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4 Things You Should Know About Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation

Tue, 06/24/2014 - 06:00

On July 1, 2014, Canada’s anti-spam legislation (CASL) will go into effect. We sat down with Jennifer Noyes, Lead Delivery Specialist here at VerticalResponse to get the facts on how this legislation affects businesses that send emails. Here’s what you need to know:

1. What is Canada’s anti-spam legislation all about?

According to Canada’s anti-spam legislation website, “The Act will begin to take effect on July 1, 2014 when most of the Act comes into force. Once the law is in force, it will help to protect Canadians while ensuring that businesses can continue to compete in the global marketplace.” 

2. What do I have to do to comply with the legislation?

Noyes shared that The Act states your email must comply with these three elements:

  1. All email addresses you send to must be permission-based, meaning the subscribers specifically opted-in to receive your communications. If you are not currently doing this, you can use an email sign up form to collect permission-based subscribers on your website, blog or social media networks. [LINK TO SUP FORM post]
  2. All emails must contain an easy-to-find unsubscribe link that is valid for 90 days.
  3. Your subject line must pertain to the content in the email.

VerticalResponse is compliant with all three elements of The Act. Check with your email service provider if you have any questions about their compliance.

3. My business is not in Canada so I’m not affected, right?

Just because your business is located outside of Canada does not mean you are exempt from The Act. If you’re sending email to anyone who resides in Canada, your sending practices must abide by The Act. 

4. Where can I learn more?

Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation site has all of the details and this presentation from the folks at Return Path helps you prepare for CASL. 

 

Note: The information in this post cannot be considered legal advice, and is not legally binding. 

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© 2014, 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.

The post 4 Things You Should Know About Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

7 Ways to Avoid an Email Blunder

Mon, 06/23/2014 - 06:00

Have you ever quickly sent off an email and were mortified to discover an error after you’d hit send? We’ve all been there and in order to avoid that awful feeling, we’ve created an handy list of seven ways to avoid an email blunder. Here’s what to do before you hit send.

1. Get permission
If you’re sending an email with say, customer quotes, or a newsletter in which you’re writing about another person, have you gotten their permission first? Business relationships take work to build and maintain, and the loss of trust from sharing what was supposed to be a private story publicly without permission can be difficult to rebuild. Play it safe by asking first; there may be factors at play of which you are unaware.

2. Make sure your images are legal to use
Just because you have attribution and a back link to a site where you’ve obtained an image doesn’t mean you’re in the clear. Unless you have permission to use an image, you could risk a fine or have your site shut down. Wikimedia Commons and morgueFile provide copyright-free images you can use in your blog posts and online articles. iStock Photo will sell them to you at a reasonable fee. If you’ve got a bit of a budget, you can get a subscription to ThinkStock, Getty Images or other similar services.

3. Double-check your hyperlinks
It’s easy to go in and fix a broken hyperlink in a blog post, but after you’ve hit send on an email, it’s often too late. Make sure to double-check all of your hyperlinks to ensure they work properly. Doing this as close to your send time as possible is preferable, so that you’re not linking to a YouTube video that’s already been privatized or removed due to copyright infringement.

4. Check your font and font size
Accidentally cutting and pasting from various sources sometimes leads to mismatched text. In general, it’s a good idea to type into a text editor rather than, say, a Word document, which sometimes adds unnecessary formatting. In any case, double-check your font and font size, and even font color, to make sure everything is consistent before hitting send.

5. Check for typos
News flash: It’s not easy proofreading your own writing, but there are a few strategies that can help. One involves taking some time away from the email or newsletter so that you’re a little more detached when viewing. Or, try reading your entire email out loud. This will help you find errors you may have missed. If you’ve got a co-worker with a good eye, ask them to proofread your message. Getting an extra set of eyes is priceless for avoiding unnecessary errors. And fortunately, there are multiple tools online that can help you with your proofreading efforts with a human eye (which is more effective than spellcheck). If you use the collaborative software program Draft to compose your messages, you can pay a small fee to have your work proofread under a strict NDA. Revision Fairy is another option.

6. Check your subject line
We’e discussed the importance of having a compelling, clickable subject line, but length is important, too. If your readers are checking their email on the way to work, or taking a quick glance at their smartphones on the way to a meeting, they’re not going to see your entire subject line unless you keep it short. If possible, stick to 30 characters or less. When you can’t do that, make sure that the first 30 characters make sense even when your subscribers can’t see the rest.

7. When scheduling an email, check your AMs and PMs
It’s always good to test various times of days to send your email, but make sure you’re doing it deliberately. Double-check your AMs and PMs when you’re scheduling your email, so you’re not inadvertently sending something at 2 in the morning when you were hoping to catch your readers in the early afternoon. Also be considerate of your time zone. If you’re sending an email at 5 pm Pacific time, your east coast friends may not engage with it like you want them to. 

Have any other things you like to check and double check before you hit send? Share with us.

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© 2014, 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.

The post 7 Ways to Avoid an Email Blunder appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

A Definitive Guide to Using Facebook Insights for Your Business

Fri, 06/20/2014 - 06:00

Facebook has multiple metrics and analytics to help you with your marketing efforts. For example, Facebook Page Insights provides information about the content you share on your Facebook Page. It lets you see the demographics of those viewing your content, as well as user growth and how frequently a piece of content is consumed. The tool can help you better track the overall performance of your page.

Now, Facebook is rolling out its Audience Insights tool. Instead of solely looking at interactions with your own business page, Audience Insights looks at a swath of information about your followers and target audience, like demographics, lifestyles and interests. Audience Insights is slowly being introduced across the United States; it will be available in other countries in the coming months.

Who has access?
Facebook Audience Insights is slowly being rolled out for business pages (not personal accounts). Your page must also have 30 fans for the data to be available. It will be available under the “Ads Manager” tool.

To access your regular Facebook Insights, click on your business page, and then click on “Insights” in the Page Manager. 

What data is available?

Facebook Page Insights’ available data is divided into six sections.

1. Overview
This section shows how well your individual posts or pieces of content from the past week have resonated with your audience. You’ll see the total amount of ‘likes’ your page has received for the week (compared to the week prior), your posts’ reach broken down by day and compared to the week prior, engagement (likes, comments, shares and clicks), and some stats on your five most recent posts: the type of post, who you’re targeting, reach and engagement.

2. Likes
“Likes” analyzes the number of people who liked your page, and any changes. It can also break down organic ‘likes’ versus paid ‘likes’ (from campaigns designed to increase Facebook likes), as well as information on the number of times your page was ‘liked,’ broken out by where it happened.

3. Reach
Post reach shows the number of people your post was ‘served to’ – the ones who have seen the post, whether they clicked on it or not. You can compare organic versus paid reach here as well. The section also shows the number of people served any activity from your page – mentions, check-ins, ‘like’ ads and posts by other people in addition to your own posts. It also has charts for likes, comments and shares as well as the number of times your content was hidden or reported as spam, or your page was unliked.

4. Visits
This section shows you the number of times your various page tabs (including your photos tab, info tab, timeline, etc.) were viewed, actions people have taken involving your page (such as posting on it), and the number of times people came to your page from a website outside of Facebook.

5. Posts
Posts can be a very helpful tab. It shows you a breakdown of the days and times of day that your fans are online, the paid and organic reach of your posts, as well as interactions with them (comments or likes). 

It also allows you to compare the average reach and engagement for different types of posts (links, photos, status updates). And if you’d like to compare the performance of your Page and posts with that of your competitors, there’s a section for that as well.

6. People

“People” breaks down the demographics of your fan base, including their gender, country and city, and language. It provides additional data about the demographics of people who have seen a post within the past 30 days, and the demographics of those who engaged with it.

Facebook Audience Insights

Facebook Page Insights shows you information about people who have ‘liked’ your page, whereas Facebook Audience Insights lets you choose between three potential audiences. One very broad option is the entire Facebook audience: people on Facebook in general. Another option is people who are connected to your Page (or event). Lastly, Facebook allows you to create a “Custom Audience” comprised of your current customers.

Facebook Audience Insights is divided into five categories.

1. Demographics. Just like Page Insights, Audience Insights shows you the age and gender of your group, but adds additional information as well: lifestyle, education, relationship status, job role and household size. 

2. Page Likes shows you the top pages people in your group like in different categories. 

3. Location and language is similar to Page Insights, except information about where people live, and which languages they speak is for the specific group you choose rather than just those connected with your page. 

4. Facebook usage shows you how often people in your audience use Facebook, and with which devices. 

5. Purchases activity shows you past purchase behavior of your group (like if they are heavy buyers in a specific industry) and how they shop (in store, online, etc.). 

How do you use these tools?

 Facebook Page Insights

  • Analyze people. The demographic makeup of your viewers can help you better understand your audience: their age group, location, gender, etc. You can even see if there’s a variation between viewers on certain topics compared to others. This will help you further refine your content. 
  • Use Post types to see which kinds of posts have the most reach and engagement. If you see that photos (or links, or status updates) are wildly popular, you may want to add more of them, more often. You can also see which actions led to people unliking, hiding or reporting your page as spam. This may show you which types of post decrease your reach. 
  • Boost posts. If you decide you want to put a little bit of money into paying for posts to get more traffic, the data becomes more useful. “The insights on a boosted post tell me what activity was generated around the money that I spent, which is really important,” says Derek Overbey, VerticalResponse Senior Social Media Manager. If you decide to “Boost” a post, or pay money to increase its views, that’s when you’ll really want to take a close look at the reports to guide decisions for future posts. You may need to experiment a bit to determine the reason specific ‘boosted’ posts are more popular as it could be the type of post, the topic or some other factor. Looking at the data is a good starting point for hypothesizing. 
  • Stick to on-screen data. Facebook has a very robust analytics package, and allows you to download very detailed reports. Overbey recommends starting with on-screen data, which can be less overwhelming if you’re just starting out. The on-screen pictures and graphs, he says, will tell you just enough without going into too much detail. 
  • Keep it in context. It’s true that Audience Insights can give you a peek into what your audience thinks about a particular piece of content, but there are many different factors. Often times a post will resonate with a certain audience and get a lot of activity on Facebook, but won’t necessarily get a lot of clicks or activity from other social channels such as LinkedIn or Twitter. Just be aware that the data you see on Facebook Insights might not reflect a post’s overall performance on other social media channels.

Getting Started with Facebook Audience Insights

Facebook Audience Insights helps you learn more about the people you want to target both with content and ads.

Get started by going to Facebook Ads Manager and creating an audience. This will allow you to hone in on the particular audience and compare them to the overall population to see what is unique about them. You can create multiple audiences if you have segmented your list.

If Facebook Audience Insights has rolled out for you, you’ll be able to hone in on your new audience, to better understand their demographics and purchase behavior. Here’s how this could affect your marketing.

1. Demographics. Being able to compare the age and gender of your specific audience with a more general audience can show you who to target with your products. And that’s not all: You’ll have information on education, relationship status, job roles and household size as well. For example, there’s no use advertising your dating app to an audience where the demographic includes mostly married people.

Advertising to a target market is nothing new – Facebook has allowed filtering for ads for a while. But targeting a specific product to a list you already have is a new way to use Audience Insights.

2. Page Likes shows you the top pages people in your group like in different categories. This can be helpful both for scoping out potential competitors and for better understanding your audience and what makes them tick.

3. Location and language can help you hone in on specific areas. For example, if you have products targeting certain areas, you’ll be able to know this information about the audience you have selected.

4. Facebook usage shows you how often people in your audience use Facebook, and with which devices. This may help you understand your data on engagement and views.

5. Purchases activity shows you past purchase behavior of your group (like if they are heavy buyers in a specific industry) and how they shop (in store, online, etc.). This can affect your marketing strategy. If you have a brick-and-mortar store but your audience is far more likely to shop online than the general population, you’ll want to make sure that option is available.

It just goes to show you, sometimes the more you know about your audience, the better.

Do you have plans to use these new insights to learn about your audience on Facebook? Share in the comments. 

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© 2014, 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.

The post A Definitive Guide to Using Facebook Insights for Your Business appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

5 Takeaways from Search Marketing Expo Advanced 2014

Thu, 06/19/2014 - 07:00

The Search Marketing Expo (SMX) Advanced conference in Seattle, Washington wrapped up last week. A variety of search engine marketing experts including Brad Geddes, Chris Goward, Feras Alhou, Heather Coan and many more shared their unique and valuable insights. We covered the Paid Search sessions and brought back these 5 takeaways for your business.

1. Embrace Mobile

Whether you’re ready or not, mobile is here. You can no longer ignore the valuable traffic and conversions that come from mobile users. It’s important to have mobile optimized sites in order to give users the best possible shopping experience, and a higher chance to convert. Design your web pages to drive users to take the action that you want, whether it’s a sign up or a purchase.

2. Challenge Best Practices

Challenging best practices may seem like going against everything you’ve heard or learned, but there’s truth to it. Yes, many best practices are good to follow as general rules, but don’t assume that what works for some businesses, will work for yours. It’s important to test different hypothesis and strategies before blindly assuming a “best practice” is right for your business. Try different things out, especially when it comes to your landing page designs and calls-to-action. The results may surprise you. This leads to our next take away: testing.

3. Test! Test! Test!

One of the biggest and most important takeaways from this year’s SMX was the topic of testing. Businesses can always improve things and testing should never stop. It’s important not only to continually test and reiterate, but it’s important to form and establish a process for doing so in order to eliminate as many affecting factors as possible. Break your tests down to manageable pieces to make things easier and continually reiterate and improve those different aspects. Remember that factors like seasonality and running promotions that may skew results.

4. Analyze the Data

Okay, so you’ve run some tests, now what? Analyze the results. Whether it’s a simple A/B split test or multivariate testing, make sure to look at the data in more ways than one. Slice and dice your data a different ways to tell different stories about your customer base. What you assume about your customers may not always be correct, so it’s important to analyze your data to form “personas” for your customers. Different sets of your customers may behave differently depending where they are in the sales process. Additionally, there is a wealth of information available to website owners from various paid and free tools and sources that can be used to make valuable business decisions as well including:

5. Utilize Display and Search in Tandem

Display and search have different capabilities and unique characteristics, and each should be utilized appropriately in tandem to get people to convert. You should use display to build awareness and trust and use search to get people the information they’re looking for about your product or brand. People who search for your product tend to be more in the “learning” or “buying” stages, so your queries and ads should reflect that. After you’ve finally gotten the person to visit your site and hopefully convert, again use search and display for retargeting to cross sell, upsell, and make your spend more efficient.

For anyone thinking about attending SMX, it’s well worth the time and money. There are lots of informative speakers and workshops that share actionable insights for any business trying to drive online conversions. For more info on SMX, check out their site and be sure to look at slides from this year’s speakers.

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© 2014, 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.

The post 5 Takeaways from Search Marketing Expo Advanced 2014 appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Everything You Wanted to Know about Email Sign up Forms

Thu, 06/19/2014 - 06:01

Email sign up forms can help you grow your email list, but what exactly are they, and how do they work for your business? We’ll answer those questions now:

What’s an email sign up form?

An email sign up form is an embedded or hosted web form you can place or link to on your website, blog, or social media sites so that a visitor can sign up to receive a newsletter or email. Typically, it’s a small box that asks for few fields including an email address. They may also be referred to as email opt-in forms, web forms, webforms, or signup forms.

Example of an Email SIgn Up Form from VerticalResponse

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s the purpose of an email sign up form?

It’s a small, but a mighty tool used to collect permission-based email addresses. You may have noticed the emphasis on permission-based. That’s because when a visitor fills out a sign up form and asks to be added to an email list, they’re actively agreeing to be a part of your list and giving you permission to send them email. These contacts are priceless because they’ve specifically asked to hear from your business and are highly likely to open, read and click your messages. This results in more visits to your website, blog, brick and mortar location, and hopefully more sales.

Where should I put my email sign up form?

The more places you have sign up forms or links to them, the better. This includes all the pages of your website, blog, your business Facebook page and more. Here are some suggestions:

  • The top side bar of your website or blog (link and/or form)
  • In the top navigation bar (link and/or form)
  • The footer of your site (link and/or form)
  • A tab on your Facebook page (link and/or form)
  • At the end of every blog post (link)
  • On your “About Us” page (link and/or form)
  • All of your social sites (link)

In the examples below from organic skincare company, Birdy Botanicals, you can see how they prominently feature an email sign up form on their website, blog and their Facebook page. 

Website email sign up form example from Birdy Botanicals

Blog email sign up form example from Birdy Botanicals

Facebook email sign up form from Birdy Botanicals

What information should my email sign up form ask for?

Less is more when it comes to your form. Often, just an email address is all you need. However, if you want to personalize your emails or do any segmenting of your list, you may want to add a field for first name, state or other relevant information. 

How do I get an email sign up form?

Most email service providers (ESPs), like VerticalResponse, offer either email sign up forms you can embed on your site or hosted web forms. In VerticalResponse Classic, you can find email sign up forms in your account in the Lists or Contacts section. You can quickly and easily customize your email sign up form and then post it wherever you like. And, once you have it on your website and other places, each time someone fills it out, their email address will be automatically added to your email list.

There you have it, everything you ever wanted to know about email sign up forms. You can create your own in VerticalResponse now and start growing your list today. 

Have a question we didn’t answer? Share it in the comments and we’ll get right on it.

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© 2014, 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.

The post Everything You Wanted to Know about Email Sign up Forms appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Grow Your Email List Using Twitter Lead Generation Cards

Wed, 06/18/2014 - 06:00

Want to grow your email list? Of course you do! Twitter’s lead generation cards are a great way to do just that. Outdoor apparel store, Rock/Creek, got 1,700 new email sign ups in a week by using this social media tool. Interested? We’ll show you how to set up an account and create your first lead generation card.

What is a lead generation card?
A lead generation card is a promoted tweet that helps your small business in two ways. First, it gets your business in front of a target audience for a small financial investment. Second, it can help boost your email list.

People scrolling through Twitter can click on the card, which usually has some sort of deal or offer, and their name, twitter handle, and email address gets pre-filled in the form. All the persohn has to do is submit it. Here are two examples.

What do I need to do before creating a lead generation card?
To create a lead generation card, follow these steps or watch our five-minute video to get started.

Create a Twitter Ads Account
Sign into your Twitter account and click on the sprocket in the top right corner. Select “Twitter Ads” from the drop down menu. You’ll need to answer a few questions about your company and you’ll be prompted to put in a credit card number.

• Set up a “collector”

Next, you’ll be prompted to select a company to collect the information. They’re called CRM (customer relationship management) companies. Once you pick, you’ll need to fill out a few business-related forms. 

What do I need to do to create a lead generation card?
Now you’ll move on to actually creating the card. Go to the advertising option and select “cards” and “create new card.” Here’s what it looks like along with a breakdown of the fields that you’ll need to fill in.

 

 

• Add a card image
Visuals are important. Take time to select a relative and intriguing picture. The dimensions are also unique. The picture should be 600×150 pixels with a 4:1 aspect ratio. You can use the preview button to make sure the picture looks right.

• Write a short description
Most lead generation cards promote a sale, offer a coupon, enter people in a giveaway, or let subscribers download something for free or sign up for a newsletter. You need an incentive, says marketer Grant Tilus, who markets colleges and universities through lead generation cards. Give the audience something of value.

• Include a call to action
Create a short call to action that’s in present tense and sounds urgent. For instance, “Join us today.”

• Link to a privacy policy
Create a page on your website that explains what your company’s privacy policies are and include a link to that page on the card. People take privacy seriously, Tilus says; so don’t skimp on the details.

• Fill out card details
This is an optional link that offers more information about your campaign.

Here’s an example of a simple Twitter lead gen card we created for the VR Buzz daily emails:

What else should I know?
Here are a few other tips we thought you should know about lead generation cards:

  • The cards aren’t free. You’ll need to decide how you want to pay for the promoted tweet. You can pay only when users engage or when you add a new follower.
  • Have a plan to deal with new leads. Now that you’ve got a list of people who are interested in your business or product, how will you engage with them? (A welcome email is a good first step.) Have a post-campaign plan in place.
  • Analyze the metrics. You’ll have access to a dashboard that will show you engagement statistics. Take some time to look them over and use the information to make your next campaign even better.

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© 2014, 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.

The post Grow Your Email List Using Twitter Lead Generation Cards appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

6 Easy Ways to Keep Track of Your Competitors

Tue, 06/17/2014 - 06:00

You don’t have to be James Bond or Jason Bourne to find out what your competitors are up to. Competitive analysis for small businesses also doesn’t have to take up a lot of time or money. Differentiating yourself from the competition is something every business wants to do. However, you can’t reach that goal if you don’t get to know your competitors—what they offer, what their customers think about them, what their prices are and, most importantly, what action you can take to stand out.

Here are a few simple ways to understand out you compare to your competitors:

1. Check out their website and ask yourself:

  • Does their website look professional or render on a PC, tablet and mobile device? How does it compare to yours?
  • What key pieces of information are different between your website and theirs?
  • What products/services do they provide that you don’t?
  • How are they priced vs. your company?
  • Do they have a an email sign up? If so, sign up for it (HINT: use a generic email address so they don’t know it’s you! Some companies will remove or block mailings to an obvious competitor email address.)

2. Look at customer reviews

  • Check Yelp, Angie’s List, Google Reviews, Foursquare, etc. to see what customers are saying about your competition. Here are 20 online business listings to browse.
  • Are there any trends or common traits among the compliments or complaints?
  • How do your ratings compare to the competition?

3. Use search engines 

  • Do a generic search for your business type and location (e.g., “florist in San Francisco, CA” or “yoga studio in Minneapolis, MN”) on Google, Yahoo! and Bing.  
  • Which page does the competition show up on versus your company in organic results? If your competitors are showing up higher on the page, you probably need to focus on your SEO efforts.    
  • Are your competitors using Google Ads or pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns to drive traffic to their website?

4. Follow them on social media

  • Follow your competitors on social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, Instagram, LinkedIn, or YouTube. Facebook recently rolled out the ability to add competitor’s pages to your “Pages to Watch” section and compare their results with yours.
  • How is the competition communicating with customers via social media? What types of information are they sharing and how often?
  • How many followers do they have compared to you?

5. Set up a Google Alert

  • Find out the latest news that hits the web regarding your competitors by using a Google Alert
  • Set up the Google Alert once and any news stories related to your competitors will hit your inbox. You set the topics and frequency. 

6. Visit or buy from them

  • Do it the old-fashioned way. If they have a physical location or a storefront, go check it out in person. Talk to the employees. Get a sense of how they interact with customers. If your business and competitor offer software or a service, sign up for a free trial, or have a chat with a salesperson. 
  • If they have an online store, buy something online and note the process. Track how they communicate with customers before, during and after the shopping experience.

With the exception of your time, doing a competitive analysis won’t really cost a thing (well, unless you buy one of their products). It’s time well spent.

What other techniques have you used that have worked to find out what your competition is up to? Share in the comments.

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© 2014, 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.

The post 6 Easy Ways to Keep Track of Your Competitors appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

12 Tips to Running a Winning Social Media Contest

Mon, 06/16/2014 - 06:01

Running a social media contest is a great way to drum up enthusiasm for your business, increase your list of email subscribers, get new Twitter followers and Facebook likes, and create a fun experience in the process. 

In this post, we share 12 recommendations, choices for you to consider, and options to keep in mind to run a successful social media contest of your own.

1. Know what you want
Are you trying to get newsletter subscriptions, expose certain products, gain brand recognition, or drive up Facebook fans? Knowing what your goals are will guide the process.

2. Choose the type of contest you want to have
Sweepstakes contests are the easiest to enter, with the lowest barrier of entry. Photo or video contests with fan votes get the most engagement. Caption contests or quiz contests are other options. Winners can be randomly selected, picked by you or a panel of judges you select, or voted on by other readers. Pinterest also has a wide variety of “Pin It to Win It” promotions you can peruse for ideas including this simple contest from Ally Bank Financial Inc.

3. Decide how long the contest will run
If you’re running a photo or video contest, stretch contests out longer by having several rounds of voting says Nicole Krug, owner and operator of brand marketing and social media company Social Light.

“If you don’t have a huge budget but just want to spur some engagement, you can also do a flash contest,” Krug says. These contests – often one-day contests done every week or two – brings small bursts of engagement without emptying your marketing budget. 

4. Choose a platform
Decide whether you want the contest to run on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, etc. Choose one and stick to it, though you can still cross-promote your contest on other social networks. Want an all encompassing campaign? Popular options for contests include Rafflecopter, Offerpop, Votigo, PunchTab, PromoSimple and Giveaway Tool. Many have free trial plans or versions that are free for up to a specified number of entries. Some have forms and templates. “If you’re on a budget and know how to code, Krug recommends Shortstack. 

5. Create a plan for artwork
Depending on which platform you use, you may need to set aside some time and resources to create artwork for the contest. Some images need to be customized for different platforms.

6. Make sure the contest is targeted
Many businesses ask contest entrants to join their email list as a prerequisite for contest entry. Mike Carroll, creative director at Equinox Design estimates that only about 10 percent to 20 percent of people drop off. Keep this number low by making sure the prize you’re giving away is closely related to what your business offers. Offering free iPads to people subscribed to emails from your cooking company may attract tech lovers rather than aspiring chefs. “If you can get people to show their loyalty to a brand, that’s going to get more targeted people,” Carroll explains. You can always include a prize from your business alongside a second prize that’s more generic.

Here’s an example from Monterey County, in which they asked people to share their favorite winery via Twitter for a chance to win a trip to Carmel.

We want to hear about your favorite Monterey County winery! You could win a trip to Carmel! http://t.co/f65DavFF

— SeeMonterey (@SeeMonterey) January 30, 2012

7. Make it sticky
You can provide motivation in the form of extra contest entries for those who share your contest on social media, but nobody wants to share a boring contest. Increase the “stickiness” by making it fun and engaging even for those who don’t win. An interesting contest gets shared more, whether you combine it with incentives in the form of added entries or not. 

8. Promote the contest
No matter how great the giveaway, your content won’t promote itself. Consider using paid options on Facebook, Twitter and other platforms to help spread the word.

You can use a hashtag for the contest to tie it across various networks, but make it easy and fun. Krug recommends leveraging partnerships to get others to post and spread the word. 

9. Keep people’s attention with other content
No matter what the contest, some people will sign up for the prize and opt out as soon as the contest is over. However, if the contest is done well, they’ll be exposed to a bit of your brand throughout the process. “Yes, you want to promote the contest, but while you’re doing the contest you have their attention,” whether your contest has several rounds or people are viewing entries, says Krug. 

Use that opportunity, she says, to integrate your brand messages into the contest – whether it’s adding product information that may catch people’s attention into the contest itself or throwing other posts to your Facebook page with interesting information about your brand. 

10. Have clear contest rules

“The bigger the prize, the more people you’re going to have enter,” says Mike Carroll, creative director at Equinox Design. Carroll created a photo contest for Cathay Pacific’s 30th anniversary, as part of the airline’s “Spirit of Hong Kong” campaign.  People who had flown on Cathay Pacific submitted photos related to their trip, and voted on their favorites. Cathay Pacific offered a free premium economy round-trip ticket to Hong Kong as the prize. He also worked on a more recent Facebook user-generated photo caption contest for the airline. 

“One big takeaway is that some people will cheat,” Carroll says. “So really hone in on your contest rules.”

For example, if the contest is for the number of Facebook likes a photo receives, make sure to specify that multiple votes from the same IP address will be discounted. And if you’d like to reuse images submitted as part of a contest, be sure to clearly state that in the contest rules as well. It will save you a lot of time afterwards! 

11. Other legalese
To keep everything legal, you’ll also need to disclaim the platform that you’re on, stating that they don’t sponsor the contest. This will be found in the terms of service of whichever platform you’re posting on. “If you’re going to do anything related to kids, make sure you have something saying that the legal guardian is the one that’s entering, because there are some legalities around that,” Krug recommends. Always research the rules for individual social media platforms when designing your contest to make sure you meet all the requirements first. 

12. Moderate submission entries
Many platforms have built-in options for moderation. Make sure to approve all images for photo contests before they get posted, in case there is inappropriate material. “We’ve actually had that before with sweepstakes so we learned from our mistakes,” Carroll explains.

You can drive heaps of wild engagement with a social media contest. It just take a bit of planning and execution to make it a smashing success!

Do you have plans for a social media contest to help your business? Share any tips you have in the comments.

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© 2014, 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.

The post 12 Tips to Running a Winning Social Media Contest appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Advice from a Social Pro: Which Social Network Should You Concentrate On? [VIDEO]

Fri, 06/13/2014 - 09:16

In this episode of the “Magic @ Ball of Social Media,” our video series where experts answer small business social media questions, we sit down with Jess Ostroff, “Director of Calm” at Don’t Panic Management. Ostroff provides useful information about you should assess various social media networks for your business.

© 2014, 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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Online Banner Ads: Out with the Old, in with Interactive

Thu, 06/12/2014 - 06:00

The world of online advertising is evolving. Soon those rectangular display banner ads that sit at the top of your screen will disappear and new interactive ads will take their place.

The Interactive Advertising Bureau, which is made up of 600 media and technology companies and is responsible for selling 86% of the online ads in the United States, is leading the change-the-ads charge. After all, display banner ads have been around since the early 2000s. Considering how quickly things change in the digital world, banner ads like this are ancient.

What will replace display banner ads?
Online advertising will move toward interactive ads of all shapes and sizes with various placements throughout a webpage. The Interactive Advertising Bureau is introducing six new ad options, one of which is called the “Billboard” ad.

Like a banner ad, it sits at the top of the page, but it’s roughly double the size. It can serve as a mini movie screen to play video, or the space can be split into a static ad and a video ad. Watch this video for an example.

Another ad choice, called the “Filmstrip,” puts content into a scrollable window on the right side of the screen. In the example below, a car ad was created. You can check out pictures of the car and even customize the car by changing colors and interior options. Plus, you can see what people are saying about the car on Twitter. All of this information is in the ad and you don’t have to leave the site you’re on to see it.

What kind of results are the new ads getting?
According to the Interactive Advertising Bureau, people are 2.5 times more likely to interact with these ads than with traditional options. Plus, people are viewing these ads for a longer amount of time, about 31% longer than traditional ad options.

How will the new ads impact small businesses?
Barney Garcia, our paid media manager says the new ads can set a business apart. Anytime you can differentiate yourself, it’s a win.

Increased customer engagement is also a bonus, but these ads might not be accessible to every small business.

“These new ad formats will be harder to produce, leaving small businesses without the expertise or budget to compete with bigger players … at least at the beginning,” Garcia comments.

Like every new trend, the big brands will try it out first. In time, the cost and resources needed to make these ads will come down and become more of a viable option for small businesses, Garcia predicts.

That doesn’t mean you should wait around and let the big boys do their thing. While the change won’t happen overnight, you can research the new ad options and start looking for people who have the skills to bring your ads into the next generation.

What do you think of the interactive ads trend? How will your small business prepare for the change? Tell us in the comment section below.

 

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© 2014, 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.

The post Online Banner Ads: Out with the Old, in with Interactive appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

What Facebook’s New Pages Layout Means for Your Business

Wed, 06/11/2014 - 06:00

Facebook is at it again. Just a month after the social media giant changed its algorithm, it’s now tweaking the layout and design, adding a new feature and making page metrics more accessible.

The visual experts at Shutterstock, a site that specializes in stock photography, call the new look “visually appealing” with an “attention-grabbing layout that’s designed to delight viewers.”

Intrigued? We thought you might be. Here’s a breakdown of the new changes that are planned to roll out on June 13.

New page design
Instead of your posts showing up on both the right and left side of your feed, all of your posts will appear in a straight line down the right side like the picture below.

 

Derek Overbey, our senior Social Media Manager at VerticalResponse says, “The old layout is a bit a confusing. The linear feed will help viewers consume your content easier.”

On the left side, you’ll see your likes, an About tab, any apps that apply to your page, photos, videos, reviews, and posts to your page. If you’re a brick-and-mortar store, the left column will also show a map of your location, your phone number and hours of business. You can reorder these tabs to fit your needs.

“Having a spot to prominently display reviews could pay dividends for businesses,” Overbey says. “People love word-of-mouth reviews, and if they see a friend of theirs raving about your place on Facebook, they may be more likely to give it a try.”

Information on top of your cover picture
Your business name and category will sit on top of your cover photo now. The like, follow and share icons will also sit on top of your picture, so you’ll want to make sure the image looks right with this new addition. The dimensions of the cover photo aren’t changing.

Image courtesy of Facebook

 

Easier access to page stats
To see how your posts are doing with the current layout you have to click the Insights tab. That tab will still be there, but with the new design the most important Facebook stats will be listed on the top right side of your screen. It will look like the white highlighted block in the picture below.

 

Image courtesy of Facebook

At a glance, you can see if you have an ad running, the number of page likes, post reach, unread posts and the number of notifications that you have. 

New “Pages to Watch” feature
Ever wonder how your competitor’s Facebook page is doing? Now you can find out. You can add pages to your “Pages to Watch” section and compare their results with yours. If you add a competitor’s page to this list they are notified that they were added to a watch list, but they aren’t told who added them. Here’s what it will look like.

Image courtesy of Facebook

 

You’ll be able to see how many likes your competitor got that week, how many posts they published, and see how much engagement they got.

The new features are mostly for the desktop version of Facebook, although you’ll notice a lite version on the mobile Facebook. You won’t see these changes on the Facebook app.

What do you think of the new changes? Share in the comments.

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© 2014, 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.

The post What Facebook’s New Pages Layout Means for Your Business appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Are Your B2B Communications Boring?

Tue, 06/10/2014 - 06:00

If you’re a business to business company, have you recently taken a good, hard look at your business communications?

Have you especially looked at your email marketing through the eyes of your customers?

I’m guessing if you have, you might find some surprises. You might find that your business is–gasp–boring. Yep, I said it … the B-word. “Boring.” It’s not something we want to admit, but a lot of us in the B2B world feel like we can’t help it because we’ve been told that B2B companies aren’t fun and can’t use humor (which I disagree with wholeheartedly).

I recently even penned a post about how you can take advantage of nontraditional holidays, but I feel as though most B2B companies stop short because they’re still playing by the old rules.

Should B2B be more like B2C?
After running VerticalResponse for the last 13 years, I’ve seen a lot of email in my respective personal and business inboxes. I’ve gotta admit that B2B e-mails could take a good dose of inspiration from their B2C (business to consumer) counterparts.

Here’s a fun experiment. Check out your own business inbox and look at the subject lines, creative, calls to action and copy. What do you see? What grabs your interest? Anything? Bueller? Bueller?

Now, jump on over to your personal inbox and see what’s going on in there. Notice any differences in voice and tone? How attention-getting are the subject lines? Is there a different sense of urgency? Is the creative perhaps more colorful, eye catching and interesting?

The differences can vary greatly, of course, depending what type of emails you’re subscribed to, but I’m guessing you had a similar experience to mine in your inboxes.

So what do you say? Want to join me in shaking up B2B communications and giving your subscribers something more compelling, creative and interesting in their inboxes? Funny enough, as I sit writing this post, I received an email from a business that had the subject line, “How Do You Like Your Ice Cream?” And they don’t sell ice cream. They sell email automation. Looks like we’re on to something here.

How do you plan to spice up your B2B communications, or do you already? Share in the comments.

This article by VerticalResponse CEO and founder Janine Popick originally appeared on Inc.com.

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© 2014, 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.

The post Are Your B2B Communications Boring? appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

4 Tips to Keep Your Search Strategies Up-to-Date

Mon, 06/09/2014 - 06:00

Search engine optimization (SEO) is consistently evolving, including how it’s referenced. “Most people have migrated to the term ‘search’ or ‘integrated marketing,’” says online marketing consultant and WebScout founder Laura Greeno. Buzzwords aren’t the only aspects of SEO that have evolved since 2006, which Greeno refers to as the time of smoke and mirrors. To keep your ‘search’ skills up-to-date as well, follow these four tips:

Tip #1: Have an integrated approach
SEO strategy used to be divorced from a content marketing strategy. Sites like Copyblogger that emphasize creating quality content, were not nearly as ubiquitous as say, SEO experts offering to “optimize” your text with keyword stuffing (which is now considered a big no-no).

Although many people are much savvier these days, due in no small part to Google penalties and algorithm updates, some still see SEO as wholly separate from other marketing efforts.

“In order to drive sustainable marketing today, you really need to have a fully integrated approach, and search marketing has to cross all those facets of marketing efforts,” Greeno explains. That means that you’re thinking about search (and what people are looking for and would be interesting to them) throughout your entire marketing scope: articles, press releases, social media, and even offline. The topics covered in all aspects are consistent.

Although it’s important to know which topics people are searching for, this goes above and beyond simply looking at keywords. You’re looking for what people are interested in learning and how your content can solve their problems. Using social media as well as engagement with posts on your site (and offline) can help you get to know your readers and guide your content. This goes beyond just figuring out which combination of keywords is optimal, to really understanding potential customers.

Greeno is quick to point out that search crosses into all the different efforts and cannot exist all by itself. She predicts that SEO may even disappear as a term as small businesses realize just how integrated it is. Creating and distributing valuable content to the right audience is far more important than optimizing for search, but combining all these efforts is even better.

Tip #2: Use synonyms, rather than just keywords, in your content
“Google has evolved over the last 18 months or so with understanding some of the synonyms that go along with keywords,” Greeno explains. ‘Inventory management,’ for example, may be a high volume phrase according to Google Adwords, but Google now also understands phrases like ‘inventory control’ or ‘inventory software’ or ‘management of inventory.’

In the past, content creators would find a perfect text URL and use it to link back to certain sites or pages on their blog. “Today, that’s really almost opposite,” says Greeno. Google recognizes that when you’re doing that exact match, and if you do it too often, it looks like you’re trying too hard. Greeno recommends using keywords for only around 20 to 40 percent of links, and using company names or even something like ‘click here’ or ‘learn more’ for the remaining 60 to 80 percent of links. Search engines will now recognize the synonyms around each keyword phrase and see it in context, recognizing what you’re talking about in a page. That means that if you’re writing for humans, search engines are more likely to understand.

Tip #3: Find the right frequency
Continuously creating and promoting great content means everything. “Eighty percent of what SEO is today is content marketing,” says Greeno. Social media is a big piece as well, since it can help create awareness of what you wrote. Viewing social media as a distribution channel (where shareable content, and to some extent, hashtags are digital currency) will help you with your content marketing efforts. The more high quality and useful your posts are, the better they’ll do. And making sure that you come up with a regular schedule is crucial. That way, readers will know when to expect new content and might even look for it on those days.

Tip #4: Pay attention to some of the technical details
As Google becomes more intuitive, it’s worth noting there are still a few technical factors you should keep in mind—so don’t skip them altogether! Writing web-friendly headlines, using keywords in your URL (see advice from above), and having a fast website load time are still important.

Bottom line
As search continues to evolve, remember that the purpose is to enable readers to make connections, find information they’re looking for and find the best answer to their questions. Keep that in mind and you will quickly find your way towards integrated marketing success!

For more great search engine optimization tips, grab our free Beginner’s Guide to SEO.

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© 2014, 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.

The post 4 Tips to Keep Your Search Strategies Up-to-Date appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Pinterest Announces 2 New Businesses Tools: DIY Promoted Pins & Analytics

Fri, 06/06/2014 - 10:35

Pinterest recently announced the addition of two new tools for businesses: Do-it-yourself Promoted Pins to help drive visits back to your website, and a refresh to analytics to provide deeper insights into how Pins are performing.

Do-it-Yourself Promoted Pins

Promoted Pins were announced back in the fall of 2013, but were only available to larger businesses with the big budgets to match. Now, Pinterest is opening up the doors and allowing business of all sizes to promote pins. These DIY Promoted Pins appear in search and category feeds, which reach more people and can drive visits back to your website.

So how much will these DIY Promoted Pins cost you? Pins will be on a CPC (cost-per-click) basis, so you’ll only pay when people click through to your website. You’ll also be able to see how your DIY Promoted Pins are performing, so you can make changes as you need.

DIY Promoted Pins are currently being tested by Pinterest, so aren’t available just yet. Sign up for access when they are here. Also, DIY Promoted Pins are only available to business accounts, so if you don’t have one, you’ll have to sign up before you can get access.

Better Analytics = Deeper Insights 

Pinterest also announced a refresh to their analytics, which will provide more detailed insights into how your pins are doing. With improved analytics, you’ll be able to see what people are pinning from your website, plus, Pinterest will tell you which of your pins and boards are driving the most impressions, clicks and repins.

You’ll be able to see the new analytics here. Again, Pinterest is doing their due diligence to ensure everything works smoothly before giving everyone access, but according to the company, all business accounts should get access soon.

What do you think of the new Pinterest tools for business? Are you going to give DIY Promoted Pins a try? Share in the comments.

If you want to learn more about getting started on Pinterest for your business, we have a free guide to walk you through the steps.

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© 2014, 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.

The post Pinterest Announces 2 New Businesses Tools: DIY Promoted Pins & Analytics appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Advice from a Social Pro: Engaging with Your Community [VIDEO]

Fri, 06/06/2014 - 06:01

In this episode of “Magic @ Ball of Social Media,” our video series where experts answer small business social media questions, we sit down with Ekaterina Walter, co-founder & CMO of Branderati. She’s also the author of the Wall Street Journal bestseller Think Like Zuck, and co-author of The Power of Visual Storytelling. Walter provides great tips to small businesses on engaging with their community.

Key takeaways that Walter provides:

  1. Respect your community!
  2. Give your community a way to extend your brand or content.

Learn more in this 3-minute video to get started in your quest to build the most passionate community possible.

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© 2014, 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.

The post Advice from a Social Pro: Engaging with Your Community [VIDEO] appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

How to Cross-Promote Your Email Content [Guide]

Thu, 06/05/2014 - 06:01

Email marketing is a valuable tool for any business. When it’s combined with cross-promotion techniques, your results can be even better. To help business owners tackle the logistics of cross-promotions, we’ve created this handy guide to walk you through the process.

What does cross-promotion mean?
Let’s start by defining cross-promotion. Cross-promotion is about getting your message out on multiple channels. Your target audience gets information from various sources, right? By using multiple sources to share your message, you help increase the odds of customers hearing about it, says Steven Mintz, a marketing consultant with CLM Prescriptives.

What can you cross-promote?
You can cross-promote just about anything. From an upcoming event to a big holiday sale, with a little planning you can cross-promote a lot of the everyday things that your company does. For instance, you can cross-promote:

• upcoming events
• giveaways or contests
• new blog content
• a sale or promotion

How can you cross-promote?
We live in an email checking, Facebook scrolling, content-on-demand world. Because of that, the majority of cross-promotions happen online. Plan to use the most relevant digital platforms that are available to you.

To breakdown how to cross-promote your email content, we’ll use an example from a cross-promoting giant, Coca-Cola. Recently, the company launched a charitable event, “Happiness from the Skies.” Using remote-controlled drones, the beverage-giant delivered care packages to construction workers in Singapore. The packages contained Coke cans with messages of gratitude.

While most businesses won’t be breaking out flying drones anytime soon, the cross-promotion behind this event is something any business can learn from.

Send an email
The Coca-Cola event happened millions of miles away, so how did we hear about it? Through an email, of course. As part of its regular newsletter, Coca-Cola included a small blurb about the event. Check it out: 

Use your newsletter wisely
Coca-Cola placed the information in its regular newsletter, which is the perfect spot for something like this. A newsletter is a great piece of the cross-promotion puzzle.

Be captivating
Let’s dissect this email a little more. We often emphasize writing captivating content, something that draws the reader in. In just a few words, Coca-Cola does that. You want to know more, right? When you’re working to cross-promote an event, spend time creating short, snappy content.

Include a clear call to action
Coca-Cola has your attention. Now, all you have to do is click on the “Learn more” button. It’s another great email marketing tip: make sure your email has a clear call to action. When you’re cross-promoting an event like this, you want content that’s easy to navigate.

Plan for social media
Coca-Cola is already thinking socially. Notice the hashtag in the teaser sentence? The company plans to use #Cokedrones in its social media posts. Whatever you plan to cross-promote, think ahead. What hashtag could you use?

Create a blog post
As soon as the email recipient clicks on the call to action in the email, they’re taken to a blog post that gives more details about the event. Coke explains why it wanted to reach out to the workers and how the company integrated its product with some high-flying technology.

Do the same for your cross-promotion. Make sure subscribers can get more information from your blog.

Use visuals
Coca-Cola doesn’t stop with an email and a blog post, subscribers can watch a two-minute video that shows the drones flying in and dropping off the packages. You get to see the surprised workers open the box and read the messages that are tied to Coke cans.

In addition to the video, Coca-Cola put together a behind-the-scenes slideshow so people can check out the drones.

Both the video and the slideshow are additional visual elements that help the reader see and feel the event.

When you’re cross-promoting something, try to add visual elements like this. For instance, if your company participates in a charitable event, put together a slideshow of your employees volunteering. If you’re cross-promoting an upcoming speaking engagement, email a quick video to show people what to expect at the event. (Need a little help shooting video on the cheap? Check out a recent post on this very topic.)

Share the news on social media
Coca-Cola already had a social media plan with this campaign, but even if a specific hashtag wasn’t mentioned in the email, you should still use social media as a cross-promotion tool. Coca-Cola shared the same blog post that was mentioned in the newsletter. You can see how all three of those elements – the email, blog and tweet – worked together.

Can cross-promoting be done on a smaller scale?
Absolutely. As a small business owner, you decide how far you want to take your cross-promotions. Here are a few smaller scale tips:

Use the big three
To cross-promote on a small scale, use your biggest digital assets: email, social media and your company website. Let’s look at an example.

Send an email
In an effort to promote its new blizzard, Dairy Queen sent an email to its subscribers. It’s short and sweet. In fact, the image is the main seller here. You can do the same thing. Send an email out to advertise a new product or an upcoming promotion.

Promote on social media
Once the email is sent, promote the same information on your social media channels. You don’t want to copy the wording from the email; you want to create something fresh. Here’s what Dairy Queen did.

Use your business website
Don’t forget that your business website is a prime piece of digital real estate. If you are cross-promoting something, make some space for it on your homepage. Create a website banner, or do what Dairy Queen did and make a larger promotion.

What can you do to build an audience and enhance cross-promotion efforts?

Build your email list
One of the key components of cross-promotions is email, so you’ll want to grow your list. One of the best ways to increase subscribers is to get creative with opt-in placement. Make it ridiculously easy for people to sign up. For instance, have a spot on your homepage where people can sign up for your emails, or add a “subscribe now” option to your Facebook page.

Build a social media following
It takes time to grow your email and social media audience organically, but it’s worth your time and effort. To gain a following on social media, make sure you’re consistently posting to the site and that the content you post is of interest to your readers. People will follow you if you’re active and genuinely care about the content you share.

When it comes to cross-promotion, is everything done online?
You do have a lot of accessible, cross-promoting tools online; however, there are other methods that you can use, too.

Use in-store promotions
You can devote some store space to cross-promotions, Mintz suggests. Hang a sign on the door about a sale, or use a flat screen television in your store for promotional purposes.

Team up with a non-profit
Work with a group in your area to cross-promote a mutually beneficial event. Maybe your company is sponsoring a gala for the local animal shelter. By working with a nonprofit, you not only give back to the community but you expose your business to potential subscribers.

Mail invites
If you want to cross-promote an event, you might consider sending a paper invitation through the mail. A week later, you can follow up with an email.

Cross-promoting is about being creative and using the outlets where your niche audience gathers. It does require some pre-planning, but if you take some time to think about what you want to cross-promote, you can easily disperse the information on multiple channels.

Want tips like this cross-promotions guide delivered to your inbox? Say no more. Sign up for our VR Buzz newsletter. And, if you haven’t already, try VerticalResponse to send your next email! 

© 2014, 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.

The post How to Cross-Promote Your Email Content [Guide] appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Add Sizzle to Your Content with Eye Catching Images

Wed, 06/04/2014 - 06:01

The battle for reader attention isn’t limited to catchy headlines and subject lines. Eye-popping images can also captivate. Using tools such as Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook can help increase brand recognition, build a social media fan base, and draw traffic back to your site or blog. Here are some actionable recommendations on how to use images to create sizzling, eye-catching content.

Find or create images

• Use your own photographs. Whether you’re learning how to snap pics on your smartphone, tapping into the talent of a teammate, or even hiring photographer, using your own photos assures that they’re fresh, original and feature exactly what you want. Off the Grid, a local Bay Area food truck event (and VerticalResponse customer!) does an excellent job snapping mouth-watering food photos from their weekly gatherings. As you can see, their delicious pics garner quite a lot of engagement:

• Your audience does it best! Use user-generated photos – with permission, of course – to showcase uses of your product or to highlight your biggest fans and let them tell their own stories. You can even create contests or other incentives to encourage participation. Here’s an example from a 7×7 Magazine email, which includes a follower’s Instagram photo:

• Purchase stock images. For a small fee, you can get access to a wide variety of stock photos from companies such as:

This allows you to search for an image by topic or keyword and find a professional photograph at a relatively low cost.

• Find free images. Some great places to look include Wikimedia Commons, StockArch, or Stockvault. Creativity103 provides free background images and textures as well. Flickr also has some images that photographers allow others to reuse – just make sure to read the fine print closely to see whether the photo is okay for commercial use.

• Remember that images aren’t relegated to photos. Visual checklists, infographics, and even drawings can inspire customers and nurture prospects.

Pick a tool (or several)!

Here’s a quick rundown on the biggest players:

1. Pinterest

Pinterest is an incredibly popular social media platform that allows you to upload your own images and pin them on a virtual board. (To get started, check out our guide). Take further advantage of this image-rich network by linking back to any post or product associated with the image you pin, and including the link yet again in your image caption. You can create several boards (try three to five) with beautiful images and backlinks, and use them to drive traffic back to your website as well as to interact with other people on the network. Try pinning pictures of people using your service, along with a call to action. Pinterest now has a page for gifts as well, allowing you to showcase your own products. (It’s okay to include prices!) Like any social network, Pinterest is inherently social, so make sure to pin relevant third-party content as well as showcasing your own. Lowe’s hardware is known for wowing others with their fun and useful Pinterest boards:

2. Instagram

This wildly popular photo-sharing app can be used to showcase any visually appealing products or services you offer. Instagram’s array of filters can help reduce glare or add pizazz to just about any shot. You can use #hashtags, just like you do on Twitter. Adding location information can help provide context to images. As with all social media platforms, it’s important to be engaging. It’s always a good idea to add in general photos of interesting things around you as well as images directly related to your business. Humorous or thought-provoking captions will keep people interested. Make sure to engage with other users as well, replying to questions, commenting on other photos and ‘liking’ your favorite images. (If you’re just getting started with Instagram, check out their Instagram for Business page). With more than 42K followers on Instagram, San Francisco custom bicycle shop, Mission Bicycle is certainly a small biz to watch and learn from:

3. Facebook

In addition to using stunning visuals or photographs to illustrate your blog posts, it can be fun to add inspiring or thought-provoking images to your Facebook page. Images – whether they’re posted on their own or paired with text or memes that are trending – tend to do well with a large variety of readers. If the image and text hits home for readers, they’re likely to be widely shared as well.

Cross-post

Remember that you can use an image multiple times. It’s possible to sync your Instagram account with Facebook and Twitter, for example, and you can manually select multiple platforms for an image to load. And WordPress offers plugins for various sites (including Pinterest), in case you’d like your latest pins posted as a sidebar on your page. Whether you’re uploading images manually or automatically, reusing images can take a lot of pressure off of trying to create or find new images for each social media platform!

How are you adding sizzle to your content with images?

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© 2014, 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.

The post Add Sizzle to Your Content with Eye Catching Images appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

6 Ideas to Refresh Your Email Marketing [Guide]

Tue, 06/03/2014 - 06:21

Every once in a while your emails need a little refresher. It’s like spring cleaning or updating your wardrobe. It’s something you want to do periodically to renew your look and keep customers interested.

How do you know when your email marketing needs a refresh? Good question. An excellent place to start is with your metrics. JoAnne Funch, who runs marketing company Marketing Dish, says if your open rates and clickthroughs are steadily declining, it might be time to resuscitate your emails. We agree. (If you need a little help gauging these rates, check out our recent blog post on this topic).

If you’ve used the same look for a while, it might be time to change it up, too. Or maybe your business just did some rebranding and you want your emails to match. Maybe your emails are out of date and you want a more modern look. Whatever your reason, we’ve got six tips to help get you started. Check them out: 

1. Revive your subject lines
Have your subject lines become a bit boring lately? If so, it’s time to breathe new life into them. Scroll through your own inbox for a little inspiration. What subject lines do you respond to? Jot a few of them down and use them to brainstorm ideas for your email. 

The subject line should be creative, clear and urgent. In other words, the subject line should tell your customers the point of the email and encourage them to open it immediately. 

You’ll also want to optimize your subject line for the mobile world since your customers will likely open your email on their smartphones. Subject lines that are more than 50 characters long will get cut off, so make sure the most important information is at the beginning. 

Take a look at the examples below. Notice that each subject line creates a sense of urgency with words like “last chance” and “now only.” The point of the emails is clear; both are promotional offers.

 

 

2. Change the template
One of the great things about using an email service provider like VerticalResponse is the wide variety of templates from which to choose. You don’t have to spend hours designing an email or creating an eye-catching layout because it’s already been done for you. If it’s time to refresh your email, try out a new template. Sometimes just a change of scenery is all that’s needed to catch the reader’s eye. 

For instance, let’s say you’re using the VerticalResponse Classic template to the left to advertise upcoming sales. What if you switch to the template on the right? With just one click you can change the color scheme and design.

       

3. Change the layout
If changing templates is too drastic, you can always select a different layout that uses the same design. With VerticalResponse, each template has about six different layouts, so you can make subtle changes rather than doing a complete 180. Here’s an example. The two templates below have the same design and color scheme, but a different layout.

      

4. Clean up the content
Once you’ve spruced up your design elements and refreshed your subject line, it’s time to talk content. When it comes to updating your email marketing message, there are four things you need to consider: relevance, voice, clarity and brevity. 

  • Relevance
    Your customers want content they care about and it’s up to you to fill that need. To do this, you have to know your customer. Segmenting your list will help, too, Funch says. The NFL, for example, creates team-specific newsletters for its customers. The point, of course, is to offer relevant information to your customer groups.
    If you need help coming up with relevant topics, check out our guide: 50 Unique Ideas for Your Next Email
  • Voice
    Your business has its own voice. If you’re selling clothes to teenagers, the tone and voice you use in your emails will be different than if you’re selling car parts. Make sure that every email is true to your company’s voice. 
  • Clarity
    What’s the point of the email? Answer this question before you sit down and write. The subject line should already clue the reader into the email’s intent, but now you need to bring the message home. Keep it simple and clear. 
  • Brevity
    Your customers get a lot of emails, so keep it short. “If you send an email that has half a page of text, they won’t read it,” Funch says. “It looks too much like a homework assignment.”

You don’t want to go overboard with your email content. In fact, check out the email below. In just 24 words this retailer gets the point across.

Of course, there are some emails that require more information. Your monthly newsletter, for example, will contain more than 24 words, but you can send a teaser email like the one below. It offers titles and several snippets of articles in the newsletter. To read the entire article, customers must click on a call to action.

5. Update your call to action
What do you want the customer to do once the email is opened? Do you want them to make a purchase? Download a guide? Read an article? Whatever the desired activity is, it should be expressed in a call to action. 

If your email uses hyperlinked text as a call to action, you might consider adding a button. Both are effective, but in terms of aesthetics, a button is a clean look. Plus, it’s easier to click for your mobile readers.  Check out the emails below. The one on the right has text hyperlinks only. The one on the left has a call to action button. Overall, the email on the left is more pleasing to the eye, don’t you think? You don’t want to overwhelm the reader with too many options. Keep it simple. Each email should only contain one or two calls to action.

        

If you need a little help creating a button, we’ve got you covered. Check out our button builder to get pristine and professional buttons for your next email. 

6. Add social media buttons
We live in a digital world, so customers expect easy ways to interact with your business and your brand. One of the easiest ways to do this is to include social media links. Take a look at the example below. This company makes it easy for customers to engage with its brand through social media.

With these tips, you’ll have a fresh look that captivates your customers. Of course, before you go too far, it’s a good idea to run a few tests to make sure the changes are welcome. A/B split testing can tell you what your customers prefer. You can test subject lines, email content, design elements and calls to action. With a few tests, you’ll know if your refreshed emails are effective. 

© 2014, 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.

The post 6 Ideas to Refresh Your Email Marketing [Guide] appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Useful Google Analytics: Goals and Attribution Models

Mon, 06/02/2014 - 09:15

Google Analytics (GA) is an excellent free tool used to track and measure website traffic and other factors. If used strategically, Google Analytics can provide you a wealth of beneficial knowledge. Here are two Google Analytics strategies and a variety of metrics you should be checking to get the most out of this powerful tool:

Goals
“I think the question that anybody needs to ask themselves when they have a website is what’s the meaningful action you want someone to take when they’re visiting your site,” says John Becerra, co-founder of Monkey Island, a consulting firm focusing on online marketing, search engine optimization, pay-per-click and conversion optimization.

Instead of getting lost in an endless cascade of analytics, it’s best to determine what you’d like to measure and set appropriate goals.

The type of goals you’ll want to measure depends on the type of site you have, but the following are metrics you may wish to track:

• Purchases: You can track this by sending shoppers to a “thank you” page after their order is completed, and tracking that page.
• Contacts: People who fill out a ‘contact us’ form might be useful to track if it leads to sales.
• Mailing list subscribers: This is especially important if your email marketing yields a high return compared to blog posts and social.
• Downloads or views: If a video or whitepaper is part of your sales funnel, you may want to track the number of people who download the resource or watch a video.
• Duration: It’s not worth it to put a lot of time into a page if people immediately scroll off, so you’ll want to track the results to see how much time people are spending on any given page. Then you can make changes as needed.
• Pages/screens per session: Depending on the type of business you have, it may be important for people to view multiple pages, which means they’ll be far more likely to return.

Just as important as the number of goals met on your site is where the actual traffic is coming from, so you’ll want to pay close attention to these metrics as well:
• Most referred sites: or the sites that send the most traffic your way. If the majority of your traffic is coming from specific sites, you may want to expand your partnership or affiliation (or advertising) with the site.
• Types of traffic: direct traffic (people who type in your URL), search engine traffic, paid traffic, or referring websites. If you have a deficit of traffic from any of these three places, you may want to see how you can increase it.
• Search terms: people use to get to your site, so that you can provide more content related to those terms. You can also look at the search terms people use on your own site, or site search.
• Traffic from social: Both social landing pages and the number of conversions coming from social media sites. This will allow you to put more effort into the social media sites or landing pages that are getting you the best results.

Google Analytics allows you to set as many as 20 goals, but again, it’s important to focus on just a few key metrics that you’ve determined are the most important ones for your site. So, don’t feel like you have to track every metric if it doesn’t tie directly into the goals for your website.

Attribution Modeling
Becerra recommends looking at attribution modeling in Google Analytics. Although it’s often ignored, he sees it as one of the most useful tools available in Google Analytics.

An attribution model is a set of rules that shows you how many points of contact a reader may have had with your brand before a sale is made. For example, a reader may find your site via web search, and return after clicking on a link on Facebook or Twitter a week later. Then, after signing up for your email newsletter, that same reader could click on a link in your email newsletter and make a purchase. Instead of just looking at the very last metric and attributing that sale to the email newsletter, attribution modeling allows you to choose between multiple options that give you additional information about that sale:

• Last interaction: For the purpose of tracking the sale, credit is given to the last interaction before the sale. This model is useful if your sales funnel doesn’t have a long consideration phase.
• Last non-direct click: The last channel that wasn’t direct traffic receives credit. If your sales are mostly won through other methods and people simply go to your direct site for the actual sale, this model may be useful.
• Last AdWords click: The AdWords click that ultimately led to the conversion is tracked and receives credit for the sale. This can help you analyze which of two or more AdWords campaigns were most effective.
• First interaction: This metric tracks the way the person came across your site the very first time. If one of your goals is generating awareness for your brand and business, this model is for you.
• Linear attribution model: In this model, every interaction in the conversion path gets equal credit for the sale.  By using this model, “you can really dissect the way in which people interact with your site,” says Becerra. The model can help you understand the entire sales cycle, and is helpful if you maintain contact with the client throughout it.
• Time decay: In this model, the interactions that occurred closest in time to the conversion or sale get the majority of the credit. This is most useful for shorter campaigns running one or two days.
• Position-based: This assigns 40 percent credit to the first and last interaction, and the remainder is distributed to the middle interactions. If you’re most interested in the very first point of contact a customer had with your site as well as the one resulting in a sale, this is a good attribution model.

Not sure which to pick, or want to geek out on this more? No worries – a model comparison tool can help you compare three different attribution models at a time to see the similarities and differences. You can even create a custom model.

Checking Analytics
It can be tempting to log onto Google Analytics multiple times a day to see how a specific page is doing, but Becerra recommends paying more attention to overall trends. Looking at your analytics once a week, and digging in more in-depth for a full analysis every month, should do the trick.

If you’re unfamiliar with how to use Google Analytics, be sure to check out our Beginner’s Guide to Google Analytics.

Which tools do you find most useful in Google Analytics? Share your comments with us below.

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© 2014, 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.

The post Useful Google Analytics: Goals and Attribution Models appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Advice from a Social Pro: Building an Engaged Social Media Audience [VIDEO]

Fri, 05/30/2014 - 06:00

In this episode of “Magic @ Ball of Social Media,” our video series in which experts answer small business social media questions, we sit down with Ted Rubin, a leading social marketing strategist, brand evangelist and keynote speaker. Rubin provides actionable tips about building an engaged social audience.

 

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© 2014, 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.

The post Advice from a Social Pro: Building an Engaged Social Media Audience [VIDEO] appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

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