Do You Really Need a Content Calendar?

Blogging and social media have become the norm for marketers, and rightfully so. Marketers who have prioritized blogging are 13 times more likely to enjoy positive ROI. On top of that, there are more than two billion active social media users worldwide, representing a global penetration rate of 28%.

The question for most small business owners isn’t whether they should start a blog or send that first tweet. Instead, the problem is figuring out how to use these tools most effectively. The solution is simple: develop a content calendar.

What is a Content Calendar?

A content calendar is kind of like a daily planner. Except instead of using it to write down when you have your appointment at the dentist, it can be used to list the dates and times you intend to add a new blog post, tweet out an update about an upcoming event for your company, or upload a how-to video to your YouTube page. One look at your content calendar should answer:

  • What type of content you will be sharing
  • How often you plan on posting content
  • How you plan on promoting your content

Once you’ve created a template for your content calendar you can begin scheduling messages in advance using Hootsuite so that you aren’t stuck updating it everyday. Plot out your social media strategy and prepare to engage with your audience.

Is It Worth It?

Planning out your content may seem like a nice thing to do, but does it really have a strong impact on your online presence? Spoiler alert: the answer is yes. Let’s take a look at how a content calendar can ramp up your blog and social media strategy.

Greater Consistency

You’d be hard pressed to find someone that doesn’t describe their workday as busy. Meetings and projects make it easy to forget to post that picture on Instagram even after you told yourself fives times that you would. With a content calendar, you can keep track of dates and events that are important in your industry.

Checking your content calendar on a regular basis will guarantee you never miss a conference or product launch ever again. Drive engagement and traffic to your blog by looking ahead in order to make sure you have enough time to produce and edit the content your target audience wants to see.

Improved Content

The best way to plan for the future is by looking into the past. Scheduling some time every other day to monitor the success of your content is crucial. Tools like Twitter Analytics give you the opportunity to see whether or not your content is appealing to your target audience.

By carefully tracking the success of each post you can begin developing an idea of the type of content that is most successful in addition to what platforms draw the highest level of engagement. Use this information to not only adjust what type of content you post, but also where you choose to then promote that content.

Diversification

Developing a content calendar will give you a visual representation of how often you are posting to each social media channel. Be sure not to neglect a social media network just because of personal preference since you may be ignoring an entire portion of your audience.

Establish a research-based content strategy by testing out which type of content attracts more readers on specific social media channels. Once you have found a formula for success, continue to monitor data from analytics tools to refine your strategy.

Need a Push?

If you’re excited about the idea of a content calendar but aren’t sure where to start, check out this free template from Hubspot. This user-friendly template is a great starting point for anyone developing their first content calendar. If you try it out let me know what you think of it in the comments below!

Diving Deep Into Facebook Advertising With Andrew Foxwell

It has been well documented how widespread Facebook is. When you sit down and actually look at the numbers, you’ll see that the social media channel is made up of 1.35 billion users that visit the site at least once a month. That’s a lot of people.

So what does that mean for your business? You have the opportunity to connect with customers based on their interests, behaviors, and demographics, allowing you to reach even the most narrow target audiences. That level of specificity is something almost no other advertising platform in the world can boast because practically no one collects as much data about a user as Facebook.

A week ago I was lucky enough to receive a crash course in Facebook advertising from Andrew Foxwell, CEO of the social media consulting firm Foxwell Digital, in my social media class at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. As a student just getting started with digital marketing, this was an amazing opportunity to hear from one of the top Facebook experts around. Here are Foxwell’s key building blocks of Facebook advertising.

Targeting

Now before you start throwing money at Facebook campaigns, take a step back and evaluate who your ideal audience actually is. Outside of basic demographic information like age and gender, you can also make use of more detailed stats such as:

  • Relationship Status
  • Education
  • Life Events
  • Work
  • Parents

The list goes on and on. The point is Facebook enables you to target your ideal customer right down to their last like. Incorporate interest targeting into your research by searching for customers based on pages they like, websites they browse, articles they have read, and photos they have uploaded. You can even go a step further by engaging in behavioral targeting through consumer snapshots that categorize users into hundreds of different categories.

If email lists are a huge source of revenue for your business, Facebook has something for that as well. Simply upload your email list into Facebook’s ad manager and it will automatically match each email address with the corresponding Facebook account. You can even create “Look Alike” audiences that resemble the members of your email list.

But perhaps the biggest thing to make sure you take advantage of is Website Custom Audiences. This allows you to target visitors to your site based on when they arrived using any time period you wish. You can even separate users based on the sections of the website they have visited.

Creative

When you have finally nailed down your ideal audience, determine what message you want to get across to them and how. If you run across some problems, think to yourself, “Would I click on that?” If not, your audience most likely won’t either.

Don’t forget Facebook is now more likely to show content that includes video native to Facebook instead of directing users towards YouTube and away from its site.

Placement

You have a few different options here depending on how much you want to spend. Choose between sharing your ads on desktops and mobile devices. If you are looking for more help on determining the costs of your campaign, check out this page from Facebook that goes through what you can expect to pay for your advertising based on the size of your audience and budget.

Image courtesy of The Brand Plan

One word of warning, although mobile advertising is currently cheaper, don’t be surprised if it surpasses desktop advertising as Facebook’s most expensive placement option considering the rapid rise of mobile device use in the past decade.

Tracking

Up to this point you’ve put together most of the pieces necessary for a successful Facebook advertising campaign. Now you have to track just how well it actually works.

One way to do so is by tracking website clicks and conversions. Is your ideal audience clicking on your ad and being taken to your website? If so, are you getting the meaningful conversions you want? You can also monitor Facebook page likes to figure out how you can most effectively engage your ideal audience or even look at whether visitors using a specific device, such as a tablet or iPhone, are more likely to visit your site.

Reporting

Here is the challenge every marketer faces. Attempting to measure success on social media and quantifying those results for a supervisor. Admittedly, this can be a tough task, but Facebook and Google help a whole lot.

Keep an eye on Audience Insights from Facebook and make sure you have a strong understanding of your analytics. These are great ways to see things like who is engaging with your content and  how many people are seeing your posts. Use this data to continually revise and improve your campaign.

Above all else, be sure to set clear expectations. You can’t expect to have overnight success on Facebook. Don’t let that deter you from pushing forward. Each interaction your ad has is an opportunity for you to clarify who your target audience is and how you can best reach them through your campaign.

Hungry for more?

If all of that wasn’t enough to satisfy your appetite for Facebook advertising, I would encourage you to browse Foxwell’s website. There he has a great blog covering the latest developments in social media. Also be sure to follow him on Twitter at @andrewfoxwell.

3 Ways Sales And Service Have Changed With David Meerman Scott

The rise of the Internet has completely changed the way in which businesses sell and market their products or services to customers. While this innovation has opened up a world of opportunity for so many businesses, there are sure to be some that are a bit weary of all this change.

That is where David Meerman Scott comes in. As an online marketing strategist, professional speaker, and best selling author of ten books covering a wide range of topics within marketing and public relations, Scott helps businesses take advantage of all that digital marketing and social media has to offer. 51iFXA8g7yL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

Mitch Jackson, CEO of Human.Social, recently sat down with Scott to talk about his latest book “The New Rules of Sales and Service.” In it Scott emphasizes the importance of using real-time customer engagement, big data, content, and storytelling to grow your business.

I had a great time listening to Jackson and Scott discuss some of these topics and more during their 30-minute interview you can find here. Below are my 3 key takeaways from their talk.

1. Buyers are now in charge

For the first time in human history, buyers have all the power. In the past buyers have essentially been forced to trust the seller. Yes, you could have flipped through a consumer reports magazine or asked your friends for advice, but at some point or another, you had to hope that the seller was providing you with a fair price and a good product.

Now the buyer can research thousands of similar products from all around the world in one simple search. This increased access to a global marketplace has given buyers the knowledge needed to make better decisions regarding their purchases. Businesses must now carefully consider how to provide a better product or service than competitors instead of merely hoping someone will buy from them.

2. You need to be accessible to customers

Before the dawn of the printing press the primary way people communicated was verbally. Now we are experiencing another communication revolution centered around the smartphone. Still, a lot of businesses don’t realize how this revolution applies to them.

Scott mentioned OpenCycle, a premiere bike manufacturer, openlogoas a terrific example of a business that takes advantage of this new age of rapid communication by demonstrating their care and concern for customers. Gerard Vroomen, owner of OpenCycle, makes himself available to any customer that might have a question or comment about one of his bikes.

While this seems pretty simple, most businesses fail to extend the same measure of customer service and engagement. Social media tools have made it so easy to stay in touch with customers, but you have to remain committed to doing so.

Think of social media in the same way as exercise. You need to ingrain it in your lifestyle so you no longer think about whether or not to do it. It is simply part of your daily routine. The faster you do this, the faster you can begin demonstrating the value you bring to customers.

3. You operate on your buyer’s time

Real-time conversations taking place on social media have flipped selling upside down. Instead of looking for more people to sell to, businesses can now use social media to engage with customers that are ready to buy now.

Begin by focusing on the needs of the buyer and what is valuable to him or her. As strange as it may seem, you will sell more when you stop selling. Write a blog post or record a podcast sharing your expertise and knowledge about the industry in order to solve the customer’s problems. Tell your story to customers in the market and show them why they should buy from you.

Interested in hearing more from Scott?

Check out Scott’s free SlideShare, The New Rules of Selling, for a deeper look into some of the topics I mentioned above. You can also download his book, World Wide Rave, to learn about how to spread your ideas and stories to millions of people around the world.

The Do’s And Don’ts Of Listening To Customers On Twitter

There’s an old saying that the customer is always right. While that might be up for debate, there is no denying the value in listening to what your customers have to say.

One of the best ways to keep track of conversations about your business is using Twitter. If you already use Twitter to post valuable content and engage with customers regularly, congratulations! You’re doing a great job.

The bad news is this might not be enough. If you have more than 1,000 customers, it can be nearly impossible to keep track of everything being said about your business. That is where social media management tools like Hootsuite and TweetDeck come in handy.

      

If you’re wondering how the heck to use these tools to monitor conversations about your business on Twitter, check out the Do’s and Don’ts of social media management tools like Hootsuite.

DO Search for Key Terms

Hootsuite and TweetDeck allow you to search for tweets containing specific words or phrases. For example, if your business sells pizza, you might conduct a search for pepperoni, deep dish, and thin crust. You should also think about keeping an eye on what your competitors are doing on social media by searching for terms like cheeseburgers or tacos (sorry if I’m making you hungry).

The beauty of this feature is that it allows you to jump in on conversations that you otherwise would not have been notified of, thereby increasing awareness of your brand and enabling you to see the entire conversation about your business, rather than just what people choose to tag you in.

DO Be Timely

Show your customers that you care about what they are saying by joining conversations as soon as possible to maximize engagement. Just think about your own life. If someone started a conversation with you, would you wait a few days to respond? No, and the same applies to Twitter.

DO Create Lists

Lists on Twitter enable you to segment your audience based on their interests and conversations. For example, if you have a diverse product line, you may want to create a list for each product and then categorize customers that tweet a lot about a particular product or maybe even categorize customers based on geographical location.

The luxury of these lists is that they allow you to see tweets only from the people you have added to each list, giving you yet another way to monitor and engage with customers talking about your business.

DON’T Automate Responses

Please, do not give the same generic response to each customer, inviting them to visit a “Contact Us” form. This defeats the whole purpose of using tools like Hootsuite and TweetDeck. Set aside some time throughout the day when you can check Twitter and provide timely, helpful feedback to customers and engage with them by following the conversation about your business.

DON’T Become Hostile

Being able to see a larger conversation about your business through searches on Hootsuite is great, but sometimes people choose not to tag you in a tweet for the simple fact that they intend to say something negative about you and are afraid of you seeing it.

If you encounter criticism, address it head on so that customers can see you are both engaging and realistic. You will make mistakes, but honestly acknowledging those shortcomings and fixing the situation is a great way to demonstrate excellent customer service you want to be known for.

DON’T Be Inconsistent

Twitter doesn’t lend itself well to procrastination. Conversations take place in real-time, which means you need to be prepared to listen to what your customers are saying all the time. The workday might end at five, but you can be sure the conversation on Twitter won’t.

Now this doesn’t mean that Twitter has to control your life. Develop a schedule of when to check Twitter and for how long. Then stick to it! Experiment by monitoring conversations about your business at varying times of the day to see when most of your customers are active. You should also use tools like Twitter Analytics or Tweriod to see what tweets you send draw the biggest engagement and when your followers are most active on Twitter.

Want More?

If you’re interested in learning more about ways in which to improve you ability to listen to customers beyond social media management tools like Hootsuite and TweetDeck, check out 3 Quick Ways to Improve Your Listening for Content Marketing Success from Don Stanley, owner of 3Rhino Media, a digital marketing consultancy. You won’t be disappointed.

Why Social Media Matters For Your Business

Contrary to what you may have seen this past week, social media isn’t just llamas and dresses. Sure social media has its fun side, but the value behind all those likes, retweets, and favorites can’t be ignored.

For the first time ever, businesses have the ability to reach and engage with millions of potential customers using social media channels like Facebook and Twitter. Each day new platforms continue to emerge while existing ones experience rapid growth each month. Don’t believe me? Let’s take a look at the numbers.

  • Facebook has more than 1.39 billion users, 890 million of which visit the site daily
  • There are 52.7 million Twitter users in the U.S. alone
  • LinkedIn has 187 million unique visitors each month
  • 13% of all Internet users are also on Instagram
  • 400 million snapchats are sent each day

Hopefully you now have a sense of how prevalent social media really is. Still, you may be wondering what all of this means for you?

As with most marketing tactics, an effective social media strategy requires careful planning and time. So if you’ve seen the light and plan on diving head-first into social media marketing, take a step back and grab a seat, we’re not done just yet.

One of the biggest mistakes businesses make when it comes to social media is trying to do too much. Although each social media channel presents its own unique opportunities, the reality is you can’t be everywhere at once. Avoid stretching yourself too thin by deciding which social media channel is right for you.

Facebook

By far the biggest social media channel, Facebook is a great way to target specific segments of customers you want to reach. Narrow your reach based on information such as gender, age, interests, and geography. While they are effective, direct ads and boosted posts don’t come cheap. Be prepared to pay a hefty price for that loyal audience you try to build using Facebook.

Twitter

Listen to what your customers are saying with Twitter. Used primarily to create brand awareness and promote website content, Twitter provides businesses with the chance to interact with customers in real-time. Reach out to unsatisfied customers and develop a strong reputation in customer service or drive conversation and engagement with hashtags.

LinkedIn

Sometimes referred to as “Facebook for grown-ups,” LinkedIn is a way in which businesses can monitor and contribute to discussions with business professional in their industry. One particularly important feature on LinkedIn is “LinkedIn Groups.” Gain tremendous exposure for your brand by joining and establishing groups professionals in your industry will want to be a part of.

Instagram

Take advantage of the rise of visual media by getting started with Instagram. You may want to seriously consider using Instagram if your business targets a young female demographic since about 70% of Instagram users are female between the ages of 18-35.

Snapchat

Like Instagram, Snapchat features a predominantly young user demographic. Unlike Instagram, Snapchat is only now becoming a promotional tool for businesses. With the recent introduction of the “Discover” feature, it will be interesting to see how Snapchat continues to evolve. If you are looking to target teens and young adults, keep a close eye on Snapchat so you don’t miss your opportunity to reach potential customers.

See One that Fits?

So now you have an idea of what social media channel is right for your business. Check out these terrific resources to get you started on your path to social media success.

What Do You Think? 

If you’ve used social media to promote your business, share your experiences in the comments below. If not, let me know what keeps you from doing so.