Advice

Content Marketing Best Practices: Content Writing in 2017

I don’t like the concept of “optimizing content for search engines.” It kind of gives you the wrong idea about the process: as if you are supposed to write content for flesh-and-blood readers and then, constrainedly, optimize it for bots.

Many writers do so. But instead, these days you’d better keep the requirements of SEO in mind before and while you create your piece of content. This doesn’t mean you should make your content machinelike - it’s about understanding how your article’s vocabulary and structure can influence your rankings.

We’re going to talk about three aspects a writer should consider in 2017 in order to write a good piece of content that will also attract more organic traffic.

  • Semantically related words
  • TF-IDF
  • Featured snippets

Semantically related keywords

The release of the Hummingbird algorithm back in 2013 made the topic of semantic search extremely important. Here’s an explanation provided by Danny Sullivan:

Hummingbird is paying more attention to each word in a query, ensuring that the whole query — the whole sentence or conversation or meaning — is taken into account, rather than particular words. The goal is that pages matching the meaning do better, rather than pages matching just a few words.

Semantically related keywords are one of the signals to Google that the page matches the meaning of the query and, thus, the searcher’s intent.

Let’s say, you are searching for “city bike.” You can easily guess which one of the two articles below will be more likely to satisfy the searcher’s needs (unless the searcher is Jay-Z):

So, to keep up with Hummingbird’s requirements, you basically need to find relevant words to build your article around to show Google that your content is really valuable by understanding the language your users speak, the terms they use, the questions they ask and the formats they prefer.

Easier said than done, of course. But not impossible. There are several ways to approach this challenge.

Start by taking a look at the SERP. Pages from Google’s top 10 tend to have a lot in common in terms of content. Quite often, you’ll be able to identify these similarities at a glance, like with the query “best city bike”:

1. Lists and guides rule the SERPs
2. Adding a year to a title definitely helps

Next, find out if there are terms that Google considers identical to your target keywords. For example, here we see that Google seems to treat “best city bike”, “best urban bike” and “best commuter bike” as the same term.

Also, explore autocomplete suggestions. These are probably the most exhaustive source of real people’s questions, pains and problems. You can use many of them as ready ideas for your articles:

Grabbing these data manually can take a lot of time. There are tools that scrape, organize and sort related words and Google suggestions: see them in the “Tools to Use” section at the bottom.

TF-IDF

You’re probably asking yourself at this point: OK, I’m sure that words like “and”, “the” and “with” can be found on every page in the Google top 10. Does that mean I should use them to get higher rankings?

Not at all. And this is where TF-IDF comes in.

The term TF-IDF is an abbreviation of “term frequency - inverse document frequency.” The two parts of this abbreviation are two separate metrics used to calculate how important a word is to a specific document.

TF (term frequency) defines how often a word is found inside a document; IDF (inverse document frequency) stands for how often the word is encountered in a larger set of documents, often called a “corpus.” IDF is meant to reduce the weight of words used frequently within the corpus that have little importance (articles, prepositions, etc.). This way, less weight is given to terms with a high TF and IDF and more weight is given to terms with a high TF and a low IDF.

So why is this concept essential for a writer these days?

At first sight, TF-IDF may seem like a scientific explanation of why keyword stuffing is important. You identify a nice keyword (for example, “city bike”) with a clearly low IDF, you put it into every paragraph of your article and show Google that your content is super-relevant compared to your rivals’.  But it doesn’t work like this. Google’s algorithms are trained to identify pages stuffed thoughtlessly with keywords and penalize them.

There are several SEO tools that use TF-IDF for keyword analysis. For example, SEMrush’s SEO Ideas and SEO Content Template tools rely on TF-IDF to provide you with a list of words to use in your content - your list will be sorted automatically according to the number of documents each word was encountered in.

Featured snippets

So you gathered a beautiful set of semantically related words, made sure these words have a good TF-IDF, and you expect your content to make it to the first page of Google and boost your organic traffic.

But there’s a risk that almost no one will click on your properly optimized snippet with a catchy headline, because there’s someone who monopolized the first screen and captured all the searchers’ attention.

This “someone” is a featured snippet.

Featured snippets -- so called “zero positions” -- are the boxes shown right below the number of results found for your query. The goal of featured snippets is to provide you with content that fulfills your request without your having to click on any search result.

Most of featured snippets actually monopolize the first screen. As a result, the click-through rate of the content within it increases drastically - some studies report a four-fold CTR growth- and the other pages in the top 10 don’t get as many clicks as before. This is why organizing your content to appear in the featured snippet is crucial.

How to optimize your content to earn a featured snippet

There are actually no sure-fire recipes to get your content into this box. However, some tactics have worked for SEOs and are worth trying.

Identify your pages that already rank in the top 10

If you start by figuring out which of your website’s pages are already ranking well and concentrating on those, it will save you dozens of hours. Sad but true, only a miracle can make you appear in a featured snippet if you’re currently in the 98th position. Google tends to pick the pages from the top 10 for featured snippets. If you are in the top 5, even better.

Target question-based keywords and provide structured answers

It’s easier for Google to understand the searcher’s intent from the query “how to draw a dog” than from the query “dog drawing” (are you looking for beautiful drawings of dogs or do you want to draw a dog yourself?). Besides questions, there are words that narrow down a search intent quite a lot: “best”, “recipe” and “instructions” for example.

When it comes to answers, write the way you speak. The easier it is to understand, the better. “How to cook spaghetti? - Start with boiling water...”.

If a query starts with “how to” breaking your article down into steps is a must: use numbers or subtitles to divide your content logically.

Make sure to use header tags properly

Search engine bots love clear markups and flawless code. If they can easily scan the structure, extract the most valuable information and index it properly without spending any additional crawl budget, it definitely helps you get higher rankings. A correct use of H1-H6 tags is crucial if you want your content to be included in the featured snippet. Some SEOs, including Barry Schwartz, recommend also using Schema.org Markup.

Keep working to take snippets from your competitors (and defend your spot once you got one)

Nobody can guarantee that once a page gets into the featured snippet box, it will stay there forever. Google can remove your website (see this case study by Glenn Gabe) and replace it with another one, or just leave the page without a snippet (which is actually what happened with the “best city bike” SERP while we were working on this article):

Analyze what you could improve on your page and keep working. When it comes to highly competitive keywords, it’s really worth the candle.

Tools to use: SEMrush solutions

There are a number of SEMrush tools that can help automate the most time-consuming parts of your work. Let’s take a look at how they do it:

SEO Ideas

SEO Ideas tool helps you identify semantically related words. But there’s one important detail: it only gives you the words used by your successful rivals from Google’s top 10. There’s no point in analyzing hundreds of SERPs for a given keyword. Why look at those who are ranking lower than you?

You can find insights on semantically related words in the “Semantic Ideas” section:

They come with a detailed analysis of how many rivals use each of these words and how frequently each of them is encountered on their pages:

SEO Ideas will also notify you if any of your website's pages are ranking in the top 10 and have a good chance of appearing in featured snippets, with actionable recommendations on how to improve these pages:

SEO Content Template

If you just need to optimize the text on a single page without going too deep into detail, SEO Content Template is an extremely actionable yet simple tool. Simply enter one or more target keywords and the tool will analyze the first 10 pages from Google that rank for these keywords, and give you recommendations on:

  • Semantically related words to use on your page
  • The readability score you’ll need to achieve
  • Text length
  • Relevant backlink sources
  • Basic SEO recommendations, like length of page title and meta description

You can also get some insights on how to organize your content without leaving the tool - we’ll show you excerpts of your rivals’ texts with your target keywords highlighted:

Keyword Magic

It would be nice if you could type in a target keyword and see the semantically related words separated into groups, get quick estimations of search volume, keyword difficulty and competition level in one tool. Oh, and see the SERP features triggered by each keyword as well.

This tool does exist. Keyword Magic tool makes it easier by showing you all the information in one tab.

If you need more data, for example, the click potential or average difficulty for a keyword group, use the “Export to Keyword Analyzer” option.

How to write content that succeeds in 2017: Key Takeaways

  • Spend time on keyword research and defining an SEO-friendly structure before you actually start writing. Stuffing ready articles with keywords and adding subtitles just because you need to will seem unnatural, both for humans and search bots.

  • Focus on adding valuable words associated with your topic instead of repeating the same keyword throughout your article.

  • Use multiple sources to enrich your list of related keywords. Explore your and your competitors’ social media pages for keyword ideas and questions to answer. Conduct a TF-IDF analysis. Ask your technical support to observe and note the terms your customers really use.

  • Make good use of tools to automate the research processes.

  • Many actionable takeaways can be easily found by simply looking at SERPs. You can discover which content formats are used by your top 10 rivals or borrow some nice ideas for headlines.

  • Use lists and “step-by-step” formats to increase your chances of earning a featured snippet. “Keyword-based question + direct and concise answer” is another proven format for getting into the featured snippet box.

  • If you write an evergreen piece of content (a guide, for instance), don’t hesitate to mention the current year in the title. You’ll eventually get back to this article to update it, so a “2016 guide” can then be renamed a “2017 guide” when you add new valuable information to it.

  • You can’t earn a featured snippet unless you’re already ranking high. To get results faster, start by optimizing the pages that are already ranking in the Google top 10 for your target keywords.

  • Pay careful attention to your formatting, tags and markups. Make sure these are used correctly and make your content clear, structured and easily crawlable for Google bots.

  • If your competitor has already earned a featured snippet for your target keyword, it’s not written in stone. Any other website can replace theirs sooner or later, so why not yours?

Passing the mic to you

Have you already incorporated these best practices into your everyday content routine? Or do you consider them newfangled or too far removed from the actual work of a content creator? Let us know in the comments!

[By Elena Terenteva] [From SEMrush Blog]

Advice From CMOs: Stop Saying 'Digital' and Practice Straight Talk

The U.K.'s Marketing Society gathered chief marketing officers together to discuss what they regard as the elephants in the room that make for uncomfortable conversations. Here's what they talked about at an Advertising Week Europe panel:

"Stop using the word digital," said Zaid Al-Qassab, chief brand & marketing officer of telecommunications group BT. "The word is causing enormous problems in clients and agencies and the work we're getting."

Mr. Al-Qassab said that in the old days when he did print and billboard ads, he wasn't called a "paper marketer" as he is called a "digital marketer" today. The word digital moves the focus to clicks and likes, rather than customers, and is used heavily in briefs sent to agencies, he said, leading to 300 social media ideas from the agency, and clients asking for something that will "go viral."

David Wheldon and Zaid Al-Qassab Credit: Shutterstock/Advertising Week Europe

David Wheldon and Zaid Al-Qassab Credit: Shutterstock/Advertising Week Europe

"Write a brief that's about your customer and business results you hope to achieve," he admonished. "Let's talk about target audience and how to sell to them."

Lisa Gilbert, an American who moved to London about five months ago as chief marketing officer at IBM for the U.K. and Ireland, advocates what she calls straight talk.

"It gets rid of ambiguity and gets straight to the truth," she said, conceding straight talk might be considered rude and that there are cultural nuances to consider. "But if used with care it can be an amazing tool. You have to have the courage and emotional fortitude to deliver straight talk. It's hard to have honest conversations."


David Wheldon, chief marketing officer of Royal Bank of Scotland, said he actually has a small elephant in the office meeting room precisely to remind people not to ignore the elephant in the room. He said he also serves as president of the World Federation of Advertisers, and in that capacity he finds that digital practices aren't transparent enough about how data is being used. He also has concerns about ad fraud.

Lisa Gilbert Credit: Shutterstock/Advertising Week Europe

Lisa Gilbert Credit: Shutterstock/Advertising Week Europe

As marketing head of a bank, "We need to be transparent. You need to know what we're doing with your money," he said, adding that he'd like to see other parts of the marketing ecosystem held to the same standard.

Dave Trott, an outspoken longtime creative director, said "All the ads are done for clients and the sole job of ad agencies is to do work clients like. Clients call this collaboration. It's not collaboration. It's obsequiousness."

Mr. Trott cited a study that found 89% of advertising isn't noticed or remembered. He said that with total U.K. adspend at $26 billion, that's billions of dollars "of background wallpaper."

He also criticized marketers for allowing very junior clients to judge campaigns in the early stages, often knocking out the riskiest work so that senior clients only see a few ideas at the end and wonder why the agency didn't do better.

In rebuttal, Mr. Wheldon stressed marketers' responsibility to train less experienced execs: "You don't get great future clients by saying 'I'll do all that and you can bugger off'."

[By Laurel Wentz] [From Advertising Age]

Will my organic rankings suffer if I don’t have a blog?

A client wants to develop a content strategy so they can rank for more keywords but isn’t sure if they can muster the resources to create a blog. Sound familiar?

When budgets are tight, it’s often tempting to put more money behind your paid media campaigns; after all, you can actually see which ads and optimizations are generating the most revenue each month.

Earned media is not so cut-and-dried. However, creating and developing blog content should be regarded as a long-term investment. And as any good financial advisor will tell you, it’s best to start saving early. There is evidence to suggest that investing in a blog today will pay dividends for years to come.

Why should I have a blog?

No matter if your website is focused on e-commerce, lead-gen or self-service, there is what I like to call a “finite keyword set” that constrains you, whether you realize it or not. This concept of a finite keyword set is dictated by the fact that you want to serve the most relevant content to users at all times. By this notion, you would never post a recipe for lemon ricotta cookies on your fashion e-commerce site. (Or would you? We will revisit this idea later.)

Ideally, at the most basic level, your website should provide an expert level of knowledge about your subject matter — this will help ensure you meet Google’s quality guidelines. However, if your goal is to truly dominate the SERPs and outrank the competition, you need to start thinking outside the box to expand the breadth and depth of your content.

Simply put, a blog allows you to gain search engine results page (SERP) real estate, which can provide additional touch points for users to discover your brand. In creating new content, you will inevitably be expanding your keyword set — though I highly recommend performing keyword mapping (using Google’s Keyword Planner tool) and pre-planning your strategy to avoid keyword overlap and URL confusion.

Do note that recent changes have made it increasingly more difficult to get accurate keyword data from Google. In order to see “normal” search volume ranges, you will need to have a significant amount of ad spend with Google. It may be helpful to sync up with your paid search team to create a workaround.

SEO’s role in the conversion funnel

It’s no coincidence that appearing more times in the SERPs can lead to an increase in click-through rate; however, it’s important to fully understand the role that SEO plays in the conversion funnel. If you’ve ever heard an SEO lament that the last-click attribution model fails to give proper credit, this is because SEO is frequently used for discovery/awareness purposes. Knowing this, you may decide to create certain informational landing pages using more general keywords as opposed to long-tail.

When a consumer enters the funnel, they might not even realize they’ve begun their buying journey. Some consumers will begin their journey by researching the product or service they want and comparing offerings across brands. However, others might be looking to solve a problem — and while reading helpful answers, they discover the need to make a purchase.

The strategy here is to assist and educate consumers in their most vulnerable moments while they’re still brand-agnostic. Organic search campaigns will have a different impact on consumers depending on when they interact with them.

In the model below, we can see that both social campaigns and organic search are the first touch points a user will interact with. This tends to vary by industry, but the important thing to note is that while having an early organic presence is crucial, SEO still assists with conversions during other phases of the purchasing process.

Expanding breadth & depth of content

When creating content, ask yourself what consumers might be searching for before they need your product. For example, if you sell stainless steel cookware, a common question might be, “Are Teflon pans bad for your health?” Here, the consumer may be researching out of sheer curiosity — or potentially researching to purchase. In either scenario, creating a blog post about this topic not only educates the consumer, but also increases the likelihood that they will keep your brand top of mind when it comes time to purchase.

While creating educational/persuasive content can easily align with your brand, it’s also important to create content focused on semi-related topics, which helps to expand the scope of your keyword relevance. To begin the ideation process (keeping cost in mind), it’s helpful to thoroughly study your competitors’ blogs to get a sense of the topics they cover. It’s also worthwhile to dive into their backlink profile and see if they’ve captured the interest of high authority sites and publications (you can even reach out to some of these sites if you see a good opportunity).

If you’re looking for a more comprehensive solution, there is a host of paid platforms that can help you identify gaps in your own content; however, this may be cost-prohibitive.

While publishing content on expected topics will help to grow your keyword set, the best way to cast your net is by covering loosely or indirectly related topics. Think back to the e-commerce example from above. Time and time again I defer to Nordstrom and their success with creating recipe blog posts that rank for a substantial number of keywords.

On the surface, there may appear to be some dissonance between these two ideas. The focus here is not on the product mix itself, but rather on understanding consumers on a more fundamental level and positioning oneself as “helpful” even before users have entered the discovery phase.

While Nordstrom uses this page to drive consumers to their in-store restaurant, let’s assume that this were not the case. When developing loosely or indirectly related content, start by creating a user persona that can help you visualize your consumers’ lifestyle, behavior and needs.

For the purposes of this example, we’ll assume the following:

  • Nordstrom customers are rather affluent (HHI $100,000+).
  • Mostly female, tend to skew a bit older (36–45).
  • The average customer is a stay-at-home mom with children.
  • She occasionally entertains and likes to bake from scratch.
  • She’s willing to pay more for something if it will save her money in the long run.

With this information, it’s no coincidence that Nordstrom has chosen to post a recipe for “Best From-Scratch Lemon Ricotta Cookies.” In order to tie this to their product mix, Nordstrom could easily link this page to the bakeware landing page. However, someone searching for a recipe is looking to satisfy an immediate need and probably isn’t looking to take out their credit card.

The strategy here is to appear as frequently as possible in the SERPs for your target consumers, helping them solve their everyday dilemmas. Nordstrom knows that consumers who have more frequent interactions with their brand are likely to keep it top-of-mind when they need to purchase. According to a 2013 global Nielsen study, 60 percent of consumers prefer to buy new products from brands familiar to them.

The key takeaway here is the SERP real estate that was able to be realized. This recipe page ranks for 266 keywords, 16 of which appear on page 1!

Obtaining featured snippets

As an added benefit, creating a blog will increase the chances of your content appearing for featured snippets and quick answers. The benefits of featured snippets are that even if your page does not rank in position 1, it can still appear above all other search results — as in the case of another recipe from Nordstrom.com.

While many rich snippets are dependent on structured data markup, featured snippets are organically pulled from your on-page content, which reduces the need to constantly monitor your markup implementation. Google has yet to release official guidelines for obtaining snippets, but there are several studies that outline how to improve the chances of your pages appearing and provide industry-specific tips.

At minimum, your page should focus on a target query — this will be the keyword for which you want the snippet to appear. In this example, it’s “shrimp and asparagus risotto.” Looking at the Domain Authority of the website that currently holds the featured snippet is a good way to assess your level of competitiveness.

Final thoughts

In short, content creation, particularly blogs, is critical if you want to expand your brand presence. As an added benefit, an influx of fresh content requires Google to regularly crawl and index your site, and fresh content is a consideration when Google ranks your page in search results. Moreover, if your website lacks on-page content due to aesthetic purposes, a blog is an excellent way to augment your content offerings and target specific queries.

While it may be intimidating to commit to a blog, know that a weekly or biweekly content cadence may be all you need to start seeing return visitors. If you’re unsure where to begin, start by creating a list of evergreen vs. seasonal content, and capitalize on any upcoming topics that would be of particular interest to searchers. If creating a blog is out of the question, creating informational landing pages will also aid in your keyword efforts.

So, how does this pay dividends? The long-term goal is to obtain backlinks in some capacity. Not only will this help to increase your Domain Authority, it will increase exposure across the web and help drive traffic to your site. Most importantly, if you’ve been lacking social content (or posting without adding much value), share your new content and make sure to engage your followers in the conversation. After all, user feedback may be some of the most valuable.

[By Stephanie LeVonne] [From Search Engine Land] 

Facebook Bots 101: What They Are, Who's Using Them & What You Should Do About It

Back in April 2016, Mark Zuckerberg announced the launch of Facebook's Messenger Platform -- a new service that enables businesses of all sizes to build custom bots in Messenger.

In the days following the announcement, the tech and marketing space lost its mind. Thousands of articles were penned about the news, each one speculating on what an open Messenger platform could mean for businesses.

Why all the ardor? For starters, Facebook Messenger already has about 900 million monthly active users worldwide. Not registrants. Not people who got forced to download it when Facebook spun it out of the standard Facebook app. We're talking about active users who have adopted Messenger as a primary communication channel.

Anytime a company as forward-looking as Facebook opens up a platform as heavily adopted as Messenger it should raise eyebrows. So the early excitement, well, it's justified. But what comes next is entirely undefined. And as marketers, we have an exciting opportunity to help shape it.

As Zuckerberg put it in his keynote, "No one wants to have to install a new app for every business or service they want to interact with.” And bots are much different than disjointed apps. In other words, building into the already popular Facebook Messenger app could enable businesses to get in front of customers without that added friction.

At least, that's the potential ...

What Is a Bot?

"Bot" is a generalized term used to describe any software that automates a task. Chatbots, which anyone can now build into Facebook Messenger, automate conversation -- at least the beginning stages of it.

What's special about the bots you can build on Facebook Messenger is that they're created using Facebook's Wit.ai Bot Engine, which can turn natural language into structured dataYou can read more on this here, but in short, this means that not only can bots parse and understand conversational language, but they can also learn from it. In other words, your bot could get "smarter" with each interaction.

You've undoubtedly heard of artificial intelligence (AI). And this is a type of AI. Natural language interface is common in most chatbots, but by opening up the Messenger Platform and providing developer tools like the bot engine, Facebook has made building an intelligent bot easier.

How People Find Bots in Facebook Messenger

So, now comes the classic marketer question: If you build it, will they come?

The answer? Maybe.

Users are able to search for companies and bots inside Facebook Messenger by name, so you'll probably get some users that way. But, as with any new pathway into your company, you're likely to find that adoption of this communication channel within your customer base won't happen without some promotion. Facebook is trying to make that easier for businesses and organizations as well.

Here are a few tools and updates they've released to help simplify that connection:

Messenger Links

If you've created a Page for your business on Facebook, Messenger Links will use your Page’s username to create a short link (m.me/username). When someone clicks that link -- regardless of where they are -- it will open a conversation with your business in Messenger.

Customer Matching

If you have phone numbers for customers and pre-existing permission to reach out to them, you can find them on Facebook Messenger via customer matching. Conversations initiated through customer matching will include a final opt-in upon the first Facebook Messenger communication.

                                                         Image Credit:  Facebook

                                                         Image Credit: Facebook

Messenger Codes

Messenger codes are unique images that serve as a visual thumbprint for your business and bot on Messenger. If you are familiar with Snapchat codes, these visual cues act in the same way, redirecting anyone who scans them using Messenger to the corresponding company page or bot.

                                             Image Credit:  Facebook

                                             Image Credit: Facebook

Messenger Buttons

You can embed these buttons, provided by Facebook, into your website to enable anyone who clicks them to start a Messenger conversation with your company.

                                            Image Credit:  Facebook

                                            Image Credit: Facebook

For all of the above, if you haven't developed a bot, the result will be a standard Messenger-based conversation. So you'll want to be sure you're monitoring that channel.

5 Examples of Branded Facebook Messenger Bots

Written definitions of bots are one thing, but sometimes it helps to understand how a bot works in action. Let's take a look at a few early examples ...

1) 1-800-Flowers

The example Mark Zuckerberg lauded in his keynote was the ability to send flowers from 1-800-Flowers without actually having to call the 1-800 number. A user, Danny Sullivan, subsequently tried it by sending flowers to Zuckerberg himself and documented the five-minute process here.

The bot took Sullivan through a few floral options and then confirmed shipping details.

                                                    Image Credit:  Marketing Land    

                                                    Image Credit: Marketing Land  

2) Wall Street Journal

With the Wall Street Journal bot, users can get live stock quotes by typing "$" followed by the ticker symbol. They can also get the top headlines delivered to them inside of Messenger.

3) HP

HP created a bot for Messenger that enables users to print photos, documents, and files from Facebook or Messenger to any connected HP printer.

                         Image Credit:  HP  

                         Image Credit: HP  

4) Facebook M

Facebook is releasing its own bot for Messenger, a personal assistant bot named "M". M can answer a wide range of requests -- from restaurant recommendations, to complex trivia, to last-minute hotel rates in the city.

Its flexibility is due to the fact that M is actually a bot-human hybrid. As Facebook’s chief technology officer Mike Schroepfer told Recode: "It’s primarily powered by people, but those people are effectively backed up by AIs." While the bots act as a first line of defense in fielding questions, the difficult questions are quickly routed to human assistants.

                                                      Image Credit:  The Next Web

                                                      Image Credit: The Next Web

 

5) Healthtap

Healthtap is an interactive healthcare provider that connects users to advice from medical professionals. On the heels of the platform announcement, Healthtap created a bot that enables users to type a medical question into Facebook Messenger and receive a free response from a doctor or browse articles of similar questions.

You can see here how the conversational interface works. The user in this example is inquiring in natural language about a specific health concern. From the user's standpoint, this is similar to texting a friend.

            Image Credit:  mobihealthnews

            Image Credit: mobihealthnews

This set up also helps the company filter inbound requests by solving some patient questions with existing responses first and then surfacing unique queries for live response.

(Intrigued by these examples? Engadget has a longer list of bots that are either released or under development for Facebook Messenger.)

Should You Build a Bot?

Ah, see that's not the sort of question I can answer for you. Building a bot for Facebook Messenger, like any marketing or product endeavor, is going to take resources -- mainly staff time and expertise -- and may not result in the outcomes you'd like to see.

That said, here's my best guidance for how you can answer the question for yourself:

Do you have a clear use case?

One of the biggest reasons so many companies went astray in building apps for their businesses is that they saw it as just another version of their website. They didn't take the time to study how being on a mobile device would change the types of interactions their customers would want to have with their company.

Some tasks are just not well-suited for mobile. As a result, many apps sat unused. When you're thinking about a use case for Facebook Messenger, make sure you're thinking about it from the standpoint of the customer or user, not from the company's standpoint. That's the real driver of use.

Is your audience on Facebook?

This question is often too quickly dismissed by companies that see Facebook as a purely social platform, rather than one for businesses. Even if your audience doesn't currently use Facebook for business needs, you need to start by determining whether or not the potential is there.

If you have an audience who uses Facebook heavily in their personal lives, they're likely to adopt Messenger as a communications tool. And how they use Messenger may expand beyond how they use Facebook. Today, usage of messaging apps has actually outpaced that of social networks. And as new use cases arise, behavior evolves with them.

Can you support inbound inquiries from Messenger?

Don't open a communication channel with your prospective and existing customers if you can't support it. Even with the automation of a bot, you'll still need to carve out time to 1) promote it 2) monitor any questions your bot can't answer and 3) keep tabs on the overall customer experience you're creating with it.

If you've thought through the above three questions and think you've got a good foundation for a Facebook Messenger bot then dive in. There's a benefit to being an early adopter in this space. And as a newly open platform, Facebook Messenger needs thoughtful and strategic companies to shape it.

Have you used any branded bots on Facebook Messenger? What's your favorite use case? Share your thoughts in the comments.

[By Meghan Keaney Anderson] [From HubSpot]

Three ways brands are using emotional analytics to connect with customers

Social media has dominated my working life since its inception.

It’s been fascinating to see the evolution of brand communication as it moved away from brands talking at people, towards the creation of a dialogue with customers, fans and followers.

But now it’s time for the next step.

Emotional analytics allows brands to connect with people on a deeper, more personal, level. Unlike sentiment analytics, which simply allocates responses into broad positive, neutral or negative categories, emotional analytics tells brands what people are feeling and why. This, I think, makes all the difference.

I might take to Twitter after a bad experience with customer service, and while the post could be defined as negative in a sentiment analysis report, how useful is that “negative” tag to the brand? My post will be lumped in with tons of other “negative” posts, depleted of all context which could make it actionable for the brand.

Without deeper context, the brand can’t solve any problems. It can’t see that certain business practices make me frustrated, or that many other customers are experiencing a similar frustration for the same reason.

Brands that don’t know why a customer feels the way they do can’t tailor their products and services to meet specific needs and wants.

How emotional analytics delivers results

By using emotional analytics, brands can see if there’s a disconnect between the emotions that we want the brand to create, and those that real customers are experiencing.

A brand’s marketing team may want to promote the brand as inspirational and exciting, but how can it tell if it’s really delivering on this? Emotional analytics looks at how people are feeling, examines what topics they are having feelings about, and allows marketers the chance to change the narrative. 

Three ways brands use emotional analytics

1. Personalisation 

As part of its 20th anniversary celebrations, EasyJetused emotional analytics to discover what its customers felt about previous journeys they had taken.

It then used these insights to send customers personalised emails featuring their own history with the airline.

These emails were opened 100% more than regular email campaigns, with the word “love” being the most common word used by recipients to describe how they felt about it.

2. Compliance

Bloomberg allows its clients to track the emotion in text and voice communications, helping them prevent market abuse and remain compliant.

Think of all the times that we don’t say what we mean. When we say we’re fine, when really were angry. By analysing our emotional responses, brands have a better chance of spotting any hidden meaning behind our messages.

Businesses can apply this technology to their own internal communications and identify irregularities before they become problems.

3. Improved experience 

We’re starting to see more wearables that track our emotional responses. For retailers, these offer a way to improve and tailor their in-store customer service – from sending assistance to frustrated shoppers to knowing which customers would be more open to special offers.

When eBay launched its pop-up store in late 2016, it wanted to track how people felt when they shopped for Christmas gifts. The answer? Stressed. 88% saw their heart rate jump by 32% during their shopping experience.

Ebay wanted to use this data to take the stress out of shopping, and use the emotional insights to show shoppers what products they had connected with. The ecommerce giant tracked this data using wearables and in-store experiences, but it could gather the same sort of data online using emotional analytics.

Emotional analytics: using humans to turn emotion into action

From managing a crisis to refining a customer’s retail experience - if you understand the emotion that your brand elicits from a customer, you can take positive action.

Using human insight to get under the skin of the data means you can turn analytics into action, transforming your marketing, customer service and experience to resonate with customers. You can win not just their heads, but their hearts.

[By Tamara Littleton] [From EConsultancy] 

Hyperlocal marketing will soar in 2017: 5 tips to stay on top

The conversation about local search is not a new one; marketers have been discussing the importance of targeting customers by location for the past decade. Recently, it has been pushed back into the industry forefront with the rise of hyperlocal search and its relationship to mobile. Google Trends clearly show a dramatic increase in “near me” queries, particularly since mid-2015.

Hyperlocal targeting, or marketing to customers within your area based upon their location, has the potential to help brands answer the immediate needs of their prospects. Understanding how to optimize your content for these users can provide brands with an excellent opportunity for success.

Google has also been showing signs of pushing people toward hyperlocal. Back in 2016, Barry Schwartz reported a noticeable reduction in the number of pages offered for Google Maps search results, suggesting an effort to narrow the results down to a smaller geographic area. Google wants to better serve users by personalizing their results based upon their exact location.

Brands that do not prepare for the impending hyperlocal trends may end up seeing a considerable drop in both online and in-person traffic. According to retailers, as many as 82 percent of customers research online before making a purchase, which includes those who end up making a purchase in-store.

A poor online presence can harm a brand’s reputation and visibility, thus hindering business growth. Understanding the rise of hyperlocal marketing will be an important key to business success in the near future.

The relationship between hyperlocal and mobile

The increased focus on hyperlocal results can in part be attributed to the explosion of growth in mobile adoption. Mobile searches surpassed desktop back in 2015, and usage has only continued to grow. At the same time, our understanding of the user’s intent — and the impact of the digital ecosystem and mobile devices on the buyer’s journey — has improved.

It is important to note here that the buyer’s journey is no longer a linear path of relatively predictable steps that consumers follow until they make a purchase. Instead, this path has been shattered into a series of high-intent touch points that users may hit in any order, on a variety of devices, before they convert. For brands to reach customers during these high-interest points, they must be able to accurately interpret the user’s intent for particular keywords and queries, then design content that fits with that micro-moment.

Between 2014 and 2015, Google saw a 2x increase in “near me” and “nearby” searches, with 80 percent of those searches occurring on mobile devices. This indicates a rise in searches with hyperlocal intent, and Google refers to these searches as “I-Want-to-Go moments.”

                   Source:  Micro-Moments: Your Guide to Winning the Shift to Mobile

                   Source: Micro-Moments: Your Guide to Winning the Shift to Mobile

The rise in searches indicating an “I-Want-to-Go” micro-moment also explains why the local 3-pack generally includes valuable information (such as the address, business hours and a “Directions” button) for those interested in making a trip to the location. A single click on the name of the business will also bring up more information, including user reviews. Google designs their search engine results pages (SERP) to have the optimal user experience, and this includes making it easy for people interested in contacting a business to accomplish their goal.

For brands to optimize for this micro-moment, they must similarly consider the needs and understand the intent of customers interested in going to or contacting a business. This means adopting a mobile-first mindset, which includes using mobile-friendly site design, keeping contact information prominently featured and including click-to-call buttons. The more you work to understand the needs of your mobile user, the easier it will be to draw local traffic.

Let’s look at an example of hyperlocal mobile listings in Google. When searching for hotels in Foster City, Calif., we see mobile results that display up to four ads, followed by the local 3-pack, which includes a map and three listings. Within the local pack, Google is displaying filters, such as “Deals” or “Cheap,” to help guide the audience to refine their queries. There is also the ability to select check-in dates for availability, and the listings themselves display pricing and reviews.

These features provide opportunities for marketers to refine and match content to searcher intent, which will factor into how you optimize your content pages and your Google My Business Page. (I discuss these options further in the Tips section below.)

Notice that when we refine the search query to a specific part of Foster City (Emerald Hills), the search results become “hyperfocused” on the business results. A search for “hotels foster city emerald hills” gives us the only hotel in the area. A map is also provided, along with “in Google” options to get more information. Four call-to-action buttons (call, directions, share, website), along with the address and business overview, are all prominently displayed, driving the audience to further engage.

What follows are five tips to succeed with hyperlocal marketing.

1. Master the basics

For your marketing strategy to succeed, you need to make sure that you have your Google My Business page ready and optimized. Fill out every field relevant to your business, ensure that your page has high-quality and appealing pictures, and verify that your business is listed in all the correct categories within Google.

Remember, every element added into your Google My Business page can provide important signals to assist with hyperlocal ranking and audience targeting. Your Google profile will determine how your business appears on the local 3-pack, so each step that boosts the appeal of your organization’s page will be beneficial. Encourage past satisfied customers to leave reviews to improve your business’s reputation and increase the positioning within the Google 3-pack.

2. Focus on your city and things of interest in that area

Develop localized website content that would interest people in your area. If you run a restaurant in San Mateo, for example, your site should focus on issues related to food lovers in the area rather than general information that would interest people everywhere.

Your content can also focus on local points of interest, such as landmarks and destinations, that people might use when looking around the area. For example, in Washington, D.C., people might search for “restaurants near the White House.” This can boost your geolocation targeting and help your business sound more appealing to those looking around a particular area.

3. If you have multiple locations, create local landing pages for each

To maximize your appearance in search, you want to have a local landing page for each of your destinations. This will allow you to optimize the content for each place and develop content that is more personalized for customers in that specific area.

Use keywords related to your location, such as the name of your city or your ZIP code. Do keyword research to find which words are applicable to your business and would be the most beneficial. Optimizing your local landing pages for these keywords can help draw in more traffic.

4. Include any structured data markup that relates to your business on your content pages

In order to provide Google with as much information as possible about your business, you may want to consider incorporating structured data markup (also known as schema markup) on your website pages where appropriate. Using structured data markup, you can precisely define various business attributes, including business type, hours, address, latitude and longitude, phone number and more.

Although Google may be able to glean this information simply by crawling your content, there is some degree of guesswork involved in doing so. With structured data markup, you remove that guesswork and make it clear to Google exactly what information is being presented on your page.

With your data properly marked up, it becomes easier for your business to appear for relevant queries. Note that on both Google Maps and the local 3-pack, users are able to filter queries based on business hours — so you’ll want to define your business hours with markup to help ensure you’re eligible to appear in these filtered results.

If you have multiple locations, mark up each one with the appropriate markup to ensure that potential clients can find your location nearest to them.

5. Track your progress on a local level

Once you begin to optimize your content for hyperlocal targeting, you need to make sure that you track your progress within the right location. This means monitoring the local search engine results pages serving your particular area. It will do you little good to monitor clicks and ranks for “Italian restaurants near me” on a national scale, for example, when you just want to rank for the keyword in the Springfield, Illinois area.

Instead, track your keyword rankings at your location of choice. The closer you can get to your exact business location, the more accurate your information will be. Use this kind of data to gain insight into the online local search experience of your target audience. You can then use this insight to guide your strategy as you move forward.

Final thoughts

Hyperlocal search has begun to grow as local search and the I-Want-to-Go micro-moment rise to a prominent position within search engines and the minds of consumers. Incorporating these tips in your local strategy will establish your brand strongly within this space and position you well for success moving forward.

[By Jim Yu] [From Search Engine Land]

14 of the Best Brands on Instagram Right Now

For a while now, it's been clear that Instagram isn't just a social network for selfies and brunch pics. In fact, Instagram has a whopping 600 active monthly million users as of December 2016, the last 100 million of which joined in the prior six months.

In a world where visual content remains a crucial part of any business' marketing strategy, Instagram presents a unique opportunity to visually represent your brand, celebrate its personality, and keep it top-of-mind for all those users who scroll through their Instagram feeds every single day.

Although they're few and far between, there are some brands out there -- in every industry, and with every type of target customer -- who are doing really, really well on Instagram. 

Ready to get inspired? Check out this list of brands that are thriving on Instagram right now, and what about their posts sets them apart. For each of these brands, we've included examples of their best posts. For some of them, we've also included their most popular Instagram post of all time in terms of engagement (i.e. combined total of likes and comments) thanks to data from Instagram analytics and management platform Iconosquare, along with an explanation of why it's so engaging.

14 of the Top Instagram Business Accounts

1) Califia Farms

Califia Farms natural beverage products have some of the most attractive packaging we've come across. In fact, it's so iconic that it won top honors in the global packaging design category from Beverage World Magazine.  Instagram is a perfect platform to showcase that cool, curvy bottle, and the folks at Califia don't shy away from doing just that --most of the brand's posts feature the beverage's containers in some way, whether they're the main subject of the photo, or more of an accessory in the context of the active, healthy lifestyle Califia's buyer personas love.

Something Califia does really well on Instagram is create fun, playful videos and GIFs. Check out this one, which they used to teach viewers how to used steamed non-dairy milk for coffee cocktails:

And this one, which is just plain fun to watch:

Take a sip, add a shot + enjoy your Ginger Lime Marg.

From Califia Farms (@califiafarms) ·

2) #FollowMeTo

Ever seen those photos of a woman leading a man by the hand in all different parts of the world? That pose was made famous by a couple named Murad and Natalia Osmann for their #FollowMeTo project. Their Instagram account is a mix of stunning images of the classic #FollowMeTo pose that have been edited beautifully, as well as some really interesting behind-the-scenes photos of their world travels -- including some fun photos of the "making of" the famous pose.

3) Lorna Jane

If your brand were a person, how would you describe its personality? Australian activewear company Lorna Jane has done an awesome job answering this important branding question with its Instagram content. Spend just a few seconds scrolling through these photos, and you'll quickly be able to name the target Lorna Jane buyer: a young, sporty, twenty- or thirty-something woman who values looking good while maintaining an active lifestyle.

The images posted by Lorna Jane, which often show the brand's clothing and accessories, as well as images of women who embody its target buyer persona, are colorful, playful, and inspirational, which is a perfect representation of the brand's essence -- in other words, its heart, soul, and spirit.

4) Letterfolk

Letterfolk is a small business run by a husband-and-wife team who create and sell beautiful, handcrafted felt letterboards. Each letterboard comes with a full set of characters so people can personalize the walls of their homes, which means endless room for creativity. Instagram is the perfect platform for them to inspire customers and aspiring customers with real customers' boards, as well as ideas they've come up with and staged themselves. Their Instagram content is funny, thought-provoking, and relatable -- all recipes for shareability.

Most engaging post of all time:

                 [Click to see the post.]

                 [Click to see the post.]

Why it's engaging: Not only is this photo showing a funny and clever message, but it's also very, very relatable for parents of young children -- a very large audience and also one of Letterfolk's target customers. It's also a very taggable photo, so the comment section is rife with Instagram users mentioning their friends' usernames so they can share in the fun.

5) Paris Opera Ballet

The city of Paris is known for many lovely things -- wine, cheese, and art are just a few. But that last one, art, is photographically captured on the Instagram account of the Paris Opera Ballet, or Ballet de l'Opera de Paris.

The account captures candid images of the ballet's dancers during performances, rehearsals, and backstage, giving viewers an artful glimpse at what goes into the ballet's productions. It also makes use of something called banners on Instagram, when larger photos can be divided into multiple pictures to create a tiled banner of smaller photos. (There are several apps available to pull that off, but to start, check out Tile Pic). 

The way this account highlights performance venues is noteworthy, too. The lower-right photo below provides a look at the theatre when it's completely empty, conveying a calm-before-the-storm feel that can generate excitement for productions.

6) Tentsile

"Stunning" is the first word that comes to mind when I scroll through Tentsile's Instagram photos. The company sells tree tents, what they call "portable treehouses" that will "literally take your camping experience to a new level." Their Instagram is full of shockingly beautiful scenes of their product in use in all matter of terrain: rainforests, mountains, beaches... you name it. 

Most engaging post of all time:

                                     [ Click here  to see the post.]

                                     [Click here to see the post.]

Why it's engaging: Contests draw engagement: It's as simple as that. In this particular case, Tentsile used an Instagram contest as a co-marketing play with a few of their partners by asking followers to follow three partner accounts to be eligible to win. In addition to following those accounts, they also asked people to Like the photo and "tag your 3 best adventures buddies in the comments below." That's a great way to expand reach and do co-marketing on Instagram.

7) Desenio

Look at the colors of any well known brand and you'll notice that they use the same colors over and over again -- in their logo, on their website, and in their social media images. Using the same colors over and over again is a great way to establish brand consistency and help consumers become familiar with your brand. That's what the Swedish online art print company Desenio does beautifully on their Instagram account. They use a lot of blues, greens, greys, and blacks, which evoke senses of calm, healing, luxury, and trust.

Most engaging post of all time:

             [ Click here  to see the post.]

             [Click here to see the post.]

Why it's engaging: At first glance, this post doesn't seem to stick out much from Desenio's other Instagram content. But what's unique about it is the universally relatable subject: a really beautiful, comfortable-looking bed in a beautiful bedroom, combined with hints of life like a laptop and some munchies. Many of the comments included exclamations of how beautiful and inspiring the setup is and how it's the commenters' "dream bedroom." To increase your comment rate, follow Desenio's lead by posting images of things and situations your followers aspire to in their own lives.

8) No Your City

The folks at No Your City produce a documentary series that captures the fascinating stories of people all over the world, but mostly in New York. The brand's Instagram account, though, is less about these stories and more about showcasing gorgeous images from the city itself.

What we love about these photos is how closely they follow the best practices for taking great photos with your phone. Each one of No Your City's photos seems to follow at least one of these recommendations, whether it's focusing on a single subject, embracing negative space, playing with reflections, or finding interesting perspectives. The photos are consistently stunning, and as a result, the brand has built a solid following.

9) Divinity LA Bracelets

Here's an example of a small business performing very well on Instagram. A beaded bracelet could have any theme. 

Most engaging post of all time:

Why it's engaging: Caption "Each Sea Turtle and Hatchling bracelet sold helps a Hatchling make it to the ocean." People tagged their friends to show them the cute sea turtles, or to say "WE NEED TO SAVE THEM!"

10) WeWork

WeWork provides shared office spaces in cities and countries all over the globe -- so it only makes sense that they should post a lot of photos showcasing their beautiful co-working communities. They do an amazing job photographing the spaces in ways that make followers like us wish we could jump into the photos and plop down with our laptops and a coffee.

They don't stop at posting photos of their shared workspaces, though. WeWork uses Instagram to capture and share moments from some of the largest branded events that members (and their friends) look forward to all year, like WeWork Summer Camp. Hashtags are used to label these events -- like #WWCamp -- and to encourage customers to share their own photos of the spaces, using WeWork's memorable slogan: "Do what you love."

Our favorite is the #DogsOfWeWork hashtag. Not only is it awesome because, well, dogs, but it's also a great way for the company to promote their laid-back culture while also inviting customers to interact with their brand on social. Near the end of each year, they actually choose the best photo submissions to the #DogsOfWeWork hashtag on Instagram and Facebook and put together a calendar for the following year.

Most engaging post of all time:

             [ Click here  to see the post.]

             [Click here to see the post.]

Why it's engaging: For all their beautiful photos of people and office spaces and dogs, some of you might be surprised that their most engaging photo of all time is a picture of a simple quote. This goes to show the power of motivational quotes on Instagram, which tend to perform very well. Instagram is, after all, a platform for inspiration -- and simple quotes that are inspiring and easy to digest are often welcome in a user's feed. Use free design tools like Canva, PicMonkey, or even PowerPoint to create these images easily.

11) Finfolk Productions

Ever wanted to be a mermaid? You can come pretty close, thanks to companies like FinFolk Productions. Believe it or not, silicone mermaid tails you can put on and swim around in are actually quite trendy in certain areas and for certain age groups -- typically young girls, which is one of Instagram's most . Finfolk Productions' Instagram feed is full of beautifully shot photos that play into the mermaid fantasy by looking more like mythical art than real people.

Most engaging post of all time:

               [ Click here  to see the post]

               [Click here to see the post]

Why it's engaging: One of the reasons this post was so popular is because it was accompanied by a long, heartfelt caption written by the company's founders -- which prompted an outpouring of supportive comments from their loyal followers:

Wish you could be part of our world? The good news is, you already are- just by being here! We might not always have custom silicone slots or Mythic tails readily available, but it's only because we are busy constantly creating and making mermaid tails for every type of mermaid, in every size or color, gender or nationality. Our company focuses exclusively on providing the highest quality mermaid tails in the world. Some companies may tell you they can make you something faster, or cheaper, but you will never find a more perfectly crafted mermaid tail than right here at Finfolk. A tail is an investment of time, money, and emotions- each one is unique and beautiful, just like you. We're here to make sure the end result makes it all entirely worth it. 
So whether you're just swimming by to enjoy the art, or grab a pair of leggings, or maybe you've invested and are patiently waiting to become one of the select few in the world with a fully custom silicone mermaid tail from Finfolk Productions, we love you and want to thank you for being part of our world. Stick around, we've got so much more to show you still. A&B
#finfolk #finfolkproductions #thelittlemermaid #littlemermaid #ariel #partofyourworld #mermaid #mermaidtail #disney #mermaidlife #finfolkmermaid

Commenters wrote that they love the founders for their dedication to beauty and quality, that they love the designs, and that they can't wait until they have a tail of their own. What it all comes down to, though, is brand loyalty. 

12) Shiseido

Shiseido started out as Japan's first Western-style pharmacy 140 years ago and has since developed into selling high-quality brightening and anti-aging skincare, makeup, and fragrance products. Their company mission is to inspire a life of beauty and culture -- a mission they portray beautifully through their Instagram content. If you take a look at their feed, you'll notice they post three images at a time so the posts appear in a row pattern on their larger feed -- a very clever and original way to organize their content.

Most engaging post of all time:

Why it's engaging: Back in late March 2016, Instagram started rolling out the ability to upload 60-second videos -- and we've seen some amazing Instagram videos from brandsever since, like the one above from Shiseido. But don't be intimidated by highly professional Instagram videos like theirs. You can post highly engaging videos on Instagram without a huge video team or a bottomless budget. Here's a step-by-step guide for making great videos on Instagram without breaking the bank.

13) Made in Sephora

Made in Sephora's brand personality is playful, colorful, feminine. They do a wonderful job of characterizing this personality in their Instagram content, using bright colors, patterns, and fun captions. The caption on the second photo below, for example, reads: "An easy-peasy smoky eye anyone? ;) #madeinsephora #smokyeyes #makeupaddict". They also diversify their feed with a lot of fun Instagram video content that gives off the same playful vibes.

Most engaging post of all time:

Why it's engaging: Similar to Tentsile, Made in Sephora used an Instagram contest to expand their reach and increase engagement on their post. In this particular case, the contest was part of the company's "Monday Giveaway" series, and it offered followers the chance to win a prize by tagging two friends in the comments with a specific hashtag.

14) Staples

The folks at Staples do a lot of things right when it comes to Instagram content, but there are two that particularly grab our attention -- engaging with followers by asking questions and including calls-to-action in captions, and staying true to the brand's playful-yet-practical personality.

When it comes to engaging Staples' followers, it's all about asking questions in the photo captions. For example, check out the second photo below featuring a series of emojis -- its caption reads, "That's pretty much our day. How about yours? Tell us in emojis." Scroll through the comments on that photo, and you'll see followers had a lot of fun responses. The caption paired with the first photo below -- the one with the cupcakes -- asks users to tag someone who they want to thank.

Staples does a great job staying true to brand by posting fun photos such as the "2016" shot written in office supplies and using the #OfficeHack hashtag to engage their following.

The folks at Staples also use Instagram to post cute videos and GIFs, like the one below that promotes its Office by Martha Stewart line:

Which are your favorite business-run Instagram accounts? Share with us in the comments.

[By Lindsay Kolowich] [From Hubspot]

Making the most of multichannel (with data’s help)

In today’s environment, you can pretty much forget about creating a simplistic, linear customer journey. It’s a lot more complicated than that.

The reason for this is that your prospects are highly active and mobile, operating across a whole variety of different devices, channels, networks and platforms.

In the UK, more than six out of 10 adults use at least two devices every day. And some one in four use three devices a day. Internet users have on average over five social media accounts.

The same person will interact with your brand at different times in different ways. And then there are those who are talking about you and not to you. 96% of people discussing brands online don’t follow the brand’s owned profiles.

The goal for marketers in this fragmented environment is to strive for a single customer view. You need to bring together all the multifaceted complexity of each person’s online footprint into one manageable, marketable unit.

In this post, we’ll show how marketers can make the most out of multichannel by gaining access to and harnessing all the data available about their prospect. We’ll see how data management platforms are the key to making sense of all the information now available to us.

The multichannel conundrum

An excellent explanation of the multichannel conundrum that modern marketers face was put forward as far back as 2011 by Tom Hoffman of Customer Strategist:

"It's become the norm that customers interact with companies through an assortment of channels. The more channels they use to connect with a given company, the higher their potential loyalty and spend. Conversely, the more frustrated they become when their experiences are inconsistent across channels when interacting with their preferred providers.
Unfortunately, few companies have equipped themselves to monitor, manage, or optimize their customers' multichannel experiences, thus increasing the chances of dissatisfaction, churn, and decreased customer value by failing to meet customer expectations."

In the five years since that, the challenges have only been exacerbated by the vast proliferation of data. Internet users are generating information about themselves at an alarming rate. One estimate puts it at 2.5 quintillion bytes a day.

Enormous volumes of untapped data

Unsurprisingly, this glut of disparate data is causing real headaches for marketers. We know that only 12% of data collected by businesses is currently analysed.

The sheer volume means that many of the insights that could be extracted and exploited are going untapped.

Silos and archaic systems

Yes, we’re still talking about silos in 2016. It’s the perennial problem of different departmental data banks, separated by virtual (or co-operational) walls.

Once again the issue is magnified by the flood of data now on hand - it’s more essential than ever to rationalise, streamline and combine databases.

Duplication of customers

Inevitably, siloed data leads to duplicate records, with customers existing in different places and inconsistent audience profiles resulting in disjointed marketing efforts.

It’s time to think of each customer not as an entry in each database, but as a single profile accessible to everyone in the business.

How data can help you to make the most of multichannel

The good news is this: There is a new weapon in the modern marketer’s arsenal. The data management platform is designed to address these very challenges and make data work the way it should.

Matching customer identities is the key to unlocking value from the plethora of data available to us today. Data management platforms do this by harmonising data from across multiple channels - including transaction data, online profiles, interaction records, cookies, device IDs and more.

Second and third party data is also incorporated, to build a single, silo-busting view of the customer.

Marketers are increasingly taking up the new technology. In one survey 35% of marketers in Europe had started using one within the previous year, and 26% within the last two years.

And it’s not just about programmatic adverts - 60% of DMP users harness them for more than just display advertising. In fact 55% of DMP users say it helps ‘create a targeted profile of the audience’ - the power to accurately segment and pinpoint audiences is a crucial benefit. 

The proof, as they say, is in the pudding, with 64% of marketers who use DMPs employing them ‘to drive higher ROI’. 

Overcome the multichannel conundrum

The multichannel conundrum is real, but it can be solved by the clever and intelligent use of data management platforms to make sense of the vast volumes of data generated.

By combining all available insights about each prospect or customer into one single view, you will gain the power to deliver an engaging and effective customer experience across all channels. 

Takeaways:

  • Today’s customer is operating across multiple channels, devices and networks, making the simplistic linear customer journey an outdated concept.
  • Focus your data management efforts on building a single, unified view of each customer.
  • Bring together information from different first, second and third-party data points.
  • Silos must be broken down and duplication of customers eradicated.
  • Data management platforms are designed to defeat the multichannel conundrum by assembling data from multiple origins into a central hub.

[By Chloe Young] [From EConsultancy]

Seven Tips for Generating Social Content Through Influencers

Influencer marketing was the "it" marketing tactic of 2015. But it's not as easy as it might sound, especially when you're working with high-level influencers for complex social campaigns. Add multiple stakeholders to the mix, and it becomes even more involved.

Whether you are working with influencers from Twitter, Vine, Facebook, YouTube, or Instagram, you'll need to take a host of factors into consideration before getting started with these social all-stars.

From establishing goals and identifying influencers to managing the process and measuring your success—oh, and don't forget the legalities of it all, too—here are some key steps for launching a social media influencer campaign.

1. Get all stakeholders on the same page

Before you begin identifying influencers or reaching out to them, align your internal and external teams and set expectations for the campaign. Doing so includes defining your audience, setting campaign goals, and establishing roles:

Audience: Whom do you want to reach? Who is your target demographic? The answers will help you determine which social networks to target.
Campaign goals: What will your key performance indicators be for the campaign? Is your goal based on engagement, conversion, share of voice?
Roles: Who will do what in each part of the campaign process? Assigning roles throughout the planning, identification, outreach, and measurement process is critical, especially with larger or multiple teams.

Allow time for a few hiccups along the way, too.

2. Create an influencer archetype

Sit down with all stakeholders to define your ideal influencer. Assign quantifiable metrics to that archetype, based on the goal of the campaign. Nail down specifics such as...

Reach (how many followers your ideal influencer has)
Resonance (how his/her message is shared within social communities)
Relevance (his/her contextual fit)

Include demographic and psychographic information, such as age, interests, and where they live. It doesn't hurt to also create a list of influencer no-no's, such as "no profanity" or "does not include references to illegal substances within social content." This step will save you time down the line—so no one from your brand team says, "This person is not a good fit for our brand/campaign."

3. Understand potential barriers

There is a new type of agent these days: those who represent social influencers. In fact, there are agents who represent Vine-only "stars."

Social influencer agents can either harm or help your cause, depending on their involvement level and restrictions. They can be helpful in the sense that they can hold the influencer accountable. But they also drive up the price of your influencer, because they take a cut of the total influencer fee.

Remember that agents are concerned with the interests of their client and not necessarily those of your brand. Make sure you are firm with them and loop the actual influencer into all communications.

4. 'Legalize' it

We'd like to trust agreements made over the phone and via email, but... get it in writing.

Contracts set down expectations of both the influencer and the brand-side stakeholders, and they help cover your brand's booty. So that your resources are safeguarded, the contract should define general responsibilities, processes, and rights.

Of course, contracts are enforceable in a court of law, and most influencers take them very seriously. Moreover, if they don't adhere to your influencer campaign guidelines, you have a legal way to breach the contract.

When developing your influencer agreement, feel free to include terms to monitor the type of content your influencer releases on his or her channel when working with your brand. For example, you may wish to stipulate that the influencer not post any content throughout the duration of the agreement that could interfere with the brand image. Examples include content that...

Contains profanity or offensive language
Is sexually explicit or suggestive or contains nudity
Is violent or derogatory to any race, gender, or religious group

Sure, some of these may sound a bit extreme, but setting standards early is imperative to a successful relationship.

5. Create an iron-clad process

Most social campaigns include in-house (brand) and external teams (agencies or freelancers), as well as the influencer and (if applicable) the influencer's agent. With multiple campaign contributors, you must stay organized.

The best way to stay organized is to use marketing technology that serves as a project management tool for your influencer campaign. Tools are available for managing social campaigns (we recently used our ClearVoice software on Intel's latest back-to-school social campaign #YourDeviceYourLife).

6. Keep it authentic

Nobody really likes being marketed to, but that's especially true of millennials, who happen to be the most active generation on social media. Consumers value creativity and authenticity with brands, and part of being authentic is maintaining the integrity of the social network.

Each social network has its own unwritten rules. Vine doesn't operate the same way as LinkedIn or Facebook, for example: Vine caters to a much younger audience, mostly young millennials and the group after them (which some call Generation Z and others call the homeland generation). When running a Vine campaign, be sure the videos your influencers produce are creative and funny—and include the sponsored message as an afterthought. That is the best way to connect to this particular audience.

The rules are different for producing an influencer post for Facebook, on the other hand. It's OK to have your sponsored message at the front of your post. It's what the Facebook audience expects.

Simple "rules" such as these can make or break your campaign.

7. Recap and measure campaign goals

Data tells a powerful story. It offers proof that you have met your campaign goals. How do you know whether your campaign was successful if you can't measure the impact of what you are doing?

Get everyone—including influencers—on the same page by tracking and communicating key performance indicators for your campaign. Share progress as it's made, even early in the process.

* * *

Over time, running your influencer marketing campaigns will become second nature. But for the first few campaigns, follow these rules for influencer success.

[ By Jessica King] [From Marketing Profs] [Read More]

Seven Common Mistakes Marketers Make

When you have worked as a UX consultant for 15 years and counting, you fix a lot of mistakes.

In this article, I'll cover seven mistakes that I come across regularly, and I will include simple strategies to help you overcome them.

If you decide to fix even one of the following mistakes, you will see better results for you and your business.

Important: Don't try to solve all of the mistakes at once. Pick the one strategy that your team or organization will be most receptive to. Help them get used to doing things a different way, and seeing the benefits, before moving on to the next one.

Mistake 1: Focusing on Competitors Within Your Industry Only

Look outside your vertical first. Unless you're in a cutting-edge design industry/vertical such as consumer travel or food delivery, chances are the best-in-class online experiences are happening outside your vertical.

It used to be that customers compared your offering to that of your competitors, especially in the B2B world. Now, they compare you to Amazon, Airbnb, Spotify, or the like—the "places" where they spend 80% of their time.

By looking outside the vertical, you also understand how your customers are viewing you in context of other choices in their lives.

For example, compact-camera makers were caught flatfooted by smartphone adoption and innovation. Your customers are always looking at the broader landscape when making decisions. Are you?

Solution: Conduct a mini competitive analysis that consists of at least five companies outside your vertical. Select ones you consider are doing well on consumer-facing elements (design, marketing, and engagement).

Mistake 2: Starting with Design, Not the Desired Outcomes

The ideal scenario: "Let's understand what our customers need to achieve by using our product/service before we create this product page."

The reality: "I need to get this page up on the site today/tomorrow/this weekend."

Marketers will typically start with an existing page, similar product page, or a competitor's page and design their new product in.

The cookie-cutter approach works well if you're adding in a similar item, but it doesn't when there's a significant difference in the following:

  1. Customer type
  2. Customer behavior (motivation)
  3. Customer journey

Solution: Before starting design, create customer profiles to...

  1. Understand your customers' motivations
  2. Map their consideration and purchase journey
  3. Choose the appropriate design templates
  4. Write more focused content that addresses their fears and desires

Mistake 3: Focusing on Broad Target Audience, Not Well-Defined Customer Profiles

"All consumers are our audience."

"Our target audience is young adults, soccer moms, and casual athletes."

I often encounter marketers who are trying to reach multiple target audiences with one message. Reach, yes; engage, questionable...

A customer profile is critical for three key reasons:

  1. You can visualize your customer better (important for empathy)
  2. It is more directional for copy, imagery, tone of voice, and calls to action
  3. It helps prioritize messaging—what benefits or features to prioritize

In short, design with your most important customer in mind.

The evidence: Roller bags are a mass-market product that were originally designed for a specific customer segment: Flight attendants. They had to walk (occasionally run) down long hallways while having packed enough for a few days. Carrying and running with bags was a back-breaker—literally.

The key features of roller bags were super-focused on serving their needs:

  • Compact—fit inside the plane
  • Collapsible long handle—easy to drag, then stow away
  • Sturdy wheels that don't get stuck—work on tarmac (small airports) and polished floors

Today, it's hard to find a travel suitcase that doesn't come with wheels. That's the benefit of designing with your most important customer in mind.

Solution:

  1. Spend just 20 minutes each with 5-7 people within your core customer segment.
  2. Create basic customer personas—the simpler, the more actionable.
  3. Include demographic, brand-specific, and behavioral (specific to vertical/market) attributes.
  4. Sketch 1-2 customer journeys per profile to visualize how this audience would "travel" through marketing stages and channels.

Mistake 4: Designer-Centered Design, AKA Design by Community

This is something a group of people do, without being aware they're doing it. In meetings, people design an experience while claiming to know the users well and speaking on the users' behalf. In reality, however, uniform opinions, biases, personal motivations, and business goals quickly become the basis for design, and user needs are only half-heartedly accommodated.

When you start talking about the "user" or "the customer," you have become a designer.

Design by community is usually the kiss of death for great customer experience.

Enlightened marketers and good UX designers know that well and try to minimize bias. Sadly, it is hard to argue this point in a meeting, where loud ar executive voices dominate.

Solution:

  • Good: Have a checklist of customer needs and pain-points your brand has to deliver on to achieve business results.
  • Better: Have a persuasive user experience practitioner who knows how to balance business and customer needs and—more important—knows how to persuade and convince people who have different motivations and goals.
  • Best: Conduct qualitative (one-on-one) customer research, then share the findings with customer quotes (and video, if possible) to persuade at an emotional level.

Mistake 5: Asking for Too Many Outcomes

Most marketers are guilty of this one: a long list of things to interact with and read, buttons to click and forms to fill. And when implemented, it never results in a happy ending.

Various possible user actions on a product page:

  • Click on multiple tabs
  • View image gallery
  • Watch a video
  • Read reviews
  • Read FAQs
  • Check pricing
  • Add to cart
  • Add to wish-list
  • Ask a question
  • Sign up for a newsletter
  • See related products/services

The reality is that peoples' attention spans are more fragmented than ever. Moreover, attention spans get shorter as the day goes on—to the point that we're happy to just sit back, scroll, and not really interact with sliders, accordions, etc. on a Web page.

When faced with multiple clickable options on a product page, most users will click once or twice to explore something and skip (or scroll through) the rest.

Your first-time visitors are likely to take ONE action, if they take any at all. This is something I have observed in countless usability sessions. They'll skim through some other stuff and ignore the remaining. So think carefully about the top two or three actions you want a visitor to take, then design the experience around those.

Solution:

  1. Limit consumer desired actions to 2-3, no more than 5.
  2. Prioritize those actions based on customer need first, then business goals.
  3. Convey their importance to the user by creating an appropriate visual hierarchy.

Mistake 6. Ignoring WIIFM—Not Offering Anything of Value in Return

A corollary of Mistake 5 is not delivering enough or any value in return for a desirable user action. Often, people will click on a link but in return get an underwhelming result—and so no WIIFM (what's in it for me). Here are two examples:

  1. A product page that doesn't offer much more information than the quick-view overlay
  2. A gated content landing page that provides few details while asking for a lot of customer info

The result is lowered trust and low expectations.

Worse, if your gated content (e.g., eebinar/whitepaper) does not deliver enough value, your visitor is less likely to click on something far more important.

That "once bitten, twice shy" rule is widely prevalent online.

Solution:

  1. Review your CTAs that lead to high-value (or gated) content.
  2. Set expectations where possible (e.g., gated-content landing page).
  3. Deliver a lot of value at the destination page/screen.

If you are not sure what your customers see as high-value, it is time to do some customer research.

Mistake 7: Launching Without User Testing

Common mistakes such as designer-centered design, usability, and messaging can be easily corrected by qualitative user testing.

I encounter a lot of hesitation, especially in doing qualitative research. I've done an entire webinar on the topic. (In this customer research webinar, I outline how to overcome barriers to including voice of customer in your workflow. (Free registration required.))

What I find often is that marketers will do A/B testing—after the site/app has been built and launched.

A/B testing works if you fully understand who your customer is and the why behind their behaviors and actions. Otherwise, you run the risk of being precise but inaccurate.

Solution:

  1. Do lean usability testing—at an early stage in the design process.
  2. Use mockups (preferably black-and-white wireframes)
  3. Start by interviewing 5-7 people within your core customer segment (30-minute sessions).

Summary

Implement even one of the following solutions, and you will delight your customers and see results for your business; implement all, and your competition won't have a prayer:

  1. Look beyond your direct competitors.
  2. Start with customer motivations, not design.
  3. Practice user-centered design, not designer-centered design.
  4. Create and solve for specific customer segments, not a vague or broad audience.
  5. Prioritize your outcomes in order of customer and business value.
  6. Ensure that you are answering the WIIFM question.
  7. Test before launching to understand the why.

[By Subir Kumedon] [From Marketing Profs] [Read More]

The True Value of Customer Loyalty Programs [Infographic]

A whopping 75% of US companies with loyalty programs generate a return on investment. Here's a look at the myriad benefits of investing in a customer loyalty program.

Customers respond well to loyalty programs. "83% of customers agree that loyalty programs make them more likely to continue doing business with certain companies," according to the following infographic by Selfstartr.

Moreover, existing customers spend 67% more than new customers.

Unfortunately, however, only 25% of loyalty programs reward customers for some form of engagement, states Selfstartr.

To find out more reasons for having a customer loyalty program, click or tap on the infographic.

[By Verónica Maria Jarski ] [ From Marketing Profs] [Read More]