#Optimize Your Online Marketing With Social Media, SEO & Content

OptimizeWith the boom in brands publishing content and the explosion of user generated content from social networks, the competition to stand out is only going to get more challenging for companies that rely on the web to attract new business.  Online Marketers that adapt, evolve and scale through a more holistic approach to marketing online gain both short and long term benefits, distinct from competitors reliant on the latest tactic du jour.

The process of change starts with acknowledgment that change is needed and then extends to identifying goals, understanding target audiences & communities, developing an approach and tactical mix for reaching business objectives. Assessing a starting point is usually accomplished through an audit, research and benchmarking for future performance tracking.

When taking a look at our TopRank Slideshare account for past presentations I found one on Social Media & SEO from back in 2007 offering the following advice:

  • Inventory your media & content
  • Keyword optimize your media
  • Research social media communities
  • Make it easy for readers to save/share content
  • Create profiles and grow a network of friends
  • Participate in the community
  • Measure results

That’s as solid advice today as it was then. As a advocate of the power of optimization (not just search engine optimization but optimizing online marketing for better performance) it’s interesting how much hasn’t changed in the past 4 years.  No matter what BS certain mainstream publications or social media pontificators say, SEO brings a competitive advantage to an online marketing mix.  It may not be the silver bullet it once was, but SEO is an amplifier and catalyst to Social Media and Content Marketing. What smart marketers know, is how and when to apply SEO best practices to extend the reach of their social media and content marketing efforts.

Last week I gave my first presentation at Social Media Breakfast Minneapolis St. Paul #SMBMSP on the intersection of SEO, Social Media and the importance of Content in Online Marketing. In order to scale the impact of Social SEO & Content, internal advocates need to become Social SEO Heroes that can lead, educate and support the organizational change necessary to empower business social media and SEO literacy.  This presentation starts with context and perspective, then provides a framework and even specific tactics for the Content Marketing Trilogy of  Discovery, Consumption and Sharing. I hope you find it useful and share your feedback in the comments.

I’m looking forward to giving a more Content Marketing centric version of this presentation at Content Marketing World: “A Content Marketer’s Guide to SEO and Social Media Strategy” on Thursday, Sept. 8th in Cleveland.

After that I’ll be giving the opening keynote at the 2nd Annual Minnesota Blogger Conference with a presentation on how I’ve used blogging to grow our business from a tiny lifestyle company to one of the best known agencies for online marketing in the U.S.. I hope to see you there.

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© Online Marketing Blog, 2011. |
#Optimize Your Online Marketing With Social Media, SEO & Content | http://www.toprankblog.com

5 Ways Salespeople Can Use Social Media to Grow Leads

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social media salespeopleOne of the practical opportunities for companies that acquire and engage customers through a sales force, is through social media content and participation.  In fact, many corporate marketing departments have found their field sales reps active on sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and even YouTube before headquarters has.  Such “rogue” social media activity might be proactive, but can also create issues without adherence to corporate standards and provide conflicting experiences for customers.

A salesforce that functions as educators, consultants and in some ways “subject matter experts”, can be a formidable asset for corporate social media efforts towards engagement and customer acquisition. Rather than shutting down individual sales reps blogs and Facebook accounts until corporate gets their social strategy in place, companies should consider how to coordinate and empower sales teams as social media ambassadors of the brand to their individual circles of influence and social networks.

Those same sales people are already maintaining contact with prospects and customers through other communication channels like email, phone, snail mail and newsletters. Why not social networking and media sites?

As business managers decide how to best leverage sales people for social media objectives, here are a few ideas on tactics they may decide to implement:

1. Create a Destination - Whether it’s a blog, tumblr, posterous site, YouTube or even Facebook Fan page, a destination for social participation can serve as the hub for a salesperson’s social media activity. This is where social content is published, aggregated and curated. It’s also where calls to action, offers and invitations to engage on a more business level can be posted. The social hub scan serve as a destination for other publishers and bloggers to link to and appear within search results.

2. Monitor for Leads & Engagement – As more consumer and B2B buyers participate on the social web during the discovery and consideration phases of the buying cycle, sales people can monitor for comments and conversations that indicate engagement opportunities. IBM’s Listen for Leads program has uncovered millions of dollars in sales by monitoring social media sites for keywords that indicate prospects with questions or in the search phase.

Simple tools like search.twitter.com, board reader or a variety of Facebook search engines can provide access to discussions. Free social search engines like socialmention.com or topsy can also be used along with Google Alerts. Ideally, a robust social media monitoring tool would be used that includes advanced filtering options.  It takes some refinement of search queries to make this kind of monitoring work, but can be very effective at identifying prospect conversation opportunities at their greatest moment of need.

3. Create, Curate & Repurpose - Most Sales Reps, Account Executives and Business Development people that I know are pretty busy, so efficiency with social media and content is essential. With an understanding of relevant search keywords and social topics that matter to prospective customers, salespeople can create a content plan as a guide.

However, creating new content on a regular basis while maintaining high quality can become a challenge, so it’s important to think about where content can be repurposed.

For example, salespeople might each maintain their own blogs that they publish to once a week. But they might also share portions or customized versions of their blog posts with other industry blogs, online publications and industry newsletters. They could compile blog posts into ebooks or could be used within corporate content marketing materials.

An effective way to become a “go to destination” for information on a particular topic is to aggregate or curate news from different sources on the web to the salesperson’s hub.  Subscribe to other industry news sites, newsletter and setup Google Alerts for topics of interest to collect news. Collect the most interesting and/or themed news of the week and add short comments.  The same curation tactic can be used to create a newsletter. With some practice, the process of scanning headlines and putting together a weekly news roundup can be done in only a few minutes a day, resulting in one beefy blog post per week.

4. Participate - In the course of researching useful industry news to aggregate or to cite in original blog posts, salespeople will undoubtedly find other blogs and online publications that allow commenting. They’ll also find others discussing topics of interest on sites like LinkedIn, Groups & Forums, Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and others. Searching or monitoring for prospects also reveals these kinds of interaction opportunities.

Answering questions, sharing useful resources and asking questions on social media sites like Twitter, Facebook and Google+ helps communicate personal characteristics and thought leadership for the salesperson. Corporate marketing might be able to use their resources with social media monitoring tools to identify social channels, groups or individuals that are most influential and relevant.  Salespeople could also use tools like Klout to find others with influence to engage with.

This can seem like a very time consuming task, but many salespeople who are the most productive with lead generation through social media make a consistent effort to participate on a frequent basis. Setup a recurring reminder in Outlook to spend 15 minutes each morning to ask/answer questions, collect, aggregate and share useful links. Spreading this activity over several days using a consistent amount of time is very productive. Schedule Tweets and Facebook updates during the day in advance using a tool like Hootsuite.

5. Collaborate - Corporate sales and marketing leadership can keep tabs on the most effective uses of social media and networking sites by their sales teams and create best practices for the benefit of all. Continuously improved processes, new social tool evaluations and tactics evolution can improve salesforce social media effectiveness and overall ability to create value and engage prospects.

In the end, it’s about empowerment, not control.

Companies can provide sales teams with templates, process and training plus regular internal networking opportunities to share best practices in order to help salesforce social media efforts succeed.  It’s also important to provide ongoing education so salespeople know what it looks like to be overzealous and forward with their social participation efforts.

As with all social media marketing efforts, mileage varies according to the target audience, industry, resources and sales teams capabilities. There’s no doubt that strategy alone doesn’t sustain long term social media marketing success. Ongoing training and feedback mechanisms are essential to improve skills and identify both productive and non-productive behaviors.

Has your organization had to deal with “rogue sales reps” initiating social media marketing efforts? How did you handle them?  Have you implemented or observed other companies effectively incorporating sales teams social media participation as part of corporate social strategy?

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5 Ways Salespeople Can Use Social Media to Grow Leads | http://www.toprankblog.com

Social Media Marketing Expertise: Master the Half Pipe, Master of None

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Mastering Online MarketingThis is the second of my “workation” blog posts this week, so I hope you enjoy the brevity.

My oldest son is a relatively new fan of skateboarding and I’ve noticed some interesting comparisons with his advancement of skills to the experience of many social media marketers – or any new discipline for that matter.

To be clear, I don’t know much about skateboarding beyond the games of suicide and smear we played as kids, skateboarding down the hill by my childhood home. Think “Mad Max” on skateboards. There were no ramps, half-pipes or skateboard parks back then. Trust me, it was a very, very long time ago.  But the challenge of learning something new, seeing other accomplished skaters and the social aspect made it appealing and fun.

As with skateboarding, there are accomplished and highly promoted individuals in the social media marketing world that attract people to the promise of achieving the same. The appeal of  seeing others that are successful (or the appearance of success) plus the ease of online publishing has brought a deluge of “social media experts” to the web. Clearly, “expert” is a relative term.

As I’ve watched my son start practicing with his skateboard on a half pipe, it seemed hard at first. But after iterative improvements & watching others who obviously focused on developing their own skills, he got the hang of it. But in the scheme of things, mastering a single half-pipe means very little in the skateboarding world.

Credit to him that he’s never called himself an expert or even a great skateboarder during this formative stage. Not that I have a problem with that, people calling themselves “expert”, but I do appreciate the focus on growing expertise over grandstanding.  With each successful trick accomplished, he’s also realized that there’s still more to learn. And I’ve tried to reinforce that the learning will never end. When you’re really passionate about something, the journey of learning, testing, failing, succeeding, challenging and connecting with similar interests is where accomplishment comes from.

What does that have to do with social media marketing?  My 14+ years in the online marketing industry overall and more recently in areas like social media marketing are a passion and an opportunity for eternal learning. I am a student that will always seek to advance meaningful knowledge that can be used to advance success for my team, our clients and our online marketing agency.  For each thing mastered, there are many, many more ahead.

The industry changes. Customers change. Tools change and so does the level of competition as others advance their individual and collective organizational knowledge of social business. Knowing that things will change is really interesting to me and I enjoy working with a team and industry peers that feel the same way.

As a reader of this blog, I think it’s safe to assume you’re someone that is interested in learning and advancing your own skills.  I would hope that we continue to be a resource in this way. I would also like to think that our readers might buy into the notion that success in the social media marketing world is the journey not a singular destination.

Self professed social media experts that align themselves with superficial KPIs and social proof as business value are something to view with some skepticism. Your time is valuable and in an age of information overload, it can be tempting to follow the shiniest objects. I challenge readers to measure their exposure to social media marketing information sources to a healthy mix of: Subject Matter Experts, Research and MOST of all, your own hypothesis, testing and discovery.

Get ideas from watching others, but keep in mind that your most effective mastery will come from testing things out yourself. My son got great ideas about skateboarding tricks from watching others, but he certainly didn’t master anything until he tried those things himself. He also learns by testing new things and sharing those experiences with others.  Master your social media half pipe, then find another, and another and build your ability to adapt and evolve with new tools, industry changes and marketing problems to solve.

I guess I failed on the “brevity” promise for this post. But hopefully I inspired some thinking about how you’re advancing the social media marketing knowledge of your organization and for yourself.  Do you see social media marketing as something that can be mastered? How do you approach individual and organizational learning when it comes to the social web?

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Social Media Marketing Expertise: Master the Half Pipe, Master of None | http://www.toprankblog.com

Where Can Social Media Marketing Take Your Career?

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Social Media MarketingSearch Google for “social media consultant” or “social media expert” and you’ll find millions of search results. I’ve been in the online marketing game since 1997 and I don’t think I’ve ever seen such an emergence of expertise out of the blue. Web design in the late nineties and SEO in early 2000′s was close, but social media as a career choice is as pervasive as anything.

While it does appear that there may be more social media consultants than there are companies to hire them, the truth is the opposite. The ease of publishing online with blogs and social networking makes it seem like there are more qualified consultants than there really are.

Every company that I know in the online marketing space where social media is a key practice area is hiring. The problem is, there’s a lack of people with real social media marketing experience. Many that do have such experience are accustomed to a “big fish, small pond” situation and often overestimate current capabilities.

For online marketing agencies like ours, a Social Media Marketing Specialist needs to have more experience than setting up social accounts on Facebook, Twitter and a blog. They need to have an understanding of social content planning, personas, social network research and development, light SEO, social content promotion, social monitoring and analytics for insights and reports.  Not many people 3-4 years out of college have that experience. But they could.

Experience and training are what help passionate users transition into those individuals that can provide business social media advice and insight with impact. Experience without a job in the field can be acquired in a few different ways:

  • Become a super user with social applications
  • With that first hand knowledge, start marketing a personal site and/or offer pro bono services to a non-profit or small business
  • Document experience on a personal site or blog
  • Participate ON and offline with networks important to your areas of focus (specific industries, geographic areas)
  • Make it clear that you are available for hire in your social profiles and what you can do with examples
  • Until you have your own examples you can share insights into work others have done or you could provide sample audits of companies that you’d like to work with/for.

While I was already working as an online marketing consultant with my own business when I started blogging and offering blogging services to clients in 2004, the path above is essentially what I followed to get into the social media marketing consulting business.  Things have turned out pretty well, but I will always be a student, forever testing and learning.

One significant area of focus at TopRank Marketing is finding the right people to work with our team as social media marketing consultants, copywriters and project managers.  Cross training existing staff and clients is also important.

Are you just starting out in a career focused on providing social media marketing consulting (either on your own or for a company)? What are some of the challenges you’re facing in growing your expertise and getting experience?

If you are well into your social media marketing career as a practitioner or in a senior position, how did you make the transition from where you were, to your current state of expertise and knowledge? How do you stay current and competitive with your social media expertise?

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Where Can Social Media Marketing Take Your Career? | http://www.toprankblog.com

Essential Q & A on Facebook Marketing for Small Business

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Facebook Marketing Small BusinessFacebook Marketing is on the mind of just about every company with an online presence, small and large, BtoB and BtoC. The fast pace of the social web right along with changes in consumer behaviors and technology can make it a challenge to nail down specific and enduring best practices.

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Recently I participated in a webinar on social media ROI that took a holistic view of the value created by social engagement, beyond direct customer acquisition. Many of the questions from that webinar reflect the growing curiosity about specific social media applications and websites. We couldn’t get to all the questions so I’ve compiled them into similar topics starting with Facebook.

Some of the questions are fairly common and others are unique. Hopefully you’ll get value from these answers and feel free to ask your own in the comments.

How do we know if a Facebook presence makes sense for our company?

As with any online marketing investment, including social media and networks, determining which social communities a brand should engage with in order to reach a particular business outcome starts with knowing a few key things:

  1. What characterizes the customer or conversation that you’re after?
  2. What’s your hypothesis about how Facebook will help you reach a business goal?
  3. What approach to the social web makes the most sense for engaging identified customer personas and communities for the desired business outcome?

To the extent that Facebook appears as an answer to these questions, it will become clear whether Facebook makes sense as part of an online marketing and social media strategy. These questions are essential for just about any kind of online marketing, not just social media and not just for Facebook.

What is the demographic for Facebook?

Recently Ken Burbary shared a compendium of Facebook demographic information on Facebook: Facebook Demographics Revisited – 2011 Statistics that pretty much answers this question.

You can also get some of the information you need in the process of setting up a Facebook advertisement. The query you perform to identify audience can return useful demographic information.

Does Facebook really get you new customers or just keep you in touch with people who already know who you are?

At TopRank Online Marketing, our key focus on internet marketing and social media strategy is on customer interaction with content. With that bias, I would say the answer to this question about acquiring and engaging customers through Facebook is revealed by understanding your customer preferences for content discovery, consumption and sharing.

These behaviors are certainly present on Facebook pages through the Wall, News Feed, internal and external linking to content and Liking of content. There are myriad ways for new and existing customers to engage on Facebook including interactions initiated due to advertising.

Being able to attract new customers directly through Facebook vs. indirectly or through other social media participation has to do with how your brand conducts itself on Facebook. In many cases, Facebook is part of a multi step sales cycle that attracts interest and then presents offers and information on the company blog, website or other digital experiences that educate.

Recently a client of ours asked whether an ecommerce effort on Facebook made sense for their online store. They have a fairly active Fan page.

My advice was that while we could research the propensity for customers to buy via Facebook, we could also see the low price point of a Facebook store as an opportunity to lead their category with a new feature. Facebook shopping in the short term might not get them a significant increase in direct sales, but it will help show existing customers they’re finding new ways to be innovativel. It’s also newsworthy and could attract new customers via publicity.

One must be careful investing in technology for publicity vs. functionality. Look no further than the obscene amounts of money spent on Second Life for examples of that tactic going awry. But if social features are practical AND newsworthy with a reasonable price point, it’s the kind of investment that can win new customers and reinforce your brand with current customers.

Is it important to add to your Facebook page a certain number of times a week?

Participation on Facebook can start with some guidelines inspired by success with similar efforts, but should be fine tuned to the needs of your own community. We’ve seen some clients daily posting work well while others might post a few times per week.

Facebook Insights provide specific information on how your Fans engage with the page, so start out by posting a few times per week. Keep it focused on being useful and shareable. Increase or decrease post frequency and topics accordingly. Don’t over promote your own information, but follow the themes established in your social content strategy. Ask questions, promote your wall posts and be patient. Give positive feedback to the behaviors you’re looking for and make moderation efforts swift.

How important is it to provide customer service on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. Do customers expect it?

If customer service on Facebook is part of your Social Media Strategy and hypothesis, then it makes a lot of sense, My personal observations of consumer expectations is that social features are becoming a more familiar part of the online and brand experience. Customers expect to find and interact with search results. They expect blogs with commenting functionality. They look for Twitter and Facebook sharing options when they read brand content. When favorite brands market themselves on social channels it’s not a surprise anymore, its expected. Customer service is no different.

Deciding to embark on offering customer service via social networks like Facebook should be a thoughtful consideration. It’s not something to be started and then killed. Social media monitoring and first hand participation should reveal demand and companies can plan and forecast resources accordingly.

What are some of the best ways to measure conversions on Facebook?

First, we should define what a “conversion” is, in the context of your goals for Facebook participation. Is it attracting “Fans”, signing customers up for a free sample, getting visitors to redeem a Facebook coupon, or making direct product or service inquiries?

According to your goals, the right measurement scheme will provide the best ways to measure conversions on Facebook. There are a number of Facebook analytics approaches and tools worth checking out. Stores within Facebook can measure sales, sites that focus on recruiting staff might count how many applications they get. Other Facebook pages might simply count and qualify the comments, wall posts and community generated content as measures of engagement. It really depends on what you’re trying to achieve.

What goals do you have for your own Facebook Fan pages? How are you measuring success with Facebook Marketing?

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© Online Marketing Blog, 2011. |
Essential Q & A on Facebook Marketing for Small Business | http://www.toprankblog.com

Future Trends for Marketers in Search & Social Media

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Social Media SEOThe intersection of SEO and social media marketing continues to gain traction amongst online marketers everywhere you look in the industry. As an example, the enthusiastic interest in our recent compendium of blog posts, Essentials of Integrating SEO & Social Media. I think most experienced marketers “get” that SEO and Social Media functions are less effective as distinct channels within a marketing program and work better as a coordinated effort.

Integration of Social and SEO makes sense for a variety of reasons when considering evolving consumer information discovery behaviors. Even so, I think a lot of companies are looking for direction and what’s next. This week Brandon Prebynski and I chatted on his Webtrends.TV show about the mix of search and social media and one area we discussed that I think is worth sharing here is about future direction.

There are two areas of focus (out of many) I think are worth considering with future of search and social media for marketers. First, is the technology that powers the search and social media experience for consumers. The second is the logistics of implementing integrated search and social media campaigns within a company.

On the technology side, you have search becoming increasingly influenced by social signals. For example, Google and Bing are getting feed data from Twitter and Facebook. If you’re logged in to Google, your search results can be annotated by things your friends have shared on Quora or Flickr. Erik Sherma recently covered the award to Facebook of a patent for curated search that combines any type of search engine results with the popularity of each result among members of a user’s social network which shows another direction social sites are taking to make search more social.

True social search is something the engines have been trying at for a long time, but now the momentum Facebook has with 600 million users gives them a lot of data and an audience with which to experiment. From a technology standpoint I think we’ll see an increasing level of influence and integration of social based signals on traditional search activity. The race for true social search is between search engines like Google adding social signals and features vs. social giants like Facebook adding more significant search functionality to their platforms. Who will win is up to consumers.

Logistically within companies we’ll see less silos between search marketing and social media functions. While it’s been up for debate a while, many companies’ social media is managed by Public Relations and SEO is managed by Marketing.

There’s an growing convergence of responsibilities between PR and Marketing. The value of relationships and influence are increasingly appreciated by online marketers. Alternatively, PR and communications professionals are beginning to value search based discovery as they look for ways to communicate more value for their efforts.

PR departments are already creating content, why not make it easy for their target audience (journalists, analysts, bloggers and direct consumers) to find via search? Google sites alone handle 88 billion queries per month – that’s an overwhelming quantity of behavior and too significant to ignore.

As part of the effort to improve the connection between searchers and content, people in the social media content creation business would do well to consider things like a keyword glossary when creating their content marketing strategy and editorial plans.

Search marketers have traditionally used social media as distribution channels for promoting content to drive a flood of traffic. Many of those SEOs are beginning to appreciate the equity in relationships (community) that they can build through social channels so they don’t have to work so hard creating new connections every time they have a new link bait campaign.

Mastering the convergence of SEO and Social Media with Content Marketing starts with an appreciation of how consumers prefer to discover, consume and share information online.

Google’s Panda update is yet another reminder to focus on content that engages. Marketers that make great content easy to find via social channels and links will be rewarded with even more relevant traffic through search engines like Google and Bing.

What can companies do to become more effective search and social media marketers? The simple answer is to develop an approach to online marketing that focuses on customer centric content that’s keyword and social media optimized. Follow how content is consumed and shared – make it easy to do those things while monitoring and engaging to develop networks and relationships. Continue to keep business outcomes in mind and be thoughtful about how success will be measured short and long term.

As many companies deal with figuring out how search and social media will work together, I am curious what your experiences have been?

  • How important is the integration of search and social in your company’s current marketing mix?
  • Are you incorporating SEO and social media efforts more or less since last year?
  • What positive outcomes have you seen as a result of incorporating SEO & Social Media Marketing?

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Future Trends for Marketers in Search & Social Media | http://www.toprankblog.com

Essentials of Integrating SEO & Social Media

There’s a recent surge in the business press about incorporating social media and search or basically a more holistic approach to natural search optimization. While many popular biz pubs are catching on, bloggers and consultants like the team at TopRank Marketing have been covering the topic for a while.  To help marketers better understand the notion of holistic SEO outside of PageRank, meta tags and link building, here are several of our most popular posts and articles on making online marketing programs both search and social media friendly:

social media search

How Does Social Media Affect Search Marketing? – This post answers key questions about social media and search engine marketing: Are they two peas in a pod, complementary or two very distinct channels? The answer lies in understanding searcher behaviors and how expectations have changed as part of the search and social networking experience.

social media optimization

16 Rules For Social Media Optimization Revisited - As social media has become a ubiquitous part of the online experience, it represents a new set of behaviors for consumers and marketers. The initial “rules” set forth in 2006 were revisited by Adam Singer to test their continued validity and you may be surprised at what he found.

Social SEO

4 Steps to Social Media SEO Success – “Simple and effective” sums up this post on incorporating SEO and Social Media: Listening, Content, Socialize and Measure. Too many companies make social media and certainly SEO more complex than it needs to be, bottlenecking progress. This 4 step approach makes social media SEO manageable, realistic and achievable.

social seo content marketing

B2B Online Marketing Trifecta: Content, Social Media & SEO – Long sales cycles and the influence of social recommendations reinforced by search visibility make a perfect integrated mix for B2B internet marketing. This post outlines how Optimized Content and Social Media participation work together to amplify online marketing results for B2B companies.

social media friendly

Is Your Website SEO and Social Media Friendly? – This guest post on Mashable brought to light the notion of social media features that can be added to websites to increase their attractiveness for engagement and sharing. Examples include: Fresh Content, Social Content, Interaction, Easy to Share and Syndication.  Shareable websites make it easy to attract attention to great content, which results in traffic and links. More relevant links mean better visibility in search engines which means even more traffic.


5 Social Media SEO & Analytics Tools Worth Checking Out – What good is undertaking a social media and SEO effort if you can’t measure results? Here’s a selection of tools that help visualize or package social media SEO data for insight. They include: reinvigorate which offers real-time web analytics with heat maps; TwentyFeet dashboard which aggregates social stats from Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and bit.ly; SocialFlow which posts messages during your audience’s most receptive time periods, measures CTR, retweets and followers; Ontolo which is an advanced link building tool; InfluenceFinder which is another link building tool that coordinates with Majestic SEO.

11 Free Tools for Social Media Optimization - Social media sharing and interaction creates content that can be crawled by search engines. That means it can be optimized for better visibility within search, attracting new members to your social networks and blog. Here are 11 free tools that come in pretty handy for testing the waters and measuring optimized social media content.

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© Online Marketing Blog, 2011. |
Essentials of Integrating SEO & Social Media | http://www.toprankblog.com

Email Marketing & Social Media Interview: Kristin Hersant of StrongMail

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Kristin Hersant As a long time and trusted marketing agency, TopRank Online Marketing gets to work with some amazing B2B technology and SaaS companies. One of those companies is StrongMail.  Today Kristin Hersant, VP of Corporate Marketing joins an esteemed group of marketers and thought leaders ranging from Guy Kawasaki to David Meerman Scott interviewed here at Online Marketing Blog.

Kristin is a firecracker of smarts and energy towards online marketing. Her company StrongMail is the leader in an array of email marketing and social media marketing services. Read on to learn more about the future of Email Marketing and its intersection with Social Media:

Please share a bit about your marketing background and StrongMail. What types of companies do you serve?

I have held a variety of B2B Corporate Marketing positions spanning from program management to event marketing, PR and marketing communications. The industries I’ve worked in include internet advertising, online marketing, desktop software, enterprise software and magazine publishing, which have all contributed in one form or another to my position here at StrongMail. I joined StrongMail in 2004 and have loved every minute of our explosive growth since then.

StrongMail provides email marketing and social media solutions to some of the world’s biggest brands including InterContinental Hotels Group, Travelocity, Viacom, T. Rowe Price and Zappos. Our solutions offer the highest ROI of any enterprise email service provider, which means that we make a lot of sense for B2C companies sending over 1 million messages per month and offer exceptional ROI for companies who send over 5 million messages per month.

How did StrongMail get into the social media business?

StrongMail became a social media marketing provider in 2009 through a series of strategic acquisitions. First we acquired PopularMedia, a Sequoia Capital backed company with a suite of social media products that we integrated into our platform. We currently offer Social Studio, a suite of social media marketing tools that is comprised of a referral marketing platform (StrongMail Influencer), a content sharing tool (Social Notes) and a social media management tool (Social Direct.)

Last year, we also announced the acquisition of two NY-based web firms that we combined to form StrongMail’s new boutique email and social CRM agency. This compliments our suite of technology tools with the strategy and creative expertise that brands need to effectively leverage the channel. All of our social offerings are available either in conjunction with or separately from our email platform, and our social media clients include Castrol, Mint.com and Discover Card.

A big challenge for many email marketers is deliverability. What are some of the common issues companies are facing?

Controlling spam has become a major problem for ISPs worldwide. On average, 90% of all email sent is categorized as “unsolicited commercial email” or spam.

When you narrow that down to look at the burden on one ISP, of the 8 billion email messages that Hotmail receives globally each month, 5.5 billion are blocked at the gateway and 1 billion are marked as junk. That’s a lot of unwanted email… and unfortunately not all of that is sent from the Nigerian fraudsters and prescription drug pushers that we traditionally think of when we think of spam. A fair percentage of what ISPs classify as “unwanted email” comes from legitimate senders, including many of the brands that we know and trust.

In an effort to improve the Inbox user experience for their customers in 2011, the four major ISPs (Hotmail, Yahoo, Gmail and AOL) have all announced plans to change the way that they block and filter email this year. Among other things – including adding social functionality to the Inbox – they have announced that they are going to start factoring engagement into their filtering algorithms.

What this means is that it’s now going to be critically important that your subscribers not only open and click on your emails, but that they do so on a regular basis. If they don’t, it could potentially affect your overall email deliverability and negatively impact revenue driven from the email channel.

To manage through this shift, StrongMail recommends employing a combination of two things:

1)     Carefully scrubbing your list to either remove or attempt to re-engage non-responders after 6 months of inactivity.

2)     Implementing marketing tactics to increase subscriber engagement as soon as possible.

If you’re interested in learning more about how the Inbox experience is changing in 2011, I encourage you to download our December whitepaper on the subject, “The New Rules of Deliverability: 2011 and Beyond”.

Except the intersection with social media, (I’ll ask about that shortly) what’s the most important change in email marketing over the past year? Any surprises?

In addition to what I mention above, there appears to be a migration from batch email marketing towards triggered email marketing automation. Marketers have been talking about it for years, but we’re finally seeing a shift towards more wide-spread adoption. This is a result of technology advances that put easy-to-use workflow-building functionality into the hands of marketers and a drive for enterprises to generate a single view of their customer across all channels.

We recently published a great case study on this with InterContinental Hotels Group that I recommend reading if you’re looking at a similar program.

Many companies are implementing Email and Social Media Marketing solutions independently but you’re a strong advocate of a synergy between them. What are your recommendations for companies looking for best practices and an approach to making their email marketing more social?

When social media first started gaining momentum, many industry pundits were saying that it signaled the death of email. Neilsen set out to prove that hypothesis, and fielded a study that broke internet users in to four groups – three focused on varying levels of social media usage and a fourth group did not use social media at all.

Then they overlayed email usage on top of those segments and discovered that their hypothesis was wrong. In fact, the more engaged a person was with social media, the more heavily they consumed email.

Email Consumption

This intersection of highly engaged email and social media users tend to be more active online – generating reviews, recommendations and comments in forums. In many cases, this segment also contains your most influential brand advocates.

The good news for email marketers is that, these influencers are already in your email database. The most successful socialized email marketing programs target these influencers with something of value that incentivizes them to spread the word about your product or service. We’ve seen brands drive as much as six figures in additional revenue off of one socialized email program that was targeted in this fashion. Another was able to generate 8,500 new subscribers off of one email campaign using a similar strategy.

The key is to be thoughtful with your email and social media strategy. Provide your influencers with genuine, true value in your campaigns, and if you can make them look like a hero by providing them with something of value to share with their networks, even better.

Simply integrating passive social sharing is good, but it will yield a much lower lift in click-throughs.

Companies that have been involved with social media publishing, sharing and networking for a while often find themselves overwhelmed and looking for efficiencies through tools. What types of social media tools do you recommend? Is there a process for evaluation that you’d recommend?

Every smart social media strategy starts with listening, so your first investment should be in a listening platform like Radian 6, Attenisty or Alterian’s SM2. In addition, you need a social media management console to schedule, track and respond to your mentions across social channels. StrongMail has one called Social Direct, but other popular ones include HootSuite or even Tweetdeck, which is free. If you’re a large enterprise that has a team of people tweeting on behalf of your brand in a customer service capacity, you should look at Co-Tweet.

Additional technology investments could include a community platform like Jive or Lithium (if you determine that’s right for your business), or a referral marketing platform like StrongMail Influencer.

But to be honest, most enterprise level social media marketers are still investing in internal education and training. I heard a great quote last week… “Social media is too young to be a science. It’s still an art.”  This means that the right strategy and set of tools is going to be different for every brand. The good news is – like email marketing – there is a wealth of free information out there for you to help devise your social media strategy if you’re budget strapped. However if you don’t have time, there are also plenty of agencies to help you quickly build a strategy that makes sense for your business.

“Social Media” is the darling topic for many business publications, blogs (including this one) and even mainstream media. Do you think at some point there will be a social media bubble? If so, when do you think it will pop?

That’s a great question… Gartner’s hype-cycle shows that every new, promising technology will enter the trough of disillusionment before it enters the plateau of productivity. By that theory, we are absolutely headed for a bubble-burst, but it’s not certain when that will happen. I suspect that it will have something to do with a consumer privacy backlash. Social media is free for a reason… Mark Zuckerberg might not think consumers will ever care about how their information is shared, but I think they eventually will. Companies should make sure that their data management practices and privacy policies are above board and clearly articulated in their privacy policies in preparation for this.

In the recent StrongMail webinar, 2011 Social Marketing Business Forecast, Jeremiah Owyang talked about social media budget allocation for the coming year. What are some of the shifts in priority that you’re seeing with companies that are maturing in their social media programs?

Mature social media marketers are starting to shift their limited budget dollars from traditional agencies (that maybe handled their PR or advertising campaigns) to boutique agencies that specialize in social media marketing. This enables them to generate significantly higher returns from their social media marketing programs. Our agency is doing some groundbreaking, data-based Social CRM Marketing work in this area that is producing incredible results for our clients.

ROI is a big topic when it comes to social media marketing. How does email marketing help facilitate or achieve greater business value from social participation?

I just spoke at OpenDialogue’s Social Media Marketing Conference in Toronto and 2/3 of the audience came from a marketing background, whereas less than 5 people in the audience came from a PR background. That is a significant shift from who owned social media a few years ago. Marketers are taking over… which signals a shift towards needing to prove ROI. In PR, that’s a fuzzy metric.

Email marketing is a direct marketing discipline, which by nature means that everything needs to be tracked and measured. Social media metrics are more engagement focused, however smart marketers need to start analyzing those metrics in conjunction with their email marketing metrics, purchase metrics, customer lifetime value metrics to build a holistic picture of each consumer’s value to your company. This is the holy grail of social media marketing ROI, however I don’t think it’s that far off for companies with the right organizational structure and integrated technology infrastructure.

What are some of the biggest myths, misconceptions or outright misinformation you’ve been seeing about email, social or a convergence of the two?

Probably that social media is going to kill email, which I alluded to earlier. Social media is just another channel to add to the marketing mix. Did television kill the phone? No. Did Email kill the phone? No. Did Email kill direct mail? A little bit… but I don’t think social media can be compared in the same way. Email is literally an electronic version of mail… so of course it’s going to affect the usage of print. But it’s never going to kill it completely. And social media is most certainly *not* going to kill email.

What are you most optimistic about for online marketing in 2011?

The move towards engagement filtering by the top ISPs is driving increased pressure for email marketers to up their game. As any marketer who has ever been blocked by a major ISP know will tell you… once you’re blocked, it can be quite a challenge to get unblocked.

The four major ISPs aren’t making the specifics of their algorithms public, nor have they announced exactly when they will start junking emails based on lack of subscriber engagement. However by taking steps to increase subscriber engagement now, you will not only protect yourself from being negatively impacted by this change – you will have the added bonus of improving the performance of your email marketing programs.

Email marketers are paying attention. According to a recent StrongMail survey of just under 1000 global email marketing executives, 52% cited increasing subscriber engagement as one of their top priorities in 2011. This makes it the #1 initiative for email marketers in 2011 – followed by improving segmentation and targeting and integrating social media with their email marketing programs.

In my opinion, this is awesome news for everyone. Its forcing email marketers to evolve and start paying attention to engagement metrics on an ongoing basis – not to mention keep their lists clean – if they want to continue to have their email delivered. This is going to hurt lazy email marketers and spammers, but that’s the point. But if you’re on top of this change, it will only create a win-win situation for consumers, ISPs and brands alike.

For in-depth examples of how brands are successfully increasing subscriber engagement, I recommend downloading our whitepaper on the topic, “The Ultimate Email Marketing Guidebook: Increasing Subscriber Engagement.”

Thank you Kristin!  For more insights and to connect with Kristin on the social web, visit her on Twitter or her blog on the StrongMail website.

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Email Marketing & Social Media Interview: Kristin Hersant of StrongMail | http://www.toprankblog.com

Inspired by Iceland & Microsoft – Social Media & the Marketing Mix

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Mel Carson & Kristjian Hauksson

The last session of the day on the last day of SES London was on Social Media in the Marketing Mix with Kristjan Hauksson of Nordic eMarketing in Iceland and Mel Carson of Microsoft in London.

Kristjan started things off: What happens when a volcano goes wrong?  He recounted the situation last year when Eyjafjallajokul erupted (say that 3 times fast – I dare you) and so much ash spread into the atmosphere that hundreds of planes were grounded from flying.  This, you can imagine, had a dulling effect on Icelandic tourism. Iceland regularly has more tourists than there are people who live there.

Understand that everything we do in broadcast and digital needs to take advantage of all channels available.

Problem - Iceland hit by a volcano eruption that stops most flight traffic and threatens tourism.
Solution - Created a website with a video. An AWESOME video: inspiredbyiceland.com.  Amazingly, Kristjan says none of the people in the video were from Iceland – they found most of them randomly.

They started to target keywords not directly using “Iceland” but related to news properties talking about Iceland. They also targeted multiple languages. “inspired by iceland” as a query on Google went from 0 to 428k listings in Google search results.

A lot of the promotion occurred via social channels. The video was promoted via video distribution services. They gave the video to people to mash-up and make their own versions. Other well known people started making their own versions of Inspired by Iceland. In total, 839 videos were created.

The stats: There were 150k visitors the first week. 1.1 million total visitors in 2010. That’s all traffic to inspiredbyiceland.com. Impressive. Here’s the video:

After watching this I want to go to Iceland. Really. I’d love to go for my birthday in June – we’ll see.   BTW, there’s a teeny, tiny fringe NSFW part for about 3 seconds, at 1:14.

The video gained major media coverage: Bloomberg, Fox News, BBC. The marketing team used listening tools to identify when people talked about the site and then reached out to them and gave them more content.

By leveraging Google Universal search and a holistic perspective – Display ads, FB Ads, blogger relations and keyword optimization a tourist summer that looked bleak was on par with a very successful 2009 and 2011 looks really good.

Lesson: Listen and use the opportunity when it happens.

Next up is Mel Carson from Microsoft.

Mel opens up telling a story about finding a magazine about glutes (as in butt muscles) that he tweeted about. The store where he purchased the magazine was listening to Twitter and engaged with Mel (with a sense of humor). The lesson is that the direct interaction resulted in relationship building – loyalty.

Microsoft Advertising collects content about their teams and promotes through social channels. Microsoft Advertising currently has about 30k fans, friends, followers.

Mel follows up with a story about pulling an enthusiastic and persistent fellow out of the line to get into a Microsoft party that was sold out. The gratefulness showed by the guy on Twitter demonstrated what kind of effect acting in the right way at the right time can have between brands and individuals.

Mel’s next story is about a monk. A Bishop (?) wanted to recruit a monk. Mel set him up with a Microsoft Advertising account. 3 years later they signed up a monk. “If it hand’t been for the internet, I’d still be a software engineer.” It’s a great example of paid media driving traffic to social media where they were educated and then converted.

Punch line: New metric “CPM – Cost Per Monk”

Mel says it’s important to remember that humans are social. Use ourselves as a form of media. Don’t just think about social media, but all the platforms, screens and places where you can engage customers.

7 Social Integration Tips:

- Always ask why? Facebook! Why? Then you have goals.
– Where’s your varnish – what ties your message across platforms? Otherwise you have silos.
– Optimize for people “outside the room” How to make your content discoverable, shareable
– Internal education leads to external evangelism
– Earn it. Earned media, buzz, discussion, etc. Win7 Launch 221m impressions
– Think “social media marketing” not just social media. Be disciplined
– What’s the ROI – return on interaction – return on investment

This session had some great stories about social media and engagement.  Thanks to both Kristjian and Mel. Speaking of Mel, he took a few minutes to chat with me before being rushed off by his Microsoft entourage about social media strategy and how important the “people” component of social media is, on contrast to all the emphasis on technology.

Click here to view the embedded video.

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Inspired by Iceland & Microsoft – Social Media & the Marketing Mix | http://www.toprankblog.com

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 twitter followers?”

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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Social Media Marketing: Strategy to Commerce | http://www.toprankblog.com

What Does a Social Media Community Manager Do? Take a Glimpse.

Social Media Community ManagerOne of the essential hires for companies that want to affect real change as a social media savvy organization connecting with people and communities is a Community Manager.  During the social media discovery and initial learning phase, the addition of a dedicated person is often unlikely. So the tasks a Community Manager would handle are often performed by a combination of a truly competent outside agency and by multiple people within the company.

I know the right thing to do is talk about social strategy and broader level considerations before getting into the tactical details and specific tasks, but sometimes showing minute by minute examples of what a Community Manager does might be the only way to attract those that will perform the new role. Think of it as bottom up social media strategy if you have to. The more front line and middle managers that “get it”, the more powerful winning executive support will be.

There is no universal job description for a Community Manager. Actual role and responsibility will vary. It might be Customer Service focused, or Marketing/Sales, Legal, HR, Product Development or a mix of all of these. Here’s a one hour snapshot of a Marketing focused Social Media Community Manager:

6:45 am Check and reply to company blog(s) comments.

6:55 am Scan news feeds for interesting articles, blog posts, media to share. Write tweets, updates etc with short URLs. Schedule messages for sharing throughout the day.

7:10 am Check Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn comments, Retweets, messages and reply as necessary.

7:20 am Scan persistent search for topics, keywords and brand terms to reveal commenting opportunities on industry news websites and blogs. Make comments, take notes for future blog posts.

7:30 am Revisit company blog comment management tool for new replies.

7:35 am Revisit Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn for specific follow ups.

7:40 Scan social media monitoring tool for mentions, links (alternatively alerts can be used to surface events as they happen)

7:45 am  Review Social Dashboard and web analytics for the company blog for notable links, trending traffic sources and relevant conversion metrics (RSS subscribers, email subscribers, downloads, webinar signups, sales inquires)

This is probably going to seem like a lot in an hour. It is.  However, software, training and experience make such social media community management efficiency possible. “Fires” certainly do happen and there’s a multitude of situations that can throw this out of whack. But hopefully those looking for a glimpse at what s marketing-focused community manager does, will get an idea of what might be involved.

I know there are quite a few people that read this blog working part or full time in a community manager role. It would be great to get your perspective on the responsibilities of working with social communities (or online communities at large).

How have you become more efficient?  How does your early morning routine differ than the one above?  What more would you like to see in a “glimpse” post like this?

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What Does a Social Media Community Manager Do? Take a Glimpse. | http://www.toprankblog.com

Top Online Marketing Posts for 2010 & 7 Year Blogging Birthday

online marketing blogFirst of all, please wish TopRank’s Online Marketing Blog a Happy 7th Birthday!

It was 7 years ago today that I started this blog as an experiment to document industry news and develop my writing skills. With the help of many different people, it’s turned into quite a bit more than that.

THANK YOU for reading, sharing and contributing your insights. They are all very much appreciated and help fuel the continued publishing of this blog after thousands of posts:  2,496 to be exact and I’ve had the privilege of writing 2,075 of them.

The year 2010 provided to be one of focus on Social Media and Content Marketing topics over our past emphasis on SEO and Online PR. All are great topics in the online marketing mix, but as you’ll see below, readers are eating up social media content as fast as they can get it.

Here are the top 10 posts from Online Marketing Blog published in 2010:
(according to visits)

1. 10 Ways to Create a More Engaging Facebook Page – Facebook marketing is hot in 2010 and with close to 600 million users, it’s only going to get hotter in 2011. These basic tips are a great starting point for companies that want to increase their reach and customer engagement on Facebook.
2. 22 Social Media Marketing Management Tools – With 1,495 retweets and nearly 200 Facebook shares, this post about social media was very popular. Due to the meteoric rise of publishing and sharing tools, the social web can be overwhelming for marketers. These tools are part of growing category of software that help marketers, advertisers and public relations professionals manage their brands’ social participation.
3. 11 Free Tools for Social Media Optimization - You can’t scale social media marketing or search engine optimization without tools and the intersection of social media and SEO offers a tremendous competitive advantage. These tools offer a range of benefits for creating and measuring search friendly social media content.
4. 5 B2B Social Media Winners - Social media isn’t just for consumer products and services. Content marketing and relationship building are key to longer sales cycles common to B2B marketing and social media offers an exceptional platform for engaging prospects with content and social media. These examples show how successful B2B companies are implementing social media into their marketing mix.
5. 25 Women That Rock Social Media - Let’s hear it for the women of social media. A response to a listing of (mostly men) top social media pundits on ClickZ by Erik Qualmann, this post lists 25 women who are rocking the social media world.
6. 5 Examples of Social Media in Healthcare Marketing - In line with our editorial plan that offers a matrix of tactical marketing tips intersecting with vertical markets, this post resonated with marketers part of the huge Healthcare industry looking for examples of social media in action.
7. Social Media Strategy – A Definitive Guide – Tapping into the amazing network I’ve been fortunate to develop of the past 10 years or so, this list of social media strategy advice comes from a range of industry luminaries. It also offers contrasting views between Guy Kawasaki and Chris Brogan on social media strategy vs. tactics.
8. Why Do So Many Companies Suck at Social Media? - This was another post about social media that did well socially, with 1,159 Retweets and 300 Facebook shares.  While numbered tips posts do quite well, personal observation posts like this one seem to connect with other marketers (and consultants) experiencing the stumbling of many companies and their efforts to make sense of the social web.
9. 5 Ways to Weave LinkedIn Into Your Marketing Mix - LinkedIn is on the rise with over 90 million users and every Fortune 500 company represented. A plethora of new features and integration with other social channels has made LinkedIn a place worth spending time on outside of recruiting.
10. 5 Steps to Build a Twitter Marketing Strategy - Sometimes the best blog posts come from answering people’s questions via email. That’s the genesis of this post on practical and first hand advice on building a successful Twitter marketing strategy.

Overall, the most visited pages for this blog included our famous BIGLIST of SEO Blogs and the best list of Blog and RSS directories.  Based on social signals, search referring traffic and other KPIs, numbered lists continue to dominate the format that gains greatest exposure for content we post here. I’ll continue to provide those kinds of insights in 2011 and also welcome your feedback

If you’re a regular reader, what were some of your favorite posts over the past year? What would you like to see more of? Would you like to see more posts form other TopRank Marketing staff? Industry news? Videos (besides my travel videos of course), interviews, conference liveblogging?

After 7 years of blogging the focus of this agency blog is still to document what TopRank Marketing considers as topics worth discussing with an emphasis on Content, Search and Social.  Advertising, PR and Email will also enter the mix a bit more as well as some new faces from the TopRank Marketing team.  On top of that, your feedback is especially welcome.

Thanks again for reading and Happy New Year to you!

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