing behind were CRM and marketing automation systems. But what should be noted is that 79% of those surveyed use all of the 11 software solutions they were shown, and more than 70% said all 11 were reasonably important with their demand gen efforts. This proves that B2B marketing departments rely heavily on information technology.

Demand Generation Expectations and Spending

The last two questions Software Advice asked were how the marketers’ demand gen programs were performing compared to their expectations and what their plans for demand gen spending were for 2015. Forty-four percent of small businesses, those with less than 100 employees, said their efforts performed below what they anticipated, while 27% of midsized companies and 29% of large companies said the same.

Matt Heinz, president of Heinz Marketing, believes these results are because many marketers set foolish expectations. Marketers want things right now, but they forget their prospects don’t function exactly how they want.

“Across the board, we too often expect marketing programs to work immediately,” he said. “We want qualified leads, now! But our prospects don’t work that way.”

As for spending with demand gen efforts, 41% of the marketers surveyed said they were going to increase their yearly spending, 43% said they were going to spend the same amount and 17% said they were going to decrease spending for the upcoming year.

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Linn said it’s no surprise at all that more marketers are planning to spend more for 2015.

“People realize now that having a demand generation strategy is so critical,” she said. “They need to plan content along the entire customer lifecycle. And it can be very time-intensive and resource-intensive. So, from that perspective, it’s not surprising that people are increasing spend at all. It’s an engine that constantly needs to be fed.”

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.

Build Relationships of Trust & Watch Your Online Sales Skyrocket

By | Business | One Comment

build relationships

Sales is about building relationships with others… PERIOD! How about that for an opening sentence of a blog post found on an online marketing blog? The thing is, it’s absolutely true, even if you are an online business.

As the years go on, consumers are becoming more and more internet savvy. They aren’t afraid to search for your company name coupled with “reviews”, “complaints”, or any other modifier that might help them dig up dirt on your business before spending money with you.

Since this is the mentality of most buyers these days, it’s more important than ever to build relationships of trust with every individual who visits your website. But how do you do this if you’re an online business only? (Meaning you don’t have a brick and mortar store front)

It all comes down to becoming a thought leader in your space as well as publishing great content and having a fantabulous drip email campaigns. It’s also critical to have a killer support staff to assist your customers post sale to ensure 100% customer or client satisfaction. We’ve seen this in the case with Zappos and many other online businesses who are growing exponentially year over year.

So let’s break these four components down and talk about each one specifically and why they are important for your business to succeed online.

Becoming a Thought Leader In Your Space

Let’s start out by defining exactly what I thought leader is. According to Wikipedia, who is the expert in all things, a thought leader is and individual or firm that is recognized as an authority in a specialized field and whose expertise is sought and often rewarded. Becoming a thought leader isn’t easy, but it’s necessary if you want to develop and maintain a thriving online business. So how do you become a thought leader? Well, there isn’t really a good answer… it just sort of happens. However, here are some things you need to start doing today to get started.

  • Start blogging everywhere! Write on your company blog, write on authoritative blogs in your industry (also known as legitimate guest blogging), write on LinkedIn, Etc. When you write, you must write amazing content. It has to be better, more thought provoking, and data driven than your competition.
  • Curate content and provide your own strategic insight. Nothing gets you noticed faster than sourcing other writers content and providing your own insight and angle on the topic.
  • Answer questions on social media. Looking for people asking questions on Twitter, LinkedIn, Quora, and other platforms and providing solid advice will help you get noticed and will help you start building a steady a following.
  • Start speaking at events. Usually after you’ve created a voice and a following through blogging, using social media, helping others and answering their questions, you can start speaking at industry events. Depending on how large the events are will determine how many people consider you an expert in your field, so start small and work you way up to large events.

Publishing Great Content

As I’ve just discussed, this goes hand-in-hand with becoming a thought leader in your space. There are two problems for many businesses when it comes to content. First, they try to create too much content and the quality suffers. No one, I repeat no one likes to read bad content and it kills your credibility. Second, the content isn’t targeted to your prospects needs or problems they’re trying to solve. If you can nail both of these with your content, you’ll build trust quickly and close more business.

Having Fantabulous Drip Email Campaigns

Email drip campaigns, also referred to as lead nurture campaigns move prospects through the sales cycle via email strategic email communication. Believe it or not, email is one of the most powerful marketing tools you have at your disposal. When building your content, make sure to build some pieces that require a name and email address to access. Once you have this, you can start sending non-intrusive emails on a regular basis that provide additional content to “warm them up” to you and your company. Remember, the goal is to build relationships of trust.

Having a Killer Support Staff To Assist Your Customers Post Sale

Your support staff should be ready and excited about providing world class service to your customer base. This can be done by providing live chat, phone, and email support as well as support via social media. When building relationships with your customers, there can’t be too many touch points or ways to get a hold of you. Make it easy and make it effective and you’ll win the hearts and increase the lifetime value of those who keep you in business.

Now that we’ve run through each component, can you clearly see how putting the four together will create a lethal weapon for growing sales exponentially. Yes, it takes time, yes, it takes a lot of work, but doesn’t anything worth pursuing? Good luck and looking forward to hearing your thoughts on building relationships and sales.

15 Tips To Tweet: Insights From Digital Marketing Thought Leaders

By | Digital Marketing | One Comment

TIPS TOThe world of digital marketing is wonderfully diverse and ever-changing. Business leaders have three basic approaches to this varied industry. One is to research, learn, and stay current on changing landscapes. The second would be to dive into digital marketing with a rough plan, get frustrated after the first failure and call it quits. And the final approach isn’t really an approach at all. It’s just to ignore the industry hoping that it is just a passing fad.

Hopefully you do not subscribe to that last group, or we would have to burst your bubble! Digital marketing is not going anywhere, businesses must either adapt or be left behind. Now, that leaves the two other approaches. Clearly, the first option is the best. But, you may be thinking that it’s too much time, too many resources, and too complicated to undertake.

Not so fast! While the world of digital marketing is constantly evolving, many core tips apply regardless of the place in time. We reached out to some of the brightest minds in the digital marketing industry, covering everything from SEO to social media, with one simple question:

What is your favorite (less than 140 characters!) digital marketing advice?”

Not surprisingly, these industry thought leaders did not disappoint. You’ll find their favorite tips listed below. If any, or all, strike a chord with you, Tweet it and share the knowledge.

On Digital Marketing

@ChadPollitt “Consistency is the key to successful digital marketing. Otherwise, the audience you build will not have their expectations met.” Tweet Me!

@nelsonjames “Don’t look for shortcuts. Almost all shortcuts lead to poor marketing tactics that will hurt your brand in the end.” Tweet Me!

@dustinheap “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket regardless of what that basket might be.” Tweet Me!

@lyena “Sometimes very simple observations lead to meaningful insights.” Tweet Me!

On Content

@shuey03 “Before you begin any content initiative, you MUST know the needs and pain points of your target audience and be ready to address them.” Tweet Me!

@amabaie “Visuals are more effective than just text. But the most effective visuals include text.” Tweet Me!

@Casieg “Look at your data when creating content.” Tweet Me!

@lyena “Become obsessed with pictures this year. Snap shots of your business, of people working there.” Tweet Me!

On Social Media

@ChadPollitt “If content is king then distribution is queen and she wears the pants.” Tweet Me!

@Matt_Siltala “Instagram is hot right now, and one of the most powerful tools for bringing the online and offline marketing worlds together.” Tweet Me!

@PapaRelevance “Organic reach on major social platforms will be reduced to rubble. Tune in to the paid content promotion ecosystem.” Tweet Me!

@PapaRelevance “I believe Twitter, Pinterest and the like will follow Facebook. You’ll need to pay for substantial exposure to your own audience.” Tweet Me!

On SEO and Optimization

@RavenJon “UX is quickly becoming the next big thing in marketing. The tipping point for #SEO was when they realized UX creates signals.” Tweet Me!

@lyena “Know your audience and understand what they want to accomplish on your website. Give them what they are looking for.” Tweet Me!

@DavidWallace “Just because Google says it doesn’t make it gospel. Marketing is war & Google is not your friend. Take what they say with a grain of salt.” Tweet Me!

Never miss a beat by following these Tweeps on Twitter. That way, you’ll be one step closer to staying on top of all Digital Marketing news, trends, and insights.