The Machines Are Rising Say SEO Experts. Are You Ready?

The Machines Are Rising Say SEO Experts. Are You Ready?

Digital marketer, professor and SEO expert Marcus Tandler believes we are entering an age where links will no longer be a part of online SEO ranking formulas. In fact, he thinks Google may be already working on leveraging the power of machine learning to separate itself from old school ranking factors, becoming more independent in the SEO game.

At this year’s YoastCon, a Netherlands conference dedicated to website optimization, Marcus will discuss the changing world of SEO and the next evolutionary steps in search engine rankings. He’ll talk about the approach of Russian search engine Yandex, and how at the end of 2015 its announcement to stop counting links as a ranking factor for commercial queries stunned the SEO community. And the Russians aren’t the only ones annoyed by linkspam. Google has taken measures to tackle the problem and Marcus expects OnPage SEO to become more important in years to come.

What is OnPage SEO?

It refers to factors that have an effect on your Web site or Web page listing in natural / organic search results. There are marketing agencies like inBLOOM available to help you improve your website’s SEO by focusing on usability, content, tools, and quality, instead of trying to cheat search engines with keyword stuffing and spam links.

So how does a search engine like Yandex now assess the importance or authority of a website without the help of links?

Yandex looks at over 800 factors, including those that are internal (content of the website and its structure) and external. They collect all data about the website they can collect while complying with users’ privacy policy.

What does all this tech talk mean to your digital marketing efforts? You should spend less time and money on paid links and more on SEM (search engine marketing). Instead, start focusing on your site’s design, content, and visitor behavior. Offer value and search engines like Google will take notice.

Here are some general things to know about SEO optimization according to Marcus:

  • Over 5 billion searches are done on Google every day
  • Search is the most visited website on mobile phones and Google has become a mobile-first company
  • Search, search behavior, search needs, search expectations have evolved, and search engines have no choice but to respond
  • You need to learn who is clicking in order to know what is providing value
  • It’s not just about finding what you’re searching for; it’s finding answers to your questions and needs as quickly as possible
  • Search must become more personalized, moving from a web search to a contextualized search that answers people’ questions

So how does Google rank content if there aren’t a lot of links to a post?

It reverts to the way search engines were before links – judging based on the text on the page. The way Google works is that it says the first time we see the word on the page, count up a little bit more. The next time, ok a little more but not a ton more, but after a while they say we’ve seen this word a few times maybe this page is about the topic. However, it doesn’t help you to keep repeating that keyword over and over again. And at some point, Google might view that as keyword stuffing and the page would not do as well as it would with just a moderate mention of a keyword.

Page rank doesn’t just focus on backlinks. There are several ways Google accesses the quality of content, such as determining if the page sits on a domain that seems reputable. But typically, if a user is typing a rare phrase and there are no other pages on the web that have that particular phrase, even if there aren’t that many links, the page can be returned because Google thinks it might be relevant to what the user is looking for. The search engine is looking at the quality of the content that is on the page, rather than looking for links.

Getting external links was once the single most important objective for attaining high rankings. This stems from the idea that external links are one of the hardest metrics to manipulate and thus, one of the best ways for search engines to determine the popularity of a given web page. This idea was first used by the early search engine Alta Vista and later improved upon by Google.

Google first made its mark by introducing the Stanford community to PageRank (an algorithm developed by Google co-founder Larry Page). This algorithm counted hyperlinks as votes for popularity. The pages that had the most links pointing at them were considered the most popular. When they were deemed relevant for a particular query, the most popular and relevant pages would become the first pages listed in Google’s results. Although this algorithm is much more complex today, it still likely includes the notion of external links as votes.

So now that you have the prediction for what’s up Google’s search engine sleeves in the coming years, it’s important that you gear up for the change. Start providing your website visitors with engaging, helpful experiences from the start and you will be rewarded.

Cover photo: Martin Gommel

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Know the 6 Types of Email That Deliver Success

Know the 6 Types of Email That Deliver Success

In order for a business or organization to thrive, it needs to stay in touch with its customers and prospects. Email marketing is the most effective tool for staying top of mind and ahead of competitors, and it’s important to know the six types of emails that deliver success to achieve both.

Successful marketing campaigns can empower people to take immediate action from making a purchase, signing a pledge, to taking a survey. The statistics show many of us favor email as a communication tool and welcome the daily or weekly communication we receive from the brands, businesses and organizations we know and love. Spammers need not apply.

Your emails should be visually appealing, relate to your audience, and optimized for mobile. An understanding of your subscribers’ needs is also important. If the content is relevant to them, the return on your time developing an email campaign will result in increased revenue and repeat business.

Email marketing delivers the highest ROI (about $44 per dollar spent, on average) of any digital marketing tactic. (SEO is second, and banner ads have the lowest ROI.) (Mark the Marketer)

Here are six types of emails that help you deliver success:

1. NEWSLETTER

What’s new with your business or organization? Keep everyone updated through a newsletter. Topics to consider include upcoming events, a recap of a past events with photos, current promotions or sales, new hires, new products or services, and any recent media attention brought to your brand.

You may even just want to send out an email with one message such as a holiday greeting, special announcement, press release, or letter from the company executive.

The key to creating a great newsletter, especially if you have a lot of announcements, is to make it easy to read and attractive. Constant Contact’s Toolkit offers a variety of newsletter templates.

2. PROMOTIONAL

If you’re offering a product or service promotion, you could create an email with the information and also offer coupon codes for an in-store discount. Your customers can print the coupon directly from the email. It will encourage new customers to sign up for emails, drive traffic to your website, and give you a bigger and more receptive customer base to send news and information.

You can also offer online coupons that are trackable, redeemable and sharable through email, the web, and social media. Whatever kind of promotion you’re running, email marketing is a great way to spread the word.

3. BLOG POST

In order to build buzz for your blog and increase readership, you should be actively promoting every post, via an email. inBLOOM sends weekly emails to our contacts highlighting our latest blog posts. We give a brief overview of the post, include the main image hyperlinked to the post and provide a call to action such as “read it here.” In Constant Contact, we keep track of our open and click-through rates, also taking note of which blog topics attract the most interest.

4. EVENT ANNOUNCEMENT / REGISTRATION

Event announcements commit people early. Before you send out an email with online registration, you can send an event announcement or save-the-date to let people know the who, what, where and when, so they can plan on attending. Constant Contact offers several templates for this purpose. Sending an event announcement to your contacts is the most important way to promote your event, along with social media promotions, print and online event calendars and advertisements.

Online registration for an event saves a lot of time and keeps you organized. It’s convenient for both you and your guests. Through Constant Contact’s online registration, all responses are organized as received. What’s great about the online registration is that it’s available 24/7 so if someone decides they want to register at midnight, they can do so. And it also means that you can log in and manage the event at any time. All the information you need is collected in one central location so you can stay organized, which is key to planning any successful event.

5. SURVEY / FEEDBACK

Turn your communications into conversations: send online surveys through emails or social media to get feedback and segment your audience. In Constant Contact, you can create surveys with a customizable survey template that includes sample questions or you can start with a blank survey. Surveys will give you ideas for new products and services, and provide you with a deeper understanding of what it takes to satisfy and keep your valued customers.

If you’ve just hosted an event, send out a thank you email to those who attended. Create a survey to get feedback on key insights such as the event venue, timing, food, entertainment, interests, and demographics. You can also include a newsletter sign-up, so those not subscribed have the chance to opt in.

Looking to get rates and reviews for your online listings sites? Ask, and you will receive! Constant Contact has both feedback and review email templates to keep things simple for you. If you have you’re on any business listing sites, such as Google, Bing, Yahoo or Angie’s List, you can share a direct link to the listing page. You can also ask your customers to share feedback and experiences with you in order to improve your customer service.

6. FUNDRAISING

Through email marketing, you can promote your organization’s fundraising campaign and collect donations instantly. Constant Contact has an email template where you can create a donation page, linked through a third party service provider, to raise money for your cause. There is a fee for this service, but that’s pretty much the norm with any online fundraising tool.

Set a default donation, goal amount, and most importantly, let people know why you’re raising money. You can share your donation campaign on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

As a Constant Contact Solution Provider, inBLOOM is offering a 60-day trial so you’ll be able to get hands-on experience with the email marketing software. You are now able to email up to a 100 contacts during the trial.

Register for the Constant Contact Toolkit here.

Have any questions or comments about email marketing? Feel free to comment on this post or contact us.

If you found this blog helpful, also check out…

4 Ways to Get Better Results with Email

5 Tips for Running a Better Business Survey

Tips and Tools for Using Constant Contact to Promote Your Events

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Tweet Tweet! Twitter Turns Nine

Tweet Tweet! Twitter Turns Nine

Tweet, tweet! Twitter turns nine today, March 21, 2015.

Twitter has connected people during times of war, elections, and tragedy, as well as, entertained us and bridged the divide among businesses, charities and the general public.

By far it’s inBLOOM’s favorite social networking tool and has produced real results for us from securing sponsorships to attracting the media.

It’s a huge platform for creating awareness for personal brands, organizations and businesses. Hashtags like #SocialGood, #CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility), Nike’s #makeitcount, and #tweetchat have brought millions together and sold billions in products and services.

Read here for the history of Hashtags.

To celebrate the big occasion, here are some of inBLOOM’s top Twitter posts:

4 Reasons You Should Be Tweeting

10 Tips to Organically Grow on Twitter

Attract Publicity with the Right Strategy on Social Media

How the Media Uses Twitter and Tips for Tweeting Them

Gabriel Stricker, Twitter’s Chief Communications Officer, shares a look back at some of the landmark moments followers have created – moments that have defined our history, and perhaps yours. Read it here.

Listen to Twitter’s Jack Dorsey and Dick Costolo on StoryCorps as they share memories of their first meeting 9 years ago.

Happy Birthday Twitter! Enjoy your time on the platform and let’s follow one another at @inBLOOMbuzz.

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8 Reasons To Work On Your Relationship with SEO

8 Reasons To Work On Your Relationship with SEO

Like an old boyfriend’s name, the term SEO pops up in conversation here and there. But unlike the old boyfriend, deep down you know you need to work on your relationship with SEO in order to improve your online ranking and reputation.

Search engine optimization (SEO) is a way of indexing content on Internet search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo! SEO continues to play the starring role in any website development and content marketing plan.

When I meet with business owners, they often ask, “How can I improve my website ranking?” or “How can my business show up when people search the Web?” The answers to these questions have changed over the years as SEO experts have responded to the ways search engines value content and rank website authority.

Today, marketers and writers can access much of the same data used by SEO experts to create content that is loved by search engines and the people using them. Businesses can take control of their SEO with organic and paid marketing campaigns that include content marketing (blogs, podcasting, videos), Google analytics, and social media.

For years, web development companies have promised their clients better Google ranking with SEO tricks and schemes, but now the search engines have made it clear quality counts, not technology workarounds. Instead, marketers, writers, and publicists are drawing visitors to sites with consistent, optimized content, daily social media engagement, and inbound links from cross-marketing relationships, social influencers, and media coverage.

But please don’t disregard many of the helpful tools and resources available online, many for free, from SEO experts and software companies. We aren’t against a little help from the tech gurus. Together, the SEO community, marketers and publicists are helping their clients to share the most valuable and relevant content to attract site visitors and better rank results.

Here are a few of inBLOOM’s favorite SEO resources and tools:

Yoast WordPress SEO plugin

Yoast WordPress SEO plugin is the most complete SEO plugin available for WordPress. It offers everything you need to optimize your site. You can easily optimize your site’s titles and descriptions for Google and learn how to write better content with the built-in content analysis function.

Google Analytics

The SEO reports in Analytics provide Google Web Search performance data about the website that you have set up using Webmaster Tools. You can use this data to identify opportunities and prioritize efforts to increase the amount of traffic to your site. The Search Engine Optimization reports in Analytics use four metrics specific to Google Web Search data: impressions, clicks, average position and CTR (clickthrough rate).

KeywordSpy

Through this keyword tool and keyword software, you can perform advanced keyword research and keyword tracking to study what your competitors have been advertising in their adwords campaigns and other PPC campaigns. You can now get complete in-depth analysis, stats, budget, affiliates and ad copies of your competitors.

If you’re still finding it hard to fall in love with SEO, here are eight reasons why you need to work on the relationship:

  1. Businesses that focus on SEO without having a strong content plan in place will fail and will need to shift their focus to the creation and distribution of high-quality content in order to achieve significant search engine visibility.
  2. Search rankings will increasingly become more about building relationships and less about technical strategies. Businesses realize that focusing on merely creating content and optimizing its technical components for SEO just aren’t enough to achieve their goals. Businesses that humanize their brand are the ones who are standing out.
  3. High search rankings linked to blogger outreach campaigns, building relationships with brand advocates, reaching out to influencers and engaging on social media.
  4. Negative SEO will be a bigger threat than ever. Negative SEO is when dubious people build thousands of spammy links pointed at a competitors’ website with the intent of causing their search rankings to plummet.
  5. Inbound links are the most influential signal of trust and authority. This isn’t going to change — not in 2015 or anytime soon. The days of building links on irrelevant blogs and chasing large quantities of links to game the search results are over. Earning a single link on a high-quality relevant website is valuable for multiple reasons including SEO, attracting referral traffic, leads, sales and branding exposure. Look for traditional PR and SEO to work closer together in 2015.
  6. Studies suggest that the top organic and paid spots in the Google search results get about twice as many clicks as the second spots.
  7. Google Analytics is used by somewhere between 10 million and 25 million websites worldwide, and various surveys suggest over 50 percent of business websites (both large and small) use Google Analytics.
  8. Social media practices that boost SEO include growing your number of followers, encouraging external inbound links, optimizing your posts for searches, influencing social sharing, locally-optimized posts, and increasing brand awareness.

If you would like assistance running marketing and pr campaigns, contact us.

Resources:

The Top 7 SEO Trends That Will Dominate 2015 by Jayson DeMers, Forbe

20 Google Facts & Stats that Every Marketer Should Know by Andrew Garberson, LunaMetrics

6 Changes Your 2015 SEO Strategy Must Focus On by Jonathan Long, Entrepreneur

photo by Viktor Hanacek 

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4 Ways to Get Better Results with Email

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What makes us read one email and dump another? Is it possible to get better results with a few simple changes to your email? Yes and the new year is your perfect opportunity to get the opens and clicks you need to build your business and nurture those customer relationships.

Recent data shows that email continues to play a big role in our lives despite social media advances. We get our news and learn about the events and products that enhance our lives by email. It’s also a lifeline for work, alerting us to new projects, client or customer needs, and the conversations that are essential to courting and working with clients and colleagues.

If you’re using a marketing tool like Constant Contact to send and track your email, you’ll find these tips helpful to get better results:

1. Target Your Message

Before you even begin writing and designing your email, think about the message you’re trying to get across. What is your goal for sending the email? Are you trying to get more views on your blog post? If you’re holding an event, are you trying to generate more ticket sales? Maybe you’re simply creating buzz for your business or updating folks on recent news. Once you determine your goal, targeting your message will be a lot easier.

You may want to target specific audiences by sending separate emails to segmented lists. For instance, you could create two promotional emails with slightly different messages for lists of regular customers and new customers.

In Constant Contact, you can check the email stats to see how many people in each segmented list opened your emails. If one list did better than others, consider changing your wording or design and try again in the next round for that specific group that didn’t do so well.

 2. Create a Compelling, Attractive Design

In Constant Contact, you can choose among a variety of attractive templates. Whether it be a newsletter, announcement, promotion, survey or event registration, Constant Contact has got you covered. Get tips and tools on using the Constant Contact Toolkit for events and registration.

But even though these templates handle the layout, you still need to be creative when choosing the right font, color scheme, images, header, and footer.  The ideal size for a header image is 600 pixels wide and no more than 200 pixels tall. We recommend your header include your logo with your company tagline and services. It’s a good idea to hyperlink your website with your header. For example, here is inBLOOM’s header.

 

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Even if you use different templates, keep a consistent look with your company’s emails. Stick with the same font, color scheme, header, and footer. That way, you’ll establish a consistent look for your email marketing campaigns – people will know it’s from you just by looking at the design.

As visual creatures, we know the importance of images, but try not to overload your email with too many – one might be plenty. Stick with high-resolution photos that have something to do with your message. If you must use a stock photo, choose one that’s not so boring.

Avoid creating image-only emails, as delivery problems, often occur. However, there are templates in Constant Contact you could use to send emails that focus on an image.

 3. Use Enticing Subject Lines

The subject of your email is a major factor in whether or not it will be opened, trashed or marked as spam. Similar to a blog post or news article, the headline needs to be good or else it’s less likely to be read. So the million dollar question is: how do you write an enticing subject line that will get the recipient to open your email?

The length of your subject line matters – keep it short, simple and descriptive. We recommend no more than 5-8 words or 40 characters. Many email providers will cut off subject lines with greater than 60 characters.

Here’s an email from The New York Times that captured my attention right away!

 

Screen Shot 2015-01-17 at 2.44.27 PM

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Most importantly, the subject line should draw the recipient’s attention and spark their curiosity. Will they benefit from opening the email? Does it interest them? Is it relevant to their life in some way? Even ask yourself, would I open this email I was them? Add value before the email is even opened with a specific, personalized subject line.

Sadly, your audience won’t see your email if it ends up in the dreaded spam folder. To avoid this nightmare, stay away from spam-like characteristics in your subject line. Common characteristics include phrases like be amazed, your income, subject to credit approval; writing in all caps; excessive use of punctuation marks like!!! or ???; and excessive symbols like $$$.

Tip: Use Constant Contact’s Spam Checker while previewing your email. The Spam Checker is a content-filtering tool that can help increase email delivery rates before you actually send to your contacts. It uses a mix of Constant Contact and SpamAssasin content-matching rules to assess the spam potential in the body, header (including subject line), and footer of your email and has no relation to spam complaints that may be reported when your email is received.

4. Write Words that Work

Research reveals how a single word makes all the difference. Write in everyday language that resonates with your audience. The words, which you use in your subject lines, headers, calls-to-action and body copy, can change your email’s meaning, mood, and motivation.

Check out Buffer’s Big List of 189 Words That Convert: Write Copy That Gets Your Customer’s Attention Every Time for more on the power of words.

In the book, “Words that Work: It’s Not What You Say, It’s What People Hear”, Frank Luntz reveals that 80 percent of our life is emotion, and only 20 percent is intellect. Luntz frequently tests word and phrase choices using focus groups and interviews to learn the words people use. Referencing Orwell’s “Essay On Language”, he adds it’s important as to write with absolute clarity, to be succinct, to explain what the event is, to talk about what triggers something happening, and to do so without any disapproval. In summary, write for your people and in their words to guarantee they open your email.

To get started sending emails that get better results, you can start by signing up for a free trial of Constant Contact. Have questions along the way, comment on this blog and we’ll be in touch.

photo: Viktor Hanacek, PicJumbo

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The Future of Social: 9 Social Media Marketing Trends for 2015

The Future of Social: 9 Social Media Marketing Trends 2015

It’s 2015 and sadly, many of Back to the Future’s predictions failed to come true. As the Hollywood Reporter mentioned, power shoelaces, Garden Center fruit dispensers, robotic dog walkers, mid-powered video games, food hydrators and size adjusting clothing just never happened. They were way off on the fashion, too! Two things that have come close though are flying cars and hoverboards, thanks to how advanced we’ve come with technology.

This year, we’re going to see more of 3D printers, context-aware security, smart machines, apps you can use simultaneously on multiple devices, smartphone technology advancements and technology embedded everywhere.

Along with these new technologies, expect to see big changes on social media – new features, new algorithms, and new trends. Change can be fun, but also overwhelming! This year you’ll need to change things up and think of new social media marketing strategies.

Although you might not have a DeLorean time machine to see how these new social media features and trends will affect your business, if you stay on top of your social game your business will thrive. Here are our predictions for social media marketing trends you can expect for 2015. Be prepared to get those creative juices flowing – these trends involve authenticity, originality, personality and creativity.

1. Visuals dominate social media 

Video marketing is expected to take off in 2015 in exciting ways that will allow you to be super creative. Regular video segments, like podcasts and blog posts, are expected to come into their own as a form of content. Short behind-the-scenes style videos which give audiences a glimpse at the people who are behind the product or company will also be trending this year.

Video is the preferred communication style for customers. By 2017, it expected that 74% of all internet traffic will be video. So now is the time to start taking text-based information and turning it into a video. Have fun with it and get creative, but also keep your audience in mind. Will they enjoy watching? Or maybe you’re trying to attract a new demographic?

In the past, when we thought of posting a video on the web, we would immediately think to upload it on YouTube and share the link. Now, video posting has moved away from YouTube towards Facebook, Instagram and other social media networks. Statistics show that in 2014, Facebook videos received significantly more shares than YouTube. Check out Buzzfeed’s Facebook Page and enjoy their many short, humorous and relatable videos.

Not only do we see more video on social, but also more photos and graphics. But because visuals are trending like crazy on the web, users expect higher-quality images, resulting in a lot of competition.

Here’s a tip: If you’re taking photos with your phone and posting them on social, make sure they’re not blurry, too dark or unclear – people will be less likely to share your photo if it’s unattractive.  Read our post on free photo usage for blogs and social media for a list of our favorite free photo databases along with guidelines for using them.

If your business is on Instagram, we recommend using Iconosquare. It lets you manage multiple Instagram accounts, browse your most important statistics, search for users and hashtags and monitor competitor and hashtag feeds. Iconsquare is also available on Hootsuite.

The Future of Social: 9 Social Media Marketing Trends 2015

 photo: picjumbo

2. Mobile devices used more than ever to access social networks

For several years now, a majority of internet users have been consuming most information via smartphones and tablets, but this year the percentage is going to increase. In 2015, being plugged in at all times is essential, and the easiest, most effective way is with a mobile device – especially for those with an on the go lifestyle. Not only are mobile devices the go-to for searching the web, checking email and recently for making in-store purchases, they’re also first choice for accessing social networks.

In 2014, 80% of users engaged in social media through a mobile device, and that number is set to hit over 90% by 2018. These statistics mean big adjustments for marketers. We will need to put mobile first in our social media campaigns, which means creating designs intended for mobile devices.

Even social media managers are using mobile devices to update social pages –it makes our job so much easier when we’re on the go! Social media apps are used far more than the mobile friendly versions because they’re user-friendly and convenient.

Speaking of social apps, if you’re having issues with updating your Facebook page, try out Facebook Pages Manager App. If you manage several Facebook Pages, you’ve probably noticed it’s not easy to update your Facebook Page from a smartphone or tablet –the app can be a bit glitchy. The Facebook Pages Manager app helps administrators manage their Facebook Pages from mobile devices a lot easier.

3. More content, less promotion on Facebook

On Facebook, 2015 is the year of authenticity, creativity and wit when it comes to content. No longer can you be too pushy or promotional with call to actions like “click to see more” “enter here” “download now.” As you may know, this month Facebook will begin showing less promotional posts on News Feeds. According to Facebook, these are some of the consistent traits that make organic posts feel too promotional:

  • Posts that solely push people to buy a product or install an app

  • Posts that push people to enter promotions and sweepstakes with no real context

  • Posts that reuse the exact same content from ads

Pages publishing great content — content that teaches people something, entertains them, makes them think, or in some other way adds value to their lives — will reach their followers’ News Feeds. Be sure to monitor the reach of your Page posts by checking the bottom of each one to see how many people you’ve reached. You should also be checking Insights to monitor post engagement and organic and paid reach. All of this will give you an idea of what works for your Page.

You should also be avoiding content that is too promotional on your other social media networks as well. Your followers don’t want to constantly see your brand with logos, products, etc. Heavy branding just isn’t necessary, and it isn’t effective. Focus more on sharing experiences, interesting stories, high-quality visuals, and user-generated content.

4. Republishing updates grows your social reach

Between Facebook’s Newsfeed changes and the continued growth of social networks like Twitter, Instagram and Linkedin, it’s not easy to always make an impression on your followers. In order to be sure content is seen, social media managers are republishing updates multiple times throughout the day, week and even month.

On Twitter and Linkedin, post several other updates in-between the original and republished update, otherwise followers will see that you constantly post the same thing over and over. On Facebook, you can change up the message a bit with different visuals when you republish so it’s not so repetitive.

We recommend using Hootsuite to manage your social media accounts and schedule updates. This way, you can schedule your republished updates so you won’t forget, and you can keep track of how often you’re republishing.

The Future of Social: 9 Social Media Marketing Trends 2015

 photo: HubSpot

5. More personal interaction with fans and followers

You’re business’ employees are not robots – they are real people with personalities and interests! In 2015, your followers are going to want to want to get to know the people behind logo and see who it is they’re engaging with. Companies who are one step ahead and have already gotten more personal see more interaction on their content and a higher level of trust.

This is where the video comes in. By hosting a podcast or video segment, you’re introducing your audience to the people that make the company. You can even have a video Q&A and create a hashtag for it so viewers can join in. By having a Q&A like this, viewers get that personal interaction as you read out loud and answers user-submitted questions.

Connecting with followers on your personal Twitter, Instagram, Linkedin and Google+ accounts are excellent ways to establish relationships. Sharing what you know about your industry and interests outside your company allow people to meet the person behind the logo.

Be sure to respond in a timely matter on both your business and personal pages. This is very important for keeping that personal connection by letting people know that you’re there, and you care.

6. E-commerce and social media integrate        

In 2014, both Twitter and Facebook began beta-testing “buy” buttons, which appear alongside certain tweets and posts and allows users to make purchases with a simple click without leaving the page. Be prepared to see e-commerce and social media integrate in 2015.

For customers, the payment experience will be safe and secure – credit and debit card information will not be shared with other advertisers. They will also be able to save payment information for future purchases.

With this integration, businesses will truly profit from the direct relationship they build with their followers on social media. It all sounds fantastic for both customers and businesses. Facebook and Twitter have said they’ll be sharing more information in the future. We’re excited to see what comes of this integration!

7. Facebook uses voice-recognition technology

Microphone check 1, 2… In 2015, you might  be talking to your Facebook Page rather than typing. Facebook has recently announced it acquired the voice-recognition startup Wit.ai that claims to “turn speech into actionable data.” Wit.ai’s technology could allow Facebook users to speak commands that could be converted to text as posts or messages. The technology could have other uses as well.

This move could give the social network more information for targeted advertisements. If Facebook integrates this technology into apps and home-automation devices, it would allow Facebook to gather more data. It will be interesting to see if there will be any privacy settings.

8. Businesses and organizations budgeting for paid media

With the drop in organic reach and less promotional content appearing in the News Feed, you may want to consider budgeting for advertising on social media for any content you want to push. The great thing about advertising on social media is that the cost can be as low or high as you want, and you can target people based on their location, age, interests and more.

Although it is possible to reach your followers still organically, creating advertising campaigns with objectives such as to boosting posts, promoting your page or raising attendance at an event will help you expand your reach.

The Future of Social: 9 Social Media Marketing Trends 2015

 photo: picjumbo

9. Public Relations professionals manage social media

As we enter 2015, you may be wondering if you should change your social media strategy. With all the new changes and things you should be doing in order to succeed, it can seem overwhelming. Maybe the person managing your social media pages is wearing many hats and doesn’t have enough time to focus solely on staying social online. So what are you to do? Does your business need a separate social media division? Who should be managing all of this? The answer: your PR team.

If you’re a small or medium business, you probably have many things on your plate, so developing a social media strategy may seem overwhelming. Your PR team is your best bet for managing your social media pages. They should know that social is different from traditional marketing/PR and how to leverage those differences.

Social media is extremely public and whatever is said can be seen the second it’s posted. When a customer posts a review on your page, good or bad, it will stay there. If someone comments on your post and you don’t like what they said, you need to respond in an appropriate manner. When managing social media pages, be prepared to respond to both positive and negative feedback consistently. A customer complaint can easily turn into a PR nightmare. Let your PR team take the reins and handle everything for you.

Who knows – maybe sometime this year you’ll see us riding hoverboards while we tweet!

Have any questions about the social media trends for 2015, please feel free to comment on this blog or contact us. Subscribe to inBLOOM’s blog alerts, and you’ll get Social Media Marketing and Public Relations tips for success emailed to you weekly.

If you thought this blog post was helpful, here are similar posts on the topic:

cover photo: Terrabass

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3 Ways to Tell Your Story on Social Media

3 Ways to Tell Your Story on Social Media

In this digital age, it’s nearly impossible to miss local, national and world news in real-time. No matter where you are or what you’re doing chances are you most likely have breaking news in the palm of your hand via your smartphone. In fact, 30% of American adults get their news from Facebook, according to the Pew Research Center.

Surely your heartstrings (and attention) have been tugged by all those feel good people and pet stories in your News Feeds. If you dig deep enough, you’ll discover similar stories within your own business or nonprofit. It’s just a matter of being open to listening and discovering the human-interest and news pieces that attract today’s busy editors, reporters, and producers.

After you write your story and take some high-quality images and possibly some video, you’re ready to post and share your news on social. Review these three ways to tell your story on social media:

1. Tweet to meet and engage media sources.

In addition to emailing a release, engage in dialog on social media to build your media network. According to ING’s 2014 Social Media Impact survey, 57% of journalists consider social media to be ideal for contacting PR professionals and vice versa. Use social media to build relationships with journalists and bloggers to gain a better understanding of what they write about, when they need resources, and how they prefer to work with you.

According to a 2014 report from the Indiana University School of Journalism, 40% of journalists said social media networks are very important to their work. Over a third said they spent between 30 and 60 minutes each day on social networking sites. Twitter was the most popular type of social media used by journalists, and over half of those surveyed said they regularly use the platform for gathering information and reporting stories.

Use your website blog as a home for your story, images and video to live and use a tool like Hashtags.org to incorporate trending hashtags into your tweets for greater visibility.

2. Be in the know about Facebook’s new tools for media publishers.

Facebook recently introduced new and exciting ways for news accounts to target posts, remove posts that are no longer relevant and identify popular links that they haven’t shared. One widely anticipated and requested change is Facebook’s Smart Publishing tool, which identifies and publishes stories that are popular with people on Facebook. Once the setting is enabled, frequently shared links will appear more in the News Feed for people who like a publisher’s Page. Make sure to like news sites covering your industry and region to get a sense of the news stories being shared on their sites and thus popping up more in your News Feed.

Once you understand and follow how the media will be using the new tools, you can deliver producers and editors the type of content that’s being shared on social media. Facebook will regularly share announcements and tips on its News Feed FYI.

It’s wise to learn firsthand from Facebook and its content creators what’s trending in the news. Your research will give you a better chance of securing media coverage when pitching a story.

3 Ways to Tell Your Story on Social Media

3. Proofread your social media story teasers.

Make sure to proofread your tweets and posts for accuracy and working links. Check the spelling of key names (brands, people, etc.) as well as contact information. Editors may use your release or blog post for the facts and as a potential resource for larger features. If you spell a name two ways or a phone number is wrong by one digit, this will frustrate the contact who has to get ahold of you to double check.

Here’s an example of a tweet with a typo from Grub Street, a blog about the New York City restaurant scene from New York magazine.  Their fans were pretty accepting of the typo and appreciated the afternoon chuckle. I’m sure the editors, however, were pretty crabby about the error ;).

3 Ways to Tell Your Story on Social Media

Start engaging with the media on social and best of luck on your PR efforts in the New Year.

Have any questions, please feel free to comment on this blog or contact us. Subscribe to inBLOOM’s blog alerts, and you’ll get Social Media Marketing and Public Relations tips for success emailed to you weekly.
 

Resources:

Pew Research Center: How Social Media is Reshaping News

ING 2014 Study impact of Social Media on News: more crowd-checking, less fact-checking

 The American Journalist in the Digital Age:  Key Findings from Indiana University.

 photo: picjumbo

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New Year Brings New Changes to Facebook for Business

New Year Brings New Changes to Facebook for Business

As always, the New Year brings change as many of us make our long lists of resolutions. We hope to change our diet, attitude, exercise regimen and achieve personal goals. But this New Year, those of us who manage Facebook Pages can expect to add another resolution to our lists – to keep our Page posts on our followers’ News Feeds.

Beginning in January 2015, Facebook users will see less promotional posts on their News Feeds. Through an ongoing survey of hundreds of thousands of people, Facebook determined that people want to see more stories from friends and Pages they care about, and less promotional content. You’re probably thinking that means less ads, right? Well, Facebook actually determined that the content people see as too promotional are posts from Pages they like, and not ads.

News Feed has controls for the number of ads a person sees and for the quality of those ads (based on engagement, hiding ads, etc.), but those same controls haven’t been as closely monitored for promotional Page posts. Facebook is bringing new volume and content controls for promotional posts, so people see more of what they want from Pages.

So what qualifies posts as being too promotional?

According to the results of Facebook’s survey, these are some consistent traits that make organic posts feel too promotional:

  • Posts that solely push people to buy a product or install an app

  • Posts that push people to enter promotions and sweepstakes with no real context

  • Posts that reuse the exact same content from ads

Here are two examples, provided by Facebook for Business, of types of promotional posts that will keep you off your audience’s News Feeds:

New Year Brings New Changes to Facebook for Business

 

 

 

New Year Brings New Changes to Facebook for Business

As more people and Pages are posting content, competition to appear in News Feed has increased. Because there is continually more and more content from your family and friends, as well as businesses, it’s becoming harder for any post to gain exposure in News Feed.

The good news is that Pages publishing great content — content that teaches people something, entertains them, makes them think, or in some other way adds value to their lives — can still reach people in News Feed. However, if your Page is posting promotional content, you should expect your organic distribution to fall significantly over time.

If you ever doubt the importance of your Facebook Page, remember that constantly maintaining your Facebook Page matters ALOT!

Your Page is an important destination for current and potential customers. Statistics show that very many Facebook users are still visiting Pages. In October, for instance, nearly a billion people visited Facebook Pages. Of those visits, more than 750 million happened on mobile devices.

Because of the large amount of traffic to Pages, Facebook is now exploring ways to build more features into Pages. A lot of this is in response to how they are seeing people interact with business Pages. Interactions include messaging to communicate with a business directly or browsing video and photo content. They’re also exploring ways to better customize Pages based on the industry a business is in, similar to how they rolled out menu sections for restaurant Pages.

Despite the News Feed changes, you can still reach your audience organically.  Monitor the reach of your Page posts by checking the bottom of each one to see how many people you’ve reached. You should also be checking Insights to monitor post engagement and organic and paid reach. All of this will give you an idea of what works for your Page.

You should also allocate some of your advertising budget towards boosting posts, as well as video ads. Both will enable you to target specific audiences with predictable reach. Learn more about video ads here.

If you have any questions about the changes to Facebook’s News Feed or need assistance with your social media efforts contact me.

photo credit: Death to the Stock Photo

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Picture Perfect? Facts on Free Photo Usage for Blogs & Social Media

Facts on Free Photo Usage for Blogs & Social Media

Photo: Ryan McGuire of Bells Design

When it comes to your marketing efforts, words alone are not going to be enough to attract your target audience. Visual content, such as photos and graphics, enhance your blog and drive traffic to your website. They are also essential to running successful email marketing and social media campaigns that inspire commentary and sharing.

The reason? Images process quickly and people are drawn to them.  We are all designed to communicate visually –it’s science.

New research even shows that the human brain can achieve the remarkable feat of processing an image seen for just 13 milliseconds. That’s pretty incredible, and coupled with a study that shows the human’s average attention span is 8 seconds, it’s clear that we need to get smarter about staying top-of-mind with daily marketing that is rich in visual content.

Unfortunately, many nonprofits and small businesses have limited budgets and are unable to consistently hire  professional photographers or purchase stock photos. So how can you find images that are okay to use without having to pull out your credit card?

At inBLOOM, we’ve discovered several photo sites that offer high quality downloadable images for free. Some you have to register for and others you can access without logging in.

When using photos in your marketing campaigns, it’s important to respect copyright laws. Although it’s tempting to grab something right off Google Images, tweak it and call it your own, it’s not considered fair use; in fact, it’s stealing.

Here are some of our favorite free photo databases along with guidelines for using them:

Getty Images

Getty Images has made over 35 million photo images from its inventory available for free online use by anyone. Getty’s new policy provides a select group of images for free via an embedding feature that provides attribution and a link back to the Getty Images website.

The new Getty policy doesn’t permit all types of use, though. The images cannot be used for any commercial purpose (advertising, promotions or merchandising) or to suggest endorsement or sponsorship. They may be used only for editorial, non-commercial purposes, meaning any events that are newsworthy or of public interest. Otherwise, users will need to purchase a license.

You can find the free images right here. Search for the type of image you’re looking for by using keywords or phrases. Let’s say you need an image to go along with a blog post on tips for exercising with your pet, you could search for something like “dog running with owner.” When you find an image, place your pointer over it and click the </> icon. Then copy and paste the code into your website or blog.

Flickr

Flickr is a fantastic place to find images, especially ones that don’t look so commercial. Just like with Getty Images, search for the type of image you’re looking for by using keywords or phrases. Let’s say this time you wrote a blog post on ways to get over writer’s block. You could search for something like “writers block” or “writing” and see what comes up.

After you search, click where it says “Any License” and choose “Creative Commons Only”.  This is where you’ll find images that have a Creative Commons license, which allows the creator to retain copyright while allowing others to copy, distribute, and make some uses of their work. Every Creative Commons license also ensures licensors get the credit for their work they deserve. Licensors may also choose to grant additional permissions when deciding how they want their work to be used. After you confirm the image is free, you can download it for use as allowed by its license.

Picjumbo

Picjumbo offers a variety of free photos for any kind of use—free of charge with no registration required. There is no search function, but you can narrow down your search through the categories. All photos are by photographer Viktor Hanacek. He mentions in his terms that he greatly appreciates attribution when using his photos.

Gratisography

Gratisography is a collection of free high-resolution images by Ryan McGuire of Bells Design for personal or commercial use. You can choose from his selection of new photos that are added weekly. Simply find the photo you like and click to download. All photos are free of copyright restrictions.

Keep in mind, there is no search option, you can only browse through whatever is there. These photos are very artistic and unlike any stock photo you’ll find. You may not always find what you’re looking for but it’s worth a try.

iStock

iStock releases a new batch of royalty-free photos, illustration, video, audio and editorial files each week. You will need to sign up for a free membership in order to download these images. This is another site where you may not always find what you’re looking for but it’s worth a look see.

Death to The Stock Photo

Death to The Stock Photo offers free high-resolution photos for commercial use, blog posts, social accounts and mockups, sent to your inbox every month. All you need to do is give them your email address. They even give you a file of free images once you sign up.

This site was created by two photographers, Allison Lehman and David Sherry, after they noticed that many brands, bloggers, and other freelancers had trouble consistently getting photography that was authentic and quality enough to use in production. All of the images they provide you with are their own photography. Their license states that you must include a copy of, or reference to, the license with every copy of the photograph that you distribute or display.

HubSpot

Although marketing platform HubSpot is not a photo database, it offers a package of 75 free stock photos in exchange for your email address and information about your company. These images are free to use in blog posts, social media networks, landing pages, emails or wherever you’d like –no royalties and no fees. Once you sign up, HubSpot will send you a zip file containing the photos. You can sign up right here.

Facts on Free Photo Usage for Blogs & Social MediaPhoto: Viktor Hanáček

I hope you found this post helpful in your search for free images. It’s important that you start maintaining a library of photos that will enhance your marketing efforts. The right image can draw your reader in and help you to effectively tell your story.

It’s important that you also recognize the value of hiring professional photographers to take quality and creative images. Their work is key to persuading your target market to learn more about who you are and what you offer.

“Photography is a small voice, at best, but sometimes one photograph, or a group of them, can lure our sense of awareness.” W. Eugene Smith, 1918-1978

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3 Ways to Curate Content with Confidence

3 Ways to Curate Content with Confidence

If you’re blogging for a business or organization, you probably have a content marketing strategy that involves posting daily or weekly. In fact to successfully drive traffic to your website, you should publish content at least every seven days.

According to HubSpot, nearly 40% of US companies use blogs for marketing purposes, and companies that blog have 55% more website visitors. That’s a lot of writing and no doubt these companies are searching the Web for content that’s on trend and of interest to their readers. In fact, they often curate content.

When you curate content, you’re finding and sharing relevant, high quality content on a specific topic from an outside source for your target audience.

If you find content that’s valuable to both you and your audience, don’t ever hesitate to curate. It can enhance your created content and benefit your blog, email marketing and social media. Not only will it attract readers, it will help you build relationships with other writers and bloggers, and also establish you as an online leader. Essentially, curating content is a way to build “know, like and trust.”

People don’t like to spend precious time searching for valuable information; they want to find it easily and they do so by going to their favorite reliable resources. You can become the go-to resource in your industry by consistently curating content. Your blog and social media pages will attract more readers and followers if you’re consistently sharing valuable content from others.

Now that you have a grip on what content curation is, how should you go about doing it and how can you become a successful content curator? Let’s review a few ways.

WAYS TO CURATE

Each day, take time to do some reading. When you come across something that really interests you and is worth sharing, save the link and any information from the article. Then what do you do? There are a few ways you can curate the content you find.

1. Curate content on social media.

Write a bit about your thoughts on the content or give a brief summary and share it on social media, making sure to link to the resource and author. By adding your thoughts to what you share, you demonstrate your expertise on the content’s topic and also share your point of view. This is what will help you stand out from the rest and establish yourself as a thought leader.

Just as you would avoid posting only promotional content on social media, do the same for curated content. Your social media posts should be a mix of original created content, content from others, and personal/ non-work related commentary. If you only post curated content on social media, you start to look like a robot.

2. Curate content on your blog.

You can either write your own summary of the content or re-post an excerpt while adding annotation and commentary –avoid copying and pasting content from the entire article onto your blog.

According to Nieman Journalism Lab, you should reproduce only those portions of the headline or article that are necessary to make your point or to identify the story. Always credit the author and link to the original source – don’t be a content thief!

If you attend a webinar or summit, you can take notes and quotes from the speakers and curate them in a blog post. An example of this would be our blog post on Visual Content Marketing from our experience at the Business Development Institute & PRNewswire Visual Content Marketing & Communications Summit.

Try to establish relationships with the people from which you are curating content. It’s good to let them know you appreciate their work so much that you wanted to share it. You can also make them aware that you’re trying to broaden your audience, which is probably something on their agenda as well. They may just curate your content, too! After all sharing is caring.

3. Curate content in an email newsletter.

Highlight content from your own blog as well as the other blogs and news sources you enjoy reading in a weekly newsletter. This content should be recent and trending in your industry. Include the article’s title, source, synopsis and link, and if you’d like you can add a thumbnail photo.

Some of our favorite sources are Constant Contact, Buffer, Copyblogger, Social Media Today, Business 2 Community, NPR, Jeff Bullas, Inc. Magazine, Mashable and The Huffington Post.

WAYS TO BE SUCCESSFUL AT CURATING

It takes time and effort to curate, so in order to be successful make it a priority. Schedule reading into your day just as you would schedule a meeting. Try and consistently do this at a time when you know you won’t be interrupted. Maybe it’s first thing in the morning before you start answering emails, or maybe it’s the last thing you do. If it’s easier, take short breaks throughout the day to read a bit and take notes.

The key is to be on top of current trends and demands, specifically in your industry. You need to be committed and strategic. As you’re curating you may feel a sort of information overload – there are so many valuable resources generating content and it’s impossible for you to check every single one (unless it’s your job, of course). Find your favorite resources, follow them and subscribe.

There are also many tools available to help you bring in content and push it out. With tools such as Buffer and Hootsuite, you can schedule posts featuring curated content to be published throughout the day.  For keeping track of content, there’s the app Evernote that helps you collect inspirational ideas and interesting articles.

Consider hiring a social media manager to curate content for posting on social media throughout the day. inBLOOM will incorporate posts shared from others into your social media strategy. If you have any questions or need help, contact us.

photo: Chung Ho Leung

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