Google Alerts Has Been Updated

Many content marketers rely on Google Alerts as a way of getting ideas for content, seeing what your competitors are doing online and for those vain enough – seeing what others are publishing online about you.

Google has recently “beautified” their Alert service – there’s no telling just yet whether they’ve changed anything behind the scenes.

 

The Old Google Alerts

Old Google Alerts

Old Google Alerts

Above is a picture of what Google Alerts used to look like – functional, but not the simplistic approach Google is taking.

 

The New Google Alerts

The first thing you’ll see when you check out Google Alerts is the friendly and more stylised design, however the big changes come with Google’s suggestions.

The suggestions are based off who you’ve added in your circles in Google+, again this emphasises the importance Google is placing on G+. The better you utilise Google+ the better the suggestions Google will offer.

Google have also added a “Me On The Web” section – something we recommend all of our clients to do. It is always intriguing to see what others are posting about you online (if anything).

*Remember if you’re using a unique (individual) Google account to add your company or your client’s companies – Google isn’t quite clever enough to auto-suggest them at this stage.

New Google Alerts

New Google Alerts

Writing team

How to manage a writing team

I’d like to keep track of projects, editing, and version control as simply as possible. I see a zillion tools and possibilities, just want something simple and reliable.

Writing team

Writing team [image credit dunlapschools.edublogs.org]

Focus on having one place for your editorial work schedule. We use teamwork.com for our project planning – but other solutions include Trello and Basecamp. Set in place working processes that force users back to the project management app for all their work. E.G. we use Teamwork as the agenda for our update meetings – it is immediately obvious if someone isn’t using it or it isn’t up to date with their status. Name and Shame works as a motivator.

Secondly, the editorial calendar (which can be a spreadsheet of monthly activities) sets out what needs to be done in advance so you can plan.

Thirdly use cloud services so there’s only one version of any document you are writing. We use Google Docs and from the fall you’ll also be able to do the same on Apple with their Yosemite update. One document, multiple users.

Fourthly, if you want to be picky – as I am, have a file naming convention on your documents. We use date followed by client name and detail of the document. Note using a YYMMDD date format means all documents sort into reverse date order easily (the US date format does not work).

How is that for starters? Get in touch if you want a 20 minute update on what you’ve chosen and I can try to spot any issues or working practices you may need to reinforce.

How to Set up and Host Live Webinars

We run a monthly podcast for one of our clients which has become fairly popular in it’s respective industry. This is a relatively new ability we’ve learned and as with everything we do, we’re happy to help others learn to do it as well.

To be clear, when we say webinars or podcasts we mean live audio and video feeds (much like radio if it had view-able PowerPoint slides!) which are broadcast over the internet for everyone to view. We record these broadcasts as we do them and give that recording to viewers afterwards and post them on YouTube or SoundCloud.

Create you own webinar

Very recently we got a tweet from a sports coach wanting to start holding webinars and we answered. We arranged a Skype chat, walked them through the programs and techniques we used and introduced them to other possible solutions we found along our journey of developing a quality podcast.  Here’s a summary of our advice.

Our process

We use a combination of the program xSplit and the website UStream:

  • xSplit – recording a webcam or a computer screen is a simple process today, but controlling that recording is an entirely different thing. The FREE program xSplit provides users with multiple “scenes” which operate like a powerpoint presentation. Each “scene” is like a slide in powerpoint and can be customised with images, live screenshots, webcams and more. It also takes audio directly from your computer and microphone, if one is attached. The program can broadcast to multiple sources and can directly record to your computer as a separate option for making videos. While it is only Windows OS compatible (so no support for Mac computers) it provides a lot of flexibility and control to the user.

  • UStream – when you are broadcasting you need a destination and a place for that broadcast to be viewed by others. We use our paid account on UStream with ads removed to broadcast our live viewing. UStream gives us a way to communicate with our viewers as well via a text based chat beside the video as it plays.

This set up makes it easy for viewers to watch as we just need to send them the link to our UStream account while we take care of the broadcasting and content. With other solutions you may need to download programs, make accounts or have to send attendees passwords. We have tested some of those solutions and for a wide audience and age range they proved too hard and presented barriers to attendance.

Other solutions you could use

Many of these solutions add a level of difficulty for either us or our viewers to join a webinar that we broadcast. However they may suit your needs better than they suit ours:

  • Google Hangouts – the Hangouts system created by Google is amazing. It allows you to broadcast your computer screen or your web camera to a live stream (then instant recording) on YouTube. For others to view directly they can watch from YouTube. If you’d like to chat to viewers however they would have to join your Hangout and thus disrupts many of your functions. You would have to mute each attendee if you want to talk and then you could communicate with them via text chat. It works but is cumbersome in it’s design. On the other hand it is a free solution without ads and  is simple for basic internet users to learn.

  • Downloadable webinar technologies – there are meeting simulators that can be used effectively to run webinars such as GoToWebinar or Anymeeting. These solutions are often paid, require you and your attendees to download a program and are designed primarily for corporate use. They will take some training to use (especially for your viewers) but the technology is great. If you’re a businessman looking to run online meetings or training sessions this solution is a great way to go. [only problem with Citrix GoToWebinar solution is the meeting invite does not adjust timezone to the recipient’s calendar]

Now that you’ve got access to the tools, you can start exploring the world of broadcasting and build yourself a webinar! If you’re less technical, or would like to put all of your effort into the quality of the webinar, we’d be happy to take the broadcasting task off your hands. Contact us for more details on these technologies or for a quote on what it would take for us to set up and run your webinar.

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Facebook Icon On Fire

How Facebook Boosted My Newsletter Subscribers

Email or FacebookFacebook hasn’t replaced any newsletter (at least not yet but you never know what Facebook’ll do next). What Facebook has done is equal the amount of traffic driven to our website from our weekly newsletter.  And helped us to recruit new opted-in newsletter subscribers.

Better yet – it’s all free.

Key things to note: Our weekly newsletter has over 4,500 subscribers. Our Facebook page had just 400 (over the course of this experiment we increased this to 550).  Wow – that’s ten times fewer subscribers but they’re visiting and re-visiting the website.

Everyone knows the theory of email newsletters – their open and clickthrough rates so I won’t waste time here. We’re going to tell you how you can drive more traffic to your website from Facebook.  Then invite visitors to join the newsletter.

What we were doing

We posted 3 times a day on Facebook, for Facebook – all of which was shared from other users and pages on Facebook. These posts were backed up by regular blog post entries (one every day) which were automatically fed to our Timeline. Very standard.

So what did we change?

There were 3 major changes.

  1. The first was to do with posting amounts and timing. We increased the frequency of posting and changed what time of day we posted Facebook updates. This was increased to 5-6 times a day (effectively doubling our previous posting frequency).
  2. The second major change is where we post from. We changed all sources of our posts to our website and then linked to them.
  3. Our third major change was where we sourced our content from. It’s important to note here we hardly ever created original content – we either shared others or repurposed our archived content.

To facilitate changing the source of our posts to our website we installed new plugins. People will spend less time on our Facebook page because we are directing them to our website. As a result, many of the plugins we installed were to make sure our content is still shared (which often doesn’t happen once you leave a social media site). As we knew many of our visitors would also be arriving from a mobile device (Facebook’s App is becoming more widely used) we paid particular attention to how our site looks on mobile devices.

Step 1: Smarter Posting Times

Our audience is active at all times of the day. We were initially posting 3 times daily between 9am and 5pm – Not the smartest move when you look at the graph below of our visitor traffic over 24 hours.

When Fans Are Online

Click To Enlarge

For this reason – we opted to post every 4-5 hours. Remember – we don’t want this to take up all our time and we definitely don’t want to be up all night so we chose to schedule our Facebook posts. To enable auto-posting of blog at all times of day we installed new plugins which I’ll discuss below.

Step 2: Make The Website The Destination

We want to drive traffic off Facebook to our website.  This is marketing real estate that we control and manage.  We’re not dependent on Facebook’s grace.  Making most of your posts direct to your website is therefore logical.  And remember our objective is to drive readers from Facebook to becoming opted-in newsletter subscribers.

This of course means publishing content designed for Facebook on your website. Whether you’re sharing an article or a photo, upload it to your site (add a link on the post to credit the photograph if appropriate).  Don’t just link them straight to the original source, ideally you’re seen as the source of the content so they spend longer on your site and less elsewhere.

With our new plugins – photos are uploaded from our website to Facebook automatically. When a user clicks on a photo expecting it to enlarge they are instead redirected to our website (where there is a larger image front and centre). Bingo – we’ve just driven traffic from Facebook to our site. From here you have 2 challenges –

  1. How can they share this with their friends?
  2. What’s going to keep them from leaving your site?

The first challenge is easily answered – plugins which I will discuss later on. The second is to have an attractive website littered with quality content – this is discussed just below.

Step 3: Sourcing Quality, “Original” Content

To ensure our content is appealing, we need it to be socially shareable. While there are no guarantees, using already proven socially shareable content is a start. But you don’t want to appear a copycat. So how do you get proven socially shareable material while still looking “fresh” and “original”? The easiest strategy is to find content from sources other than Facebook. Pinterest was a great resource for me as pictures make the best Facebook posts and most photos came with a short description or piece of information – perfect.

Setting Up Your Website: Plugins Used

Below is a list of the plugins you’ll want to install if you’re on WordPress. I’ve described the types of plugins you want before stating what plugin we used. These plugins are all free and you may have your own preference.

  1. New Automatic Posting To Social Media (Facebook/Twitter).

    • NextScripts: Social Networks Auto-Poster [Hands down the best autoposter plugin. Fully customisable, plenty of social media options and looks like the posts were shared straight from Facebook. 2 great features of this plugin are that you can choose individual posts to be image posts or linked posts etc & Imports Facebook comments so your website appears popular]

  2. A more simple “Like Us” button further up the News main page.

    • Facebook Social Plugin Widgets (This plugin installs widgets to be used wherever – we used them in the sidebar of our blog page [note page and not post])

  3. When someone enters our site (for the first time) a like us on Facebook plugin pops up [This doesn’t interfere with our pre-existing Newsletter signup popup].

  4. Horizontal social sharing toolbar along the top is non intrusive and doesn’t cover any text unlike many vertical floating ones.

  5. Sharing of individual pictures on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest by simply hovering your mouse over the picture.

  6. Floating Sharebar down that follows the user down the side of the post. It allows sharing to Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest etc

    • Digg Digg (Leave a comment if you’d like my custom CSS code so the spacings etc look nice and clean with no borders or ads)

  7. Mobile Plugin so website looks good on every device

 

Results?

Results of Our 1st Change

So what were the results of our changes? The graph below reveals all. With a simple change in the frequency and timing of posts our weekly reach exploded. This is most likely due to reaching more individuals as opposed to reaching the same people multiple times.

Click To Enlarge

Click To Enlarge

 

Results of Our 2nd Change

The screenshot below is of our website’s referrals for the 2 week period before and during our Facebook efforts. As you can see, vast improvements. We basically received 1000 extra page views each week (remember, at the time we only had 400 people liking our page). I’ve highlighted the Twitter referrals as well (t.co) as although we designed this campaign for Facebook – using the NextScript Autoposter plugin we also published the same content to Twitter (although we changed the structure of the titles and links etc from within the plugin’s settings). You’ll notice the amount of referrals we got from Facebook Mobile (m.facebook.com). Good thing we had WPtouch installed so our page would look good on any device.

Click To Enlarge

Click To Enlarge

 

Did Our Plugins Do Their Job?

I was initially skeptical when installing the Facebook Page Promoter Lightbox – no one likes popups. After 2 weeks though, we picked up 50 likes from external “Like” buttons. These buttons were only in 2 places, the first was in the sidebar on the blog page the second was the aforementioned lightbox. I’m almost 100% sure the lightbox is where we picked up all of those likes.

Click To Enlarge

Click To Enlarge

Sling pic and both social sharing bars (vertical and horizontal) picked up a few extra “Likes” and retweets which was nice – nothing to write home about but every little bit counts. WPtouch can be attributed to the 13 mobile likes as although it means people liked our Page from Facebook (on a mobile device), the website must have been attractive enough to have convinced them.

Conclusion

The initial results are all very promising, only time will tell how good a long term strategy this is. The short term gains were an instant increase in likes going from 400 to 550 in 2 weeks, engagement going up and a large increase in unique visitors and page views. There were of course more minor, intricate strategic choices made during this period and still being made now – these will be discussed in a later post.

 

If you’d like any help setting these plugins up or want to discuss how this can apply to your online strategy get in touch by leaving a comment below.

Xero Marketing: a pitch & a critique

Xero is a hugely popular cloud accounts package that has taken much of the Intuit QuickBooks and MYOB business from SMEs worldwide.

Image representing Xero as depicted in CrunchBase

Image via CrunchBase

Prompted by an article in Forbes about in-house marketing teams versus external agency use, I remembered a pitch we sent off to Xero.
As a customer of Xero and as a marketer, the things I think are lacking or could be enhanced primarily relate to the ease of re-using content and proactively driving it out to the right audience.
B2B comms for existing customers, in a nutshell.
Since Xero is growing internationally, they increasingly have separate user groups who should be communicated to differently – because they need different things from Xero.

Marketing suggestions – I have lots more….

  1. After signing up, there’s nothing to drive me deeper into using the higher features of your products, unless I search.
  2. Apart from support issues and feature requests, what are the useful things you could be communicating with my business [clues – finding support, accountancy advice, higher level feature uses, plug ins, apps developers, tax questions, work-rounds for bug fixes]
  3. How could Xero be leveraging existing customers to drive improved new business and new trial accounts using member-get-member referrals and other incentives?
  4. Autoresponders – for new users within the trial period and for first few months of use  – Xero could have a ‘guide’ much like Kiwibank‘s “Becky” who is there for the user, who acts as a signpost to helpful information inside your knowledge base, who helps check they’ve got the system set up properly.
  5. Why are you using FeedBurner to distribute your RSS feed from the blog?  It’s unsupported and you could be leveraging the channel for marketing messages to your active users in order to drive deeper brand engagement and possibly sales (see 2,3,4 above).
  6. Split out your blog into separate streams so that articles automatically send to different groups (e.g. developers and accountants, US versus NZ) Each would get articles designed for that audiences.  Create separate news feeds for different audiences, and further use them to drive marcoms to support your business growth goals
  7. The more you blog, the bigger your archive.  Readers rarely dive very deep and yet there’s probably heaps of helpful content which is being ignored.  Could they be created into “tip sheets”, e-books, training manuals and other support material? These content solutions can be supporting 1, 2 and 4 above.

As Forbes says, it’s great to be an in-house agency – but lifting your head above the parapet and seeking input and inspiration from an external agency team can be very beneficial.

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The Art of Infographics for biz dev

It’s no secret that images help to enhance your blog content. But infographics will take this further, by combining content and images into one neat, shareable package.

An infographic about inforgraphicsNot only are infographics shareable, but they can take complex information and simplify it, as well as attracting the attention of those who don’t have the patience to read a long form blog article to get the same information. They are also more likely to go viral, which is another huge plus.

But the problem is that too many people have seen the power of the infographic. Infact, this article about 9 reasons to include infographics in your marketing strategy shows that searches for infographics on Google increased by 800% between 2010 and 2012. So now everyone is trying to pump them out in the hopes that their content will go viral or their website will see massive traffic growth. This means it’s getting to the point that simply creating an inforgraphic isn’t enough. You need to take a controlled and thought out approach in order to capture interest and maintain it.

If we look at this from a blogging perspective we can highlight some ways to make your infographic stand out amongst the crowd.

When you look at a blog post, you’re drawn in by the headline. Something in those few words has sparked your interest, enough to get you to react, and read what the author has to say. Infographics are no different. I remember a time where I would look at any infographic I found, regardless of subject matter, simply because it was visually appealing, and I often learnt something from it. Now I don’t. Now if I look at an infographic it’s highly likely the headline has caught my attention. This means that considering the title/headline for your infographic is important. Give your audience a reason to want to look at it, and you will see more success.

After the headline, comes the content. When blogging each sentence must keep your reader engaged, so that they move onto the next one, until they eventually consume your entire message. They want to find the value that was promised to them in the headline. Infographics have a similar principle. Yes, the content must be relevant and provide them with the value that was promised. But, it must also be readable. Your layout, your colour scheme and the way you adapt your information must all be considered. Without considering these factors. Your infographic will lose potency, readers will drop off and all the benefits you envisioned when you begun creating it, will be lost.

These are simple principles that can be applied when creating infographics that will help your content to stand out. Because if you don’t, you risk being overlooked, because you simply blend in with the crowd.

Want some more considerations? Here’s an Infographic that outlines considerations for making an infographic.

So, you’ve decided to go ahead and make an infographic

If you’re still here and think that you’ll be able to create an effective infographic, then the next consideration is how you will do it. There are two options here, do it yourself, or pay a designer.

Now doing it yourself may seem a bit daunting, especially for those with limited artistic talents. But there are a range of tools that can be used to create a thing of beauty. Here’s SEOmoz’s list of 10 tools for creating Infographics. Going through this list, you should find something that will suit your skill level and needs.

The alternative is to hire a designer. While this will cost you more, you will get greater flexibility in how it’s designed and looks. You can use sites such as eLance to find freelance designers from all over the world, that can help you to create an awesome infographic for your company.

How to use List.ly as a Marketing tool

What is List.ly?

List.ly is a list building website that allows you to build and curate shareable lists. These  are then viewable by others.

People can ‘like’, ‘dislike’, comment or even add items to the list.  This results in a list that re-organises items based on their popularity.  You can then embed these lists in your website or blog. So, rather than directing traffic to lists you’ve built on Facebook or Twitter, you can keep that traffic on your own site!  One of our first principles of marketing: build your own audience on assets you own.

Getting started with List.ly

Customised list header on list.ly

Creating lists is simple. Go to the list.ly site and click create a ‘new list’, then put in a name and description. Then all thats left is to add your content, simple.

By delving into the advanced options you can also create branding on your list. The advanced options allow you to add tags, a header image and links back to your website.  This means that Listly will also help you promote your brand through the header image, and also give you another backlink to your website.

How can brands and agencies use List.ly?

Product FeedBack

There is huge potential for brands to leverage Listly in order to gather customer feedback. Feedback is key in developing new products or making adjustments to existing products. Listly can be leveraged to create feedback, and even to get new insights into what your customers want.

Simply create a list of your products (or even future product ideas) and watch how customers interact with it. They will vote up the products they like, and vote down the products they don’t or they can leave comments.

In addition to this give them the opportunity to contribute their own ideas. If they add something to the list that resonates with your other customers it will climb up the ranks and give you new products/developments to consider. The best part of this is that not only are you getting ideas that your existing customers want and will buy, you’re getting them for FREE!

As a bonus you will also receive alerts from Listly when someone adds an item to your list. So you always know when something is added to your list, as well as who added it. You can also follow other peoples lists. This feature helps you to stay up to date with the how lists you’re following are changing and the new ideas that are being added.

Lists of Tips

Creating an industry specific list of tips allows you to easily find out what content your followers engage with the most. By following what tips people are voting up or down you are able to see what they want to know more about. This allows you to better plan out your blogs to appeal directly to your audience and will help to prevent you wasting time producing content that your audience isn’t interested in.

These ideas only highlight some of the potential that list.ly can offer in terms of content and product development strategies.

Do you have any other strategies? Have you used list.ly? Let us know your thoughts.


How MontBlanc could improve its email marketing

I just bought a pen, a beautiful pen and shared my email address with the supplier – top luxury brand, Mont Blanc.

A week later I got an email, beautifully crafted but inappropriate message.  This is not the way to say hello and welcome to your new customers.  Launching right in with a sales message…. How about a welcome, a short autoresponder about the brand and explanation setting out expectations for the relationship?

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Pay-with-a-tweet: helpful content marketing tool

Are you a business that gives away your content free (as we do)?

Pay With a Tweet

Want to get some reciprocal publicity from your work?

Take a look at Pay with a Tweet from the creative folks at Innovative Thunder

We got a free download e book from Naked Marketing Manifesto

They got promoted using our twitter account

Symbiosis and ‘payback’ all in one!

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