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Reach Your Customers with Email and Social Media Marketing
Updated: 35 min 22 sec ago

How Twitter’s Open Direct Messaging Will Affect Customer Relationships

Mon, 11/04/2013 - 06:00

Twitter is removing a little bit of the awkwardness of social media conversations with a new setting: allowing anyone to direct message (DM) anyone else, regardless of who follows who.

In the past, Twitter restricted direct messages to just the accounts that follow you. Now Twitter users can enable a setting to receive direct messages from anyone.

Why allow DMs from anyone? It’s an additional way for your clients and prospects to contact you online, and it may be a bit quicker and easier for them than going to your website and filling out a contact form, says social media strategy consultant and author Neil Schaffer.

“If I had a quick question for a company, because I’m an active Twitter user, my first choice would be to go to Twitter. If I could do that in a direct message rather than an at (@) mention, knowing that it’s going to get into their inbox, I might be willing to do that more often,” Schaffer explains.

Allowing DMs from non-followers is clearly a great option if you use Twitter for customer service. You may, however, be using Twitter primarily for lead generation and/or brand awareness for your business. “Enabling the DM will only allow you to potentially receive information that was not meant for other eyes,” Schaffer explains. “I think it’s a good option to have.”

However, he does offer a warning: “On the flip side, we don’t know how much spam that’s going to attract.” To date, Twitter has prevented a lot of automated tools from sending indiscriminate spam, but that’s no guarantee it will stay that way.

Schaffer thinks it’s worth testing, though. “I believe people should turn it on, and if they see spam coming, they should turn it off.” He points out that those who indiscriminately follow users they don’t know very well can get inundated with spam as well.

How does this affect your business?

Schaffer points out that some Twitter accounts already had the ability to send or receive DMs to and from non-followers.

“If you’re a verified account, like most big brands, you already have the ability to accept DMs from people you don’t follow,” says Schaffer. “I believe Twitter enabled them to do that because if there was a customer service complaint or a customer service issue, they could quickly take that conversation offline through the DM without having to follow that person back. So I think the initial push for that functionality was from a customer service perspective.”

From a public relations standpoint, dealing with complaints offline is preferable to communicating via a Twitter feed for all to see. Allowing all users the option of sending you a DM puts you one step closer to clients and customers.

Similar options on other social media platforms

Facebook allows individuals to send private messages to business and personal accounts, even if you aren’t “friends.” The downside is sometimes those messages land in the “other” folder, which acts more like a traditional spam folder and which some users may not check often.

LinkedIn allows members who are “connected” to exchange InMail messages. But to be able to send messages to those outside their immediate network, users are required to sign up for a premium plan, which starts at $19.95 a month.

How to turn it on

To set your Twitter account to receive DMs from anyone, go to the accounts settings page and scroll down until you see “Messages.” Click on the box to check “Receive direct messages from any follower.”

You’ll see the following explanation:

“Generally, you must follow someone before they have the ability to direct message you. If you check this option, any Twitter user that follows you will be able to send you a DM, regardless of whether you decide to follow them back.”

If you follow the instructions and you don’t see the option to turn this feature on, check back at a later date; Twitter is rolling the new feature out in phases.

Will this change who you follow?

The new DM feature could have potentially big implications if you’ve been following large numbers of your own followers in order to allow them to contact you privately. This should allow businesses to be more selective about who they follow and why.

Schaffer recommends following target customers. “By following someone, you are sending a social signal. It means that you think they are important,” he explains, and that you’re interested in the content of their tweets.

The social media strategy consultant advises to only follow back users who work in the industry you or your company are targeting. This advice goes for people who may not have been on your radar, but could have potential business importance. “There’s no reason to follow them back if they tweet things that are irrelevant to your company,” he explains.

Do you plan on receiving DMs from anyone? Why or why not?

This post contributed by guest author, Yael Grauer. Grauer is a Minneapolis-based freelance writer and editor. Find her online at Yaelwrites.com.

© 2013, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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Lights, Camera, Video Marketing – How to Add Videos to Your Marketing Mix

Mon, 11/04/2013 - 06:00

Alright, answer honestly… how many online videos have you watched today?

Online videos are a key part of your small business marketing toolbox. A recent survey by the consulting firm Accenture found 90% of consumer respondents watch video content over the Internet. And that’s not surprising, considering video hosting giant YouTube boasts billions of viewers. So how can you make video marketing a part of your promotional efforts? How can you garner a share of that viewership to promote your content and boost your sales? Let’s find out.

  • Keep it short: Viewership online may be high, but attention spans are low. With all the quick links and promotions floating around any given page of the Internet, users very quickly tune out when watching long, drawn out lectures or sales pitches. Your video should focus on a single call-to-action or piece of information. What do you want your viewer to know or do? Then find a way to present that idea in a short and entertaining way. One of the best new tools out there for short videos is Vine. Vine creates a six-second looping video and can be used to show off the best parts of your product quickly. HTC found a very creative way to show off their Android phones using Vine.
  • Pull back the curtain: One of the best opportunities you have when using video is to put a human face to your business. By filming your videos around the office, you give people a better sense of the company they’re interacting with and purchasing from. Consumers love seeing the inner workings of a business, even if it’s just a glance (check out how Tesla did it in this video showing how a Model S is made). Additionally, if you have a fun work environment or an interesting product creation process, show it off. Check out how 24 hour printing company Solopress, walks you through their printing process from start to finish, here.
  • Teach a man to fish: Video tutorials are a great way to bring consumers to your content while teaching them ways to succeed with your product. For example, if you’re a florist and want to show people easy ways to create a bouquet, make a video tutorial about it, this not only shows potential customers h0w you go through your process, but also showcases your talents. Then end the video with your brand and business info. Tutorials are one of the best uses for video and will bring consumers who are searching for how to do something right to your page, where your product or solution is waiting.

Creating videos for your small business marketing has never been easier with video on smartphones, and apps like Vine or Instagram. You can create short, fun and helpful videos to post on your YouTube page or embed on your website. To learn more about using video to promote your business, check out our free webinar, “Spark New Interest with Video Blogging.” It’s hosted on our webpage; where you can then check out the rest of our products and services… see what I did there?

© 2013, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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What’s New Weekly – Inline Photos for Twitter + Huge User Increase for Google+ [VIDEO]

Sat, 11/02/2013 - 06:00

We’re back with another episode of “What’s New Weekly.” In this episode, we share Twitter’s in-feed images and chat about the latest Google+ growth numbers released this week.

 

© 2013, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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The Secret to Top-Notch Customer Service

Fri, 11/01/2013 - 06:00

Recently, I was lucky enough to steal away on a mega-long weekend, five whole days in Mexico. It’s a quick trip for us west coasters. We stay at our favorite resort, which in our opinion has the best service of any place we’ve ever been.

My husband and I started talking about why the service is so incredibly good and our conversation kept ending up with the same conclusion: the employees love what they do and feel lucky to work at such a top-notch place. Over and over we heard, “This place is one of the top three places you can work in this area.” And the smiles on their faces and the way they adoringly talked about their employer said it all.

The Coveted Pin

The staff sports some smart uniforms, cool linen since they work in the heat so much, but something really stands out as part of their look; Each employee wears a rectangular pin with either diamonds or placeholders for future diamonds. As it turns out, for each year of service, the staff gets a new diamond they place in the pin and wear with the utmost pride. A few of them (15) have actually filled out an entire pin and are working on their second. What’s really cool? Everyone on the staff knew exactly who the 15 people were and looked up to them as a source of inspiration. If they leave, even for a short time, they have to start all over.

It was so great to see such a sense of pride and a real family of people who work together for a long period of time.

So how do you keep employees around and make them happy so they do the best job for your customers?

1. Treat your team well–And I don’t just mean by paying them a ton. Recognition goes a long way and this pin idea is great. The resort staff wears it with pride and it’s their badge of honor!

Also enabling employees to make decisions on how to interact and treat customers goes a long way toward giving them a feeling of satisfaction. Zappos does a great job of empowering their service reps to be themselves and go above and beyond.

2. Understand who you serve and be passionate–This resort in Mexico understands that people are paying good money for service, so they go above and beyond. One small example? They take note of our clothing and provide a sewing kit with thread that matches most of our items in case we need a quick repair.

Once at VerticalResponse, an engineer was trying to help a customer. The engineer recognized that this customer was only about 20 minutes away and offered to drive over and help. The customer was thrilled and no one even asked him to go the extra mile – he just really wanted to help.

3. Award Your Team–If you apply for awards, and you win, it’s another way to get your team behind what they do day in and day out. Even if you’re a finalist and don’t win, it’s still a win because you are receiving recognition.

We apply for the American Business Awards in a number of categories like customer service, marketing, management and product awards. We feel that if we tell our stories to a third party and our peers give us a thumbs up, it’s an amazing recognition of all our efforts.

So make sure your passion for what you do spreads to your team, because if that happens, you’re customers are going to be very happy.

© 2013, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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How a Welcome Email Can Boost Your Business

Thu, 10/31/2013 - 06:00

After a customer takes an action, such as purchasing something from your company, or signing up for your newsletter, it’s time to roll out the digital Welcome Wagon. A snappy and engaging welcome email thanks your new customer, and if done correctly, can keep that customer coming back for more.

The problem is too many companies go “radio silent” after a transaction is made, marketer Noah Parsons says. Parsons leads the marketing team at Palo Alto Software, an Oregon-based company. Here are some tips from Parsons on how to make that welcome email work for your business:

Ditch the “do not reply” receipt

A welcome email should not be a text-based receipt that says, “Do not reply” somewhere in the message. A welcome email can incorporate a receipt or account information, but it should also encourage the customer to interact with the company, Parsons says.

“The ‘do not reply’ email sends a message. It says, ‘Thanks for the purchase, but don’t contact us,’” Parsons says. “Why on earth would a company tell a customer not to interact with them? Customer interaction can lead to customer satisfaction, and that builds a business.”

Marketers can add a variety of content to encourage interaction, including providing links to the business’ website, encouraging the customer to like the company on Facebook to receive coupons or a calendar with information on upcoming events.

Act like a human

Your welcome email should have a personal touch. You want to design a short, conversational email that welcomes the new customer to the family. If you can use information collected during the purchase process, that’ll also avoid a “robotic feel.”

Dunked, a website that helps people create a personal portfolio of creative work, uses a conversational tone in its welcome email.

“The email should be from a human to a human,” Parsons says. “In other words, use the customer’s first name in the email, use a friendly tone and make sure it’s signed by a real person at the company.”

Offer contact information

Parsons says a good welcome email should tell the customer where to go if they need help. A welcome email from Sprout,  a social media management platform, does this efficiently.

“Give them a phone number to call or tell them they can respond to the welcome email,” Parsons says. “The customer didn’t just buy your product, they bought the support and customer service that comes with it.”

Include a call to action

The email should end with a call to action, Parsons notes. For example, encourage the customer to watch a video, read a blog post, check out related items, register his or her new product, fill out a profile on your company site or direct them to other helpful resources. Tech giant Apple does this well. In a welcome email to iCloud users, the company includes a link to online instructions so customers can get the most from their new virtual storage space.

“The point here is to encourage more interaction,” Parsons says. “The welcome email should serve as the first step in building a long-term customer relationship.”

For other tips on what types of emails you should be sending your clients and how often, read our post on 3 Emails Your Business Should Be Sending.

Do you send a welcome email, or know of any other examples that you’d like to give kudos to? Share away in the comments.

This post contributed by guest author, Lisa Furgison. Furgison is a media maven with ten years of journalism experience and a passion for creating top-notch content

© 2013, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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25 Holiday Marketing Tips & Ideas

Wed, 10/30/2013 - 06:00

The holidays are right around the corner, and savvy business owners know that you need to start before they’re in full swing to launch a profitable holiday marketing campaign. Start your planning early, and you’ll be able to focus on your day-to-day operations while your holiday marketing plans roll out. Maximize your profits this holiday season with the following 25 holiday marketing tips and ideas.

  1. Start planning your main campaign right now so you’re ready to launch well before Black Friday. By doing so, you’ll be able to take advantage of last-minute marketing opportunities.
  2. Repetition sells, so market often. Send multiple emails, direct mailers, or holiday cards announcing your sales.
  3. Create time-limited offers to encourage customers to buy now.
  4. Offer a pre-Black Friday guarantee: If customers find a better deal on Black Friday, you’ll refund the difference. This encourages early sales and lets you compete with the big box stores.
  5. What do you have that the big box stores don’t have? Highlight what makes your company unique in your marketing materials. If you’re a small business, emphasize quality, experience and service if you can’t compete on pricing.
  6. Use posters and flyers to reinforce your marketing campaign, especially in targeted high-traffic and shopping areas.
  7. Employ giant floor stickers to bring customers to your best (or most profitable) in-store product displays.
  8. Try direct-mail postcards with coupon codes to get customers to your website or store.
  9. Concentrate on marketing your niche products to a highly targeted audience.
  10. Introduce add-on incentives, such as a vacation drawing entry with every purchase or set dollar spend.
  11. Encourage multiple sales by offering customer loyalty cards or referral cards for discounts; perhaps a set percentage off for every customer who refers a friend.
  12. Host a holiday season kick-off event to bring customers in – such as a tree-lighting ceremony with hot chocolate and a visit from Santa – and make sure customers leave with your holiday catalog.
  13. Use email, social media and your website to let customers know about your upcoming deals.
  14. Print “pre-catalog” postcards with a special offer, which you send several weeks before your main catalog. Your mini-catalogs will provide customers a representative offering, encourage web sales and make them look forward to receiving your big catalog.
  15. Make sure every customer between now and the holidays receives a flyer or brochure with information about your upcoming holiday sales.
  16. You can make shopping easy for your customers by sending a unique gift catalog with suggestions for everyone on their list.
  17. Feature your upcoming holiday specials on your blog and reinforce the reasons why it’s better to buy from you than your competitors.
  18. Finders, keepers! Print coupons on business cards and leave them in strategic areas where your target customers are likely to find them.
  19. Print door hangers to distribute to targeted neighborhoods.
  20. Keep your business top of mind every day. Give 2014 calendars away before your competitors do so you can ensure you’re the brand customers see day in and day out.
  21. Make sure to print special daily, weekly or monthly offers on your calendars to encourage direct sales.
  22. Print hang tags to market your holiday sales early.
  23. Give away branded holiday magnets to customers. They will think of you every time they open their refrigerator.
  24. Here’s some food for thought: Partner with a restaurant to print table tents that promote your company to their customers.
  25. Make sure all of your holiday marketing is measurable so you can track your return on investment and plan for an even more profitable campaign next year.

When you plan your holiday marketing early you’ll not only maximize your profits, you’ll actually get some free time of your own to enjoy the holidays with friends and family members.

What are your favorite early holiday marketing tips? Get more free holiday marketing resources at our VR Everything Holiday site including holiday email templates, festive call to action buttons and a subject line generator that will create 18 holiday subject lines in seconds!

This post was contributed by Brian Morris, a writer for PsPrint Blog. PsPrint is an online printing company, providing an array of vibrant full-color products, including business cards, brochures, stickers, holiday cards and postcards, as well as time-saving services such as direct-mailing creation and direct mail fulfillment.

© 2013, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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7 Tips to Manage Your Time and Maximize Your Marketing

Tue, 10/29/2013 - 06:00

If you find yourself running out of time at the end of the day, or scrambling with each unscheduled meeting or unexpected phone call, read on. While these seven tips may not add hours to your day, they can help you make the most of the time you’ve got and ensure you stay focused on what matters most – driving your business.

Tip #1: Get up earlier

“There are certain things that make mornings a great time for getting things done,” says Laura Vanderkam, author of 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think.

Whether you’re trying to get in a quick workout or finish a creative project, you may have more energy for it in the morning than you would after a long, hard day at work. And if you set your own hours, coming in early may help you finish up your most pressing tasks while it’s still daylight.

Experimenting with different schedules and diligently tracking your hours can help you determine what works best for you.

Tip #2: Prioritize ruthlessly

Even more crucial than writing down everything you need to for the day or week is figuring out what to work on when. “Many people don’t focus or have a clear direction of what they’re trying to do,” says time management expert Ken Glickman.

He typically asks his clients to spend some time thinking about where they are, where they want to go and how they’re going to get there. “Prioritizing is knowing what’s most important, and having the strength and focus to take care of the most important things first,” he explains.

But prioritization isn’t just about meeting deadlines. Activities without a due date can have a great payoff as well. For those, Glickman recommends actually scheduling time to complete the activities in order to stay on track.

Tip #3: Plan, but don’t over-plan

If you find yourself constantly shuffling around tasks in project management software, or redoing your daily and weekly to-do lists, you’re not alone. “A lot of people engage in what people call meta-work, which is getting ready to work but not actually working,” Vanderkam explains.

Although those who plan their days tend to perform better than those who don’t, it’s possible to spend too much time reprioritizing to-do lists and not actually crossing anything off of them.

For that problem, Vanderkam recommends limiting a list of daily activities to just three to six items. This not only helps minimize the amount of time spent organizing a list of tasks, but allows for flexibility should something else come up. Which leads us to tip number four.

Tip #4: Don’t schedule too tightly

Scheduling every single minute of every day can make it difficult to deal with things that inevitably come up — whether they’re quick opportunities or last-minute crises. “The more open space you can have on your calendar, the better,” Vanderkam says. Limiting priorities to a small list allows room to deal with whatever the world throws at you.

It’s also a better strategy for overall morale. Having a realistic list of tasks to achieve in a given day will likely leave you with a sense of accomplishment. Not so when the list is so long that you can barely make a dent.

Tip #5: Be mindful of your energy level

If you plan your priorities for the day, you can tackle them when you’re most fresh. Structure breaks to coincide with your low-energy times. A quick walk when you’re dragging can give you enough of a boost to tackle something new afterwards.

Begin to pay attention to when you find yourself most distracted. Are there any patterns related to specific events, activities or time of day? Of course there are times when it’s necessary to just power through, but the more you can understand your own specific quirks and energy levels, the better you’ll be able to plan your day accordingly.

Tip #6: Learn to say ‘No’

Saying no is a skill that’s difficult for many people. Glickman has a trick. He reminds himself that when he says yes to responsibilities, he’s also saying no to something else — spending time with his daughter Chloe, for example. This realization makes it a lot easier to set clear boundaries.

It’s also worth noting that spending more time on fewer things can allow you to be more effective, both because you won’t have to redo mistakes made while rushing and because you’ll be working more carefully.

Tip #7: Ask where you want to spend more time, not less

“I get a lot of questions about how to spend less time doing things, and I think it’s even more important to ask what you want to be spending more time doing,” says Vanderkam. Productivity is not just about saving time, but about how you’ll spend the time you save, and by doing what you think is important more often. “I think it’s really about filling up your time with what deserves to be there,” she says.

Have any time management secrets up your sleeve? Share away in the comments

This post contributed by guest author, Yael Grauer. Grauer is a Minneapolis-based freelance writer and editor. Find her online at Yaelwrites.com.

© 2013, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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Content Marketing for the Win! How to Create Content as a Team

Mon, 10/28/2013 - 06:00

One of the biggest struggles for businesses of any size is creating content for your website, blog or even your latest email newsletter. As the director of content marketing at VerticalResponse, my team and I work together to make the most of our small team’s efforts. Today, I share some simple tips to help you and your team (even if you’re a team of one) create quality content.

You Don’t Have to Be a Writer to Write

Some journalists or writers may cringe when they read that subhead, but so many people are frozen with fear because they don’t consider themselves writers. You may think they’ve got to pay someone else to do it. But guess what? You know your business better than anyone you could ever hire. And, if you can tell a simple story, you can write for your business.

At VerticalResponse, we have our entire marketing team (very few whom are “writers”) pitch in to create content for our blog. Each person is expected to create one blog post per month. Once a month isn’t too overwhelming and it doesn’t take much time away from core job responsibilities. Once a quarter we have a brainstorm and each person brings a list of topics to write about that he or she thinks will add value to our prospects and customers. Because each content team member is typically familiar and usually quite passionate about the topics provided, it makes the writing and creation of content easier for all. In fact, almost everyone has some fun with it, and each person gets credit for every post with an author byline. This also encourages team members to share content on their own social media profiles. I love to see team members sharing their latest post on a social network, even with a little shameless self-promotion such as, “Check out my latest post for the VR Marketing blog!” That’s when I know we’re doing it right for both our readers and our writers.

Use Your Tools

Using some simple and affordable tools can make content creation and sharing much easier. Some of our favorites include Google Calendar, which we use as our editorial calendar to assign posts to our internal contributors. You can use it to assign a writer’s name, topic and even include keywords they can use in their post to optimize it right within the calendar. You can then send out reminders so that no one misses a deadline.

Within Google Drive you can also use Google Docs to share content that you may already have that people can draw inspiration from. We created a content inventory that has every guide, infographic, webinar, case study and customer testimonial we have including a link right to the piece so that people can easily access it. If you want to create your own, we’ve got a free template you can download here.

Next up is WordPress. We set up a multi-author WordPress (.org) blog, which makes it super easy for individual contributors or “authors” to log in, write and save a draft blog post. You can give each contributor different roles (author, editor, administrator) and capabilities, such as the ability to publish, edit other posts, comment, or none of the above. Once a contributor has finished a post, he or she can then alert your editing team that it’s ready for review. Within WordPress, editors can see who has edited each post before them, and even view what was changed. This makes for a streamlined and efficient workflow for everyone involved. You can set your permissions in WordPress so folks don’t accidentally publish a post before it’s ready to go. This is especially important if you have RSS feeds linked to your blog, or you are syndicating your content. There are also plenty of content management platforms out there, but they usually have a hefty price tag attached to them.

The last tool in our content tool shed is Thinkstock. We pay a small fee for the stock photo site so our writers have a plethora of images to choose from. Variety means we don’t run the risk of using the same pictures again and again. We recently also wrote about other options for images here.

We hope these content creation tips will help you and your team create the kind of content marketing that will keep your readers coming back for more! Win!

Have any content marketing creation tips to add to our list? Share them in the comments.

© 2013, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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What’s New Weekly – Nike+ FuelBand + Square Cash + Weather Line [VIDEO]

Sat, 10/26/2013 - 06:00

We’re back with another episode of “What’s New Weekly.” In this episode, we show a concept of a possible Nike+ FuelBand, we share a cool new app from Square called Cash and make weather charts with a new app called Weather Line.

 

© 2013, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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Facebook Friday: Introducing New Mobile App Video Ads [VIDEO]

Fri, 10/25/2013 - 06:00

In this episode of Facebook Friday, we highlight the new Facebook Mobile App video ads that were released this week. The new video ads are part of Facebook’s Mobile App Ads for Installs program, which app developers use to drive people to Apple’s App Store or Android’s Google Play store from within Facebook.

 

 

© 2013, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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7 Steps to Improve Collaboration at Work

Thu, 10/24/2013 - 06:00

Whether everyone in your company works from the same office or you’re part of a virtual team, engaging with others who have complementary perspectives can lead to increased productivity.

The setback of collaboration, however, is the possibility of a series of endless meetings to discuss various problems or issues without making any real headway, warns Nate Kontny, two-time Y Combinator graduate and founder of Draft, a collaborative editing tool that allows users to read, comment on and edit each other’s content, and clearly see and reject changes made by others.

Here are seven of his top strategies for collaborating efficiently within a team.

1. Have an agenda.

Are you trying to engage readers of your blog? Is your team working on increasing conversion rates? Does the speed of your website need improvement? Figuring out specific problems ahead of scheduled meetings ensures the time spent collaborating will be productive and efficient.

2. Keep your meetings short and sweet — and productive.

A common complaint in corporate culture is an endless series of meetings in which little is accomplished. This can be averted by setting a time limit for each meeting and agreeing to not only stick to the agenda but to also come up with specific strategies to experiment with by the end of the meeting.

“I don’t really like brainstorming meetings because most of the time it just degenerates into this conversation [with people saying] ‘I don’t think that’s going to work,’” Kontny says. “We don’t know what’s going to work unless we actually set up some experiments and try this stuff,” he adds. Testing and tracking the outcome can help you strategize what the next step will be and is more productive than endless discussions.

The same is true for conference calls. “I make sure there’s some sort of problem that we’re solving that we can all get around, and as soon as we come up with some options, I like to get off the phone as soon as possible,” Kontny explains.

3. Start small and iterate.

So you’ve had a short meeting and attempted to troubleshoot the problems, but what is your next step? Come up with a quick solution.

“If I want to solve a problem, my goal is to get something out the door in just a couple hours,” Kontny says.

As a software developer, he can spend a day or two enhancing and developing a piece of software. But his goal when troubleshooting is to come up with a minimalist solution within a couple of hours and then test his proposed solution. “Then I can see if it starts to solve the problem and then I can make it better after that, and better after that. I really just like iterating on stuff,” he says.

Instead of spending weeks or even months discussing and developing a strategy, you and your co-workers must agree to first tackle a small project. If the results are positive, move on to the next issue.

4. Allow large chunks of individual work time.

Collaboration isn’t always the solution.

“When I need to work and I want to use some of those things that I just learned, I need to work by myself,” Kontny explains. “I need focus. I feel like too many people get stuck in this teamwork mode where they meet for a brainstorming session and now they have all their work stuck inside a team and nobody takes any ownership.”

Instead, follow up a back-and-forth conversation with long periods of alone time to test and complete the work without interruption. This will allow members of the team to complete their share of the work outlined during collaborative meeting sessions.

5. Determine — and be clear about — who is responsible for what tasks.

Kontny created Draft to allow him and his wife to collaborate together on editing his work. She can leave comments, rearrange content for a better flow and rewrite specific sections. However, he has the final say over whether to ignore or incorporate her edits. Disagreements, however, are quick to flare up when it’s unclear who has ownership or the ultimate say over a piece of work, whether it’s a piece of content or a larger project.

Kontny is intrigued by the concept of holocracy, a system of organizational structure used by companies such as Zappos and Medium, where authority is distributed through self-organizing teams rather than through a traditional hierarchy.

“You break your company into these small groups and every person in the group gets a set of roles and responsibilities and accountabilities that are really well-defined, and they are the master of their domain,” he explains. Best of all, everybody knows who is in charge of each group. The leader has the final say on a specific decision within that area, and takes responsibility for good or for ill.

Even a CEO can’t dictate what must be done in a group he’s not a part of. “Everyone knows who has the power to make the decision. You’re free to share your opinion, but one person is going to make the call and make that decision as best they can,” he explains.

6. Find out a way to receive feedback and suggestions.

If you and your co-workers are passionate about your business, there will be heated arguments. Kontny sees that as good and healthy. “If you think you’re not going to have arguments with people you collaborate with, you’re deluding yourself. Arguments are what make your companies stronger.”

Offering brutally honest feedback (as exemplified by Pixar’s animation studio) and making revisions based on that feedback could lead to tremendous improvement. “In the end, it’ll make the business better and the product better,” Kontny says.

7. Study the data.

Whether you’re running a/b split tests, tracking conversions or checking to see if your prospects are incorporating a new tool, looking at specific metrics and sharing them with your entire team can help you see what’s working and what isn’t. Just make sure to determine what you’re tracking ahead of time, so you can continue to iterate and grow.

Have any collaboration tips of your own? Share away in the comments.

This post contributed by guest author, Yael Grauer. Grauer is a Minneapolis-based freelance writer and editor. Find her online at Yaelwrites.com.

© 2013, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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Apple’s Big Product Announcements

Wed, 10/23/2013 - 09:35

We all get pretty excited when Apple makes new product announcements and yesterday wasn’t any different. This may go down as one of their more epic announcements days, ever.

The live stream of the event lasted almost an hour and a half and there’s a ton of info to share, so we’ll cut to the chase and give you high-level updates that may impact your world.

In usual Apple style, the company started the announcement with a simple but elegant video about design. The video drove home the point that no one designs products better than Apple. And in our opinion, they really have the products to back that claim up this time.

After the video concluded, Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, talked about values and shared information from the iPhone 5C/5S and iOS7 announcements from last month. Here are two things that really stood out:

  1. Through the first weekend of the new iPhone(s) announcement, the company sold 9 million units making it the most successful iPhone launch, ever.
  2. There have been 200 million iOS7 updates, meaning 64% of all iOS users are running the new operating system.

After a look at the recent past, Apple introduced new stuff. The first on the list was the new desktop operating system going by the name, OSX Mavericks. This new OS changes the game pretty drastically by providing better power efficiencies including: 1 hour longer web browsing and 1.5 longer Apple video viewing. Plus, there’s deeper integration with such things as the calendar and maps. So, if you make an appointment and use an address in your calendar, it’ll provide you with directions and even add travel time into your schedule. Another cool thing: There are now tags built into the finder so you can keep better organized. But, the best news of all is the new OS is free and available today. What more could you ask for?

After the OSX Mavericks announcement, Apple dived head first into the hardware side of things. First stop was the MacBook Pro line. The two popular models including the 13-inch and 15-inch now both have a Retina display and are faster with longer battery life.

Bypassing the geeky info about what’s inside, here’s the important information about purchasing these bad boys. The MacBook Pro 13-inch will start at $1,299 and the 15-inch at $1,999. Both laptops are shipping today.

Next on the agenda was the much anticipated Mac Pro. This is a product that Apple is calling the future of the pro desktop. To see an incredible overview and slick presentation, visit the Apple site and be prepared to be amazed. Targeted to computing power hungry professionals such as movie makers, photo journalists and music producers, the Mac Pro is like nothing you’ve ever seen before. If we shared all the specifications, your head might explode.

The Mac Pro will be available in December with a starting price of $2,999.

After a few hardware announcements, we jumped into the wonderful world of apps. First was an update to iLife, which includes iPhoto, iMovie and Garage Band. One of the biggest improvements overall is the fact that they now support 64 bit and are integrated with iCloud. And because of the popularity of iOS devices like the iPad and iPhone, there’s more functionality for these mobile devices that were previously only available on a desktop. Some of the top-line highlights of the individual apps include:

  • iPhoto – A great new layout and the availability of photo books directly from the iPad.
  • iMovie – Brings features to the iPad that were only previously available on a desktop. This new version of iMove also includes iMovie Theater which allows you to access your movies on all your devices with iCloud.
  • Garage Band – The new version allows you to start a song on your iPad or iPhone and bring it into iCloud. It also has a new feature called Drummer that adds various drum lines to your songs with the direction you give it. Drummer is inspired by some of the best session players available.

These are all free with the purchase of any new OSX or iOS devices.

Another huge software update came to Apple’s iWork suite, which is comprised of Pages, Numbers and Keynote. All three have been updated for iOS and OSX, with Apple stating that these updates are the biggest since their original introduction. The new iWork suite features full-file compatibility and supports 64-bit. Specific updates to the individual apps include:

  • Pages – For the new version of Pages, Apple has included a context-sensitive side panel that gives you varied controls based on the text you’ve selected in the document.
  • Numbers – The latest update now allows users to create spreadsheets with a new free object-based design. This allows charts and graphs to be interactive so changes can be seen more easily.
  • Keynote – This popular presentation app has also been updated with new effects and animations. The presentation we viewed on the live stream was actually run on the latest version of Keynote.

Another huge update to iWork is the ease of sharing documents and the collaboration ability. With this update, you can now work on the same document at the same time via iWork for iCloud. Documents can also be shared via iCloud, allowing users to email a link and have someone else view the document in iWork for iCloud on a Mac or PC.

Just like the iLife suite, these are all free with the purchase of any new OSX or iOS devices.

Last but certainly not least, they saved the new iPad to end the presentation.  The iPad, launched three and half years ago, has been one of the most successful products ever for Apple. Earlier this month, Apple hit 170 million iPads sold and they also revealed that four times more people use the iPad compared to any other tablet sold.

Tim Cook was teasing the audience as he introduced a video to show the innovative ways customers are using their iPads. And then it came…

The iPad Air!

This next generation of iPad is Apple’s biggest step yet. It’s lighter coming in at 1 pound, and thinner by almost 2 mm. They also reduced the bezel size by an astonishing 43%.

And, compared to the iPad 2, the new iPad Air is up to two times faster in both CPU performance and graphics speed. This means you’ll have the most powerful tablet on the market if you’re lucky enough to get your hands on one when they’re released November 1. But that wasn’t all Apple had to announce with the iPad family of products.

The iPad mini got an upgrade too with the introduction of a Retina display and 4X and 8X fast in CPU performance and graphics power respectively. Plus, they’re keeping the iPad2 and original iPad mini on the line and reducing the prices.

So now, you’ll have the above starting prices for all four iPads in the line with the new iPad Air and iPad mini shipping on November 1.

Well there you have it. A ton of new updates and products from Apple. We hope you enjoyed this recap and would love to hear what you thought of the announcements. Share away in the comments below.

© 2013, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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The Psychology of Color & Marketing – What Actually Works?

Wed, 10/23/2013 - 08:38

How do the colors red or purple make you feel? Excited, sophisticated? Hunches behind the psychology of color in marketing have been long-standing and intriguing, but are they actually true? Can you really use particular colors to enhance your customers’ moods, influence a click, establish brand recognition or affect their purchasing habits? Let’s find out:

Color & Branding

In the article, “The Color of Psychology of Color in Marketing and Branding,” author Gregory Ciotti points out that there have been “numerous attempts to classify consumer responses to different individual colors… but the truth of the matter is that color is too dependent on personal experiences to be universally translated to specific feelings.” Gender, background, and cultural differences also need to be taken into account, as they have an influence on color perception.

However, “In regards to the role that color plays in branding,” Ciotti says, “results from studies such as The Interactive Effects of Colors show that the relationship between brands and color hinges on the perceived appropriateness of the color being used for the particular brand (in other words, does the color “fit” what is being sold.)” Are you a funeral parlor and branding yourself with the color pink? Pink stands out, but might not be appropriate for your business or the personality you want established for your brand.

Bottom line? Choose colors for your brand, website and emails based on the appropriateness, personality and emotions that you intend to portray. However, you also want to assess the competition and choose colors that make your brand stand out. According to KissMetrics, “Color increases brand recognition by 80 percent,” so differentiation is key for creating brand identity.

“It has been suggested in Color Research & Application that it is of paramount importance for new brands to specifically target logo colors that ensure differentiation from entrenched competitors (if the competition all uses blue, you’ll stand out by using purple),” Ciotti says.

“It’s the feeling, mood, and image that your brand creates that play a role in persuasion,” Ciotti says. “Be sure to recognize that colors only come into play when they can be used to match a brand’s desired personality (i.e., the use of white to communicate Apple’s love of clean, simple design).”

Color, Conversions & Design, Oh My!

Does green convert better than red? Can the colors you use in your email marketing or on your website really influence an action? Ciotti states, “…there is no single best color for conversions. The psychological principle known as the Isolation Effect states that an item that ‘stands out like a sore thumb’ is more likely to be remembered. Research clearly shows that participants are able to recognize and recall an item far better (be it text or an image) when it blatantly sticks out from its surroundings.
”

In an A/B split test, a red button on a website may result in more conversions than a blue one. Is red the magic color? Does it evoke excitement and the desire to buy? Nope. Look at the website as a whole, the color pallet used on the site, and any other images that may be competing with that button. If the website has a blue-based color scheme and includes other blue images or elements, a blue button would easily blend in. The red button clearly stands out more due to the Isolation Effect. Bottom line? You can influence a reader’s action by guiding them with isolated colors. As you can see, we’re even using the concept on our own website:

Jared Christopherson of Yellowhammer suggests in this Mashable article, “10 Tips for Company Color Schemes” to use the 60-30-10 rule when designing a website or email. “Choose three different colors and use them in the ratio of 60%, 30% and 10%. This rule provides a simple way to create a professional color scheme for your brand.”

Once you have the 60-30-10 rule in place (background, base and accent colors), use the accent color (the 10% and typically, your boldest color) to guide customers to take a particular action. Use it in your call to action button, or on the link, tab, form you’d like customers to click next. But remember, using a bold button 10 times on the same page of your website or email defeats the purpose of “standing out.” You’ve now created ten competing actions. Don’t create too much competition. Decide what your most desired action is, and use your accent colors to accentuate that action. Is your entire website blue and grey? Make your accent color and “Sign up now” button red or purple.

Having trouble choosing color schemes? Check out sites and/or tools like COLOURlovers and Adobe Kueler to move things along.

What’re your thoughts on color and psychology? Read anything surprising?

© 2013, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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How to Use Landing Pages for Better Traffic Conversions

Tue, 10/22/2013 - 06:00

You likely spend more time thinking about how to promote your website rather than where you’re going to send the traffic you receive. It seems logical, after all, to send visitors to your homepage. However, dividing your traffic between individual pages created specifically for each marketing campaign known as landing pages, can help ensure that new website visitors see the information they want in a way that maximizes your chances of gaining a new customer.

A landing page is just that: A page where a visitor arrives or ‘lands’ after following/clicking a specific link or ad. A visitor to a specific landing page should see information that connects to the copy that convinced him or her to click through, says Oli Gardner the co-founder of Unbounce, a tool used to quickly build multiple landing pages.

The concept of creating a landing page linked or related to an ad or promotion is known as ‘message match.’ Gardner says getting a good message match is crucial any time you try to drive traffic to your site.

“It refers to the trail of intent that begins with the Google search, moves to the paid ad and is completed on the landing page. If at any point a prospect loses the scent (via a break in the message), they will leave,” he says.

You can — and should — tie your landing pages to the specific source of the traffic, whether that be search, social or email.

“If someone is arriving on your landing page from an email, the call-to-action (CTA) might be ‘Get 50% off xx promotion now!’ This needs to be reflected in the landing page headline for a perfect message match” Gardner suggests.

But what if you already have plenty of pages on your website that should fit the bill? Gardner suggests that any time a page isn’t converting into page views as well as you’d like, you need to create a landing page — particularly when you’re working with inbound traffic.

“Your product pages are a horrible place to send inbound traffic,” Gardner points out. “Anybody arriving on your product page is going to be struck with about 40 things to do. … If you send people to a product page or your homepage for any marketing campaign, you are giving them, on average, 20 to 50 iteration points. That’s the number of (links) on your homepage. Count them. Every active link on your page that provides a distraction from your conversion goal or intent is like a catheter that’s bleeding blood from your business.”

You can’t afford to let your visitors have that many distractions — they’ll never click on the link you most want them to follow if there are 20 alternatives.

Building landing page after landing page can feel like tumbling down a rabbit hole, but the return on investment can be incredible. Gardner advocates for custom landing pages in every situation, even on his own site.

During A/B testing, a generic landing page on Unbounce convinced 18 percent of users to try its service. By creating a unique co-branded landing page, the conversion rate was 105% higher than the generic version.

v.s.

Unbounce practices what Gardner preaches. When contacted for an interview, Gardner asked to use a link to a VerticalResponse-specific landing page, rather than Unbounce’s homepage.

Do you use landing pages? How so? Do they give you better results? Let us know!

This post was contributed by guest author Thursday Bram. Bram has written for CNET, GigaOm, Lifehack and a variety of other sites. She can be found at thursdaybram.com.

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Let’s Party! 16 Business Event Planning Tips

Mon, 10/21/2013 - 06:00

There are many ways to create a unique experience for your employees, customers, and potential customers. Hosting a business event like a happy hour or networking event is a great way to get in front of people and learn more about them at the same time.

Plus, who doesn’t love an excuse to have a party? But first ask yourself, “what are the goals of this event?” Is it to gain more customers, is it to show your employees that you appreciate their hard work, or are you thanking your customers for their loyalty? Who is this event for, and what’s the benefit for you and your attendees? Once you have your goal(s) in mind, like every event, you have to plan ahead. Use these tips and ideas to make business event planning a breeze:

Planning Your Event

  1. Set your budget – How much can you afford to spend for the event? What will you need? Some of the usual costs associated with events include the venue, food, drinks, decor, marketing (printing/postage), giveaways and labor.
  2. Create a guest list – How many people (and who) will you invite? How many people do you expect to show up? These answers will help you with the rest of the items on this list. Start by looking at your customer base and work from there. Use other networking events that you attend to pass out info about your event, if appropriate.
  3. Select a date – When is the best time for your event? Select a few dates that work for you your potential invitees. Most people won’t be able to play hooky from work just for your event. Keep in mind that your date needs to coincide with your venue availability. The more flexible you are, the better your chance of getting a great location, and a good price.
  4. Scout locations – Should your event be held at your business, or do you need to check out other locations that might work? How much room do they have? What does the venue include (i.e., food, drinks, staff, audio equipment)? Can you use their venue in exchange for getting more people in their door or in trade for something from your business?
  5. Pick a theme – Having a theme can help brand your entire event from invitations to decorations, food, and drink ideas. Remember, the holidays are right around the corner and people LOVE holidays. Use Pinterest to your advantage for finding inexpensive and fun ideas for your theme.

Promoting Your Event

  • Questions to ask yourself: How are you going to promote your event? What’s the right way to reach your target attendee, email, social media, print invitation? What will you offer people to get them to attend?
  • Create a a timeline – Once you’ve selected a date for your business event, work backwards and decide when you’ll send out your save the date, invitations and reminders, as well as your post event thank-yous. Also consider when you’ll need to order giveaways (if applicable) and any other items.
  • Send invitations – Try using different methods (paper, email, social media) to send out your invitations. You know your audience, what will work best for them? You may want to use multiple methods.

Additional Tips

  • Consider piggybacking other events in your area. There might be a annual event in your town or neighboring town that can establish some traction for your event. There’s a Small Business Week in San Francisco that we’ve used to propel our customer events with extra marketing.
  • Find a similar or complementary business to co-host an event with you. You can use their customer list to gain more attendees for your event and possibly more prospects for your business.
  • Get donations from other business that might benefit from your event. They can sponsor different aspects of your event or help with giveaways or swag.
  • Have invitations available at your place of business (if you have one), and on you all all times to pass out. You never know when you’ll need them.
  • Social media is free! Make sure to use it to your advantage. You can offer invitees a deal for sharing your event with their friends.
  • An unexpected surprise? Send folks who were not able to attend the event a virtual goodie bag with a special offer like a discount for your services and merchandise. They’ll still feel important and recognized.
  • Check out these helpful food and drink calculations based on the number of people attending and what they’ll potentially consume so you don’t run out.
  • Last but not least, play the host/hostess. Make sure during the event that you work the room and keep the event, conversation, food and drinks flowing!

Have a business event of your own coming up? Share your planning tips with our readers in the comments!

© 2013, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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What’s New Weekly – Apple Event Rumors [VIDEO]

Sat, 10/19/2013 - 06:00

We’re back with another episode of “What’s New Weekly.” In this episode, we dive into the rumor mill for the new Apple Event on October 22nd. Will they release new colorful iPads, or maybe even that new TV everyone has been craving? Join the fun and watch now:

 

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3 Tips for Long-Term Business Growth

Fri, 10/18/2013 - 06:00

I’ve been leading and running VerticalResponse, for the last 12 years, and even though I recently sold it, you’ll still find me in the trenches ensuring we stay on target for exceeding both our customers’ and our shareholders’ expectations. I got to this place by making sure from the get-go that I measured our growth and progress in years, not months, because I knew we were in it for the long haul.

If you’ve just started your biz and you’re already plotting out your exit strategy, then stop reading now. But if you’re focused on growing for years to come, read on for some tips to keep your eyes on the prize.

Get a Firm Grasp on Your Finances

For our first few years in business, we did a lot of things by the seat of our pants and that was okay in that crazy start-up time. However, I soon realized that if we really wanted to grow and continue to invest money back into the company, we needed to establish some strong financial controls. With that came the hiring of our chief operating officer, Dave. Dave brought a greater focus on financials, quickly establishing accountability around key performance indicators throughout the organization, and tighter controls on money coming in and going out of the company.

If you want to be an established company, you’ve gotta act like one by getting a grip on these things early on. It helps to have someone like Dave on board to help you get there.

Focus on the Future

Even though I’ve always believed in leading from the weeds, by hiring talented, smart and capable people throughout the company, it enabled me to concentrate on future. I’ve been the face and voice of VerticalResponse for over a decade because I know people take comfort in knowing the head of the company they’re doing business (or might be doing business) with. Whether it’s speaking at small business conferences, blogging on our VR Marketing Blog or building relationships with potential new partners, I’m out there making sure we are positioned for next week, next month and next year.

Do More Than One Thing Well

We started out as an email marketing company in 2001. Back then, there weren’t many companies offering what we had to small businesses at an affordable price. But that quickly changed and we’ve had to change along with that, if not ahead of the curve. That’s why over the years we acquired a social media marketing company and also added direct mail postcards, online surveys and event marketing to our product portfolio. We also were one of the first companies on the Salesforce AppExchange, which created a long-lasting, incredibly successful partnership.

Spreading your revenue sources over more products and customers will help reduce risk because you’re not putting all your eggs in one basket. You never want to rely too heavily on any one thing–or customer–for your continued growth and success.

Use these tips to keep your business growing well into the future, and share any other long-term company growth strategies that you believe in!

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Use a Style Guide for Consistently Great Content

Thu, 10/17/2013 - 06:00

While writing blogs, newsletters, social posts and other content, keeping a consistent style across all platforms and writers is a must-do. Making sure that readers understand what you’ve written, as well as familiarizing them with the voice and tone coming from your company is important for brand awareness and content marketing strategies. A style guide keeps you and/or your entire team on point, especially on nitty gritty details such as how you describe your products or speak with customers.

In the world of journalism, print or online, copy editors use stylebooks as a sort of bible to provide consistency for readers. Most publications choose a standard manual and add internal style preferences to the mix. Two of the best-known guides are the Associated Press Stylebook and the Chicago Manual of Style. They cover stylistic choices, such as how to handle particularly tricky pieces of grammar. They also have a dictionary of sorts where a writer can look up a particular term and see how to use it consistently. For instance, the word ‘e-book’ can also be written ‘ebook’ or ‘eBook’ depending on which style guide is used.

Tracy Gold, a writer, editor and content strategist, works with clients on creating online publications from scratch, including developing the style of those publications. She says the greatest value in style guides is the efficiency they add to the publishing process.

“Creating a style guide makes it much easier to bring a new writer or editor on board. Instead of sitting down and explaining everything in the style guide — and likely forgetting half of it — you can just send them the document. That seriously cuts down on editing time later,” Gold says.

Choosing the base for your style guide is a necessary first step, unless you’re willing to recreate the work of another guide from scratch. Gold relies first and foremost on the AP Stylebook for stylistic decisions. She says, “I use AP and refer to (its) online stylebook whenever I’m in doubt. My subscription is worth every penny.” Most style guides are available both in print and as digital subscriptions. A print copy of the AP Stylebook is less than $15 on Amazon, while a digital subscription runs $26 per year. The Chicago Manual of Style is more of an investment, costing around $40 in print and $35 for a digital subscription. Specialized industry style guides tend to go up from there.

Using the AP Stylebook as a bedrock, Gold then creates a detailed internal style guide for each client.

“I start with a brief overview of branding and tone. What’s the voice we’re going for? Then it drills down to details, such as whether we’re calling customers ‘clients,’ ‘customers,’ or ‘partners.’ I treat the style guide as a living document and fill it in as I learn more about the client. You can’t always think of every pet peeve or preference in an initial interview. For example, if I discover that the client prefers the word ‘offer’ to ‘deal’ while going back and forth on a blog post, I’ll add that to the style guide.”

It’s crucial that a style guide be easily accessible to anyone working on a given project — both as a reference guide and to streamline updates. Gold notes, “I either keep the style guide as a Google document, or as a Word document in a shared Dropbox folder, depending on the client’s preference. That way everyone has access to the most recent version. Normally, I’m the enforcer of the style guide, because I edit everything before it goes live. It’s great to have the style guide to point to when I’m asking a writer to make a change.”

Once a guide is in place, you will need to find someone to act as what Gold describes as the ‘enforcer.’ While most writers will stick to the assigned style guide, there will be occasional slip-ups and typos. Luckily, having a style guide in place can quicken the editing process and minimize an editor’s or enforcer’s need to go back and forth with a writer.

What style guide do you use? Have you created one for your company? Tell us about it.

This post was contributed by guest author Thursday Bram. Bram has written for CNET, GigaOm, Lifehack and a variety of other sites. She can be found at thursdaybram.com.

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Facebook Rolls Out Reviews for Places

Wed, 10/16/2013 - 13:53

While we were all looking the other way, Facebook quietly introduced reviews to Facebook Pages for Places with very little fanfare. If you haven’t seen them yet, you’ll probably see them soon. It takes a while for a new feature to be rolled out to almost 1.5 billion users. We saw the new review buttons on many Facebook Pages for Places recently and thought we’d give you a peek under the hood.

In the example below, we check out the Facebook Page of our favorite hotel in Las Vegas, The Cosmopolitan.

You’ll notice that a review button has made its way between the Like and Message buttons right under the cover photo. If you click on the review button, you’ll be served up a review box where you can provide a 1 to 5 star rating, write a review, see other Facebook friends that have liked the page and you can even Like the page directly from the review box.

Before you hit post, you also have the option to choose who sees the review. Similarly to your other Facebook posts and status updates, you can select the following groups to see the post: public, friends, friends of friends, friends except acquaintances, custom or chose from one of your lists.

After you click post, you’ll be served up other Pages to review. These might look familiar to you because they’ll be places you’ve either checked into or have Liked on Facebook.

If you chose “public” when you post your review, your review will live on the Page you just reviewed and look like this:

What are your thoughts on reviews on Facebook Pages for Places? Do you think you’ll use them? Do you think they’ll have any impact on Yelp? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

© 2013, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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4 Simple Ways Pinterest Can Boost Your SEO Game

Wed, 10/16/2013 - 06:00

We know you’ve been busting your hump pinning away, and you’ve been hitting the search engine optimization (SEO) work hardcore. You want to do more, but you may think it’ll take too much time. What if we told you that you could optimize your Pinterest account without even trying? No snake oil salesman tricks here, just simply doing it the right way. Putting a solid effort into Pinterest can pay off in more ways than one, and we’re talking about some nice SEO boosting! Better hurry up and read on.

More chances to show up in the SERPS

The goal of any SEO activity is to be prominently featured in the SERPs, otherwise known as search engine ranking pages. Having a pin-kickin’ Pinterest page can help boost your page to the front of the branded searches. If photos, recipes, and other uber pin-able items are key drivers for your biz, then you would love to have your Pinterest profile on page one. Whole Foods is a rocking example of a company that’s doing just that. Their Pinterest page is ranked 5th when you search “Whole Foods.” Not too shabby, and they’re obviously doing something right because they have over 150k followers. Without a doubt, Pinterest is a huge traffic driver for the organic and natural food company.

Get more links, (remember they are “nofollow”)

Backlinks are still the #1 way to increase your rankings in Google. Each Pin is a different link back to your site. Now before you go off PINNING ALL THE THINGS, remember that all links from Pinterest are “nofollow,” so they do not pass “SEO juice” to your site. “Nofollow” links are a topic of controversy for SEOs on whether they really do or do not pass link juice. One thing can be for certain, if your Pinterest boards rock, people will be more apt to click through to your site.

Pinterest is a search engine

When you hear the words “search engine,” you automatically think Google and (hopefully) Bing. Those are the obvious ones, but there are millions of searches every month on YouTube and of course, Pinterest. It might seem near impossible to rank for any of your keywords in Google, but getting some of your content to the top of Pinterest might be more realistic. Just like getting to the front page of Google, it won’t happen overnight, so be prepared to put in some solid work to get your Pinterest game to front page levels.

Social signals and fresh content

Bing is already using social signals in their rankings, and there’s much speculation about if, and when Google will start doing the same. Might as well get a head start on the competition by beefing up your Pinterest game. A newer bit of news: Bing is now including Pins in Image Searches. This is a huge opportunity for many small businesses to rank on the front page with the big dogs! You’re really killing two birds with one stone here, because it’s no secret that Google and other search engines love to see fresh content in the SERPs. The more high quality, highly shared/re-pinned and relevant content you have will make Google want to crawl your site more.

So there you have it, four easy ways to boost your SEO efforts with Pinterest. Which ways have worked best for you? Be a pal and share in the comments!

For more tips on using Pinterest for your business, grab our free guide,  A Small Business Guide to Pinterest

© 2013, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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