Creating a holistic digital marketing strategy can take months. Effectively executing the strategy after tweaks, minimal fails and multiple learning curves can take up to a year. One stage often omitted from this important plan is monitoring competition. Watching your competitors online holds unparalleled benefits such as identifying market opportunities, connecting with companies you should be cross promoting, back-link insight, social listening and more.
Here are 5 Free Tools to monitor your competition:
- Google Alerts: One of the most underused tools, Google Alerts allows you to monitor the internet for “interesting content”. You can set up alerts for your industry keywords or even for mentions and articles on your competition. Google alerts lets you customize the email reports you receive by how often you’d like the notifications, type of sources, the origin of source, and languages. Use alerts to drive trending content ideas and see how well your competition is doing with PR.
- Facebook Pages: Facebook offers page admins the opportunity to “watch” competitor Facebook pages. To add a competitor page, simply go to your page insights, scroll to the bottom and type in the name of the business you’d like to watch. You can see the company’s follower growth, engagement and even the competitor’s top post from the past week.
- HootSuite: HootSuite is a simple social media publishing tool that also offers numerous in-platform apps to increase the overall user experience. One of the free apps, TrendSpottr enables you to set up multiple “streams” in your HootSuite to watch trending topics, keywords, brand reputation and even identify industry influencers. HootSuite is also an excellent “social listening” tool for when potential customers are unhappy with the competition. Below is an example of great social listening in action. In this instance, I had tweeted dissatisfaction to Xfinity and within minutes received this tweet from their competitor:
- Alexa: Alexa is a brilliant tool that my company uses prior to working with any company to analyze their overall reach. It can also be used to analytically measure competition. You can see how the competitor’s website ranks globally, what keyword searches are driving traffic to the site, which pages generate the highest engagement, and which sites link to the competitor’s site.
- SEM Rush: SEM Rush offers great analytical reporting on all aspects of digital marketing performance. With a free account, you can see how your competition ranks, the keywords that generate high traffic, and even view their AdWords and video ad campaigns.
Once you have all this data at your fingertips, it is time to utilize it wisely by crafting new campaigns. Contact websites that link to your competitors to build new relationships, start focusing on keywords that drive heavy traffic to your competition’s site, avoid social media snafu’s that failed on your competitors’ platforms, and contact your competitor’s dissatisfied customers through social listening.
A couple of years ago, we posted an article on Word of Mouth Marketing http://popdigitalmarketing.com/word-mouth-marketing/. The article explained the new wave of marketing tactics utilizing current “brand fans” through social media.
To reiterate, studies have shown that consumers are 65% more likely to choose a brand based on the recommendation of another customer or employee than buying from a brand based on an ad or company promotion. Customers today rely on trust. They trust other people, like them making every day decisions. They trust people, not companies.
Benefits of an Employee Brand Ambassador Program
Building your brand takes consistency, time and a strong brand strategy. It also takes a strong community of fans. Your employees play a fundamental role in promoting your brand. If your company is listed as the employee’s workplace on Facebook, LinkedIn or other social media platform, each and every time your employee engages in anything, they are representing your company. Once your brand strategy and brand promise have been developed, you must train your employees in what your brand story is. What your company represents. The problem your service or product solves.
Employee Silence is Loud
Your employees have the potential to expand your reach exponentially. Silence speaks volumes. If your employees never endorse your brand, that sends a very clear message to customers. They don’t love it. They do not believe in it. If your employees are engaged in and passionate about promoting your company, they will “sell”. It makes people excited to be a part of something everybody loves. It’s also great for recruitment.
How to Build Your Employee Ambassador Program
- Develop your brand. This is the backbone of your program. You cannot continue until you have this set in stone.
- Train your team. Your entire company must learn, understand and believe in your brand. If they do not, it may signal that you aren’t delivering your brand promise and need to re-evaluate either your brand promise or the process of your services/products.
- Choose an Ambassador Leader. The Ambassador Leader is someone in your company that loves everything about coming to work. They already show their ambassadorship, share your company news online, have a strong following online and are an “influencer” online and off. This person does not need to be in your marketing department and can be at any level of management.
- Make the program optional. You only want people participating if they choose to. If it is forced on everyone, it will show. The Ambassador Leader should assemble an Ambassador Team of employees that are excited to be a part of this new program.
- Set expectations. Make sure the program has very clear and easy guidelines. The easier the program is to participate in, the more employees will want to join. If you are using an ambassador management system, provide each participant with a tutorial. If you are not using a system, make sure create your own standard process.
- Don’t write scripts…..but have materials ready. Allow each team member to promote the materials in his or her own words. Again, we want to work off trust. If customers see everyone writing the exact same script, it becomes an ad, not a genuine referral. If you are not using an Ambassador system, you can use google docs to place all the types of content/materials you want promoted, and track employees’ efforts there.
- Lead by example. Don’t expect employees to be passionate about your brand if your top executives are not. The leaders of your company do not necessarily need to participate in the program for rewards, but they absolutely should use the material to promote on across their various networks.
- Measure and Reward. Make sure you have a measuring system set. Hashtags are an excellent tool for measuring. Choose a specific hashtag such as “PopDigitalMarketinglife” and check it on a weekly basis. Your Ambassador Program should provide rewards as well. Rewards must be attainable and set on a short term basis (people like immediate results). Rewards can range from praise and recognition, gift cards, group lunches to elaborate gifts.
Facebook offers a wonderful way to “boost” or “promote” your content by paying a bit extra money (as low as $5). This is separate from Facebook ads, which requires a higher level of online marketing expertise to generate success. Facebook has made it quite easy to set-up a boosted ad post which creates an attractive option to those not as skilled in online advertising to try out. I see a lot of small and medium sized business utilizing this tool lately, yet only about 1/3 of them are doing it correctly.
What is a “Post Boost”?
When your company page writes a status, shares a picture or uploads a video you are given the option to “boost” that post. See below for a visual on where the option is. Boosted posts will appear higher up on the newsfeed (note: not in the right ad column) to increase viewership.
Why you should Boost a Post?
By promoting or boosting a post, you are reaching more people. If you choose to have the post boosted, you can check a box to have it show up to people who like your page and their friends, or you can target it to anyone on facebook. You can target people based on location, age, gender and interests. This will guarantee your post is seen by those who find your business relevant.
What type of posts should be “Boosted” or “Promoted”?
First, it’s important to track your facebook insights to learn which content engages your fans. Those types of posts will perform the best as a promoted/boosted post.
Second, you have to strategically plan the desired goals and outcomes of this campaign. Are you trying to generate more likes on your page? Bring about greater brand awareness? Highlight a service or event? Generate traffic to your website? Knowing this in advance will ensure a higher return on the investment.
Currently, statistics show that boosting a facebook post works best for:
- Increasing visits to your facebook business page
- Creating awareness about events
- Generating interest in online offers
- Spreading updates and news
- Contests or Sweepstakes
Best practices for boosting posts:
Make sure that the post you are paying to run has timely information. For example, do not boost a post that states a date in it: “It’s Wednesday, and we are giving away 5 free….”. By putting a date on it, anytime it runs after that day, people will ignore it.
Boost a post that generates “likes” and engagement. Don’t boost a post that requires no action from the viewer. Make sure there is a question to be answered, a page to be taken to with valuable information, or a hot topic to “like” or even disagree with. The more action (clicks, likes, shares) the post gets- the higher up it will go with Facebook EdgeRank.
Building a new website is a project many companies take on with excitement. However, after countless hours of confusing proposals from web designers, the project can quickly turn tedious. In order to ensure you are getting the most out of this endeavor, I have compiled a list of 5 important questions you should ask when interviewing potential website designers.
What platform do you recommend for my business?
There are many different website building platforms out there and understanding which one your designer is most skilled in is very important. More so, you want to know why they would recommend your site to be built on a specific platform. If you work as a photographer, Square Space may be best for you. Whereas if you have high traffic online store, Drupal may be the top option as it has the highest rating for multiple users at a time. WordPress works great for many CMS (Content Management Systems) needs and is usually Pop Digital Marketing’s “go-to” platform due to its versatility.
Your site should reflect the needs of your customer! Not solely the expertise of the web-designer. A web-designer must be well-versed in all the top options in order to best evaluate which one would fit the needs of your site while also assessing what type of online experience your customers are looking for.
Does my package come with a responsive design?
A responsive design refers to a site providing an optimal viewing experience across a range of devices (computer, phone, tablet etc.) while minimizing the need to re-size words or navigations. In April, 2015, Google began to boost ratings and positions of sites that had a responsive design.
In today’s world – you should not be charged extra for a mobile ready site. Any theme created in the last 5 years is already made with a responsive design option and all custom designs should include that in the package. Paying extra for a responsive site in 2017 is like paying extra for air-conditioning in a car after 1970. The demand is that 100% of sites need it, therefore it should not be an optional “add on”.
Will you be using a pre-made template or custom building one?
This question is important because the price between the two options varies immensely. If your designer is using a pre-made template or a “theme”, it means they do not have to build the infrastructure of the site, rather they are just using modules or plugins to “fill the pieces in”. If the designer is custom building the site, they are doing everything from the ground work up.
There are certainly pros and cons to both. Overall, a pre-made template will cost you a lot less. Using a pre-made template means updates are done by the theme designer- not your website designer, at no extra cost and requires little from your end. If you have an employee on your team that can routinely press the update button on the site when prompted, this may be the best choice for you.
A pro to building your own custom site is that it is made exactly how you choose. You do not feel constricted by what a theme can or cannot do. A con to building a custom site however is you will likely have to pay your web designer an ongoing fee to maintain the site. What if they go out of business or show a lack of responsiveness? You do have to consider how a long term relationship will play out with this web designer.
How will the site be optimized?
The whole goal of a website should be to attract leads and develop them into a customer. If your site is not optimized from the backend with meta data to the front end with on page relevant keywords and call to actions, your site will fail you.
As a result of search engines now measuring on-site engagement in their rankings, you must also ask your designer what they plan for the “user experience”. Will there be a user flow plan? What actions do you anticipate the potential customer to take on each and every page and how will your site nurture their interest?
Who will update it and how often?
It is important to understand the ongoing expectations before you sign any contracts. If you have someone on your team that can manage the sit-e great! If not, make sure to ask your website designer what type of retainer fees/programs they offer to maintain your site updates.
This will help you avoid the common issue of possessing a great website but not knowing how to add to or edit it. Ask your designer to include an hour or two training session as part of your contract once the site is done, but before you go “live”.
In October 2016, Facebook rolled out a brand new option to ask for “recommendations” on your personal feed or in a group. Facebook automatically detects words like “I need a recommendation” or “I am looking for” and converts the post into a distinct “recommendation” post that now includes an active map.
Benefits of the Recommendation Rollout:
- For the everyday Facebook user, the new rollout is a quick and easy way to poll one’s connections for nearby establishments offering the services they are looking for or events to attend. When a friend starts writing the name of the company they want to recommend, Facebook auto fills in the company page and will put a marker on the map above. It also provides quick links to that business page. Facebook is currently saving all this data to use in its next roll out of providing you with a tab of your friends’ current recommendations all in one place.
- This is beneficial to your business because your customers are now able to easily promote your business to active seekers of your services! It also gives your company exposure to everyone else reading or active on the post. Your company is automatically linked, so you do not need to depend on the happy customer to copy and paste any website URLs which is a step often forgotten. Plus, if your Facebook page is set up using a CTA (Call To Action), the new visitors can convert immediately!
Potential Opportunities to Use it in the future:
As more companies build brand ambassador partnerships with happy customers, the new “recommendation tool” can be used as a simple and free tracking method. Once your page is mentioned, you will receive notification on who recommended you. Those insights will be key for rewarding your online referral sources.
Another impending future roll-out is rankings of places that receive recommendations. The more you get, Facebook will measure and eventually rank you in your industry with those numbers.
Big brands and small brands alike all have similar goals on social media: To cultivate our online community, grow our followers and ultimately create a platform to convert new leads.
What is Facebook Engagement and why does it matter?
Many times my clients at Pop Digital Marketing ask why they should try and solicit responses, likes and shares on Facebook. Facebook Engagement Rate is measured by the percentage of people who saw a post (the reach) and liked, shared, clicked or commented on it. As a result of Facebook’s EdgeRank Algorithm, your page’s engagement rank will play a leading factor in which newsfeeds your posts get displayed in. So in short and simply put (there is a bit more to it), if people are not interacting with your posts, they will eventually stop seeing them.
5 Facebook Posts to Drive Engagement:
- Contests. Create a fun contest that requires participants to comment or share the contest photo. Facebook has removed the contest requirement of using a third party application, so you can make this as simple as you want now! Facebook contests with the goal of increasing engagement also carry many other benefits if your team strategizes well. Over 38% of Facebook users are active in contests and when the rules are simple to follow that number goes up to over 52%.
What works: Try requiring followers to post a link to a product or service from your website to your page. This now increases web views and brings awareness to what you are selling.
- Photos. According to Wishpond– Facebook photos attract 104% more comments than an average post. And while insights of engagement vary across different industries, there is a global statistic that engagement rates are higher on Thursdays and Fridays.
What Works: Right now, Throw Back Thursdays and Flash Back Fridays are driving many successful engagement campaigns. Another fun way to get people interacting with your photos is to ask followers to “caption” the photo. This creates “buy-in” from the followers and makes for a fun way to inspire creativity.
- Ask for opinions. Let your followers know they matter. A powerful way to solicit comments are merely by asking. According to a hubspot study, the way you phrase your questions will determine the likelihood of response success.
What Works: Ask your fans a “Which would you rather” question about 2 new services you are contemplating offering. This will help with creating a sense of “ownership” and anticipation from your prospects. For more on generating comments, read this blog.
- Fill in the blanks. Fill in the blank posts are another fun way to up your rankings. Use this opportunity to be light and even humorous!
What Works: While we generally post close to subjects regarding our business, fill in the blank posts can actually deter out of your industry zone. The more entertaining the post is, the higher the likelihood of generating responses. Tie it into the local weather, news or hot topic.
- Like vs. Share. Like vs. Share posts are a nice little trick to utilize the draw of visuals while still extracting that opinion benefit mentioned above.
What Works: Post a picture/visual of two opposing sides (A and B) that people have strong views on and ask them like the picture if they want A to win or B to win. Note: This one won’t really give you qualified leads but is an easy way to increase your edgerank.
How to track engagement:
Using Facebook insights you can easily track each post and its success or lack of in generating engagement. It’s very important to track both your overall page engagement (how many people are clicking on your page and its tabs) as well as the individual posts engagement rates. Once you have at least 4 weeks’ worth of data, you can start creating campaigns based on what you know your audience responds to best!
As we wrap up 2014, now is a prime time to look back at what successes we’ve had at work and where we may have room for improvement. Many business leaders are projecting the next year’s potential growth along with strategies to increase business development. While there are many known general methods to market a business, here is a list of 5 very specific actions you MUST take to stay ahead of the curve in 2015.
5 Specific Marketing Action Steps to Take in 2015:
1. Use Facebook “custom audiences” for ads. Facebook has recently launched a new way to target your ads to your current contact lists. You can import emails or phone numbers in the audience tab in ‘ads manager’. Then when you create the ad, you can choose that custom group to show it to.
Why it works: With Facebook targeting options you can narrow your ads even more by age, location, and interests. This will increase click-through’s substantially as well as provide you with more options such as Facebook offers, deals and more to present to your interested lists that you could not otherwise through email.
2. Build your personal brand on LinkedIn. Since rolling out the ability to post blogs and articles directly on the LinkedIn platform, many savvy leaders have begun to leverage their knowledge and expertise to further their personal and business brand awareness. Make sure your profile is updated and start planning the types of posts you can contribute on the largest business networking social media site.
Why it works: When you post quality content on LinkedIn, you position yourself as a thought leader in your industry and build yourself a positive reputation with potential customers or referral sources.
3. Get on Google My Business. Google+ has been slowly creeping up on Facebook as the second largest social networking site since it launched in 2011. Google provides you with the platform to create a personal identity along with a business page, locations for your company and it all gets tied together under Google My Business.
Why it works: Having all these elements updated and posting relevant information to your page can actually help you rank higher!
4. Brand your visuals for Pinterest. Pinterest currently has 70 million users and that number is growing by the minute. People pin articles, blogs, websites, recipes, shopping, lifestyle dreams and work ideas onto their boards, and the one thing they see when searching the site is the visual associated with the content. Make sure that each piece of collateral you produce is branded well and also includes a quick catchy title.
Why it works: By placing your logo on all your visuals, you are expanding your reach to each and every person that searches for that topic on Pinterest. When you place a CTA title on the visual, it will increase the clicks and provide viewers with a sense of motivation to read more.
5. Re-purpose your blogs. Pick 5 of your most popular 2014 blogs and expand on them. Take those blogs and create a “part 2” for each. Or turn one into into a whitepaper or e-book.
Why it works: By re-purposing your successful content that you already know is popular, highly searched for and engageable, you can collect leads and take potential customers further down your funnel.
2015 will bring us many new opportunities to build our audiences and see marketing success. Which of these actions do you plan to implement into your strategy?
If you manage a business page on Facebook, your life just got easier!
Facebook has officially rolled out a new posting feature which allows admins to effortlessly elect if he/she wants to post as the page or as him/herself through a more straightforward means. Way back in the day (yesterday), in order to toggle between the two identities, one had to click on the settings in the upper right hand corner of the whole page and change who you wanted to post as. This was a confusing process for many page managers.
Where to find the new posting settings:
Now, each and every page post has its own spot where you can click and choose if you want to post, comment, share or like as yourself or as your page. You can also choose to comment, like or share as any other page you currently manage. See visual below for reference:
Ways to utilize the new Facebook posting preferences to your benefit:
- You can create momentum on your page posts a lot faster. You can now easily write a post as the page, and quickly switch to your own persona to comment on said post.
- You can connect pages you manage. If you are running multiple Facebook pages for industry related businesses, why not increase both company’s exposure and engagement by commenting on one’s post under the name of the other? This is a sure way to increase the likes of both pages!
- You can comment on posts of pages you do not manage- as any of your pages! Go ahead and bring exposure to your page by posting effortlessly on bigger brands! All you have to do is click on the little gray page flag in the upper right corner of the post and choose the page you want to comment, like or share as. See below for an example.
We have all heard of the wedding day traditions for wearing something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue. Originating from an old English rhyme, the 4 items a bride carries with her is supposed to bring her good luck. Transitioning into today’s digital age, we can actually leverage these 4 elements as a means of remembering some best practice strategies for top notch social media posts!
Post Something Old:
For the bride, something old represents continuity. Psychologically, people prefer to see social media posts they are comfortable with and they can relate to from their past. This creates a sense of safeness. This explains why so many people love the “Throw Back Thursday” picture phenomenon. A great tip: post something exciting about an employee that has been with the company from the beginning to give your prospects a sense of your company’s stability.
Post Something New:
For the bride, something new offers optimism for the future. One the social media spectrum, posting something new positions your company as the thought leaders. When you are the first to post the latest events, products or news in your industry, it is your post that will get widely shared, commented on and “liked”. Furthermore, when you are posting about your company’s news and updates, you are demonstrating your company’s ability to provide top service or products by exposing its growth.
Post Something Borrowed:
For the bride, something borrowed symbolizes borrowed happiness. When it comes to social media, you too should be borrowing happiness and success. There is no need to re-invent the wheel. When you see another company’s digital marketing campaigns working well, borrow their strategy! While it’s always ideal to be the first, it may not always be practical. It is better to be on the right bus, even if you aren’t driving, than to not get on it at all. Tip: borrow a post but put your own unique spin on it by adding a call to action or a different opinion!
Post Something Blue:
For the bride, something blue stands for purity, love and fidelity. In social media we know that when a customer loves a post they become passionate to spread it. Every once in a while, post something controversial to incite engagement. Nothing attracts more shares and comments then the posts that hit a nerve, good or bad with followers!
Use these 4 tactics in your social media strategy to ascertain your commitment to your followers and with time they will say ‘I Do’ to your services!