The new and improved Google+ is already making national headlines in the blogsphere since it was unveiled earlier this week at Google's annual developer conference, Google I/O.
Sadly, no announcements were made about new hardware releases, so don't expect to have any rumors of a Phone X confirmed or denied in this post. However, we will discuss the latest improvements to Google+ including the new look and plans to dominate the social space by leveraging their all-knowing data center.
Whether you agree or disagree with Google+'s ability to outsocial Facebook in the short or longterm is not of real importance. Once you digest the vision of how Google plans to use its combined network of 580 million Google+ and Google account holders, you might just choke on previous claims of the sites lack of relevancy in social media.
Introducing the New & Improved Google+
More than 41 new features were annouced at Google's IO. In this three-minute video, a reporter from The Verge sits down with the ring leader of Google+ Vic Gundotra. He speaks of Google+ as the company's 'social spine' with their powerful and all-knowing data center at the heart of it all.
Now that you got the scope directly from 'the horses mouth' as they say, let's talk about the updates from a marketing and brand perspective.
Focus on Photos
If we've said it once, we've said it a dozen times, integrate photo sharing into your content mix. Facebook's acquisition of Instagram and the sheer magnitude of Instagram's success should have been enough to convince you to start sharing photos on your social media. But Google+ has taken photo sharing to another dimension with the latest updates.
Here's the gist of the photo editing features:
Auto-Awesome automatically adjusts photos and groups them together.
Auto-Awesome Motion takes multiple photos and turns them into an animated image.
Users can edit and add effects to photos directly inside Google+, no need to use another application.
They managed to cut out the middle man (in this sense Instagram and Vine)and integrated photo editing directly into their network. Well played guys.
In an ABC news interview, Gundotra said "Our goals are to make people happy and get technology out of the way. You know what makes people happy? Great photos of the people they care about. Today the steps involved to get people happy is very complicated. Take a photo, remember to get it off the device, get it on to the machine, edit it, back it up, share it."
Gundotra couldn't be more right. Photo editing and sharing on social media is overly complicated, but remains a task that users willingly complete day after day. Google+ offers an alternative approach to this social media phenomenon and critics could not wait to point out the kink in Google+'s armor - the network's not putting social first. While that statement seems true on it's face, Google has so much data on its users that social can actually stand to be second. Take into account the amount of activity and usage throughout Google product line. They already have the numbers. The plan is to move the numbers across products to the 'social spine' seamlessly.
New Layout = Better Storytelling
Google+ has gone the way of Pinterest, Facebook, and Mashable when it comes to looks. The side-by-side column layout is obviously still trending and we must say it looks good ya Google. But with the 2-column layout comes the need to properly balance the content mix so one content type is not dominating your profile. Your posts tell your brand story and now that they are arranged side by side, you need to be more intentional about what you post.
From photos to video and text posts, find a rhythm to your storytelling. Balance your feed.
Watch out Twitter. The redesigned Google+ newsfeed automatically generates hashtags related to posts in an effort to encourage exploration. When you click on the hashtag, the post flips to show you other content with that same hashtag. The fact that the hashtags generate automatically is a definite plus, because that means the content will be relevant across the board. Unlike hashtags on Instagram and Twitter which are user generated and most times send you down a rabbit hole. This is a great way to discover new people who are posting about the same things as you. Finding new people to follow has always been my number one complaint with Google+. Well, that and the lack of vanity urls.
Now that Google+ Hangouts are the company's unified messaging service, Google aims to make Google+ the central communications hub. Hangouts replaced chat and now it's more prominently positioned on the right side. You can even share photos, emoticons and everything else you could in chat.
Google annouced more than just upgrades to Google+ at their conference in San Francisco. Stay tuned for more information about what else you have to look forward to this year. Until next time, join us on Google+!
Today, we’re continuing on to Part Two of The Content Marketing Roadmap for Busy Inbound Marketers. Part One covered the Plan and Audience stages of the Content Marketing Institute’s Content Marketing Framework – 7 Building Blocks to Success.
Let’s jump right back into this discussion. Today, we will cover the Story and Channel stages of the content marketing process. In an effort to round out things out a bit, we are reaching beyond CMI’s perspective on storytelling.
Ok, so by now it should be clear that content marketing is about much more than selling something and storytelling is no different. In fact, it’s the foundation of all your content developments. Masters of storytelling succeed in developing strong customer relationships over time. The key words being ‘over time’ because the story should be continuous and never ending.
The hard part for most marketers is deciding what should be part of the company or client's story, both long and short term. Remember, in this context, the word ‘story’ does not correlate to an actual beginning, middle, and end type of tale. Story refers to the art of clearly and concisely delivering your message with both passion and purpose.
Here are the basic points to cover:
- How did your company get its start?
- How did you come to this point?
- What fuels your current and future successes?
- What is your unique value proposition?
- What do you offer and why is it unique?
Other than that, there are no ‘rules’ to narrative development in storytelling. There is no linear path to follow, but CMI suggests using the Brand Hero’s Journey Chart to uncover your company or client’s ‘story.’ It helps you develop a structure to use for one content marketing initiative or an entire content marketing plan.
As far as what type of content you choose to create and publish, we have a few ideas for content topics listed below:
- Brand Perspectives, Resources
- Customer Thoughts
- In the News and Behind the Scenes
- Influencer Point of Views
- Customer Profiles
- Internal and External Thought Leadership Perspectives
7 Tried and True Content Types:
- User Content
Find a method and rhythm that works for your company or client, test, measure, and adjust accordingly.
Once you’ve developed your story, it’s time to share your story with the world. Finding the right channels to deliver your message is necessary to ANY successful content marketing program.
One thing CMI stresses is that ‘how’ and ‘where’ your audience receives your message is just as important as the message itself. Why you ask? Because every platform is unique and so are the audiences on those platforms. The LinkedIn crowd is very different from those found on Reddit. Placing the wrong message in the wrong channel hurt your cause, so tailor your message to the medium.
Another thing, your channels should not exist in a vacuum. Channels are determined based on your content strategy. If your strategy calls for targeting 13 - 24 year olds, then Vine is a good choice and don't invest in building out your LinkedIn presence.
4 Tips to Guide Channel Strategy:
- Develop a plan to identify all the current and future channels
- Determine objectives for each channel and how they integrate with one another
- Construct an editorial plan to organize when and where you will publish content
- Format a budget for any design work or other expenses related to your communication channels
After you have your channel plan set, do not make the mistake of committing to it. Channels come and go all the time. Remember when MySpace was all the rage? Depending on when you were born, you may or may not have been part of the MySpace era. Sadly, it is no longer a viable channel unless you are in the music industry. Even then, there are several other musician channels on the market and more on the horizon. Long story short, don't get comfortable. Monitor industry trends, continue assessing the effectiveness of your channels with your marketing team. Test, measure, and adjust accordingly.
This concludes our discussion on Story and Channels, but check back tomorrow as the Content Marketing Roadmap for Busy Inbound Marketers moves on to Process and Conversations.
Being a marketer in the 21st century is a lot more complex than it was years ago.
The endless jugging act of creating original content for multi-tiered marketing campaigns, following up on leads, staying on top of the latest industry trends, all while continuing to grow your own business and brand is the new normal for even the most traditional of marketers.
Nevertheless, your (or inability) to adapt to the ever changing nature of this field ultimately determines your success and longevity in this business.
Unless you've been living under a rock for the past few years, you already know that content marketing is a necessity for your marketing plan, as well as your clients. What you probably don't know is how to shift gears and get on the content marketing train. It is hard to find your way, but it's not impossible. You just need to visualize yourself completing the goal and commit to a strategy. In this blog, we will identify a very simple roadmap to help busy inbound marketers get on the path to content marketing bliss.
The Content Marketing Institute has done a great job of simplifying this process, so we'll use their methodology to guide our way (see below). You can apply this roadmap to both your marketing company, as well as the clients you serve.
*The CMI Content Marketing Framework - 7 Building Blocks to Success*
As with all marketing processes, planning is the first step. Where your planning starts depends on where you are in what CMI likes to call 'the content marketing journey.' Regardless of where you find yourself, some things are applicable across the board, such as the outcomes for this stage. You need to answer a few basic questions, which are:
Who are you or who is your client?
What do you/they want to accomplish?
What are the distinguishing factors between your/their product and service offerings?
What are your/their strengths, weaknesses, threats, and opportunities both internally and externally?
How will content marketing plans affect and integrate with existing campaigns?
What and who will the content marketing program involve?
What are the key deliverables and timetables involved with this project?
These questions are merely the starting point for discussions about your content marketing plan. The answers to these questions will leave you with a better understanding of who you and your clients are, where your marketing currently stands, and where you/they need and want to be in order to achieve and maintain relevant marketing. The overall breadth of your content marketing should continually asses and affirm the company's brand identity.
This is a solid start on the roadmap to content marketing success. Let's keep moving. The next step is the audience.
The whole point of creating, curating, and publishing content is to reach your targeted audiences. During this stage of the content marketing roadmap, you must determine WHO you want to reach. There are two constant audiences that must be engaged at all times: internal stakeholders (such as employees) and external stakeholders (such as potential leads and current customers).
Create a survey for the CEO, CMO, and sales and marketing teams. If you're working on your own content marketing, create a survey for yourself and others in your company. Get everyone to all answer these same questions. The survey should ask about the company itself, best practices, competitors, products, services, etc. The goal is to get different perspectives about the company, because everyone of the roles mentioned above may see things in a different way.
Develop customer personas. It's important to understand as much as possible about the customers you are targeting and engaging. The best way to develop targeted content is to base your content on customer personas. The goal is create a picture(s) of your customer base to guide your communications strategies and tactics. So, when you create a piece of content for a new campaign, the customer you're targeting has some distinguishing characteristics and even a name like "Frugal Freddy" or "Curious Claudia." This way, you're personalizing your content for the intended audience.
Segment the audiences. After you've finished uncovering details about the company, their competitors and developed customer personas, you need to segment those customer audiences so you can create content for every stage of the buying cycle.
Now that you have gotten your ducks in a row with planning and audience development, it’s time to move on to the ‘Story’ stage. This is where you will decide what message you want to communicate about the company and its offerings.
We will continue on with this other steps tomorrow. Be sure to check back in for Part 2 of The Content Roadmap for Busy Inbound Marketers. If you have any questions, please list them below in the comment box and we'll follow-up. Or if you'd prefer to connect offline, simply click the button below for a free consultation with our team.
The famous saying "out with the old, in with the new" comes to mind whenever I see companies shifting away from outbound marketing to inbound marketing.
When a company decides to change the foundation of their marketing strategy, it's a pretty big deal, and as is any degree of major organizational change, it does not happen overnight. How then is it that some companies still cling to the empty promises of outbound marketing? Either they are seeing a significant return on investment or they are in serious denial about the evolution that marketing has undergone in the last 10 years.
No doubt it must be difficult for marketers working in organizations that refuse to acknowledge or accept that inbound marketing bears more fruits than outbound. This blog was written especially for this group of marketing professionals to help them make the case for inbound marketing. In this blog, we will take an in-depth look at the pros vs. cons and discuss examples of both marketing strategies to determine which is the best bang for your company's marketing buck. Keep in mind that a marketing strategy is not a one size fits all situation. If you are in an industry that could generate or is currently generating customers through the Internet, you should continue reading this blog.
Outbound & Inbound Marketing Defined
Outbound Marketing, also referred to as 'interrupt' marketing, is essentially any form of activity that 'pushes' content to consumers. Think TV advertisements, cold-calling, direct mail, subscribing people to email lists, banner ads, radio, etc. It is the type of marketing that customers reject as intrusive and unwanted. This old or traditional way of reach consumers is referred to by marketers some as an age-old demand generation tool.
Inbound Marketing is a marketing strategy that focuses on getting found online by customers. The evolution of consumer behavior caused this shift in marketing strategy. Savvy companies are making changes to their marketing budgets to account for this shift and reach consumers that cannot be reached using traditional methods.
Why Can't Consumers Be Reached by Traditional Marketing?
We are not saying no consumer can be reached with outbound marketing. Anyone who tells you such a thing is simply not being truthful. There is still a purpose and place for outbound marketing in nearly every companies marketing mix. However, the path that today's consumer takes to discover a product is vastly different now that the Internet is so robust. Here are some stats to help you understand why consumers are not as receptive to traditional marketing as they once were:
- 86% of people skip television advertisements
- 44% of direct mail goes in the trash unopened
- 84% of 25-to-34 year olds left a favorite website due to intrusive or irrelevant ads
- 91% of email users have unsubscribed from a company email after initially opting in
These facts should not be a complete surprise to you because we are all consumers and understand the annoyance of outbound marketing. So why continue to put so many eggs in that basket? It is time to reevaluate your marketing budget. Still not convinced? Let's talk ROI.
Get More Out of Your Budget
Yes, another buzzword that helps every boss is obsessed with. If you need to add more fuel to the fire before your boss will get on the inbound marketing bandwagon, this next point should drive your message home.
Inbound marketing costs 62% LESS than outbound. In fact, 3 out of 4 inbound marketing channels costs less than ANY outbound channel.
Inbound boosts customer acquisition through company blogs, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.
Synergy is Essential
As we said before, no one is advocating for you to completely abandon outbound marketing in favor of inbound. Instead, find a synergy between the two strategies to reach customers offline and online. While the 25-34 demographic is receptive to inbound, the older demographic still appreciates receiving things in the mail and being able to talk with someone on the phone. They may or may not engage in your Facebook contest or read your blog, but you can be they are listening to the radio and attending tradeshows.
Tips for Create Synergy While Shifting Your Budget to Inbound
Even though we have provided sufficient justification for transitioning to inbound, do not expect your boss to buy in over night.
Here are 3 tips to help you grease the wheels to transition your company’s traditional marketing strategy to reach the digital consumer:
- Ruthlessly Measure ROI of Outbound Marketing – Like we said before, bosses love to know about the return of activities that cost. It is no secret that outbound marketing such as television and radio ads, banner ads, and the like cost big bucks. For each campaign, set success goals, develop cost/benefit analysis and determine if the return on investment was worth it.
- Create Campaigns With Inbound Aspects – If your company takes out a full page ad in a print magazine each quarter like clockwork, make a case for the campaign to feature key messages and QR code that features a leads consumers to a cool video instead of a webpage pushing consumers to ‘buy buy buy.’ This way, you keep the outbound aspect (print ad), but add an inbound element that can spice it up.
- Keep Track of the Competitions Inbound Efforts – Nothing will get your bosses attention faster than saying ‘we’re behind our peers on this.’ They hate being late to the party, but how will they know they are late if you fail to put that bug in their ear?
Take a gander at this nifty and informative infographic that helps tell the story visually. It is where we found those lovely factoids about outbound vs. inbound marketing.
If you find yourself wondering what inbound marketing metrics you SHOULD BE measuring, you are not alone. Marketers are commonly asked to provide analytics feedback to their bosses to determine the overall effectiveness of their marketing efforts.
There are plenty of inbound marketing analytics products on the market, but which will give you the right metrics? The other question is what data do you need to make your case? Every marketing goal or objective requires measuring for a different metric.
In this blog, we will discuss the 5 inbound marketing metrics that every marketer should become obsessed with.
These metrics should be measuring these metrics on a daily basis. That is right, I said daily basis, not monthly or weekly. The whole point of investing money, time, and resources into building out your website with content and offers is to reach customers and keep them engaged until they are purchasing your services or products. Without an strong grasp of how customers interact with your website and offers, you are in the dark about your overall effectiveness.
5 Inbound Marketing Metrics to Measure DAILY
Website Visitors - Anyone who finds you online organically or via paid ads falls into the general website visitor category. Search engines index websites based on how heavy they are, so if you update your content regularly and people like what you post to your website, search engines will love your site. Google Analytics is a free tool that can tell you when new or returning visitors enter your site, where that pages they visited, what site they came from, and how long they stayed.
Customers - A customer is anyone who purchases your products or services. If you are not already tracking their behavior on your website, you are in serious trouble. These are your loyal clients, the people who you should know the most about. Google Analytics will not tell you how many of your customers are using your website, but you could make educated guesses based on how many web visits you received after sending an email to your customers. If you see a spike in traffic, you probably would not be too off base to assume it came from your customers. If you are using an email client like MailChimp, which integrates with Google Analytics, you will be able to track these click-throughs.
Leads - Anyone who shows interest in your products or services online is a lead. By interest, I mean someone who signs up for your email newsletter, request a demo, sign up for a webinar, or download an e-book on a landing page. Leads are potential customers who have yet to actually purchase something from you. But they have shown an interest in what you offer. It makes sense to track these folks, right?
Conversion Rates - The rate at which a web visitor or customer goes beyond the casual web visit or e-book download as a result of a marketing campaign, whether direct or indirect. Here's the formula for measuring conversion rates:
Conversion rate = Number of goal achievements / visits
Every offer you put on your website should have a conversion goal tied to it. Driving people to your website is only the first hump, you need them to become customers. How do you do that? There are more ways to list than we have time for in this blog, but the primary ways are by offering compelling and valuable content followed by crystal clear call to actions.
Channel Level Funnel - The funnel is a metaphor for the path a customer takes to navigate through the advertising/organic search path created by marketers to eventually make a sale (end of the line). Which channels are bringing customers to your website? Social media, blogs, email marketing, paid ads, or organic search traffic? Once you have identified your key channels, start tracking the 4 things mentioned above to determine what can be changed to improve conversion rates.
Inbound marketing is all about helping potential customers find your website and giving them valuable content with the expectation that they will one day become customers. Tracking and monitoring users on your site is one of, if not the most critical activity marketers should be obsessed with.
Are you tracking your web visitors the right way or are you just reviewing Google Analytics without a true understanding of how to optimize the web experience to reach your marketing goals?
If not, you are far from reaching your full potential. Be on the lookout for our next few blogs, which will be focused on dissecting inbound marketing from every angle possible. If you have any questions at all, post a comment and we’ll respond right away. Curious about how your website is performing? Sign-up for a free website audit below and we'll let you know!
Let's say your business is fortunate enough to have a pretty sizable base of engaged Facebook fans. They love to 'Like' and leave positive and sometimes snarky comments on your posts. You should feel proud of how far you've come and it is safe to say the hardest part of Facebook content creation is over.
Up until now it's been all fun and games, but the time has come to take the gloves off and begin driving people to your business website where the true lead conversion happens. The true test of whether you are any good at this inbound Internet marketing thing is being able to close the loop. Make the sale. Which sounds way too salesly for me, but that is what we're here for. Social media marketing, Facebook marketing specifically, makes the sales process less so by giving marketers a way to lighten the mood, give some freebies, and have two-way communication with the consumer.
Which is now a little easier since the running champ of social media, Facebook, now allows Fan Pages to use direct call-to-actions on cover art. Prior to last month, Fan Pages had a long list of no-nos about cover art including price information and direct CTA's. Facebook Page Terms currently state the following:
Notice there is nothing in that statement prohibiting CTA's in cover art. Let's discuss a few steps to drive people to your website by using CTA'S in your Facebook cover art.
1) Decide On Your Offer
The cover art portion of the Facebook page is prime real estate, so choose wisely. It is the very first thing visitors see when they come to your page, so it can easily turn them off or on. An offensive image or boring offer could result in an 'unlike' and you've lost that person forever. Getting someone to 'relike' your page is more difficult than getting the initial interaction, so don't push it. Offer something valuable to people whether that be a contest or a no-strings freebie. Maybe you don't have merchandise, but can give a free subscription or consultation.
2) Use Tracking Code
Analytics tools like bit.ly are great, because they allow you to create shorter urls with embedded tracking. With a simple copy and paste, you can create a custom url and watch real-time click-throughs from anywhere. One way to see how effective your cover art is in compelling visitors to act is to leave a bit.ly link that leads to your website where the promised offer lies. In the example below, Hubspot attempted this very thing and received praises and criticism from their fans. Anyone who clicked on it was tracked back to Hubspot's website where they either signed up for the ebook or floated to another page on the site. Either way, Hubspot was able to see how many people converted, where they went after.
3) Create Cover Art and Landing Page
Now that you know what you want to offer and have code to track it with, it is time to design the cover art. Make sure your cover art is visually reflective of your overall brand. Also, design a custom landing page that ties in with your cover art. Keep the look and feel cohesive, as well as the text. You've got to ease people into your website, so dedicate this entire page to a simple download form and the same graphics from your cover art. Use Google analytics, or whatever product you use, to track the visitor flow to see where people went once they landed on your page.
Now that you have everything in place, the last step is to upload the cover art and make the landing page live. Leave it for a week to see if anyone likes or comments. If they don't take to your first one, come up with something different next week. Run a contest to get people to sign up for your blog or giveaway an iPad for a certain number of likes. Whatever you offer, do not forget to use tracking code, create custom cover art and landing pages each time.
The Pros and Cons of Facebook's Redesigned Newsfeed
Facebook Graph Search: What Social Media Marketers Need to Know
Top 4 Ways to Optimize Your Facebook Fan Page for Search Engines
Monitoring Social Media for Market Research and Content Ideas
As a business owner, you already know the value of having a web presence of some type. Whether it is a fancy website with all the bells and whistles or a Facebook page, chances are you have taken some steps to get your business listed on the Internet. But how visible is your business online compared to your competitors? Are you outshining the competition or barely able to compete?
An excellent marketing tool that you should have heard about by now are Google Plus Local pages, formerly known as Google Places. Google Plus Local optimization is a perfect marriage of search and social media in one integrated platform. It is a powerful new way for local businesses to amplify their messages to reach consumers shopping on the Internet. Because it is powered by Google, Local pages are able to be optimized for local search engine optimization that could do more for your business than your stagnant website ever could. If you do not have the money or time to invest in building out your website the right way, I suggest you look into Google+ Local pages as a solution.
In this blog, you will learn what Google+ Local pages are and a few tips on how to optimize them for local SEO.
What are Google+ Local Pages?
Google+ Local pages are business profile pages that replaced Google Places Pages last year. Once completed 100%, a Google+ Local page can provide your potential and current customer base with everything they need to know about your business, as well as honest reviews from other customers.
What's In It for Business Owners?
Besides the obvious value of empowering your customer base with information to make a purchase, Google+ Local pages can be a great tool for keeping people up to date on any changes related to your business. Not only that, Google+ Local pages help you index in Google organically which is completely free of charge! Exciting stuff, right?
The trick to taking full advantage of this wonderfully FREE opportunity is to provide accurate information on your business page. Of course, you need the basic information such as business address, phone number, business type and hours, etc. Unlike Google Places, Google+ Local brings social media to the mix, which has spiced things up a bit, for better or worse. If you are doing a great job, you can bet customers are leaving amazing reviews about your products and services. If you are doing a piss poor job, folks will leave review to that effect. This feature is very reminiscent of Yelp, but it offers the indexing benefit which will allow more people searching keywords related to your business to find the good, bad, and ugly about your products and services. The key to remember is that you have the power in this situation. You are ultimately in control of your products and services, and once claimed, you have the ability to respond to any negative reviews, as well as positive ones.
The only way to unlock the power of your Google+ Local page is first CLAIM YOUR PAGE. It is a simple and straightforward claim process, so take note of the tips listed below.
A Few Tips on Optimizing Google+ Local Pages for Local SEO
Tip #1 - Claim Your Google+ Local Page
Go to Google.com. Type your business name into the search box. If you have a Google+ Page, it will show up in the top few search results with a location marker symbol (see picture). If you do not have a page, you should create one.
When you visit your page, there will be a 'manage this page' button on the far right side. Click it. Then follow the steps.
Tip #2 - Complete Your Profile 100%
Take the time now to completely fill out every field on your profile. Google will index this information in their search engine making it easy as cake for customers to find your information. If you have multiple locations, take the time to fill out the profile completely for all locations. Be sure to use your business-related keywords because it will help you rank higher in Google search. Do not stuff keywords though. Doing so will cause Google to slap your hand. Add photos of your business location, products, services, logo, etc. Give people the proper stimulation to make them want to do business with you.
Tip #3 - Get Listed in Directories
Yes, this will require completing many more profiles, but in the end it is worth it. Directories drive traffic and give you more exposure. Verify that your information is absolutely correct in these places before publishing, because people rarely remember to come back and update these. At the very least, list your business website url. Here's a list of local and niche directories from an Entrepreneur.com article (http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/217982-2#) :
Tip #4 - Start Making Posts to Your Google+ Page
Now that you are set up on Google and have left some breadcrumbs to lead customers to your page, start making social media-like posts to keep them engaged. What type of posts you ask? Make it fun and simple. Post coupons. Use pictures and video. Not only text. That will get old after a while and will not stimulate engagement in the least.
Tip #5 - Promote Your Google+ Local Page in Your Establishment
Tell the people you do business with everyday, as well as your employees, that you created or claimed your page. Once they know, they will want to share their positive (or negative) experiences with the masses. The key is to start small and gradually build up. Do not expect your page to completely replace your website or other social media accounts. It will, however, be a great way for new and current customers to get directions to your business faster, find out new info, and allow them to see what others think.
If reading this blog opened up a whole can of worms related to your business' online presence and you want to talk it over with us, we are here to help you assess the situation. If you Googled your business name and found out there is already a page with terrible reviews and you need advice on how to make things right, again, we are here to help you. There is no need to navigate this situation alone and possibly make situations worse. Remember, when it comes to the Internet, the world is watching so put your best foot forward.
As a resident of Atlanta and self-proclaimed foodie, I have encountered the best and worst of both worlds when it comes to the digital presence of local restaurants. I am consistently disappointed with the way so many restaurants fail to properly use Internet marketing. There are many great experiences, and I am grateful for them.
However, it seems the majority of my favorite eateries are either too busy or just do not care. Even though I continue to dine at these places, I cringe when I try to Google search a menu using the official name or basic keywords/phrases and get nothing in return. Or worse, they have an inaccurate or dated web presence and lifeless social media, which is actually worse than having none at all. This persisting annoyance inspired today's blog.
In this blog I have set out explain to restaurant owners why they should invest in Internet marketing and how they can get started or clean up their act.
Lack of Marketing Causes Restaurant Failures
FACT: Research shows that restaurant failures can be studied from economic, marketing, and managerial perspectives. ("Why Restaurants Fail" by H. G. Parsa, John T. Self, David Njite, and Tiffany King)
For the purposes of this blog, we are only focusing on the marketing perspective. Below I identified four marketing tools that are critical to a restaurant's success. Word of mouth is not enough.
Review sites and directories (Google places, Yelp, Bing)
Social media (Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare)
Online deals/coupons (Groupon, Scout Mob, etc.)
Making your restaurant easy to find online by providing basic information in the above-mentioned forms is what your customers expect. People search online using their cell phones and desktops to decide on places to have their next meal. So who you are, what you offer and what makes you different from others restaurants should be easy to find. Not only that, customers want to know when are you open and when you host special events, promos, etc., where can they connect with you on the sites they frequent most like Facebook, Twitter, Google, Bing, Foursquare, etc.
Because customers are searching online for lunch and dinner ideas. not to mention, the guy down the street does. Chances are that your competition already has a website and a marketing plan to gain and keep clients. If you are drawing a blank about what information you should put on your website, see the list below.
The basics - location/address, hours.
The food - menu with updated prices, details about ingredients (people need to know what is in it. For example, gluten-free, no msg, etc. It shows people you care about their healthy.
Show and tell - photos and videos of food, interior, happy customers
Third party approval - reviews from Google, Twitter, Facebook, video testimonials.
This stuff is not rocket science or brain surgery. I frequent a lot of places that have top-notch service and food, but put no effort into extending their brand to the digital landscape. I cannot figure out why. Other than not having the money or manpower to create and manage these sites. I am always tempted to reach out to restaurant owners and ask why they have let this very simple, yet essential part of their marketing fall by the wayside.
Why Should Restaurant Owners Invest in an Internet Marketing Campaign?
Because customers are searching online for lunch and dinner ideas. Not to mention, the guy down the street is doing it. Chances are your competition already has a website and a marketing plan to gain and keep clients. Take a look at the amount of Google searches that have happened over time for various restaurants.
Google trends - interest over time for Italian, Mexican, Chinese, food trucks in Atlanta, 2010 – 2013
If you are a local restaurant owner without a website or a Google places account, you could be earning a lot more revenue if you invested in an Internet marketing campaign. Download our free ebook below to get started.
They've done it again. Facebook announced yet major another update last Thursday - a redesigned newsfeed. Although the Facebook newsfeed hasn't been redesigned in a number of years, it seems like they're making changes to the user interface every week.
While it's easy to become annoyed with the endless onslaught of tweaks, you've got to applaud their commitment to their mission - making the world more open. Their mission isn't flawed or evil per say, it's their failure to properly communicate their changes and motives that gets under people's skin. Ah well. We can only grit our teeth, adapt to the latest change and hope it's mutually beneficial for users and advertisers. Both audiences are the lifeblood of Facebook and we understand that it's a tough juggling act.
Another one of Facebook's goals is to become the "best personalized newspaper." The redesigned newsfeed brings them one step closer to that goal by bringing larger images and content-specific newsfeed streams. Now you can press a button and the newsfeed will reconfigure to only display photos, music, games, liked pages, and more. There are clear pros for the everyday user and obvious cons for advertisers.
In this blog, we'll give you the run down on exactly what changed, why, and what's in it for both audiences. For advertisers there are a few (very few) opportunities to exploit, but there are more benefits for the average user.
What's Changed and Why?
Facebook wants you to spend more time on their website. Instead of trying to fight your way through a single stream of updates from everyone you're connected with, Facebook has neatly organized the content by categories. Now you don't have to see everything at once. Instead you can toggle back and forth between music, games, photos, friends, and following feeds. So, instead of fumbling around on your own, Facebook is giving you direct options to choose from. Rather than scrolling to the bottom of your newsfeed and eventually leaving the site, Facebook has provided clear options to increase the time you spend on their 'digital newspaper.' Here are the content steams:
All Friends Feed - get an intimate look at what your friends are sharing
Following - updates from brand pages, news media outlets, and celebrities, etc.
Photos - bigger photos with an Instagram-like feel
Music - find newly released albums, music your friends have liked
Interest Lists or Friends Lists
The web view will mirror the mobile view, so users will have a consistent experience.
The power to choose what they see - the biggest benefit for users is the ability to control which content they see through the content-specific feeds. If a user never wants to interact with a page they've liked, they simply need never go to the 'following' feed.
Less clutter - sites like Twitter and Instagram have experienced success with cleaner interfaces. It logically follows that Facebook would the same for its users.
Optimized by preference - the feeds are automatically sorted by which one you check the most. They're tailored to each users content behavior.
Easier to discover other content - in addition to organizing its content better, Facebook is also trying to improve the visibility of trending content such as recent articles. You've probably noticed more 'articles' being read by your friends on your newsfeed. With the redesigned newsfeed, it'll be easier to find new content about topics and sources you already 'liked.'
Richer content from Instagram and Pinterest - Users with synced accounts will notice their posts are more like what they see on Instagram and Pinterest. Posts from both sites are more vivid and larger. You'll even be able to see your friends face on the side of a post that you both 'like.'
Facebook Marketing Benefits
Bigger photos and ads - when you promote a post that features a photo, that photo will be appear much larger than it ever has before.
Following feed - pages may (or may not) see an increase in engagement and likes now that they live on a single feed.
Longer link blurbs - the brief summary you can add and edit when posting a link will be longer.
Tips for Adjusting to the Change
Get to know the interface beforehand. How? Take the tour! Don't skip this part as many people often do.
As usual, Facebook will roll out this update slowly over time in order to get feedback and make changes as they go.
Here's what Zuck has to say about it all:
Mark Zuckerberg explained:
At a personal level we built a service that lets you see and feel the people and friends you care about. What we’re trying to do is give everyone in the world the best personalized newspaper. It should have quality public content from friends. It should have a front page and it should let you drill down into any topic you want. It should be visual, rich and engaging. It should be displayed with more than just text. From the beginning our goal with news feed was different than what any service was trying to provide. You should be able to share any type of content you want…and with any audience you want. The types you tell with photos are totally different.
Now that we all have cameras in our pockets, news feed has become primarily about visual content. Almost 50 percent of content in the news feed is visual. Now the average news feed Pages posts are almost 30 percent of the content. How we’re sharing is changing. We all want to share with friends, but want updates from publications we care about, and artists, and world leaders.
Owning and operating your own business is hard enough without having to take on the extra task of designing your own print and web graphics. Sadly, this is the position that many business owners find themselves in due to lack of funds and knowledge of a reliable and consistent graphic designer. The result is poorly designed marketing material that do the exact opposite of what you want to accomplish in business.
I know what you're thinking. "I don't have time to learn graphic design or watch endless training videos on Lynda.com." And we hear ya. To truly become an amazing graphic designer, you would need to reenroll in school to pursue a bachelor's degree and no one has time for that. You need amazing print and web graphics that present your business and products in a favorable light with customers. But your half-baked Microsoft Word clip art design will not cut it. In fact, you're doing more harm than good. (Sidebar: We believe that graphic designers are important and vital professionals. The purpose of this blog is to make SMALL business owners aware of the options that are available to them, because not everyone can afford to have a professional graphic designer. Those who can, should budget for those services because that's the ideal way to go. However, this blog is intended for those who cannot afford it and need short-term solution.)
Now back to our regular scheduled program...
It is possible to become your own in-house graphic designer or at the very least substantially cut the cost of hiring a designer for on a project/contractual-basis. We've discovered a wonderful website called Envato Marketplace, which offers reasonable priced (downright cheap) digital and print graphic materials that are fully editable (for the most part) and customizable for your specific needs.
Whether you're looking for a search engine friendly web site or photoshop design templates, Envato Marketplace has a solution. When it comes to putting your best foot forward, ask yourself two questions. Are your original designs helping or hurting your business? As a potential customer of your own business, do you find your printed and web graphic presence appealing?
If you answered yes to both questions and are not a trained graphic designer, you are lying to yourself. It's time to wake up and smell the roses. Now that you've got a good whiff, it's time to change the current condition of your graphic presence starting with your printed promotions.
Of course, you'll need to have at least some introductory knowledge of design software to make use of the available files. Hopefully the Adobe Creative Suite is not a foreign concept to you. If so, take some time to go check out tutorials on Lynda.com for the following graphic design software applications:
Watch the first few basic videos to understand how to use the toolbars and different features in each of these applications. Also learn how they work together. I know this may not be your cup of tea, but when you consider the cost savings of doing your own graphic design work (at least temporarily) until your startup is, well, started, you'll understand how much knowing the basics really matters. Learning the basics will also make you appreciate your next graphic designer a lot more, because you'll understand why they charge so much for what they do.
We'll take you through all the individual marketplaces of Envato and explain how you can get started.
Sign-Up for an Envato Marketplace account. You only need a single login and password to access every marketplace.
Get your print graphics from GraphicRiver.
This is the place where you can find print templates, graphics, web elements, vectors, icons, fonts, logos, and more. Simply scroll over the headings on the top menu bar to see your options. Look under print templates and you will find templates for things like business cards, stationery, newsletters, cards, brochures, etc. Basically everything you need to create you establish your brand offline. This should go without saying, but find templates that are easily editable and offer your preferred color scheme.
Next, find your photos in PhotoDune.
This is where you can find stock photography to fill your printed brochures, posters, flyers, etc. There are lots of stock photography websites on the Internet, so if you prefer using another site, feel free to do so. The beauty of Envato is that it has everything you need under one roof with a single login. So, the more you can centralize your efforts in one spot, the less time you'll waste logging in and out of different sites. Simple is better.
Lastly, let's pick a website in ThemeForest.
In the old days, you needed at least a $700 budget to design a barebones website. Thankfully those days are no more. Today, all you need is a blog and a url to have a presence online. But a regular blog won't represent your brand well. What you need is a theme, whether Wordpress or html, theme's work as a designed 'skin' for your blog. There are loads of options in ThemeForest. Take a look around and find something that works for your brand. Make sure it's search engine optimization friendly. There are a number of video tutorials you can watch to figure out how to set up a website using your new theme. Once you decide to purchase, you'll be able to ask the creator of the theme questions in an online, support forum of some kind.