What’s Trending in a Digital World

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IMG_1177Facebook launched in 2004, Twitter took off in 2006, and Bitcoin erupted in 2009. In our world of evolving innovation, Social Media Week acts as the leading hub to inform social media enthusiasts, and everyday consumers, of ongoing trends in today’s social sphere.  Social Media Week hosts conferences on 6 continents, 21 cities, and is home to approximately 70,000 attendees and 5,000 speakers. I had the pleasure of attending New York City’s Social Media Week this past February and noted some of the most current trends of today’s digital age.

Snapchat and Millennials
Several months ago, President and Chief Connector Jessica Levin asked her Facebook network for feedback on Snapchat. 90% of the responses referred to the app as a millennial application. Why is Snapchat correlated with millennials?  Creative Agency Code and Theory explained millennial’s existence in the digital age.  Creative Strategist Kelly Meyers mentioned that those classified as Generation Y prefer platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat to document experiences and friendships.  She then referred to a source by The University of Washington saying that millennials prefer these platforms because they were more private and prevented the fear of judgment.

According to a report by BI Intelligence, the target market for Snapchat is 13 to 25 years old. Snapchat’s Discover feature, launched in late January, permits B2C brands to target the Generation Y pool using short stories with enriching multimedia. Brands such as CNN, Cosmopolitan, and ESPN are active on the interface.  An example of CNN’s snapchat story is displayed above.

The Impact of the #Hashtag
Former Google designer Chris Messina founded the hashtag in 2007.  Since the release of the hashtag, the concept has erupted on social platforms enhancing the community for events, products, and campaigns. #Tagboard Founder and CEO Josh Decker states, “hashtags are designed to create a signal, not noise,” indicating that hashtags are used to categorize content. #Tagboard found that tweets with one or two hashtags have 21% higher engagement than tweets with three or more hashtags.

B2C brands can engage with new prospects by crafting tweets for trending topics. Decker highlighted Reese’s Twitter efforts by showing that their brand interacts with trending hashtags. For example, Reese’s hopped on the #WhatIsLoveIn4Words bandwagon and in turn received mentions, retweets, and followers from a new cluster of prospects.

Predictive News vs. Trending News
Pete Cashmore, Founder and CEO of Mashable, introduced the trend of predictive news in his interview with Social Media Week Founder & Executive Director Toby Daniels. Predictive News was a concept similar to Seven Degrees Communications’ Anticipatory Marketing theory. Predictive News, according to Cashmore, dominates trending news.  Mashable strives to be the leading source for news across all topics and uses the formula of demographic targeting to make that happen.  Predictive News and Anticipatory Marketing are achieved through data, big and small.  Some of the data includes website clicks, newsletter clicks, trending keywords, and Focus Groups.

Snapchat and the hashtag were innovations that plunged into a digital revolution. What trends do you predict will impact the digital age in the next several years?  Share your prediction in the commentary below.

That Day I Published a Book.

PerfectPairingsCoverFinalWhen I was in high school, I ran for student council eight times.  I lost all eight times.  I had to ask a bunch of boys to my senior prom before a gay friend agreed to go.  I wasn’t what you would call, “one of the cool kids.” It took a long time for me to make friends in college. However, as I entered my career, I was fortunate enough to meet two mentors who would change my course forever.  My evolution didn’t happen overnight.  It happened through trial and error.  It happened through maturity. It happened through meeting both the right and wrong people and learning about trust and honor.  Most of all, it happened through learning how powerful kindness to other and helping can be.

Today, I am thrilled to say that my book Perfect Pairings: The Art of Connecting People is available for sale on both Amazon and directly through the official book website.   This is my story. This is the story of others.  This is a guide for helping people change their lives – both personal and professional by practicing the art of connecting people.

Writing a book is hard. I’m not going to lie. It’s hard.  However, it is an incredible journey.  As I spoke to so many master connectors throughout my journey, I learned so much. There are so many wonderful people in this world who make it a lifestyle of helping other people.  The bigger lesson that I learned is how wonderful the network that I have grown is. The amount of support and love that I have felt over the last few month is truly overwhelming.  It drives me each and every day to work harder and making the world that I live in a better place. I do this by understanding others needs and figuring out who can help them. Matchmaking. Connecting. Networking.  Bringing other people together so that they can work together, share ideas, share resources and create friendships.

On Valentine’s Day in 1985 I threw my first event.  A Valentine’s Day party.  Today, 30 years later, I published a book.

Thank you to everyone in my life who has been there and who has helped me navigate this thing we call life. I am grateful for you every day.

7 Tips To Picking Up The Pen

writersblock-1Our Top Takeaways of Ann Handley’s Everybody Writes

With vocabulary, grammar, and organization in mind, the thought of writing can be, well, daunting.  From a simple tweet to an email, writing is a task we face on an everyday basis.  So instead of finding ways to escape this skill, why don’t we strengthen our writing muscle?  How do you get started?  Easy, pick up the pen and write, suggests Chief Content Marketing Officer Ann Handley.  As she quotes American Writer E.B. White in her epilogue, “A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to write will die without putting a word on paper.”  Handley’s book, Everybody Writes, shares 74 tips to writing effective content, we’re happy to share 7 of our favorites with you.

1.  “Think Before You Ink.”
Handley quotes New York Cartoon Editor Robert Mankoff, “It’s not the ink, it’s the think.” Mankoff indicates that the thinking process is just as important, if not more important, than the writing process.

2.  Develop a Writing GPS.
You may have received one of those handy devices for the holidays but Ann Handley’s referring to a different GPS.  This GPS is a 12 step process used to organize your thoughts for clear and efficient content.  To review this 12 step process, check out this link on the MarketingProfs blog.

3.  Don’t fear TUFD.
TUFD, what the heck is TUFD?  TUFD stands for “The Ugly First Draft”. Remember, you have to start somewhere and it’s not always pretty.  Sometimes the ideas start to flow once the pen meets the paper.

4.  “You have to swing if you want a lot of hits,” says writer and content marketer, Barry Feldman.
In blog writing especially, the secret to cultivating an active blog is by writing effective content and writing often.  This quote applies to writing as well, the more you write, the better you become.

5.  Quality Content= Utility X Inspiration X Empathy
Ann Handley shares the importance of this formula in her book as well as this article via Openview Marketing Lab.  To check out this formula, click here.

6.  Don’t be boring.
Rule 29 says to write for real people, write with real words.  Everybody Writes had personality: an engaging, humorous, and intelligent personality.  This book made a point that good content has a voice and is relatable to all people.  Rule 18 says to show, not tell. Again, this book did just that by showing examples of just about every writing rule.  Although, rules 61-64 were on Social Media writing, the premise of those rules said to take risks; boring content won’t stand a chance with all of the existing content companies produce today.

7.  Write for your audience.
Keep your audience in mind with every content piece you write.  This includes a headline, social media postings, an e-blast, an annual report, etc.  Handley suggests putting your audience into the piece by saying “you” instead of “us” or “we”.

Everybody Writes is a fun guidebook to delivering efficient content.  With seven comprehensive sections on overcoming writing fears, eliminating grammar errors, mastering storytelling, publishing efficiently, practicing strong marketing writing, and using effective content tools, this book will inspire marketers to not only pick up the pen but challenge themselves to take their marketing efforts to the next level.  To purchase your own copy of Everybody Writes, click here.

*The image above was taken from ErikHatch.org.

Content Marketing – Beyond the Buzz Words

buzzwordsThere are many buzzwords that marketing professionals are faced with during their day-to-day activities. In the world of digital marketing there is a seemingly endless supply of them. However, amidst all the noise there are important terms that require our attention and deeper understanding. One of those terms is content marketing. Not only is it essential to understand what content marketing is (and not in a general way), but to know how it drives results. To help readers understand how to implement an effective content marketing program, here is a list of the top three areas to focus your content marketing efforts on.

  • Know Your Customer – It’s almost impossible to develop a content marketing plan if you don’t have a deep understanding of the services your company offers and why customers buy them. In product sales it’s much easier to understand the customer than in a professional services firm. For this reason, it’s important to spend time with the people who know your target client and their industry to gain a deeper understanding of the customer’s psychology and needs. Only then can content be developed that speaks to them. Creating a niche brings this expertise over time.
  • Create Customer Based Content – Once you have an understanding of the customer then you can develop content that speaks to them. For example, if your company is an accounting firm that provides international tax services, you need to provide content that deals with issues that prospects are facing. An article topic might be the 10 Things to Consider When Doing Business in the United States, or Key Tax Concerns for International Professionals. In this content, you are not just describing a service rather you are taking the prospects viewpoints and developing content around the issues and challenges they are facing. Our experience says that the more the content focuses on customer needs the better it will perform.
  • Know the Sales Cycle – This is probably the most important part of content marketing. Timing is everything so if you don’t know when what parcels of content should run at what time of year then you are diminishing the opportunity to drive results. As such, it’s important to spend time speaking with understanding your target market’s business cycle and others to assess when is the right time to run and feature specific types of content. Over and over again we have seen that when sales cycle appropriate content is featured it out performs and increases the number of conversions the website receives.

Content marketing is a comprehensive process that requires a deep understanding of the company, industry and services offered. Without these foundational items in place the other work and effort expended will have only a limited value.

Getting Found By Building an Effective Digital Marketing Strategy.

Digital MarketingThere are many issues to consider when building an effective digital marketing strategy for your company. Using an approach that will help your organization “get found” on the internet is often a high priority for many organizations. However, the more one reads up on the topic of how to do this effectively, the more overwhelming it can seem.

To help marketing professionals and management get started in the right direction, we have developed a short list of foundational items that every digital marketing strategy that is focused on “getting found”  should include.

  • Keyword Targeting – Identifying the search terms that your customers and prospects will use to find your company is critical. Actually, this is the first step in targeting your website even before content. The reason why is that you need to understand what search terms will be used before you can craft content that caters to it. The best place to find good keyword terms is in your analytics program. There you will be able to see a list of the top performing keywords that are already attracting traffic. In addition, be careful to consider what services, events or programs offered by the company that you want to draw attention to. Then use a keyword research tool like the one offered in Google AdWords to develop new combinations. The more options the better as it will give you a chance to see what variations are most effective. Remember keyword targeting is about having a variety of terms at your disposal. Over time consider experimenting with terms to see what is most effective at accomplishing your goals
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – Good keyword targeting can only take you so far. You need to ensure your website adheres to best practices to ensure that it can be found. Now most think of keywords as SEO, but there is a lot more to it than that. There are other elements to consider including pdf optimization, cross linking of content, meta tag optimization and structural concerns like if a sitemap is used and how your robots.txt file is structured. While most companies make an initial investment in SEO to get the site up to speed, it’s important to remember that as a site grows and new content is added that detailed SEO attention needs to follow. If there are issues with the site optimization then it can diminish the impact of the other elements in your strategy. Confused by this?  Talk to your web developer or SEO specialist and get professional assistance.
  • Social Promotion & Integration – By now most companies have social media accounts whether it’s Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter or Google Plus. Quite often though companies don’t seem to have a strategy for how they are leveraging specific platforms to promote their company. This is evident by the fact that many share the same type of information across all platforms. Consider how to use each platform to engage your target audience in a meaningful way. For example, the way to use LinkedIn to reach customers is completely different from Facebook or even Twitter. Pick the right platform for the right audience and your social promotion efforts will be a success. Again, don’t be afraid to experiment here.  The results come over time, so remember to be patient.

How your strategy evolves is dependent on a number of factors. You will always be adjusting based on results and the ever-changing rules of search.  However, if you keep focused on these foundational items you are sure to experience positive results and strong ROI from your efforts. If your company has already started on these areas then taking a second look may help to mix things up and produce positive changes.

 

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    What’s Trending in a Digital World

    Facebook launched in 2004, Twitter took off in 2006, and Bitcoin erupted in 2009. In our world of evolving innovation, Social Media Week acts as the leading hub to inform… Read the Rest »

    That Day I Published a Book.

    When I was in high school, I ran for student council eight times.  I lost all eight times.  I had to ask a bunch of boys to my senior prom… Read the Rest »

    7 Tips To Picking Up The Pen

    Our Top Takeaways of Ann Handley’s Everybody Writes With vocabulary, grammar, and organization in mind, the thought of writing can be, well, daunting.  From a simple tweet to an email, writing is… Read the Rest »

    Content Marketing – Beyond the Buzz Words

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