How to fix your Facebook ‘Reachpocolypse’ problem

how to fix your Facebook reachpocolypse problemIs your business still putting all its eggs in Facebook’s basket? If so, you might want to rethink that tactic.

Facebook has reduced the number of organically shared status updates from 17 percent 24 months ago to around 6.5 percent now. The theory is that, ultimately, Facebook will reduce organic shares to 1 percent or even less. Marketing pro Jay Baer is calling this decline the “Reachpocolypse.”

In December 2013 Facebook announced that it was changing the algorithm that determined which items in the News Feed were displayed because “competition for each News Feed story is increasing.”  While Facebook claimed that the reason for the tighter restrictions was to increase quality of posts, marketers suspected – and Facebook did not deny – that it was pushing advertising as an alternative to organic exposure.

How Facebook decides which posts to show

Facebook decides which posts to display through a complicated formula called EdgeRank that includes roughly 100,000 different indicators. According to TechCrunch, these factors include:

  • How popular (Liked, commented on, shared, clicked) are the post creator’s past posts with everyone?
  • How popular is this post with everyone who has already seen it?
  • How popular have the post creator’s past posts been with the viewer?
  • Does the type of post (status update, photo, video, link) match what types have been popular with the viewer in the past?
  • How recently was the post published?

Many brands have paid handsomely to build up their fan base on Facebook through paid advertising, believing they were investing in creating a community that they would be able to engage with over the long-term. Now some feel that they’ve been hoodwinked.

Eat24 posted a “breakup” letter on its blog, telling Facebook, “ . . . we can’t trust you. You lied to us and said you were a social network but you’re totally not a social network. At least not anymore … So that’s it. We’re done … We’ll pack our things and be gone by 11:59 pm on Monday night . . . Eat24, the company that is always telling customers to Like our page, post on our wall, and ask us for coupons on Facebook… is deleting its Facebook.” And it did.

Derek Muller of Veritasium, a science education media organization, posted a YouTube video claiming that Facebook’s advertising model is deeply flawed and that its revenue is based on fake likes. He said he paid to promote his page, gaining 80,000 followers in developing countries who didn’t care about his page and subsequently did not engage with his posts, driving his reach numbers down. Even when page owners are careful to target their campaigns – by limiting “Likes” to Canada, the U.S., the U.K. and Austrania – he said owners were likely to be duped into spending money on fake followers. Then owners would have to pay again to reach their followers.

It’s even possible to be the victim of fake likes without advertising, Muller said. Pages that end up on Facebook’s International Suggested Pages are targets for click-farms seeking to diversity their likes so that they aren’t as likely to be identified.

Remember — it’s all about Facebook.

Brands need to recognize that Facebook cares, first and foremost, about its business – not about theirs. During the period of October 2013 to February 2014, the timeframe when Facebook reduced organic reach from 12 to 6 percent (and sometimes as low as 1 percent), its stock price increased from nearly $50 to nearly $70, adding billions to its market capitalization.

Many marketing and financial experts say that Facebook’s growth is dependent on monetizing its existing user base, since it is has reached 60 percent global penetration and it doesn’t have a lot of room to grow organically. Robert Rose, chief strategist of Content Marketing Institute, says that he and his Wall Street friends and clients doubt future growth without acquisitions. Some say Facebook won’t even be in business – at least in its present form — in 10 years.

What’s the solution to the diminishing Facebook visibility?

Baer, a best-selling author and blogger at Convince and Convert, recommends four strategies to fix the Facebook problem:

  1. Publish things that are worthy of attention. (improve the quality of your posts.)
  2. Pay to play (advertise).
  3. Get customers or employees to carry more of your messages on Facebook (easier said than done!)
  4. Start building community elsewhere. (i.e., Google+ or Twitter)

Kevan Lee of Buffer provides these six tips:

  1. Try the cultivation strategies used by Fortune 500 companies:
    • Openness and disclosure – Show what goes on in the company.
    • Access – Show availability for customers and fans to reach out and interact with the company.
    • Positivity – Make the customer’s experience enjoyable.
    • Assurances – Make customers feel their concerns are important.
    • Networking – Show shared interests with fans.
    • Sharing of tasks – Collaborate with fans to solve problems.
  2. Post at non-peak times.
  3. Share original, behind-the-scenes photos of you and your team.
  4. Engage your community with questions.
  5. Share self-explanatory photos (infographics are good for this).
  6. Look at the numbers differently. (Look at your reach on a daily and weekly basis – it’s higher than you might think if you post several times a day.)

What I think you should do about your Facebook reach problem

Here are my tips to consider:

  1. Don’t base your marketing success on properties you don’t own. Sites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, etc., do not owe brands exposure. These sites are in business to make money, so they get to make the rules. Instead, spend more of your resources on your own digital properties – your website and blog. These are properties over which you have control and should be the foundation of your digital footprint. Social media sites are just the icing on the cake.
  2. Consider Facebook advertising as part of your overall advertising budget. It’s a bargain compared to traditional advertising costs and it’s highly targetable. An effective, three-pronged marketing program includes a balance of purchased media (advertising), owned media (website/blog, email, publications, direct mail) and earned media (PR and social media).
  3. To increase visibility on Facebook, post updates on your personal profile in addition to your business page, as Facebook is more generous with organic reach on personal profiles than on business pages. If you want to use your personal profile to promote your business but want to maintain the “friend” status only for close friends, enable the “follow” status for business acquaintances and use filters to determine who you share status updates with. You might also consider starting a group as an alternative to a business page because of the more generous reach allowances.
  4. If you’ve postponed getting started on Google+, now is the time. It has more than 1.15 billion registered users and 201 million active mobile users on a monthly basis. Social Media Today says Google+ is on the track to beat Facebook and become the most widely used social media.  Google+ has several unique features, such as Hangouts on Air and Circles, and it helps you extend your reach and become visible by creating relationships with industry influencers. When you post links to your blog posts there, they are indexed almost immediately by Google. (But remember — don’t put all of your eggs there! You don’t own it!)

In summary, Facebook has been a fun – and sometimes profitable – ride while it lasted, but the free ride has come to an end. Facebook can still be helpful to brands in a limited way as a free medium or it can be an excellent paid medium that allows brands to target their audience very specifically according to the demographics they want to reach. Brands seeking to build their business on free promotion alone must look elsewhere.

 

 

How content marketing balances creativity and consistency

(Last of a three-part series. Part 2: Why consistent marketing trumps creative marketing for business growth.)

creative marketing, Content marketing, consistency in marketingPeople like to use the phrase “out-of-the-box” to describe something that is highly creative. I despise it. It’s trite. It makes my eyes roll to the back of my head. Just the use of the phrase negates the intent of the phrase.

Let’s get something straight. There is no “box.” Never has been.

On the other hand, structure and boundaries are good things. They often make you more creative, and they certainly make you more effective. That’s the case with content/inbound marketing, at least if you use a set of dependable marketing software tools or an all-in-one package such as Hubspot. As noted by Lynda Sydney, quoting from the book The Accidental Creative: How to be Brilliant at a Moment’s Notice by Todd Henry:

“There is the persistent myth that creativity results only from complete lack of boundaries and total freedom. The reality is that we are not capable of operating without boundaries. We need them in order to focus our creative energy into the right channels. Total freedom is false freedom. True freedom has healthy boundaries.”

She goes on:

This is the beauty of using Hubspot for your online marketing strategy – it provides the “healthy boundaries” and outlines the strategic steps an organization needs to take within “the right channels” for inbound marketing creativity — and success. This includes the number of blog posts, landing pages and offers, use and placement of keywords and more so the writer or marketing team member does not need to figure this out time and again with every new piece of content. By following the Hubspot formula, the content creator can identify the necessary elements required for the marketing piece, place them in the correct spot, and spend the rest of their time and energy on “being creative.”

Creativity vs. consistency in marketing

As I said in the two previous parts of this series, it is more important to marketing success to be consistent with your efforts than to be highly creative. A plan that is consistently executed over time will produce better results than a highly creative, but inconsistently executed plan.

Rather than interrupting people with “outbound marketing,”  content helps your best leads and customers find you on their own when they need you. Content or “inbound marketing” – consisting of SEO, regular blogging, social media, landing pages with rich content downloads and targeted email campaigns – will produce high quality leads that will convert, over time, into customers and raving fans. This “formula” will work for many businesses and will cost far less than outbound marketing – 61 percent less.

More and more businesses are finding that content marketing is an important strategy for building their businesses. Seventy-three percent of B2B marketers say they are producing more content compared to a year ago and 58 percent of B2B marketers plan to increase their content marketing budget over the next 12 months.

The Hubspot system cuts out the mundane stuff

The Hubspot software system eliminates a lot of the tedious work associated with tasks such as setting up landing pages and calls-to-action for the marketer who lacks programming skills. Removing the tedious tasks frees you to think of ways to make the content you share more actionable and – yes – creative.

There are endless ways to create content for blogs, social media and email campaigns, so there should be no fear that a structured system for content delivery will somehow stifle creativity. Whether you use Hubspot or another system, it’s important to apply your marketing program consistently over the long term for best results. That means blogging two or three times a week, engaging in social media daily, setting up landing pages regularly to build your email list and sending targeted emails monthly.

The bottom line is that creativity and consistency are in constant tension with each other. Both are important; they need to be in balance. Just get moving and get your marketing plan in gear now. Don’t have one? Get help.

 

 

Why consistent marketing trumps creative marketing for business growth

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(Second of a three-part series on creativity vs. consistency in marketing. Part 1: How creative marketing can kill your business.)

 

Look up famous quotes about consistency, and it’s enough to make you depressed.

Oscar Wilde said, “Consistency is the hallmark of the unimaginative.”

“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds,” according to Ralph Waldo Emerson.

“Consistency is contrary to nature, contrary to life. The only completely consistent people are the dead,” wrote Aldous Huxley.

Obviously, none of them ever went on a diet. Or grew a garden. Or ran a business.

But Anthony Robbins has. He gets it. “It’s not what we do once in a while that shapes our lives,” he said. “It’s what we do consistently.”

Exactly.

Creative marketing vs. consistent marketing

That’s what I mean when I say that consistent marketing is more important to your business growth than creative marketing. I’ve seen too many businesses put too much stock in creativity and too little in consistency.

I am not saying that creativity isn’t important. It is. Freshness and innovation is great. All for it. It gets eyeballs. People notice new and surprising. But it’s like the good-looking girl or guy with nothing going on upstairs. It’s nice at first, but there’s nothing to sustain the interest.

Give me a good set of solid marketing ideas fashioned into a consistent plan and applied consistently any time over a brilliant, highly creative tactic that is thrown at a marketing problem.

Take Legos for example. Two ads from the same company featured in an Adweek story look remarkably similar, yet they ran 35 years apart. They have built their company on brand consistency. Except for there being a boy in the first ad and a girl in the second, the ads are incredibly similar in composition and layout.

Porche is another brand that has remained consistent. Every Porche print ad for the last 15 years has been in the form of a single page with a half-page picture of a car and driver doing something fun and a short copy line about the joy of driving.

“Porsche subscribes to the KISS principle and, above all, does a much better job than many to avoid ‘creativity,’” says Theo Birkner at BizBurst.

Brand consistency

So what can we learn from these examples?

First, consistency of brand.

You absolutely must be consistent in the way you present your business. That means the basics – such as your logo, type font, graphics, colors, photography, website, signage, messaging, tone – it must present a congruency with each other and a consistency across every media where you are found.

Branding consistency helps people recognize and trust you. It reassures them that you know what you are doing. Customers may not – no, they probably don’t — even realize that they are making business judgments based on consistent or inconsistent branding. It sounds so superficial and silly. Yet it’s real. Believe it.

Consistent effort

Second, consistency of effort.

Just like with exercise, you’ve got to apply your marketing initiatives regularly. There’s no quick fix. You can’t fix a weak body overnight with a weekend of exercise, and you can’t fix your business with some fly-by-night miracle marketing sham.

Make a marketing plan. Work the marketing plan. Schedule it into your week. Your day.

Rinse. Repeat.

Does this mean you shouldn’t change it up? Of course not. But most people quit way too soon. It takes time. Measure results over time, then adjust.

You’ve got to invest the money, time and tools to consistently market your business, or you don’t have a business. If you don’t have the time or staff, you must outsource it.

Interestingly, when you “just do it,” a funny thing happens. You stand the chance of become more creative with your marketing. There’s something about forcing yourself to act within boundaries that opens up the creative channels.

Listen to musician/song writer Jack White on the YouTube video on this page describe his creative process. As Jack says, “It’s not like every day of your life the clouds are going to part and the rays from heaven are going to come down and you’re going to write a song from it. Sometimes you’ve just got to get in there and force yourself to work and something good is going to come of it.”

Indeed.

Creative marketing is about generating and consistently applying great ideas that build your business. Without consistent marketing they won’t work. And if they don’t work, they aren’t creative.

(Next in the series: How content marketing balances creativity and consistency)

 

How creative marketing can kill your business

(First of a three-part series on creative marketing)

YouTube Preview ImageRelying on creative marketing too much to grow your business can kill it. There. I said it and I’m not taking it back.

I can’t even believe I said it. I consider my own creativity to be one of my strongest skills and personal characteristics. I’ve nurtured my creativity for a lifetime. Spent my career in a creative field. Even got a master’s degree in “creative writing.”

So how in God’s green earth could I besmirch the concept of “creative marketing”?  Isn’t that the holy grail of marketing and PR firms? Just google the term and you’ll find dozens, if not hundreds, of firms claiming the word “creative” in their name.  Ad agencies hang their shingles on being creative. They even nounicize that adjective and call their work by the name “creative,” as in, the “creative for that campaign will cost $250,000.”

So here’s the deal. The dirty little secret.

Creative marketing is overrated.

Why I am down on creative marketing

OK, OK … before you creative types jump down my throat, let me back up. Yes, I agree.  There must be some creativity in marketing or else nobody would pay any attention to you at all. You must have an attractive, well-designed logo, website, social media, etc. And it helps a lot to have some surprisingly creative aspects to your brand.

For example, the branding of Cuties, a seedless, sweet, easy-to-peel mandarin orange as a children’s fruit has been wildly successful. Who would have thought about taking a plain old orange – a commodity – and giving it a name? That’s great creative marketing.

On the other hand, too many businesses are throwing money down the tube – the boob tube — on “creative” marketing.  Case in point: the Super Bowl commercials — arguably the most creative advertising out there. They’re wonderful entertainment! They are the only reason I watch the Super Bowl. But a study by the research firm Communicus suggests that 80 percent of the ads don’t sell stuff.

The firm conducted more than 1,000 interviews before and after the game, asking people what they’d bought recently and what they intended to buy in the advertising categories of the Super Bowl advertiser base. It checked back with the same group weeks later and asked similar questions.

The researchers said that the ads did better than average in ad awareness, with 44 percent of people remembering they’d seen an ad vs. 32 percent for other ads. But, here’s where it gets interesting. Because the creative focused less on the brands themselves, people remembered the brands less often in the Super Bowl ads. People who remembered a Super Bowl ad, recalled the brand only 35 percent of the time vs. about half the time for other ads.

So what’s going on here? Why are people dishing out millions of dollars for this “creative marketing”? Well, I have my theories.

The problem with (many) ad agencies and creative marketing

Ad agencies are full of creative people. Unfortunately, many have the silly and immature notion that they are there to self-actualize through their creativity rather than to help clients sell their products and services. They love to show off for each other, and they love to win awards. It’s fun. So do I.

But seldom are results taken into consideration for awards – or if so, it plays a token role. In fact, there are awards for creative that clients didn’t buy. That’s right, clients. I bet you didn’t know that, did you? The stuff that you were smart enough to reject because you knew it wouldn’t work for you? They give awards out for that, too.

Now, don’t get me wrong. There is good work out there, too. And when it matches your strategic objectives and speaks to your audience, that’s terrific. But often it doesn’t. It’s just creative. And that doesn’t do you a bit of good. It just builds an ad agency’s portfolio and sucks you dry.

Often the most “creative” agencies are the most expensive. They have the toniest addresses, the nicest offices, the largest staffs. It’s all a mirage to make you think you’re getting your money’s worth. They make you feel like a rock star so you don’t notice that loud sucking sound coming from your bank account.

Just remember the line from the famous adman David Ogilvy who said, “If it doesn’t sell, it isn’t creative.”  That means that ultimately, a lot of creative marketing isn’t creative after all.

What this has to do with you and your biz

So you’re not playing in that rarefied air of Super Bowl ads and big agency budgets. What’s this talk about relying on creative marketing got to do with you and your small or mid-sized business?

Every day I see businesses struggle with their marketing because they don’t know what to do. They’re all over the map, looking for the magic bullet that’s going to propel their sales into the stratosphere. They try this shiny toy, then that. They don’t have a strategy; they’re just ripe for the picking for the next ad salesman or schemer that comes along.

Just. Stop. It.

It doesn’t matter how “creative” it is. It doesn’t matter how great a deal the next salesman is offering. You’re throwing your money and your business away without: 1) A strategy based on your specific business goals and audience; 2) Consistency; 3) Repetition over the long haul.

Great marketing doesn’t have to be flashy. Gains happen incrementally over time, applied patiently and with purpose. No, of course you don’t want to be boring, but everything you do doesn’t have to produce fireworks. Most businesses don’t fail because they lack creative marketing — they fail because they lack sustained marketing.

It’s a balancing act, yes. But don’t put so much weight on the creative, artzy, fun, inspirational side, that you don’t do the hard stuff. The daily stuff. When you get down to it, marketing is work. But when you do the hard stuff right, marketing works for you.

(Next in the series: Balance creative marketing with consistency to grow your business)


How not to p**s off your LinkedIn connections while list building

list buildingLinkedIn is a great place to network and form business connections. But used incorrectly for list building, you can quickly become a pariah – and get into hot water with the Federal Trade Commission.

Unlike other social media sites, LinkedIn allows you to download your contacts’ email addresses. You may have thought about uploading them into your business CRM software to use for email solicitation.

Or maybe you’ve already done it.

If so, you are spamming. Spamming is illegal. Unless you have been given permission for someone’s email to be added to your list, you are violating the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003, a law enforced by the FTC.

What can happen to illegal list builders

Each separate email in violation of the CAN-SPAM Act is subject to penalties of up to $16,000. Just imagine if you send out a mailing of 1,000 illegally obtained email addresses – you could very efficiently go bankrupt in an afternoon!

There’s more to the CAN-SPAM Act than just getting permission to email – things like giving email recipients an easy opt-out link, honoring the opt-out request quickly, telling recipients where you’re located – read the whole list. If you’re using a commercial email fulfillment program such as Mailchimp, Constant Contact or Hubspot, they’ve got you covered on those requirements. If you start sending mass email from your own email client, not only are you probably violating your Internet provider’s rules, but you’re more than likely not following best practices regarding spam (not to mention, it’s a terribly inefficient way to send email blasts).

Frankly, the chance of prosecution is fairly low for spamming. You’ll more than likely not get in trouble with the FTC, unless you do it on a massive scale. Prosecution has been limited to the worst offenders, so being charged is not your biggest concern.

Don’t screw over your contacts

No, your biggest concern is violating the trust and privacy of your LinkedIn contacts. When you form connections with other people on LinkedIn, they are for business networking; they are not for list building. Just as with anyone else, you may not add them to a list WITHOUT PERMISSION.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve accepted connections with many people on LinkedIn that I don’t know. In fact, I have more than 5,000 connections in my LinkedIn network, making it impossible for me to know more than a small percentage.

Recently one of my LinkedIn connections added me to their list without asking and sent me an email about her new book. There was no indication in the email that we were connected in any way. The headline on the email said the purpose of the email was to “celebrate” with her friends and contacts the overcoming of a difficult time in her life and the resulting book she was publishing about that experience.

I politely replied that I didn’t know the sender, that she didn’t have my permission to email me and to please remove me from her list. She responded that perhaps I didn’t recognize her, but that we were connected on LinkedIn. I emailed back and explained the CAN-SPAM law to her. That didn’t satisfy her, and after a few more nonconciliatory exchanges, I ended up removing the connection on LinkedIn.

This is not the result you want when you are marketing! And yet, this is what happens when you send unsolicited email to people. They are not happy to see your promotional material – regardless of how wonderful the product or service – if they didn’t choose YOU.  If they didn’t invite YOU into their email box, you don’t get to invite yourself! It’s that simple!

How to use LinkedIn correctly for list building

So, how do you get invited to the party using LinkedIn? Let me count the ways:

1)   When you invite someone to connect with you on LinkedIn – or when you are invited to connect – don’t just use the default message. Write and save your own “default message” to share, and then personalize it somewhat for each person. Your message should include a comment about why you want to connect to the person – perhaps you know someone in common or you’re in the same organization or career field. Then, invite the person to download a piece of your free content, subscribe to your blog or newsletter and/or join your LinkedIn group.

2)   You can message up to 50 of your contacts at a time in LinkedIn. Send them a message periodically offering them a free ebook or white paper they have to sign up to download. (Hint: If you have an assistant/VA, this is a terrific task to delegate.) When someone fills out a form on your site requesting a free download, they are giving you permission to add them to your mailing list. Another thing you might do is message them with a link to an interesting blog article and ask them to sign up for your blog and/or newsletter.

3)   If you own a LinkedIn group, you can send weekly announcements to your entire group, regardless of the size. I have a group with more than 500 members, which means I can send one message to 500 LinkedIn contacts at a time weekly. This provides a platform where I can invite people to download my content, join my mailing list, find me on social media – whatever I want to do that is enhancing the overall group value. Obviously, you need to tread lightly on being too self-promotional or you will lose group members, but done with discretion, you have the ability to grow your list significantly using groups. The way to do this is to send your group content that is relevant to the group topic and provide links to material on your site where they can find more information. Those links could be to ebooks behind firewalls where they will have to provide their email addresses.

4)   Promote your blog and other content on LinkedIn business pages. You do have a business page on LinkedIn, right?

5)   Post links to your blog on your profile and in appropriate groups to which you belong. Make sure you have a highly visible blog sign-up box on your website, as well as a call-to-action at the end of every blog post that links to a landing page where you’ve got premium content such as an ebook, white paper, check list, template, drip email campaign or some other goodie that your visitors will value and for which they will gladly trade their contact information.

There you have it! Five rock-solid, legal ways to grow your email list that will not make your LinkedIn contacts sorry they invited you to go cyber-steady.

Photo:

Attribution Some rights reserved by Coletivo Mambembe

 

‘m an award-winning marketing and PR pro who helps small and mid-sized businesses turn their stories into leads through inbound marketing at The Buzz Factoree. A former journalist, I use the same storytelling techniques from my news writing days to create marketing that inspires change and produces leads for clients. While specializing in inbound marketing, I also provide branding, public relations and social media consulting.
Read more at http://www.business2community.com/author/gail-kent#cLg4cfZJx9PgEr8v.99
‘m an award-winning marketing and PR pro who helps small and mid-sized businesses turn their stories into leads through inbound marketing at The Buzz Factoree. A former journalist, I use the same storytelling techniques from my news writing days to create marketing that inspires change and produces leads for clients. While specializing in inbound marketing, I also provide branding, public relations and social media consulting.
Read more at http://www.business2community.com/author/gail-kent#cLg4cfZJx9PgEr8v.99

What I learned from Hubspot’s 30-day blogging challenge

Hubspot's 30-day blogging challengeThis is the first time in five days that I’ve blogged. On one hand, I feel like I deserve the break. On the other, I kind of feel like I’ve been slacking – like something’s a little off.

You see, I spent the month of January glued to my computer. At least it felt that way. I accepted Hubspot’s challenge to blog from January 2-31 without missing a day.

To set the stage  . . . I am a solopreneur. I don’t have a staff to whom I can delegate tasks such as blogging. My “staff” consists of colleagues who are also solopreneurs I select and hire for the tasks at hand.

I preach blogging, social media and all-things-inbound-marketing to my clients, however, so I really need to practice what I preach. I need for my marketing business to be its own case study. With so many demands on my time, it is difficult to treat my own business as another client, which is necessary to use it as a case study.

Typically, I blog anywhere from once to three times weekly — in a good week. I usually  let my work load determine how often I post — not an optimum strategy. When Hubspot issued its 30-day challenge, I knew that I needed to see what difference blogging for 30 days in a row – no exceptions – would have on my business. What would it do for my traffic? My lead generation? I had to see.

It wasn’t easy. January is a busy month in my business, and this was no exception. After a typically slow holiday season, my clients got cranked back up in early January, and I had projects to manage and new deadlines to meet.

My schedule would have been full without tending to my blog. But every evening, just when I would have loved turning off the computer and falling into bed, there was the blog. Oh. Yeah. I saw the clock hands turn 2 a.m. more nights than I would have liked because I needed to clean up the article I had posted just under the wire at 11:55 p.m.

The first night I came up with an idea for a post that lead to an 11-part series on fundamental marketing documents that businesses need. Not having to come up with a new idea every night for nearly two weeks was a godsend. In fact, the series angle worked so well, that I incorporated two shorter series into my 30-day blogging marathon.

Note to self – write more series! Not only do series mean that you don’t have to continually come up with new topics to write about, it allows you to write deeper about topics. Another benefit is that, with a little work, you can repurpose that content later into an ebook.

Lessons learned from Hubspot’s 30-day blogging challenge

So what did I get out of my little experiment?

I learned it is possible to write a blog post in an hour. Most of the time it took me two or three hours — or more — but several times I set a goal to write a post in an hour, and with careful pre-planning, was able to do it.

I got a nice little plug from Hubspot when they linked to my post in their post, How to Write a Post in an Hour: A Round-Up of Advice, in which I said, “Write your blog post directly into the blog software rather that into a word-processing software program. This will save you the extra step of having to transfer it into the blog.”

I also learned that typing your post right into the blog software causes you to get some funny code at the bottom of your post, and if you delete extra carriage returns, you can screw up the spacing in your whole post, and you have no alternative but to do the whole thing over. Did that twice. Not fun at 1 a.m.

But on to more important things . . .

The increase in traffic was astounding. I expected traffic to increase, but I was amazed. In just one month, traffic increased 65 percent.  What was surprising to me was that while organic traffic did increase – by 38 percent – direct traffic, defined by Hubspot as manually entered URLs, increased even more – by a stunning 56 percent. I don’t know how to account for this increase, other than perhaps some people read my blog post or saw it on various social media where I posted it and then manually entered my website’s URL as result of that. That doesn’t make sense, but it’s the only explanation I have.

So what was the bottom line? Did this increase in traffic result in more leads? Absolutely! I received 13 leads in January, which represented more than a 300% increase over November’s two leads.

And the trend continues. Just because I’ve slacked off for a few days doesn’t mean that my stats have fallen off. The halo effect of all that content generation has meant that my traffic is continuing to grow. In fact, my average visits over the past four days, if extrapolated for the next 30 days, would show my traffic as being 32 percent higher than last month! And I’ve already gotten four leads – while doing nothing!

What this means for you

All of this is nice, you say. What does it mean for you? Simple. Content marketing works. It’s hard work. You’ve got to do a lot of it, and it has to be high quality content – not junk. But it definitely works.

You’ve got to put the infrastructure in place to capture leads. That means landing pages with premium content that people are willing to exchange their email addresses to get. It’s got to be good stuff.

You’ve got to build trust and show that you are a thought leader before you can expect to attract business today. I read today that by the time people call you for information, they have completed 60 percent of the sales process.

Clients are not the same as they were in the past. They aren’t coming to you as novices. They’ve done their homework before you hear from them. If you want to be considered as a partner in business, you’ve got to be their partner in educating them.

A good content strategy is the way to do that. After blogging for 30 days in a row, I’m more convinced than ever that if you are in business, your blog must be the center of your content strategy.

 


Facebook status updates: tiny content bombs to explode your business

Facebook status updatesFacebook has been around for 10 years now since it launched in 2004. It’s almost hard to remember what life was like pre-Facebook! Now we can update our Facebook status and communicate with all of our friends and family at once, or offer a discount coupon on a Facebook business Fan Page and begin seeing results in minutes.

You’re likely to get into a rut when using your Facebook status update to market your business because you do what comes easy for you. Resist the urge. Evaluate your page’s Insights and see what type of content results in the highest reach and engagements. Facebook provides detailed statistics on your page engagement under the admin panel. Do more of that.

You may need to experiment with some different types of content than you are used to posting on your Fan Page status. It’s more important than ever to post quality content because Facebook has gradually reduced its organic sharing of posts since 2006. On December 5, 2013, it announced that it was changing its algorithm again to “show the right content at the right time,” which meant that even fewer organic posts would be showed. 

The number of times your content is viewed is influenced by factors such as the number of likes, shares and comments a post receives from the world at large and from your friends in particular, and how much fans have interacted with this type of post in the past. This means that now you really have to work to get “free” Facebook status update views.

Of course Facebook isn’t saying this, but the obvious reason for the algorithm change is that they’re pushing brands toward its advertising as an alternative way of getting more eyes on posts. The easiest way to promote your Fan Page is through boosted posts. After you have your credit card information logged in, it’s simple to click “boost post” on an individual Facebook status update and get thousands of additional views.

You can either boost the post and allow Facebook to select the audience (“friends of friends”) or get more granular with your audience and drill down by selecting demographics such as cities, ages and various keyword descriptors, such as “small business,” “chamber of commerce” or “medical.”

Several times a month I select particular blog post links I want to boost and spend $30 each to boost my Facebook status updates. Within 24 hours, a boost will results in anywhere from 5,ooo to 10,000 views vs. a couple of dozen organic views. Of those views, I’m likely to get about 20-25 clicks on my link, 30-35 clicks on my post and 5-6 “likes” on the post. Those link clicks have brought me several new leads, so it’s definitely been worth the money.

Try these Facebook status updates

So, what are some different types of Facebook status updates that you might want to try?

1) Questions: You want to engage your fans, and questions are a great way to do that. But don’t just ask general questions, ask questions that relate to your business. One of the best I’ve seen at this is Jim Hicks Home Improvement, who not only uses the technique on his Fan Page, but also on his personal Profile Page. He posts photos of beautiful rooms and then asks questions such as, “What do you like most about this mud room?” and “What’s the best element in this before and after kitchen remodel?” His friends rush to comment on his updates.

2) Content from your website or blog: As I mentioned above, I post a lot of links to my blog posts on Facebook. It’s a great way to promote your blog. But don’t forget about your website, as well. If you’ve got new products, new employees or sales to announce, go ahead and post those, too.

But here’s the caveat. The majority of your Facebook status updates should not be sales-focused information. You should remember the 80/20 rule. About 80 percent of your posts should be helpful information from multiple sources. If you provide helpful or entertaining content most of the time, then your fans will let you get away with the occasional sales-y or promotional status update. Just don’t overdo it.

3) Coupons: Research shows that offering coupons with “$ off” produces twice the engagement of “% off.” Even if the actual dollar amount is small, fans prefer the cash discounts.

4) Facebook status updates that include a single image generate 120 percent more engagement than the average post. A cool way to add photos is to use PicMonkey to add text to your photos before uploading them to make them stand out.

5) Run contests, promotions, drawings or sweepstakes: Until recently, you had to use a third-party app to do this. Facebook changed the rules in August 2013 and began allowing businesses to run their own promotions by changing their page terms. Just be sure you follow the rules to a T. This article explains really well what you can and can’t do.

6) Behind-the-scene-look: This works really well, especially if you are in a “glamour” industry such as media. Show “a-day-in-the life”-type photos and content that usually only employees get to see. A similar type of content is “before-and-after” shots of makeovers — whether you are a hairdresser, dog groomer or a house remodeler.

7) Posts about your favorite charity: Not only is it helpful to the charity, it shows that your business is community minded. You can even combine your Facebook promotion with your social responsibility by challenging the Facebook community to help you reach a certain level of “likes” by a given date, and in response you will make a donation to the charity. For example, if breast cancer awareness is your cause, you might challenge your fans to help you reach 5,000 “likes” by the end of October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and you will give $1 for each “like” you receive.

These are just a few ways to think differently about the content you are sharing on your Facebook status updates. There are many creative communications tools you can integrate into your social media strategy if you plan your approach rather than waiting until the last minute to figure out what you are going to post. The best way to do this is by setting up a content calendar a month at a time so that you’ll know in advance what you are doing from one week to the next. At the end of each month, use your Facebook Insights to analyze what worked, then rinse and repeat.

 

 


A blog vs. a website: which should you start with?

blog vs. websiteIf you’re just getting started online, you may have heard that you need a blog. Or a website. Or both. It’s SO confusing! What’s the difference, anyway?

Actually, blogs are a type of website — but we’ll be back to that in a minute. The traditional website began as a “static,” or difficult-to-change brochure-type online publication. Unless you knew how to code in html, you had to hire someone to maintain your website for you. That meant you were at the mercy of your webmaster. It often took days, or sometimes weeks, to get even the simplest of updates made to your site.

The advent of the blog

Then blogs came along in the ’90s. “Blog” is short for “web log.” They were called that because blogs were basic online tools that allowed almost anyone to easily access the Web and post journal-style, with the most recent entry appearing on top. Blogs initially weren’t that much to look at — the functionality was fairly limited to adding text and a few pictures.

In those initial years of blogs, many businesses caught on to the idea of blogging because they realized that blogging did great things for their search engine optimization. Google loves new content, and updating a blog is much easier than updating a website. (No need to wait on the webmaster – it’s a DIY project!)

Blogging also provided a way for businesses to stay in contact with their customers. Suddenly, it wasn’t a one-way conversation any longer. Customers could actually talk back to companies through the comment section. It was revolutionary — and, along with other social media tools, the beginning of Web 2.0.

But the problem was that the only way businesses could take advantage of these benefits was to have both a website and a separate blog and weld them together. It was a pretty messy solution.

Blog vs. website no more: WordPress

But then WordPress came along in the ’00s and changed all that. WordPress reinvented the blog by developing beautiful custom themes that not only made the blog work and look better, but also added the functionality of a website. In addition to the rolling, journal-type entries that you can make in your blog, WordPress added the capability of static pages, just like the old traditional websites of yesteryear — combining the best of both worlds.

So now you can have a beautiful website and blog combined on one site that will serve the needs of the average business just fine. Larger businesses may need a more sophisticated platform, but for small- to mid-sized businesses, there are literally thousands of WordPress themes and templates to choose from — some free and many premium. There are specialized themes for various purposes — e-commerce, churches, ad agencies, photographers, magazines, health-oriented businesses — you name it, you’re likely to find a specialty WordPress theme for your organization.

If you’re adventurous and want to try to learn to set up your own WordPress site, there are lots of online tutorials, and even a LinkedIn group called How to Create a Website Using WordPress. Otherwise, you’ll want to work with a professional graphic designer to customize your template to fit your needs.

A WordPress website will open the door for you to begin a strategic inbound marketing program that will pay huge dividends to your business as you add content both to the static pages and the blog. Done correctly, with calls-to-action and landing pages to collect visitors’ names and email addresses, your new website will provide a source of leads — and eventually customers — for years to come. You no longer have to consider the question: “A blog vs. a website — which one do I need?”

Photo:

Attribution Some rights reserved by Nikolay Bachiyski





Six dumb ways smart people screw up their social media visibility

social media visibilitySocial media is all about being visible — and sociable. And yet, some people are still not getting those most fundamental concepts right when it comes to setting up their profiles for success.

I’m amazed when I see some of the basic mistakes that people continue to make on social media. Here are a few of my “favorites”:

1) Failure to upload a profile photograph. There’s just no excuse for this. If you don’t have a professional shot (which everyone in business should have, by the way), get someone to take a picture of you with your cell phone. Don’t be so vain — or secretive. People do not want to “friend” or connect with someone they don’t know if they don’t have a photo uploaded. I have a policy of not connecting with people who don’t have photos. If you’ve ever been “cyber-stalked,” you’ll understand the reluctance. It’s just creepy.

2) And sorry. Uploading a logo, a picture of a flower or one of your dog is not any better.

3) Using an initial instead of a full last name on LinkedIn. Really? How do you plan to network for business with an initial, such as “Linda N.” How many other “Linda N.s” do you think there are in the world? Why do you even bother? Nearly as ridiculous, but not quite as annoying, is the fake name or “first name only” on Facebook. If your IRL friends know you and you plan to stick to socializing with them, that’s fine. Just don’t be surprised if you get turned down for any further connections.

4) Using a profile page as a business page on Facebook. When I get a friend request from one of these, I politely explain to the person that they have misused the profile page and should correct it. But I do not accept such “friend” requests, because I do not know who the person is. You cannot see the name of the person, only the business. Businesses must use fan pages to promote their businesses. Besides, it is in the business’s best interest to use a fan page, because of all the additional functionality on that type of page.

5) Uploading the business name rather than the individual’s name on the LinkedIn personal profile. Ditto everything I said in the previous example. LinkedIn now offers business pages, where business information goes.

6) Failing to complete your profile. You can’t expect people to interact with you if you don’t give them some information about yourself — especially on LinkedIn. That’s why you’re on there, right? Do you answer the door to someone you don’t know who provides you no indication as to who they are and what they want?

Social media visibility vs. privacy

I understand that some people may be nervous about putting their personal information online for the world to see and possibly use for nefarious purposes. But you can’t have the benefits of social media visibility and only put one toe in the water. You are either all in or you don’t play the game at all. If you are trying in increase your social media visibility for business, you must get the basics — and much more — right.





Hire a blogger and get your inbound marketing game on

hire a bloggerMany businesses have blogs, but they aren’t using them to their full advantage. They don’t produce leads.

That could be for a number of reasons:

1) They aren’t updated consistently. And by consistently, I mean several times a week. It’s not easy — especially when you have competing priorities. There’s nobody standing over you making you blog when you’re the business owner. You’ve got clients or customers to serve. Only you pay the price when you don’t get around to blogging. “Tomorrow” always seems to be soon enough to get serious about it.

2) The posts are weak. They are short, shallow articles that consist of obviously promotional copy rather than high-quality content that show off the business owner’s or management’s thought leadership about their niche.

3) The posts are poorly written. Face it. Writing just isn’t your bag. It’s OK. Your skills lie elsewhere. But your business image is at stake here. Your blog and website copy need to be flawless.

4) The titles are boring. Often they are topics rather than titles. They may be a word or two, such as, “Dog bones,” rather than, “The best dog treats for your pet.” You should spend as much time thinking about your blog titles as you do writing your entire article. It’s that important.

5) There are no strong calls-to-action. A phone number and email address on your website do not count as strong calls-to-action. Many visitors to your website are not sales-ready, so they read your blog posts and leave. Opportunities lost. What if you had a way to capture those visitors’ email addresses and feed them more information until they were ready?

6) Your blog posts are not optimized correctly for search engines. Perhaps they were optimized correctly for prior Google algorithms, but not the current one. What? You didn’t realize that the rules change — frequently?

Blogging is the heart of inbound marketing, which is the proven method for doing business online in the digital age. If you aren’t getting blogging right, you can’t expect to maximize your leads from your online presence.

So what’s the answer?

Hire a blogger.

If you don’t have the resources internally, hire a blogger who has a vested interest in getting your blog right. How do you know what to look for?

1) You not only want a great writer, you need to make sure that the person or writing service you hire has blogging experience. Blogging is not just article writing — the writer must be familiar with using keyword tools and SEO writing techniques.

2) A blogger should be trained in the principles of inbound marketing. This means she should know how to create and integrate effective calls-to-action at the end of your posts to entice visitors to exchange their email addresses for your premium offers, such as ebooks, white papers or checklists.

3) A professional blogger will understand the importance of keeping a consistent posting schedule to encourage a loyal readership.

4) When you find a blogger who knows how to do research and is interested in your industry, he should be able to create content that resonates with your audience while writing in your voice. Such a blogger should not take it personally when you review posts prior to posting to make sure they are factually accurate and represent your company well.

A professional, experienced blogger is a very important marketing asset. Seventy-three percent of B2B marketers said they are producing more content now compared to one year ago, according to Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs’ fourth annual B2B Content Marketing: 2014 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends—North America report, sponsored by Brightcove. Keeping up with that demand is proving more difficult as 58 percent of B2B marketers plan to increase their content marketing budget over the next 12 months, up from 54 percent last year. More and more businesses are finding that they will be hiring bloggers to keep up with the demand for excellent content that produces leads.