Twitter’s New Face(book) Lift

There’s a new look for social media birds to discover. And it’s very reminiscent of Facebook. Unlike many of Facebook’s tricky-to-navigate “enhancements,” however, this Twitter change is largely intuitive.

Twitter’s clean, simple design is meant to highlight you or your business and what you have to say. When you first make the switch to the new look, pop-ups will guide you on how to make changes and draw your attention to new functions, but here’s a rundown of what you can expect:lavi-twitter-before-and-after

Photo Alterations

Twitter hasn’t eliminated the profile picture or profile header, but both elements are now larger. The header fills the top of the screen, similar to but even wider than a Facebook page header. Rather than your profile description covering this large image as with the old Twitter design, the header is now unencumbered (making it a great spot for a logo or other branding) and the description has been relocated to under the profile picture in the lefthand column.

In another nod to Facebook, Tweeted photos now appear within the middle column of a profile rather than remaining as links that people have to click to see more.

What You See and What You Get

Similar to the ability to hide posts written by certain Facebook users, or minimize the number of updates you see from particular account holders, Twitter now has Filtered Tweets – you can choose the timeline you want to view when you’re looking at other users’ profiles to view 1) Tweets, 2) Tweets with photos or videos, or 3) Tweets and replies.

An automatic face lift of the new profile page comes courtesy of how much others interact with what you’ve Tweeted. Best Tweets are categorized as those that receive more engagement (replies, retweets, favorites) and they appear in a slightly larger font in your feed. That makes it easy for you (and others) to find your best and most popular content.

You can customize what gets attention with the Pinned Tweet function. You can pin one Tweet to the top of your page, no matter when it was posted, so your followers can see right off the bat what you’re all about, what you’re currently promoting, or what they need to know about your Twitter voice.

The New Menu, Etc.

Twitter now offers a horizontal menu of viewing options underneath the header, similar to Facebook’s menu. You can choose to view your own Tweets, Photos/Videos, Following, Followers, Favorites, or Lists. The Following and Followers tabs now show accounts with a tiled look rather than a list, making it far more pleasing to the eye.

Seems like everyone is taking a page from Facebook’s, well, book. Even some recent LinkedIn changes mirror Facebook. Twitter, though taking a few cues from the original social media giant, still has its own personality. Twitter demands brevity, and, in the beginning, was more about fun than function. Now, however, Twitter is just as much of a marketing tool as a flyer, commercial, or business card. Get with the flock and start Tweeting. It’s easier, more interesting, and more influential than ever.


Why Now’s the Time to Check Your LinkedIn Company Page

Be prepared – the look of your LinkedIn Company Page is about to change. The “Products & Services” page will be removed on April 14, 2014.

LinkedIn’s intent is to retire this less-effective feature and remind users of existing efficient options that can also help your company gain the visibility it desires and offer ways for you to highlight key products and services. The two best options to help make this happen: Showcase Pages and Company Updates.

The Appeal of LinkedIn Showcase Pages

LinkedIn Showcase Pages are reminiscent of a Facebook page, with a large header, general info under the header, and recent posts collected below. There are opportunities to Like, Comment, and Share each post, making this a potentially interactive and social method of communicating with followers while getting company news out there in a friendly way.

Photo Credit: LinkedIn Company Pages

Photo Credit: LinkedIn Company Pages

The Showcase Page is intended for building relationships with followers about specific, long-term aspects of your company, not for short-term marketing campaigns. Showcasing is intended to enhance a follower’s interaction with your company, and a person can follow your Showcase Page as they follow any Company Page. If you want to highlight a company initiative, business unit, or represent a brand, the Showcase Page is the way to go – just be ready to maintain a consistent active presence.

What’s Up With LinkedIn Company Updates?

For relationship-building with the followers of your LinkedIn Company Page, don’t forget about Company Updates. Followers who engage with your updates may be enticed to spread your message to their networks, allowing you to reach a larger audience. How? Again, similar to Facebook, a follower’s interaction with your Company Update will appear in that person’s newsfeed so their own LinkedIn connections will see how they’re interacting and who they’re following.

Company Updates are a great way to share information like company news, promotions, latest blog posts, whitepapers, and guides, relevant industry articles, and videos. LinkedIn members can view your Company Updates on your company’s “Home” tab, and your updates will appear on the homepage of followers of your Company Page to help keep you on the radar.

sample linkedin company update

One fairly recent aspect of Company Updates is Sponsored Updates. This gives your company that ability to sponsor a company update in order to extend your reach and get your best content in front of many more eyeballs than you typically would. You can target an audience based on demographics, skills, group involvement, even job title, location, and company. These campaigns run on a cost-per-click basis similar to Google AdWords.

linkedin-companyupdates

While You’re in Company Page Limbo

Before the Products & Services pages are deleted completely, Company Page admins will be able to edit existing products and services, but you will not be able to add anything new. It will be possible to save recommendations by copying them from the Products & Services tab into a Word doc. You can also have LinkedIn do some of the work and request a copy of the recommendations that were on the page as of March 4, 2014. Be aware: The recs will only be available through LinkedIn’s Customer Support until May 30, 2014.


The Future of Search Engine Optimization

SEO diagramDid you know that Google+ is now the #2 property after Facebook where content-sharing happens?  Or that Google incorporates Google+ circles and shares in its search results? These are only two of many examples. The times are changing, and for search engine optimization (SEO), companies need to get on board.

The New Meaning of ‘Optimization’

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) has long been one of the core strategies we use to promote websites and other content marketing assets.  Basically, we are trying to entice the search engines to give our sites more visibility, and the word “entice” is important: neither we nor anyone else can make Google give us high rankings. 

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Google Penguin 2.0 and Beyond: What Can You Expect?

inbound marketing agencyThe rollout of Google’s latest Penguin webspam algorithm update, Penguin 2.0, officially hit the search results late afternoon, Wednesday 5/22/13. Matt Cutts, Google’s head webspam fighter, says the update will impact about 2.3% of English-US search queries to a noticeable degree. 

Here’s a summary of what you can expect both from this Penguin update and other Google initiatives in the coming months, according to Cutts: 

Be genuine.

If there is one point to take away from all of these Google updates, it’s this: Google says they will always be aligned with websites that genuinely create a great site that users love, want to tell their friends about, want to bookmark, and visit over and over again. If that’s your goal and you’re working hard for users, Google says it’s on your side.  Penguin is here to fight webspam, not content marketing/SEO. This may be all you need to know.

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What’s Stopping Your Inbound Marketing Program?

inbound marketing programConsider these astounding numbers:

  • 60% of companies will execute inbound marketing strategies this year.
  • Marketers allocate 34% of their overall budgets to inbound tactics – 11% more than they dedicate to outbound strategies, like banners, direct mail, and more.
  • Inbound marketing budgets are increasing at a near 50% pace.

Plus…

  • Inbound delivers 54% more leads into the marketing funnel than traditional outbound leads.
  • 82% of marketers who blog see positive ROI for their inbound marketing efforts.
  • Inbound marketers spending more than $25K per year save an average of 13% in overall cost per lead and more than $14 dollars for every new customer acquired versus those relying on outbound strategies.

With statistics like these, as reported in HubSpot’s State of Inbound Marketing 2013, you might think inbound marketing will be an easy sell in your own organization.

Not always…

As HubSpot’s 2013 report found, inbound marketing is largely a “marketing-focused tactic.” In other words, while most marketers say they do inbound, only 17% of sales teams and 11% of executives lend their full support to inbound marketing efforts. IT is least supportive, according to the data, with 31% of enterprise marketers reporting their IT teams are unsupportive of inbound.

Where’s the Disconnect?

It doesn’t feel pressing.

With so many priorities on the list of CEOs, salespeople, and IT alike, the most urgent priorities rise to the top. Those priorities don’t always include marketing, let alone transforming the way marketing is done. For marketers, our priority is to continually improve the outcomes of our programs. This is what we think about day in and day out. So it seems obvious to us that the digital era, which has changed the way customers buy, creates a pressing need to transform the way our organizations sell.

The correlation doesn’t feel direct enough.

Sales people are conditioned to think in direct correlations between a marketing activity and sales response.  A cold call leads directly to meeting which leads directly to a sale.  A mass email leads to a response which leads to a sales call.  An advertisement leads to a phone call which leads to a sale.  Unfortunately, in the digital era where customers drive the buying process, these outbound techniques don’t work like they used to.

  • 44% of direct mail is never opened.
  • 86% of people skip through television commercials.
  • 84% of 25 to 34 year olds have clicked out of a website because of an “irrelevant or intrusive ad.”

With inbound marketing, there is generally not one single activity that results in a sales-ready lead.  Inbound marketing is an approach, not a tactic. It’s a series of events that brings customers closer to a company, moves them further down the sales cycle, and nurtures them to the point that they become sales-ready. Traditional thinkers want to see how a blog post or a social activity in and of itself will drive leads or sales. But it just doesn’t work that way. Marketing has changed.

It’s not a quick fix.

Often we find organizations in panic mode, where the need for immediate results leads to shotgun decisions. We need to do something so let’s purchase a list and blast out an email.  Successful inbound execution requires an end-to-end marketing transformation. And that can take time.

Being customer-centric is easier said than done.

I love this quote from HubSpot: “The heart of inbound marketing requires turning the lens away from a rigid, product-based strategy and toward solving your customers’ key challenges – and delighting them with insight and education along the way.” Inbound marketing, at its core, is about putting customers and their best interests first. That’s easy to say. But it’s harder to do.  

There’s still a divide between sales and marketing.

Let’s face it. As marketers we still haven’t closed the divide between our sales counterparts. We too often have different priorities. Different philosophies. We are measured by different outcomes and timeframes. We point fingers. Because of this, our attempts at affecting change and gaining their support for our inbound transformation suffers.

Inbound marketing is a philosophy and structure that drives how businesses will attract customers in the next decade. It integrates the strategies of delivering quality content and “delighting customers” throughout every facet of the business—not just the marketing department.

If your organization is still struggling to make the leap, Spark inbound marketing agency is here to help. Give us a ring.  


Email Marketing: Staying the Course in the Face of Temptation

spamTemptation arises from an attraction so strong that it overcomes the restraints of conscience or better judgment (Merriam Webster).

In today’s complex and competitive world of digital marketing, email marketing presents just this type of temptation to marketers striving to deliver fast and furious results to their organizations. Email is something every CEO can understand and it sounds so simple: We buy a list (those list brokers are so enticing!), upload it to our email marketing system or CRM, and start “communicating” via e-blasts to our newfound prospects.  

Unfortunately, this ever-so-tempting way of doing email marketing is met with an equal set of short- and long-term repercussions.

Why Buying Lists is a Bad Idea:

1. You’re spamming.

Spam means “unsolicited bulk email.” So if you’re sending people mass email without their permission, you’re spamming. It really doesn’t matter if the list provider tells you their list is “opt-in” because the fact is, the people on the list really haven’t opted in to receive messages from you. And you’re not going to fool them into thinking they have. Think about your own inbox and how little you appreciate getting emails from companies you don’t know.  It’s unrealistic to think that your message is so awesome that people will overlook the fact that they did not invite you into their mailbox.

2. Reputable email marketing vendors don’t allow it.

If you’ve ever uploaded a list to MailChimp, HubSpot, Constant Contact, or any of the numerous other reputable email marketing or marketing automation providers you will find clear warnings that purchased, rented, or third-party lists of email addresses are prohibited. Why? Purchased lists are likely to elicit spam complaints, bounces, unsubscribes, and other negative reactions. That’s because, as mentioned in #1, it’s likely that what you’re doing is considered spam and when you spam you hurt the deliverability and reputation of everyone else on the email marketer’s shared IP address. A few bad apples spoil the whole barrel.

3. Your list will be dirty.

In the vast majority of cases, brokered lists simply are not high quality lists. Often, the very list you’re purchasing is overcooked. It has already been used and abused by other companies so the people on it are likely overburdened with email. Also, these lists are notorious for having false or out-of-use addresses. Keep in mind, also, list providers tend to be very liberal about what qualifies as a “targeted list” in order to boost the numbers. It’s much more impressive for them to claim they have 100,000 targeted names on a list, rather than just a few thousand.

4. People won’t like you.

“…purchasing a mailing list from a source that claims to hold thousands of email addresses relevant to your business could be the death of your credibility.” – Forbes

Getting email from a company you’ve never heard of, or lack a connection to, is annoying.  When you affiliate your brand with these techniques you harm your credibility in more ways than one.  First, you’re more likely to be blocked and reported as spam by the recipients. Second, your brand can suffer as people begin to associate your brand with “irritating.”  

 5. Your deliverability will suffer.

Referring back to reason #3, a dirty email list is guaranteed to cause deliverability problems. Meaning, your emails won’t even get through to their desired recipient. Silverpop describes it this way: “Dirty mailing lists hurt your deliverability because ISPs will filter or block senders who mail repeat­edly to “bad” addresses, either based on their own observations or via reports from real-time block lists (RBLs) who list names and IP addresses from senders they suspect of spamming.”

6. You can do better!

A hundred perfectly qualified, engaged people who actually want to hear from you is better than a thousand prospects who may or may not care about what you have to say. There is a better way to do this. And once you experience the value of delivering quality content to the leads you’ve earned, we’re betting you’ll feel a lot better about yourself and your results.  

 

Let us help you design an inbound marketing and email strategy that your customers and prospects will appreciate. Request a consultation.


Recent Google+ Debate Focuses on Value of Cold Calling

Austin-based company Software Advice recently hosted a live Google+ debate titled, “Does Cold Calling Still Work?” to discuss amongst a panel of marketing and sales experts whether cold calling is still an effective marketing strategy today. Each of the panelists answered three questions:

  • Given how the Web has empowered B2B buyers, is cold calling still relevant in the Internet Age — and are companies still generating a return on investment (ROI) on it?
  • With other lead generation activities on the rise, like paid search and content marketing, can cold calling help marketers stand out from the noise?
  • Can inbound marketing and analytics help us better decide who to cold call and when?

 

 

Anneke Seley, Founder and CEO of Reality Works Group says that “in this day and age, there’s no excuse for a call to be cold anymore.” But what does this mean? In today’s world of hyperconnectivity, changing the “cold” in cold calling to more of a “warm” call can be as simple as learning a little about your prospect by connecting via LinkedIn or Twitter.

However, Mike Volpe, CMO of HubSpot, suggested that making unsolicited calls is not a high priority for investing marketing dollars, especially compared to inbound marketing tactics such as SEO and PPC that are cheaper and less invasive to buyers.

But perhaps the answer lies within a balance between warm calling and inbound marketing. At least that’s what Ken Krogue, President of InsideSales.com, says he thinks. “If we [at InsideSales.com] just rely on the Internet to bring us leads, it’s like a fish sitting in a pond waiting for the river to bring whatever it brings them.” And the result is that there the size of the potential deals is not enough to sell into larger clients.

One point each panelist could agree on was that lead generation is shifting toward a permission-based model of marketing. This means marketing will need to evolve into being about showing buyers how valuable you are, and ultimately getting them to come to you.

What are your thoughts on the evolution of outbound and inbound marketing? Share your thoughts in the comments below. To read the full article, visit the B2B Marketing Mentor.


The State of B2B Content Marketing [Infographic]

MarketingProfs and the Content Marketing Institute (CMI) recently released its report on the State of B2B Content Marketing in North America.  Here are some highlights summarized by MarketingProfs in its overview of the report:

B2B content marketers are spending more.

On average, B2B content marketers are spending 33% of their marketing budgets on content marketing. Last year’s number was 26%. In addition, 54% plan to increase content marketing spending next year.

B2B content is more frequent.

The MarketingProfs/CMI study found that in addition to spending more, content marketers are more frequently using the full range of content tactics than they were last year. Research reports, videos, and mobile content have seen the greatest increase.

LinkedIn takes top post for social distribution.

According to the study, B2B content marketers use five social distribution channels, on average. LinkedIn took over the top spot of the most commonly used social distribution channel, outweighing Twitter which had been on top the previous two years.

Content Marketing is not without its challenges.

One of the biggest findings of the study is that 90% of respondents are doing some form of content marketing. This is clearly not a passing fad. Yet marketers ARE having their fair share of challenges which include finding processes that work. We discovered the following infographic on the Marketo B2B marketing and sales blog and are happy to share it here. It provides a visual interpretation of key stats from the report.

State of B2B Content Marketing 


Bye, Bye Google Places. Hello Google+ Local

Attention all you businesses who rely on locally-relevant search traffic. Hotel? Yep – that’s you.  Restaurant? You too. Professional services? Yeppers. Retail shops. Uh-huh. The list goes on and on. If your customers find you in part by your location, this news should interest you.

That little Google+ profile you set up and have since neglected is about to take over the world.  Well, sort of.  At least it has become quite a bit more important. On May 30, 2012, Google+ Local replaced Google Places (the listings that represent a business in local search and Google maps), which means about 80 million Google Places pages worldwide have automatically been converted into Google+ Local pages.

I’ll wait here while you run and Google your business to check it out.

Back?

So, how’s it look?

Disorienting? Confusing? Here’s the essence of this news: Google+ Local combines local business information with social networking capabilities to give business owners the opportunity to be more relevant, more marketable, and more easily found by consumers. We’ve outlined a few of the changes so you don’t miss a beat as you aim to amp up your search engine rankings and resulting revenue.

See-ya Stars, Hello Numbers

Google+ Local has replaced its star ratings with Zagat-numbered ratings. Users will no longer be asked to rate businesses on a four- or five-point star continuum – a more structured form (regarding service, atmosphere, etc.) will be used and additional comments should be welcomed by businesses.

 google+ local search

What you’ll see: For instance, consumers who Google “hotels in Pismo Beach” will get local search returns – but they’ll have to make a choice based on the 30-point Zagat rating scale rather than the very visual yellow star ratings. What’s good: The 30-point spread provides a more accurate rating of an establishment rather than offering just a blanket bad/ok/great (1 star/3 stars/5 stars) kind of review.

Get There Any Which Way

By searching through Google.com, Google Maps, Google+, or using a mobile app, users can land on the new Google+ Local pages and get the local search results they want.

google + local results 

The new “Local” tab in Google+ also takes users to a personalized local home page which will contain a collection of recommended content. Consumers can browse their home page content or continue to search as they normally would. While a user and all of their neighbors won’t see the same home page, there will be common elements. The bottom line is that if your biz is located in San Luis Obispo, you want it to be showing up on the Google+ Local home page of everyone in the 5 Cities area.

Go Social through Google+ Local

Google+ Local is poised to become as social as Twitter and Facebook with its versatility, rich content, and heightened functionality. Your friends who post photos of the amazing dinner they eat out every night on Twitpic or Instagram? Soon they’ll have a new outlet for their food mania – posts like these will be the visual fodder that makes Google+ Local pages appealing.

google+ local optimization

 

 

Google+ users can earmark pics, reviews, and recommendations for their Google+ Local “Circles” which are essentially filters that allow users to share what they want with the people they want … just like they do through other social media. However, Google+ Local’s method is much more discerning and aims to improve upon the Facebook format – users can separate out friends, family, and colleagues into their own circles.

Interact With Your Customers

Google Places gave enterprises an online presence, but through Google+ Local, merchants and business owners will have the opportunity to develop followers and directly communicate with them through messaging – essentially, the same kinds of social methods that are already available through Facebook and Twitter. According to Google, there are even more merchant features on the horizon that will enhance your online marketing efforts.

Your Google+ Local Page Will Be Indexed

If you use Google Places for Business, don’t worry – you can still access your page and dashboard as you normally would. However, the consumer face of your Google Place now shows up in the context of a Google+ Local page.

Google Places pages were not indexed, but Google+ Local pages will be – which means the opportunities for you to use SEO have just grown exponentially. If you’ve ignored that element of marketing online in the past, you truly can’t afford to do so now.

A Last Word About Google+ Local (For Now)

This new action by Google is an amazing opportunity for every business owner to develop better and stronger interactions with their customers and become social in one central place – but it also demands that you learn how to really use Google+ so you can work it to your advantage. The more you absorb and utilize the ins and outs of this development, the more your business will thrive.

Online marketing is crucial to the life of your business – don’t resist this shift. But we want to know: How do you feel about the shift from Google Places to Google+? Are you overwhelmed with yet another social media duty or excited about the opportunities that lie ahead?

 

Need help? We do this stuff!

 


Do You *Heart* the Google Penguin Update?

Google webspam penguin updateIf you’re at all interested in your website’s rankings on Google you’ve probably heard rumblings, if not screaming, about Google’s recent Webspam Update, known as “Penguin.”  Many have even experienced a surprising decline in their search rankings since the update took place (hopefully you’re not among them).  So what the heck is this animal and why is it raining on parades?

What is the Google Penguin Update?

The so called Penguin update was an April 24, 2012 update to Google’s algorithm, the formula used by Google to determine rankings of web pages in the search engine results pages.  Some websites were hit pretty hard by this update, which really did nothing more than automate the job Google’s team has been doing manually for years to fight webspam. In other words, the rules haven’t changed — Google is just becoming a better and more efficient referee.

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