Social Channels: Finding the Right Fit


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Posted by Erin Schroeder, Copywriter & Online Specialist

Given the growing number of web users dabbling in social media today, we’ve reached a point where having some sort of business presence is a must. But trying to create – and ultimately maintain – an identity on every social channel? Not the most effective strategy.

So how do you determine which platforms are best for your business?

For starters, do some research to see where your customers are the most active. Once you know which channels your target audience is frequenting, identify the ones that meet a few other criteria as well: they help you communicate your message and achieve your business goals.

This could result in a number of social combinations. Perhaps you put a focus on developing new sales leads (LinkedIn) or serving as a go-to source for the latest news in your industry (Twitter). Maybe it’s promoting your products or services in a more visual-friendly fashion (Pinterest, Instagram) or creating buzz through a video series (YouTube). Whatever the case, consider the channels that most closely align with your objectives first and push any others down on the list.

Here’s a quick refresher on some of the top social sites for business to help you narrow the contenders:

Facebook – Probably the most universal social platform at the moment, 71% of all web users are on Facebook. Use it to reach and engage with a large, diverse network of followers. Focus on the connection though, not the direct sell. 

Twitter – This is a great way to present your company as a thought leader by delivering the latest news and info in a quick-read format. Twitter users are often up to speed and “in the know.” Remember to keep it simple: only 140 max characters per Tweet.

Instagram – One of the more popular visual-based platforms, Instagram users often overlap with those on Twitter. The idea? Tell your company’s story through images. To date, the site has more than 300 million accounts with nearly 70 million photos and videos shared each day. 

Pinterest – An online pinboard, items can only be pinned if they include some sort of image. Many Pinterest users are looking to share, store and find new ideas … it’s also a popular source among information seekers and people in search of how-to advice.

LinkedIn – This is the place to be for business professionals. Once considered a tool primarily for job hunters, its purpose has expanded well beyond. Think relationship building, sales leads, networking and much more. 

YouTube – Appealing to an audience of all ages, YouTube may be best known for video sharing, but it’s also becoming one of the top search engines. Videos can go viral quickly, and the ones that are well-optimized have some real SEO value.

Taking some time to re-evaluate your social strategy and figure out where to emphasize your efforts is well worth it. Your company doesn’t need to be everywhere, but it should be on the channels that make the most business sense.

The Best Digital Ads of 2014


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Posted by Brenda Timm, Vice President – Strategic Communication & Online Services

In reviewing the top digital ads of the year, we took a slightly different approach for 2014.

Typically, we focus on the ones that are designated as the “best of the best” by industry experts. This year, we wanted to see which ads the public chose.

Our search brought us to a list from YouTube that was published by Advertising Age. The top 10 ads to land here weren’t simply hand-selected by marketing gurus, but instead, they made the cut based on a variety of user-based factors. These included total paid and non-paid views, likes, shares and overall watch time.

http://adage.com/article/digital/youtube-s-popular-ads-2014/296135/

After doing a quick scan, you’ll see that this “people’s choice” list is made up of the same kind of stuff we’d expect the pros to pick – from inspirational sports clips and ads produced by the big beer brands to spots that tug on our heartstrings and make us laugh.

Who were the stars of these ads? Not so surprisingly, athletes made appearances in five of the top 10 spots (Always, Duracell, Procter & Gamble and two from Nike) and puppies took center stage in another two (both from Budweiser).

But even though the content didn’t surprise us that much, a few other things did.

Unlike past years, some of the ads that made the list never aired on TV. Instead, they were specifically produced for – and targeted to – an online audience. And as was likely the goal, many were shared over and over with a huge viral effect.

Plus, longer ads were the theme in 2014, with three minutes clocked as the average length for those that made it among the top 10. The results show that last year’s ads were 47% shorter per clip and people spent 57% longer watching this year’s final selection.

So what does all of this mean?

From the looks of it, the best digital ads are no longer limited to just what we see on TV. Advertisers are really picking up on the shift to online and realizing just how powerful these web-based channels can be. They’re also learning that length may not be as much of a factor if the content succeeds in drawing people in and keeping them captivated.

The Social Scene in 2015


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Posted by Erin Schroeder, Copywriter & Online Specialist

As more marketers have joined the social scene this year and discovered new ways to connect with their customers, the big question is this: How will things look in 2015?

A new article from Forbes gives us an idea by providing some practical projections, including which social sites are likely to gain steam, which may fizzle a bit and what the social picture could resemble as a whole.

Right now, the big buzz is about a new platform called Ello. Currently in the beta testing stage and only accessible by invitation, Ello is being described as a “hip” channel that will rival Facebook in many ways. Its tagline is “Simple, beautiful and ad-free,” and in its manifesto, the user-centric site promises to never sell member info to third parties.

While the article predicts the rise of Ello, it also forecasts a major decline for Google+. Why so? When put in the ring with Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, the consensus is that the social site doesn’t really offer its own distinct value.

A few other predictions for the social scene in 2015? Here’s a summary:

  • Facebook and Twitter advertising will become more popular among businesses in an attempt to further improve reach and results
  • Instagram will keep growing as the trend toward image-based social sharing continues to build
  • LinkedIn will remain the social site of choice in the B2B realm and the gap will keep widening among the competition

To cap it all off, the final prediction for social media in the year ahead is the fundamental role it will play in content marketing. As marketers work to publish and distribute new material more regularly, they are expected to discover just how effective social media has become in getting this content in front of their intended audiences.

Surviving the “Form Filtering Phase”


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Posted by Brenda Timm, Vice President – Strategic Communication & Online Services

You’ve written a clever subject line and your recipient clicks to open the message … success! The intro copy is so compelling that he or she takes the next step and clicks the link to the guide/e-book/tip sheet, etc., you’re sharing … hooray!

But, unfortunately, the celebrating often ends here as this is the point where many would-be readers drop off.

Why is this the case?

When confronted with a lead generation form, many people suddenly decide that the content they’re about to download might not be worth the hassle. They might see all those fields as too daunting and immediately forget about the value the piece may have to offer. Or, they might question how you’re planning to use the contact details they’re asked to provide.

Whatever the case, the good news is that there are many ways to help your readers through this “form filtering phase.” Here’s a start:

  • Along with the form, add some supporting bullet points to the page with content highlights that serve as a reminder of what’s to come. Other options? Pull out an excerpt or a quote that teases the information within or preview some data and percentages (people love numbers!).
  • Consider the information that is most essential to collect and simplify your lead generation form to as few fields as possible.
  • Mark only the required fields with asterisks and make the rest optional. Note the specifics so readers understand exactly what needs to be filled out.
  • Add your privacy policy and reassure respondents that their contact details won’t be passed around. Don’t have enough space? Link to your policy.
  • Be clear on the call to action. Start with a fitting headline such as “Get Your Free Guide” and end with an appropriate button like “Download Now” or similar.
  • Include a contact number or email address in case the reader chooses not to download your content, but has a question or still wants to reach out.

It’s a big deal when readers open your message and click to take action. Don’t risk losing them at the sight of a lead generation form … follow some simple steps to help readers make it all the way to your content.

Bringing Influencers On Board


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Posted by Dave Willems, CEO & Principal

When we throw the term “influencer” out there, it can have a variety of definitions. An influencer can be an industry expert or a brand advocate … a colleague, a team leader or someone who is just really well-connected within your community.

So why are these influencers so important to have on board?

A recent article from SocialBro reports that 74% of customers rely on social media to guide their purchasing decisions today. And where do you think the typical influencers tend to spend a good chunk of their time?

Yep, you guessed it. Social sites.

According to the article, influencers are 40%+ more likely to get people to look up information than regular users are, and they are 90% more likely to persuade others to choose a particular brand.

Those are some pretty significant stats, aren’t they?

Here’s our take on a few common traits the article shares about influencers that show why this group has become so instrumental on the social scene today:

  • Thought leaders – People often seek out the opinions of influencers because they trust their knowledge and experience in a certain area or field.
  • Plugged in across multiple channels – Along with being active on social sites like Facebook and Twitter, influencers are also putting their voices out there via columns, blogs, e-newsletters and other digital-based outlets.
  • Trendsetters – A characteristic many influencers share? They love to follow the latest trends! They’re ready to try new technologies or support business ideas that show promise.
  • Confidence builders – We can talk all we want about how great our product or service is, but influencers can help back up those claims. They’ll dish out the product reviews and share their thoughts on the best features.
  • Targeted – If we can identify who our influencers are, we can market to them directly. The upside to that? It’s like a ripple effect once they start spreading our story to their own circles.

Now that so many people are turning to social channels as part of the purchasing process, influencers play a more important role in marketing than ever. Do you know who yours are, or is it time to get some on board with your brand?

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Online Content: Finding the Right Length


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Posted by Erin Schroeder, Copywriter & Online Specialist

As we write content to be published online, the question of “how much is too much?” comes up again and again.

There’s no right answer for any one channel, but thanks to some in-depth research and comparisons from BufferSocial, we have a better idea for what seems to work best.

Here are some of the findings for the ideal copy length by content type:

  • Tweets – 100 characters
  • Facebook posts – Less than 40 characters
  • Email subject lines – 28-39 characters
  • Blog posts – 1,600 words
  • Headlines – 6 words
  • Online seminar – 18 minutes

Do you see the trend here? For most types of content, it seems that shorter copy wins out.

Consider tweets. Each time we post something on Twitter, we’re limited to 140 total characters. It’s often hard enough to stay within that count and convey what we’re trying to say, so take away 40 of those characters, and it’s an even bigger challenge.

Or how about headlines? Suppose you write a very compelling article that covers a bunch of great information and you’re given the task of summarizing the piece in just six words. Not such an easy thing to do, is it?

But think of how people typically use the web today. They’re looking for information quickly … often scanning content on their handheld devices while on the go and skimming their news feeds for the topics they find most interesting or relevant.

Of course, as we write, not every piece is going to fit these guidelines, and some audiences may be less ‘sensitive’ to length than others.

Take this blog post as an example. In the end, it will come out to just over 300 words. We managed to get the headline down to the recommended six words or less, but didn’t feel that a 1,600-word post made much sense.

That’s the key … consider the suggestions for ideal length in your writing and then decide what is right for your readers.

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