19 09, 2019

Higher Ed Recruitment 101

By | 2019-09-18T09:41:55+00:00 September 19th, 2019|Categories: Digital Marketing, Higher Education, SEO, Social Media|Tags: , , |

Ah, September… for those of us tired of sweating through the sweltering summer heat, this month offers a welcomed respite. It’s not quite sweater weather in much of the continental U.S., but, it’s certainly getting easier to keep your shirt perspiration-free… save for those Saturday tailgates, of course.

Designed by rawpixel.com / Freepik

For higher ed marketers, with the latest freshman class securely on campus, September brings a focus on recruiting the next set of prospective students. A new start is always nice. But, for those of you who feel that the task of recruiting is getting harder each year – you’re not imagining things.

According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, enrollment at American colleges and universities has declined for the eighth year in a row. This past spring saw 300,000 – or, 1.7% – less new students on U.S. campuses than the year before. The losses were even more steep the previous year.

Clearly, the competition – driven by a diminishing pool of prospects – is getting more intense. How successfully your school responds to the downshift in demand for higher education will undoubtedly influence the long-term health of your institution.

So, how can you stem the receding enrollment tide? Today, more than ever, you have to stay in front of your prospective students as much as possible in order to remain relevant throughout their decision-making process. Not only that, you have to foster positive personal connections through memorable and fun experiences.

It’s a buyer’s market out there. And, you’ve got to act like it if you are to keep your enrollment numbers up. The best way to do that is with great content marketing execution and imaginative, out-of-the-box recruiting events.

Effective Higher Ed Content Marketing

Not only are enrollment trends changing, students are changing, too. Our previous post described some of the different ways that the current generation of students – Generation Z – interacts with various forms of media. One of the most important takeaways from the piece is the need to be active across the social media landscape (not just one or two platforms) – because that’s how teens today find, and are exposed to, information.

Let’s extend that principle a bit further. Not only is a proactive content game a must, it has to be at peak form for all four quarters (pardon all the football references). What does that mean?

It means that you’ve got to be there from the start of your targets’ school selection process to the very end. You have to be there to answer questions (simple and complex), allay the myriad concerns that high schools students harbor and communicate compelling reasons why your school is the best for their specific interests. All this will help create a lasting connection between your school brand and your audience.

If your content consistently shows up when prospective students are looking into their school options or researching the college experience, you’ll stand a much better chance of winning their confidence, trust and, ultimately, a completed application.

If you’re a frequent reader of this blog, you might have noticed a number of posts this summer describing the various aspects of content creation and management. They’re a great start to formulating your content marketing plan.

Great Content Should Lead to Great Recruiting Events 

A detailed, well-researched and tailored content marketing plan is a must. But, you can’t rely on just content to close the deal. A personal connection is often needed to reinforce the positive attitude you’ve hopefully fostered via your content outreach. That connection is easier to make when you’re able to get your prospective students on campus for some face-to-face interactions.

Content will get them there, showing them value and a good time will get them to enroll. But, remember, your target audience’s expectations are pretty high. So, you’ll need to pull some new tricks out of the bag in order to impress.

Here are a few recruiting event ideas to help:

Unique Campus Tours

I can hear it now… “A campus tour is pretty much standard.” And, of course, you’re right. But that doesn’t mean that your school’s campus tour should be just like every other school’s. Hence, the emphasis on “unique.”

There are lots of ways to make strolling through a campus fun. For one, you can forgo strolling and replace it with a cooler mode of transportation. An electric scooter or a hover board tour sounds like a lot more fun than walking.

And, you don’t always have to go high-tech or futuristic. Sometimes legacy tech, like horses, can create novel experiences. If your campus can easily accommodate it, a horseback tour of your college or university might be THE highlight of a campus visit.

Additional ideas: bikes, golf carts, roller skates.

Take Advantage of the Surrounding Community

If there’s cool stuff going on around your campus, get in on it. Parades, fairs, street/block parties, concerts, barbecue competitions… find out what’s happening on the local scene and take your prospects there. Showing them a bit of the off-campus community will make them feel more familiar with the area and give them confidence that they’ll be able to traverse their new surroundings.

Shadow a Student Ambassador

You can tell them all about your campus. Or, you can help your prospective students experience a day in the life of an enrolled student. Recruit a few freshmen or sophomores who live on-campus, pair them with visiting students and let them hang out together for 24 hours.

This would require some matching work – pairing students from the same high school or town, for example. And, it’d be best if the prospect could experience the classroom portion of the campus experience.

Sporting Events 

College sporting events are like nothing else. There’s no way to not feel school spirit when you’re in the midst of the student section during a football or basketball game. You can bet it’s an experience your prospective student won’t soon forget.

Just keep in mind, whether it’s horseback rides or hoopin’, the goal isn’t the novelty – it’s to foster a real connection between your prospective students and your campus community.

Beacon Knows Higher Ed Content

Is your content marketing plan driving the results you need? If you’re not sure, Beacon’s content strategists can help. Request a complimentary website audit today.

5 09, 2019

Changing the Game for Gen Z in the Age of Tech

By | 2019-09-10T07:59:38+00:00 September 5th, 2019|Categories: Digital Marketing, Higher Education, Social Media|Tags: , , |

As your flagship marketing instrument, one of the primary roles of your higher ed website is to attract applicants to your school. How well it’s able to do so depends on how appealing your site is to your target audience – high school juniors and seniors.

In order to draw in qualified prospects, you have to first understand your audience – or, at least their online behaviors. Today’s high school students are part of a generation that grew up using the internet from a very young age. Their relationship to technology can be completely different from older groups.

This cohort – sometimes referred to as Generation Z, or Gen Z – is similar to the Millennial generation. But, whereas Millennials came of age just as internet culture began hitting its stride, Gen Zers have never experienced a world without smart devices or social media.

That difference, while seemingly negligible, does create an entirely distinct persona. So, what separates Gen Zers from Millennials and other generations? A report from Vision Critical, a Canadian market research firm, sheds some light on a few Gen Z traits.

Here are a few insightful tidbits on Generation Z to ponder:

  • They prefer their smartphones to any other device and consume the least amount of TV content compared with other generations
  • They appreciate creative and edgy content and don’t always respond well to traditional marketing
  • They like videos
  • They’re extremely tech-savvy
  • They identify as DIYers, activists and agents of change

What does this information say about your primary audience?

For starters, that marketing campaigns targeting Gen Z have to be not only mobile-friendly, but mobile-first. That you’ll need to be active on several social media platforms, and it’d help if you promote an altruistic message. And, finally, that you should prioritize video content.

Let’s talk about how to apply these insights to your higher ed site.

Lean Into Edgy via Social Media and Blogs

You have to meet your audience where they are – that’s the golden rule of marketing. That means you have to get comfortable with all those social media platforms, especially ones that feature video content. More than comfortable, you’ll need to be fluent in social media-speak.

Embrace the Meme Culture

Memes correspond to the Gen Z preference for creativity, comic relief and edginess. They’ve also evolved into a powerful cultural force. Whatever it is you’re selling – whether a college education or a toothbrush – if you attach a topic-appropriate meme to your product, you’ll increase the odds of your marketing campaign going viral. (Just think of Cheryl’s She Shed in that State Farm commercial.)

But meme culture doesn’t just extend to posts on social media – it’s really more of a mindset. As such, it can be extended to other marketing channels, including blogs.

The low hanging fruit here is including or creating a suitable meme in a blog post. This would also add a critical visual element.

Be Everywhere…

… on social media. Gen Zers have their favorite platforms – YouTube, Facebook, Instagram – and they’re active across numerous social media sites, especially ones featuring video content. If they’re there, that means you’ve got to be there, too. And, you’ve got to be there with content that’s fresh, cool, funny and shareable. So, go ahead and start practicing producing those short-form videos.

Be Responsive

One thing many higher ed marketers forget is that social media platforms are two-way communication channels. Posting your curated content is just one half of the equation here.

If you’re going to spend time and energy beefing up your social media game, you’ve got to play it right. That means engaging with the users who comment on your posts. Don’t, don’t, DON’T forget this vital aspect of your social media efforts.

Bells and Whistles for Your Website

It should go without saying that all your social media efforts should lead back to your blog or website. But, when they get there, will your prospects stick around long enough to be compelled into setting up a campus visit or starting an application?

You can increase your conversion odds by including elements that resonate with Gen Zers.

Video Content

If they like video, give ’em video. Instead of a static image in your impact area, load it up with two or three short, action-packed videos that introduce your school in a visually compelling way. Maybe do that for all the important landing pages even.

Don’t stop there. Figuring out what student life is actually like on campus is notoriously difficult for prospective students. But, guess what? Getting a feel for a school is easier when you can see actual students doing real things on campus.

Make videos for all your on-campus housing options and be sure to feature real students. Create a bank of student testimonials to rotate on your Admissions pages. Better yet, harness your own students’ love of sharing by soliciting and posting their videos of campus events.

Make Social Visible

Since you’re going to be working crazy hard on all those social media platforms, be sure that all those awesome posts – and, more importantly, user comments – are highly visible on your website.

It’s not enough to just put up logos of the social media platforms where you have an active account. Incorporate a social media feed into as many of your pages as possible.

One way to signal your social media savvy is by including a social media panel on your homepage.

Personalization

We’ve covered the benefits of personalization in a previous post. One of the biggest benefits of personalized content is that it makes the user feel like you’ve created an experience just for them.

That’s an extremely powerful feeling, and something that Gen Zers are sure to appreciate. A personalized experience is sure to win some brownie points.

Virtual Tours

You can’t always get your prospects on campus for an in-person visit. But you can still make sure that every visitor “walks” the grounds and sees the best of what your school has to offer. This can be accomplished with a virtual tour that features real videos of various locations on your campus.

Just be sure to not skimp on this virtual experience. Gen Zers will absolutely ding you for bad execution.

Beacon Knows Higher Ed

Want to know if your website is meeting the needs of your future students? Beacon can help. Request a complimentary website audit by our digital marketing experts.

7 08, 2019

Getting Your Freshman Class On Campus

By | 2019-08-08T07:05:15+00:00 August 7th, 2019|Categories: Digital Marketing, Higher Education, Web Development, Social Media|Tags: , , |

From a student’s perspective, picking the right college is getting more and more complicated. It might seem contradictory at a time when applying to schools is easier than ever. But, that reality is backed up by data.

A 2017 study noted that 35% of college freshmen apply to seven or more schools. That percentage more than doubled from just a decade ago. With more students applying to more schools in recent years, getting your freshman class on campus is becoming increasingly harder.

Today, college admissions officials can reasonably expect only 1 in 3 admitted applicants to actually enroll at their school. At the start of the century, that ratio was closer to 1 in 2. For higher ed marketers, who do so much to attract qualified applicants, it can be deflating watching their hard work walk out the proverbial door.

But, you can’t blame the students. Major life decisions are hard. Evaluating more options is just a smart way to make prudent choices.

What you can do is accept that the landscape has changed. Today, you might need to do a little, or a lot, more hand-holding to get your students into your classrooms.

How best to cut through the noise and make yourself be heard?

An integrated marketing campaign can be one of the better ways to maintain contact with your prospects between decision day and move-in day.

What is Integrated Marketing?

This is one of those terms that sounds more intimidating than it really is. Integrated marketing describes multi-channel campaigns aimed at specific audiences or the general public at large.

This isn’t a new concept. It’s just that, with the proliferation of new media – various social media platforms, YouTube, blogs, podcasts, etc – integrated marketing has gotten a bit more complicated and a degree more intense.

Before the rise of the internet, marketers just had to worry about matching content between print, TV and, maybe, radio. Today the media landscape is more complex, requiring more advanced tactics and strategies.

At it’s core, however, the concept is the same: reach audiences everywhere they are with a consistent, tailored message.

Why Integrated Marketing Works for Higher Ed 

Your target audience is a multi-tasking, online-savvy, info-hungry, anxious teenager. If you harbor hopes of capturing her attention, you need to keep a consistent brand presentation and message across multiple media channels.

More than that, you need to be there with pertinent content when she’s searching for answers or trying to quell her concerns. There are lots of questions and uncertainties that rising college freshmen have. If you can show her that, 1) you understand her concerns, and 2) have the answers she’s looking for, you’ll gain trust.

That trust is a big advantage when decision-making time arrives – whenever that is.

How to Get Students On Campus with Integrated Marketing

Let’s see how integrated marketing campaigns can help boost that admitted-to-enrolled ratio. Again, you’ll need a coordinated strategy encompassing your primary marketing channels (website, search, email) as well as the media platforms your target audience is known to use (social media, blogs, videos).

We’ll use a specific scenario to demonstrate how an integrated marketing campaign can work:

Emma has been accepted to your school, along with a few of your peer institutions. She’s undecided, but your school ranks in her top three. Emma is interested in studying natural sciences, and your school has top-tier Biology and Chemistry programs. She’s also on the shy side and worries about making friends and finding a comfort zone.

You can use the below channels to maintain contact with Emma and increase the odds of her picking your school.

Blog

Blogs are an excellent way of creating content for niche topics and categories. What topics might resonate with Emma?

A post from a chemistry major about a cool summer internship could entice a click. As could a student review of the chemistry department highlighting favorite faculty members and classes. Write-up of cutting-edge research by a faculty member may also stir interest.

Emma may also appreciate learning about your school’s on-campus environment. Posts describing a rich student life, including clubs and other student organizations, could paint a nice picture and allay her concern about finding groups to fit in with.

A post describing the challenges of being new to the campus and providing  suggestions for best ways to explore the school’s surroundings is also likely to hit home for Emma.

Social Media

Those blog ideas are all good and well. But, how will Emma find them?

This goes back to the importance of being where your target audience hangs out. And teenagers tend to spend a lot of time with social media.

Creating social media posts that link to your blog content is a no-brainer way to get in front of your prospective students. Just make sure the tone matches the content of the blog post.

Success here is having Emma click to follow your account, which would allow you to drip more content into her feed.

Paid Search Remarketing

So, let’s say Emma spotted one of your posts on Instagram and clicked on the accompanying blog on what to expect on campus. A good next step would be to remind her about important dates (housing registration, freshman orientation, class registration, etc).

This can be accomplished with PPC remarketing ad campaigns, which would be initiated by Emma’s view of the blog and include calls-to-action geared to registration.

Email Marketing

Another way to get your blog and other content in front of Emma is through email. The open-rate for email marketing campaigns tend to be low. Nonetheless, you’ll (hopefully) be sending important information through this channel in the future. So, it makes sense to initiate and keep contact via email.

If Emma does end up choosing your school, you can apply email campaigns to prompt her to register for orientation, classes, etc.

Texting

Another thing that teens do a lot? They text – those speedy little thumbs moving faster than the eye can see.

Text messages are another great way to remind Emma about important registration dates.

Website

All of your efforts in the above marketing channels should lead Emma back to your website. After all, that’s where conversions happen – all those registrations you hope Emma will complete.

Beacon Knows Higher Ed Websites

Want to make sure your website is ready to handle all that traffic from your integrated marketing campaigns? Beacon can help. Request a complimentary website audit from our team of experts.

19 11, 2015

How to Craft a Social Media Content Strategy

By | 2016-11-18T12:09:54+00:00 November 19th, 2015|Categories: Social Media|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

 

It is true that social media can be beneficial to a business, but it can also cause a migraine at the same time. If not implemented properly it can damage your business’ reputation or become a waste of time. Here are some important steps to keep in mind when developing a social media content strategy. This will help keep your content relevant and work to amplify your postings. Some steps to include are brainstorming, research, and determining which platforms to use.

Brainstorming 

First, let’s start off with brainstorming potential content ideas. These will help build shareable content. In this stage it is important to think broadly about your industry. It is necessary to think about how you can branch out to reach a wider audience. It is a good idea to not have a narrow view of your business when brainstorming content topics at first. Once you build out a variety of topics and ideas you can always go back and decide what fits your brand image. Try to think of all the components that work together to make up your business. For example, let’s say I own a skateboard shop. I might produce content about skateboard maintenance or the benefits of skateboarding. This tactic will help you build a diverse social media content strategy.

Here is a visual representation of my thought process when brainstorming content:

Content Map

 

Research 

Once you have spent time brainstorming, then it’s time to move on to the next phase, research. We want to learn what types of content are performing well in our industry.

In continuing on with our skateboarding example, let’s say I am done brainstorming. Now I have some topics I want to build out content around. It’s time to dive into some content research so I have a better idea of what performs well. This will vary by industry and whether you’re a B2B or B2C business.

When conducting my research, I use several tools to learn what is performing well. For this, I am going to start with a neat and free tool called Epicbeat, which I think is an appropriate name for a social media tool. Epicbeat will help you discover popular content, influencers, and industry insights.

First, I want to enter in the term I will be researching.

Social Media Content StrategyThen, I am directed to a dashboard that gives a quick view of several key factors. These factors will help me find content to re-share and give me greater insight into what I need to create.

Social Media Research Which Platforms? 

The few things I want to get insight into are which platforms are popular and what types of content perform best. Then, I want to know when I should be posting to my platforms.

Social Media Content ResearchRight away I see that Facebook is the most popular channel followed by Vine and Instagram. I also get some other metrics such as average shares per post and a few other engagement metrics which is great. This tells me the type of engagement I can expect from each social platform. I also want to look for what type of content is most popular within this industry.

Now from my research, I know I should focus on Facebook and maybe Instagram as well. This will help get my social media content strategy off to a great start. After reviewing the engagement metrics, I know where I need to be to have an impact. Keep in mind, it is important to start a social media campaign small and scale up. In most cases, it is better to have one or two social profiles than five that you rarely engage with users on.

Content ResearchEpicBeat is nice enough to give me the distribution by content type for skateboarding. This gives me a better idea of the types of content to either begin producing or re-sharing. Right away I see that ‘how’ articles are trending with Listicles, and Interviews trailing. If I skipped this step and ran giveaways and produced guides, I would have missed a lot of engagement. This is why research is so crucial so you are not fumbling around in the dark.

I’m at a great starting point now I have my topics I want to build content around. I also have a better idea of which social platforms my target audience are active on. Now I have a better understanding of the content types I will begin curating. I even have an idea of what I can re-share to my platforms to further encourage engagement too.

Tools make research easier, but you should still browse followers to gain more insight. Look for what they are sharing and engaging with, and news they consider important. This will help you plan your social media content strategy in an effective manner. As an added bonus, I like to use Klout to spot trending content pieces and re-share them with my followers. Only use this platform once you have taken the time to research your industry and build out topics. This can be a great way to find relevant news about your industry.

Klout Content ResearchKlout shows content to reflect the best trending pieces related to your industry. Klout also includes a search function as well so you can do further research. This allows me to take topics I built out earlier and search for trending articles. Another feature like EpicBeat is the ability to find influencers within your niche. You can even research influencers within your industry and see content they engage with.

Klout Content Research Once inside the platform, there is no need to go back and forth between Hootsuite to schedule a post. You can schedule all your content within the platform as well and save some time. Remember, research is the cornerstone of a successful social media content strategy. Taking the time to brainstorm will lead to unique ideas that may not have developed otherwise.

As a side note, you can have a great social media content strategy but without goals you can get off track. Setting goals that impact your business is important when starting a social media campaign.

By brainstorming, researching, and evaluating platforms, you can start an effective social media campaign.

Happy sharing!

21 10, 2015

How to Get Started with Social Media and Win Followers

By | 2018-09-14T15:19:46+00:00 October 21st, 2015|Categories: Social Media|Tags: |

How to Get Started with Social Media and Win Followers 

Social Media can be a valuable tool to connect with customers and develop brand awareness along with relationships. Unfortunately, it can at times be a difficult and daunting task that can very easily become overwhelming. Thanks to the ever-growing list of social media platforms, it can be hard to know where to begin your social media campaign. Fortunately, Beacon has you covered with some social media best practices to help you get the most out of your campaigns. To begin a campaign, it is important to start by investing the time to do research into your target market, consistently sharing content, leveraging technology to amplify your content, and setting specific and measurable goals. This way you can be sure to get your social campaign started off on the right foot.

Research is important for your social campaign for a number of reasons.

First, it’s important to know what types of content people are sharing and engaging with within your industry. A good start is to analyze your competitors’ social platforms and see what’s working for them along with what platforms they are active on.

Social Media Platforms

*Courtesy of member clicks

In addition to understanding what social media platforms your competition are active on, it’s important to know what types of content perform well for your industry. A good tool for this is can be found at Buzz sumo.. This tool will allow you to search based on topics or by specific domains to see what types of content perform well and what is being shared. You can also easily share content from this platform directly to your social media accounts.

Social Media Content

Second, once you know which platforms your target audience are active on, it’s time to do some hashtag research so you can amplify your content and posts. No, I’m not talking #about #spamming #posts with #hashtags but using them cautiously to boost your reach on social media. Some social media best practices when it comes to hashtags is to keep it relevant and never spam them. Also, Hashtagify.me has a good tool that suggests relevant hashtags based on the topic you type in their search box. This is a great starting point if you are drawing a blank.

Once you identify potential #hashtags you are interested in using, now you need to understand what sort of reach and impact they will have when trying to amplify your content. You can take the #hashtags that hashtagify.me recommends and put them in Google Trends. Google trends will show you the interest of these topics over time and it should give you a rough estimate of the impact these hashtags can have on amplifying your content.

Google TrendsConsistency is key when stepping into the social media realm.

It is important when deciding to start a social media campaign to keep a consistent brand image across all platforms. Each social media platform you use for your business will have a different layout but make sure items such as your profile image and company bio are consistent. A good point of reference is to design your social media profiles to reflect your company’s website where appropriate. It can get confusing and disorient your audience if your social media profiles are a mashup of random conflicting social bios with pixelated distorted profile images.

The next step in being consistent is regularly developing content and a content schedule. This way your business or company’s social media profile will not fall into the abyss and be forgotten. Mapping out a content schedule has several social media benefits:

Mapping out Time Sensitive Content– Your social media content schedule will anticipate company events, holidays, birthdays, contests and will allow you to be creative with regards to how you develop and curate the content. This will also reduce stress while keeping your engagement rates up.

Involve Others– Scheduling content in advance allows other members of your team to become involved in the content curation as opposed to just one person.

Enforce the 80-10-10 rule– The majority of content you create should be informative (think 80%), interesting and relevant to your audience. 15-10% of your content should be re-tweets, or sharing content curated by other people, that your audience would find interesting. Roughly 10%-5% or so should be about promoting specific products or services your business offers. Remember that your social media platforms are not for actively making sales. The goal is to build relationships first and provide relevant engaging content. If you selfishly promote too much and neglect to share content from others, this can lead to potential customers unfollowing you on your social platforms. For some great tips on how to use social media for small business be sure to read “I Tweet, But No One Buys“.

A wonderful tool to help with consistency and take away some stress associated with social media is Hootsuite. Thankfully, it is free for the first few accounts and lets you schedule all your social media posts out for several weeks or months in advance. You can sync most of your social media accounts all under one roof. Hootsuite also allows you to monitor what others are saying about your brand and provides opportunities to engage with your audience.

HootsuiteFinally, it is important to create an overall objective, specific goals, and set key performance indicators.

This will help you track your success with your social media campaign and make adjustments as necessary along the way. Your overall objective should be qualitative, ambitious and certainly achievable through social media. An example can be “We strive to be the authority on social for *lawn care services*.” Moving forward, we need to set some goals to accomplish our objective. Some examples of strategic social goals to take into consideration are increasing reach, increasing website conversions, increasing retention, establishing credibility within our niche, and increasing web visibility.

These are good starting points, but it is important to dig a little deeper and discover what would positively impact your business and is it possible to accomplish through social media. Some sample goals can include:

Building and fostering a social community– Growing a strong social media following is essential to any successful social campaign, without a community you have nothing. This can be accomplished by sharing relevant and anticipated content with your followers and encouraging engagement across platforms.

Drive conversions with social media– A great reason for using social media marketing is to ultimately assist with conversion efforts. It is not so useful for engaging in selling, but it is best suited to assist customers through your sales funnel.

Build brand awareness– Possibly the most important goal of any social media campaign is to increase awareness of your brand and get consumers talking about your company. Fortunately, it is easy to track, measure and follow up with what people are saying about your brand while making adjustments as you go.

Then moving forward, establish certain key performance indicators or (KPI’s) that you can use to keep you on track with your overall objective. If you are not actively measuring your efforts on social media, it becomes hard to know what sort of impact it is having on your business. This may have your boss and managers wondering if social media is a waste of time. Some sample performance indicators you can use to measure the impact of your campaign can be:

Reach  

This can easily be measured by how many followers your accounts have accumulated. These are the people who are being exposed to your posts and brand. While it is great to gain a large following and have a large community throughout your social media platforms it is important to consider the demographics of your followers as well and if they are part of your target market. More followers doesn’t always = equal success in social media.

Engagement 

Sure, accumulating fans, followers, and a community is wonderful but if they are not actively engaging with your content then you have a problem. Here are some metrics to track and analyze when running a social campaign. For a more in depth look be sure to read a previous blog that goes more into more detail with measuring important social media metrics.

Likes & Favorite’s are the very first level of engagement when it comes to social media. While this is a positive engagement metric it is a very low metric and does not usually mean a person has read through your post or visited your site as a result. However, they are a good indication of a campaign slowly gaining traction.

Shares & Retweet’s allow your social posts to be amplified and reach a larger audience quickly. This is also an excellent indication of what types of content and posts your audience are interested in seeing. You can track shares and retweets and work with your team to curate more content that has a better opportunity of gaining greater traction within your audience.

Remember, when building social media campaigns, research your potential target market, leverage technology, then set ambitious and achievable goals that are measurable.

24 08, 2015

A Man Wrote Content To Get Clicks…What Google Did Next Will Blow Your Mind

By | 2017-08-08T08:33:00+00:00 August 24th, 2015|Categories: Social Media|Tags: , , , , , |

jordan-blog-click-bait

I’m sure by now most of you have seen, clicked, heard about and even hidden clickbait articles from your social feeds, emails and search results. The prevalence of articles that use emotion, sex, animals, quizzes and worst of all, tragedy, to get clicks has prompted search engines and social networks to crack down and even penalize these content providers.

Find Out Which Historical Figure You Are…

Copywriters have been using catchy headlines or intriguing headline copy to draw in audiences from as early as the 19th century. Not coined ‘click-bait’ in the 1800s, newspapers and editors utilized what was called ‘yellow journalism’ to bait readers into buying papers and increasing circulation. Early clickbait came in the form of cartoons featuring the ‘Yellow Kid’ by Joseph Pulitzer’s, New York World, which was winning the read-bait battle against rival owner, William Randolph Hearst’s New York Journal.  What is shocking is that these tycoons are remembered today as pioneers and visionaries for taking part in what was back then, yellow journalism. More recent examples include Vinnie Musetto, a former editor at the New York Post who wrote the famous headline “Headless Body In Topless Bar.” He is affectionately called the godfather of click-bait as old New York Post front pages resembled very closely today’s Buzzfeed or UpWorthy, with catchy and cheeky headlines stacked one on top of another. 

What is scarier still, is that in half a century we may look back in the history books at the creators of UpWorthy or Buzzfeed with admiration and as pioneers in the field of online journalism. Imagine journalism students learning the basic s by using the ‘Distractify Principle’ or the ‘Viralnova Theory’ in future classrooms where the Internet has swelled to an-ever bloated capacity that the need to go viral outweighs the need for truth in journalism. All this to say that clickbait is nothing new, but more annoying and distracting as ever when more and more people use social media and news-aggregator sites to stay informed.

Why Does ClickBait Work? You Gotta See This!

The Oxford English Dictionary defines clickbait: “content whose main purpose is to attract attention and encourage visitors to click on a link to a particular web page.” That definition doesn’t seem harmful or convey the emotion most people experience when they see these headlines. Most of us feel guilty within a fraction of a second of clicking one of these articles in our Facebook feed. We get this dirty feeling that we fell prey to some trap that a caveman should instinctively know to avoid. So why do we keep doing it? Why do we click an article to find out which Disney character defines us based on 10 meaningless questions? Why do we go down a YouTube rabbit hole to watch bloopers for every season of every television program on CBS? Why do I read wiki articles and forum articles on Lord of the Rings (nerd flag rising…) until 1:00 a.m. in the morning so I can better understand the difference between the Vanyar, Noldor and Teleri elves? As my wife would say, “Not to get a girlfriend.”

The reason we all fall prey to suggested YouTube clips, Facebook articles shared by your aunt or quizzes that your annoying co-worker sends you are because of something called the ‘curiosity gap.’ The curiosity gap is the principle that articles, headlines or thumbnails show just enough information to get you interested in taking action, but not enough information to help you fully understand what the piece is about. This is why YouTube creators use thumbnails of attractive women that don’t even make a cameo in the video you just clicked. This is the reason you click on an article to find out “Why You Should Never Shop At Grocery Stores Again” or “These 8 Celebrities Had WHAT Job Before They Got Famous?” instead of spending time with your child who is next to you reading “10 Time Justin Bieber Proved He’s The Real Prince Charming.” The curiosity gap helps to show us how we all are becoming compulsive clickers, clicking from one un-informative article to the next without considering the consequences. In a world of abundant and never-ending information at our fingertips, American’s attention spans have dropped from 12 to 8 seconds in just a decade. With the amount of emails and websites read every day, getting a message through to anyone is becoming an impossible task.

This Paragraph Will Change Your Mind About Click Bait In Just One Sentence

jordan-blog-image-thumb-psd

Clickbait is a great quick-win for traffic but a terrible lose-lose strategy for retaining readers/viewers and staying relevant in a saturated Internet. (This was the sentence I was referencing. Not to say the one immediately following this one isn’t bad, but…yeah) Here is the trouble with clickbait; Print and online media’s job is to express, educate, persuade and entertain. Most articles that fall under the definition of clickbait do not complete the job of any of the aforementioned purposes of the media. Sadly, the most interesting thing about the clickbait article is the headline itself. This is why we are beginning to see a revolt against clickbait. Late last year Facebook began cracking down on clickbait by penalizing content sources that don’t hold readers attention. If a reader clicks on an article and within seconds returns to Facebook, this suggest they didn’t find what they wanted and the article is not useful. Facebook realizes the power it has with brands and brand publishers who strive to have relationships with readers/consumers by posting engaging news, photos and articles that get users to click and stay on their website for a lengthy period of time. These brands spend money with Facebook, they advertise within the NewsFeed and these clickbait sites are clouding the message. This is the reason for the options to now hide “posts like these” or “posts from this page” from your own news feed.

This trend isn’t limited to just Facebook. Google has also joined the queue. Google launched a phantom update earlier this year that largely impacted sites that employ how-to content such as HubPages or Answers.com. Some of these sites saw an almost 25% drop in search traffic in one week. The algorithm isn’t only limited to how-to content. Similar sites with thin content targeted by an earlier Panda update also were targeted. This was true for sites with clickbait articles, an abundance supplementary information, pages of stacked videos, and content that was difficult to navigate. These types of updates from Google will keep coming as well. With more and more clickbait articles showing up in Google News, users are complaining by the thousands and Google is responding in ruthless fashion by penalizing whole sites for thin content on even a small percentage of a site’s pages. This begs the need for better written content Internet-wide and a chance to re-evaluate search engine optimization’s role in getting clicks without the bait.

Improve Your SEO Without Clickbait…In 60 Seconds Or Less

(Unless it takes you longer to read. And in that case this anecdote isn’t helping your case) 

Brands, marketers and small business can all write content that will be read, shared and help improve SEO. Even using catchy headlines that peak interest can be effective. The difference between a catchy headline in a well-written article and a clickbait article is the content itself. Some of the most successful blogs that Beacon writes are purely informational. They provide resources, analysis and engaging content that readers use, share and bookmark so they can come back later and consume more. Clickbait articles make you feel hollow inside and even though they get millions of views, don’t keep users on the site for longer than a minute. The likelihood of someone returning to your site again goes up dramatically when you keep them on your page for over 3 minutes. The other key difference is that when we feel cheated by a thinly-written clickbait article is that we don’t share it with others or start a conversation. Most news organization’s sites most-viewed articles concern hard-hitting content about war, race, politics, religion or social issues that can span 3-4 pages. They don’t make for catchy titles but they start a conversation, and in some cases a revolution.

Google and Bing pay attention to good content. Almost every algorithm in the past two years has been focused on content. The content cannot be thin, misleading or irrelevant enough from your title or you will be penalized. When it comes to writing content for your website, blog or social media, focus on creating content that expresses and idea, that educates the masses, persuades the reader to your side or to your products and entertains with quick-wit, wonderful photos and video content. On social outlets be clear with your hyperlinks where you are sending people, make your titles and descriptions enhance the content and see your engagement soar. Don’t write with the intent on stuffing keywords in every sentence, to copy every page and change content slightly to double your exposure or get into black-hat or grey-hat search engine optimization. Write with the passion a journalist does with engaging and informative headings, meaty paragraphs and visuals that do more to reinforce the text than get a click. The end result of well-written, deeply-researched and engaging content is the start of a relationship with a potential consumer. That consumer now has buy-in and will come back for more, will share content to their friends and followers and help increase traffic the right way…Instead of  making illiteracy seem like a preferred option.

2 08, 2013

The Importance of Social Media. Your Questions, Get Answered!

By | 2016-11-18T12:09:57+00:00 August 2nd, 2013|Categories: Social Media|Tags: |

Is your company using Social Media? If not, this post is for you! Here at Beacon, we encounter many new clients who aren’t on Social Media and really don’t understand the importance of it. Since we hear the same questions over and over, I decided to pair up with Liz aka Beacon’s Social Media Guru and get her response to those questions.

Social Media for Companies

Photo Courtesy via Mastermedia by grki

Client Question 1: Why is Social Media important for my business?

Liz’s Answer – This question could be an entire blog post on its own. There are so many reasons why using social media is truly essential to your business! I’ll keep it simple with my top four reasons you need to be using social media:

  1. SEO. I cannot stress this enough. Social media platforms are treated by Google just like any other webpage. Social activity (such as Google+ posts) will appear in SERPs and will allow you to capture real estate that otherwise would have been forfeited to a competitor. Social signals are sent to Google to help determine what pages are being served up in search results. Social media is giving your business the authority Google looks for when ranking pages. I could go on and on (and on…) about how social media benefits SEO- but we don’t have all day.
  2. Traffic. When executed properly, social media drives qualified traffic to your website. More qualified traffic = more leads = more business! It’s as simple as that.
  3. Brand exposure & marketing. Think of each social media profile as a mini marketing machine. The look and feel of your pages should be consistent with your brand’s image. By using social media you’re getting your name and message out there on a broader scale.
  4. Engagement & relationships. Social media allows you to give your brand a personality and connect with your customers in a different way. It opens up a channel of communication that doesn’t exist in traditional marketing, and allows you to engage in back and forth public discussions with your customers. It also gives you a place to showcase your customer relationship management skills publicly.

Client Question 2: If I decided to add my business to a social media site, how do I know which one to add it too?

Liz’s Answer – A lot of our clients struggle with this decision. Between Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest, YouTube, Instagram, Vine, and so many others, it’s hard to know where you should be. More is not better in this case. Social media can be time consuming, and you don’t want to suck all of your resources dry trying to keep up with 10 different social profiles. Choosing social platforms that are a good fit should start with a look at your business. What type of goods or services do you offer and what is your business model? Look at your customer demographic for answers as well. If you’re a wholesale distributor of tires, you might not find Pinterest or Instagram to be a good fit. If you’re a jewelry company, LinkedIn might not be the best use of your time. Find out what types of users are on the platforms you’re interested in and compare them to your business. My recommendation is always to start off small and grow. It’s better to have two robust social media profiles then 10 dismal ones.

Client Question 3: What should I be posting about on Social Media?

Liz’s Answer – Generally speaking, there are two main categories of posts you should be using: engagement and promotion. Engagement posts are meant to drive conversations with your audience. Ask questions, share photos, tell jokes, relay news, etc. Getting your users engaged with you is the first step. Promotional posts are exactly that- self promotion for your business. Once you have your users engaged and interested in your page, you have the opportunity to advertise in front of them. Do not overdo it! You don’t want to bombard your users with sales pitch after sales pitch. There is no magic number to how many of each you should be posting.  Sharing good consistent content is key to keeping your users engaged.

Client Question 4: How will I know if what I’m doing on Social Media is working?

Liz’s Answer – Like any other marketing initiative, analyzing and optimizing is key for running successful social media campaigns. It’s important to track and measure certain performance indicators across each social platform. Read my blog about 5 basic metrics you should be tracking. Look for trends and places for opportunity. Give your social profiles ample time to grow before you decide whether or not to continue expanding. I usually recommend 6-8 months of regular activity before making a conclusive decision on a specific platform.

Client Question 5: What if people don’t leave comments, how can I get them to leave comments?

Liz’s Answer – Sometimes getting your users engaged can feel like an uphill battle. Don’t become discouraged if you’re not getting responses right away. Test different post types and verbiage to see what strikes with your audience. Adding in a call to action such as “Like if you agree!” or “Re-tweet if you’re shopping our sale” to the end of your post can often boost interaction. Time of day can be a huge factor in engagement as well. Your entire fan base won’t see every post you put out there, so pay attention to when your fans are online and when they are engaging with you. Most social platforms have some degree of analytics built in, where you can measure the engagement rate and total reach of your posts by the hour of the day and the day of the week. Check out this post on increasing social engagement.

Client Question 6: How do we keep people from leaving negative comments and how do we handle it if they do?

Liz’s Answer – Social media promotes a very public and direct dialogue between your business and your prospects or customers. Often times this can result in some negative feedback from an unhappy patron. When responding remember to be quick, be understanding, take the conversation out of public where possible and know when to walk away.

Time is of the essence when responding to an internet complaint. Acknowledge your customer’s problem as quickly as possible even if you do not have an immediate solution. Try to resolve the issue off of your social profile by asking the customer to contact you directly. A simple statement such as “Hi Mr. Unhappy. We’re so sorry you’ve had a negative experience with [name of company.] Our customer service department is looking into the issue. Can you please send us a private message and include the best way to contact you? Thank you for giving us the opportunity to make this right!” Usually this will allow you time to actively resolve the issue. However, there are some people that are just looking to cause trouble. Use the same approach, but if they continue to go on, politely exit the conversation. Here’s an example “We’re sorry you feel you were mislead by one of our sales representatives. Our customers are our number one priority and we assure you this was not the case. We hope you understand and choose to do business with us again. Have a great day Mr. Unhappy!”

Use negative feedback to publicly demonstrate your company’s exceptional customer service. Never try to ignore or delete a bad comment- it could anger your customer and cause them to lash out. Remember, people have a tendency to be a little more audacious online since they are not standing face to face with a company representative. I like to call this “hiding behind their keyboards.”

Client Question 7: How do I get people to like our page?

Liz’s Answer – Spread the word far and wide! The first step is to integrate all your social media profiles with each other. Share your YouTube link on Facebook, and vice versa. You can include links to other social pages on each profile. You also want to get your social badges installed and linked on your website. That way, all your site visitors will be able to quickly connect to you on their preferred social network. Include these badges on your email marketing campaigns and in your email signatures. Get  your social information included on all of your direct mail and printed materials. Use your badges and social URLs on your business cards, your catalogs, your coupon, your fliers etc.

Once you have reached out to all your existing customers, you’ll want to look to start acquiring new fans. Sweepstakes, giveaways and contests are a great way to increase the virality of your page. Don’t worry- they don’t have to cost a lot of money! Small prizes or even simple recognition contests will do the trick!

I hope you found this Q&A useful. If there are any questions Liz and I did not address feel free to leave them in the comments below and we’ll answer them!

Background: Liz has been working in digital marketing for over four years, specializing in creating and executing custom social media campaigns for businesses. To find out more about Liz go here or connect with her on Google+.  

26 07, 2013

Embedding the New YouTube Subscribe Button on Your Website

By | 2016-11-18T12:09:57+00:00 July 26th, 2013|Categories: Social Media|Tags: , , |

This week YouTube released an embeddable subscribe button for your website. This neat little shortcut allows users to subscribe to your YouTube channel in just one click.

Follow along for a quick How-To on adding this button to your website. Visit the YouTube Developers Page to begin creating your button.

1. Choose your button style. Currently you can pick from three designs: default, full layout with avatar, and full layout dark.

YouTube Subscribe Options

2. Configure your button. Enter your Channel Name or ID and select your layout. To find your Channel ID, log in to your YouTube account and use this link.

YouTube Options

3. Snag the code and insert it onto your website. When done correctly you will end up with a slick looking one-click subscribe button like this!

 

BONUS Option: YouTube also outlines an alternative to using the above method. You can dynamically render your button when a link is clicked. See my example below:

Click here to render my button!

Display button here:

Do you think there’s a benefit to using the subscribe button versus a YouTube badge?

PS: Don’t laugh at my YouTube channel! I haven’t started using it yet. But follow me on G+!

2 05, 2012

Social Media Best Practices

By | 2016-11-18T12:10:07+00:00 May 2nd, 2012|Categories: Social Media|Tags: , , , , , , |

Now that we have been practicing for some time, we are aware of good (and, bad) ways to employ social media. Opinions will vary about the “best of the best”. That is the beauty of the web, it always changes. From a book summary I read on social media, here are some of the best practices according to the author at this point in time. This is not an exhaustive, all inclusive list. The basics are covered and should align with your current techniques for using social media effectively.

There are multiple platforms* available for your content and they should be used relative to the target audience. Having likeable content is a fundamental criteria for success. Get your customer to listen to you and then….

  1. Listen first, and never stop listening – You want to know what customers think. Ask and they will tell you. Next, the most important thing to do is listen. Closing the loop by acting on what your customers tell you will prove that you not only listened, but that you understand and can do something about it.
  2. Define your target audience better than ever – There are many tools that allow you to focus on your true demographics for your product/service(s). Define them and determine what will make them “like” your content.
  3. Think – and act – like your consumer – Remember, it’s about them, not you. Don’t sell them; instead, provide content that is of interest to them. Get them talking about topics of interest and find ways to integrate your wares into their lifestyle.
  4. Invite your customers to be your first fans – Word of mouth (WOM) is key here. The more likes you get, the better your credibility. Be clear about your value proposition and define what is in it for them. Remember, there is no value-add if only your employees are interacting with your content.
  5. Create true dialogue with, and between, your customers – Related to listening and being genuine. Get them talking about you to leverage the WOM effect. When your customers share tips and tricks with others, it proves they are engaged. It also saves you from providing customer support directly. Help guide the discussion by acknowledging comments – and, correct where needed.
  6. Be Authentic – Get connected by demonstrating an interest in your customers. Personalize it by including your name.
  7. Be honest and transparent – You can spot a phony a mile away. Your customers can too.
  8. Integrate social media into the entire customer experience – Another fundamental for success and cannot be stressed enough. Make sure everyone who interacts with your customers has the same message and is aware of promotions and specials. Regardless of how they find you, it should be a consistent message. The last thing you want is a disconnect among channels and mismanaged expectations from your customers. If they are online, they can tell their network about you – the good and the bad.
  9. Don’t sell! Just make it easy and compelling for customers to buy – They already found your content and are engaged. Don’t insult them with a bland sales pitch. State the (relative) value proposition clearly and make it easy to “Add to Cart”.

Having a dialogue with your customers is easy using a social media platform. I would add that you keep in mind how you want to be treated. After all, we all are consumers in the end.

*Platforms range from Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, FourSquare, LinkedIn, Google+, Blogs, and specialized networks (e.g. flickr, yelp, etc.)

 

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