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It's all in the detail...

Attention to detail can lead to fewer car accidents. In this week's Think Tank Tuesday, Paul explains how being dumped into an automated voicemail system can make it extremely difficult for customers to access your business.

What do you want to hear for next week? Leave your ideas in the comments below.

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Using Twitter to Grow Your Brand

Use Twitter to its fullest potential! In this week’s Hard Facts, Samantha talks about how you can use Twitter to search for potential customers and engage with clients. Using this resource will ensure that you’re expanding your brand and business.

If you're an advertising or marketing agency, this is definitely a Hard Facts episode that you should be watching. Let us know what you think! Comment below:

Website: http://www.ppadv.com

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Social Media Engagement is a Two-Way Street

The most amazing part about the internet and social media is that it has opened up communication between people and businesses that was never possible before. We now have the ability to talk to our customers and for them to talk to us in an interactive fashion, allowing for clear lines of engagement that can be both public and private.

For car dealers, this has translated into an incredible way for them to broadcast their messages and get feedback in real time. On Facebook, people can like, comment on, or share their posts when they appreciate them... and even when they do not. The world is completely different than it was a decade ago when the most powerful method of online communication, the email, was still relegated to being private.

This all means that dealers can receive interaction, but it also means that they're required to deliver interaction right back at their customers. Every day, we see dealers who are not taking advantage of this. People will comment on their Facebook posts, talk about them on Twitter, or respond to their blog posts and YouTube videos, but we then see many of the interactions going one way. The people are talking to the dealers but the dealers aren't always replying.

This is a big mistake because proper two-way communication breeds more communication. When people see your posts and also see that you're replying to the people that are commenting, it makes it more likely that they'll want to comment even more.

It also creates a proper feedback mechanism. A lot of dealers are doing this best practice on review sites, but then the same dealers are failing to engage on social media. When you allow social media to be a way for people to engage in a proper discussion on automotive topics, you're allowing them to help you get more reach for your messages.

The more you comment back, the more new comments you'll get. The more new comments you get, the more people will see the posts that are getting the comments. It's a great way to increase your message exposure.

Perhaps the most important reason to reply to everyone who comments on your posts is that it's simply proper manners. If someone says "hi" to you in the grocery store, you'll usually say "hi" right back at them even if you don't know them. It's good form to reply to those who talk to you and that carries over to your social media interactions.

Dealers that are doing this well can take it to the next level. They can get involved with other conversations of a general interest to the local community and start to really express the dealership's personality. This is key on social media. After all, part of being "social" is interacting with as many people as possible.

The streets in the social media world run in both directions. Savvy dealers are making sure that they're not just seeking engagement from others but that they're being engaging as well.

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6 Types of Content to Make Your Website POP

If there’s one word I hate using in marketing, it’s “engagement”. The term has been so overused and abused since the rise of social media that its meaning has become distorted. It’s defined in different ways and means different things to different people. Thankfully, the moves by search giants like Google and Bing as well as social giants like Facebook and Twitter have brought in at least a little uniformity to we should look for when trying to harness engagement.

First and foremost, websites today must be engaging. That’s not to say that they have to be interactive; heavy websites that make people jump through hoops to find what they want simply don’t work today and may have really never worked. Today, people want to go to websites and find what they’re looking for quickly and easily. To make today’s websites more engaging, one simply has to add content. I’m not talking about the SEO content that is too heavy on many websites or the “share this on Facewitter” buttons that are put on so many pages that nobody would every willingly share. I’m talking about unique content that is interesting, useful, entertaining, or all of the above.

For businesses, it’s often hard to find and produce content that people will find interesting, useful, or entertaining. It’s not that the content doesn’t exist on the internet today or in the minds of a marketing professional. It’s that they don’t always know what kind of content they can find and produce. Here are seven such types of content that can work for your business to make your websites more engaging. There are plenty of articles (some that I have written) that discuss the reasons that you would want your websites to be engaging from a search and social marketing perspective so I won’t go into those reasons here. If you need to be convinced that it will be helpful, start with those articles first, then come back and learn more.

 

The good ol' image gallery

If there’s one thing that internet is not short on, it’s images. If there’s one thing the real world isn’t short on, it’s cameras thanks to the rise of smartphones. Between the two, finding or taking images that pertain to your industry, your local area, or both is a piece of cake.

With Chevy’s recent release of the 2014 Corvette, the internet is loaded with plenty of pictures. A Chevy dealer could compile some of the best images and load them up on their site. Take note – any time you use an image from somewhere else, you should always link to the original source. Attribution is ever-important when posting content to your website. There will be those who still contact you even when you properly attribute and ask you to remove the images. If it’s taken by someone else, it is has a copyright. Always respect them. There are plenty of sources that love to get links to their content and are willing to let you share.

The written content on a post such as “10 Awesome Angles of the 2014 Chevy Corvette” doesn’t have to be huge. At the minimum, a paragraph or two of unique content at the top is fine. What’s better is a little description of each image below the content as well as the one or two paragraphs at the top.

 

YouTube video(s) and commentary

The last thing you want to do is post a video by itself on your website. This brings no value and the visitor might as well link to the video itself. What you definitely can do with videos is find one or more of them (again, they must pertain to your industry, your local area, or both) and post them with appropriate commentary. Let’s say you find a great video about the 2014 Corvette. You could write up a couple of paragraphs detailing what led up to this epic new design, show the video, then discuss how this Corvette is dramatically different from your perspective. Unique commentary is extremely important here. You do not want to be posting the words of others. This should be personal. Make sure that the visitors who find this video and commentary get value out of both aspects.

To really add value and make the page engaging, use more than one video. People can share a single video more easily from YouTube itself than from your website, but by making it multiple videos on the same topic, you’ve now compiled something that people will be more willing to share as a link on their own website or through social media.

 

Link lists

These are great, but be very careful with them. The ideas is that you’ll write a short article – one or two paragraphs – about a particular topic, then offer several links to other websites that are also talking about the subject. If you write up a piece about the Corvette, you could then link to reviews or commentaries from trusted sources such as Car and Driver or Motortrend. The title of these pages could be something such as “How the Internet Responded to the 2014 Corvette Launch”.

The part about being careful – make sure that the links open in a new tab or window. What you don’t want is content that drives people completely away from your site. Linking out is not a bad thing despite what many experts tell you, particularly when you’re working with engagement content. Remember, they aren’t there on that page to buy your products or services right this very moment. They likely landed on the page by clicking on a link in search or social and their interest is learning more about the new Vette. Your benefits (I know I said I wasn’t going to talk about it but I’ll just mention it briefly) are not in the visitors that come to the site but the benefit these pages give you through search and social to drive future traffic to more important pages on your website.

 

Infographics

The beauty of infographics is that they’re visual. As an internet society, we love to see things more than we love to read about them. Even if the graphics themselves are loaded with words and statistics, they are often done so in a visually stunning manner that is more worthy of being shared. Take a look at this infographic we created for Mashable. There’s tons of data, but it’s easier to share because of the graphic nature of the content.

Just like with a video, do not simply post an infographic and walk away. You should post at least a little commentary about the graphic itself, what it means to your, your industry, your customers, your local area, or all of the above.

 

Full articles

This scares many people. For the most part, businesses owners and the marketing people that work for them aren’t journalists by trade. Thankfully, what most business owners do have is an expertise in their industry. Even if you’re not a great writer, you can probably come up with information that can be interesting to the layman and have someone else put it into a proper article format.

With the rise of AuthorRank, this may prove to be the most important overall form of content that we put on our business websites.

You don’t have to post too often, but if you can’t stay at least a little consistent by posting 2 or 3 full articles a month, there’s really no need to post them at all. If time is too scarce, stick to the…

 

Response articles

It may be hard to come up with original content, but it’s never hard to express opinions. There was a long article yesterday about Les Mis on FoxNews. I really liked what it had to say, so I wrote a response article to it. This response took no time at all – less than 20 minutes – but got the point across in a way that the internet likes without having to do a ton of research other than reading the original article.

As an expert in your industry and/or local area, you’ll find that writing response articles is one of the easiest ways to get a good amount of unique content on your website without having to do a ton of research. In essence, the research is already done by the real journalist. All you have to do is offer your opinions about what they got right, what they got wrong, or expand on what their basic premise was. With practice, these get to the point that you’ll be able to easily post them at your convenience.

* * *

Making websites pop on search and social isn’t as hard as most make it out to be. It starts with great content and continues into proper practices to make the search engines and social media sites love your stuff.

POP” image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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There is a very distinguishable difference between SEO content and content that brings SEO value.

The easiest way to look at it is that SEO content is what you put on each page of your website to let both visitors and the search engines understand what the page is about, while content that brings SEO value isn't necessarily there to help the page rank but to help other pages on the site rank better. The easiest way to create content that has the ability to bring SEO value is to make sure that the content is engaging and that people will be willing to both link to and share the content itself.

This is Part III in the series about “Killing Birds With Content Stones”. Read Part I and Part II first.


It has to be real.

When most internet marketers think of using content for SEO, they think along the lines of using the appropriate keywords in the html content on the page to demonstrate the keywords for which they want the page to rank. This is, in many ways, harder than writing engaging content. There's a lot less science and practically no risk in writing engaging content. It's what Google and Bing want. As a result, giving it to them gives you little chance of triggering anything negative as a result, at least not from the search engines themselves.

 

With modern SEO, content has gone from being a tool to being the hub. If you use content marketing properly, you can enhance your SEO while still bringing value to the website and social media sites at the same time. Here's how:

How Engaging Content Works for SEO

If you are trained in search engine optimization, get one thing out of your head for the rest of this article. Keywords don't matter in engaging content. Our goals with writing engaging content have nothing to do with getting that page ranked for any particular keywords. It will rank because it's valuable and the keywords that it ranks for do not really matter. The goal is to get traffic, links, and social signals. These types of pages do not have to rank for the keywords that you want and they don't have to convert visitors.

 

It's hard to understand for many marketers. It's almost unnatural, to want to put out a piece of content that has no direct value from a search or conversion perspective, but it's the indirect value that can be so much more powerful when done right.

 

These engagement pages are designed to stay loosely on topic with the goals of the company or website, but only so much as to have a reason to exist. Using a car dealer as an example, the vast majority of the site might be geared towards selling cars, servicing cars, or highlighting the dealership, but the engagement content will only touch on the appropriate topics. It could be an article about the local area or even the state itself. At that point, it becomes an opportunity to highlight landing pages that are area specific.

 

When you create the page, it will be about a topic that allows you to work in links (or in many cases, a single link) to the target landing page. In the example below, the page is about iconic images in Wisconsin while the landing page it links to is specifically geared to rank for the term "Milwaukee Ford Dealers". Do what you can to make sure the link is naturally situated within the content.

 

The goal is to build a page that is engaging enough to be shared on social media to generate social signals for the domain as well as have the potential to be linked to by other websites that find the content interesting or useful.

Write What Your Visitors Would Want to Read

I've always thought it was easier to take a writer and train them on SEO than to take an SEO and train them to write well. Don't get me wrong - a strong SEO content writer is still valuable, just not as much as they have been in the past. Natural writing is prevailing in the search engines, so as long as someone knows how to properly describe what's going on with a particular page or the website/company as a whole, they should be able to piece together good SEO content.

 

Writing engaging content is harder and potentially more valuable from an SEO perspective. The example above was designed to appeal to people around the state itself. The subject should always tie in with the target landing page in some way. Since our landing page is targeting Milwaukee but the dealership isn't in Milwaukee, we posted about the entire state and worked in references to the bigger cities in the state - Milwaukee and Madison. Let's say our goal was not to target the brand and a city but rather a model and the local area. We might have posted something like "Most Used and Abused F-150's in Fond du Lac". A piece like that would require much more research and help from either the service department, locals in the community prompted by social media, or both. In that case, the landing page that we would create would likely be an inventory search page for F-150s or even a landing page highlighting the vehicle.

 

You know your area. You know your brand. You know your products. There's plenty of valuable content available to post about. It doesn't have to be an article or a list of images like the one above. It could be a video, an infographic, a review (written, not scraped or syndicated), or any of a dozen different types of content.

 

Always think about it from a sharing perspective. Would YOU be interested in sharing the content on social media sites if you didn't work there? Would you be willing to link to the page as a resource or piece of interest if you had a website about the subject? In the example above, the page could be sent to local newspaper websites (particularly if the images were unique to the business), a tourism site, or any website that had an interest in the state of Wisconsin. Schools, government agencies, travel sites - all make for a good potential link. They don't have to link to your target. Your page takes care of that for you. Your goal is to get links and social signals to the engaging content that links to your landing page. It's not as good as getting a direct link or social signals to the target itself, but the vast majority of landing pages do not have enough general interest to make them sharable. This is an alternative to direct links and if done right, it's the most effective way to move the needle in your search rankings.

 

In the next part, we will describe in detail how to get the most social media benefit from the same piece of content. Stay tuned.

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There are two truly valid ways to post on social media. It depends on the personality, goals, and bandwidth available within your business. Both have pros and cons. Both have chances of success and failure.

This is Part III of the series on timing. Please read Part I and Part II first.

Determining which way you'd like to go will guide your posting schedule immensely. We will post something in the future that goes into more details about each individual posting personality, but here's a quick overview of them:

 

The Business-Only Personality

It's a little surprising that more businesses haven't adopted this style. It's likely that a "guru" or two has spread the word that you can't only focus on business if you want to be successful on social media. This simply isn't true.

 

The business-only personality type will do just as the name says: stick to business. They should post infrequently, perhaps 2-4 times a week, and support their posts with ads on Facebook. Twitter, Google+, and the other social networks cannot benefit from ad support and are likely only seen occasionally in feeds and mostly as a destination, i.e. when someone visits the business website and then follows links to Twitter, Pinterest, G+, etc.

 

This is effective in one scenario and safe in another scenario. In the scenario where a business has established a strong fan base of customers, prospects, and industry people, the business-only personality can be extremely effective. It doesn't flood people's news feeds with daily posts that can often encourage them to unlike, remove from the news feed, or report as spam. Because there is a reduced chance of getting an EdgeRank boost (though a case could be made that it can actually improve the chances, but that's for a different debate), it is basically a requirement to support the posts through Facebook ads. As long as the content is useful, not spammy, and relevant to fans, a sustained Sponsored Stories strategy can work very nicely.

 

Fan growth is often slowed as a result of this type of strategy, but there's an upside. If a business is using their page for a particular business-related focus such as a car dealership that posts social-media-only service specials weekly, the quality of the fans can be stronger.

 

The other scenario where this strategy works well is for the "safe" social media business type. Those who are either not bought into social media as a marketing tool or who do not have the time or resources to manage it properly can use this personality type to keep a strong presence without putting much effort into it. It's not a growth strategy. It's a "checkbox" strategy. The good part is that it's safe. As long as the page doesn't go dormant, those who are somehow able to stumble upon the accounts will not be turned off by what they find.

 

The Engaging Personality

This is much more common by businesses that are trying to use social media for branding, marketing, and communication. It's also the more botched approach. If there's only one piece of advice that businesses get from this article, it's that you don't have to rely on internet memes and cat pictures to be engaging. If you're a car dealership, you should be posting about cars. Period. Pictures of cars, stories about cars, useful information about cars... stay within the industry. There are plenty of engaging pictures, interesting pieces of information, and personal business anecdotal stories that can be told to stay focused on your industry without being "all business".

 

For local businesses, there's another realm that help them to stay on topic without diving into memes to stay interesting: the local area itself. A Seattle business can occasionally post images of the Space Needle, for example. Nothing wrong with that to "mix it up" but don't rely on these types of posts. Stay relevant as much as possible.

 

The engaging personality type on social media strives to be a part of the conversations within their market. They post daily, often more than once a day, and do so in order to get more people to like and interact with their content. This style relies on the interesting aspects of their business to feed content to their social profiles in order to set up the "money posts" that they put up from time to time. The money posts are those ones with practical business applications whether it's to directly promote and event or to highlight a benefit of their business.

 

By engaging with the various communities, they are increasing the exposure of their money posts. On Facebook, for example, the goal is to play the EdgeRank game. In other words, be as interesting as possible throughout the week in order to make certain that the important posts get maximum exposure. On Facebook and Google+, a business can increase the exposure of their money posts by posting content ahead of it that their fans like, comment about, and share.

 

This is viewed by many as the free technique. In other words, if you go with this strategy, the need for Facebook ads is alleviated. That's not true. The Facebook advertising strategy for the engagement personality is different from the strategy for the business-only personality, but that doesn't mean that you don't have to spend any money at all. The way that Facebook pages appear (or don't appear) in fans' news feeds makes advertising a necessity regardless of personality type. The difference is in how much and how often.

 

Scheduling Based Upon Personality

Now that we have an understanding of the personality types, how does this affect scheduling?

Business-Only:

  • Schedule consistently from week to week. If you have a coupon or offer that comes out weekly, it should be scheduled at the exact same time every week.
  • Take advantage of the social media sweet spots that we described in Part I.
  • Posts about events should be posted well-ahead of the event itself. Without the benefit of engagement, you'll want to maximize exposure by giving everyone a heads up.

Engagement:
  • Be sure that there's a 24-hour gap between image posts sent from the same platform on Facebook. For example, if you post images on Buffer, post them at the same time every day. This prevents "batching" of the posts into unlikable albums.
  • Take into account the types of posts and which times to post them. Part II of this series really dives into managing from an engagement personality perspective.
  • Ramp up event posts the sooner you get to them. If you know you're having a big sale in two weeks, post every other day about it the week before, then daily the week of the event.

As with all strategies, there are different variations based upon your goals. Play around with it. Post more. Post less. Find the personality type that works best for your business and stick with it. The biggest mistake you can make (other than abandoning social media altogether) is to continuously change strategies without reason. With major changes in the platform being the exception, try to avoid constant changes. Find what works for you and stick with it.
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