Essential Mobile Marketing Resources

January 31, 2011 by  
Filed under Mobile, mobile advertising, mobile marketing, Online Marketing

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Mobile Marketing TipsIf you’ve read predictions about the future of Online Marketing over the past 3-4 years, you’ll undoubtedly find “mobile” mentioned in each one. For example: Mobile ecommerce is predicted to increase 65% annually through 2015.

With smart phone sales to pass personal computers, the smart phone race between AT&T and Verizon iPhones, Droid powered phones and everyone else, the impact of mobile devices on our daily lives has elevated to unprecedented levels.  2011 may finally prove to be a breakout year for mobile marketing and mobile commerce.

Mobile phone usage goes far beyond making calls and texts. There’s been significant increases in mobile social networking activity, the use of mobile phones to send email and other social/geo apps like Foursquare. It’s a compelling task to stay on top of mobile marketing / advertising opportunities, so here are 5 mobile marketing resources that will help keep you up to speed:

Mobile Marketer

Mobile Marketer – Let by Editor in Chief Mickey Alam Khan and a great team including Giselle Tsirulnik and Dan Butcher, this publication covers 360 degrees of mobile marketing and commerce.

Another useful mobile marketing news site is Mobile Marketing Watch, which offers a variety of news on the mobile space and is a great example of content marketing from it’s owner, mobileStorm.

MMA Global

Mobile Marketing Association – The MMA is a global organization headquartered in New York with over 700 members and a charter to promote, educate, measure, guide and protect the mobile marketing industry worldwide.

The MMA also hosts 5 global forum events each year called the MMAF (Mobile Marketing Association Forum) in Singapore, New York, Sao Paulo, London and Los Angeles.

Mobile Advertising Blog

Google Mobile Ads Blog –  With the acquisition of AdMob, Google’s mobile advertising resources have expanded significantly and this blog provides great insights into the world of mobile advertising.  Also check out the companion Google Mobile Blog.

Another hand mobile advertising blog worth checking out comes from the folks at Mobivity.

The Marqui blog recently curated a nice collection of PowerPoint decks on Mobile Marketing like the one above covering future trends and innovation in mobile marketing and advertising.

Also check out DMA Retail Roadmap to Mobile Marketing – a presentation by Joel Morrow of Mobile Fusion giving numerous case studies and best practices for retail mobile marketing.

Mobile Marketing by Cindy Krum

Finally, here is “the book” on Mobile Marketing, written by Cindy Krum. “Mobile Marketing: Finding Your Customers No Matter Where They Are“.  Getting this book is a no-brainer if you want a great foundation for mobile marketing as part of your online marketing mix.

There are many other resources including research reports, but few of value are available without requiring registration, so we can’t link to them directly.  What are your favorite newsletters, blogs, events/conferences and resources for mobile marketing and advertising? Would you like Online Marketing Blog to cover more mobile marketing topics, tips, interviews and best practices?


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Essential Mobile Marketing Resources | http://www.toprankblog.com

5 Tips for Individuals to Help Companies Get More Out of LinkedIn

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linkedin marketing tipsLinkedIn officially launched on May 5, 2003 with a total of 4,500 members in the first month. Known mostly as a business social network, LinkedIn has been adopted globally with nearly 2 billion people searches in 2010 and over 90 million users in January 2011. To top it off, a forthcoming IPO will raise even more money for expansion.

Yet amongst many business professionals, LinkedIn seems to fight perception that it is strictly a site to visit when you need a job.

With new features added regularly and all of the Fortune 500 represented, LinkedIn is a valuable source of data and connections that shouldn’t be overlooked. If you’re not a regular LinkedIn user, I encourage you to look beyond the basics and see the opportunities for businesses to showcase their productsadvertise in and out of network, and content sharing/syndication.

Here are 5 tips for individuals to help companies get more out of LinkedIn:

1. Use Your Profile as a Destination In an informal check of LinkedIn search strength, I did a Google search of 20 contacts. In every case, regardless of how visible they are on the web, LinkedIn profiles appeared on the first page with the vast majority appearing in the first five results. Keep your profile current to highlight your experience and expertise at all times. It can serve as a great way to share your history not only with other LinkedIn members but anyone online given the strength of search results.

2. Linking Content via Applications As the site has evolved in the past few years it now offers a number of opportunities to share content from the site directly. Your LinkedIn network should be a strong source of support for your news and updates as your contacts are likely connected to your industry. By utilizing the available tools to link to your blog, twitter feed, or to create polls you can share helpful information with this network that may be passed along further to create new connection opportunities for you or your business.

3. Connect with New Contacts in Groups and Answers LinkedIn Groups are a great way to identify other users with similar interests and needs. In addition to the inherent benefits of learning from others, Groups offer a number of benefits for each user. You are able to view other members contact information and participation in a group or the LinkedIn Answers section allows you to highlight your ideas and insight. By providing useful information to others you will improve your own reputation as an expert resource on select topics. The creation of Open Groups is of benefit in a broader sense as well since discussions can be viewed by anyone on the web and picked up by search engines.

4. Research Potential Most LinkedIn users are familiar and comfortable with the people search capabilities of the site to find potential connections. Don’t forget to utilize other search tools on the site though as there is extensive data available to you. A very simple search of “public relations” provided over 11,000 listings nationally and indicates where I have a direct or indirect connection to that company. LinkedIn Marketing Using the search tools available it’s easy to track current openings, identify key leaders at the organizations, and recent additions or departures. Are these helpful for job seekers? Absolutely, but this information is of tremendous value for a new business discussion or a sales inquiry as well. Perhaps you have a contact from a prior project now on the inside.

5. Recommendations As either an employee or a business, a recommendation can carry a great deal of weight in the eyes of future customers. By essentially collecting success stories in advance you have the ability to create a testimonial page on a highly-trafficked, well-established site that can lead to future opportunities based on your work appearing in searches for specific keywords by others.  These provide concrete examples of a (hopefully) good experience with you in a personal manner. It’s word of mouth promotion in a neighborhood of 90 million professionals. Not a bad target audience for most and one that shouldn’t be missed.

With a rich set of data available to you at no cost (these features are all available without having to go with the premium membership), LinkedIn should be a part of your networking and online marketing mix.

Do you have a great business success or a unique personal story based on your use of LinkedIn? Perhaps an unusual connection that highlights the full reach of tiered networks?


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5 Tips for Individuals to Help Companies Get More Out of LinkedIn | http://www.toprankblog.com

Why Social Media is a Must in Pharma Marketing

January 27, 2011 by  
Filed under Online Marketing, Social Media

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social media pharmaSocial media marketing presents challenges for every company in defining the appropriate voice for the brand and how to engage. However, some companies are forced to work within much stricter guidelines such as those in heavily regulated industries. Does that mean social media shouldn’t be part of the marketing and communications mix? No.

Companies that are using fear of regulations or lack of guidance as an excuse to sit on the social media sidelines are missing out on important opportunities to enhance their online presence and connect with their customers. Fear should never be the driving factor for a business.

Pharmaceutical marketing is highly regulated by the FDA and the Division of Drug Marketing and Communications (DDMAC). Pharma marketing is extremely competitive and lacking in clear social media boundaries based on current regulatory guidance.

Yet some healthcare and pharma companies are doing good work in the space, finding ways to connect physicians via secure social networks to improve information sharing for example. In absence of definitive social media policy from the FDA, pharmaceutical companies need to work closely with their legal team along with marketing professionals (whether internal or external) with a strong understanding of social media engagement to ensure that the spirit of the laws are being followed despite a gray area until formal social media guidance is released.

Despite many of the logical concerns about discussing health issues in such a public forum, companies working within guidelines that have long applied to Direct-to-Consumer (DTC) advertising and patient communications can operate effectively. In 2010, of 52 warning and notice of violation letters sent from DDMAC to companies only one was issued in the social media space. Clearly if pharmaceutical companies follow existing marketing guidelines the risks aren’t off the charts.

Pharma companies need to think beyond direct product promotion when using social tools. Johnson & Johnson has created an active social presence that utilizes a blog focused on stories of employees, wellness information, and corporate content. The blog contains robust content and is supplemented with YouTube and Facebook pages.  J&J also connects with with community members via communications staffer Marc Monseau who tweets on behalf of the brand in a more personal voice.

Social Media Regulated Industry

Things to consider when working in a highly regulated market - Healthcare

  • Educate everyone involved on the importance of social media for the company – Begin the process by highlighting the need to be present in the social media world. The pharmaceutical industry has been hesitant about social for years. However, consumers will be talking about you whether you are there or not.
  • Stay in close contact with your legal team – Often times marketers and attorneys approach risk-reward scenarios with differing perspectives, working with your counsel is essential in social media marketing. Think creatively on how to advance your brand goals and provide your legal team with multiple campaigns. Find ways to problem solve with your counsel.
  • Stay on label and create options for sharing risk information in multiple formats – Because the channels for sharing have changed, it doesn’t mean that pharmaceutical companies can omit risk information.
  • Create strong internal guidelines for social media objectives – Prior to beginning any social media program, establish controls and expectations of staff that would be involved in public engagement. Much like our social media checklist, create a list of regulatory boundaries and potential scenarios where legal counsel would be notified of consumer concerns. Once approved,  set frequent reviews of the social media program to identify potential pitfalls around key regulations like patient privacy or adverse events.
  • Tell human stories – The importance of health is a universally shared value. Social media is driven by the inherent desire in people to seek connections. Identify compelling stories that highlight benefits of the medication. Success stories like these should be reviewed and submitted in compliance with established DDMAC process but, once approved, can be shared through social channels to demonstrate real impact in the lives of consumers and enhance public goodwill toward the company.

Are there greater risks in highly regulated industries? Absolutely. Yet there ways to work within the rules and use social media in the pharmaceutical industry effectively and for the benefit of the company and patients.


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Social Media Marketing: Strategy to Commerce

January 26, 2011 by  
Filed under Online Marketing, Social Media, social media marketing

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social media marketingFor companies trying to make sense of social media and online marketing, it’s important to take a step back from all the “TwitFaceBlogTubeIn” mania for a second and look at the nature of how these things are going to work for the overall business.

There are many questions that need answers:  ”Should we develop a strategy first before engaging?”,  ”Should we experiment and develop a strategy as we go?”, “Will it ever be OK to ask customers if they want to buy directly within social channels or will we always have to tiptoe around the subject and buy facebook likes?”

Here are a few considerations to help answer those questions and establish the framework for a sustainable and successful social media marketing program.

Social Media Strategy: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”.  Having some idea of what measurable goals and business outcomes you’re after is essential for planning resources and forecasting outcomes. This is true with any kind of marketing and is certainly the case with social media.

I polled a number of industry smarties on social media strategy vs. tactics and while there was some distance between the approach Guy Kawasaki preferred and that of people like Chris Brogan, the consensus was that developing an approach is essential for planning, implementation, accountability and measurement of success.

The formation of a social media strategy is a ripe opportunity for creativity and certainly shouldn’t get in the way of getting started. Gaining consensus about social strategy within a corporation could easily create a bottleneck.  A strategy that calls for experimentation with iterative improvement in the context of overall goals, approach, tactics, audience and an effort to measure success is more likely to be implemented and gain support.

Social Media Marketing Tactics: The best mix of tactics needs to tie into the plan for reaching business goals.  Whether it’s “Better engage with our customers” to “Filling the top of the sales funnel”, an understanding of audience preferences and behaviors will lead to the right tactical mix.

A lot of companies take the path of least resistance and go for what I like to call, “The Social 5-Pack” of: Facebook, Twitter, Blogging, YouTube and LinkedIn without thinking through tactics. For example, one common question often I hear is, “Is a LinkedIn group a better use of time and resources or a Facebook Fan Page?”

What the marketer might want to ask is, “Where do social networking vs. blogging vs. microcontent vs. media sharing fit in the context of our social media goals?”  Then do the research and implement a listening program to discover which social networks, media sharing sites or blogging communities the target audience is present and participating in. That homework will answer the question about Facebook vs. LinkedIn and any other social communities where customers spend time.

Social Media Process: “Companies who start with implementation are at risk”, is a great quote from Jeremiah Owyang in his recent post, “A Pragmatic Approach to Social Business“. There he lists a checklist of 8 steps that form a process for approaching social media.  Jumping into tactics can send a company in a very unproductive direction. Working through a strategy, tactics and developing processes leads to efficiencies, scalability and social engagement that is true to the business goals.

We’ve published a social media checklist that can serve as a prompt for companies to gather the information necessary to make smarter decisions about how their organizations can incorporate social media in their marketing and communications mix.

Process with social media marketing is important for a variety of reasons ranging from quality assurance to accountability. How can an organization scale its social media efforts without some kind of processes in place? Redundant processes can often be automated by software. Processes also outlive internal social media subject matter experts who move on to other opportunities.

From a personal process perspective, take a look at Tac Anderson’s daily routine as a social media strategist, which he calls a “workout”.  In addition to planned activities and tactics, there’s room for putting out fires or handing spontaneous situations. In the end, a routine or process helps keep social media marketing tactics on track over time.

Social Commerce: Social Media that Leads to Sales: Question - What’s the ROI of Social Media?  Answer – What’s the ROI of having a phone system in your office?  That phone systems facilitates communications for a wide variety of reasons that are important to the functioning of the business from product/service inquiries to hiring new employees to customer service.

Social media in a business sense, is technology that facilitates communications, sharing and connecting brands with customers.  For the most part, people buy from those they like and social media helps build, maintain and improve those relationships.

So how does social media influence or result in sales?  A helpful post on BarnRaisers summarizes several studies that show exactly that. Click on the link to see the post (How Social Media Drives Sales Relationships).  I’ll also summarize them here:

Facebook - “The top reasons people press the “Like” button on Facebook is to have a sales relationship with a brand - either to receive promotions & coupons (40%), get updates on upcoming sales (30%) and show their support for companies (39%).” – ExactTarget 2010.

Twitter - “For over 40% of the time people are on Twitter, we spend it learning about products and services, listening to what others have to say and giving opinions.  That explains why over 20% of the time we’re on Twitter, we’re ready and willing to buy directly off Twitter.” – Edison Research 2010.

Social Networks – “For every hour we spend on online, we spend the most amount of time on social networks, almost 15 minutes of every hour. Roughly half of the time (approx 6+ mins), we are seeking out products and services and looking to have a sales relationship with brands.” Nielsen 2010.

As more brands include commercial offers in the social experience they provide for customers, those customers will become increasingly comfortable with the notion of social commerce. At the same time, more social features are being added to ecommerce websites. In the way that blogs and Twitter accounts are expected features of brand websites, so will social commerce functionality.

Building a flexible strategy that considers business goals and the people to engage will help marketers identify the best mix of tactics for their social media marketing program. Developing processes from a corporate and an individual standpoint will help sustain, not stifle, social engagement activities in the long run.  Start by building community and relationships.  Listen, respond and create value. Monitor and analyze for opportunities to implement social commerce features, but don’t rush it.

How have you incorporated social media into your business processes? What are you doing to create more sustainable social participation within your organization?


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© Online Marketing Blog, 2011. |
Social Media Marketing: Strategy to Commerce | http://www.toprankblog.com

Where to Use Keywords in Corporate Blog Posts

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Keyword SEO for BlogsNumerous companies start blogs to better connect with customers (but often through a narcissistic lens).  In most cases, Public Relations departments manage social media and blogging for companies which is great for promoting key messages and distributing information. That’s the Push side of PR. But the Pull is often overlooked.

Most corporate blogs are not only boring, but they’re disappointingly difficult to locate on search engines. Key messages, voice and timing are considered, but keywords to drive search traffic are not.

Numerous PR practitioners have approached me after I’ve given a SEO for PR presentation and mention that they’ve never thought of, or just don’t know how, to include search keywords in the copy. Here are a few, simple tips I’ve followed for years here at Online Marketing Blog that companies can follow to increase search traffic and visibility to corporate blog content.

keyword glossary

1. Research a Keyword Glossary – Whatever the target audience for your corporate blog is, journalists, customers, employees, partners, analysts, investors or others – they ALL use search. Use a keyword research tool to build out a keyword glossary of topics that are in demand. Share that glossary with content creators as a reference when planning, creating and publishing content online – including blog posts.

content plan

2. Create a Blog Content Plan - Starting a blog is easy. Sustaining a blog over years is not.  Get into the habit of creating a structured, yet flexible content plan for your company blog. Decide that some days will follow a format and others are wildcards. Then assign keyword/topics to the planned articles, tips, interviews, surveys, liveblogging, company news, curated industry news and other content types. Most importantly, tap into feedback mechanisms like comments, keyword search traffic, off-post citations, social sharing metrics and links to make sure you’re on-track.

3. Include Keywords in Posts – There have been numerous how-to’s on optimizing pages but to sum up optimized blog post writing, follow these guidelines:  Find a balance of optimizing for readers and search engines. Omit one and you lose the other. Do both well, and you will boost relevant search traffic and engagement.

Include keywords in the title tag of the post. The first words of the title matter most.  Write a title that is more focused on the reader (feel free to use puns, metaphors or be ironic) for the On-Page Title. For Example:

On-Page Title (Focus: Readers) – 10 Ways to Create a More Engaging Facebook Page

Title Tag (Focus: Search Engines, Social Sharing) - Facebook Marketing: 10 Tips on Better Fan Pages

This is how the blog post writer can express their creativity by using compelling headlines and still provide literal titles with prominent keywords for search engines which do not understand puns or metaphors.  If you’re using WordPress for your corporate blog, then the All in One SEO Plugin will provide the functionality mentioned above.

4. Use Descriptive References vs. Pronouns – Personal pronouns “I,” “you,” “she,” “he,” “it,” “we,” “you,” “they” and objective pronouns “me,” “you,” “her,” “him,” “it,” “us,” “you,” and “them” have their place in great copy, but search optimized content requires more descriptive references. For example, which of the phrases below do you think is more descriptive and useful for both readers and search engines?

“It is particularly effective when they use it with the products from company XYZ.”

“Social Media Monitoring software from company 123 is particularly effective for Social Media Strategists when used in combination with products from company XYZ.”

5. Use Keywords in Links – When following a content plan, it is inevitable that more than one post will touch on a particular keyword topic. It’s important to provide readers and search engines with descriptive links to older posts. Such links should use keywords as the anchor text (blue underlined text). I’ve already done this several times in the post above.

Using keywords in anchor text gives readers an indication of the topic they’ll see if they click on the link. The same keywords give search engines a very important signal too, which can help improve how the page appears in search results.

The anchor text can also be pointed at pages off your website to share keyword “link juice” elsewhere. For example:

“Vocus Social Media Monitoring software (a TopRank Client) helps companies find influencers, monitor conversations, mentions and trends.”

There are other places to use keywords in coprorate blog posts (or any blog post for that matter) like the URL, the tags associated with the post, the categories it is placed in and image alt text.  Those are standard SEO guidelines for a web page. They apply to blog posts too.

The key takeaway is to achieve mastery over keyword topics that are in demand as well as creative copywriting so that your corporate blog is both easily discovered via search engines and more useful for the people reading it.

If you’re responsible for writing a corporate blog, are you actively employing SEO and keyword best practices? Have you developed your ability to write for both readers and search engines?


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5 Tips: Content Sharing Beyond Facebook

Alright, you’ve just come up with a brilliant and revolutionary idea that will forever change the face of your industry. So what do you do now?

If you’re like a lot of people, you run to Facebook and share it with your friends, colleagues, and anyone that will listen. Is that a bad strategy? Not necessarily, as Facebook and Twitter can be great places to reach large audiences. In fact, Facebook continued to grow even stronger in its use as a sharing site in 2010.

However, you can’t safely assume that Facebook is the only or best method of content distribution. Social media is a hot market right now and use of these channels are not a bad thing. Though a strategy of a few tweets and a fan page update will not get you to your goals. Ultimately there is no singular model that is always the ideal for any company but a few points to consider include:

Audience - I lead with this one as it should always be the first step in creating any marketing or communications plan. Who are you trying to reach and where are they? If you want customers that are highly engaged on mobile devices then Facebook could be a good fit with over 200 million people accessing the social media giant via their mobiles. If you’re seeking long-term content placement that might be reviewed in-depth, consider SlideShare where the demographics indicate  81 percent medium to heavy internet users and eight minutes spent on the site looking at content.

Influencers - After establishing your target audience you should move to identifying who has the ear of the audience you want to reach.  Spend some time researching terms and keywords that connect to your topic. Take advantage of the many tools out there like Google blog search, Alltop, PostRank and see who shapes the views of your audience.

Blogs – The benefits of a blog as a central hub of content are quite well established in terms of SEO for companies. Yet another benefit of a blog for many organizations is the simplicity of updates which can be made easily. Use your blog as a point of entry for beginning a dialogue. Engage here and you’ll begin to identify the content that your audience is actually seeking. Use it as a research tool to understand your audience further: check out the sites of those that leave comments on your blog, review your analytics to identify changes in referral sources, and offer opportunities for readers to share their questions with you.

Email – Don’t forget about a core (if not as sexy) tool that works well and is still a top source of content sharing. Develop an email newsletter to communicate with prospects and others interested in your content. The content you create for your email newsletter can be a jumping off point to create interesting blog posts, which can then include surveys or interactive content to transform a single piece of content into a discussion between you and your audience. In concert with other tools, it facilitates a continual cycle of engagement with your audience.

Syndication – Services that offer the potential of extended reach and content syndication are excellent resources that are often being too easily dismissed in my opinion due to the alleged “death of the press release.” Aside from the use of services like PRWeb (a TopRank client) for trying to reach journalists, syndication will improve your reach to end-users and potentially appear in a number of locations and offers a number of share options for well written content that is relevant to your target audience. With the syndication you also have the opportunity to get your site in front of potential customers with anchor text links back to your own pages.

Consumers, across industries, expect greater personalization than ever before. Any singular content distribution channel will ultimately miss an important part of your target market. Take advantage of the communication tools available to create an experience that each user feels was made for them by taking the time to understand them and offer a variety of channels that fit their needs.


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How Social Media Really Works for Small Business

January 20, 2011 by  
Filed under Online Marketing, Small business, Social Media

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SMB social media marketing

One of the most common questions small business marketers are seeking to answer is, “How can I really benefit from social media?” Social media has certainly changed and improved how small to mid-size businesses can carve out space and connect in an extremely crowded marketplace. When companies participate on the social web in a meaningful way, it helps create a personal connection between customers and the brand.

One of the greatest benefits specifically for small businesses is that access to potential customers has increased tremendously. Rather than strictly focusing on paid advertising, word-of-mouth referrals, and in-store promotions (or a wacky mascot standing outside) businesses can now directly find customers  that may be interested in their products based on profiles, active discussions, keywords or expressed interests. This is especially key in the early stages of a business life-cycle when cash is at a premium.

If you think of the analogy of a party where you don’t know anyone, social media is the equivalent of a one page bio stapled to everyone’s coat. Instead of being stuck talking with the reclusive butterfly hunter who only leaves the house  in search of the rare Palos Verdes Blue, (yes I did have to look that up) you can quickly find the person that likes to shop, travel, and enjoy great conversation. Can you imagine all the time and awkwardness saved if you could have done this your whole life?

How is successful social media marketing done and which small businesses out there are doing a good job? How is it they avoid the pitfalls of social media? There are a lot of great examples out there and I’ve outlined just a few success stories available online below.

AJ Bombers
AJ Bombers is a burger joint in Milwaukee, Wisconsin that ramped up in a very tough economy in large part by a high level of creativity around the social media space. They have invested the time to build a personality across a number of platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, and YouTube. However, they haven’t fallen in love with the tools for their own sake. The business understands it needs to drive people to the actual location and have done so with social media. The quote from owner Joe Sorge in the Forrester post highlights his smart approach,   “Customers are becoming the business,” he says.

Baby Sitters Directory
Baby Sitters Directory is an Australian company that helps parents find the right care for their child. It’s a huge market and one that also requires a tremendous amount of faith in the service as child care is a very personal decision for each family. Creator Ann Nolan recognized the overall business need but also identified the importance of online engagement via social media, particularly with women, after reading a study highlighting the high use in that demographic. Through its use of Facebook, Twitter, and blogging the company has created a base of useful shared content for parents as they work through a significant choice.

Enhance-me
Enhance Me is a specialized portrait company that creates custom photos placing kids in magical settings and has done very well in using social media to spread the word of their unique creations. Victoria Dixon has embraced Facebook, Twitter, and a blog (though not as heavily as the other channels) to promote the business and build relationships with bloggers and customers with measurable results like getting the company endorsed by customers on verygoodservice.com.  Dixon notes that her three top tips to consider when jumping into social media include: focus on your goals, platform selection, and time commitments.

There are many small businesses out there doing great social media work to stand out from the millions of options that consumers have. The connection in these cases is be the foresight to identify and commit to using social media marketing in a creative manner with specific goals in mind. One of the great benefits of social media is that small businesses can be unique in executing a successful plan once they establish goals and metrics. Are you aware of other small businesses using social media to succeed? What’s their secret for success?


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Content Marketing Tips from 5 People Who Know

January 19, 2011 by  
Filed under Content Marketing, Online Marketing

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content marketingContent Marketing is a hot, hot topic right now as are social media, mobile and local.  Along with being a popular focus for marketers, there’s really a deluge of information being published and it’s not always clear what the best advice is.

The recent kudos for TopRank’s Online Marketing blog in the areas of Content Marketing (#1 on Junta42 list) and Social Media Marketing (#2 on Social Media Examiner list), made me remember what a great network of smart, accomplished, “walk the talk” content marketers I get to connect with.  So, I reached out to a few of the people I respect most in these areas to share a single tip on Content Marketing for the benefit of readers trying to make sense of where it might fit in their mix:

ann handley
Ann Handley, Chief Content Officer at MarketingProfs and co-author of Content Rules

Even when you are marketing to your entire audience or customer base, you are still simply speaking to a single human at any given time. Worry less about sounding professional and worry more about creating remarkable content that other humans can relate to.

What does that mean? It means losing the jargon and Franken-speak (“end-to-end,” “win-win,” “synergy,” and other cruddy phrases). It means being conversational (writing a blog post as if you are writing a letter to a friend). It means showing more than telling how your products and services live in the world.

The inherent tension in marketing is that businesses always want to talk about their products, when your customers want to hear what your products can do for them. Use your content as a way to show the human side of the your business. Which is the side, by the way, that will resonate best with your customers.

david meerman scott
David Meerman Scott, Marketing Strategist, Speaker and author of Real-Time Marketing & PR
Nobody cares about your products and services except you. This knowledge is essential to great marketing because it gets your organization away from just yakking incessantly about your products and services. What your buyers do care about are themselves and they care a great deal about solving their problems (and are always on the lookout for a company that can help them do so).

brian solis
Brian Solis, Principal of FutureWorks and author of Engage!

There is no market for your messages. Become a resource for your communities in your communities. They’re looking for insight, answers, direction, keys to unlock solutions that they did not know existed before you. The key is empathy. And to find this key takes research and understanding. Develop content based on what inspires interaction today and then build bridges between those conversations, communities and you.

Jay Baer
Jay Baer, Social Media Strategy Consultant and co-author of The Now Revolution

Content marketing can be scary. Staring at the little blinking cursor can paralyze even experienced content creators. To make it easier, focus first on “atomizing” your existing content. (Thanks to Todd Defren for that term).

Be a digital dandelion. Take one of your existing white papers (or other form of comprehensive content) and deconstruct it. Make it into five blog posts. And a Webinar. And a podcast. And a Slideshare presentation.

Each of those content modalities will have different audiences, so you’re building reach. Plus, each of those content modalities will be found and indexed by your most important customer – some guy named Google.

Repurposing and repackaging your content makes your content marketing task easier, AND more effective.

Joe Pulizzi
Joe Pulizzi, Founder of Content Marketing Institute and co-author of Get Content, Get Customers

Stop Writing about Everything. So many brands create content and try to cover everything, instead of focusing on the core niche that they can position themselves as an expert around. No one cares about your special recipe. No one cares about your iPad review, that has nothing to do with marketing automation.

Find your niche, and then go even more niche. For example, let’s say you sell travel gear for pets. If that is the case, don’t create a blog on “pets” or “pet supplies”. Create consistent and valuable content to solve your customers’ problems around traveling with pets. Seems simple, but many companies make this mistake.  For more, this one may help: Content Marketing Stinks: Fix It

Each of these great people writes online in numerous channels, offline and has published a book, or many books, on the intersection of content, social and PR.  They have experienced hard-won insights and I’m guessing so have you. If you were giving advice to budding marketers or even experienced marketers looking for direction on Content Marketing, what would your tip be? What one piece of advice would you give them?


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Content Marketing Tips from 5 People Who Know | http://www.toprankblog.com

Top Content Marketing Blogs to Start 2011

January 17, 2011 by  
Filed under Content Marketing, Online Marketing

content marketing blogsThis morning I received a pleasant surprise email from the folks at Junta42 with congratulations to Brian Solis, Brian Clark, David Meerman Scott, Jay Baer and TopRank’s Online Marketing Blog on making the top of the first Junta42 Top Content Marketing Blogs list in 2011. It is more than a little humbling to be included amongst such talented and respected industry veterans.

Joe Pulizzi runs Junta42 and is the first person (that I know of) to really popularize the notion of “content marketing”. In that regard Joe and his team really walk the talk: He also runs the Content Marketing Institute, Chief Content Officer magazine and the upcoming Content Marketing World conference. The blogs and writers that make the Junta42 list also “walk the talk” with content marketing and serve as a great example for those that want to better understand how content fits within the marketing mix.

The Junta42 list has been published since 2007 and the top 42 scores (thanks to Janet Robbins) are calculated from a pool of over 400 blogs using a combination of:

1) Relevance to Content Marketing
2) How much the blog adds to the Content Marketing conversation
3) Google Page Rank
4) blog consistency
5) previous ranking

Thanks to a great blogging team, TopRank’s Online Marketing Blog has made the number one spot on this list 3 times.  This is the 10th edition of the Junta42 list and 2011 marks the 10 year anniversary for my agency, TopRank Online Marketing.

If you look at our tag cloud (the tab in the right column), it’s easy to see why we are included in this list, since we’ve been focused on content creation, optimization and promotion for quite a while. In fact, before Joe started promoting the idea of “content marketing” I used to say we focused on “editorial marketing” when explaining TopRank since our Online Marketing consulting practice emphasizes earned and owned media vs. advertising.

Here’s the full list of 42 Content Marketing Blogs. Congratulations to all and more so, thank you for your contributions.

TopRank’s Online Marketing Blog
PR 2.0 (Brian Solis)
Web Ink Now
Convince and Convert
Copyblogger
Social Media Examiner
Grow
Influential Marketing Blog
Inbound Internet Marketing Blog
10 Conversation Agent
11 Marketing Experiments
12 Jeff Korhan
13 Sparksheet
14 ReelSEO
15 ConverStations
16 Post Advertising
17 Conversation Marketing
18 Marketing Interactions
19 Mack Collier
20 FASTforward Blog
21 Ducttape Marketing
22 Logic+Emotion
23 B2B Ideas@Work Blog
24 The Search Agents
25 eMedia Vitals
26 Social Media Explorer
27 No man is an iland
28 B2B Bloggers
29 Freelance Copywriters Blog
30 Simple Marketing Blog
31 Straight Talk with Nigel Hollis
32 Digital Marketing Blog
33 Windmill Networking
34 big star content
35 Drew’s Marketing Minute
36 Campaign Monitor
37 Vertical Measures
38 Web Analytics World
39 White Paper Pundit
40 Vertical Leap
41 IdeaLaunch
42 Site Booster

This excellent collection of blogs covers a  range of topics from general Internet Marketing to Social Media to Search and of course – specifically Content Marketing.  Of course I’d like to continue addressing the curiosities about content and online marketing for our readers and would love your continued feedback.  What content marketing topics would you like to see us cover more here on Online Marketing Blog?

If you’re hungry for more practical and in-person tips on the topic, I’ll be giving two presentations on the intersection of Content Marketing and SEO in San Diego and London:

Feb 10, 2011
SES Accelerator – San Diego
“Content Marketing Strategy”

Feb 22, 2011
SES London
“Content Marketing Optimisation”

I hope you can make one of them because I’ve added more case studies and tips. I will also be giving away a Content Marketing ebook with which can really give you a jumpstart on incorporating better SEO with your Content Planning. If you’re a SEO practitioner, it will give you practical insights into developing a content plan within traditional SEO strategies. I hope to see you there and congrats again to the blogs on the Junta42 list.


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© Online Marketing Blog, 2011. |
Top Content Marketing Blogs to Start 2011 | http://www.toprankblog.com

SEOChat on Content Marketing and SEO

January 14, 2011 by  
Filed under Content Marketing, lee odden, Online Marketing, SEO

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#seochatLast night I had the privilege of being the guest on #seochat – a fairly new but very active Twitter Chat that happens on Thursday nights at 8pm CT.  Twitter chats are familiar territory and can be very engaging, especially when they’re as well run as #seochat.  Thanks to @Dan_Patterson for inviting me.  You can read the whole transcript of our discussion on SEO and Content Marketing here.

Besides the host being organized, one of the keys to a successful Twitter Chat is the prep done by the guest. Time goes by insanely fast when 10, 20 or a few hundred people are all tweeting to the same hashtag at the same time. I received questions in advance from Dan and then took the time to construct Twitter friendly replies in a text document including stats and links to supporting resources. Below are my prep notes on the topic of Content Marketing and SEO.

Q1: What are the most effective forms of content marketing?

The answer to “best content marketing” isn’t a silver bullet. However, it does involve personas, storytelling & crafting content designed to meet customer needs. For a pretty good post on developing personas: Developing Personas for Better Social Media Marketing.

The best content marketing has a purpose in mind for a particular audience and an outcome or objective according to customer preferences.  This is somewhat in contrast to a lot of SEO work which tends to focus on optimizing existing content to appear where customers are looking. The good news is that working together, Content Marketing and SEO amplifies effectiveness and becomes a competitive advantage.

Format-wise, effective content marketing tactics might be text or video or interactive or audio or print or more likely a combination according to the point in the buying cycle that the marketer is trying to engage.

Regarding matching content types with touchpoints in the buying cycle, check this post: Customer Life Cycle & Content Marketing.

Q2: After blogging, what’s the next best way to establish yourself as a thought leader in your industry?

I think there are many ways to do that, but here are 3:

  1. As the name “thought leader” implies, being able to communicate original ideas and take a position on important topics – consistently.
  2. “Act the part”: This isn’t my thing, but I’ve seen many people act is if they were in a thought leader position from day one and their confidence spread and people accepted them according the that behavior. Fortunately and unfortunately, perception is reality.
  3. “Birds of a feather, flock together”: Being on lists along with established thought leaders influences the perception that you belong.

Also, media coverage from relevant industry publications and mentions by other influentials is very effective for building credibility and authority. This assumes the coverage is positive or complimentary of course :)

Networking is key. For example: Getting kudos from a keynote speaker in front of a room with a few thousand people is priceless credibility during a conference.

Q3: How has content marketing changed in the last few years? How do you think it’ll change in the next two?

Content marketing as a way to reach customers, especially in the long sales cycles of the B2B space has been around quite a while.  Print newsletters, magazines and even TV and radio have been used as content marketing by brands. For example, P&G pioneered the soap opera. General Mills owns radio stations. American Express owns multiple print magazines.

Joe Pulizzi popularized the idea of “content marketing” a few years ago with his book, “Get Customers Get Content“.  Another fantastic content marketing book is “Content Rules” by Ann Handley and CC Chapman.

Be sure to check the Content Marketing Institute site for great Content Marketing resources. Of course, Online Marketing Blog’s Content Marketing category is pretty good too :)

As for the future of Content Marketing, 51% of B2B marketers plan to spend more money on content marketing in 2011 according to a study by CMI. Here’s a link to the full B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budget & Trends report.

Content Marketing as a practice has been adopted by many digital marketers and it’s the glue of both SEO and Social Media. In terms of how content marketing will change: more companies will adopt a position of “brand as publisher”. Companies will increasingly incorporate content publishing within their marketing mix. This will result in far more content than anyone will every be able to consume in a 100 lifetimes, so over-saturation is inevitable.

Content curation will increase in importance since a lot of companies won’t be able to afford to produce as much content as they need to be competitive. It’s also an effective way to serve as a filter to the sheer volume of content being produced. Being a destination news source is an efficient method of creating connections with potential customers and such curation is a key part of content marketing strategy.

Q4: What are the best ways to market content across multiple channels?

A content marketing strategy that leverages a mix of distribution channels is how to extend reach. But the mix has to be relevant to the audiences as well as the influencers that will propagate. Here’s a specific presentation on that: 10 Steps to Better Content Marketing & SEO.  Also, check out the hub and spoke publishing model we practice for ourselves and for our clients:

Q5: How do you keep your content from being ruined by SEO, but still be effective for SEO?

Great content and SEO is art and science – something we aspire to @TopRank.  It takes real talent to create keyword inspired content that resonates with specific customer needs and interests. Optimizing existing content just isn’t in the same league as being able to develop and implement a content marketing strategy in alignment with both keywords and great content.

A must visit resource on learning how to write engaging copy that’s also keyword optimized is this SEO Copywriting online course from Heather Lloyd Martin. One of my Account Managers, Ken Horst took and reviewed that course here.

Thanks again to #seochat for hosting me. There were a flurry of tweets and it was hard to keep up.


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© Online Marketing Blog, 2011. |
SEOChat on Content Marketing and SEO | http://www.toprankblog.com

Social Media Overload: When is Enough Too Much?

January 13, 2011 by  
Filed under Online Marketing, Social Media

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The onslaught of new social media sites has fundamentally changed the role of any marketing or communications professional. Every day millions of users are spending significant periods of time on social networks. In 2010, social media use represented 22 percent of the time spent online by users. The impact of social media on business cannot be ignored but how much is too much?

For many organizations, hiring a social media specialist isn’t a viable option due to budget constraints or the responsibility for managing the social media programs falls on the shoulders of the communications department. It’s a role often already filled with deadlines and juggling of priorities between internal and external efforts, media relations, content creation, meetings and more.

The bottom line: Don’t chase every shiny object in the marketplace. A quick search on “social networking websites” and a visit to Wikipedia gave me 201 options. Now sure, some of these are very small and specific to a niche but it’s interesting to look back at all the ideas that someone thought were brilliant and revolutionary for their time.

The sad fact is that for every useful site like Caring Bridge or big hit like Facebook, there’s a Bolt or a Google Buzz that came and went or never took off at all. Set goals on what your company needs to achieve and create a set of key questions that you use in reviewing any new tool you want to explore. Think about using those filter questions as a screen to evaluate opportunities in front of you.

The questions will vary but take some time now (after a few more paragraphs at least) to think about and talk with the key stakeholders in your organization about the right questions. Filters should be specific enough to give you real, measurable information that can inform you about the potential success of your investment (time or money) in a social platform.

  • Does this generate enough direct revenue to offset the staff time required?
  • Will this expand our opportunities into a new market of interest to us?
  • Is this tool effective enough to get customers to take a specific action whether its click to buy or visit a store?
  • What level of speculative time investment are we willing to make?
  • Could this lead to collaboration or co-promotion opportunities that will benefit the company?
  • Does this effort align logically with our existing initiatives?

These are of course just samples and there isn’t a single way to do it. Perhaps 20 percent of a full-time employee’s time  to execute a program with unknown success is worth it in your model or the opportunity to create an entry to a new market.

Even once you create filters, there are times when you should try new efforts that don’t fit or take a chance. But by slowing down to evaluate the opportunities you at least make sure you’re not adding yet another task to your role without thoughtful purpose and a good chance at success.

How much of your time do you estimate goes into social media on a daily basis? And what has worked for you in balancing the requirements of social with other essential roles?


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Social Media Overload: When is Enough Too Much? | http://www.toprankblog.com

Tasty Ideas to Maximize Online Marketing for Events

January 12, 2011 by  
Filed under Email Marketing, Online Marketing, Online PR

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Online Marketing EventsMarketing efficiency is always a good thing. I mean, who has an unlimited marketing budget? Well, maybe some companies do, but for the most part, being able to get far more value out of a marketing investment than projected is cause to celebrate.

For example, events.   In the digital marketing world, the number of online and real world events has exploded. Despite many options to choose from, it can get costly to send staff to multiple events per year and even more if you sponsor or exhibit.

But this post is more about what one might do holistically to leverage multiple communication channels to promote an event and how an event can serve multiple marketing and business objectives.

For the purpose of this example, I’ll use parts of a promotional program following a standard model of:
Audience > Objectives > Tactics > Tools > Measurement

Audience:

  • Influential Persona
  • Media Persona
  • Customer Persona 1
  • Customer Persona 2

Objectives:

  • Establish credibility in the industry and associated community
  • Build buzz about the event & inspire viral sharing
  • Leverage the event for media coverage regionally, on blogs and industry pulications
  • Attract signups/attendees for the event
  • Generate content at the first event to use with subsequent event marketing & PR
Strategy:
  • Create content that will demonstrate insights (keyword specific) and promote the event on sites the company controls, contributed articles to industry web sites and pitching
  • Create awareness of event through pitching other bloggers and marketing contacts to announce the event
  • Build enough interest within the target audience to motivate signups by promoting the event using social media tactics

27 Online Marketing and PR Tactics:

  • Create a landing page for the event on the company website or blog with embedded overview video (series of videos like 10 tips on … could work too)
  • Publish a series of interviews on the company blog with key individuals that have influence on the target topic. Promote the event at the end of the interviews
  • Pitch and contribute articles about key topics related to the event with important industry publications (online and offline)
  • Promote the event to online event sites Zvents, Upcoming and event calendars (online, email or print)
  • Write & distribute news releases (1, 2, 3) each taking a different angle
  • Pitch stories to general marketing publications
  • Pitch story to regional publications where the event will be held
  • Publish a series of videos, 1 for each key topic or problem solved. Post to YouTube and distribute via TubeMogul to other video sharing sites. Alternate titles and tags.
  • Offer guest blog post to small business bloggers, especially those in the region where the event will be held
  • Populate the social media profiles that have been registered with keyword optimized content, linking to an event landing page
  • Create a series of promotional emails and landing pages for the event directed towards an in-house list (like an email newsletter)
  • Pre write a promo/guest post that other bloggers can easily use – customize it.
  • Send follow up emails with themed creative
  • Create a cool badge that other blogs can add to their site in exchange for a link from the Social Media Smarts “friends” page.
  • Get testimonials for staff that will be speaking – text, audio and/or video formats
  • Generate link bait ideas such as: Custom Google search engine just for target industry blogs, List of relevant tools, List of the best target industry topical resources (based on a poll of readers), Post a question on LinkedIn and publish results
  • Ask friends to promote – give them a write up, image/logo and a place to point to
  • Offer people options other than signing up for the event: RSS, Twitter, White paper, webinar – for those that are not yet ready to do the workshop, to keep in contact with them
  • Create content that justifies the cost of the workshop – under promise and over deliver
  • As a fulfillment piece, offer a white paper on social media marketing and a guide for winning budget or to justify cost for attending the seminar. Brand it, make it cool
  • Create a social media smarts score for blogs. Rank blogs based on their use of social media and then score them. Give a dynamic badge they could put on their blog.
  • Crowdsource from social networks content for the presentation and recognize contributors online and at the event
  • Contest for marketing partners to help promote event, recognition and/or material rewards
  • Promote attendance goals and show progress
  • Promote limited seating/limited offer (exclusive, fear of loss) to motivate sign-ups
  • Promote speaking slot via twitter and geolocation tools like FourSquare during event
  • Sponsor or create a Twitter chat leading up the event to discuss topics of relevance and that address pain points of target audience. Make sure chats are archived and that promotions for the event exist on the archive.

Tools:

  • Company Blog
  • Column on industry site
  • Column on partner blog
  • Guest post on friendly industry web site
  • Press releases – prweb.com (TopRank client)
  • Guest blog posts:
  • Contributed articles: industry publications
  • Event listing sites: Upcoming, Zvents, etc
  • Viral/link bait content, contests
  • Video sharing sites: YouTube, Vimeo, Metacafe, Facebook and Tubemogul distribution
  • Image sharing sites: Flickr, Zoomr.
  • Social Networking: LinkedIn, Facebook
  • Twitter accounts and network
  • Social news and bookmarking sites
  • Social event listing sites, plancast, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc
  • Event calendars for publications and/or pitch pubs on SMS as a noteworthy event
  • Geolocation sites Foursquare, Gowalla

Measurement:

  • Social monitoring of keywords and topics related to company brand and event
  • Traffic to landing pages
  • Page views of landing pages
  • Signups
  • Pre-conversions: white paper, RSS, Twitter and social network connections, reports, webinars, newsletter
  • Views of social media promoted off site (Tweets, Facebook likes, Comments, etc)

Content Capture and Marketing From the Event/Attendees:

  • Give attendees tools to promote the event
  • Recognize attendees for attending
  • Offer post-event communications/networking
  • Capture video interviews with satisfied attendees
  • Give attendees a USB storage drive with presentation and useful tools pre-loaded.
  • Give attendees an incentive to get others to sign up at subsequent events

Could I list more than this? Could you do more? Of course. Is it efficient? No. This is a list of ideas. I can’t imagine doing them all for a single or short series of events.   There’s nothing wrong with those tactics for promoting events, but the focus here is mostly on editorial or content based promotion.

What creative tactics have you used to be more efficient with event and speaking gig promotions?  Have you ever found yourself at the end of an event wishing you’d done more or done things differently to promote?


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