Tips To Use Social Media For #SEO

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One of the things I like the most about social media is that it doesn’t have just one role for a brand, it has many…it’s what I call textured.  When most consumers think about social media in reference to a brand, I believe they think about the content they consume and the deals they can take advantage of.  Keeping this in mind, many companies focus on their brand voice and messaging along with providing enticing coupons and prizes which is why management often wants their PR people (agency or in house) to oversee their social media.  But did you know that posting content strategically on your blog and in the social networks is an excellent search engine optimization (SEO) tool?  Did you know if done correctly, social media has the power to raise your company’s website rankings in Google, Bing, Yahoo and more?  This is the texture I was referencing; social media has many capabilities to consider and SEO is just one of them.

As a case in point, I have a client who came to Creative Concepts wanting to do social media, and in our first meeting he shared that SEO was his highest priority with social media being an add on he thought he would try.  Back when his website first went live some years ago, he was the online leader among local competitors, but once others caught on, his search ranking dropped to the bottom of the first page and in some cases for certain keywords, his website dropped to the second page which was detrimental to his business.  Keeping this in mind as I developed the social strategy where he also wanted to increase brand exposure locally, I created a plan that centered on his blog and Google + page for SEO strength and Facebook and LinkedIn for some SEO but mostly for brand exposure.  Within one month of implementation of the SEO and social strategy, his search standings bumped up to midway of the first page…a huge jump after watching his website drop monthly for a year (and yes brand exposure increased dramatically too between increased Likes on Facebook and millions of impressions on LinkedIn).

Here are some tips to think about when using a blog in particular as an SEO tool:

  1. Get into a habit of updating your blog regularly and often. For clients, I have found that one time per week doesn’t really do the trick, three times tells Google you are alive but five or more times per weeks bumps you up in the search rankings as you long as you follow best practices.
  2. Titles of each blog entry are huge for search so try to use keywords important to your brand and if possible your company name without making the title seem too robotic and ad like (because remember you are still trying to appeal to your customer as well as the search engines).
  3. Always embed an image or a video in your blog entry.
  4. Use keywords in your blog entries that others would use to find your business online.
  5. Link often to other areas of your website. For instance on the Creative Concepts website, if we mention social media in the blog, we embed a link to the social media section of the website.  This is both informative to the reader and great for search for the overall website.
  6. Embed links from outside quality sources. You will want to do this in order to back up what you are saying similar to how you would use a footnote for a written paper but beyond that, some say that a website or blog is dead (ie has no visitors) if there are no outbound links.  The concept is similar to gift giving during the holidays…it’s a two way street.
  7. Remember to add tags to your blog entries.
  8. Research and use popular hashtags to gain further exposure for your blog content. I have even gotten into the habit of using key hashtags in the titles of the blog entries which helps boost the title that much more.
  9. Last but not least, spend time writing high quality, original content keeping your customers in mind always. At the end of the day, no amount of links and keywords will help your SEO if your content isn’t informational and/or entertaining for your readers.

I hope this helps you look at social media with new eyes and helps you attain new visitors and higher search rankings in the near and far future!

Valorie Luther, Founder Creative Concepts, @CreativeConsult

 

9 Common #SEO Mistakes to Avoid

seo tipsSearch engine optimization (SEO) is a key factor in the success of digital marketing initiatives. Having a content marketing strategy is pointless unless your content can be found.

Here are a few tips from Content Marketing Institute’s article “Don’t Make These 9 Common SEO Mistakes.”

  • You focus on likes, not links. Likes are good to have, but links provide more viral reach and can link back to your website which should be the central hub of your online activity.
  • Content doesn’t go to a source. Again, posting messages on social media is good, but linking back to your website is better. Having all of your information on your website ensures the search engines will find and index your content for search.
  • You are targeting the wrong audience. Your content needs to add value to your customers and also to the search community.
  • You don’t get help from a power user. Influencers can help promote your content to their networks and communities. Share useful content to these people and establish relationships with them.
  • You use the wrong (or no) words. Make sure your keywords are not industry or technical terms. Ask your customers what words they would use when searching for your company or products/services. Use Google Trends and Soovle.com to research common phrases.
  • You break your website. When updating your website, be sure the high performing older pages have proper redirects so their SEO rankings will not be lost. Also make sure images and links are properly reconnected.
  • You don’t have a plan for outreach. Create processes to build an outreach of influencers.
  • You don’t gather data. Competitive intelligence gathering is important to stay ahead of the competition. Know what keywords are working for them online as well as your own.

For more great SEO advice, check out Content Marketing Institute’s website.

 

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Tips To Manage Upcoming #Facebook Changes

image flickr @smernon

Everyone is buzzing about Facebook again after they announced that starting in January 2015, promotional ad like content will barely (if at all) be seen organically by the Page’s followers.  Facebook took a poll of hundreds of individuals and the one item at the top of their wish list was to stop seeing “ads” in their News Feed.  Facebook listened to the poll and changed their policy so now marketers are scrambling in order to figure out next steps to successfully promote their Page and therefore their business.

I think this is a great move and it means, in my book, that Facebook has come full circle.  Back when social media was in its infancy, those of us who ‘got it’ pushed our clients to do something new when promoting their business: be human, be genuine, be approachable and be honest during the good and the bad that might happen.  This was a new approach when it came to promoting a brand because public relations and ads always used gloss and spin to bring more exposure.  We, the social media agency pioneers, guided our clients down this new road and found success.  Present and potential customers of our clients appreciated this new turn and showed their support through additional online visits and increased sales.

As social media started to be accepted by the mainstream (marketers and the public), brands wanted more.  They wanted thousands if not millions of followers on every channel and that became the focus.  Facebook in particular morphed into an ad machine where the goal for most businesses was to increase ‘Likes’ and they did so via paid promotional content fed to News Feeds.  Increased Likes became the goal and the number to measure vs. finding a smaller more interactive group who truly believed in and interacted with your business.

So now Facebook has come full circle and no longer wants ad like content spamming News Feeds so marketers are back to the where they began, but it is a good beginning because we are all smarter and hopefully understand our customers better thanks to social media. And while this new change makes many nervous, we should all embrace it and learn from it and carry these lessons forward to all of our online profiles.

Whether you are on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest and whether you are new to the social game or just don’t know which way to turn after being at it for a while, here are some tips that can help you gain momentum on Facebook and beyond:

  1. Check out your analytics for all channels including your website.  Who is visiting, how often, what content do your visitors like?
  2. Who is the demographic that is buying your product or service? Study them and research what makes them tick.
  3. Make a list of the top 10 most interesting features of your business, your products and your leadership keeping in mind that most customers don’t know the inside details of how you do what you do so sharing these facts is indeed interesting to them.
  4. Take your favorite top 5 features from the above list, note what you learned from your analytics and your research on your customer and create a monthly content calendar for your website, your blog (if you have one) and all social media profiles and expand on these top 5 features.  Tell your story, share details about the product that no one would know about, interview people in your company, provide captivating imagery and keep in mind that no matter what you do, you should follow the themes you chose for your top 5 features.
  5. Once you have done all of this good work, check your analytics again after a month so you can see a trend.  Is there a bump up (or down) in visitors? Has the demographic changed in any way?  Are people actually talking to you?  What content is the most popular? Make note of what you find and continue to edit out all that doesn’t work and add more of what does from your present top 5 list while adding a few more themes in from the remaining 5 of your 10 most interesting features list.
  6. Follow tips 1-5 and never stop.

When supporting brands as an in house social media marketer or agency, the goal is to make sure your business is educating and/or entertaining the customers and sincerely caring for their needs.  If we can continue to focus on this approach vs. generating straight out ‘look at me’ paid promotions, then a slight change in Facebook’s Page policy won’t affect us at all.

(Image from Flickr via @smernon)

Valorie Luther, Founder Creative Concepts, @CreativeConsult

The Ideal Length of Online #Content

internetzooHave you ever wondered what the ideal length of a social media message should be?

As communicators, choosing the right words is important to effectively convey your message. Selecting the right length for different channels and platforms can be challenging.

This infographic from SumAll and Buffer, titled “The ideal length of everything online,” shows how long online content should be. It is a great guideline to use for online messaging.

Here are a few examples:

  • Facebook – 40 characters. Posts with 40 characters receive 86% more engagement than posts with more than that amount.
  • Tweets – 71 – 100 characters. Tweets shorter than 100 characters have a 17% higher engagement rate.
  • Blog Headline – 6 words. People tend to read only the first and last three words of a headline.
  • Email subject lines – 28 – 39 characters. Subject lines of this length tend to get a click rate of 4% on average.
  • YouTube Videos – 3 minutes. Most videos are pretty short – the average length of the top 50 videos is 2 minutes, 54 seconds.

Read the infographic below to find out about LinkedIn, Slideshare, Podcasts and more.

It helps to experiment with message length and see what works best for your business.

Ideal_Length_of_Online_Content_Infographic

 

#Digital Marketing Tips

Creative Concepts mobileWhen a brand says they need help with their digital marketing, what are they talking about?  Is it social media? A website? Something else? Digital marketing is marketing that makes use of electronic devices such as personal computers, smartphones, cellphones, tablets and game consoles to engage with stakeholders as per Wikipedia so let’s figure out what that really means to you and your brand.

Websites: We all know what a website is, but how do you take a new look at your site and reconfigure it as a digital marketing tool?  In other words, how do you use your website to acquire new customers?  Here are a few questions to ask yourself:

  1. Are you clearly explaining your services?
  2. Are you doing so in a unique way with video or other unique tools in order to help share your story in an interesting, educational or entertaining format?
  3. Are you updating your content often via a blog or other areas of your website so you give a reason for the customer to come back while increasing your SEO (search engine optimization) rankings?
  4. Have you provided a forum on your website for customers to share their thoughts and/or questions with you and other customers?
  5. Do you have a way to capture visitors on your website so you can get back to them with a ‘thank you for visiting?’
  6. Does your website look great on a computer, smartphone and tablet?  FYI, no compromising here, this should no longer be on the wishlist…it’s a must do!

Social Media: Social media is a very effective (and these days necessary) way to digitally market to your customers.  There are many elements to consider, as I have written about previously, like your available time and budget.  Additionally you have to then dig deep to figure out a successful content strategy coupled with the goal of increasing community engagement on the many social networks available so pick wisely, take one step at a time but make it happen because this is a part of marketing that every sized business needs to invest in.

Email: There are so many opinions out there on the effectiveness of email, it’s hard to know if this is a wise investment in digital dollars, but here is what I personally know: like everything else you might do to promote your brand, if you target your buyer(s) properly, provide high quality imagery and content, and give the customer a reason to continue to open the email (discounts, giveaways…), then you will have a high conversion rate, period.

Online Advertising: I personally am not a fan of the online banner ad but I do love the option of native adverting which is more interactive than the old time banners and is most likely supported by the trusted website the customer just visited which gives your advertising an extra edge.  Video ads also offer an interesting option so do investigate your choices from the websites that feature your advertising to the formats that represent your brand so you can get the biggest bang for your buck!

Mobile: Mobile is really the next evolution for digital marketers and brands.  Between opt-in SMS, mobile sites and of course apps, there are so many ways to reach out and touch your customer, engage them and lead them to buy.  And with Apple Pay, SnapCash and many other mobile payment options, mobile effects our online and offline lives so the faster your brand can figure out how to make use of some or all of the mobile options, the faster you will discover the way to increased sales!

Games: Depending on who you want to reach from young men to the growing number of women playing online, games can be of huge value to any brand or marketer.  We have a client who has the simplest of games on Facebook.  Each month the player with the highest score from a branded matching game wins a prize. They love it and hundreds play it each month. You don’t need to invest in millions to gain brand exposure as product placement could also be an option for you vs. creating a whole new game in order to interact with your present and potential customers.  As always, be creative and strategic in order to get a return on your investment.

Check out 6 Predictions About The State of Digital Marketing in 2015 by Forbes contributor Sujan Patel.  ‘Content Will Be More Important Than Ever,’ ‘Marketing Will Be Even More Connected,’ and ‘Mobile Will Take Over’ are my favorites from this list and all are part of the digital marketing mix so get creative, be strategic and take a chance ….it’s the only way to build a strong future for your brand!

Valorie Luther, Founder Creative Concepts, @CreativeConsult

Is Your Business Ready for #Online Holiday Shopping?

ID-100110478E-commerce continues to rise this year as more people choose to do their holiday shopping, or at least part of it, online. The top shipping companies expect a 14% increase in parcel deliveries this holiday season.

The main question is, is your business ready?

Kelly Spors discusses this in the OPEN Forum article “Online Shopping Will Be Red-Hot This Holiday Season. Is Your Business Ready?” The article lists four areas that businesses need to focus on to be prepared for the holiday online shopping season.

Here are they key points for businesses to consider in preparation of the upcoming holiday season.

  1. Make sure your website is up to par. Your website is your central hub online so make sure it is easy to navigate and up to date with the latest in-store promotions and news. Point all of your online activity to your website and cross promote your in-store and online shopping. Highlight gift products and make it easy to search.
  2. Make sure your business can be found online. There’s nothing worse than having a holiday-ready website that no one can find. Optimize your website for search engines and add a blog to highlight new products, services, promotions and more. Carefully choose keywords with three words or more to help with holiday gift searches.
  3. Offer something more. Offer low cost shipping or free gift wrapping or special services to stand apart from competition. What would your customers want? Ask them.
  4. Target your customers on their busiest online shopping days. Cyber Monday and Black Friday are just two of the top online shopping days. Learn which days are best for your customers through research reports from Google Analytics. Spors writes about this in “The 5 Best Days for Online Retail During the Holiday Season.” Experiment with some pay-per-click or sponsored ads to boost online sales.

A fifth point is to reach out your best customers through holiday email marketing. Offer VIP type specials that only subscribers will receive. Have them bring a coupon in to the store or give them a special online shopping code for extras.

With planning and preparation, small businesses can compete with the larger retailers during the holidays. What has worked for your business?

 

Image courtesy of marcolm at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

How #SocialMedia Can Help You Connect with Customers

connect with customer through social mediaSocial media can help you reach your customers in exciting new ways. It’s like a pipeline of channels that serve as an extension of your traditional marketing outlets.

When social media is integrated into your overall communication strategy, it can help build engagement and generate real time feedback for your brand.

So, how can social media help you better connect with your customers?

Social Media Today wrote “25 Ways to Engage Your Social Media Following.” The article offers many tips on how to build and engage your social media following.

Some of the top tips include:

  • Become a student of social media and set up your own accounts on the networks of interest so you can learn how they work.
  • Sharing is key, think 80/20 rule and stay away from the hard sell.
  • Think local. Connect with your local community and build a rapport with other people and businesses in your area.
  • Experiment with messages on different networks. What may work for Twitter may not be the case for Facebook.
  • Adding visual elements is always a good idea on any network which explains why Pinterest and YouTube are so popular.

Hubspot wrote “How to Use Social Media to Engage with Customers and Build Your Brand.”

A great tip they give is to start out listening, then interact with your audience.

  • Find out what your target audience wants. Set up a keyword/hashtag monitoring stream and find out what they are saying about you, your industry, competition and more.
  • Read and respond to your comments on social media accounts. This gives you a firsthand account and puts your finger on the pulse of what is happening right now with your market.
  • Ask and answer questions. Social media is like an informal focus group – it’s a great way to have a conversation and generate feedback.
  • Be transparent and be true – show your personality, make a connection and see what happens.

How have you better connected with your customers on social media?

 

Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Hire Right For Social Media Success

creative concepts

Brands everywhere are looking for a social media expert, guru, strategist, manager, senior executive and/or visionary but because social media and the broader category of digital marketing (and all of its varied parts) is still relatively new to many, the job ‘needs’ list gets long and unwieldy because those hiring often don’t understand the different levels of expertise required based on present needs, long term goals and senior management’s commitment (or lack thereof) to building their online presence.  Here are some tips on finding what you need to make magic happen whether you are a brand or an agency supporting many brands online.

You know you need a Community Manager* when:

  1. You have no online presence and you don’t know where to begin.
  2. You, the founder of your company, have built your brand’s social media profiles which has helped to grow the business, but now you are too busy (thankfully) to manage all of the social media.
  3. Other people in other departments have been pitching in erratically to help build your brand’s social media presence but now you need to make a real commitment to social media in order to take your business to the next level.

*My definition of a community manager is someone who understands how the various social media channels work, is a great ‘social’ writer, knows how to engage an online community and understands basic marketing principals.

You know you need a Social Media Strategist* when:

  1. You have been investing time and money into your social media but you don’t seem to be making a dent in brand exposure or sales.
  2. Your social media really needs to support and lift your public relations and marketing efforts but you don’t know how to make that happen either.
  3. You have no idea who and what an online influencer is but you hear that building relationships with these people is a good thing, but again you don’t know the who, what, and where of blogger building.

*My definition of a social media strategist is someone who has come from a PR or marketing background who understands all social channels and could either be doing daily content too or will oversee the daily content producers. This person is able to peak their head above the daily work and put a strategy in place that is linked to the company’s overall marketing and communication goals.  They should also be able to build relationships with online influencers.

You know you need a Digital Strategist* when:

  1. Your website, social media, online ads, videos and all other web based assets don’t look or sound the same…there is no continuity.
  2. You need to go beyond social media and understand if online ads, social ads, native advertising and/or sponsorships will be good for your business, and then implement based on what your online research reveals, but you need help.
  3. You need to bring all online elements together for an effective 360° digital campaign but you have no idea how to do this.

*My definition of a digital strategist is someone who not only understands social media on all levels but then looks at the whole online presence in order to bring every element together so that messaging is not only clear but it moves present and potential customers to take an action like sharing (for greater brand exposure) or buying (to increase sales).

You know you need a Senior Social/Digital Marketing Executive* when:

  1. You have a department full of community managers and social strategists but no one to pull them and their efforts together while making sure all overall marketing and communication goals are met for the brand.
  2. You need a senior level executive on the management committee who understands every level of the digital horizon.
  3. You need a digital strategist who can also manage a team and a budget because you have now made a deep commitment to your brand’s expansion via your online presence.

*My definition of a senior social media/digital marketing executive is someone who has over 10 years’ experience in social media alone, digital, PR and Marketing even longer and whose expertise includes market analysis, strategic planning, client and team management, creative production, P&L management, and new business development.

While all of this can be confusing to anyone who doesn’t spend a lot of time mastering the digital space, take a moment to slow down and really assess what your needs are and take baby steps so you can achieve both your online and off line goals.

-Valorie Luther, Founder Creative Concepts, follow me @CreativeConsult

Dream Team Management Tips

Creative Concepts team

One of the wonderful things about running my company is building and managing a successful team…but wait, is it always great? No, but like everything else, I have learned a thing or two over the years and refined our communication and work flow processes so now whether we are doing projects for present clients or have a new client coming on board, we are a well-oiled machine as they say.  Here are a few tips for hiring and managing your dream team:

  1. When someone comes to Creative Concepts looking for a position, I always take the time to read their resumes and consider their background.  Most of my present day team came to Creative Concepts this way.  Hiring someone who has investigated your company and already knows they want to work there is half the battle.
  1. When interviewing a potential hire, I do what everyone does and ask about their background and what they want to do, but I also ask if they didn’t have a care in the world, what would be their most perfect job?  Answers I have gotten have ranged from writing to running their own PR firm which said to me that they fit into Creative Concepts but when one person said horseback riding, I wished her luck with her job search and said no thank you because I really do feel everyone should follow their passion and do what they love whether they work for me or not (and sorry, no horseback riding at this social media agency).  I did have one person submit her resume multiple times for a business development position…she didn’t understand that to sell social media services you have to have an online presence and understand at least the basics….she walked away mad but am I hoping she has found the perfect position that is more suited for her background.
  1. Once people come on board, I touch base with them often even if they are directly reporting to someone else within Creative Concepts.  I ask how things are going, ask what they like and what isn’t working for them.  Hearing their feedback allows me to learn if our process is generally working, but it also helps me to know if they will stick around which is important to know quickly because training takes time and money.  I also take these opportunities to learn more about them overall which helps me to understand their future path within Creative Concepts.  Writers, for example, all don’t head in the same direction internally.  We have one writer who has evolved into a client services role and another who is now Editor of all client content.  The fact that they are both doing what they love enables longevity within our firm.
  1. When we have new client work, those who have been with us the longest don’t get first dibbs on the work as it is given out to the people who best fit the client.  Seniority should never compromise our clients.  If everyone on my team is doing what they love for clients they can relate to, it actually saves money and the clients are excited by the work we produce.
  1. I believe in total flexibility as a manager.  I have a lot of moms who work for me which, as a category, is an untapped market still to this day.  These moms have different needs in their schedules based on what happens at home so if anyone on the team doesn’t have a client facing position, and they get their work done by the end of the day well in advance of deadlines and its high quality, then I don’t care about the how, when and where.  We have multiple communication tools that help us to stay on top of our work whether someone is in their car heading to a football game at 4pm or sitting in front of the computer in the office at 6am so it all works: clients, team and I are all happy!
  1. As per mistakes?  Everyone makes them!  I only bring on great people who take pride in their work so if a mistake is made, I am usually the calmer one between us.  I believe all mistakes can be fixed either with time or making a simple correction so as long as people learn from every issue, then I am good (if they don’t learn, then that is another case entirely).
  1. Because social media is ever evolving, I am very happy messing around with every new social network and every new approach but many on the team aren’t like me so I take the time to push them individually and drive them to learn and expand their approaches to their work.  At the end of the day, this makes most of the team happy and those who aren’t know to leave and find a slower unchanging environment.  Everything always works out in the end.
  1. And if you hire smart creative people, you have to allow them to do what they do best.  Once I trust they know the client and the goals, I always leave the work in their hands so they can do what I hired them for.  It saves me time and shows how much I respect them which I believe is motivating.
  1. Hiring ethical people who can be trusted is essential to every business so this isn’t necessarily the last item, it should just go without saying.

Every company is different of course and every manager has a different style so it can be hard to make magic happen every day but as long as you, the manager and leader, listen, respect, educate and appreciate those who work for you, you are off to a great start.

Happy managing!

Valorie Luther, Founder Creative Concepts, follow me @CreativeConsult

How to Find the Best Days and Times to Post on #SocialMedia

screenTiming is everything on social media. Run a campaign on the wrong day or time and it will be lost. So, how do you find out the best days and times to post on social media?

There are lots of factors that determine the best days and times of the week for your business. Factors like your industry, do you target businesses or consumers? Where do your target audiences go online? When are they most active? For B2B, it might be during the work week. For B2C, it might be weeknights and weekends.

Social Media Today recently wrote How to Find the Best Days and Times to Post on Social Media. They list a variety of tools to help gain insight on the best dates and times.

There are external social sharing tools such as Buffer and SproutSocial that let you examine your statistics and discover what your most effective posts were.

Internal tools give further insights for each social network. Checking your analytics on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google Plus and other platforms will give you the data you need to determine what’s working and what’s not.

The following infographic from SurePayroll shows data garnered from top industry sources with the best and worst times to post on six platforms. For more information, check out their article Post, Pin & Tweet – The Best Time to Outreach.

Pull your analytics and test out different dates and times to determine what works best for your brand.

Post-Pin-Tweet-Best-Time-Outreach
Courtesy of: SurePayroll