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At this point, you know that a good email or SMS campaign goes hand in hand with social media. Few one-two punches even come close to the kind of power this duo packs. However, are your only options really Facebook, Google+, and Twitter? While the “Big Three” might be the first that come to mind when you think of reaching out to fans on social media, the truth about your other options – and the stats backing up these claims – might surprise you. With this in mind, let’s take a look at how Instagram can compliment a strong SMS or Email marketing campaign, sending your brand influence through the roof.

The Power of Instagram

Before going any further, you’re probably wondering why anyone would dare to put Instagram in the same category as Facebook or the other leading networks. However, the truth is that Instagram is in a league of its own when it comes to making contact with customers. According to a recent report from marketing research firm Forrester, Instagram delivered 58 times more engagement for brands per follower than Facebook, and 120 times more engagement per follower than Twitter. To put it plainly, these two leading names aren’t even close when it comes to actually connecting and interacting with your audience.

For a little extra context, the report showcases a video posted by Red Bull, which received 2,600 likes on Facebook. Not bad, right? While that kind of engagement is nothing to scoff at, it definitely pales in comparison to the 36,000 likes the same video received on Instagram. In total, six of the seven platforms studied reported engagement rates below .1 percent, with Instagram easily outpaced the field, taking the lead at 4.21 percent.

Going Beyond Stats

While the stats are definitely eye-popping, the real power of this visually oriented social network is the ability to actually engage customers in a meaningful and interactive way. Instead of tired, generic posts that so many brands rely upon when posting to Facebook or Twitter, sharing on Instagram lets you express your brand image, story, and content in a more engaging and visually pleasing manner. This unique method of getting in contact with your customers is what truly makes connecting via Instagram so powerful. While generating high quality graphic content that relates to your latest round of email or SMS messages, or brand in general, might take a little extra work, the numbers don’t lie regarding how your audience responds to this kind of engagement.

Building an Instagram Strategy

So now that you’re up to speed with what you have to gain by incorporating Instagram into your social media game plan, it’s time to take a look at how to fit this network into your next campaign. To start, take advantage of the full service profile features to give your customers an idea of what your brand is all about. Much like Twitter and Facebook, incomplete profile information doesn’t come off as very professional, so make sure you give your audience all they need to know (and then some) to ensure they have the complete picture regarding your brand.

From here, engaging your customers with fun events and activities is a great way to drum up interest in your brand and even score some extra numbers and addresses for your contact lists. Offering contests that require user submissions, as well as featuring these members of your audience on a regular basis, can go a long way toward building a significant brand following on Instagram. Even doing something as simple as showing off a promo code you’d normally use for your email or SMS marketing initiatives every once in a while can give members of the network all the incentive they need to make stopping by your profile and checking out your latest uploads a part of their daily routine.

Looking to the Future

Of course, the biggest question surrounding a platform like Instagram is the concern that it is just a passing fad. While the likes of MySpace, Friendster, etc. all tell a cautionary tale about the viability of social networks, the fact that over 90 percent of Instagram’s 150 million (and growing) users are under the age of 35 bodes well for the long-term prospects of brand’s that plan on utilizing this platform in upcoming campaigns. Adding in that the mobile technology revolution is going nowhere anytime soon, it’s pretty safe to say that Instagram should definitely have at least a complimentary spot in your email and SMS initiatives for a long time to come.

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By now, you know that email marketing and social media are two peas in a pod when it comes to reaching out to your audience. Whether it’s one of the countless marketing blogs out there telling you how great these two are together or your own personal experience doing a little brand promotion work, it’s not exactly the best kept secret in the industry. However, what plenty of talking heads fail to cover is exactly how you can put this connection to good use and grow your email contact list without a lot of extra effort. Thankfully, all you need to do is take a few minutes and look over these must see tips to get the ball rolling on your next big email marketing push.

Use Facebook’s Built-in Apps to Make an Email Opt-in Form (and Don’t Forget to Promote It!)

One of the absolute best synergies between social media and email marketing comes from the biggest social platform in the world. As part of its extensive app library, Facebook gives your brand the opportunity to setup an email opt-in form right on your page. While this might not seem like much, think back to the last time you were browsing a page and had to click an external link to check out an article or sign-up for something; chances are you probably just kept scrolling down because you didn’t want to leave the Facebook page or app on your phone. Your customers have the same mindset, so make it easy on them with a sign-up sheet that keeps them on Facebook. Once you have it up and running, don’t forget to post about it so that it pops up in their newsfeeds.

Each Social Site Deserves a Little Extra Attention

In a world where everything is automated and lumped together for convenience, it’s easy to be lazy and approach your social media engagement in broad and generic strokes. So many platforms give you the ability to post to all sites at once, so why not do this and save a little time? While this sounds good at first, the reality is that different people prefer different networks, so using the same method to promote your list across all of them isn’t your best bet.

Much like your email templates that have links and icons for each network you post on, instead of just one option, your promotional messages should also mix things up to entice different portions of your audience. While this does mean that you’ll need to test and tweak the different parts of your posts to see what Twitter, Facebook, Google+, etc. viewers like, the sign-ups you get in return will make you happy you didn’t take the easy way out and just click “post to all.”

Free Stuff Is a Great Motivator

If after all this you’re still having trouble with sagging contact list numbers, don’t be afraid to do start handing out some freebies. While you might not want to make this your go to plan, it doesn’t hurt to have some giveaway ideas in store for the times when you need to inject some new life into your audience’s enthusiasm. After all, nothing gets the online crowd buzzing more than a post offering goodies or discounts to those who take a minute to sign-up. If you really want to go deep on this strategy, adding in a small bonus for those who like or retweet your offer will have it popping up on potential new customer newsfeeds in no time.

Give Your Users a Chance to Sound off

With the rest of the tips on this list focusing on how you can make the sign-up experience enticing for customers, this one shifts the balance of power in the other direction a little bit. Customers love giving feedback, so why not give them a chance to speak their minds and let your brand know exactly what they like and dislike about your email campaigns. It doesn’t have to be an open Facebook post or Google+ community discussion, but linking back to feedback forms and customer support email accounts on your social media pages offers a direct line to the people you’re trying to connect in the first place.

Don’t Forget the Secondary Networks

The final tip that can really grow your email list doesn’t have anything to do with Facebook or Twitter. While these guys are definitely the top dogs when it comes to social media, that doesn’t mean they are the only players in the game. Working with Pinterest, LinkedIn, and the other up and coming platforms can help you tap into a user base that might not connect very often on the bigger networks. Additionally, getting creative and doing things like saving your email offers as pins on Pinterest can help push your brand image ahead of the competition. When it comes to email marketing and social media, isn’t that where you want to be with your audience?

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For the regular readers of this blog and pretty much any other site that covers email marketing, you probably see a ton of discussion regarding social media – and for good reason. While emails are still your best bet for generating leads and hammering out sales, there’s a ton of overlap between this marketing approach and getting friendly with your email list and other potential customers, especially on Facebook. With this in mind, let’s take a look at some of this synergy and how you can best retool your company’s Facebook account to supercharge your next email marketing campaign.

Everyone Loves Being Liked

The first entry on the list is pretty straightforward, but highly effective. By simply having a “like” button in the bottom of your email messages, you give your list members a fast and easy way to share your content and let it go viral. With so many social groups looking to show off great deals, it only makes sense that you give them the tools to do this with a simple click. From here, others who might never have known about your email list can jump on the bandwagon and get your daily or weekly offers in their inboxes going forward. In short, it’s a simple addition to your message that goes a long way with customers who love being social on the web.

Learning More about Those Already on Your List

Outside of having your email list show off your deals by liking and sharing your latest message, you can dig a little deeper with Facebook and learn more about your target audience. With so much information being made publicly available via this social network, your company can compare its mailing list with what these customers like and which social communities they’re a part of. Even just a few years ago, this type of insight into what your audience likes and wants was pretty much unheard of. However, with this information in hand, you can reshape and rework your email marketing operations to give them what they really want and boost conversions in a big way at the same time.

Timing’s Everything on Any Platform

It’s funny how some things, regardless of the platform, never change. When it comes to email marketing and posting on Facebook – or any other social network – timing is at the top of this list. If you’ve taken the steps to learn as much as possible about your target audience, then you should have a pretty solid idea of how and when they like their messages. If not, that’s OK too. By fiddling with when you schedule posts on Facebook and keeping track of which offerings blow up and which ones fizzle out, you’ll learn a lot about timing and your audience. From here, putting those test results to good use by optimizing your email messaging schedule is a nifty little trick that can help you sneak in a few extra conversions that might have otherwise have gone by the wayside because of bad timing.

Having a Little Fun

Of course, the synergy between email marketing and Facebook that your fans will like the most is letting them have a little fun. At first glance, you might be wondering how this is even possible. However, simply opening up a browser window with your own Facebook page and looking at your newsfeed will answer this pretty quickly. If you’re page is like most of the rest of ours, you’ll notice that everyone’s filling out quizzes and surveys for pretty much anything. From TV shows to the latest Internet trends, surveys asking “which character are you most like” and a variety of other topics are a major part of the Facebook social experience these days – and there’s no reason your brand shouldn’t get in on the fun.

By having links to your own Facebook surveys, quizzes, and even contests in your emails, you’ll not only engage your audience a little more by letting them have some fun filling these out, but you’ll also learn a lot about what makes them tick. When it comes to maximizing sales and exposure on any part of the web, this kind of insight and interaction should be a top priority for any brand that’s serious about getting the most out of social media and email marketing.

Give Your Viewers a Reason to Share

The final entry on the list is more of a mantra than a specific tip. While all the other synergies we’ve covered have been pretty specific, the biggest thing to remember, regardless of what you decide to do with your company’s Facebook page and email marketing campaign, is to give your audience a reason to share your content. No matter what direction you go, keep this ideal at the forefront of your strategy and you’ll be sure to hit a home run with the social butterflies that make up your audience the next time you roll out a new campaign.

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It’s 2014, and the Internet has never been more alive with people connecting across the globe on countless platforms. While this might not be awe-inspiring to some, if you’re a business looking to connect with customers, this is the golden age of interactive marketing and building virtual connections. Standing astride many campaigns and projections are connecting with customers via social media and email marketing initiatives. On the surface, these two practices might not seem to have much room for overlap. However, with a deeper look from both sides of the process, you might be surprised at just how much synergy exists between social media and email marketing, leading you to revamp how you interact with your customers entirely.

The Goal of Marketing via Emails

To start, email marketing approaches the process of connecting with consumers in a more traditional manner. By building a database of potentially interested individuals, you can ship out newsletters, offers and informational emails that help redirect customers back to your website and through the doors of your physical storefront. In some cases, having exclusive promotions or other perks listed in an email-only format, helps promote your mailing and the importance of signing up. Once you’ve got your email list up and running, these messages require optimization that is akin to the refinement that happens from a content marketing standpoint. By having high quality emails that include snappy text and sharp visuals, you can maximize your chances of wowing a viewer and getting a click back to your site and join a growing trend of email marketing effectiveness that has reached unprecedented levels in recent months.

Reaching Out via Social Media

Similarly, social media is all about showing off your brand in the right way, even if the platform is fundamentally different. With this approach, you can share the same messages and promotions via Twitter, Facebook and Google+ that you would with an email marketing initiative. The difference is that your content usually focuses on building a conversation and expanding your organization’s virtual reach via visibility. To put it simply, the more people talk about your content on any of these sites, the more other people take notice and give your products attention. From this perspective, the goal of getting viewers in your web store remains the same, but the path they take to get there is slightly different.

Is There a Connection?

Considering that joining virtually any social media website requires a working email address, you can safely assume that your target audience overlaps in at least some fashion on both of those platforms. However, the question of whether or not you can draw connections between the two styles of marketing still needs to be answered. When combined properly, there is room for a strong connection between social media and your email marketing campaign. For instance, building in retweet, like and favorite options on your emails gives viewers a chance to freely share with others who may not be on your mailing list. Basically, every time someone clicks one of these little buttons, you get access to a new list of potential customers that would otherwise have never had a chance to learn about your promotional content. For anyone who wants to get the most out of their email marketing budget, it’s hard to say no to free exposure via a social media referral.

Is One Better Than the Other?

While you can clearly start to connect the dots and build a connection between the two styles, you might be wondering why smart marketers don’t just go with the method that has a better return on investment or other performance metric. While this is pretty strong thinking, the reality is that there is no clear winner when you start to draw comparisons. On one hand, eMarketer released a study showing that 2014 was the year for social media. In direct contrast is a report from the equally credible Forbes that asserts the supremacy of email marketing over social media. With experts toeing both sides of the battle lines, there is no best choice.

Maximizing Your Return with a Smart Marketing Campaign

Instead of picking only one strategy and cutting yourself out of potential opportunities to increase visibility and sales, a great marketing campaign builds off both the social aspect of reaching out to customers and the power of an optimized email initiative to get the best of both worlds. By having social media accounts that spread the same content and messages as your emails, you can reach out to the subscribers who might not relate to a promotional email or would otherwise let it go unnoticed in a cluttered inbox. Additionally, having the share features listed above in your emails gives you extra reach that, when used effectively, will have any professional marketer jumping with joy over the free exposure to friends and family of those on your mailing list. Now that you are up to speed on the bond between email marketing and social media you can rest assured that you have all of the knowledge you need to make a smart choice when you get ready to fire up your next online advertising campaign. By harnessing the reach of social media and the effectiveness of optimized emails, you’ll never be left wondering if you could have done more to enhance your brand awareness in the digital marketplace. Puzzle_Pieces

 

The impact of mobile marketing can’t be overstated. According to IDC, more people in the U.S. will access the Internet through a mobile device than through their PC by 2015. In this new series, Elite Email takes a look at highly successful campaigns to uncover their mobile marketing lessons. This week’s case study: How text messages helped the Red Cross collect millions of dollars in aid for victims of Superstorm Sandy.

On October 29, 2012, Hurricane Sandy struck the greater New York City metropolitan area, hammering the coastline of New Jersey and Long Island and shutting down the Big Apple and much of the surrounding area. A lot of news stories have covered the aftermath of what has been named Superstorm Sandy, and stories of the recovery still continue into 2014. One unique story which followed the Superstorm, however, is of particular interest to marketers and relief organizations alike. That story is about how the Red Cross used social media and text messages to collect millions of dollars of funds for disaster relief.

Text Donations Come Into Their Own

The ability to send donations of money by text is not exactly new. In fact, the first such initiative was created in 2005 in the wake of the Hurricane Katrina disaster as a partnership between the Red Cross and the Wireless Foundation. Texting was a familiar form of communications at that stage; though far fewer people had smartphones then than today (consider that the very first of the modern touch-screen smartphones, the iPhone, was released in 2007). While sending a fast text to a friend, family member, or work colleague was something common, the idea of sending money by text to a charitable organization was revolutionary.

Fast-forward to 2012. Numbers from StatisticsBrain.com show that roughly 423 billion text messages were sent in June 2012, compared to 7 billion in June 2005. The average mobile phone subscriber was sending hundreds of texts per month. The idea of using texts to send donations had been around long enough to gain some familiarity. The world of social media had also exploded in the intervening years, with millions of people joining Facebook and Twitter, as well as newer social sites. The stage was set for text donations to become a huge part of the response to Superstorm Sandy.

As described in a report from the mGive Foundation, both individuals and organizations helped to spread the word about text donations to help victims. Celebrities used their personal Twitter accounts to call for action, as well as thousands of other citizens. Some small businesses offered their own incentives to drive donations, such as a Denver restaurant and bar who offered a free drink to anyone with a text donation confirmation message. The mobile campaign was so successful that 20 percent of the funds donated in the wake of the disaster came in via text.

Mobile Marketing Lessons

What can we learn from the success of the Red Cross’s text-to-donate campaign? It demonstrates the power of a simple, well-crafted call to action combined with the power of social media to spread news quickly.

Both the call to action for making donations and the process of making them are beautifully simple. The call to action following Superstorm Sandy could be summed up in a very brief sentence:  “Text REDCROSS to 90999 to donate $10 for Sandy relief.”  Made up of 10 words and 54 characters, this message fits very easily inside a tweet, Facebook status, email subject line or a text message to friends. The message and instructions are fast and clear; it takes less than a minute to both send a donation, and to forward the same message on via text or social network.

Not only are the instructions in this call to action very clear, it also simplifies the decision process for the recipient. Notice that the donation amount is specified right in the message, set to a number which feels big enough to make a difference, but which is small enough for most people to spend quickly without much thought. By setting the donation amount up front, the message streamlines the decision-making process for the recipient, who essentially only needs to decide “yes” or “no.” People receiving this call to action can decide very quickly whether or not to give and then follow through immediately by sending a fast text message. This reduces the number of people who hesitate, put it off until later, and then forget about it.

Text messages form a large part of mobile communications for people today. Sending a fast text message on a device that you have in hand anyway is not perceived as an imposition, which makes contributions by text one of the quickest ways people can respond to a request for help. Billing is simply combined in a person’s phone bill, so no financial information needs to be entered.

By making the process of donating so simple, and by crafting a clear call to action with a built-in amount designed to get the maximum possible response, the Red Cross was able to take advantage of social media and news reporting on the tragedy to spread the word and get fast responses from the public. These two ideas, a clear, well-crafted call to action combined with giving people the simplest possible way to respond, can be used to make any mobile marketing campaign more effective, no matter whether it uses email marketing, SMS messages, social media or a combination of all three.

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Now that you’ve read the first blog detailing the faux pas of Facebook in regards to how the company mishandled private consumer messages, it is a great time to look at how you can avoid similar mistakes when initiating an email or mobile marketing campaign of your own. The importance of brushing up on compliance concerns as you start to reach out to consumers goes without saying – especially if you don’t have the massive legal backing that companies like Facebook enjoy when dealing with lawsuits and other damaging occurrences.

Avoid the Obvious

The first place to start this discussion is right where it left off in the previous blog post regarding Facebook’s violations of consumer privacy. The easiest lesson to learn, and the best way to stay in compliance with the CAN-SPAM Act, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) and other regulatory governance, is to avoid illicitly obtaining consumer information, as well as working with agencies that partake in such practices when it comes to setting up an email marketing campaign. If you need more reasons to say no to this type of conduct when engaging in marketing of any type, just know that Facebook isn’t the only organization that has gone a step, or more like a mile, over the line. In 2013, Google also found itself on the wrong side of privacy laws and regulations, leading to backlash and penalties as well.

Ask for Permission

According to the Mobile Marketer, a key part of the SMS or email interaction is to ask for permission. By having a written agreement on record, you can ensure that you avoid penalization under the CAN-SPAM Act, the TCPA, and CASL laws in Canada. In fact, failing to incorporate this step into the marketing process can net fines of up to $1,500 from the government. While $1,500 might not like seem like much of a cost for the ability to spam countless consumers with your message, keep in mind that the little detail that this penalty is per message. That paints the price in an entirely different light.

Give the Consumer a Little Notice Before You Start

Taking it a step further to help expound upon the rules and regulations is this post from Experian. As the title would suggest, what you don’t know when it comes to compliance can definitely hurt you. With that in mind, the next primary regulation centers on offering the consumer a little notice about what the email program entails. This means a clearly defined explanation that entering into such a program comes with messages sent directly to the user via a short-code application. Often, explaining this detail when asking for permission from the user is an effective way to mark off both concerns from your compliance checklist.

On and Off Toggles Are Also Important

Additionally, the other key point from the Experian discussion covers what kind of choices you must give to those who enter into your program. Essentially, having a way for members to opt-in and out of the messaging service must stand as a central part of your operation. For email services specifically, having an unsubscribe link in the footer is a great example of a required opt-out tool. Users must also have access to these toggles at any point in the process, regardless of how you are connecting with them. Otherwise, you can expect penalties and fines from falling out of compliance with the various regulations in the email and SMS marketing world.

Understanding the Legality of a Message

For compliance issues that transcend this type of marketing strategy, like the accusations that stand before Facebook, Performance Marketing Insider suggests simply learning about the legality of messages in general. According to this post, which centers on an interview with Internet legal experts Michael Becker and Richard Newman, there are two key points to take away from this concept. First, text messages share the same legal standing as a phone call, so the same rules apply to both. The second part builds on this and explains that consumers have a personal bubble. Invading this space can occur via unwanted emails, messages and messaging, either by call or text, which occurs far too frequently.

Know the Penalties

All of this information is a lot to process, even for those who are familiar with digital marketing of many forms. To keep everything straight, don’t be afraid to go straight to the source. By reviewing the CAN-SPAM Act, CASL laws, and TCPA rules whenever you have a question, you can ensure the compliance of your marketing plan and avoid the issues other companies, like Google and Facebook, dealt with in the past.

Staying in compliance, especially in the face of the lessons learned from the lawsuit standing against Facebook, is more important now than ever before. To ensure you stick to the rules as you reach out to consumers, remember a couple key regulations that apply to an email campaign. Asking for permission, having the ability to opt-in or out, and giving consumers fair notice over what to expect all start the process. From here, understanding the legality of a message of any kind, as well as knowing the penalties from the source, keeps your campaign safeguarded from serious repercussions.

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Social media giant Facebook finds itself in some hot water with privacy rights groups and activists after reports emerged detailing a potentially major breach of user privacy and practices. While your organization’s messaging operations and marketing initiatives might not operate on the same scale as Facebook, you can be sure that there are plenty of lessons you can learn from how the social network got itself into this predicament. To start, take a moment to review the particulars of the lawsuit and what exactly Facebook did with user messages to draw the ire of plaintiffs Matthew Campbell and Michael Hurley.

Allegations of Snooping and Privacy Intrusions

According to an article on the subject from PC World, Facebook faces allegations of sifting through private messages exchanged between users to search out links and other information related to consumer habits and trends. The benefits of such a move are clear to anyone who understands how difficult it is to target and connect with customers via message marketing, or any sort of marketing in general.

By having this window of insight into the lives of the masses, Matthew Campbell and Michael Hurley, the plaintiffs in the lawsuit who claim to speak on behalf of the millions of Facebook faithful, propose that the leading social network then turned your information, as well as the information of the countless others, into a valuable commodity. Such a resource would then help optimize on-site ads and other marketing initiatives for advertising partners in a highly unethical, but potentially effective, manner.

A Fundamental Mistake

Unfortunately for Facebook, if these claims turn out to be true, the company faces some serious backlash from users and privacy rights organizations alike. While every marketing firm or agency wants to have a pulse on its targeted audience, stepping over the boundary and invading personal space is a prime offense that many see as unforgivable. Such a move not only violates the agreement of a company to respect the rights of its users, it also tramples over information privacy laws in the United States and other countries around the world.

The Facebook Rebuttal

While the evidence presented doesn’t paint a pretty picture, Facebook isn’t backing down from the fight. In an effort to defend itself, Facebook representatives released a statement, covered in a report from the Brock Press, that the allegations against the social network have no merit and that the company plans to defend itself vigorously. While this legal response is simply par for the course, it at least shows that Facebook has some sort of plan to push back against the privacy invasion claims. Should legal proceedings come underway, you can bet that the substantial legal team surrounding the interests of the company will need to unveil considerable evidence to the contrary to dismantle such damning claims.

Additionally, the article quotes Internet security expert Graham Cluley, who defends Facebook on this particular issue. Essentially, Mr. Cluley claims that having Facebook scan private messages helps protect the millions of users from spam, illicit links, and destructive malware. However, this doesn’t address the real problem of Facebook taking this content and potentially selling off the information gleaned from these messages to the highest bidder.

Prior Legal Issues and Controversies

Of course, a great legal defense doesn’t cover up the fact that Facebook has been in this position before. Reading an article from the Huffington Post highlights this point in great detail. Over the course of the past several years, the social network has had to defend itself constantly regarding legal concerns. 2011 saw Facebook lose a suit covering the issue of taking and using user information without explicit permission from members of the social network. Additionally, the founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, settled a case for $65 million that centered on the claim that he stole the idea for this network from his Harvard classmates.

Looking to the Future

While such a move could create major backlash and a potential deterioration of the user base for most organizations, the Brock Press report on the subject closes with a very real statement regarding Facebook’s continued viability. After weathering similar storms and continuing to grow, Facebook just may be one of the few companies that can withstand this issue should it be found guilty of this type of invasion of privacy. However, the potential monetary damages, as well as the damage done to the brand image of the company, should be strong enough to dissuade other organizations from engaging in similarly illicit activities.

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At first glance, starting a blog seems like a pretty easy process that doesn’t take much thought. Just sign-up on a free site, write up a few quick blurbs, and watch as your page pulls in loads of traffic, right? While this might sound great, it is unfortunately far from the truth. The reality of the situation is that if you want to see your blog flourish and grow, you’re going to need to put in some serious effort and approach the process with the right mindset. With these tips to help guide you along the way, you can start your journey toward a healthy and prosperous blog right away.

Nail Down a Theme

Professional writers Joshua Fields Milburn & Ryan Nicodemus at The Minimalists offer up some great information on starting a blog for your marketing operations. Before settling on anything else, having a strong theme for your content and visuals is the most important part of the process. Without this kind of direction, expecting a positive reaction is essentially just wishful thinking. Whether you want to be a thought leader in your industry, or simply offer insight into how your products and services handle the daily issues faced by your consumers, having a unified theme goes a long way in the world of blogging.

Pick the Right Platform

Once you have your theme and general direction for content on target, picking the right platform is the next step, according to online magazine Rookie. As the article notes, several options can serve as a suitable foundation for your blog. Blogger and WordPress.com are popular selections for those who are unfamiliar with web scripts like HTML. If you have a little more expertise, the WordPress.org alternative offers more customization for those who can handle the higher technological burden.

Incorporate Social Media

In many ways, blogging is a very social experience. So social, in fact, that this activity shares some serious synergy with Facebook, Twitter, and other social media networks. Robert Ambrogi, a blogging and legal expert, suggests on his page that new bloggers embrace the social aspect of the process to help foster the growth of their viewership. This means creating social network accounts that support your blog page, replying to comments, reaching out through email and even visiting other related blogs to help promote discussion on these sites. Becoming an active contributor in these arenas can help push traffic back to your blog and build a sustainable audience of browsers.

Take Note of What Your Audience Wants

Part of sustaining this aforementioned audience means taking note of what these viewers want out of your blog, according to the experts at Buffer. As you post more and more content, consider the feedback in the comments section, as well as the on-site activity the viewers. If certain posts or subjects naturally generate more excitement, pushing your blog in that direction may be the right strategy. Failing to do this, and losing sight of the point of your blog, can disenfranchise your readers and lead to a blog that never lives up to its potential.

As you can see, starting up a blog does require some serious work and preparation. Nailing down a great theme and concept, as well as picking the right publishing platform, gets the process rolling. From here, reaching out to your audience via social media, while also taking into consideration the feedback from these readers, can help you grow your viewership at a healthy pace. With these tips in hand, you’ll be on your way to a prosperous and popular blog in no time.

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There’s no doubt you have a personality all your own. Chances are there’s nobody else out there quite like you, and if you started to act differently, the people who know you best would be sure to notice. Some would be concerned, others could be put off, the rest just confused. The same goes for your company. Does your newest campaign strategy stay true to your company’s voice?

You may be confused at first, but every company has a character, and according to marketing expert Noah Fleming character should be well-established and as consistent as possible. Overall, your company’s voice should be true to your company’s values, appealing to your audience and, while not static, as stable as you can make it.

Find Your Perfect Pitch

Depending on the industry and audience, your company voice may be as casual as an eighth-grade pajama party, as formal as a presidential dinner party or somewhere in between. Figuring out just where you should stand requires understanding your business and who you’re catering that business to. Stiff corporate environments make maintaining a playful, fun tone difficult, while small mom-and-pop businesses may have a hard time keeping up the formality from season to season. A good way to find your company voice, if you’re waffling, is to think about the voice of your target audience, and refine it a little bit. Make sure your image matches your tone, and create content that makes your clientele feel at home.

Always Assume the Cameras Are Rolling

Above all else, your company’s character should be consistent. Every person who has a hand in content creation, social media management or any level of public relations should be intimately aware of what it stands for, what it’s about and how that message gets across. Just as it only takes a couple of instances of finding the main character of your favorite book series acting dramatically different from how you remember before you put the book down for good, a couple of out-of-character Facebook posts and email campaigns will leave your customers feeling uncomfortable, maybe even jilted.

When you represent your company, always assume your clients are watching. That joke might seem hilarious enough to slip into this week’s ad, but if it doesn’t mesh with your company’s character, then make the sacrifice and leave it on the cutting room floor.

General Rules

When it comes to maintaining a consistent voice, there are a few things to always keep in mind.

  • Be authentic. Make sure your content is honest, clear and not needlessly puffed up.
  • Be conversational. Treat every campaign as an open dialogue; make your customers feel like you’re talking to them, not at them.
  • Be consistent. This has already been said, but it bears repeating. If you’re in the process of reinventing your company image, be sure to update the voice with it, but be prepared for a little pushback.

Be prepared for that update. This isn’t throwing consistency to the wind, no matter how it sounds. Following customer response, however, can help you figure out how casual is too casual and where formal becomes stiff. Let your company voice evolve over time with your customers, don’t change it overnight.

Nobody knows your company’s voice better than you, but the key here is making sure that voice is one that resonates with your audience. Keep your company in-character, absolutely, but let time takes its course, and don’t be afraid of a little character development. As long as you stay true to the core of your company’s values and your customers’ needs, then maintaining a clear voice should be as easy as, or easier than, building a new year’s campaign strategy around it.

Bullhorn

 

According to one marketing company, 2013 offered a few surprising social media trends that may have a strong impact on social media in the coming year.

One Google+ study showed that 57% of people have more conversations online than in person. Twitter has more than 230 million active users who post an average of 500 million Tweets every day. Facebook broke the 1 billion accounts mark in May of 2013, and continues to grow in worldwide popularity. On Instagram, an average of 55 million photos are shared every day. This information can help effectively drive marketing strategies toward the best ways to connect with customers — and increasingly, the best ways to connect are online.

According to a study from ODM Group, 53% of users recommend products or companies on Twitter. Companies can use social media to build brand loyalty, and interacting with customers on platforms like Twitter is becoming increasing popular. According to Twitter, these users hope to find discounts, free stuff, updates, and access to exclusive content from companies they follow. A common explanation for the benefit of social media is that it can “build a loyal audience of brand advocates,” something every business wants.

Another Google+ study showed that one in five searches are local. This illustrates the importance of local data and providing relevant content based on that data. Applying the SoLoMo Principle (Social, Location, and Mobile) helps companies assess the local content needed in their marketing. More than 125 million U.S. consumers carry smartphones, and 18 percent have checked in at merchants using social apps like foursquare. With ‘check-ins’ and other location-driven features, it has never been easier for companies to identify the location of their customers and create content based on those locations.

Many industry analysts predict that social media budgets will increase for 2014, as the market continues to grow. Having a focused social media strategy is important for businesses of all kinds, as more and more people are connecting online. Taking advantage of that desire to connect is important to business growth.

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