Why ROI is the Last Metric for Evaluating Your Content-Marketing Plan

It is no secret that not just any content will succeed in online marketing.

Your content must engage your readers, increase brand awareness and improve your bottom line. In the past, many companies simply threw some keyword-rich content on their websites and hoped it would stick. Keywords remain important but it is crucial your content is informative, relevant and interesting. Content+ found that interesting content is one of the top three reasons that consumers follow brands on social media.

Furthermore, TMG Custom Media reports that an astounding 90 percent of consumers believe custom content is useful and 78 percent of consumers believe that companies providing custom content have an interest in establishing good relationships with their customers.

Clearly, the right content is important to determining where you stand with your current content marketing plan. This means measuring engagement and shareability. Consider whether you see a lot of interaction, comments, and shares from the content you post. If your content remains static without any real response, it is time to fine-tun to your approach.

Far too often, many companies focus on the ROI provided by their content marketing plan but ROI is actually a metric that should be measured later, rather than sooner, in the process. You should understand the following metrics first:

  • Are people liking or following your social profiles where you share your content?
  • Are people visiting and returning to your website?
  • Are visitors commenting or asking questions?
  • Are people connecting with other members of the community?
  • Is your content being shared?
  • Are people making comments about your content elsewhere?
  • Are visitors engaging more on your site or social network?

The goal is to get people talking about your content and sharing it with others so that your overall exposure is increased. This means measuring engagement metrics such as shares, likes, comments, link backs, mentions, and retweets. Keep in mind that numbers are important when it comes to engagement, but in the end, it is all about people. In order to understand the type of content you need to develop, you must also identify and research your target audience. Once you have developed a solid understanding of your audience, you can then begin developing customized content based on their interests.

RazorSocial suggests tapping into the power of Google Analytics to measure engagement and use the data derived to assist in guiding your content development plan. With Google Analytics, you can measure the following metrics:

  • Number of returning visitors
  • Audience engagement rate
  • Average pages or time spent on site
  • Bounce rate
  • Conversion rates from different sources

Google Analytics is a vital tool, but there are also several other tools you should include in your arsenal. For instance, HootSuite is an excellent tool for tracking mentions. TweetDeck is also great for tracking mentions as well as hash tags. In order to track all of your content across paid, organic and social mediums, TrackMaven is a go-to tool that also allows you to compare the results of your content to that of competitors. Do you need some insight into content that is resonating with your target audience? Buzzsumo allows you to analyze the performance of content across multiple social mediums. Simply search a topic or keyword and gain insight into successful content. Gravity is another tool that works similarly to Buzzsumo by allowing you to keep tabs on those topics that are currently generating the most interest online and giving you easy tools to view the topics that are more likely to resonate with your own target audience.

Once you understand the type of content that is more likely to resonate with your audience, it is important to develop a plan. CMI and MarketingProfs report that 66 percent of the most effective marketers have taken the time to establish a documented content marketing strategy. Creating content without a specific focus will eventually hurt your efforts. A well-rounded content marketing plan should include a content calendar for regularly scheduled posts. While a calendar is important, it is also vital to ensure that you remain flexible in your publication goals and make adjustments based on customer behavior and other factors.

The ability to respond to real-time events will become even more vital as mobile web consumption continues to outpace desktop usage. Responding to topics that your readers wish to engage with, a process now known as newsjacking, can help your organization to increase revenue. Organizations that use predictive business performance metrics will increase their profitability by 20 percent by 2017, according to Gartner, Inc.

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Mistakes Entrepreneurs Make When Launching an Ecommerce Startup

As we continue to rely on technology for its simplicity and convenience, everything from books to cars are now available online. And many entrepreneurs are jumping on this wave, because when done correctly, ecommerce sites can provide a crucial competitive advantage, giving digital players a chance to go toe-to-toe with traditional brick-and-mortar titans

Ecommerce is also quickly becoming the preferred way to buy. Indeed, 70 percent of shoppers surveyed say they prefer to shop their favorite retailer online, according to a UPS study.

However, simply creating an ecommerce site is not a guarantee of success. The eight years I’ve spent on the front lines of my own company UGallery, an art ecommerce site, have humbled me to a point where I can now impart a few points on what mistakes to avoid when running a successful ecommerce site.

1. Putting features above strategy. It’s easy to be impressed with your own website, but having the coolest, slickest, or sexiest ecommerce site is not a strategy. Leave the bells and whistles to the product team and focus on the big picture: What need do you fill in the market, where are the white space opportunities, what is truly innovative?

Establish a 12-week goal mindset where you set your topline goals at the beginning of the quarter and are accountable to finish them by the end. If a week goes by and you spent too much time updating small design elements or negligible features, you’re stuck in a cyclical pattern. Make sure to focus on critical initiatives that will move the needle.

2. Inefficiently managing email lists. Grow your email list fast and early. It is one of the most effective ways to get people to your site later on. Add email list as a key-performance indicator when you’re measuring success (not just sales or site traffic). If you don’t, you’ll find yourself down the road with a great site but no way to reach people (for free). You’ll be stuck paying for eyeballs through advertising, sponsored content and other paid outlets.

3. Inaccurately measuring success. Compare year-over-year, not quarter-over-quarter, as ecommerce is highly seasonal. Comparing your June site traffic to May site traffic isn’t an effective measure because summer months are typically slower. Compare June to June and May to May, just as traditional retailers do.

4. Not establishing a promotions strategy up front. Be deliberate with your promotions. It’s tempting to run a sale when you want a quick bump of revenue but easy to go overboard or do something that isn’t in line with your brand intention. Determine up front if you want to be a premium brand that never discounts, a discount brand that always discounts or where you want to be in between.

5. Choosing poor advertising partners. When it comes to advertising partnerships, ask for lots of data –reach, open rate, CTR, and frequency of the advertiser’s sponsorships, among other metrics. We advertised on a prominent wedding site when we launched our wedding registry, because it was the biggest name publication in the industry. It turns out they send sponsored emails several days a week and brides are inundated. Needless to say our advertising did not perform well. It was sexy but not effective.

6. Hold your line when negotiating contracts. Contracts only become relevant when things go south. It’s easy to sign a contract and assume there won’t be any issues, and 49 out of 50 times there won’t be. But for the one time that there is, it could have significant impact. Read, negotiate and hold firm when entering a contract. Think years down the road, not months.

7. Not understanding your supply and demand balance. More than just inventory management, understand the big picture of how your supply and demand are related. At a certain point, you have too much product and it doesn’t result in more sales – it just results in an overwhelming shopping experience. Understand how many products someone can reasonably absorb on your site. Brick-and-mortar stores are limited by wall and floor space but ecommerce sites are unlimited. That doesn’t mean every ecommerce site needs to embrace the long tail.

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9 Tips for Packing Your Brand’s Message Into a 15-Second Instagram Video

It has been shown through data, by Forrester Research, that Instagram represents by far, the best platform for marketers to interact with consumers. Brands are beginning to understand that having a presence on the platform is a necessity, but many don’t understand all of the features it has to offer.

One part of the service to note is the 15-second video feature. According to a report from BI Intelligence, in the U.S. 50 million people watch video via their mobile devices. Globally, 15 percent of all time spent watching online videos is done using a smartphone, tablet or other mobile devices. While a common misconception amongst brands is that video marketing is too costly of an endeavor, by utilizing Instagram’s free 15-second video editing feature, businesses now have an invaluable tool to engage their audience with.

In order to successfully engage with consumers by utilizing the video feature, one must be fully educated on how to properly use it:

1. To audio or not to audio, that is the question. Any audio usage, whether that is music or speaking – is absolutely incredible and adds an additional sensory component to the campaign, which is a great way to engage the audience and enhance their experience.

2. Editing 101. There is a fine line between simply capturing video and over-editing content on Instagram, an avenue for organic content. Nonetheless, Instagram offers editing so it makes sense to use it.

3. Intriguing consumers with the cover image selection. The thumbnail of the video should both aptly capture the video’s driving idea, while also generating interest or buzz among followers.

4. Filters. Between “Clarendon” and “Gingham”, Instagram offers unique filters that help brands create stunning videos. However, since you will most likely have multiple shots, it’s wise to use only one filter while shooting to give the video uniformity and not cause distraction.

5. Angles. Create truly unique and captivating shots by siting low or standing high, while also panning up or down.

6. Be aware of light. Although low light is not necessarily the enemy, don’t hold low light shots for too long as they tend to get grainy. Make sure to pair low light shots with brighter shots on either side that can cover them up.

7. Narration. You can add narration to your video. If developing a “how-to” or instructional video, this can be a great tool to use.

8. Don’t forget to share. If your brand uses Instagram, chances are you are also using Facebook, Twitter and Google+. Once a video is uploaded, make sure to share that content to the other social media platforms to reach a wider audience.

9. Use influencers. The most powerful marketing comes from friends, family, someone you follow or someone you trust. We call these people “influencers.” You must connect with and utilize these influencers to reach the ideal audiences for your brand. Given the proper guidelines, they can create content for a product or idea that will resonate with your audience and have a lasting impression. They have ability to tell a truly striking story in that mobile environment. It’s essential to collaborate with them and tap into their abilities to work for you.

The integration of video into Instagram is another proof point of how fast delivery content in this way is growing at a tremendous rate. The attention spam of consumers is rapidly evolving and developing custom influencer created branded videos for Instagram is the not only the future, but the most scalable form of marketing for the most innovative brands and digital marketers.

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5 Things CEOs Don’t Ask About Marketing, But Should

It’s often difficult to isolate and quantify what marketing is responsible for, so there is an inherent disconnect between result-oriented CEOs and their marketing teams.

Oftentimes, this results in a completely hands-off approach, usually because management doesn’t truly understand marketing’s strategy enough to know what questions to ask. The problem with this process is that companies are missing out on serious growth potential.

Below are five questions you as the CEO can ask marketing to set the foundation for a profitable, result-focused relationship moving forward:

1. How do I measure the effectiveness of marketing correctly? We all know that “what gets measured, gets managed,” and while it can be more difficult with marketing, it’s no less true. A Fournaise study found that the majority of CEOs don’t trust marketing — in large part because 75 percent don’t think marketing applies the same definitions to things such as “results” and “return on investment.”

CEOs and marketers should define these terms together with a focus on how marketing investments are aligned to company goals. Figure out exactly what data you will be looking at and what you will be looking for, so you aren’t bogged down by a huge report that doesn’t provide measurable results. Allow this conversation to be guided by marketing’s insights on what is reasonable, but in the end make sure everyone knows precisely how success will be measured.

2. How do you draw the line in the sales cycle between sales and marketing? These groups are intertwined, but all too often are at odds with one another, with each wanting to claim the results of success or place blame when a plan is ineffective. For marketing and sales to be aligned, it’s critically important that both teams agree on roles and expectations.

If there isn’t upfront agreement on how the teams work together and deliver united value to the business, the relationship becomes fractured. The clearer it is, the easier it will be to measure results and make each side more effective.

According to MarketingProfs’ Sales and Marketing Alignment Benchmark Report, companies that can figure this partnership out have shown a 36 percent higher customer-retention rate and a 38 percent higher sales-close rate.

3. How does my sales team get the “good leads” they are talking about? Reports have shown that 61 percent of marketers send all leads directly to sales, but in the end only 27 percent of those leads will actually be qualified.

Sales teams have to clearly communicate what criteria they feel is necessary for a lead to be qualified. Marketing must then set expectations as to what will be required to capture leads that match that profile. The more specific the criteria, the more time and/or expense may be required.

If it’s simply not likely to deliver on expectations within the time frame or budget, a different strategy may be required. This can be a tough conversation, but it’s vital for both teams to succeed. Marketing can often shine here, presenting alternative programs and lead-generation strategies to help sales meet their objectives.

There is also a second step that many marketers focus on: sales tools. Part of marketing’s job to equip sales with the tools needed to convert leads. A single brochure that touts the value you see in the product or service doesn’t typically cut it today.

Sales cycles are more complex, often with numerous stakeholders that need to be communicated to. When marketing works with sales to understand this process and create relevant tools that speak to the interest of different buyer motivations, it gives sales a unique advantage and can help drive more revenue, faster.

4. How important is social media? Marketing should be able to answer this with specific reasoning for your company. If they can specify what they want to do and the expected value it will deliver to the business (not smoke and mirrors), trust them.

Social media is here to stay, but it takes resources and should be strategic. Similarly, if they are advising against it, there is probably a good reason. It’s important to weigh the expected investment — dollars, time and resources — with the desired outcome.

Yes, social media can be a powerful tool that can reach a large audience, but that doesn’t mean it is a good way to reach your particular customer. Marketing isn’t about being seen by the greatest number of people, it’s about connecting with the right people.

5. How do we stand out against our competition? Marketing is responsible for how your company is presented to the world. At a product or service level, differentiation can be challenging with competitors offering similar capabilities. This is where company initiatives such as commitment to innovation, strategic partnerships and corporate values can deliver a unique impact in helping your company achieve a market-leader position.

Allow your marketing team to help define these areas of differentiation. If they are consistent with the brand you want to propagate, follow their lead and emphasize those elements throughout the company. The main thing is that they are conscientious about determining what the unique attributes are, and are continually reevaluating to make sure it is still the best for the current market.

The disconnect between CEOs and marketing comes down to communication. If you can work to facilitate an ongoing conversation with your marketing team, with clearly defined terms and expectations, you will find it is a relationship that can work wonders for unifying your company towards growth.

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Why Blog? The Benefits of Blogging for Business

1) It helps drive traffic to your website.

Raise your hand if you want more website visitors. Yeah, me too.

Now think about the ways people find your website:

  • They could type your name right in to their browser, but that’s an audience you already have. They know who you are, you’re on their radar, and that doesn’t help you get more traffic on top of what you’re already getting.
  • You could pay for traffic by buying an email list (don’t you dare!), blasting them, and hoping some people open and click through on the emails. But that’s expensive and, you know, illegal.
  • You could pay for traffic by placing tons of paid ads, which isn’t illegal, but still quite expensive. And the second you run out of money, your traffic stops coming, too.

So, how can you drive any traffic? In short: blogging, social media, andsearch engines. Here’s how it works.

Think about how many pages there are on your website. Probably not a ton, right? And think about how often you update those pages. Probably not that often, right? (How often can you really update your About Us page, you know?)

Well, blogging helps solve both of those problems.

Every time you write a blog post, it’s one more indexed page on your website, which means it’s one more opportunity for you to show up in search engines and drive traffic to your website in organic search. We’ll get into more of the benefits of blogging on your SEO a bit later, but it’salso one more cue to Google and other search engines that your website is active and they should be checking in frequently to see what new content to surface.

Blogging also helps you get discovered via social media. Every time you write a blog post, you’re creating content that people can share on social networks — Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Pinterest — which helps expose your business to a new audience that may not know you yet.

Blog content also helps keep your social media presence going — instead of asking your social media manager to come up with brand new original content for social media (or creating that content yourself), your blog can serve as that repository of content. You’re strengthening your social reach with blog content and driving new website visitors to your blog via your social channels. Quite a symbiotic relationship, if I do say so myself.

So, the first benefit of blogging? It helps drive new traffic to your website and works closely with search engines and social media to do that.

2) It helps convert that traffic into leads.

Now that you have traffic coming to your website through your blog, you have an opportunity to convert that traffic into leads.

Just like every blog post you write is another indexed page, each post is a new opportunity to generate new leads. The way this works is really simple: Just add a lead-generating call-to-action to every blog post.

Often, these calls-to-action lead to things like free ebooks, free whitepapers, free fact sheets, free webinars, free trials … basically, any content asset for which someone would be willing to exchange their information. To be super clear for anyone unfamiliar with how traffic-to-lead conversions work, it’s as simple as this:

  • Visitor comes to website
  • Visitor sees call-to-action for a free offer
  • Visitor clicks call-to-action and gets to a landing page, whichcontains a form for them to fill in with their information
  • Visitor fills out form, submits information, and receives the free offer

If you scroll down in this blog post, you’ll see a call-to-action button. In fact, 99.9% of the blog posts we publish have call-to-action buttons … and yours should, too. That is how you turn that traffic coming to your blog into leads for your sales team.

Note: Not every reader of your blog will become a lead. That’s okay. No one converts 100% of the people who read their blog into leads. Just get blogging, put calls-to-action on every blog post, set a visitor-to-lead conversion rate benchmark for yourself, and strive to improve that each month.

3) It helps establish authority.

The best business blogs answer common questions their leads and customers have. If you’re consistently creating content that’s helpful for your target customer, it’ll help establish you as an authority in their eyes. This is a particularly handy tool for Sales and Service professionals.

Can you imagine the impact of sending an educational blog post youwrote to clear things up for a confused customer? Or how many more deals a salesperson could close if their leads discovered blog content written by their salesperson?

“Establishing authority” is a fluffy metric — certainly not as concrete as traffic and leads, but it’s pretty powerful stuff. And if you need to tie the impact of blogging to a less fluffy metric, consider measuring it the same way you measure sales enablement. Because at the end of the day, that’s what many of your blog posts are. Think about the sales enablement opportunities blogging presents:

  • If prospects find answers to their common questions via blog posts written by people at your company, they’re much more likely to come into the sales process trusting what you have to say because you’ve helped them in the past — even before they were interested in purchasing anything from you.
  • Prospects that have been reading your blog posts will typically enter the sales process more educated on your place in the market, your industry, and what you have to offer. That makes for a far more productive sales conversation than one held between two relative strangers.
  • Salespeople who encounter specific questions that require in-depth explanation or a documented answer can pull from an archive of blog posts. Not only do these blog posts help move the sales process along more swiftly than if a sales rep had to create the assets from scratch, but the salesperson is further positioned as a helpful resource to their prospect.

4) It drives long-term results.

You know what would be cool? If any of the following things helped you drive site traffic and generate new leads:

  • Trip to Hawaii
  • Going to the gym
  • Sleeping

Good news, though! That’s what blogging does — largely through search engines. Here’s what I mean:

Let’s say you sit down for an hour and write and publish a blog post today. Let’s say that blog post gets you 100 views and 10 leads. You get another 50 views and 5 leads tomorrow as a few more people find it on social media and some of your subscribers get caught up on their email and RSS. But after a couple days, most of the fanfare from that post dies down and you’ve netted 150 views and 15 leads.

It’s not done.

That blog post is now ranking in search engines. That means for days, weeks, months, and years to come, you can continue to get traffic and leads from that blog post.

So while you’re hitting your snooze alarm, surfing in Hawaii, and pumping iron, you’re also driving traffic and leads. The effort you put in yesterday can turn into hundreds of thousands of views and leads in the future.

In fact, about 70% of the traffic each month on this very blog comes from posts that weren’t published in the current month. They come from old posts. Same goes for the leads generated in a current month — about 90% of the leads we generate every month come from blog posts that were published in previous months. Sometimes years ago.

We call these types of blog posts “compounding” posts. Not every blog post will fit into this category, but the more evergreen blog posts you write, the more likely it is that you’ll land on one of those compounding blog posts. In our own research, we’ve found that about 1 in every 10 blog posts end up being compounding blog posts.

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6 Fundamentals for Succeeding at Online Marketing

Today, it’s easier than ever to start your own business. Anyone with a URL, a good product and a PayPal account can make a go of it. But if it’s easy for anybody, this also means it’s easy for everybody. The world of ecommerce is teeming with competition. So, how do you make your company and its products stand out? Here are six tips to help your small business succeed in today’s online marketplaces.

1. Pick the right ecommerce platform for you.

There are a variety of marketplaces available to sell your goods, but each has a different mission, target audience and fee structure. Make sure to select the marketplace that aligns well with your brand and makes you feel comfortable. Read through cancellation policies and reviews from other users, then narrow down your options to the best fit for you.

Product manufacturers should consider sites like Amazon or Ebay. On the other end of the spectrum, my site, aftcra, targets artisans and crafters who want to sell one-of-a-kind handmade products.

2. The importance of branding.

Your brand is your promise to customers and the home of your reputation. Do everything you can to protect it. First, create a Brand Overview (your company’s values, vision and mission) that is straightforward and free of industry jargon. Next, build a Brand Guideline document (logo, color scheme, tagline and messages) that is easy to understand and replicate, so you can house your organization’s details in one location. This will help inform everything else you do, as well as provide a cohesive company overview for existing and new hires.

3. Product photography.

In the online world, shoppers make a decision from one photo. To create a solid product photo, take photos that inspire potential buyers to think, “If I buy this product, I/my home/my life will resemble these images.”

Eliminate distractions in the photo (i.e. patterns or unnecessary decorative items). Use natural light and display the product in a natural setting (i.e. clothing on a person, towels in a bathroom). Take a variety of pictures (i.e. detail shots or size comparisons).

4. Customer service.

Customer service is one of the most influential drivers of a purchase, especially online where personal experiences are diminished. Potential buyers will often filter for companies that have good reviews and ratings. They’re looking for real voices and opinions to help them navigate an impersonal world. That’s why it’s so important to create a human connection whenever possible.

Add personal touches to shipments, like a personalized thank-you note or a product sample to showcase your collection. This helps build customer loyalty and relationships while encouraging referrals and strong reviews.

Ensure the customer service throughout your organization is prompt and consistent. Train employees to handle criticism, complaints or suggestions from customers with consistent, positive messages and tone of voice.

5. Product name and description.

In some marketplaces, your product name and description are major factors in search engine queries.

Many marketplaces add product titles into the URL, allowing search engines to find your goods. Make your product title descriptive. “Car Seat Canopy” lacks descriptive words and is less likely to turn up in a search query than “Baby Car Seat Canopy Navy Blue Nautical and Chevron.” The more descriptive title will show up in searches for “nautical,” “chevron,” “navy blue,” etc.

Keep product descriptions simple and informative. Include any important detail (i.e. dimensions, color options, care instructions, shipment timeframes). Also describe what the product is and how you use it. This may seem apparent to you, but don’t assume it will be to the potential buyer.

6. Get social.

Executed correctly, social media can be your biggest ally. It requires more time and energy than most people think. But when used effectively, social channels help you nurture relationships with customers and are an excellent way to connect with other online sellers to share best practices.

Each social media outlet caters to a different audience. Beautiful photographs of your product belong on Instagram and Pinterest, which will lead to orders. Customer service compliments will be shared on Facebook, and can lead to referrals. Use Twitter to share product promotions and company updates with your followers.

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Tips for Maximizing Your Paid Content Promotions on Social Media

Now that you’ve seen the value of incorporating paid promotion into your social media strategy, follow these four tips to get the most from every advertising dollar you spend:

  1. Make it shareable. A long article probably isn’t the best piece of content to share in a paid promotion. Instead, share videos, infographics, memes, short blog posts, or “top 10” lists.
  2. Test your promotions. Try sharing different promoted content pieces on different social networks. Then, evaluate which types of content perform best on which networks. For example, most B2B businesses have better success on LinkedIn than they have on Facebook.
  3. Identify your objectives. Most people slap up a promoted post, cross their fingers and hope for the best. You’ll have more luck if you create promoted content based on specific goals. These goals could include increasing likes/followers, boosting sales revenue, or gathering new names for internal lists.
  4. Pivot when needed. Track your results and analyze your numbers so that you’re not stuck on a strategy that’s failing. If you’re spending money to promote content without getting new customers, then you need to spend your money in a more effective way.

The social media sharing game has changed, and your business has to work harder to get noticed. Don’t think of paid content promotion as an expense. Think of it as an investment in your company’s growth.

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Why You Should Pay to Promote Your Content on Social Media

Some marketers claim that great content always rises to the top, no matter what. The truth is that getting people to view content organically means cooking up a complicated soup, which consists not only of great material but also a wide range of optimization tools. Optimizing for search engines, building author and site authority, outflanking keyword competition, and writing for geographic relevance — all of these matter just as much as crafting a high-quality piece of content.

Paying for content promotion on social media is an essential part of a comprehensive digital marketing plan. Here are six reasons you should add paid promotion to your social media strategy.

Organic Is Still Best, but It’s Getting Harder

Back in spring 2014, Facebook culled many page posts from its news feeds because news feeds had become too crowded. Overnight, companies with thriving Facebook presences saw their numbers plummet. Think about it: Harvard University has an admissions rate of 6.3 percent, meaning that applicants have about a 1-in-17 chance of getting admitted to the elite school. A Facebook post has a 1- to 2-percent chance of getting into someone’s news feed. Your chances of getting into Harvard are better than your chances of getting an organic post to your Facebook fans.

Other networks haven’t been as draconian, but it’s harder to get noticed in increasingly crowded feeds no matter what social networks you use. When nearly every business, celebrity, not-for-profit, and fictional character has its own social network account, a social network feed gets as noisy as the trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Don’t give up on organic promotions, but do add paid promotions into your marketing mix.

Social Media Pay-for-Promotion Is Cheaper Than AdWords

To reach 1,000 people, the average AdWords customer pays $2.75. To reach 1,000 people on LinkedIn, an advertiser spends $0.75. Reaching 1,000 people on Facebook costs just $0.25. Moz blogger Brian Carter puts it another way: Spending $1 on Facebook promotions every day could get your content in front of at least 4,000 people each day.

Social Networks Offer Valuable Targeting Tools

Once you’ve identified your target customer, social networks offer extensive tools for putting your content in front of the right people. Using Facebook’s tools, you can target your ads or promoted posts based on location, language, age, gender, education levels, workplace, interests, and relationship status. You can also create ads targeted to people from your email list.

With Twitter, you can use third-party tools to help aim your promoted content toward the right audience. SimplyMeasured, for example, offers a free tool that helps you analyze your current Twitter followers. You can then aim your promoted tweets or Twitter Cards toward people with similar characteristics.

Social Networks Provide Value-Added Tracking and Testing Tools

Social media analytics tools can track customer response to your ads or promoted posts. You can easily see which promoted content received the most clicks, shares, favorites, or re-tweets. Twitter Card analytics let you see which types of Twitter Cards attract the most engagement. It also reveals top influencers that link to your promoted content, which gives you a place to start conversations with people who can amplify your content organically.

You can also use third-party tools like SimplyMeasured or HootSuite to track engagement across multiple platforms. Instead of logging into each social network account and running analytics, you can run reports from a single location. Using these tools, you can perform A/B tests to see which versions of the same promoted posts get the most response. You should test different keywords, headlines, images, post formats, and other messaging to see which earns the most audience engagement.

Promoted Posts Increase Chances for Engagement and Sharing

By paying to promote your post, you increase the chances that people might share your content or engage with your organization. Under current conditions, if you post an amazing piece of content to a Facebook page that has 1,000 fans, only 10 to 20 people might see your post. Boosting your post can increase its chances of going viral. Instead of hoping that followers find your content via search query and navigate to their social networks to share it, paid promotion enables sharing from within the social network interface.

Paying to Promote Content Is a Great Way to Reach New Customers

In the early days of social media, you’d share great content with your followers, who would then share it with their friends. In some cases, those friends would become new customers for your business. Unfortunately, your fans and followers aren’t seeing your content as often as they once did, so it’s not getting shared with as many new customers. Promoted content gives you a better shot at winning new customers, particularly if you combine your social media paid promotions with promotions on Reddit or StumbleUpon.

Some marketers claim that paid posts don’t elicit as much engagement. It’s true that you might see a high number of initial “likes” and clicks without the repeat engagement that organic shares can bring. However, you can still use information from new “likes” and clicks to gain valuable leads. Some businesses use promoted posts to gather names for their email marketing lists.

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Affordable Ways to Get Your Business Noticed Online

If you’re a small business you likely don’t have the budget to draw prospects to your site with expensive digital ads. Which means you need to be strategic about managing the fundamental pillars of your digital presence.

Luckily, it’s not too complicated.Here are five strategies to keep in mind if you want to get your business noticed online without breaking the bank.

1. Use social media to do more than just sell your product or service.

These days, most companies are engaging with customers on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social channels. But that doesn’t mean they’re doing it right.

Just like a person who constantly talks about himself, a company that never stops selling on social media is a bore. Don’t use every post and tweet to tout your product or service. Instead, mix in some links to interesting stories that are relevant to your industry and community, as well as personal posts, such as a fun anecdote about your office culture.

Don’t overdo it, however. Though frolicking kitten photos rule the Internet, they probably don’t have a place on your business’s social accounts unless you run a pet store.

2. Avoid purchasing backlinks.

Link backs to your site from other sites are said to be the biggest rank-influencing factor in SEO. If search is a huge driver of traffic to your site, it may be tempting to purchase backlinks from outfits that practice that particular dark art. Before you do so, be aware you’re taking a risk.

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Google effectively views each link to your site as a vote of confidence that propels your ranking upward, and it equates buying backlinks with vote rigging. Those who are caught can be punished with a lower search ranking. In most instances, it’s not a risk worth taking.

Instead, focus on building relationships with reputable websites. You could either look for opportunities to syndicate content on websites or see if you could contribute to their site. Another option would be to do a Google search of websites that have mentioned your company in a post and requesting a link back to your website.

3. Experiment with Instagram.

While most businesses have an active presence on Facebook and Twitter, far too many neglect Instagram. That’s a mistake. With more than 300 million users who, on average, spend 21 minutes per day on the app, Instagram is a powerhouse.

If you run a B2B company, you might think Instagram’s image-based platform just applies to bakeries, florists and other businesses with photogenic products, but Instagram can be a great way to make an emotional connection with current and prospective customers no matter what kind of business you’re in. It can also serve as a recruitment tool, allowing your business to showcase its company culture.

Social media management system Hootsuite’s Instagram account is a great example of this. With 13,300 followers and counting, the account shows scenes from Hootsuite’s dog-friendly office. Email-marketing service provider MailChimp’s account is similarly well run. With more than 19,000 followers, it features images, including a person in a robot costume and the company logo reproduced in latte foam.

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4. Focus on securing a domain that matches your business’s industry.

There’s a widespread belief that Google penalizes new domain extensions like .nyc, .house, .flowers, .market, and the hundreds of other new top-level domains (gTLDs) in search rankings. In fact, many people assume Google doesn’t surface domains registered with these extensions at all.

That’s not the case. “Overall, our systems treat new gTLDs like other gTLDs, [such as] .com and .org,” Google’s John Mueller explained. “Keywords in a TLD do not give any advantage or disadvantage in search.”

So there’s no need to make a big cash outlay to obtain your exact-match domain name on .com, instead of a new domain extension, because Google won’t reward you for it.

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Reasons To Hang Out With Your Target Audience

Marketing a business to a large and diverse audience may sound like a good idea, but most companies old and new know learn quickly that you’re much better off to aim for one specific demographic and then really focus your time, effort, and advertising money on that group. What isn’t often talked about, however, is that one of the best ways to get to know your target audience isn’t just by using Google Analytics or some other type of software. For many, it pays off to do things the old fashioned way — get out there and physically spend your free time around your target audience.

I know if you’re a young guy trying to start up a business selling dress clothes to older men, the idea of hanging out at some overpriced, elite club during the week after work might not sound like the most fun you’ve ever had, but in the long run this type of extracurricular activity might be worth the large bar tab and cigar scent on everything you own. Here’s why.

1. Think like your target audience.

Being among them helps you think like your audience because you’re in their environment. First, you need to figure out where your audience spends most of their time. This in itself is a good way to help you get to know them better. If you don’t know where they hang out, you must not know them very well, so do the research, put in the legwork, and figure out where they’re eating, drinking, and spending their free time relaxing. Once you figure this out, go there often, immerse yourself in the environment, and don’t forget to listen.

You’re not going to learn anything and you’re not going to be able to improve your business if you’re the one doing all the talking. Observe your audience, listen to what they’re saying, and try to elicit feedback about whatever market your business is in. Topnonprofits.com suggests you analyze character traits such as: personality types, attitudes, values, interests/hobbies, lifestyles, and behaviors. Then at a later date, figure out how you can use this feedback and newfound knowledge to better reach your target audience and to better develop your product(s) to meet their needs. After a while spent doing this, you should start to get to know your audience well enough that instead of constantly having to ask them what they think, you can start to naturally think like them. Then, when you’re trying to problem solve or come up with new ideas, instead of having to physically go to the local watering hole, you should be able to get yourself in the same mindset as your audience and make these changes on your own.

2.Surround yourself with potential clients.

What better way to market your business and your products than to actually, physically, go spend time with the people who could potentially be your consumers? This is becoming a foreign concept in a world where so much networking happens online, but try to remember back to a time before the Internet (yes, this time existed). There have always been businesses, there has always been advertising, and there have always been entrepreneurs and consumers. So how did businesses not just survive, but thrive, before there were computers? You probably see where I’m going with this.

People went out and spent time together, got to know each other, and became acquaintances, if not friends. Then, when the time arose, they called on each other to network for various ideas and businesses. It all goes back to a sense of community. Communities, both literal and online, can be incredibly supportive. So before you just go asking people for things, show that you are invested in the community. Why should they support you and your business? Why should they network with you and possibly become a client? What value can you add to theirworld?

Make it abundantly clear through words and actions that you are devoted to the community, and most likely you’ll be amazed at the rash of new clients that will be willing to work with you because not only are they interested in your product, they like and respect you as a human being. Zig Ziglar once said “If you help enough people get what they want, you will get what you want.”

3.Spurs new ideas.

I can’t stress this enough — listen to your audience! Ask them for feedback, and then be creative about how you use this feedback. Eventually your creative juices are going to run dry, and you’re going to be stuck when it comes to thinking up new ideas. Maybe hidden somewhere in that conversation is an idea that might never have occurred to you unless you made the effort to engage in a dialogue with someone who is interested in your product. Or maybe, disguised as a problem or a complaint, is a brand new idea for a product or a marketing strategy that can double as the solution your target group is asking for, and you had been looking for.

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