Tag Archives: inbound marketing

Anticipating a surge in social media usage during 2015

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Firms are increasingly facing internal and external pressures to enhance their digital presence in social media platforms. This year, many businesses ought to focus on relationship-based interactions and employ inbound marketing techniques for the following reasons:
1. Consumers are Digitally-Empowered
The rapid proliferation of social media has significantly modified the nature of human activities, habitats, and interactions. Real-world social relationships have also migrated to the virtual world, resulting in online communities that bring people together from many contexts. This movement into the digital dimension allows individuals to share knowledge, entertain one another, and promote dialogues among different cultures. The question is no longer if people are signing in; the question is what they are signing in to and why they use certain applications to do so. From a consumer’s perspective, the use of information communication technologies may offer a number of benefits, including efficiency, convenience, richer and participative information, a broader selection of products, competitive pricing, cost reduction, and product diversity. Social media tend to enhance those benefits as consumers are able to communicate more proactively. For example, through social networking and online reviews, consumers can seek out others’ opinions about specific products. In doing so, they are valuing peer judgments in addition to the firms’ promotions; this trend may indicate a shift in the locus on the persuasive power of word-of-mouth marketing.
2. Social Media and Consumer Engagement
If many customers are on social media, then firms should also engage with customers on social media. Firms should seek to develop digital relationships by using promotional strategies that emphasise the co-creation of content and meaning. To this end, consumer reviews can be particularly helpful. Of course, firms have always communicated with their customers, whether online or through personal selling. However, today’s customers are able to respond to firms through digital communication tools. This recent development may create pressures on firms to adopt a more digital presence.
Therefore, the evolution of Web 2.0 represents a social revolution whereby firms are increasingly engaging with their customers online. It may appear that this is a ubiquitous phenomenon that is related to significant global advances in information communication technologies as well as to lower costs for internet access and usage. These developments have set the stage for major shifts in digital marketing strategies and tactics, particularly with respect to the integrated marketing communications dimensions.
3) Building Brand Equity through Content Marketing
The web is an extremely powerful tool for marketers who are interested in creating stronger brands. Many businesses are already using social media as a channel of communication with their customers. Lately, savvy marketers are focusing their attention on content and inbound marketing as they strive to enhance their visibility online. The right content on corporate websites, blogs and social media can build the brands’ image and reputation. Carefully designed landing pages often use persuasive content which can ultimately bring good prospects through the buying funnel. Therefore, marketers are encouraged to try different formats of content as they engage with their potential customers.
Digital marketers should feature content which should be a good fit for their target customers as well as for their corporate objectives. Their marketing content may be displayed on: web pages; online articles and guest posts; blog posts social media posts, eBooks, presentations; customer review content, product FAQs; videos and micro-videos; pictures, infographics, and animated GIFs among other media. Businesses are increasingly creating a broad range of online content for many reasons. Quality content has the ability to educate, inform, generate leads and entice customers. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that the notion of content marketing is gaining ground, particularly in the C-Suite.
4) Viral Marketing and Word-of-Mouth Campaigns
It is widely believed that the word-of-mouth “buzz” about products may lead to conversions, product adoptions and sales. Therefore, firms are increasingly relying on social networks and “viral” marketing strategies. The term viral marketing describes the phenomenon by which consumers mutually share and spread marketing-relevant information online. Of course, it is in the businesses’ interest to leverage themselves through word-of-mouth (WOM) publicity on social networks. Such digital marketing stimuli may result in social contagion by means of e-mails, posts, likes, tweets et cetera. Therefore the dispersion of all marketing messages will then rely on the consumers themselves.
It goes without saying, publicity is more cost efficient than traditional mass-media advertising. Very often, successful marketing campaigns may trigger a strong emotional response in recipients. The effects of viral messages may possibly contain primary emotions (including surprise, joy, sadness, anger, fear, and disgust among others) on the recipients’ emotional responses to the creative ads and may even result in subsequent forwarding behaviours.
In conclusion, this article suggests that social media and digital marketing have already transformed the way how businesses engage with customers. Perhaps there’s an opportunity out there for businesses to differentiate themselves through interactive marketing. For instance, social media may provide simpler, faster and effective platforms that can reach different consumer segments. Notwithstanding, viral marketing tactics seem to offer a means of marketing communications at relatively low-cost, with a significantly reduced-response time and an increased potential for market impact.


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Digital Marketing trends to look out for during 2015

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(This contribution also appeared on Business2Community.com)

As 2014 is winding down, it’s time for businesses to start planning their marketing strategy in a business scenario that is continuously changing at the speed of technology. Firms should adapt themselves to the online marketing environment. Many marketers are already chasing their daily meanderings in terms of “likes”, “shares”, “tweets”, click-through rates and ever more immediate metrics. All these interesting developments on internet allow businesses to differentiate themselves to get ahead of their rivals. Smart marketers regularly collect social data to offer more personalised, relevant and wanted content toward customers. Interestingly, 78% of marketers believe that data-driven marketing via digital channels is the path to new growth (American Marketing Association, 2014). In a sense, web 2.0 has helped businesses to share relevant information about their branded products, service features and propositions that may have generated leads and conversions. Nowadays, some of the best businesses are focusing their attention on inbound marketing techniques as they diligently segment their audiences and target them with online advertising through different social platforms:

  1. Social Media Marketing: It is in the businesses’ interest to get to know about the demographic profile of customers. In addition they should be aware of the latest contemporary trends and conversations that are happening on social networks. Businesses ought to present themselves in a way that feels native and endemic to customers. One of the main ways that companies are establishing authority and trust among their consumers is by consistently creating high quality content that may provide useful and interesting insights to audiences. Through integrated marketing communications involving social media channels, companies are steadily building a strong rapport with customers, which will inevitably help them to develop brand equity.
  2. Ad Re-Targeting: Today, businesses use content marketing tactics by producing valuable, engaging content that is designed for specific customers. Content on social media is becoming more conversational in nature. Consumers value those brands that show their human face. They consider them as trustworthy and authentic. Therefore, businesses communicate with their targeted audiences to build fruitful relationships with loyal followers. Several marketers are increasingly becoming quite proficient in re-targeting customers. Retargeting works by utilising browser cookies that track websites that are visited by internet users. Once the users leave these sites, the products or services they viewed will be shown to them again in advertisements, across different websites. Therefore, ad retargeting works to increase the overall conversion rate by reminding consumers of the product or service they had viewed. This keeps the brand and the product at the top of the consumers’ minds. Many studies have indicated that simple exposure to brand names and logos may ultimately lead to purchase decisions. Even if there’s no instantaneous purchase, an increased brand awareness can really pay off in the long run.
  3. Search Engine Optimisation: The goal of Google, Bing and other search engines is to provide their users with the most relevant and highest quality content. It goes without saying that, these days social signals may play a key role in organic search rankings. As more people share content through social media channels, it is very likely that the most popular content will be featured in search engine results. It’s no coincidence that the top-ranking search results tend to have lots of social shares, while those ranked lower have fewer. Moreover, social shares may often serve as a stamp of approval or can be considered as a trust signal for visitors. That’s why so many businesses are installing social share plugins and encouraging consumers to share their content, as much as possible.
  4. Mobile Marketing: We are living in an era that is characterised by mobile readiness, responsive designs as well as the revival of ‘going local,’ Businesses are encouraged to produce content that “scales down” on mobiles. Such content may include marketing emails, eNewsletters, websites, social posts and the like. According to (Forbes, 2013), “87% of connected devices sales by 2017 will be tablets and smartphones”. Whether businesses opt to create an alternative mobile version of a website or decide to utilise responsive web design, it’s important for them to provide a positive experience for those internet users that are browsing via mobile devices.
  5. Video Marketing: When it comes to potential reach, video is peerless. YouTube is currently receiving more than one billion unique visitors every month – that’s more than any other channel, apart from Facebook. For the record, “one out of three Britons view at least one online video a week – that’s a weekly audience of more than 20 million people in the UK alone” (Guardian, 2014). Of course, it’s vital for businesses to offer content that is easy to digest; if not, consumers will simply move on. Apps such as Twitter’s Vine (with its six-second maximum clip length) have dramatically increased the opportunity for businesses to upload social videos having authentic content.

In a nutshell, this contribution suggests that next year many businesses will increasingly resort to digital marketing tactics to reach their individual consumers. eMarketer (2014) anticipates that in the next 12 months,  the marketing budget that is allocated to social media will rise to 13.2% (from 9.4%). It is imperative that marketers learn how to  engage with online visitors through effective, relevant content. Notwithstanding, it may appear that electronic marketing has changed consumers’ mindsets and behavioural attitudes toward businesses. Perhaps, there’s an opportunity for businesses to leverage themselves through faster adaptations, shorter lead times and always-on, real-time marketing.

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A Content Strategy for Lead Generation

socialmedia2This contribution also appeared on BUSINESS2COMMUNITY

Businesses are increasingly creating a broad range of online content for many reasons. Quality content has the ability to educate, inform, generate leads and entice customers. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that the notion of content marketing is gaining ground, particularly in the C-Suite.

Lately, savvy marketers are focusing their attention on content and inbound marketing as they strive to enhance their visibility. The right content on corporate websites, blogs and social media can build the brands’ image and reputation. Carefully designed landing pages often use persuasive content which can ultimately bring good prospects through the buying funnel. Therefore, marketers are encouraged to try different formats of content as they engage with customers. Digital marketers should feature content which should be a good fit for their target customers as well as for their corporate objectives. Their marketing content may be displayed on: web pages; online articles and guest posts; blog posts social media posts, eBooks, presentations; customer review content, product FAQs; videos and micro-videos; pictures, infographics, and animated GIFs among others media.

On-Site Content
The underlying questions is: How can marketers be capable of repositioning their business for search engine optimisation (SEO)? Nowadays, marketers are becoming more measurable in their marketing tactics as they experiment with website design and content variations to determine which layouts, copy text, offers and images may improve their conversion rate. Fresh, quality content on websites and blogs with back-links onto homepages are the basis for successful content marketing strategies. That’s why decent content and flagship pieces should be constantly updated on corporate websites. Content marketing has the potential to raise the businesses’ profile.

Guest Blogging
Another common practice that seems that has picked up in the last two to three years is guest blogging. Many marketers are contributing in blogs and other online media on subjects which are usually related to their niche. These contributions often contain a back link to their site. Interestingly, this trend has become a very effective way to accomplish marketing goals. However, guest blogging is easily abused where there is poor quality content on low-end sites.
Branding and reputation management are some of the other good reasons why site-owners and entrepreneurs should use guest blogging sites. Guest blogging has a wider reach. It promotes content to new audiences. The most appealing content can drive traffic to websites. Content may generate leads and followers as there is more engagement with customers. Therefore, guest blogging may be considered a good tool to build brand equity. Businesses ought to choose relevant sites to associate themselves with.

Promoting the Content
Content is of limited value if no one knows about it. Although content can be found through organic search queries, marketers can add fuel to their content through strategic promotion and integrated marketing communications. Again, this will inevitably bring many benefits including lead generation and better conversation rates. In addition, social contagion and product virality can also affect diffusion across online media and networks. This way, businesses can reduce their dependence on search engine optimisation for their content marketing.

In a nutshell, this contribution suggests that there are different approaches for content strategy. Businesses can enhance their online presence in a number of ways:

Social Media Marketing: Content can be promoted through social channels and viral marketing. Businesses need to simplify social contagion by including follow and share buttons. These plugins can possibly encourage the readers to share the content they liked.
Engage in Trending Conversations: Businesses can connect their content to wider conversations through the use of hashtags in order to promote their content on certain social media including FacebookTwitter and Instagram among others.
e-Newsletters: Subscribers to blogs or corporate websites may have different expectations. From time to time, businesses may send out round-ups of quality content (their very own as well as other bloggers’ curated content).
Targeted Outreach to Influencers: Marketers have to keep themselves up-to-date with the latest developments in their field of expertise. It is in their interest to actively engage with key influencers on social networks.
Direct Engagement with Consumers: Online content should be relevant to audiences. The most attractive content is mostly shared through personal emails and across social media networks. This online activity has the ability to generate leads and it can truly enhance conversion rates for more customers.

 

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Google’s Advantage in Native Advertising

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There are many internet users who may be wary of their privacy settings and on the information they share online. One of the reasons is that it is very likely that ICT giants like Google and Facebook may know their users very well. Google, in particular might know where its users are, the places they go to, the location of their home address and where’s their place of work, who are its users’ closest friends, the things they like, the websites they browse and in many cases, even the content of their emails.

Provided that individuals don’t mind giving up a chunk of personal data, their life can be made a bit easier by the web’s services. The internet’s mantra is to make information more useful, accessible and readily available to everyone. Nowadays, we use our tablets or smart phones and visit dozens of websites to learn about products and services. Savvy consumers like to compare prices whether they are buying items online or in retail stores. The latest technological developments and additional sources of information are influencing consumer behaviour as it appears that they are becoming more frugal in their purchase decisions. Consumers are seeking better value and good deals in return for their money.

Google is increasingly exposing its search functionality to its users. Last year, it tested a ‘Knowledge Graph’ pop-up which featured a carousel of images along with certain search results on hotel accommodation. As with restaurants and bars, review scores and recommendations are usually generated by consumers themselves rather than through conventional search engine optimisation tricks. It seems that Google’s drive is to personalise the search experience through ‘meta-search’ tools which aim to recognise what exactly users are looking for. In this day and age, it is very important to understand the broader context of consumers’ search queries. For instance, internet users may start searching for flights. Afterwards they might browse for hotels, then restaurants as well as cultural activities. Evidently, Google is responding to such queries by bringing up pictures of neighbourhoods, reviews as and also Trip Advisor content.

Recently, Google has been looking for the meaning beyond its users’ search content. Before September 2013, Google’s searches were focused on site content which improved its results by penalising low-quality material. However, the search engine’s latest algorithm, Google Hummingbird is focusing more on the search query itself. Hummingbird has implemented something called “conversational search” in order to better understand what users want when they either type or speak a search query into Google’s search engine. For example; the query, “Where can I buy a smart phone, near me?” Pre-Hummingbird Google would have prioritised search results that match individual words – like “buy” and “smart phone.” With Hummingbird, Google can better understand what users want from their query. Most probably, Google may know your exact location and hopefully it can find smart phones near you. It may be in a better position to determine whether you want a brick-and-mortar store rather than an online retailer. In a nutshell, Hummingbird is focusing on the meaning of the entire search query rather than simply searching for key terms. Hummingbird allows Google to provide its users with more accurate results and better site rankings.

Notwithstanding, Google often utilises its users’ data to re-target advertising to them. Google collates its users’ profiles with their data. Personal information is being used by Google for business purposes. Google Adwordsdisplays the marketers’ messages in front of potential customers; right when they’re using its search engine, watching a video on YouTube or when they are receiving their email through Gmail. As a result, online marketing ads appear on google users’ screens. These ads capture the users’ attention by providing certain content which may possibly appeal to them as potential customers. Such online advertising is called ‘native advertising’. Professional marketers are capable of producing relevant content which can entice customers’ to purchase their products or services. The right content is personalised in both its form and function according to individual customers’ needs and wants. This way, paid advertising may feel less intrusive and there’s a better chance that internet users will click on these web ads. The most popular formats for native advertising usually feature promoted articles, images, videos, music as well as other media.

In the past few years tech giants, particularly Google strived in their endeavours to gather valuable information about their users’ interests, the things they look for, their friends, the places they like and what have you! Google maintains that it can better serve its users if they voluntarily disclose their data on the web.

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Unleashing Shared Value through Content Marketing

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Companies have to deal with different stakeholders’ opinions, attitudes and perceptions about their behaviour. They need to strike a balance in satisfying numerous stakeholders’ expectations. Businesses can’t please everyone. However, they should try to engage in fruitful and collaborative working relationships with external stakeholders, as dialogue often leads to improvements in mutual trust and understanding. Continuous communication also translates to benefits for the businesses’ reputation, its brand image, customer loyalty and investor confidence. Companies cannot afford to overstate or misrepresent their Corporate Responsibility (CR) initiatives. Although, they often manage to control their internal communication paths, it is much harder to control external media. As a result, it has never been more necessary to turn the businesses’ stakeholders into potential advocates for both the cause and the company. This can happen if CR realms are a good fit for the businesses’ mission and vision. It is advisable that CR communications reflect the ethos of the practicing organisations. Therefore CR (and sustainability) reporting should be clear in their intentions, with specific and relevant information featuring the companies’ credentials, and how stakeholders will benefit.

CR behaviour is directed at the organisations’ stakeholders comprising human resources, suppliers, customers and the community at large. Well laid down policies and initiatives are usually communicated through formal statements in annual reports as well as through corporate websites. CR reporting cover areas like training and development opportunities for employees, employee consultation and dialogue, health, safety and security issues and also measures for work-life balance. Apparently, business organisations are increasingly pledging their commitment for more innovative environmental investments. For instance, energy and water conservation, waste minimisation and recycling, pollution prevention, environmental protection as well as sustainable transport options. These sustainable practices bring strategic benefits such as operational efficiencies and cost savings. Several empirical studies (including mine) have indicated that discretionary investments in CR, whether they are driven from  strategic intents or from ‘posturing behaviours’ often result in improved relationships with internal and external stakeholders. The rationale for societal engagement is to anticipate third party pressures, lower the criticisms from the public and to minimise legal cases through compliance with regulations.  

CR should not be merely presented as goodwill or as a philanthropic venture. It should be featured as a realistic business case for stakeholders. This shared value proposition requires particular areas of focus within the businesses’ context. Yet, at the same time it looks after the society’s wellbeing. This notion contributes towards sustainability by addressing societal and community deficits. Presumably, shared value can be sustained only if there is a genuine commitment to organisational learning, and if there is a genuine willingness to forge relationships with key stakeholders, including customers and employees. Free publicity and informal word of mouth can either bring supportive or damaging effects. There is scope for businesses to foster strong relationships with particular community and marketplace beneficiaries. Such stakeholders can possibly serve as a buffer against potentially negative and harmful reviews. Recently, companies are increasingly focusing their attention on content and inbound marketing. In a nutshell, content marketing necessitates an integrated marketing approach through different channels of communication with stakeholders. This has to be carried out at all times. Many local businesses are becoming proficient in their customer engagement. They realise that this marketing approach brings customer loyalty, particularly if the business is delivering consistent, ongoing business propositions. In a similar vein, inbound marketing tactics also draw customers to businesses. Successful businesses are continuously coming up with informative yet interesting, original content through innovative marketing and interactive methods such as blogs, podcasts and social media networking, enewsletters et cetera. Online content comprise refreshing information which tell stakeholders how to connect the dots. It goes without saying that corporate internet sites are serving their purpose. The general public is continuously presented a better picture of the companies’ communications; containing the latest news, elements of the marketing mix endeavours and marketing fads. It transpires that content marketing has become a valuable tool for CR communications. Businesses who make use of the right content to explain their CR behaviours will gain a competitive advantage relative to others. On the other hand, stakeholders have become acquainted with businesses communicating their motives and rationale behind CR programmes. CR practices provide a good opportunity for businesses to raise their profile through their laudable behaviours.

At times, businesses can obtain decent coverage by third parties, especially media enterprises who are renowned for their sense of objectivity. Strategic communications help to improve the corporate image of firms, leading to reputational benefits and rapports of trust with stakeholders. This short contribution suggests that content and inbound marketing can be successfully employed for CR communications and to enhance customer and employee engagements.

DrMarkCamilleri.com

Google News

Times of Malta

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