Tag Archives: social media marketing

Corporate Social Responsibility Communications through Digital Media

 reporting

Companies are increasingly focusing their attention on integrated marketing approaches toward different stakeholders24. Many of them are becoming knowledgeable in using social media channels to protect their reputation from bad publicity and misinformation. Their content strategists and inbound marketers who care about customers are realising that they have to continuously come up with fresh, engaging content with a growing number of quality links.

Businesses need to make sure that their corporate websites offer relevant content for different search engines. Consistent high quality content ought to be meaningful and purposeful for target audiences25. Consumers and other stakeholders expect informative yet interesting content through digital channels, including blogs, podcasts, social media networking and e-newsletters. Such content marketing approaches bring customer loyalty26, particularly if the businesses deliver ongoing value propositions to promising prospects on their website27. Very often, they offer insightful stories to customers28 or inspire them with sustainable ideas and innovations29. Corporate web sites could even contain the latest news, elements of the marketing-mix endeavours as well as digital marketing fads.

Social media networks are effective monitoring tools as they could feature early warning signals of trending topics30. These networks may help business communicators and marketers identify and follow the latest sustainability issues. Notwithstanding, CSR influencers are easily identified on particular subject matters or expertise. For example, businesses and customers alike have also learned how to use the hashtag (#) to enhance the visibility of their shareable content  (Some of the most popular hashtags on the subject, comprise: #CSR #StrategicCSR, #sustainability, #susty, #CSRTalk, #Davos2016, #KyotoProtocol, #SharedValue et cetera). Hashtags could be used to raise awareness on charities, philanthropic institutions and green non-governmental organisations. They may also help during fund raising events. Hence, there are numerous opportunities for businesses to leverage themselves through social networks as they engage with influencers and media.

The ubiquity of Facebook and Google Plus over the past years has made them familiar channels for many individuals around the globe. These networks have become very popular communication outlets for brands, companies and activists alike. These social media channels empower their users to engage with business on a myriad of issues. They also enable individual professionals or groups to promote themselves and their CSR credentials in different markets and segments.

Moreover, LinkedIn is yet another effective tool, particularly for personal branding. However, this social network helps users identify and engage with influencers. Companies can use this site to create or join their favourite groups on LinkedIn (e.g. GRI, FSG, Shared Value Initiative among others). They may also use this channel for CSR communication as they promote key initiatives and share sustainability ideas. Therefore, LinkedIn connects individuals and groups as they engage in conversations with both academia and CSR practitioners.

In addition, Pinterest and Instagram enable their users to share images, ideas with their networks. These social media could also be relevant in the context of the sustainability agenda. Businesses could illustrate their CSR communication to stakeholders through visual and graphic content. Evidently, these innovative avenues provide sharable imagery, infographics or videos to groups who may be passionate on certain issues, including CSR.

Moreover, digital marketers are increasingly uploading short, fun videos which often turn viral on internet31. YouTube, Vimeo and Vine seem to have positioned themselves as important social media channels for many consumers, particularly among millennials. These sites offer an excellent way to humanise or animate CSR communication through video content. These digital media also allow their users to share their video content across multiple networks. For instance, videos featuring university resources may comprise lectures, documentaries, case studies and the like.

This is an excerpt from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/299349607_Unlocking_Corporate_Social_Responsibility_Communication_through_Digital_Media

References

24. Camilleri, M.A. “Unleashing Shared Value Through Content Marketing.” Triple Pundit, 10th February 2014. http://www.triplepundit.com/2014/02/unleashing-shared-value-content-marketing/
25. Camilleri, M.A. “A Search Engine Optimization Strategy for Content Marketing Success.” Social Media Today 28th May, 2014. http://www.socialmediatoday.com/content/search-engine-optimization-strategy-content-marketing-success
26. Lindgreen, Adam. “The design, implementation and monitoring of a CRM programme: a case study.” Marketing Intelligence & Planning 22, no. 2 (2004): 160-186.
27. Andersen, Poul Houman. “Relationship marketing and brand involvement of professionals through web-enhanced brand communities: The case of Coloplast.” Industrial marketing management 34, no. 1 (2005): 39-51.
28. Pulizzi, Joe. “The rise of storytelling as the new marketing.” Publishing research quarterly 28, no. 2 (2012): 116-123.
29. Lozano, Rodrigo, Francisco J. Lozano, Karel Mulder, Donald Huisingh, and Tom Waas. “Advancing higher education for sustainable development: international insights and critical reflections.” Journal of Cleaner Production 48 (2013): 3-9.
30. Small, Tamara A. “What the hashtag? A content analysis of Canadian politics on Twitter.” Information, Communication & Society 14, no. 6 (2011): 872-895.

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Crunching Big Data and Analytics from Web2.0

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The use of data and its analyses are becoming ubiquitous practices. As a result, there has been a dramatic surge in the use of business intelligence and analytics. These developments have inevitably led to endless opportunities for marketers to leverage themselves and gain a competitive advantage by untangling big data. Relevant data could help businesses to better serve customers as they would better know what they need, want and desire. This knowledge will lead to customer satisfaction and long lasting relationships.

Businesses are increasingly collecting and analysing data from many sources for many purposes. Much of the value of data is derived from secondary uses that were not intended in the first place. Very often datasets can possess intrinsic, hidden, not-yet-unearthed value. According to a research from IBM and the Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford; nearly nine in 10 companies were using transactional data, and three-quarters were collecting log data in 2012. This study suggested that business practitioners also gathered data from events, emails and social data (eMarketer, 2012).

This data is being collected and stored in massive amounts by search engines including Google, Bing and Yahoo as well as by e-commerce conglomerates such as eBay and Amazon. For instance, Security First boosted its productivity and customer satisfaction by using content analytics to bridge social media and the claims process. Similarly, Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria has improved its online reputation with analytics that quickly responded to online feedback (IBM, 2015).

In addition, users can easily access multiple sources of digital data that is readily available through websites, social networks, blogs, as well as from mobile devices, including smart phones and tablets. Big data is being gathered from social media content and video data from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google Plus among others. These modern digital marketing tools are helping business to engage in social conversations with consumers. Social networks have surely amplified the marketers’ messages as they support promotional efforts. Here are some of the unique pieces of data each social network is collecting:

  • “Facebook’s interest/social graph: The world’s largest online community collects more data via its API than any other social network. Facebook’s “like” button is pressed 2.7 billion times every day across the web, revealing what people care about.
  • Google+’s relevance graph: The number of “+1s” and other Google+ data are now a top factor in determining how a Web page ranks in Google search results.
  • LinkedIn’s talent graph: At least 22% of LinkedIn users have between 500-999 first-degree connections on the social network, and 19% have between 301-499.The rich professional data is helping LinkedIn build a “talent graph.”
  • Twitter’s news graph: At its peak late last year the social network was processing 143,199 tweets per second globally. This firehose of tweets provide a real-time window into the news and information that people care about. Fifty-two percent of Twitter users in the U.S. consume news on the site (more than the percent who do so on Facebook), according to Pew.
  • Pinterest’s commerce graph: More than 17% of all pinboards are categorized under “Home,” while roughly 12% fall under style or fashion, these are windows into people’s tastes and fashion trends.
  • YouTube’s entertainment graph: What music, shows, and celebrities do we like? YouTube reaches more U.S. adults aged 18 to 34 than any single cable network, according to Nielsen. YouTube knows what they like to watch.
  • Yelp’s and Foursquare’s location graphs: These apps know where we’ve been and where we’ll go. Foursquare has over 45 million users and 5 billion location check-ins” (Business Insider, 2014).

Big data is fundamentally shifting how marketers collect, analyse and utilise data to reach out to customers. Business intelligence and analytics are helping companies to get new insights into how consumers behave. It is envisaged that the IT architecture will shortly develop into an information eco-system: a network of internal and external services where information is shared among users. Big data can support business in their decision making. It could be used to communicate meaningful results and to generate insights for an effective organisational performance. New marketing decision-making ought to harness big data for increased targeting and re-targeting of individuals and online communities. On-demand, direct marketing through digital platforms has already become more personalised than ever. The challenge for marketers is to recognise the value of big data as a tool that drives consumer in-sights.

Every customer contact with a brand is a moment of truth, in real-time. Businesses who are not responding with seamless externally-facing solutions will inevitably lose their customers to rivals. This contribution posits that a strategic approach to data management could drive consumer preferences. An evolving analytics ecosystem that is also integrated with web2.0 instruments could lead to better customer service and consumer engagement.

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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 Search Engine Optimization Strategy for Content Marketing Success

This post also appeared on Social Media Today

Internet Marketing

Search engines are continuously collecting data from every web page so that they can better serve their online users. It may appear that they act like librarians who try to find the right book to satisfy their patrons. Evidently, the search engines’ systems are capable of taking a lot of information before they split up the best results for their users. Every search engine has a secret recipe which is called an algorithm. The algorithm turns all the information into useful search results. It goes without saying that the web pages which appear in the first page of search results are placed in a better position than other sites which feature in the latter pages of the same search query. Therefore, certain web sites are ranked higher in search results. Some sites are more popular than others as they are easier located on the web.

Search Engine Optimization (or simply SEO) is the process of getting traffic from the “free,” “organic,” “editorial” or “natural” listings on search engines. All the major search engines including Google, Yahoo and Bing present search results along with links to web pages and other content including videos or local listings. Such content is displayed and ranked according to what the search engine considers the most relevant to its users. Of course, the sites’ content cannot lack proper visibility. Websites cannot afford to become buried in search results. A recent saying among millennials goes; “The best place to hide a dead body is page two of Google’s search results.” There are several key ingredients that site administrators ought to consider as they develop their quality content. Ideally, the content strategy of web sites should resonate with the individual internet users in the following ways:

 

  1. Keywords Based on Search Intent
    Search results will feature pages with information containing the few words which were inserted by internet browsers in their search query. Therefore, keywords maintain their vital role in optimization. They determine page rank as they drive relevant search traffic. Keywords are still the primary entry method to the search process, whether initiated by conversational or exact match searches. It is very advisable to integrate keywords in URLs, titles, body texts and internal links to align meta-information of content with the search intent.Recently, the release of Google’s Hummingbird algorithm has expanded rank requirements beyond keywords. Although greater emphasis is now placed on conversational search, Hummingbird did not eliminate the need for keyword targeting. Interestingly, this week Google announced its latest update, namely; Panda 4.0. Google maintained that it wants to prevent sites with poor quality content from working their way into its top search results. In other words, Google strives to remain relevant, as it is assuring its users that they will get the answers they are looking for.
  2. Quality Inbound Links for Authority and Discoverability
    Quality inbound links between websites matter. The webpages which link to other sites will often strengthen their URL link for search engines. Quality content will naturally gain quality links. Yet, link-building strategies should never be disregarded. Inbound links continue to influence search rank and visibility. Search engines will always evaluate the authority of inherent, linked content. Therefore, links are one of the best indicators of relevance and credibility. That’s why savvy site developers often keep focusing their attention on gaining quality links through organic, white-hat methods such as reciprocal linking.
  3. Responsive Design for the Mobile User Experience
    As the mobiles’ share of digital traffic continue to rise, content should be optimized for an enhanced mobile users’ experience. Mobile internet has already surpassed desktop traffic. According to a recent comScore survey, mobile devices accounted to no less than 55 percent of all digital site traffic in January 2014. In addition, comScore maintained that 89.4 percent of mobile media users had accessed Google sites via smartphones in January 2014. Consequently, marketers need to optimize their content for mobile search. Key mobile considerations that factor into responsive design may include page load time, content length, voice search behavior, image and video processing as well as formatting and structure. Mobile consumption habits and responsive elements can be at the forefront of web site administrators. It is in their best interest to ensure a fluid content consumption experience across all devices.
  4. Social Sharing Functionality to Enhance Social Signals
    When relevant content is widely shared across different social networks, search engines may respond by identifying and incorporating all social signals in their search results. Strong social engagement often signifies content quality and resonance. Therefore, site developers ought to place social sharing buttons to facilitate their content promotion for further dissemination – through other digital media. The frequency of user updates may also attribute rank value to dynamic data. It is very likely that in the foreseeable future, social actions will gain greater influence. Google’s algorithms are increasingly becoming more sophisticated as they continue to expand to include broader web and social connections.
  5. Authorship Mark-ups for Rank Influence
    Apparently, both Google’s and Bing-Klout’s Authorships have incorporated their users’ social influence and digital presence in their rankings so as to improve the quality of their search results. In a sense, there is an opportunity for web site administrators to pursue engagements with influencers. Previously, the credentials to display author information may have included web signals such as authorship mark-ups and email verifications. The new qualifications now include relevance and engagement levels of content. This latest development reaffirms the tie between high quality content and SEO.

In conclusion, this contribution suggests that the recipe for a good SEO is changing all the time. Content strategists and marketers who care about their e-reputation realize that they have to come up with fresh, engaging content with a growing number of quality links. They have to make sure that their websites offer great content for different search engines. A SEO strategy demands consistent high quality content which is meaningful and purposeful for target audiences.

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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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The business case for digital marketing

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Entrepreneurs are regularly engaging with customers through digital marketing applications. Corporate businesses’ sites are enabling interactive information sharing, inter-operability, user-centred design and collaboration. Some are even allowing customers to interact and collaborate with each other in social media networks, blogs, wikis, video sharing sites, hosted services and web applications. The companies that are embracing such innovations will be those that will be successful in leveraging themselves against competition. They will be rewarded by the marketplace, as a result. Multichannel communications particularly through mobile technologies reach customers in a timely, relevant, personal and cost-effective manner. Therefore, digital marketing comprises a set of tools that allows people to enhance their social and business connections as they can share information and collaborate together on projects online. Millions of people have increasingly become familiar with blogs, wikis, social-networking sites and other online communities. A growing number of marketers are active on social media including Facebook, Linkedin or Twitter. They use these networking sites to collaborate with consumers on product development, service enhancement and promotion. Not all entrepreneurs are well versed in information-communications technologies, yet some are becoming quite successful in consumer engagement. Nowadays, it is relatively easy to build your own web page through blog sites like wordpress, blogger or posterous to name a few. The tools of production (e.g. content editing software and blogging tools) are widely available and are very user-friendly. In addition, customers have become increasingly acquainted with the marketing tools of distribution (e.g.amazon, ebay, itunes and the like).

These days, marketing is all about keeping and maintaining a two-way relationship with consumers. Digital marketing tools are a powerful way to do that. A growing number of businesses are learning how to collaborate with consumers about product development, service enhancement and promotion. Successful companies get consumers involved in all aspects of marketing. They listen to and join online conversations about products outside of their sites, as they value customers’ opinions and perceptions. Many businesses use web 2.0 tools to forge collaborative relationships with business partners including customers in their value chain. Their employees are often involved in this process. Moreover, it seems that customers are willing to participate by giving their feedback. For instance, consumers can possibly provide invaluable insight during the research and development phase of a product. In a sense, customers may help companies to improve on their existing product or service offering. The firms who respond quickly to their customers’ pleas will inevitably lead in customer satisfaction and retention. Apparently, consumers trust each other’s opinions more than a company’s marketing pitch. It goes without saying that there is no shortage of opinions online. For instance, blog sites like digg and delicious are continuously tracking the most popular topics on the web. Such blogs often feature the latest buzz about new product propositions. Commentators can often help to generate favourable remarks and positive reviews – which are always beneficial for businesses’ reputation. This may result in free publicity for brand awareness. Blogs, wikis and online communities are among the tools that companies are increasingly using for marketing, but there are other ways to reach consumers. For instance, many companies are resorting to instant messaging on their web sites, where shoppers can chat online with customer-service representatives.

Arguably, web sites and blogs can provide invaluable support to businesses in their endeavours to attract new customers. Yet, the businesses’ corporate image can easily become tainted with negative reviews (and comments) at some point in time. It is important for businesses to address and recover from such poor feedback. This contribution suggests that digital marketing tools can possibly be used to reinforce existing promotional strategies. These tools complement quite well with conventional advertising tactics as they raise awareness of the company’s presence. Needless to say that social media networks are used by millions of customers every day. Similarly, entrepreneurs can write numerous blogs to remind customers of their products or brands. However, the successful businesses are the ones who are capable of forging relationships with customers through digital marketing tools, including social media. Perhaps, consumers ought to be involved in marketing and selling activities; from product development to after-sales feedback. Companies can gain sustainable competitive advantages only if they value consumers’ opinions on various aspects of the marketing mix (including product, pricing and distribution preferences). In Kotler’s own words, “the marketing organisation will have to redefine its role from managing customer interactions to integrating and managing all the company’s customer-facing processes”.

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