Day 4-Using Social Media to Leverage Your Wedding Planning-Getting the Right Flowers

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Now that you’ve booked a venue and you’re making headway with finding your dream dress and creating your uniquely customized wedding invitations; it’s time to turn your attention to your décor and flowers for your bouquet.

Why are flowers great for your décor and your wedding? Well, they provide fresh ambience and color that other decorations can’t, as well as some creative elegance and sophistication. They also show your guests different quirks of your and your significant others’ personalities.

Before you jump the gun and start buying flowers, let me remind you about the questions that I posed previously that you need to ask your florist:

-What kind of flowers will be or are in season around the time of my wedding?

-Will the available flowers fit the color scheme I have for the wedding?

-How many flowers will I need for boutonnieres for guests?

-Is my favorite flower (rose, calla lily etc.) grown naturally in a color that will fit into my color scheme and if does, will it also fit into my budget?

-Is there a difference between fresh and dyed flowers and if the flowers I want aren’t available in my colors, is buying dyed flowers an option?

These top 3 apps & websites (in no particular order) will help you answer these questions and pick the best flowers for your wedding.

1) GrowersBox.com

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Why It’s Awesome: You can order your own DIY wedding flowers, arranged wedding flower packages and even petals of different flowers including roses and peonies. You can also order flower gifts and different types of wholesale flowers that I rarely seen elsewhere, from Asiatic Lilies and mini Gerbera Daisies. You also search for flower by color and purchase dyed flower at your convenience.

2) Wedding Bouquet Ideas

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Why It’s Awesome: This application shows you the galleries of hundreds of beautiful wedding bouquet ideas, designs and decorating. If you have an idea about wedding flower decorations, this application can help you. This app contains the various types and colors of flowers such as : bridal bouquet ideas, bridesmaid bouquets, tulips, roses, gardenia, daisy, hydrangea floral, paper, silk, fabric, jewelry, buttons bouquet, red, orange, blue, cream, pink, white, purple, green, spring, fall, summer, tropical and more.

3) Flowerbud.com

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Why It’s Awesome: You can purchase boxes of different flowers such as irises and lilies in different boxes and colors for your wedding as well as bonsai plants and sunflowers. If you get stuck on creating your own DIY wedding flowers, you can talk to their Wedding Coordinator for advice.

What makes these apps and websites the best for creating and compiling the best wedding flowers? Well, not only can you search for, create and customize all styles and forms of flower arrangements quicker and in the palm of your hand with easy-to-use and fun apps that are affordable, but you can also keep track of your flower orders much easier.

With the right tools and websites to help you find the right flowers that provide your ceremony and reception with some fresh ambience and reflects your personalities, what’s next on the wedding planning agenda? How about finding the best photography for your wedding?

Keep your eyes peeled and stay tuned for ‘Day 5 of How to Use Social Media to Leverage Your Wedding Planning-Finding the Best in Photography’.

Yours in Wedding Planning,

 

Lilian Sue

Introducing ‘How to Use Social Media to Leverage Your Wedding Planning’

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If you’re newly engaged and find yourself overwhelmed by questions from family and friends and the sheer amount of things that have to be done for a wedding, from getting a reception venue to finding a photographer; this blog series is for you.

With this blog series, I’m going to show you how social media can make finding the perfect wedding dress, the right photographer and the best ceremony and reception venues-easier and quicker. Not only that, social media can add a creative marketing flair to your wedding, including helping you discover how DIY elements can give your wedding a unique individual flair not seen anywhere else.

For example, did you know that by using social media to help plan your wedding you can:

-Ask other engaged couples for help, all over the world-no matter what time it is?

-Have a mobile message board & community to inform & converse with guests always on hand

-Find unique and never before seen items and ideas from individualized rings (complete with fingerprints) to DIY centerpieces

-Find a reliable, affordable, unique and fun solution to an expensive DJ or live band

-Discover fun ideas for your first dance and for your vows.

-Always keep your wedding budget (including graphs of how much you’ve allocated to each element of the wedding) in the palm of your hand.

-Curate any and all information (such as flights, hotels & city attractions) for your out-of-town guests to have while they’re on the go

-Grab the expertise from top wedding blogs and incorporate them into your private, online inspiration board

-Keep all you wedding related tasks organized and synced to all of your social media profiles

-Find the perfect venue for your ceremony and reception, no matter how quirky and how big the guest list

For the next 8 weeks, I’ll be showing you how to use social media to do all of these things for your wedding and more.

First up, Day 1: How to Use Social Media to Leverage Your Wedding Planning: Finding Your Ceremony Venue.

In the meantime, check out this awesome slideshow on a few important questions you should be asking about weddings.

Yours in Wedding Planning,

Lilian Sue

How to Create Awesome Infographics Without Being a Designer

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If you’re anything like me, you learned how to use programs like Photoshop and Gimp out of necessity to do minor changes to photos. You might have even dabbled in some easier graphic design projects for your own website, but it takes you hours to get the image or the design looking just right and you’re left exhausted. You might even spend time looking up tutorials on how to achieve a certain effect and still have trouble re-creating it.

In short, while you do know your way around the programs like Photoshop to a certain extent, it takes you forever and there’s absolutely no way you’d call yourself a graphic designer. But then, you’re surfing around the web and you noticed some really cool infographics on things like fashion, music and food and you can’t help but wish that you could create something like that; even if it’d take you a week.

Well, I’m here to tell you that it’s definitely possible to create some awesome infographics in any category that you choose, EVEN if you’re not a designer. In this blog post, I’m going to introduce you to three awesome tools to create the best infographics, tell you how to use them AND how you can share your infographics in different channels all over the web. So, let’s get started!

Introducing Easel.ly

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First of all, I love the name of this tool, it’s a great play on words using easel (as in drawing pad) to play on easily’.

Launched two years ago in 2012, Easel.ly has hundreds of awesome infographic templates and design objects that even the most design novice can customize and share online. You can drag and drop design elements however you see fit or even upload your own background image from scratch as a template. The best part? Easel.ly is free!

Easel.ly is super popular with students, teachers and business owners who need to put together lesson plans or concepts in easy-to-follow visual forms. In fact, Easel.ly received the 2013 Best Websites for Teaching and Learning Award from the American Association of School Librarians (AASL).

So how does it work? Simply go to Easel.ly and click on ‘Create an Infographic’. Once you land on the page, you can pick a blank template or one of the other several hundred and get started!

Choose a category to find the best template that you want and then work your magic, dragging and dropping different backgrounds, themes, shapes, objects and putting in text. Then you can save it and share it through a browser link, a web link you can embed into your blog and share it via Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest!

In terms of going the extra mile in sharing your awesome infographic via social, you could even try attracting new audiences on LinkedIn, Google+ and Instagram and even using new tools like Glossi to create a new platform like an online magazine featuring cool infographics before sharing them. Creativity and a little out-of-the-box thinking can go a long way.

How to Describe Piktochart

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Piktochart is another awesome online tool for creating cool infographics. It’s little more in-depth then Easel.ly in that it’s a software platform that allows you to embed videos, change the fonts, colours, add different line elements and even charts.

You can even import Google or Excel spreadsheets to create your own charts and customize the infographic by uploading your own images or using the more than 2000 high-res, print-ready graphics in the Piktochart library. Note: While you can change the colors of the icons and graphics from the Piktochart library, you can’t use the program to change the colors on your own images. You’d have to make the changes on an external program first

When it comes to sharing your Piktochart infographic, you can choose the size and the orientation, down to the paper size that you want to print it on. You can embed it in an email campaign and send it through your email campaign client such as MailChimp, MyEmma or Constant Contact and share it via Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google+ just by uploading it to your status update.

You can even include it in online Flickr galleries and share it in your Google+ communities, LinkedIn groups and Google Hangouts to help make online collaborations a little more creative and visually informative.

How ReciteThis is Different

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OK, so up until this point, I’ve been sharing a couple of really cool infographic tools with you that help you make IMAGE-based infographics. So they’re all a little more visual. But, what if you want to create a cool infographic using quotes or proverbs?

That’s where ReciteThis comes in. You can turn a quote into a masterpiece simply by typing whatever quote or proverb into the text box, or choosing a quote from the ReciteThis database. Then you select a background from a slideshow at the bottom of the page and press ‘Create’.

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Afterwards, you have the option of posting it to Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or StumbleUpon to share with friends, downloading it for printing purposes or to share with other platforms like LinkedIn or e-mailing it to anyone you want.

So now you know how to create some amazingly fun, creative and detailed infographics-even if you’re NOT a graphic designer! Keep it locked here for more great tips on content marketing, new social marketing and online tools AND tricks on how to better reach your audiences.

Still looking for more design tools? Check out my post on 34 Content Hacks Part 1 to get cool planning, writing & design tricks!

34 Awesome Hacks & Tricks to Create Great Content Part 1

Content. It’s the cornerstone of any successful inbound marketing campaign. Creating your own high-quality unique content is the best way of enticing new fans and potential customers to embrace your business and having them understand precisely what makes you different from everyone else out there. You can share all the great industry-associated fun articles, videos and blog posts you want via social media, but in order for your audience to know WHO YOU ARE, you need to create your own content.

But, in my experience, content is a seven-letter word that strikes fear into the hearts of even the most experienced small business owners. Whether their background is in tourism/hospitality sales, counselling, healthcare or interior design, I’ve had scores of clients come to me and say that they’re stuck on creating content for their website, their blog or for great social media updates. They’re all very knowledgeable and comfortable in their expertise and yet, when it comes to expressing themselves on paper, they’re stymied.

In honor of all my awesome clients and to help make your lives a little easier, I thought I’d go through the first part of 34 awesome content hacks that I’ve found can help you plan better, write better and even design better. Without further ado, here’s the first section of planning tricks.

6 Planning Tricks You Need to Know

1) Create a Headline Swipe File

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What is a headline swipe file, you might be asking? Well, whenever you notice great headlines that might help you generate new ideas for content, simply put them into a document and keep it on hand to help inspire you whenever you get stuck or share it with your team to inspire them. Try taking a look and them and focusing on what could make your audience want to click on the link or give you their email addresses. Headlines need to grab attention ASAP.

2) Use RSS Feeds to Find Newsjack-Worthy Content Topics

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What do they mean by “newsjacking”? Newsjacking allows you to use current relevant news stories as a marketing opportunity for your company. While having a story directly related to your industry is ideal, you could also use a human-interest story or a celebrity news story. In your RSS reader like Feedly or in Google Alerts, you can set up search alerts based on keywords of interest and have relevant news stories delivered to your inbox daily.

Try searching for keywords with the highest rate of search volume and incorporate those into your original content. Make sure you also look into the original story to ensure that you have your facts straight and to make sure you’re not copying other content that’s already out there.

Remember, newsjacking isn’t about re-writing the news story word-for-word, it’s about using that news story to TIE INTO your original content, while keeping in mind exactly why you audience should be interested in the story. It’s about using the story to leverage ideas that your fans and potential customers will want to read.

3) Turn Questions Your Clients Have Into Content Ideas

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Over the course of running your business, no matter what industry you’re in, you’ve probably gotten a ton of questions about your industry, on how your products and services work, what to look for when hiring a technician, buying a house, booking a vacation etc. The list goes on and on. What you may not know is that in addition to answering what questions you can in person during client meetings or networking events, you can also use these questions to create blog posts, ebooks, videos and white papers.

Not only will this provide answers for people who have personally asked you questions, having great content will also help those who have questions that need to be answered, but haven’t asked them. Great content pushes them to visit your website, turns them to leads, nurtures that relationship, shortens the sales cycle and turns them into happy customers.

4) Organize Content Ideas Using Evernote

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Coordinating content ideas for your blog as well as other social media platforms and following industry trends can be as bad as herding cats (For the record, Mythbusters proved it can’t be done.) Enter Evernote. As I talked about in one of my previous posts, 21 Awesome Online Tools to Make Your Business More Efficient, you can use Evernote to organize content ideas by notebook, labelling them as ‘blog ideas’ or ‘meeting notes’ to better manage where different content strategies are coming from.

If you have Chrome for your web browser, you can even install Evernote Clipper, which takes anything you’re interested in from the Web and organizes it into notebooks for you!

5) Share Relevant Content With Your Team

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If you work in an agency, you’re undoubtedly creating content for clients in a wide variety of industries. When you’re going through RSS feeds, emails and social media updates, you’ll definitely find fresh content that is very relevant to one of the client accounts. So, to make things easier on everyone, make sure you always forward that awesome content on to that particular account manager. That way, they’re always up to date and organized on what’s going on out there that could make for great content for the accounts they manage.

6) Host a “Ask me Anything” Event

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If you’re like me, you’ve obviously heard of AMAs. Reddit is famous for hosting AMAs for a wide variety of people (some of my favorites include the Hillstrand brothers from Deadliest Catch, Adam Savage from Mythbusters, Jamie Hyneman from Mythbusters and the late, great Robin Williams). But, AMAs aren’t just for celebrites, authors or well-known people of note. You can host an AMA for your fans too!

Hosting an AMA allows your audience to ask you anything that’s on their minds and you give them amazing answers! The two-way conversation allows you to develop relationships with your audience, establish yourself as an authority and give them insight into who you are. You can host an AMA on Google Hangouts, which lets your audience get some face time with you, or as a Twitter chat with a hashtag so all questions with that hashtag are easier to organize OR even as an online meeting on a platform like GoToMeeting.

6 Tricks for Writing You Have to Know

1) Always Start With a Working Title

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One of the many reasons people struggle with writing is because they get stuck trying to come up with a title. It’s something that’s plagued me in the past so I understand how hard it can be to write a title.

That’s why, instead of going with one title from the very beginning, start writing with the knowledge that your title is a working one. Make it one that’s reflective on what you’re writing about, but recognize that sometimes, even if you create an outline, the final product is always going to turn out a little different than you think it will. Not worrying about the title means that you can wait until you’re done writing that article, that blog post or that ebook, before writing in the title, which cuts down on stress.

2) Reuse Existing Copy for New Content

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The more your company grows, the more you’ll start seeing the value for re-purposing content. You might have written a PR release 6 months earlier and now you’re looking for some bullet points to put in a blog post, you can abbreviate that content from the press release. You can reuse parts of older content and re-post them in different ways to allow different segments of your target market to absorb it. For example, the audience who reads your PR releases might be different from the one that reads your blog posts, but there’s nothing wrong with sharing the same content with both audiences in different formats.

3) Guide Your Writing W/ Themed Blogging Days

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Writing can sometimes be made easier by having a theme for each day to help make it more fun and entertaining. The best way to start with themed blog posts-and build on your previous blog success-is to analyze your most successful previous blog posts and then create similar posts.

If your most popular post is about “Top 25 Best Mexican Restaurants in San Franciso”, try writing about the “Top 25 Best Latin American Restaurants” next. Designate a day for your themed blog and let the ideas flow!

4) Keep a Dictionary and Thesaurus Handy

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Sometimes, when you’re writing a lot of articles or blog posts that use several descriptors, it can be hard to not to repeat yourself. There’s absolutely no shame in keeping a dictionary and a thesaurus on hand to give you some new synonyms to insert into a piece. It can also help you refine what you’re writing, in case you get stuck on defining a word you want to use.

5) Listen to some classical/easy listening/ambient music while you work

In my experience, listening to the latest Foo Fighters record or some old-school Boyz II Men while working can sometimes distract you. You start singing along and stop writing. I find that that easy-listening, classical or ambient music is really great for stimulating the brain, but it doesn’t have the loud lyrics to distract you. If Beethoven isn’t your thing, I’d also recommend Enya for easy listening or even look up original scores for your favorite video games or movies. I find inspiration from the soundtrack for Assassin’s Creed 3, for example. Anything that keeps your brain stimulated but doesn’t compete with that inner voice works.

6) Use Wikipedia as your style guide

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Every academic and professional muscle in your body is probably screaming at the tip above. After all, weren’t you always told that you can’t use Wikipedia as a source for your writing? Well, this isn’t about using information on Wikipedia, it’s about using it as a style guide. If you’re ever unsure about whether something should be capitalized, in quotes or italicized, check Wikipedia instead of diving into a massive style guide. They’re very accurate regarding style.

5 Design Tips You Have to Use

1) Create CTAs with Keynote

If you don’t want to spring the cash for Photoshop to create an awesome looking CTA, that’s OK! You can use Keynote instead. Just open a new image in Keynote, add a background or fill color, put in an image if you’d like one, add a text box and type in your offer copy. Then you can do a screen capture of the CTA and you automatically have a .PNG image that you can put in any blog post!

2) Snag Images for Your Blog with SnagIt

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SnagIt is a great screen capture program that captures video display and audio output. You can easily use it to add relevant images to your blog. If you see an image you want to use, you can simply SnagIt, copy and paste it into your blog post as a .PNG. It’s just that easy!

3) Change Up the Visuals to Break Up Text-Heavy Paragraphs

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Keep your blog post visually interesting for readers by changing up the visuals you use. You can use infographics, call-out text blocks, quotes and other images. You can also label diagrams, images and graphs with descriptions to summarize the materials for readers that skim.

4) Always Sketch Out Your Ideas

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Before opening any design program, try sketching out a few thumbnail versions. Don’t focus on the details, focus on the composition, the relative scale of the elements and the spacing. Creating the first basic versions force you to think about the basic structure of the design and past the first couple of versions. Sketching takes time, but it can help you save energy later when you’re designing the image in a program like Photoshop.

5) Add Text Overlays to Your Images with the Over App

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With the Over app, you can crop the image, change the lighting and add text and inspiring icons to it. You don’t have to spring for Photoshop, Over is available in almost any app store and it’s fairly inexpensive, easy to use AND you can do it to all your high-quality photos WHILE you’re on the go!

Stay tuned for Part 2 of 34 Awesome Hacks to Create Great Content, coming soon! In the meantime, read this on how to Turn User Generated Content into Sales for Your Company to leverage the awesome content your fans are creating about your brand!

16 Companies in “Boring” Industries Delivering Awesome Content

Whether you realize it or not, there’s definitely industry sectors out there that are easier to create great marketing content for. You probably don’t have to wrack your brain to write a great brochure about promoting a resort in the Bahamas or develop an online contest to market your restaurant’s grand opening or sell your new line of clothing.

Let’s face it, the tourism/travel, food/beverage, film/entertainment and fashion/beauty industries are generally pretty easy to generate buzz for, get fans excited about and create some awesome content for. Just photos of great events & locations can be enough to get fans buzzing about the latest developments.

But unfortunately, not every industry has that luxury. Have you ever had to create a marketing campaign for accounting software? How about for soap or maybe even a pharmaceutical company? Ever felt stuck doing that and wanting to pull your hair out?

Well, I’ve got some examples that might be able to pull you out of that marketing funk. From soap to file storage and customer service, here’s 16 companies in so called “boring” industries, doing marketing right.

1) Soap

Take soap, for example. It’s pretty plebeian, right? You use it to keep clean on a daily basis and more often than not, I’m sure you purchased a certain one based on price rather than any other attribute. With over 40 different brands, it’s a product that’s more about daily utility, rather than actual consumer interest. But, there ARE a few brands that make marketing for soap/body wash exciting.

Take Dove’s Real Beauty campaign, for example. From deodorant to body wash and everything in between, the brand has done an amazing job of emphasizing that every woman, no matter the ethnicity, age or body type is truly beautiful. The campaign has expanded from TV ads to billboards and online videos, with 2013’s ‘Real Beauty Sketches’-where women describe their appearances to a forensic sketch artist-one of the most watched ads of all time.

Why does it work? Maybe it’s because instead of focusing on positioning themselves against the competition and coming up with a USP, Dove instead chooses to focus on how they can empower their consumers through subverting what advertising traditionally tells us is beautiful and focus on accepting ourselves just as we are.

2) CRM Tools

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CRM tools to make life easier for online businesses? Yawn. It’s an absolute necessity to help businesses better manage contact lists, gauge campaigns stats and manage their presence on social media. But is it as fun and exciting as reading about the latest movie premieres @ TIFF? Probably not, but there are a few companies that are working hard to make CRM topics more interesting.

Take Sprout Social, for example. One of the most comprehensive CRM when it comes to helping you leverage content on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, their blog does a great job of explaining all of their new features in layman’s terms and gives great advice on how to better use other platforms such as Google+.

3) File Storage

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Cloud file storage and sharing products to make organizing and sending documents at work easier. Sounds like a sleeping pill, right? Even so, it’s a process for people to wait for your files to sync, upload and finish storing. There’s still a lot of people out there who may not understand the newer concept of cloud storage instead of using a USB drive or a CD. So cloud storage companies have their work cut out for them in trying to make their products sound user-friendly and fun at the same time. But there IS one company that’s doing a good job.

Dropbox’s email campaigns keep their messages short and snappy, they use great photos and they use language that has personality, which makes you want to interact with them.

4) Meeting Platform

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Who doesn’t love attending meetings at work? Even when you’re away travelling for work, you don’t ever have to miss a meeting in the office with convenient online meeting tools…..Doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, does it? Meetings aren’t exactly peoples’ favorite thing to do, but there’s one company that does a pretty good job of making the most out of it.

Check out GoToMeeting’s Twitter feed. They do a great job of taking a friendly professional approach to their content. They post everything from popular Internet memes to retweets and articles about the modern workplace. They make things interesting instead of focusing on their products all the time. They also share customer success stories which goes a long way to endearing clients to them.

5) Household Cleaning Supplies

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Vacuum cleaners and other cleaning supplies can be pretty boring huh? Almost every ad you see on TV shows the amazing cleaning powers of the vacuum or broom in question. From Dyson to Swiffer WetJet, all they seem to focus on is how it gets dirt off your floor. It’s definitely useful to know, but not very exciting.

Take this heart-warming campaign from Hoover. When they heard about a young man named Marcus who was autistic and had a special love for vacuums as he was always drawing them, they took his pictures and started displaying them around the office. Even better, they took his drawings and put it online for people to download, creating a mini-campaign in which Marcus’s love for vacuums could be spread to homes all over the world.

6) Real Estate

Finding a new place to live, whether you’re renting or buying can be a huge headache. There’s a ton of listings to go through and open houses to attend AND a lot of questions that should be asked in order to determine if it’s the right place for you. After all, it IS the biggest investment you’ll ever make.

The best companies try and make the experience more enjoyable. Memphis Invest did an entertaining video showing a typical property that a real estate investor would be looking at in the region. It has a Cribs-esque feel, complete with pop-up prices. It make touring through the property both informative and fun at the same time.

7) Consulting

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Consulting is booming amongst baby boomers who retire from full-time work but aren’t quite ready to stop working. As of 2011, there were some 400,000 consultants in the US alone. Not all of them were sole proprietors either, some companies employ several consultants on their roster.

Either way, that’s a lot of companies and a lot of people. With that many people out there with the title of consultant, how can companies differentiate? One great way to do so is through authoritative content, which one company uses to their advantage.

Accenture does a great job of creating authoritative content in a number of different forms, from blog posts to podcasts and they’re also not afraid to bring pop-culture references into their content to make things more interesting and helps to turn industry content into something COOs and CMOs can use to help generate interest among their audiences.

8) Health

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Having written academic papers myself on direct-to-consumer pharmaceutical advertising, I can see how it can be extremely boring to the average consumer. Everyone knows for example that probiotics are good for you, but how many people are actually interested in hearing an explanation on how they work? Many health topics are convoluted and hard for the general public to understand and the biggest content opportunity for that industry is to break it down into layman’s terms that everyone can understand and absorb.

Vega, a plant-based nutritional supplement and health company does a great job of disseminating quality content that promotes healthy living through their social media channels and on their blog. They focus on inspirational stories on what inspires their consumers to get-and stay-active. Check out this great post on what inspired a consumer to start running.

9) Marketing Automation

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In a nutshell, marketing automation platforms allow you to streamline your marketing campaigns, scheduling tweets, managing workflows and automating follow-up emails. Are you falling asleep or switching to another website?! I get it, compared to other awesome aspects of marketing, marketing automation isn’t really considered to be ‘hot’, but it IS integral to improving everyone’s ability to create better marketing campaigns. Still, it sounds fairly bland and robotic compared to talking about the latest ad from Chrysler 300.

There IS one company that’s spicing up the more boring aspects though. Eloqua has been creating an awesome content-rich blog for years, but where they particularly excel is at infographics. Their infographics are awesome because they make a point of adding value rather than just color and they do a good job of laying out statistics in such a way that everyone understands them.

10) Insurance

Everybody knows what a necessity insurance is in the modern age. The demand for information can be pretty high, whether it’s about health insurance or car insurance, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t boring. It’s an important part of personal and professional security, but that doesn’t mean we have to enjoy it. Luckily for us, there’s two insurance companies that are creating popular buzz-worthy content that definitely isn’t boring.

Geico’s marketing campaigns with their mascots, the gecko and two offbeat guitar/ukulele players have been causing audiences to be in stitches for years. All-State has also been generating their fair share of laughs with the character of Mayhem, doing everything from streaking in a football field to running into the road like a deer in headlights.

11) Customer Service

Most people cringe about calling customer service. They worry about having long wait times or dealing with customer service representatives that aren’t helpful. However, there are quite a few companies that don’t deal with customers this way that don’t get enough credit. That’s why awesome content can help the customer service rep and the customer, making their lives easier. Here’s one company that has recognized how exceptional content can help.

ZenDesk offers customer service and support ticket software, but they do a good job of infusing the human element of customer service into their marketing. In one video, they sit two people next to each other, one ‘the business’, one ‘the customer’ that allows them to speak personally with one another, showcasing how ZenDesk can add real-world value into improving their relationship.

12) Crutches

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Crutches can become a necessary evil when you have an injury that affects your mobility. Until you actually need them, it can be tough to figure out which ones you should buy or which ones work for you. A great company can provide content to help you decide if crutches are right for you.

Goodbye Crutches provides free ground delivery for all of their alternatives to crutches. To make the process of choosing an alternative, they have a great quiz on their website that will help you find which crutch is the best for you, eliminating guesswork and making things easier for you!

13) Toilet Paper

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It’s a necessity that you use every day, but you don’t spend a lot of time thinking about which one to buy unless it’s about price. But when you do buy it, there’s a ton of options to choose from.

You don’t generally think about toilet paper as having great marketing, but Charmin’s been doing an amazing job keeping their products top of mind with their TV spots and their Twitter feed. They’ve converted their Twitter account into a hilarious hub for humor, with #tweetfromtheseat, their most popular hashtag generating hilarious responses. They’re not afraid to even keep the conversation going and respond to even some of the more NSFW comments.

14) Radiology

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Ah, radiology. The ability to take X-rays when you have an injury. Not exactly making you feel warm and fuzzy, is it? Especially since you only go there when you’re already dealing with an injury.

Radiology, like the rest of the health industry, isn’t crystal clear, but there’s an organization out there that’s staying top of mind and making it a little easier to understand. The Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) successfully uses their Facebook page to connect with their audience in a light and funny way. They even hold contests for the public to submit and then vote on their favorite X-ray images.

15) Everything

GE_inspired_me_pinterest_board

You know what’s interesting? A multi-national conglomerate company that has their hands in every industry from consumer to industrial, finance to energy and technological infrastructure. Basically, your company does everything and yet how do you take everything and make it interesting?

Check out GE’s Pinterest Page, it’s proof they don’t take themselves too seriously, with boards named #Badass Machines next to boards like #Brilliance in Motion. They even go so far as to incorporate the Ryan Gosling “Hey Girl” meme into a Pinterest board, but making it about Thomas Edison instead and hold a contest special board #GEInspiredMe to entice the public to post photos of how GE inspires them.

16) Software

People don’t typically turn to software companies for entertainment or educational content. But with the right mentality and the organization to keep great content always in the pipeline, software companies can gain recognition and spread the word by producing the right content for the right people at the right time.

Marketo does a great job of creating top 5 and top 10 lists of marketing ideas and other aspects that are easy to read and follow. They also do a great job of creating videos that opens the dialogue between them and the customers, almost as if you really were having coffee with them and asking them questions, known as “Coffee with Marketo”.

I hope that no matter what industry you’re in, these companies have inspired you to create awesome content and to not let the label of “boring” stop you. Keep checking back here for more awesome blog post on how to make the most of your marketing campaigns, including this post on how you can improve your calls-to-action (CTAs)!

Be Your Own Storyteller: A Guide to Successful Inbound PR

In PR, conventional wisdom dictates that you do one of two things to get press in different areas for your clients, company or event: 1) draft a media kit, stocked with company/event backgrounders, info on the key people involved, PR releases and maybe photos and send them to a journalist covering that area OR 2) draft a traditional one-page PR release that details who, what, where, why and when, send it to the correct journalist and cross your fingers to hope for press.

There are 3 issues that come up with both these approaches: 1) Journalists don’t work off your promotional calendar. 2) Journalists need to give their readers what they’re looking for. 3) Journalists are absolutely drowning in pitches.

How does these 3 issues affect the media kit or the PR release you’ve sent the journalist of your choice? Let me elaborate on each of them individually so that you know understand why the traditional media kit or PR release doesn’t always work to get press.

First of all, the reporters you contact for press have their own deadlines and editorial calendars to work with. Chances are, they’re not waiting around for your press package announcing a new product or your company opening its doors. Secondly, journalists have a duty to tell a great story that’s newsworthy and relevant to their audiences and they may have a different angle or similar story to yours that has already been featured recently, which means they’ll pass on your story. And lastly, journalists are so inundated with traditional PR pitches on a daily basis that yours could easily get lost in the pile because your traditional pitch looks the same as 500 others.

So how do you go about standing out from the piles of PR releases? Here’s a list of awesome ideas to help you stand out from the crowd and build better relationships with media.

storytelling-marketing-speak

1) Craft a narrative your customers care about: A news story on your newest product, service or office is going to focus its implications on how it will affect your industry or geographical area, depending on the publication. What your customers and your audience care about the most is how your products, services or new location will benefit them. Does your product make running a business or lifestyle changes easier for them? Does a new location make customer service more seamless for them?

Releases should reflect how your customers think and talk about your products and company. Eliminate any nonsensical terms and flowery language that your customers won’t understand and speak to them in ways that they’ll respond to; instead of catering your releases and blog entries to impress reporters.

about-starbucks.png

2) Think outside the box: You might not have a big event or huge product announcement always on the horizon but there’s always an opportunity to get noticed.

Does your company do a fun scavenger hunt as a team-building event every year and raises funding for a local cause? Or maybe you have employee perks that are unheard of in your industry. It might not be immediately press-worthy, but by posting your own blog post on your website about it, you keep customers engaged and you drive traffic to your website.

Don’t be afraid to think beyond the usual for content formats as well. Use formats to your advantage. For example, when oneforty was bought by HubSpot, the PR release was formatted entirely in tweets, which caught the attention of the Wall Street Journal and many other outlets.

Skew the traditional PR release altogether and get your fun story across with an infographic or two or even a video.

When you’re trying to show that a senior VP at your company is an expert at a given topic, don’t pitch that to the reporters first. Publish a blog post with some of your VP’s insights and then send it to reporters so that they know it’s relevant.

Most importantly, don’t forget to have fun and don’t be afraid to be creative!

3) Create Awesome Content

The-Massive-YouTube-Beauty-Ecosystem

Typically, in a traditional PR release, you focus on applying the ‘who, what, where, why and when’ approach to content, which although informative, isn’t really all that exciting. Reporters are people just like you and they respond better to content that’s fun and exciting, not a bland template.

Focus on what makes your story unique and worth reading, make it shorter and more concise, maybe even add a few ‘Share This’ or ‘Tweet This’ links to encourage reporters to share your content.

Don’t wait around for reporters to take notice, get your company out there. Research a few high-profile industry blogs out there and see if you can guest post. That will help drive traffic to your website and result in potential media coverage because it establishes you as an authority in your field.

The first step in successful inbound PR is to learn how to tell your story first. That includes creating your own infographics, blog posts and whatever other fun content you want to generate attention. It’ll help you gain valuable traffic to your website and attract coverage.

Inbound Marketing that Journalists Will Thank You For

Journalists today unfortunately don’t have all the time in the world to research for story angles, find the right phone number or email to reach a publicist or your marketing team. So do what the best companies do: make it as lightning quick, easy and intuitive for journalists to get the info they need.

That’s why your website should have a press page containing the contact info of your media relations professional, company backgrounders, recent news etc. and any other associate materials a journalist would need. Some best practices for a press page include:

Provide real contact info: Give reporters the name and contact info of a real person that they can talk to rather than a generic company email. It shows that you care about the kind of response they’ll receive
Decode You ‘About Us’ section: Make sure the description of what your company does is crystal clear to journalists. Use illustrations or diagrams to showcase your business in visual terms if it becomes too lengthy to explain in words. If a reporter doesn’t understand what you do, there’s no way they’ll be able to explain it to their readers in an article, so keep it short, concise and specific.
Include profiles of your executive team: Most of the time, reporters want to know information about your CEO, CTO, CFO etc. are in order to develop stories. Provide high-res photos, bios, social media profiles and maybe a quote or two for reporters to investigate and reference. Having the info readily available makes it hassle-free for journalists to get the content they need.
Other helpful industry data: if a reporter is working on a story about your industry, chances are she will also need statistics and data to help capture market growth or trending topics. So putting a few industry stats and info about trending topics could make their lives easier and increase the likelihood that they will return to your website with a similar request in the future.
Add social media sharing buttons: Make it easier for employees, customers and media alike to share your news with the world. It’ll help the conversation start on social media about what your company’s up to.
Share your coverage: When your company is covered in an article or blog post, interviewed in a video or mentioned in print, post a link in it on your Press page. When you build a long list of coverage over the years, create a news coverage page so journalists know exactly where to go to find the buzz about you.

Building Relationships With Media

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First and foremost, respect their role. A journalist’s job is not to sell or promote your product no matter what outlet they write for. Their job is to capture relevant news for their outlet, tell a great story and make sure that they give a fair and reasonable assessment of your company, product or service. By recognizing that, you’ll get better results, manage expectations more carefully and build lasting relationships.

Make sure you’re also patient about reaching out to journalists. Only contact the ones that cover the area you want covered and only do so when you have something of value to offer them and their readers.

Here’s 5 Tactics You Can Use to Identify, Reach Out To & Engage With Journalists in Your Space

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1. Do Your Homework-You can usually find basic contact info for the reporters on their outlets contact pages for editorial staff or using the ‘contact me’ button at the top of a story. You can use Excel spreadsheets or Google Docs to build your lists. Make sure you include their contact info, a link to their recent coverage, Twitter/Facebook profiles and a short bio.
2. Leverage Social Media-Use Facebook, Twitter and other platforms to monitor how and when reporters are talking about topics in your industry and respond with helpful tips and links. You can use Hootsuite to create notification lists based on subjects you’d like to pitch to journalists to see when they’re talking about it.
3. Take Time to Personalize-Refer to the journalists you contact by name, take the time out to personalize your outreach as well. If you know they’d rather prefer a friendly email, send them one.
4. Test, Learn & Apply-By using a program such as MyEmma, Constant Contact or MailChimp to send your emails, you can see who opened your emails and track who clicked your links. You can also track which emails bounced or who didn’t open the email. It will help you plan your next steps on who to follow up with, with a second email and where you have to update contact info.
5. Give Before You Get-Add value when you contact the reporters-comment on their status updates, promote their content and maybe give them sneak peeks of your business. Media relationships are a two-way street, so make sure you offer them value.

Check back here every week to learn more about how to make the most out of Facebook, Twitter & Pinterest, create awesome inbound marketing content & get fans engaged! Read THIS to learn how to make the most of Twitter & Vine.

The Top 12 Calls-To-Action You Need for Your Marketing Campaigns

So you’ve created an amazing new website for your company or a cool e-newsletter that you want to share with your loyal customers and maybe get some new ones; but there’s a problem.

You’ve noticed that you’re not getting as many people clicking through to your e-book, your web form or your videos as you would like. But the links are clearly on the front page of your website and on your e-newsletter, so what’s going on?

Well, it could be that your audience has a tough time seeing your calls-to-action. A call-to-action can be a link and/or phrase that connects two very critical pieces in lead generation: incoming traffic and the opportunities to convert these visitors into new leads. In order to drive more traffic to your website and the offers you want them to opt-in to, you need to make call-to-action improvements.

So what kind of improvements should you be making? Here’s a list of the TOP 12 Calls-to-Action that you need to drive more traffic & get more leads.

1) Calls-To-Action Using Contrasting Colors

Freshbooks-Call-to-Action

The fastest way to grab someone’s attention is by making your CTA stand out from the rest of the page by making it dominant. You can do that by choosing a color for the button or link that contrasts the background.

There’s no rule of thumb or guideline to follow about choosing colors to make your CTA stand out on the page, except THIS ONE: make sure you choose a color that works with your overall website design AND avoid patterns.

If you’re using a background on your website that has a lot of different colors and shapes, consider putting a dark semi-transparent box behind your CTA to make it readable and give it a chance to stand out. Or, use white text for your CTA on top of warm colored (such as red, yellow or orange) boxes to make it stand out.

2) Calls-To-Action Presenting An Incentive

Bauble-Bar-email-call-to-action

If you place a CTA asking someone to download your whitepaper for instance, you might want to mention a bonus that goes along with it. Maybe it’s free, or there’s a discount available or even a bonus offer of a cool template or e-book to go along with it. Sometimes offering a compelling incentive with your CTA can go a long way in having visitors take the next step.

By offering exclusive discounts with your CTA, you’re allowing visitors access to a special club that allows them to experience everything you have to offer and more, easily and efficiently. What also works well is telling them that clicking on the CTA to get started will only take a minute. People respond well to taking action as long as they aren’t a long process.

3) Calls-To-Action Showing Product

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By showing your product or service with a CTA, you make the offer seem more tangible to visitors; they know exactly what they’re getting. It captures what you’re trying to say and show the value of what visitors will be getting. If it’s compelling enough, they’d click through your CTA

Having a screenshot or video of the product with the CTA gives visitors a visual connection between the two and makes the action more attainable. Placing an animation of a product allows visitors to get a feel for the product and its features themselves and take the next step.

4) Calls-To-Action Using Great Text

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Before you place a CTA, make sure that you have a great description in place on what sets your product/service apart from similar products. You can reinforce the message about your product in your CTA as well.

A great message can also include incentives, add clarity AND set visitors’ expectations on exactly what they’ll be getting. Adding in a teaser to entice visitors to take the next step can also be an integral part of a great message.

5) Calls-To-Action Using Spacial Effect

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Don’t overcrowd your CTA with other surrounding text or images, you want to give it some space to stand out.

Separating the CTA from the rest of the content on the page means that it’s a separate item. So the rule of thumb is that if you have a tight connection between the CTA and another element on the web page, such as a great message about your product/service, then there should be less white space between them. Only keep the CTA separate from web page elements that have nothing to do with the CTA.

Make sure you have enough breathing room around a CTA to make it stand out and help the reader focus on all the important information on the page.

6) Calls-To-Action Creating a Sense of Direction

webuybooksuk CTA

Some of the most successful CTAs have arrows pointing at them that creates a sense of direction and guides visitors to important elements on the page. This prioritizes information and creates a traffic flow on the website.

Having a CTA with an arrow that points to the right follows the natural step in terms of reading left to right, so putting that on the front page draws visitors’ eyes to the next step.

Other visual effects can also give a sense of direction such as circling the CTA with a handwritten font.

7) Calls-To-Action For Email Generation

amy porterfield email sign up

You can also use a CTA to capture emails to build your own list of loyal customers that you’ll follow up with, notify them of discounts, promotions or special events and create your own captive audience that can become advocates for your brand and generate some amazing UGC for your marketing campaigns.

An element that can help entice visitors to enter their email addresses can be a great teaser for an event, telling them to sign up for updates on a conference. It would also help to notify visitors exactly what they’ll be receiving when they enter their email addresses, so that your company has complete transparency.

Reiterating what was said earlier about providing a great message with your CTA, don’t be afraid to add that the sign up process will be free and quick and that signing up will be hassle free and offer benefits. Also, by putting the entire sign-up process on one page, you are transparent with visitors and it makes the sign up process easier.

8) Calls-To-Action With Primary and Secondary Options

Air_BnB

Sometimes you may have two or three competing actions you’d like visitors to do, such as sign up using their email AND download your white paper.

You can certainly have more than one CTA on a page, but you have to decide which one is most important. Make that one stand out with a more prominent placement, different color and a bigger size so that visitors can differentiate between the two.

You can turn the primary CTA into a button and just make the secondary one a hyperlink to make the primary CTA stand out.

9) Calls-To-Action Facilitating Segmentation

Royal Mail CTA audience-segmentation

When you’re creating CTAs you should be thinking about the people you want clicking on them. Who are your buyer personas and what can you do to make each CTA more targeted to these audiences?

Easy! Let your community identify their own sub-personas by offering them CTAs that facilitate segmentation such as placing two CTAs on the same page but for two different groups (ie. For Students/For Teachers).

You can use bullet points to distinguish between the CTAs as well as images that convey distinct messages on what each segment identifies as.

10) Calls-To-Action That Make Good Use of Video

Capital One Venture landing page

Videos are a great format for educating visitors on certain concepts, a new product or what your company is all about and they also have the power to convey strong emotions that can prompt visitors to take action. They can be a great addition to a CTA or the video itself can BE a CTA.

You can add text encouraging people to watch the video and invite visitors to simply press ‘Play’ as a CTA.

11) Calls-To-Action With Unorthodox Shapes

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Trying out fun shapes such as stars or ovals to outline your CTA with might increase the likelihood of a visitor clicking on it because it looks so different from anything else on the page. Don’t be afraid to experiment with shapes that are asymmetrical or rare.
Using unconventional shapes lets you stand out from the competition that are all using traditional shapes for their CTAs. Ribbons can also catch peoples’ attention because they convey exclusivity. Placing your CTA on the image of a Post-It Note also creates a sense of productivity and puts you in a mindset to take tasks off your list.

12) Calls-To-Action That Reduce Visitors’ Anxiety

Revenizer CTA

Sometimes even though your community may be motivated enough to download your resources, you need to do some extra work to assure them that their time and energy is well-spent with you. By guaranteeing that their information and privacy is safe, you can build a much more effective and loyal relationship with visitors.

Place a note near the CTA notifying them that they don’t need to give you their credit card and put a disclaimer that states you won’t give their email addresses to anyone without prior permission. Putting in extra time and effort to calm visitors’ anxiety could bring you more leads in the long run.

Stay tuned for more marketing tips!

Turn Dedicated Fan Content Into Sales for Your Company in 4 Easy Steps

With the rise of cool techniques on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Vine, consumers are consistently finding new ways to create, share and consume more content on a daily basis.

Consumer-created content isn’t just popular, it also has the power to influence other consumers.
How many times have you watched a how-to video posted to YouTube by a fellow user to learn how to create a certain design in Photoshop? Or read a restaurant review on Urban Spoon from another patron that ultimately led you to decide to NOT eat there? Or, even just seen a friend’s beautiful travel photos on Facebook and wanted to travel to the destination yourself?

We’ve all made decisions about products we want to purchase, restaurants we want to experience and destinations we want to travel to, based on user-generated content (UGC).

But how influential is it really? Millennials report that user-generated content (UGC) is 20% more influential on their purchases than any other type of media.

And yet, many retailers still aren’t capitalizing on the popularity and influence of social content.

In 4 steps, I’m going to show you how to convert influential and authentic consumer content into sales for your company.

Step #1: How to Build a Library of User-Generated Content

#GEInspiredMe Pinterest UGC campaign

#GEInspiredMe Pinterest UGC campaign

You can capitalize on getting value from consumer content by using one of the most powerful tactics: building your own UGC marketing campaign.

Building your own UGC marketing campaign allows you to use this word-of-mouth strategy to automate the content collection process. You don’t have to reach out to individual consumers to request permission to reuse their content and it collates all of the valuable consumer feedback in one place.

So what are some easy ways to create a UGC campaign?

Start with a hashtag campaign. Make it easy for consumers to enter the campaign with a designated hashtag. The beauty of hashtags is that they’re a common feature across many platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Vine, which allows your fans to choose how and where they want to participate; allowing you to pull off a cross-platform campaign easily.

Branded hashtag campaigns can be powerful calls-to-action across all platforms, including TV, social and print.

Take, for example, the Canadian Olympic Committee’s marketing campaign for the 2014 Sochi Olympics. They wanted to ‘own’ winter and establish it as Canada’s identity and they did this by creating the #WeAreWinter campaign, the largest ad campaign ever for the COC.

With social media as the prominent platform, #WeAreWinter featured well-known Canadian Olympians (and their social profiles) talking about how winter is at the core of who Canadians are. Documentary-style videos on the re-designed Olympic.ca helped tell the stories of the lesser-known athletes and showcased the drive and determination of the medal hopefuls.

The end result? The hashtag #WeAreWinter was used over 500,000 times on Twitter in Canada, over a million times worldwide, and was trending worldwide on the final days of the Olympics.

Country_Living_Magazine

Country Living Magazine’s Pinterest Page

If Pinterest is one of your major platforms, consider running a contest on it. Take the Pinterest contest run by Country Living Magazine. They asked pinners to follow the Country Living Pinterest page, launch a new Pinterest board entitled “My Country Living Dream Bedroom,” and pin at least 10 items that represent their dream bedroom (5 of which needed to be pinned from CountryLiving.com), all tagged with #countryliving and #dreambedroom. To submit their entry, pinners were required to comment on the contest’s pin with a link to their pinboard.

Whether you’re holding a Pinterest contest or having fans enter into a cross-platform hashtag campaign, here are some tips to get a UGC marketing campaign on the go:

• Offer an incentive for fans to share & tag their content, whether it’s a prize or a chance to be featured on your home page.
• Promote the contest/campaign inside stores if you have a bricks & mortar presence.
• Put a CTA for the campaign on or inside product packaging
• Include a CTA in your e-newsletters
• Promote the campaign through all of your social channels & share the best fan entries

Step #2: Capturing Data from Campaign Participants

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Suave #RadiantWishes Sweepstakes

When you’re running a UGC campaign, it’s important that you remember to comply with legal guidelines by having your consumers agree to the terms and conditions.

After having fans send out a hashtag tweet to enter a contest, you can send them a custom response form thanking them for their entry and asking them to accept terms and conditions in order to claim the prize.

Sign up forms are also a great way to have fans grant permission to allow your company to use their content across multiple platforms. You can also use them to capture any consumer info you choose, from demographics to contact info and hobbies. Leverage the data you receive from sign up forms to better understand your consumer base, learn their preferences and to tailor future marketing campaigns accordingly.

Also, by enabling opt-ins for your email campaigns and allowing your consumers to receive updates about future promotions, you can now build an owned audience and create deeper connections with fans on your social platforms and through your website.

Step #3: Turn Your Website into a Social Hub

Burberry's UGC campaign for their famous trench coats

Burberry’s UGC campaign for their famous trench coats

When you create a cross-platform UGC marketing campaign, don’t forget to include your website. Save the best entries, photos & hashtagged images from your UGC campaigns and display them on a dedicated landing page on your site.

Displaying rich, engaging user-generated content on your website not only drives up web traffic but increases opportunities for users to share their own content, as well as content from other users that they enjoy.

Here are some tips on how to showcase UGC across multiple platforms:

• Create online displays via your website and social media platforms that promote holidays and seasonal offerings such as winter recipes or a summer product line
• If you have a bricks & mortar store, put up a prominent display in store with the site URL
• Ensure that you place reviews and comments on specific products on those product pages
• Pull quotes from your website and use them across the social platforms
• Run a Pinterest board with your favorite user submitted how-tos/styles/photos
• Run an email campaign with users wearing/using your products & drive traffic from the campaign to a branded landed page on your website full of UGC.

Step #4: Drive Sales & Measure the Results

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Don’t just display user-generated content, employ tactics to actively drive sales. Associate UGC with product-related content as much as possible across your website, email campaigns and social media platforms, providing a clear path to conversion.

Easy ways to do this include placing a link to the product page behind each photo, making it easier for users to click through and buy or link to pages that display products in seasonal collections or for certain occasions.
By including trackable links with each piece of content, you easily track visits, shares, views and ultimately sales. By measuring the results of each piece of content, you can make informed decisions about what content works and how you can include it in your overall strategy.

Stay tuned for more on content marketing, including a post on how to turn brand advocates into content creators for your company!

Top Social Media Engagement Lessons From JetBlue, Fab.com, Kirkland’s & Zappos

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After hearing a lot about crisis communications case studies via social media for companies such as HMV and Burger King, I started thinking that there must be other cases out there of how companies got into some social media pitfalls and then used these lessons to improve their companies.

These examples, I thought, could help the rest of us small businesses learn how to prevent, deal with and learn from PR disasters & crisis communications situations and come out the other side as better business people.

Without further ado, here are some examples from the likes of Jet Blue, Fab.com, Kirklands & Zappos that I found, that I hope will help you become more PR & crisis communications savvy on social media.

Leader in Managing Public Image: JetBlue

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In February 2007, JetBlue made the grave errors of not providing over 1000 customers with adequate information as they sat on the runway for over 8 hours at JFK due to a severe ice storm, frozen wheels & the inability to return to the gates due to a lack of availability. What made the situation even more frustrating from passengers was JetBlue’s inability to book alternate flights for many of the passengers due to the storm.

What JetBlue Did Next: Using Social Media to Mend Customer Relations

 JetBlue shocked everyone by issuing a heartfelt apology. Using both traditional channels and YouTube, JetBlue’s founder and then- CEO David Neeleman issued the apology, taking full responsibility for the mishap and expressing genu­ine regret. He then created the JetBlue Customer Bill of Rights with the promise to handle future issues exponentially better.

Turning another PR crisis into an opportunity

When JetBlue pilot Captain Osbon experienced a mental breakdown in April of 2012, JetBlue tweeted updates and created a live-blog, keeping customers in the loop and creating the sense that JetBlue and their custom­ers were in it together. As a result, JetBlue won first place in the consumer-decided Simpliflying Heroes, demonstrating the power of social media in turning potential disasters into PR wins.

The lesson: Use social media to respond quickly and accept responsibility for your failures

For JetBlue, by re­sponding quickly and providing customers with real-time, honest information, even major crises like Captain Osbon’s in-flight medical emergency provide the potential for positive customer relations.

To sum up: use social media to respond quickly and honestly, while also keeping track of how your customers respond. You can simultaneously retain existing customers, cause those customers to spend more, and gain new customers who see your brand effectively engaging in customer service.

Leader in Generating Revenue: Zappos

zappos

Using Social Evangelism to Drive Revenue

Zappos allows buyers to easily share their purchases across Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, with im­pressive results across social networks. For each ‘Share’, Zappos earns $33.66 on Twitter, $2.08 on Facebook, and $0.75 on Pinterest in incremental revenue. Facilitating the social endorsement doesn’t rely on Zappos’s social media presence but rather on the social media presence of their customers.

To top their social-friendly website, Zappos also leverages social media with custom sites like Pin­pointing, which utilizes Pinterest users’ posts to make shopping recommendations for them. This initiative, combined with encouraging and facilitat­ing social sharing, allows Zappos to generate both quantifiable ROI and more comprehensive ROF (Re­turn on Fan).

The lesson: Use customer endorsement to drive sales through social

While a strong social presence is essen­tial for overall success, what sets Zappos apart from other companies successful in social engagement is their ability to leverage consumers to sell products for them.

Leader in Leveraging Facebook to Increase Website Traffic: Fab.com

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Creating a website with social built-in

Fab.com has done everything from facilitating and incentivizing social endorsement to actually creating a live “newsfeed” on the site using Facebook Open Graph. This Newsfeed populates in real-time with user activity on Facebook, creating a constant influx of new user generated content and allowing users to browse and buy this socially shared content directly from Facebook or their website. Using these tactics, in just four months Fab was able to double its referral traffic from Facebook and ex­pand its membership from 1.8 to 3.2 million users.

The lesson: Incorporate social media into your website

Fab. com created a website entirely integrated with the social world and doubled its user base with a large percentage of high lifetime value customers. The more social value Fab creates – such as adding recommendations based on friend’s purchases in the live stream – the more users will purchase their products and share with their social graphs.

Leader in Generating Leads: Kirkland’s

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Kirkland’s spent 2011 growing their social media following with a focus on Facebook: they now have over 580k Facebook ‘Likes’. Upon reaching their de­sired audience size and seeing higher traffic to and increased social spending on their site, the company shifted their attention to cultivating their following by creating valuable content.

Embracing social commerce: Kirkland’s Dream Room Giveaway sweepstakes

Kirkland’s used the sweepstake entry-for-email transactional method to create great value for both fans and the company. Fans entered their basic in­formation without ever leaving their Facebook page, combining Discovery (newsfeed), Interaction (pro­motion), and Transaction (entry-for-email). Using this value-creation tactic, Kirkland’s was able to gather 16,400 fan emails, 2,269 of which were new to their database.

$0.66/new qualified email address and other quantifiable benefits

The Kirkland’s Dream Room Giveaway led to over 2,000 qualified (qualifying a lead was based on the average spending for each email obtained through Facebook) new emails obtained at an average price of $0.66. More than just lead generation, the Dream Home Giveaway campaign offered returns not directly linked to monetary gains, with an increase of 40% in new Facebook ‘Likes’ and 47% more people ‘Talk­ing about’ Kirkland’s for the month of August.

The lesson: “Free” offers in social can drive ROI with the right exchange of information

The value of social media amounts to far more than driving direct sales and managing customer re­lations. By creating a free offer in exchange for an email address, Kirkland’s was able to cheaply drive qualified leads, filling the sales pipeline and driving revenue further down the line.

With every single one of these case studies, you can learn not only how and what to do regarding PR & crisis communications scenarios, but also how to better leverage social media to increase web traffic, generate leads and revenue without having to resort to using promotions such as contests just to drive engagement and conversation. You can use them as a means of nurturing leads as well.

What’s your favourite case study that’s taught you something new about utilizing social media?

For more on social media tools and the importance of leveraging platforms to create effective campaigns, check out my post on Tips on How to Leverage Social Media to Effectively Promote Events.

-Lilian

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Insights From the Top Marketers in Social Media

social-media

For this post, I decided I’d do something a little different. Since I’m always looking for new insights, tips and guides for new tools in marketing, in a continual bid to educate myself on what’s new in marketing and social media; why not look for actual advice?

After doing some research, I came across a great e-book, filled with insights from some of the industry’s top marketing experts. From ideas on how to effectively engage your audience to advice on how to properly measure how successful a campaign was, this e-book has it all.

Without further ado, here are some of the best marketing insights that resonated with me.

 

The Rules of Engagement

“More is not necessarily better. Post things that are relevant, useful and thoughtful, rather than just lots of posts”- Paul Odnoletkov @Geosoft Global Marketing Associate, Geosoft, Inc.

“When someone posts on a social channel, you need to try and immediately respond. Don’t fall victim to poor “listening.”- David George @SystemSensor Director, Marketing Communications, Honeywell

“Try not to post too much company centric news–you will almost always be bragging too much. We learned to post more relevant industry and analyst news to balance out our promotions.”-Lauren Twele @Symplified Online Marketing Manager, Symplified

 

Measure and Iterate

“Integrate your social media tactics into a tool that tracks your outreach, so you can see what works and what doesn’t”-Marchell Gillis @MarchellGillis

“Always test to see what works in paid advertising. And then constantly re-assess based on your findings.-Jill Petre @jillpetre Marketing Coordinator, SendGrid

 

Ideas to Generate Social Lift

“For everyone who follows us on Twitter, we give them access to a piece of content.”- Katherine Fawcett @buildingengines Marketing Associate, Building Engine

“Friday freebies! We do a small giveaway every week. We get product feedback, use cases, and product development information. We also get a “soft” lead for sales to follow up on.”- Brandi Brown @brandiheinz Social Media and eCommerce Manager, ETA Hand2Mind

“While running contests and collecting email addresses, make sure to send periodic lead nurture updates throughout the contest so the entrants stay familiar with your brand.”-Nicole Aguilar @COOPTHINK

 

Social Marketing Words of Wisdom

 “If you don’t do it, you don’t make mistakes!”-Emily Hossellman @ehossellman Marketing Goddess, Centercode

“Don’t commit and then stop. You need to maintain and build.”- Steve Susina @ssusina, Director or Demand Generation, Crain Business Insurance

“Don’t abandon traditional tools–bake social into every existing app!”- Craig Probus @RevCultCraig Practice manager, RevCult

 

Content Is King

“Make sure you are always on top of content generation and thinking about the next post/engagement.”- Simon Poulton @SPoulton Marketing Analyst, LaserFiche

“People love video! Visual content is key on social channels. And remember not to censor comments.”-Nimmy Reichenberg @AlgoSec VP of Marketing, Algosec Interactive Marketing Manager, Co-op Financial

 

Social Is a Group Effort

“We have learned that in social media marketing we have to both guide our customers and teach them how to share our content.”-Sarah Sullivan @Sarah_Sull Social Media Intern, Healthcaresource

“Our social strategy relies on influencers and industry leaders. We provide content that is full of data and analytics. This works as a preview to our larger reports.”- Eugene Ko @PhoCusWright Manager, Digital Marketing, PhocusWright

 

What are some of the best pieces of advice related to marketing and social media that you’ve received?

For more marketing tips & social media tools, check out my post on the Top 4 Tips for Blogger Outreach

 

-Lilian

 

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