Content Marketing: A Crucial Component of the Customer Experience

A stat from a recent article on content marketing caught our eye.

“Consumers engage with 11.4 pieces of content on average prior to making a purchase.”

pexels-photo-296878

In the B2B world, buying journeys tend to run longer anyway, but consumers (B2B and B2C) are doing their homework these days. Studies show that 70-80% of people research a company online before visiting the small business or making a purchase with them.

Whether it’s leftover angst from the Great Recession or the availability of information today, it’s precisely why content marketing is so important.

Here’s a real-life example:

Recently, I stayed over in Park City, Utah, for a day after working a client’s conference in nearby Salt Lake City. On a whim, I decided to get a massage after spending the previous four days pounding convention center floors. I pulled up local spas on my phone, checking their hours, availability and services. Not surprisingly, I contacted the spas who had this information available online — not ones I had to call just to see if they were open. And the spas who had additional content available — more in-depth descriptions of their services, photos of their facility, online real-time availability, etc. — moved to the top of my list.

What does this have to do with content marketing? The information I sought was quality content created by (or for) these spas: descriptive services pages with quality photos, blog articles on the benefits of one type of massage over another, recommendations on how to maximize your spa-going experience. This is what consumers are looking for today before making a purchase or even contacting your company.

While I didn’t end up getting a massage, I did manage to take a break from technology and enjoy the magic of Park City. But not before I utilized even more content — a visitor’s guide from my condo, Park City Transit’s website — to plan my stress-free day.

We’re all consumers at some point, so don’t forget about your experiences as a customer when you put on your marketing hat. These experiences are valuable and can make us better marketing professionals, if we choose to use them.

Reader Feedback

How have you used content marketing to learn more about a business or make a purchase?

How do you use your experiences as a customer to become a better marketing professional?

What types of content do you prefer when researching a company or purchase?

A professional customer and marketing professional,
Jaime

 

Let’s chat (about content marketing, customer experiences or otherwise):
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4 Things That Social Media Can’t (or Shouldn’t) Do

The power of social media is impressive, but it can’t (or shouldn’t) do everything for your company or brand. Other areas need to carry their own weight too.

4 Things That Social Media Can't (or Shouldn't) Do

Here are four things that social media can’t do for your brand:

  • Fix a bad product — Product is king, at least in the sense that any advertising or marketing can’t fix a faulty product. Social media makes it even more important to provide quality products and services. Now customers have a forum to provide real-time feedback on their purchase, which potential customers around your community and the world can see. If you’re consistently receiving negative feedback on your social media channels, don’t try to cover it up. Fix the problem (i.e. the faulty product or service), and your social media conversations will be a lot more pleasant.
  • Replace a website — Social media helps level the playing field and opens up a world of opportunity to startups and small businesses. That doesn’t mean that it should be your only digital presence. A user-friendly, mobile-optimized website should be your first priority. Think of your online presence as a wheel. Your website should be the center with your social presences branching out from it. Your website is owned space whereas you’re renting your Facebook Page and other social spaces.

Related Reading: A Simple Step-by-Step Guide to Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

  • Provide all of your website traffic — A well-built, easy-to-navigate website optimized for search engines is a win-win situation for your business. It draws traffic through search, even when you’re not working, and provides a welcoming place for prospects and customers to learn more about you online. While social is a great way to drive traffic, it can’t be expected to make up for a poorly performing website.
  • Be your entire marketing mix — Social media is a type of marketing, but it shouldn’t comprise your entire marketing mix. Depending on what you do, there are a number of excellent marketing opportunities, including on a limited budget. While so many people are on social media today, you’ll still miss potential customers by limiting yourself to social media marketing only. Know where your target audience spends its time to understand where you should be spending your marketing dollars.

Related Reading: 4 Retro Ways to Connect with Modern Audiences

We love social media and encourage brands to utilize this powerful tool. However, there’s a whole world out there, so don’t miss out on opportunities because you’re only getting social on social — and not anywhere else.

What else shouldn’t you expect social media to do for your brand or company?

What are your favorite marketing mediums besides social media?

Getting social online and off,
Jaime

Let’s chat (about social media, your marketing needs or otherwise):
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InstaStrategy: How to Thrive on the ‘New’ Instagram

Instagram's new look across its family of brands

What a year it’s been for Instagram! The fast-growing social platform is implementing numerous changes to celebrate its sixth year. People tend to resist change, so it’s no wonder that some of these changes have been met with consternation.

What do you think about @instagram's new look? 📷 @Regrann from @instagram – Today we’re introducing a new look. You’ll see an updated icon and app design for Instagram. Inspired by the previous app icon, the new one represents a simpler camera and the rainbow lives on in gradient form. You’ll also see updated icons for our other creative apps: Layout, Boomerang and Hyperlapse. We’ve made improvements to how the Instagram app looks on the inside as well. The simpler design puts more focus on your photos and videos without changing how you navigate the app. The Instagram community has evolved over the past five years from a place to share filtered photos to so much more — a global community of interests sharing more than 80 million photos and videos every day. Our updated look reflects how vibrant and diverse your storytelling has become. Thank you for giving this community its life and color. You make Instagram a place to discover the wonder in the world. Every photo and video — from the littlest things to the most epic — opens a window for people to broaden their experiences and connect in new ways. #Regrann

A post shared by Jaime Shine (@jaimeshine) on

 

The Dreaded Algorithm: We all knew this moment was coming but dreaded its arrival nonetheless. When the social app announced that users’ feeds would be controlled by an algorithm, the internet exploded. My feed was flooded with posts urging me to turn on notifications from everyone or I would never see their posts again. (I hope you didn’t post one of these pleas, but if you did, please spare us when the algorithm actually goes into effect, which will be soon.)

This change should be good for both users and brands alike. I don’t think we’ll see the drastic drop in organic reach like we did on Facebook, and Instagram users are more likely to engage with posts. Make sure that you go for quality content over quantity, which is a reminder we all need from time to time (myself included).

Your devoted fans will still seek out your posts, and appropriate hashtags will continue to help bring in new traffic. Remind fans of your presence on your marketing communications and other platforms, and use data to better target your audience.

Instagram’s New Insights: A new (free) in-app analytics dashboard is on its way! While you have been able to view analytics through a third party platform, such as Iconosquare, Instagram is finally debuting an in-house dashboard to help businesses gain a better understanding of their audiences.

Dig into the data to discover the best times to post and to learn more about your audience. Where are your audience members located? What type of content do they engage with the most? Does a certain type of content extend your reach while another draws more engagement (or website visits)? You can use this information to help shape your future content and strategy while also deciding whether to promote a hot post.

Instagram Embraces Brands: In addition to Insights, the social app is rolling out Business Profiles and promoted posts after previously opening up advertising to all brands and introducing video Carousel ads.

Take advantage of the Business Profile, once available, so you can make it easier for customers to contact (and locate) you while gaining access to Insights and promoted posts. Observe how the algorithm affects your posts once it’s implemented. It may be beneficial to promote a post from time to time, such as a special offer or contest.

Instagram’s New Look: Don’t sweat it. Whether you’re a fan of the new look or not, the updated layout will better showcase your photos and videos. Just make sure to update the branding anywhere you may use it, such as marketing materials, your website or blog.

While 2016 is the year of change for Instagram, it’s still the popular social platform that we know and love. Take a deep breath and see how the algorithm affects you before panicking (or asking your community to turn on notifications). Many of these changes should help brands who are dedicated to growing and building long-term relationships with their Instagram communities.

InstaFeedback

Are you on Instagram? Leave your handle in the comments, so we can connect!

What’s your favorite (and least favorite) Instagram change?

Where does Instagram fall in your preferred list of social media platforms?

Instalik(ing) these changes,
Jaime

Let’s chat (about Instagram, your marketing needs or otherwise):
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Get the Party Started: 5 Ways to Revamp Your Blogging Techniques

CCC is excited to welcome guest contributor, Katrina Manning! You can learn more about Katrina at the end of her article. 

When it comes to marketing your business, one of your most critical tools is blogging. For starters, it gives you an effective way to communicate with your customers. Secondly, it can help boost the SEO of your website. Yet, is your blog still having trouble getting noticed? There isn’t any question that blogs have a lot of competition. In order to get people to read your blog, you need to make it easy to find, produce high-quality and relevant content and have a design aesthetic that appeals to the contemporary viewer.

Revamp your blogging techniques to invite more readers to the party!

Revamp your blogging techniques to invite more readers to the party!

Here are five tips for revamping your blogging techniques:

Keep your content original and interesting

It should be common sense to understand that people only want to read articles that are original and interesting. Yet, you may be surprised to see that there are thousands of blogs with copied and illogical articles that cause most viewers to shake their heads and never return to those spammy sites again. When it comes to revamping your blogging techniques, you might want to take inventory of your current article cache. Do they provide relevant and informative content? Are they original? If not, it may be time to do some housekeeping. You don’t want search engines to pass over your blog. Use keyword searches to look for fresh ideas, or offer a different angle on a popular topic. Just make sure you are not writing the same types of articles found on almost every other blog within your niche.

 

Put mobile first

In 2015, Google announced that more searches were performed on mobile devices than on computers in 10 countries. In fact, U.S. web designers always advise building sites that are mobile-first, then creating desktop versions. Smartphone screens are getting larger, and tablets continue to increase in popularity. Many users enjoy the card-style layouts, made trendy by Pinterest. This might be something to consider with regard to revamping the overall look of your blog.

 

Think of video

When it comes to external communication strategies, brands are increasingly focusing on video and — the buzzword for 2016 — virtual reality. Although video is helping to strengthen messages many brands are trying to convey, content isn’t going anywhere any time soon. Think of the stories that videos tell, different formats and even videos with no sound. If you can successfully integrate video with content and perhaps start dabbling in virtual reality, you’ll have something superior on your hands.

 

Work on your social media profiles

One of the most cost-efficient methods of advertising is through social media. With that being said, you should make sure you cross-link your accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn with your blog. In addition, you need a voice of your brand to promote your blog posts throughout your social media platforms. Do this on a consistent basis to get the word out and drive more traffic.

 

Connect with readers

One thing that readers will value is a personal connection. Other than your content, there isn’t anything to keep your readers coming back to your blog. On the other hand, if they have an outlet to share their thoughts and get the sense that a response will be made, they might be more inclined to revisit. Compare this to your personal Facebook page. When you post about something you like, do you not go back to see if any of your friends liked or commented on your post? When one of your readers has the opportunity to comment on your articles, they may come back to see if you’ve responded or if anyone else has responded.

On top of that, you can create an email list of willing subscribers by placing an optional subscription link on your blog. You can make it non-optional, but people don’t like to feel they were forced into doing things. If you make it optional, you have a higher likelihood that the people who signed up will be more receptive to your messages. When you email your subscribers with your updates, you can use your real voice to give it a more personal touch. You can be a subject matter expert and still appeal to the human trait of desiring companionship. People don’t want to feel like a number, they want to feel important.

As markets and personal preferences change, so should your blog. Performing a revamp every several years isn’t just good for you, it’s also good for business.

Katrina Manning is a web writer and editor with over six years of experience penning content for a wide variety of sites and publications, such as Yahoo! Small Business Advisor, IBM, The Purple Cow Agency blog, Sweet Lemon Magazine, Udemy, Business 2 Community, Personal Finance Hub, The Iowa City Owl, Newsiosity and Seven12 Magazine. 

4 Tips to Communicate Clearly With Emojis

When emojis burst onto the scene, people rejoiced. These colorful characters were fun and broke through language and cultural barriers. In 2015, the Oxford Dictionaries cemented their place in our language by selecting an emoji — the Face with Tears of Joy — as the Word of the Year. Predictions of a future with little to no text were widespread, and businesses (who hadn’t already) started using this popular form of communication. Sounds perfect, right?

Are you communicating clearly with emoji or being misunderstood?

Over Coffee by Drew Herron via CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 // text & graphics added by author

Not quite. As a recent study discovered, emojis can be misinterpreted just like other form of communication. The first problem is that the same emoji can display differently on different platforms (Apple, Samsung, Google, etc.). In addition, two people can look at the exact same emoji displayed identically and interpret it differently.

Should your brand stay away from all things emoji? No, but you need to exercise caution like you do with any form of communication.

These four tips can leave you smiling with tears of joy instead of face-palming:

  • Plan Ahead: Are you thinking of utilizing emojis in an upcoming campaign? Do some research. View how your selected emojis display on different platforms and look into any popular alternative interpretations to the meaning you’re intending. It’s a lot easier to change your campaign than deal with a PR gaffe.
  • Be Careful Using Emoji that Display Differently: Maybe you have a dire need to use the grinning face with smiling eyes emoji, but be careful. This is one of the emojis that displays differently across platforms and can cause confusion and unintended responses. Try to stick with more universally displaying and understood emojis if possible. 👍
Same Emoji + Different Smartphone Platform = Different Emotion

Graphic courtesy of grouplens

  • Remember Your Brand Voice: Emojis are a part of your brand’s voice, so be consistent when you’re using them. The face with tears of joy emoji wouldn’t work well for a conservative brand or industry. Take your audience into consideration too; they may not use emojis or have any interest in them.
  • Don’t Forget About Hashtags: Trending and popular emoji hashtags, such as #WorldEmojiDay or #emoji can boost your posts and tweets. Remember to check out any hashtags first before jumping in. They could be about something completely unrelated to what you’re thinking, making it inappropriate to participate. Emojis are available as hashtags on Instagram, so use them accordingly to increase your reach.

Warning: Appropriate Hashtag Usage on Instagram Will Result in Major Traffic Increase

 

Emojis can help you break through the information overload and connect with your target audiences — if they use and understand the colorful characters. As with any communication, a little foresight, planning and common sense will help you communicate your message clearly and not get lost in translation.

Does Your Brand Speak Emoji?

What are your favorite emojis? What emojis would you like to see introduced?

Does your brand utilize emojis in its communications? Have you ever had an emoji miscommunication?

Speaking emoji (when appropriate),
Jaime

Let’s chat (about emojis, your marketing needs or otherwise):
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The Dark Side of Social: How to Respond When Things Go Wrong

At CCC, we’re big believers in the power of social media and the value that it can provide to your brand. However, you need to understand the darker side of social so you’re prepared for anything that could go wrong or reflect your brand in a negative light.

Velvet Heart Promoted Tweet

Velvet Heart was trying to promote its new arrivals for spring, not trend with a mass shooting.

Recently I was on Twitter and noticed the name of a nearby town trending (regionally). I clicked on the link to see why it was trending and discovered a mass shooting had occurred at a retirement village. (My thoughts and prayers are with this community during this difficult time.)

While scrolling through the feed, I saw a promoted tweet advertising a retailer’s new spring arrivals. I was included in the audience targeted in this campaign, so the tweet showed up in my feed — no matter what I was viewing at the time. The advertiser had no say where its targeted audience members saw its tweet. (For more on Promoted Tweets, click here.)

Last week, I saw a news story about a guy who blew his lower leg off while shooting a lawn mower packed with explosives. As usual, an ad played prior to the video on the news site where I watched it. AT&T didn’t ask for its ad to play prior to a graphic video, but that’s when I saw the ad and its brand.

“A brand can’t control the message in the way it once did but it can still have influence.” –Jeff Barrett, CEO, Status Creative

These examples both point to why some brands and companies are so afraid of getting social — loss of control. On social media, it’s impossible to control every aspect of the message about your brand.

I’m not trying to discourage you from joining the conversation — just the opposite, in fact. If you’re a part of the conversation, you can help guide its direction and speak directly to your online community.

What if I hadn’t known that advertisers don’t control where Promoted Tweets show up? A user may have tweeted the advertiser expressing her dissatisfaction that the company would try to profit off a tragedy. That’s why you need to be aware of all the possibilities before jumping into something like Promoted Tweets. You can respond to say that you only chose to promote a tweet to a targeted audience, and did not use a trending hashtag or phrase inappropriately. If you’re not active on a social platform where a discussion breaks out about your brand, you can’t help set the record straight.

“While you can’t control the conversation,  you can participate and give fans a firsthand account of what’s going on at your company.”

Don’t worry about controlling every aspect of the conversation about your brand. Be prepared and know what you’re doing before jumping into social media in general, or a specific area, such as Facebook advertising or Promoted Tweets. Have a plan, but be prepared to adjust it as necessary.

Social media may not be easy for brands, but it’s worth it. Getting social can start a conversation that takes your business to new heights!

Are you struggling with your social media strategy, goals or execution? Let’s talk. We’d love to help you join the conversation and shine the spotlight on your brand.

Getting social (day or night),
Jaime

Let’s chat (about social media, your marketing needs or otherwise):
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Share the Luck of the Irish with Your Clients & Employees

Whatever your background, we’re all Irish on St. Patrick’s Day!

St. Patrick's Day revelers enjoy the celebration

St. Patrick’s Day by Courtney Collison via CC BY-SA 2.0 http://bit.ly/1QVmT1J

Here’s how to share the spirit of this holiday with your business family:

  • Throw an Irish potluck — Ask employees to bring their favorite Irish-themed foods for a festive event in the office. If you’re throwing a last-minute shindig, order in from your favorite Irish restaurant. Hand out fun promotional items, such as four leaf clover-printed sunglasses, green hats or four leaf clover beads. Remind everyone to wear green and punctuate the event with some fun Irish music (or March Madness)!
  • Enjoy March Madness during a St. Patrick’s Day Happy Hour — Invite your employees and/or clients to Happy Hour at your favorite local pub. Cheer on your favorite men’s college basketball teams (or the ones you picked on your bracket) with an ice cold Guinness in hand. If you’re feeling lucky, pick up the first round of drinks along with some hors d’oeuvres. Enjoy the camaraderie as you survive the roller coaster ride of the NCAA Tournament!
  • Hold a Luck of the Irish Contest — Invite your clients to participate in a themed contest celebrating this popular holiday. Anyone who places an order receives a mystery discount or gift. You can hold the contest digitally with a well-designed landing page, email marketing and social media promotion. Take the contest offline with direct mail, scratch off tickets and in-person visits. Don’t forget to create a hashtag and encourage clients to post their winning tickets on social!
  • Bring the Irish Spirit into Your Office — Encourage employees to wear green along with festive accessories. Reward the most festive, creative and other categories of your choice with gift certificates to your local pub, lunch delivered in the office or a day (or afternoon) off. Throughout the day, highlight your festivities on social media so fans can get to know the faces behind the scenes and see your fun culture.

St. Patrick’s Day 2016: How the World Will Celebrate From Dublin to Tokyo

However you decide to celebrate, have fun! May the Luck of the Irish be with you and your business always.

Cheers,
Jaime

Let’s chat (about green beer, holiday marketing or otherwise):
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How to Incorporate Reactions into Your Facebook Strategy

Facebook Reactions are here. Now that people are getting used to them, how can you incorporate them into your strategy?

How to incorporate Facebook Reactions into your strategy

Feel the love by incorporating Reactions into your Facebook strategy! Photo courtesy of Facebook

 

Here’s how to feel the love from your Facebook community with the new Reactions:

  • Share controversial or complex issues that are in the news and relevant to your page. Ask community members how they feel about the subject, now that they can respond with a greater arrange of emotion. This is also a good way to encourage thoughtful comments and discussion. (Just remind everyone to stay civil!)
  • Take the This or That? post in a new direction. Post two pictures — salted caramel brownie or chocolate chunk cookie, for instance — and ask fans which one they love. (They may like both, but they can only love one!) Add another element by sending samples to random people who voted.
  • Ask questions about people’s experience with Reactions so far or their thoughts on how they’ll use them in the future. Have you used the Angry button to direct anger at a person/brand or at content only? Should a brand block fans who use inappropriate emotions (i.e. Haha or Love on a post about someone dying)? Have you ever scrolled past a post because you couldn’t decide which Reaction button to use? Which Reaction button do you use most often?
  • Encourage fans to use the full range of Reactions on your posts, so you can use their feedback to drive future content. For example, if a topic elicits more love or wow Reactions, you may want to publish more content on that subject than one that draws only likes. It never hurts to reward community members who consistently make the effort to engage with your posts by utilizing appropriate Reactions and leaving thoughtful comments with prizes, samples or spotlights.

For now, Facebook is viewing all Reactions as positive engagement, a sign that someone wants to see more of your content. We’re hoping that more options increase engagement, especially with mobile users, by giving people quick ways to respond to posts and join a discussion (even if only in emoji). So encourage fans to utilize the newly available range of Reactions to help strengthen your relationships with your online community.

Your Reaction to Reactions

Have you seen a change in your engagement since Reactions were rolled out?

Do you use other Reactions regularly or is the like button still your go-to?

Have you not engaged with a post due to confusion over which Reaction to use?

Leave your thoughts or questions on Facebook Reactions in the comments!

Loving the new Reactions,
Jaime

Let’s chat (about Reactions, marketing on Facebook or otherwise):
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